This interesting question was posed to me via email from Nicola Robinson, a student who had stumbled across this site. I thought it was worth putting my views down and then seeing what everybody else thought.
Originality in a Visual Sense
I think people get confused between art and design. Art is a personal expression of something and doesn’t have to have a purpose at all – other than to express that personal view. Design on the other hand is purposeful. Ultimately we design for other people, not to express what we, ourselves feel. We design for these people so they can make money. We have to play the mediator between the client and their consumers, using our skills in the best possible way to communicate the messages that will help sell products or services.
The point is this – if we are too original in our work a) our clients won’t buy it and b) if our clients did buy it their consumers won’t buy it. The end result is no money and no clients.
However again if we simply copy styles then we will then be done for stealing – again the end result is not good. Mike Davidson has an interesting post on this written in 2005 called Originality in Logo Design. His article highlights the issues of attempting to be original in logo design and it seems to me, he eventually comes to the conclusion that it is virtually impossible to be completely original in a design.
So my view on this is that as a designer you need to stay up to date with current trends. You need to understand what is generally acceptable and what has been done before. Within these boundaries (which you can push from time to time) you make a stab at a design. I always bear the end consumer in mind and have had to admit that sometimes radical designs do not always fit the brief. Everything should have a purpose behind it – we are designers not artists.
Originality in a Conceptual Sense
The place where one can be completely original is in the concept behind the design. What I’m talking about here is the reasoning behind shooting ‘that image’ in ‘that way’. The reason behind using ‘that graphic’ or ‘this wording’. Basically the reason behind communicating the key messages visually and how to accomplish that. For example take a look at this for a concept from Yo Brands USA. The styling has been done before many times but the concept is what makes this site communicate its key selling points. It is original and effective. Also read this article The Rise of the Design Concept. The styling of the websites in the article is nothing new – but the concepts are.
This area is, in my view, what makes a great designer. Communicating on a deep level with your audience. Keep the style simple but the concept clever and you’ll be a winner.
A Few Last Words…
I think that to be effective in communicating an idea to an end consumer, only about 30% is style and the rest is concept. A concept can go in deeper than a fancy image. You can make things way more memorable with a good combination of the two things rather than an emphasis on style. Don’t get me wrong, the style is still important as it sets the tone for the concept and helps to bring relvance and comfort to the viewer but to stand out from the crowd the concept needs to be king.
Anybody any thoughts on this? Please leave a comment below…