After trailing a post on graphic design and democratisation last week, I received an interesting email on the subject of graphic design, logos, and sloganeering.
…perhaps the way to think about the democratization of graphic design isn’t to think about whether the act of creating a design is accessible to more people; but rather to think whether it is easier to spread.
The correspondence continued
[W]hat options do we have today to make ideas become the most viral – which ideas can become in the most literal sense brain viruses – whether communicated through image or word?
Well, I searched for the Best Memes of 2017 (so far) to see if that would provide any hints.
— Trump Draws (@TrumpDraws) March 30, 2017
Memes are more work than writing. I thought it would be easier.
Of course The Elephant’s Nelly is winning at being a virus. He’s got a great platform for spreading any virus, as well as tamping down any resistance.
I am being proven right about massive vaccinations—the doctors lied. Save our children & their future.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 3, 2014
To give him and his advisers some credit, it does seem that they’ve picked up on the strain of dissatisfaction running through America, as well as a number of the more popular resulting symptoms – whether birtherism, anti-vax, or whatever – reactions against The Man, and run with it all.
And maybe that’s the secret to a good logo or slogan or design – pick up on a sentiment that’s already out there and express it in an easily adopted fashion. But I dunno. Maybe I’m giving Donald and Steve and Mike and Ben too much credit.
Certainly, an advantage that Trump has is in having an established position – and before that, money – to amplify his sloganeering. In fact, getting back to logos and graphic design, the key to a successful brand logo seems to be – be a success first. Or at least simultaneously. I mean, no doubt some of the brands that bear the 10 Most Memorable Global Logos were scrappy upstarts once, but I’m not sure that it was any of the Microsoft symbols that put Bill and pals over the top.
In fact, if you scan down what we are supposed to believe are the world’s most memorable logos, you’ll see that at least two of them are wildly different, less memorable, and shitter versions of what has gone before.
The other one’s the updated Pepsi logo. But with my faith in the possible power of the logo and graphic design still intact, I searched a little more to find out what makes a striking image or design.
Perhaps it’s appropriate that the text of an article on Phaidon’s Graphic: 500 Designs that Matter conveys a grand total of nothing. Similarly, 40 Crucial Lessons From The Most Famous Graphic Designers in History doesn’t discuss what any of the cited designers are trying to do, or any philosophy behind what they’re doing. Blog bête noire Milton Glaser of I ♥ NY fame gets a look-in at #07, aggressively de-intellectualising understanding just as one might expect of the man who seldom wears a t-shirt, and never one with printed material on it, because I don’t want anyone to know what I’m thinking.
Lesson #16, though – Jacqueline Casey: Pair Strong Meaning With Your Designs – reinforces the idea that it’s the underlying message that invests the image with power.
Well, quite, Abram Games and #18. Maximum Meaning, Minimum Means.
The message is ultimately driven home by the lesson to be taken away from Peter Saville’s work for Factory and other record covers – #39. Be Bold and Expressive. The accompanying collage of his work is, I think, underwhelming. Except for the covers of Unknown Pleasures, natch, and Still, both of which get their power from Joy Division’s icy expressionism.
So, when Scottish-born graphic designed and art director mashes high fashion and utilitarian brands, it seems like he’s on to something interesting.
But Reilly (for it is he) just says he’s in it for the lulz.
We’ve got so much going on, at the moment globally, in the markets, and politically, and in warzones and so on that people just want a tiny bit of escapism. Maybe that is looking on a screen at something that makes you laugh for ten seconds.
— Ricky Monahan Brown (@ricky_ballboy) September 4, 2017
So next week – hopefully – the search for meaning continues…