• Opinion-lead

    The Misunderstood Intersection Between Advertising and Design

Opinion

Opinion: The Misunderstood Intersection Between Advertising and Design

Posted by It's Nice That,

This week Michael Ian Kaye, the creative director and partner of Mother New York and Thomas Kemeny explain what design and advertising could and should be learning from each other. As ever you can add your thoughts using the thread below…

Design is an iterative process and in the many iterations of recreating myself as a designer, I somehow found myself at an ad agency.

My first gig out of school was at a book publisher designing insides and eventually covers. A book cover served the higher purpose of literature, but also offered the opportunity to bring great design to the masses. Oddly, in some ways book covers were my first ads. They had to be illustrative and reductive, conveying a simple message with strong conceptual underpinnings.

Since then I’ve cautiously inched my design background deep into the branding world. I now run the design group at Mother New York, a company known for advertising.

I know I’m supposed to think an impossible rift exists between advertising and design, but in many ways we are similar. We both seek to create objects of meaning, we desire to be culturally relevant and we want people to see and appreciate what we do. The tension comes from a misunderstanding in our approach to achieving this goal.

Advertising offered me the opportunity to elevate the broader visual vocabulary and consciousness of aesthetics to a greater number of people. Advertising’s scale and reach gives it an implied importance, even when it doesn’t deserve it. Without reach, design runs the risk of getting smaller and smaller, talking only to a select group and becoming increasingly insulated and isolated.

“We both seek to create objects of meaning, we desire to be culturally relevant and we want people to see and appreciate what we do. The tension comes from a misunderstanding in our approach to achieving this goal.”

Michael Ian Kaye and Thomas Kemeny

As designers we are trained in creating enduring objects. Design to us is a process of distilling something down to its core essence. It’s not an end result. Not a thing you can copy and paste. Not a “pretty” filter in Photoshop. The process of design is what designers bring to advertising, especially when brought into projects early on. It’s a way of approaching advertising and communications with a sense of permanence. It’s a way of making the brand and the product one and the same.

Advertising tends to aim for disruption and temporal meaning. It can live on, but its purpose is to drive action in the moment, with permanence praised in hindsight rather than as an intended goal. Design can help the disruptive advertising story fit comfortably with the product story. Without it, work runs the risk of feeling tangential, fluffy or superficial.

Design begins with opening every door to see where an idea fits. It’s knowing what’s to the left, what’s to the right and what’s behind and ahead, giving firm grounding of where you are standing. It’s about setting the spectrum you want to explore in range and mood.

Advertising sees fitting in as failure. You look to the unknown for ideas. You search inward rather than outward for context. You try and stretch as far from the category and product as possible while still being connected. It is less about exploring all the different doors and where they lead and more about finding ones that can serve the function you need now.

Advertising is fleeting. It moves and inspires action in the moment, then changes. It shocks and surprises. It’s visceral. Design creates objects that are enduring. They can live on forever, adapting and evolving from their roots. Design codifies and clarifies. It’s meticulous. Advertising is far-reaching. Design is intimate and close.

“We exist in overlapping worlds, yet we often lack regard for each other, perhaps because we’re measuring the other by our own values. Yet without these differences design would stay small and breakthrough advertising could feel hollow.”

Michael Ian Kaye and Thomas Kemeny

Designers at their worst see advertising as corporate flash that is below them, attempting to bury the advertising idea in the aesthetic. At their best, designers seek to become part of the ideating process and provide longevity.

Advertising creatives at their worst see design as icing on the idea, bringing designers in at the end of the process to make things pretty. At their best, creatives see designers as collaborators that can bring depth and integrity to the work, knowing that a tight design connection gives the opportunity to stretch further conceptually.

We exist in overlapping worlds, yet we often lack regard for each other, perhaps because we’re measuring the other by our own values. Yet without these differences design would stay small and breakthrough advertising could feel hollow.
We will never be the same department – nor should we be. But sharing a roof puts the opposing viewpoint at our disposal, tempering an arrogant extremism and letting us focus where our passions lie.

Advertising paired with design offers broad exposure to something significant, pinning a lasting ideal in a single moment. It’s a beautiful partnership. Together, we can bring thoughtful design to the masses and turn ads into lasting objects of value.

comments powered by Disqus
Nice

Posted by It's Nice That

The It’s Nice That byline is used on posts that relate to the site in general, specific announcements or pieces where there is no clear single author. Contact us using the email address below if you have questions, feedback or complaints.

Most Recent: Opinion View Archive

  1. List

    Portuguese graphic designer and illustrator Braulio Amado – who we interviewed here and who currently works for Bloomberg Businessweek – recently got in touch about the huge expense of entering (and winning) design awards. Here he is on the confusing reality of it costing more than $400 to receive awards from the Type Directors Club.

  2. V2-obama-selfie-itsnicethat-list

    Did you know that there are more images published every day now than there were in the whole of the 19th Century? Nicholas Mirzoeff has written a brilliant book about this fact, entitled How to See the World. Here’s Nicholas on the myriad ways in which this mass of visual information impacts our perception and creativity, and the “exciting, inspiring and anarchic” effect it might have.

  3. Tracey-emin_-sex-1-25-11-07-sydney-courtesy-tracey-emin-list

    Earlier this week I came across cover artwork Tracey Emin has created for the new Penguin editions of Henry Miller’s twin novels Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn. Knowing full well Tracey Emin is a notoriously polarising force I was still taken aback by some of the vitriol this inspired. By all means opposing opinion and varied taste is what makes life more interesting, but sometimes I think people dismiss her work too quickly.

    People frequently decry her lack of technical skill. “She can’t draw,” they say. I think this tends to miss the point as much as the worn out reproach, “my three year-old could do that.” In the context of contemporary art, perhaps far more important than being an accomplished draughtsman is the ability to produce gesture and affect. Emin can do this. I also happen to respond well to her loose, evocative hand and think her gouache nudes are visually very strong. I remember reading a typically scathing review from Brian Sewell in the Evening Standard a couple of years ago where he described one of her drawings as a “squalid smudge.”

    Elsewhere I’ve read that based on her ability she is undeserving of her success, that there are more talented artists who will never reach her dizzying heights, that her emphasis on sex is gratuitous and that she shows contempt for anything that is pleasing to the eye. I’m not going to pick apart every criticism, but because Emin is successful and someone else is not fails to invalidate her work (I’d also add that the two are not contingent on one another), to channel her sexuality into her work is her prerogative as a woman in the 21st Century, and as for the question of beauty, by now art has shown it can be ugly and still worthy.

  4. Sm_lcc_invite_itsnicethat-list

    The days of beers in the park and ice lollies at lunchtime are nearly upon us, and with that comes degree shows, and lots of them. But who should be charged with designing the identity for a university degree show – should it be the students, or an external agency? Indeed, do degree shows need identities at all? We want to hear from you; you can add your thoughts to the comments section below.

  5. Marcel-ingloriousfruits-itsnicethat-list

    After the Design Museum names its six category winners for the 2015 Designs of the Year, Rob Alderson argues that the victor in the graphics section is a very worthy winner. You can add your thoughts using the comment thread below.

  6. List

    Ben Tallon’s new book explores the difficult transition to going freelance which many in the creative world make, and by which many more are tempted. To mark the publication of Champagne and Wax Crayons Ben has written a piece about how he found taking that giant leap. You can add your thoughts below…

  7. Grayson-perrys-dream-hous-007-list

    A few years ago, you wouldn’t have expected Channel Four to show a documentary about a cross-dressing artist making a house in Essex on a Sunday evening. But that’s the magic of Grayson Perry: there’s no such thing as low and high culture, no such thing as people not being “into” art, no such thing as stereotypes.

  8. List_sarah_lucas_i_scream_daddio_its_nice_that_

    One of my favourite exhibitions of the last few years was Sarah Lucas’ Whitechapel show, described by The Guardian as “Breasts, bums, blokes and their bits.” Naturally, I was thrilled when Sarah was announced as the artist creating the British Pavilion at this year’s Venice Biennale. Like the work of Jeremy Deller, the artist chosen in 2013, Sarah’s art can be messy and funny and fearless. It’s hard to make sense of, and big issues are frequently masked with a wry humour. Britain could be said to be the same; for all our perceived stuffiness, as a nation there’s a gloriously dishevelled side – a bold sense of “why the fuck not,” experimentation and our famed eccentricity which has made such a small place such a big deal when it comes to creativity.

  9. Oliviacharlesworth-itsnicethat-1

    At a time when debates surrounding art and design education and the way they prepare students for the creative industries are intensifying, Kingston University tutor Zelda Malan explains why it’s still so important that creative courses continue to teach ideas. You can add your thoughts using the comments thread below…

  10. Marianbantjes-designawards-itsnicethat-list

    It’s design award season (like the film world equivalent but fewer red carpets and more pictures of people staring at posters) and as ever the winners will be much discussed across the creative industries. But genuinely useful advice for those who enter has been thin on the ground, until now. Having relaunched her website, the brilliant Marian Bantjes has also started a new blog (huzzah!) and recently wrote a series of tips for those designers putting their work up for awards, based on her extensive experience as a judge. You can add comments below, or just soak up the wisdom…

  11. Newswall-itsnicethat-list

    Yesterday saw the launch of a brand new form of news presentation by Channel 4 in 4NewsWall – a Tumblr-hosted website dedicated to the day’s top news stories, listed chronologically, with each presented by a GIF. Thought up by 4Creative’s Jack Croft and Stacey Bird and developed by the creative team, it’s flashy, image-led and uncluttered – with each GIF offering a click-through button to a more detailed report – and looks set to be an interesting and exciting progression for news journalism.

  12. Graphicdesign_-opinion-itsnicethat-list

    A couple of months ago there was a lot of interest in this survey in which clients described the four worst types of creative agencies as they saw it. Now we have a chance to hear from the practitioners themselves, by way of Graphicdesign&’s in-depth industry study. Lucienne Roberts and Rebecca Wright have partnered with social scientist Nikandre Kopcke to create a questionnaire which explores “practice, perceptions and prejudices alongside the usual questions about age, education, work and pay.”

  13. List

    It’s fast approaching the time of all-nighters (not the fun ones), tears, last-minute panics and all the other things that come with the end of learning and the impending beginning of the terrifying thing they call real life. But like the mum that tells you you’re always the best and most talented and most beautiful, or the best friend that bursts into your house and pops the kettle on/pours the gin, we’re here to remind you of some of the advice that might be able to help you.