The Designer’s Notebook

Design Thinkers Ontario Overview Part I


Graphic Design

It’s been a few weeks since I got back from Ontario, and before it gets too distant, I thought I’d recap the week’s events.

Push vs. Pull The conference was quite interesting. I think the biggest single theme I came across was that the world economy is changing and that designers and advertisers need to adapt, and quickly. People are tuning out advertising at an alarming rate. As we shift from a “push” (buy my product please!) to a “pull” (what do you want, kind sir?) economy things are fluid and consumers are in control. So what does that mean? I think for the average central Alberta business, it means that we all need to listen a bit more, and realize the value in our customers. Not many of us are marketing on the scale that a mega-brand, like say nike, does so we have to be realistic.

“We have designed systems, cities, and commodities. We have addressed the world’s problems. Now design is not about solving problems, but about a rigorous beautification of our built environments. Design is about the betterment of our lives poetically, aesthetically, experientially, sensorially, and emotionally.” —Karim’s manifesto

Fruit Bowls Karim Rashid, one of the designers who spoke was an industrial designer who designs products for mega-brands like Prada, and his take was quite unique. His slideshow was just a montage of products he designed. But a point of debate for him was the fruit bowl. How many time have people made fruit bowls? Why do we need to make another fruit bowl, unless we make it better? Or unique? Or functionally different?

Let’s all look a bit more critically at what we produce. How can it be made to better our world?

Sometimes the best solutions are squirmingly honest. And they have to have an element of risk to succeed.

Don’t be afraid of beans Garrick Hamm, of Williams Murray Hamm in the UK, chatted about his firm in the UK. Case studies included turnaround campaigns for major British brands like Tesco and Hovis Bread. Their mantra is “create difference”, and Garrick made sure to mention their unconventional process—single concept presentations (hey if you put your best into it, why show two ideas?) and a reluctant use of research (all focus groups get you is the most watered down option anyway). The results are pretty amazing.

Most of the brands they represent have turned around to lead their categories. My favourite is the Hovis Bread Identity, in which the bags are covered in full–colour baked beans. Apparently, in the UK, everyone eats beans on toast… but won’t admit it. WMH had the guts to speak the truth. Hovis turned around to become the number one bread in England. It’s the equvalent to spurting that dark family secret at Thanksgiving dinner… you just don’t do that.

“I show you one, and if you don’t like it, hire someone else!”

Quality over Quantity Zoa Martinez, of Zona Design in New York does amazing things with motion. Zona does trailers for Many of the TV networks we all enjoy today, including ESPN & Discovery, to name a couple. I was really inspired with Zoa’s vibrancy, and more than that, her confidence. She also normally shows one concept, and explained, “I show you one, and if you don’t like it, hire someone else!” This makes sense in the high-end motion graphics world where they take three weeks of full-time work to create a single presentation.

But Zoa also offered insight into creating in motion. Her perspectives on the use of music in her work—music drives motion, but I could see her studio in the Empire State Building kickin’ the latin grooves. The quintessential funky agency does truly exist!

I’ll post another set of reviews in a day or so, but DesignThinkers ’07 was certainly exciting!

Let’s get started!

We’d love to talk with you about your company and where you want to take it.