Wednesday, September 15, 2010

"Form Follows Function" – The way advertising should be designed

There was a time in the golden era of advertising design when the simple principle of "from follows function" was an obvious mantra all good ad designers followed. Of course that was before so many "creative" aids came along to confuse the process. Those offending aids include the remarkable graphics software that every ad designer has at his/her disposal at the click of a computer key.

Graphic software has truly been liberating in the scale and scope of what is now possible to infuse into an ad design or other marketing materials. That's the good news. The bad news, is that elaborate graphic effects too often get in the way of good visual communication. They become a superficial message instead of supporting a strong, clear message idea.

There is a wide array of contributors to this rise of superficiality and decline in persuasive messaging. Advertisers who value slick, exciting design may not recognize the importance of starting with a strong message strategy and then finding the best way to express that strategy in compelling words and visuals. Combine that problem with ad agency executives who confuse strategy and execution, and ideas are in the ditch early. The last weak link in the dive for superficial, effects-driven design are the art directors and designers themselves. The excitement of doing something extra cool often blasts right past recognition that there is an actual selling message that needs to be communicated.

The best adverting design results from recognition throughout the collaborative process among client, agency executives and designers that message strategies and objective are paramount. Once that is understood, it really liberates the designers to soar in their imagination and crank up all that extra cool graphics software.

Good design still springs from the basics: form (the way stuff looks) follows function (the work it's supposed to accomplish).