• 01.03.18

Is there comfort in conformity?

Having been part of the North East creative industry for more than 30 years, our managing partner and creative director, John Simpson, discusses why conforming to what everyone around you is doing isn’t always the best thing to do…  

In recent years, I’ve found the creative process has become increasingly guided in a certain direction, likes cars on a Scalextric race track, towards predictable outcomes. The outcomes being a desired result that is safe and generally– ‘bang on trend’. And there it is, ‘bang-on-trend’, the phrase that rings out like my 6am alarm clock- something that’s essential yes, but something which I often think could be done in a much better way.

There’s numerous articles online informing designers about what is trending in 2018. Colours, duo tone photographs, bold typefaces and graduations- the list goes on. If you pick and mix from the list when putting together a piece of creative, you will get something that is contemporary, comfortable and conforming. But if I’m selling inflatable bouncy castles, do I want my website or adverts to look like the collateral the new local fitness studio is putting out? A bit of an exaggeration, but you see what I’m getting at…

The rapid growth of royalty free image libraries and cloud based fonts means that many are going to the same well to quench their creative thirst, so it’s inevitable that sameness is going to permeate through everything from TV to Twitter. William Bernbach said that “in advertising, not to be different is virtually suicidal”, so if that’s the case, why is it that we follow trends? Every client is different, yes, they often work in a similar market, but they have their own values and USPs, so why would you want your collateral to look like somebody else’s?

Whether we follow design trends often depends on our clients- some clients are looking for projects that ride the current design trends, others might want something completely innovative. It should be said that some trends stick and become things we all do and follow daily, so don’t get me wrong, following trends isn’t always a negative thing, but great design in my opinion achieves a delicate balance between what’s fresh, what’s effective and what’s true to the brand.

In the past few months, there’s been a refreshing move away from the very technical to the more artisan approach to hand drawn images in advertising- the personal touch they add to branding and advertising is undeniable and I’m looking forward to seeing how designers and clients untap the potential of this technique as we move through the next 12 months- will we be calling this a ‘trend’ this time next year? Or is it just a way that designers can step out of their comfort zone and drive their Scalextric off the track down a road less travelled?

The demand for real-life photography is growing too, as our clients seek to connect with their customers, and designers seek to rid the world of predictable, cheesy stock photography. Luckily there are lots of amazing photographers out there who are helping meet this demand through premium and free stock photography resources. 

As designers and marketeers, our work will inevitably occupy the same space, be it on smart phones, or smart TVs, so we need to be as smart as the platforms it appears. The focus for 2018 should be on originality and individuality for the brands we work on and their audiences.

There may be comfort in conformity, but there is excitement in breaking rules, taking risks and not always following the current trend. Don’t be a sheep…