The creative industries’ vibes
Suppose there has been an accumulation of your New Year’s resolutions over the past few years and you have finally dared to outsource rebranding, creating a website, or any other task that requires the participation of creative professionals. For the purposes of this article, let’s also assume that you have made a prudent profit and loss analysis, and that you have entrusted the solution to your problem to a trustworthy brand, which in its portfolio boasts similar projects, and its clients praise cooperation under heavens in the references section. You have also quickly got rid of bids from auction portals, which amount to a fraction of the price offered by your chosen contractor, and the suggestion that a sixteen-year-old son of a friend should do the job, is accompanied by shivers in your back.
In this way you have drastically narrowed the group of people who may behave unprofessionally towards you. After all, you spend a lot of money on things that you don’t really believe are necessary. You expect an efficient task, openness, understanding of your needs and an unconventional approach. You expect your problem to be solved efficiently, and the service you have ordered will meet your expectations. You want to be surprised, but positive.
You sign a contract, pay an advance and wait in suspense for the first results of the work. Afternoon coffee is interrupted by a notification from your inbox. You absorb the message. It is strange. You feel surprised – that’s certain. Is it positive? You reply to a message, arrange a meeting and send inspirations as soon as you can. You create the content and feel that you are the master of the project. You enter the creative area imperceptibly – you draw lines, circles and insert stock photos. You move the margins, juggle with graphics. You are looking forward to a positive response and a spectacular final of the project.
It’s impossible – you hear from the programmer at a company meeting. You can’t do this, says the graphic designer, and the printer repeats it. It makes no sense – after all, I saw exactly such a thing. I will immediately send you a message to show you. Oh, herein. Misunderstanding grows when you point your finger at the out-of-bounds business card of your legal counsel designed with a funny handwritten font or at a website with a broken main menu of up to three lines.You are disappointed. How can this not be done? After all, it is a creative industry. If I have come up with such a solution, why is it impossible? I checked the contractor and reviewed his works – he made a positive impression on me. So why this dissonance?
While there is a risk that the person you work with is not properly involved in the project, their language skills are poor or they just have a bad day – the phrases you hear are more likely to be just an abbreviation. A mechanism that is supposed to quickly exclude paths not worth further analysis, not profitable or simply immaterial. Behind them lies an extensive knowledge and network of advanced connections, and sometimes difficult to describe in words intuition resulting from many years of experience in the industry.
If the above paragraph sounds amazing or unbelievable to you, I invite you to read the article further. Below you will find examples that will help you better understand this phenomenon. I really believe that creatives are a bit crazy, but highly committed at the same time. They are the people who care about providing optimal solutions and if they say that something can not be done – it is in fact better for you and your business.
An enchanted world of the Internet where everything is possible
Over the past decade, we have seen the development of many Internet technologies and the adoption of mobile devices with impressive computing capabilities. Websites have evolved significantly and are no longer designed by having a single resolution in raster graphics software and then ‘cut’ into slices. We expect online content to be legible and easy to process, both on the phone and on the office computer. We demand that they be attractive, dynamic and load fast. We do not want to wait, we do not want to feel bored, we do not want to look far.
Accustomed to this state of affairs, we believe that everything is possible on the Internet, and every technology we see on a computer screen can be implemented within the framework of our website. Unfortunately, the reality is not so colorful – the technologies have their advantages and disadvantages and the requirements that must be met in order to be able to function with the right efficiency. Content management systems, programming libraries or application frameworks are usually selected in terms of customer needs analysis, as well as project assumptions and budget. Their unique combination determines the directions of development, enabling quick and effective implementation of some solutions at the expense of others.
It is worth remembering that technologies commonly considered to be extremely versatile and susceptible to expansion are also affected by the restrictions. In most cases, in the face of such solutions, “impossible” statements arouse the greatest suspicion and misunderstanding among the principals. Such a communication is a far-reaching simplification and is a sign that it is not worth going in this direction and that a full explanation of the issues involved is simply too complicated and time-consuming, or simply inappropriate. Similarly, when commissioning a car mechanic with a number of complicated tasks, we do not expect that a professional will explain to us, step by step, all the details related to the construction and operation of a vehicle. We expect the result to be a well-performed service that will solve our problem. At the same time, we openly admit that we are not competent or we do not want to spend our time on a problematic vehicle failure.
It seems grotesque to see a customer advising a mechanic on how to hold a torque wrench or suggesting that an employee tighten a screw with a different torque. However, similar images are a disgraceful standard in the advertising, creative and IT industries.
Seeing the effects of the work of graphic designers or programmers, many customers spontaneously start to make changes, although it does not make much sense, since a deeper analysis on the part of the customer is impossible due to his lack of knowledge of work techniques, design rules or technological limitations.
But, but! You can see everything on the screen! There is no complicated machine, no precise mechanics, no valves and no systems. Here you can move it and delete it. Somewhere else I add something, and, oh, I don’t like the shade – I would prefer another one.
Did you know that there is a separate field of IT science dedicated to usability? It creates and tests solutions in terms of their functionality and availability. The principles that result from this work are intended to standardise processes and interfaces so that they are optimally handled. One set of such principles is the WCAG document (Web Content Usability Guidelines) created by the W3C standardisation consortium, which contains a wide list of recommendations for programmers and developers of websites and mobile applications.
For example, the document provides information about the minimum contrast that the interface elements should contain in order to be readable not only on a high quality screen in ideal lighting conditions, but also on a glossy laptop screen on a sunny day. Even simple online tools have been developed, which determine the contrast ratio on the basis of two colour samples. WCAG recommends that it should not be lower than 4.5:1 for the main text and 3:1 for larger headers.
For an experienced designer, it may not be necessary to use such tools at work, as they instinctively select the right color values. In case of doubt, one can test the selected shades and reject those that do not meet the usability criteria.
Internet marketing or nice pictures?
Optimising websites to load faster is almost always about the art of compromise. Google’s requirements may conflict with the needs of customers and consumers of content. If it is important to quickly implement an attractive online project and it is financially unreasonable to create it entirely from scratch, we will have to use application frameworks and development libraries. Such software, although perfectly accelerating web design and offering a range of possibilities, may require loading system components in a specific order, which cannot always be optimized.
As a result, we have to give up either selected techniques of page code optimization or some visual elements. It is worth asking yourself questions all the time – what is the most important thing in this project – is my website primarily supposed to present products in the best light possible and from the point of view of a potential buyer it is a superior value (e.g. because these are premium products), or is it much more important to achieve top results in search engines and reach as wide a group of recipients as possible?
Experts are guided by the answers to similar questions when implementing the project. They are goal-oriented and provide the optimum product. At every stage they take on challenges to protect you from potential problems of existence that you don’t take into account. There may be no time to explain all the complexities and connections, so they decide, using their knowledge and experience. Sometimes they refuse. “It is not possible”.
I want to be original and stand out in the crowd, to sell more and more expensive
It is a great idea, but you may have a problem succeeding if you insist on solutions that break the conventions. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule – if you promote an innovative product and the whole marketing strategy is based on violating conventions, developing unique solutions can be beneficial and speak to the needs of the recipient. In most cases, however, conventionalised solutions have more advantages than disadvantages.
When you browse the website, you expect the logo to take you to the homepage. If you do not see the links in the menu, you are instinctively looking for an icon consisting of three horizontal lines. You want to close the annoying pop-up as soon as possible by clicking on the two crossed lines. When you see a picture with a title, you expect that clicking on any of the items will load the details page and display the full content of the article. There are endless examples like this. The delicate balance between conventionality and originality is best left to the professionals. There are areas that are more tolerant of personalisation than others, and you do not necessarily need to be aware of that.
It is quite likely that this line, precisely at this point, is very important from the point of view of usefulness and it is not worth reducing or deleting it.
Havoc wreaking quick modifications and shortcuts
One of the great features of computers is that they will do exactly what we tell them to do. Unfortunately, it is also their most cursed feature. Simply put, computers are simple switches that perform very basic tasks according to coded instructions. The guidelines in the program are taken as literally as possible. The problem is that it can be difficult for even the most experienced programmers to determine all the possible scenarios that result from this literalness. Almost every day we can read about security gaps, which even bank applications are not free of. Well-written software not only solves measurable problems, but is also safe and legible for people, which enables its development in the future.
Did you know that the computers directly responsible for handling the US nuclear arsenal have the computing power at processor level at the beginning of the 1990s, are not connected to the Internet, and that data exchange takes place using 5.25″ floppy disks, which hold about 220 kilobytes of data? Why have they not been modernised? They perform their limited functions perfectly, the software is thoroughly tested and failure-free, and the possibilities of penetration are reduced to a minimum.
Although a break-in on your website or failure of any part of it will not lead to a nuclear war and extermination of civilization, it may expose you to additional costs or image losses. If your idea is refused by the specialists and you hear the title “impossible”, they are probably aware of the dangers arising from the implementation of your idea. These may not be directly dangerous solutions, but the number of negative effects that they will cause may be greater than the potential benefits.
It is worth asking the question: why, for what purpose, why do I care about it? After working out the answers it is worth to share them with the team and constructively discuss possible modifications in order to avoid forcing unwise modifications. Usually, the objectives are achieved by other, more advantageous methods. Optimally with a view to long-term action.
Principles in graphic design
Almost every major rebranding is met with a wave of recognition as well as criticism. There is a lot of emotion, and everyone feels expert in evaluating the effects of someone else’s work. Comment sections on news portals and social media are bursting at the seams. Memes and ridiculous alterations of logotypes or even entire visual identification systems are quickly created.
“What a shit”, “I would do it better”, “give me such a budget and I’ll do it better” are interwoven with “but I like it”, “a great idea, this will be the trend next year”, “brave”. It is impossible to draw constructive conclusions from this emotional storm. Public opinion has this to do with evaluation. We like to judge.
However, what is most important and most successful in designing is invisible to the viewer. The best design is transparent. Good design simply works. Good design is good because it works and does not get in our way. It becomes an element of the reality in which we swim, not fighting the current. In order to see it, we have to stop, stand next to it and think about what makes us feel good with a given project or occupied space. What characteristics make this knife my favourite? Because it does not shred the bread when it is cut. Oh, and the car I sold fifteen years ago is still unrivalled in terms of driving pleasure.
The deconstruction process makes sense for public buildings as well as for business cards, leaflets, logos and all other things designed for use. An important feature of designers is their conscious movement in the area of usability, good practices and with time – having an instinct tuned to work tools. specialists have extensive knowledge in the field of design – they are aware that the size and contrast of the elements placed on the website is a direct reflection of their hierarchy and importance, and maintaining appropriate distances between the details of the project dictated by the desire to maintain rhythm. You may not be aware of the existence of these things, and the great impact they have on the consumption of content. Perhaps you’re thinking about a book you’ve read without hesitation, or a film you’ve often come back to. These works were well designed and easily assimilated thanks to the fact that their creator knew the optimal techniques of working with their crafts. It is possible that they would not be in your long-term memory if the author allowed the reader or viewer to create their own work as a substitute.
Repeatability in graphic design
Well composed text with carefully selected interline, contrast, line width and spacing between expressions has a rhythm that makes it easy to read. At one point we forget that we are reading – we are simply absorbing meanings. This is because your eyesight does not have to fight against imperfections. It is not tired of travelling on a line of text that is too long. It does not lose letters, and individual words do not fight for its attention. The page is breathing.
If you are completely unfamiliar with the rhythm of the text and with the metaphor of the breathable page, don’t be surprised that asking for a reduction in the line or a justification of the text at any cost will be meet with a cool “it’s impossible”. This is not possible because it would be detrimental to you and the final recipient of the content. It would be unreasonable to expect the DTP specialist to justify his decision with a five-minute executive summary of a few hundred pages of a handbook entitled “Book typography”. He simply ends the conversation with a refusal.
The strength of messages in graphics is their repetitiveness, and this is not about mindlessly copying others. Repeatability is the use of the same compositions and common parts to build lasting meanings. These can be shapes, colors, or relationships between objects that build design systems. Paradoxically, thanks to this understanding of repeatability, graphic designs become original and difficult to fake. Copying the colours or falsifying the logotype is relatively simple, as opposed to stealing the entire communication and identification system. This cannot simply be duplicated without extensive design knowledge. It is worth trusting specialists if they propose coherent and repeatable solutions. Being unique does not mean conquering space in sneakers. It will be a better idea to ensure clear and legible communication, which will be facilitated by experienced graphic designers.
I have written this text to enable those who do not work in the creative industry to better understand the attitude of its representatives. Many years of experience have allowed me to observe a mechanism that is often perceived negatively – as an expression of bad will, discouragement or incomprehensible resistance.
In fact, the refusal to introduce certain changes is a manifestation of assertiveness, the source of which is usually expert knowledge and the willingness to use it for the benefit of the client. Contrary to popular and disdainful opinions that the creative industry is dominated by light-hearted people, enthusiasts and artists (in the pejorative sense), people working on graphic designs use their qualifications and experience on a daily basis to make their work not only visually attractive and assessed in terms of aesthetics and tastes, but also functional and sensible.
If this article had a motto, it would probably have sounded like “let oneself be helped”. In the landscape full of poor, fast and cheap projects, the greatest originality will not be another violation of conventions, but on the contrary – distinguishing the project with an unusually conventional, purposeful and created in accordance with the rules. Works prepared in this way do not have to be boring – it will be ensured by a creative team, if you allow them to work on their own.
What is your experience of working with the creative industry? I have managed to influence your perspective, or do you completely disagree with me? I invite you to comment.