Remember, words of wisdom travel fast

Why is it that a visual business like design is so obsessed with words? Not the taut slogans of creative copywriting which might be worth a crib. What we’re talking about is “marketing speak”, which should have no place in an industry that prides itself on its powers of communication.

In the late Eighties high-brow discussions about the terminology of corporate identity (or was it visual identity?) prevailed. Semantics were deemed to add to the mystique of the corporate identifier’s art, and, as the work flowed in, pseudo-intellectual chitchat took the mind off mundane concerns about staffing.

Life has changed and corporate identity has been relatively quiet for some time. But reputable practitioners have suddenly entered into a new phase of verbage.

Designers at the top end of retail and packaging have adopted the term “branding” to describe their work – a fair enough descriptor for projects involving as much strategic thought as design. But now the likes of Henrion Ludlow and Schmidt and Design House are dressing up the process underpinning their expertise as a “product” – presenting it as something that, on the face of it, you can sell on, regardless of the particular needs of the buyer.

What would that late great identity designer FHK Henrion think of names such as CultureScan, the title chosen for his old consultancy’s new venture? It has more to do with fashionable Netspeak than the qualities of the seminal identities crafted by Henrion, just as Design House’s choice of Brand Value Analysis for its interactive package shows only that it has some sharp marketers on board.

Design has long undervalued itself as a lowly service, with a cringing humility clients have been all too quick to exploit. Surely selling its wares as an easily transferable product rather than a valuable craft can only add to this


Given marketing moves such as these, is it any wonder the industry lacks pride? Design may not be lost for words, but it is in danger of losing its meaning

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