“Because advertising and marketing is an art, the solution to each new problem or challenge should begin with a blank canvas and an open mind, not with the nervous borrowings of other people’s mediocrities.”
Strong words from George Lois. That man, he has a way of speaking with more pride than anyone I’ve heard. Whatever, I guess he does have quite the career.
But there is truth in there. The “nervous borrowings of other people’s mediocrities” just puts more work into that melted pot of contemporary style. And it won’t be what sets you or your clients apart.
1. Don’t just be inspired by visual solutions but conceptual.
I’ll admit, occasional projects will start out the lazy way. Perusing designspiration.net or siteinspire.com hoping that something will click and let me frankenstein my idea with theirs. Those sites are great, I love them. But they shouldn’t merely be an idea book for copying visual styles.
They look cool so we just scan through pages and pages of them. What those inspiring projects often have that can get overlooked is the thick plot of concept laced within. We don’t know the audience they were intended for. In our minds, that audience becomes us—those flicking through hundreds at a time.
That doesn’t mean you should build a wifi-less log cabin, cut off from the world. There is so much that we can take in from others’ work. That project had a specific solution in answer to a specific question.
Inspiration isn’t just about absorbing as many nifties as we can find in one sitting. It’s seeking out the same questions the designer was asking and the answers they found.
Trends happen when we gobble every popular idea and then spit out a retrofitted blob.
2. Treat every problem as a unique one.
Your client has their own name, voice, audience and message. This means there is an opportunity to create something that is them and no one else—something that makes them excited about who they are and what they represent. This doesn’t come from blindly following trends.
Make every decision an intentional one.
3. Think long-term.
We can’t all be Coca-Cola but we can try. Not in the visual sense but in their longevity. They have created a visual identity that stands up to time, and even gracefully crosses borders. A couple of months ago I was in Uganda where Coke has just as strong of a brand presence. It’s everywhere.
Consider the brand that you are creating and how it expands out.
Times are always a-changin’ and visual trends roll with it. What doesn’t change is the innate values people have. They just reapply to the applications of the day. Fusing your identity with why you are who you are gives it the most life.
4. Think Laterally
This requires some harder thinking, but wild and free. Reframing your mind around the problem you are trying to solve can bring you to an entirely different solution that no one has yet found. View it from the perspective of their customers, of a highway driver, of a scientist, of a ballet dancer. It might not be what brings you to the final execution but it blows the hinges off the concept to create more creative space to work. Continue stepping sideways until you find the best step forwards.
Ultimately, the best way to avoid falling into trends is to find the solution that fits your clients. They are in a unique position to brand themselves in a way that communicates a strong message. When we operate with the mindset that our job isn’t to just make something look good but to communicate, that message becomes stronger.
I would love to hear your thoughts so leave a comment!