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Pure Graphic Design: The Old (and Still New) Reality of Gut-Instinct

February 1st, 2013

Pure Graphic Design and Creative InstinctMetrics. We live by them in the age of digital, measurable performance, don’t we?

*   *   *

Mr. McGuire: I just want to say one word to you. Just one word.
Benjamin: Yes, sir.
Mr. McGuire: Are you listening?
Benjamin: Yes, I am.
Mr. McGuire: Plastics.

— The Graduate, 1967, screenplay by Buck Henry and Calder Willingham, based on the novel by Charles Webb


If “plastics” was the word of the 1960’s, surely “metrics” is the word of our age.  I’ve read a few dozen articles and blog posts about the new importance of ROI in marketing and branding. I suppose I’ve written my share as well.

It’s about metrics on some level, but it’s usually on the back end of any marketing initiative — not the front end in terms of true original research — and it’s typically far more common in some predisposed disciplines that were always entrenched in it (direct marketing, publishing and other predictive, manufacturing-based industries). And clearly, quantifiable results are far easier to acquire in new digital channels.

In the development of any creative before the launch, the debut, the rollout — what it really comes down to still, in terms of design even at the highest level, is gut instinct.

In our industry, the old inside joke is that the CEO’s wife likes the color, blue. So reluctantly, let’s just go with that. Another joke is that our designers create, and we “back into” the rationales because there’s the recognition that a pure artistic instinct might actually be better than the informed process.

I’m a graphic designer and visual artist at the core. I began painting and drawing at the age of seven; I still paint on the weekends. I chose a life in this field and for 28 years, I’ve mostly tried daily to deliver at my best. I’ve probably hired 100 or more young designers in my career; I reviewed the portfolios of graduating seniors at Virginia Tech for 6 years and we’re all very much alike — we’re freaks — and we have natural instincts beyond the norm.

We do our best to assimilate the needs of the clients’ audience, read the strategic briefs, create rationales; we bleed passion, we pour sweat from our souls and execute creative that will resonate through the right concept, image, and messaging. On whatever imposed deadline, we expose ourselves like children, raw and unbridled and fearfully, we present our ideas — the only product or wares we ever truly have to sell.

In every industry, every executive is trying to read the future. In design and even in business in general, we chase the future and reach for the next important opportunity, the next big idea — and very often it comes down to a gut instinct.

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Metrics are the rage, clearly important. But at the end of the day, in say, 50 more years, how much was plastic ever really worth?


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This entry was posted on Friday, February 1st, 2013 at 4:46 pm and is filed under Advertising, Brand Identity, Business, Customer Experience, Design, Marketing, Media. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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IridiumGroup Inc.

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