Design must give advertising relevant guidelines

We read with interest the article ‘It all ads up’ about advertising and graphic design (DW 15 January). It successfully conveyed the ambiguity that exists in the relationship between graphic design and advertising. Could we consider the exponents of these disciplines to be part of the same herd, who just occasionally lock antlers? Or are they in reality a different species?

The debate runs deeper than the article suggested. It is not just about graphics. The issue in question is: who really looks after the client’s brand?

In the heady 1990s, branding consultancies used to lay claim to ownership of the brand – they were the ones that devised the strategy, developed the visual identity and handed down the guidelines.

Unfortunately, advertising agencies never saw it that way. For them the planners put together the strategy, the creatives developed the ads and the guidelines were merely restrictions that you had to make exceptions to.

Fortunately, the world has moved on from the days of vacuous values devised by brand strategists (how many ‘transparents’ and ‘integrities’ have you seen?), as well as guidelines that just didn’t seem to have any relevance to ad agencies.

The best results come from brand design groups and advertising agencies working alongside each other. (They also give the best value to the client.)

But it’s not a question of the line between the disciplines of advertising and design ‘blurring’. It means respecting the different skills each brings to the party and using them to the best advantage. It also means developing brand strategies that aren’t just a set of fancy words, but actually mean something that people can do something with. It means developing ideas not just ‘designs’.

As for brand guidelines, let’s face it, they can only be really effective if they aren’t handed down as tablets of stone from high mountains. They need the input of advertising agencies and design groups working together. Fortunately, the more enlightened ones are doing just that.

John Hall

Director

Curious

London W1F

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