Promoting design that makes a real difference

It promises to be an important week for design, courtesy of British Design & Art Direction. On Tuesday we have the international Superhumanism conference, while on Wednesday we celebrate the winners of this year’s D&AD Awards.

It promises to be an important week for design, courtesy of British Design & Art Direction. On Tuesday we have the international Superhumanism conference, while on Wednesday we celebrate the winners of this year’s D&AD Awards. This juxtaposition of events should bring together the hearts and minds of the creative business.

So what is Superhumanism, other than a big word brought to us by a big man – former D&AD president Richard Seymour whose brainchild the conference is? It will probably only be defined on the day via the manifesto we are told will come from the conference, but in essence it is about being above the trivia of everyday to create designs that make a real difference to people’s lives. It is not just about serving the client, but about taking them along with you to make memorable, effective designs across the board of disciplines.

We can all cite products and services we’d like to see improved. Typefaces that are legible and appropriate, without being inelegant, and financial services designed to work for the customer rather than to cut down on staff costs by harnessing inhuman and often inadequate telecoms technology are among my choices. Then there are beautiful, functional objects that can be as easily used by an elderly person as by an exhuberant 20-year-old.

Seymour has his own examples, but what would you like to see put up there for improvement? If we can collect good examples, we might tempt design students, particularly within the Royal College of Art’s Helen Hamlyn Research Centre, the media or clients to take them on.

Another good thing about the D&AD programme is that it brings together advertising and design at a time when boundaries are blurring. The more the two “industries” understand each other, the more scope there is for collaboration – and healthy competition.

We hear this week of another move in that direction as Loewy Group prepares to refocus its business (see News, page 3). Unlike most design “brands” of its vintage and stature – inherited from US founder Raymond Loewy, designer of icons such as the Lucky Strike cigarette packs and the Coca-Cola bottle – Loewy UK has hardly changed with time. That gives the new team tremendous scope and already, they say, they are beating big names in both advertising and design through a holistic approach that challenges the brief from the outset.

We have heard this kind of claim many times before, but the new-look Loewy might be one of the few “newcomers” that can pull it off. The climate is right for it and we certainly need to see more examples of creativity and strategy working hand in hand.

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