The value of clever design
As a designer, there’s nothing I love more than creating a piece of communication that makes people stop and stare.
If my design manages to pull you away from your phone – even just for a second – I know I’m doing my job properly!
But in a crowded marketplace, where consumers are regularly bombarded with an overload of information, what makes a piece of communication stand out, and what is its value?
Nailing the ‘stop and stare’ effect
To help answer these questions, I want to highlight some of my favourite examples of design that I think have nailed the ‘stop and stare’ effect.
I love NY logo (Milton Glaser, 1975)
This has to be the most famous (and copied) graphic in the world – and I think the simplicity of the design is what makes it so outstanding. Replacing the wording ‘I love New York’ with a unique icon, and the lock up, makes it really memorable.
Mother & Child logo (Herb Lubalin and Tom Carnase, 1965) and the English National Opera logo (CDT Design 1991)
Logos are one of the most challenging aspects of design. They’re often used in a wide variety of formats, so they need to have impact and be meaningful in thumbnail size, right up to billboard size.
Mother & Child was designed as a masthead of a magazine. What makes it so successful is that the designer has used typeface very cleverly – the ampersand in the middle of the ‘O’ forms the shape of a baby, and manages to execute the idea without having to use much imagery or complexity.
The English National Opera logo is another example of clever design. Often acronyms are used as brand names, but the fact that this logo is able to convey the meaning of the brand through letters makes this simple design incredibly effective.
Poster design for the 1984 Los Angeles Games (Arnold Schwartzman, 1984)
In the lead up to the 1984 Olympics, a team of designers were employed by the Los Angeles Olympic Committee to develop a series of posters showcasing a range of sports. No one was interested in developing a poster for cycling, because they didn’t think it would be particularly interesting. However, the designer that took on the challenge was able to visualise the bicycles’ wheels forming Olympic rings.
When we see the poster in its final form, the concept seems obvious, but to be able to visualise that idea from scratch is incredibly clever. It’s executed in a very effortless and subtle way.
Book cover design for a paperback on Language and Music and poster design for Jack Gold’s film Red Monarch (John Gorham and Howard Brown, 1984)
The designer of this book cover has managed to combine two very different genres – language and music – in a clever and simple way, making this cover very engaging. As a viewer, you experience a particular type of joy when you ‘get it’!
What makes this poster design clever is the double meaning that’s being conveyed.
It pokes fun at Stalin as a character, giving him a ‘red nose’, but the nose has been turned into a red tomato that’s been thrown on his face, to signify his unpopularity amongst citizens.
Packaging design for LED lamps (Angelina Pischikova, 2017)
If you were given the task of selling a light bulb, it would take a pretty big stretch to come up with a concept like this!
As designers, our role is to make a brand stand apart from competitors, not to blend in, and I think this packaging has achieved its purpose incredibly well.
This designer has managed to make a feature of an otherwise dull product – if you imagine these boxes on a shelf, next to all the other very generic packaging designs for light bulbs, this would really stand out.
The value of clever design
As different as they are, there are many commonalities that run through each of these designs.
Bold, arresting imagery, a striking colour or unique typeface is obvious – only possible through skilled craftsmanship, and a strong understanding of their clients’ purpose.
But the final piece of the puzzle that separates a good design from great is the cleverness behind each idea.
Each of these designs intrigues the audience, and invites their participation – which buys time for a brand to convey their message to a customer.
They draw people into their brand’s dialogue, and encourage them to discover more. A clever idea doesn’t always mean making someone laugh – but it does mean that your brand is able to build rapport with your audience.
When a brand builds rapport, your brand’s message is more likely to stick in a consumers’ mind, and down the track, lead to increased sales, customer loyalty and repeat business.
Clever design does impact your business’ bottom line, and can deliver returns for your business.
In the Design Economy 2018 report, the UK Design Council found that “when firms invest in design, they are more likely to generate innovations, resulting in improvements to levels of productivity.”
The Design Management Institute’s DMI Design Value Index also found over the last 10 years design-led companies (Apple, Coca-Cola, Nike, Walt Disney to name a few) have maintained significant stock market advantage, outperforming the S&P by an extraordinary 228%.
My key takeaway? Graphic design should never be an afterthought.
I look forward to creating many more ‘stop and stare’ designs for FULLER’s clients!