Designers: Stop Doing Bad Things

1671819-slide-hessian-s1-pt2-storefront

Early last week, a concept by Ben Pieratt made the internet design rounds.  His concept, which was being peddled as new and unique, was that brands could be designed without a company or product in mind.  He postulated, that these generic brands... or more precisely generic branding... could be created then sold to startups lacking design expertise.  He suggests that, “As designers, we naturally see solutions to problems and opportunities we can’t help but notice in the market,” he writes, “We instinctually know how [concepts] should be launched, how they should look, how they should work, and who their target audience should be.”

His first example of this concept is the Hessian brand.  The result is a beautiful and interesting creative experiment with a visually appealing result. I would stop short of calling it design.  I’m going sum up this blog post right here.  His concept is not new and it is complete bullshit. This is an exercise every design student goes through and it has no value to real world companies.

Branding needs to be a reflection of a company's values, their consumer, and an extension of their value proposition.  It is an extension of everything the company believes in, stands for, and delivers to consumers.

Branding that is created ignoring or without this context is hollow and will most likely fall flat.  Of course, there will be some extensions.  Essentially he's suggesting we use a shotgun instead of a sniper rifle.  The overall likelihood that his approach will yield positive results is extremely unlikely.

Further, he is devaluing the entire practice of design.  The fact that this even gain interest or relevance is a huge step backwards.  Design and branding need to be more integrated into the business, not less.

Designers should have a large role in determining and executing the direction a company should take and how it's presented to consumers.  Designers, as Pieratt himself notes, are valuable because they can translate complex user needs and desires into a tangible form.  Without the foundational framework, the designers work has very little value.

Anyone who truly understands the power of brands and their importance to a businesses success would not take this kind of thing seriously.  Unfortunately, people who don't (the majority of people in the business world) will.  It is detrimental to design, business, and, most importantly, the consumer.

The design industry is constantly undervalued and underappreciated.  The behavior that Pieratt suggests further commoditizes design and eliminates any potential value that it could have.  As designers, we must stop doing this to ourselves.  As long as there is someone out there who is willing to do the work cheaper, and faster(and worse) we all lose.  A good logo takes weeks or even months to design.  Charging $100 for that work just does not make economic sense.

Pieratt may counter that I am just supporting an antiquated viewpoint of how designers should operate.  In fact, what he is suggesting is much closer to the the traditional viewpoint.  Think about the scenes in Mad Men where an “artist” is belittled and told exactly what to create.  his work had little value, it was merely window dressing (another oft shat upon, but incredibly value component of any retail experience).  This is the mentality that Pieratt’s concept reinforces.  It it a mistake A brand is one of the fundamental building blocks of any company.  It’s visual representation must be carefully constructed based on a company's values, value proposition, and intended audience.

As designers, we must stop hurting ourselves.  Until we place a high value on the work that we do, no one else will.  We need to be more like lawyers, doctors, architects, etc.  We are highly trained, valuable professionals.  We must set industry standards that reflect that.  We need to set minimum, livable fees based on experience that help our clients realize that design is a profession, not a hobby.  Maybe we need nationally recognized licenses that maintains both high standards and protects our value.  I don’t know, but we need to stop doing bad things.

For a positive account of this travesty check out : http://www.fastcodesign.com/1671819/for-sale-hessian-a-brand-without-a-product#1

February 21, 2013 by Patrick
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