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Beyond the Drawing Board
Posted by
SJ Naude at 08:00

With technological advances, such as augmented reality and interactive promotional campaigns, come a plethora of new possibilities (and a host of new challenges) for the design industry and, more specifically, graphic design. Through social media and online interaction, brands are becoming more aware of their consumers' interests and are constantly developing new and more innovative ways to establish and maintain deeper personal connections with their target audience. Consumers, in turn, are becoming more demanding and precise in what they expect from both the brand and the brand experience. The traditional conception of graphic design needs to be reconsidered in order to remain both relevant and impactful.

Where branding used to rely heavily on the visual image of the company (such as a logo and some printed elements), brands can no longer afford to be static, nor can they ignore the needs and wants of the consumer in a constantly evolving online environment. Though this problem was temporarily curbed by the growing popularity of interactive web design (especially the introduction of HTML5 and the ease with which sites could be created with Wordpress and Wix), consumers have shown that they are much more impressed by brands that move beyond the computer screen and embrace smartphone technology to enhance the brand experience.

The traditional designer (RIP) has to adapt and start taking into consideration how his well-crafted and meticulously developed logo might perhaps look in a 3D format for the augmented reality app that leads consumers, via a series of guerrilla branded landmarks where the logo was sprayed onto walls, to a central point where the new brand unveil is projected onto a 100 story building using high tech lasers while users determine the outcome of the ad campaign via twitter. As such, the designer has to consider much more than simple rules of formal graphic design and production. Something as simple as logo design now becomes a complex exercise in graphic design, multimedia design, industrial design, 3D design, app development and advertising.

Many scoff at the idea of augmented reality and QR codes - and they are not suited to all brands - but the reality is that consumers increasingly expect brands to have virtual and online experiences that match or exceed their physical, tangible experiences. Printed books are being replaced by e-readers, CD sales are being destroyed by MP3 downloads and cinemas grow emptier as viewers stream their movies directly from the studio. Your choice in car may now be influenced by which car company had the coolest app or has the best virtual tour of the vehicle on their website.

With this growing shift from physical to virtual, designers need to adapt their approach to the process in order to stay relevant in a rapidly evolving design landscape:

1. Consider a visual language beyond printed media:

The designer has to consider how interactivity and virtual reality can be used to establish certain brand traits such as fun, professionalism or seriousness. Very few people will ever see a Bulgari branded letterhead or a Cartier business card, but almost anyone can experience their app or the virtual tour of their workshops. When thinking in terms of the visual language of the brand, the designer should consider both the printed CI guide as well as how the brand design could augment the consumer's surroundings through colour palette or imagery style.

2. Bring the consumer into your world:

Having become more aware of branding and design, consumers have also become more aware of how intrusive it can be. The contemporary designer has to consider how the brand can live inside the consumers' world without intruding on it. Brands such as Coca Cola have long been experimenting with the idea of how to create a world "made for" their specific brand rather than shoehorning the brand into the existing (real) world. The brand, though still visible in the real world, becomes less intrusive and offensive and the consumer now has the choice to enter the brand's world.

3. Treat the consumer like a junior designer:

The shift towards more interactive experiences means that consumers have started expecting design that blows them away, and doesn't just stagnate on a billboard or a promotional gift. There is a growing layman's interest in design and marketing, and consumers are becoming more aware of what it is that makes design work. They are catching on to the time honoured tricks of colour psychology and subliminal / sub-conscious thought manipulation.

Graphic design as a static, 2D art form is slowly losing ground to more interactive, engaging experiences that encompass aspects from numerous design fields. Though the niche designer still has, and will always have, his place, the diverse and adaptive designer is the one who will be the source of highly successful viral campaigns and memes that reach millions of consumers worldwide in seconds. Combining various disciplines and utilising the technology available to him, the contemporary designer needs to think in terms of how a brand can almost literally be brought to life and how the world (physical or virtual) can be shaped to suit the brand.

Image by Turkletom

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