As I sit here in January, in yet another airplane, reading the predictable seasonal predictions and thinking about last year, it's obvious what a year for change 2011 was. I bet not a lot of people saw what was coming.
When I think about how hard it is to get good creative ideas through, the past year is a sober reminder to those that resist change. Change is inevitable, and is our only constant companion, be it evolutionary or revolutionary, and creativity can set you free, in more ways than one. Design is all about making things better - and its just a question of how committed you are to making a change for the better, be you a client or designer.
So in the spirit of change for good, here's a personal look ahead to another year of changes and some big and small personal predictions for creativity in 2012:
February: Design effectiveness winners.
An easy one to predict because the DBA Design Effectiveness Award winners have already been announced, so its just a question of who will win Bronze, Silver or Gold in what category on the star studded awards ceremony night. The AIGA has recently developed its version of these awards, and as competitions like these (that celebrate measured success) grow in number, I predict that more and more designers will start to respect the business value of what they create this year. And start to stand up for themselves! The DBA awards is a great night out where the International design scene can rightly be seen applauding each other publicly, whilst muttering something about the (non design) jury's aesthetic taste! But in this case, its the success that counts most.Although this year I do hope the grand prix winner will not only have performed well but will be a great looker too.
March: new iphones
The doomsdayers will be saying the party's over at Apple with Steve Jobs no longer with us. I seriously doubt that. With Sir Jonathan Ive at the design helm I'm predicting another big game changer from Apple in iphones, software, laptops and in-home AV. These minimal objects of desire will once again prove how design and consumer experience are so intrinsically linked to joy, especially in a world stuffed full of fear and paranoia, and that even the most hardened sceptic will wilt with longing for whatever morsel Apple serves up. I predict smaller, thinner, lighter but also... softer, happier. Less but so much more and packaged beautifully as always.
My least favorite month for packaging in the UK and other markets. It's the same every year, as the seasonal phenomenon of Easter Chocolate Eggs builds up wall after wall in the supermarket aisles of massively over-packaged and environmentally unfriendly chocolate egg boxes. Always predictable in execution, it's a sorry sate of affairs. There have been a few glimmers of hope recently, like Green & Black's gift bag, but this year I am looking to those big chocolate corporations and others who get on the gifting bandwagon, to read their CSR charters and to be creative with physical shape and product, creating desire by rethinking the category. LIfe is like a box of chocolates right? so let's mix up the ideas this year, not the substrates.
May: The Euro crash
I'm not a financial man but a good dent to the Euro must be coming, especially if Greece defaults on its debt payments and causes chaos for financial markets around the world. But do we care? Am I the only one thinking that after 3 years of continual doom and gloom and fat cat financial greed, we don't care if these financial institutions suffer from their gluttonous sins? I guess not as long as it doesn't hurt our pockets, and there's the irony. But as long as supermarkets stay in stock, the cleverer private retail brands will go beyond conventional private label thinking and provide us with new innovative offers and a creative boom for the packaging and branding industry. We'll see design done in new ways, from twists on nostalgic comfort lines, to bright, vibrant, optimistic lifestyle ranges that are forward thinking and fit a desire for healthier living. Maybe we'll also see a flux of export greek products and a redesign of the Drachma and possibly a few other European currencies too. Time to dust off those Cyrillic fonts chaps and no free pitches for Bank note redesigns please, although no doubt they will try it on!
June: smart summer fashion
I have already mentioned the legacy of Steve Jobs but in June we will be remembering Alan Turing and his pioneering work in bringing us the, what is now humble, computer. June 23rd is the Centenary of Alan Turing's birth in London. Looking back to what has been achieved since Alan Turing was founding computer science and where we are today makes me excited about what is to come. Imagine what the world of robotics and computer science will be like in the next ten years. Maybe you will be reading my thoughts rather than my words on a screen! In the not so distant future, this year I predict we will see more and more computers as literal fashion accessories. What was once about making our lives easier and more connected will now also be part of what we wear. Already we have seen the ipod Nano watch and now Sony and Ericsson are launching smart phone watches. Watches are just the start and along with the new Nikes Fuel bracelet I predict we will be seeing more jewelry, accessories and clothing that turn our digital necessities into literal fashion statements. Maybe someone will go beyond gimmicks and impractical QR codes and use technology in packaging in a brand relevant and truly creative way.
July: Hot Hot hot
The category of constant creativity, beverages, will be in full swing by now. And thats what I predict: I expect to see more pouches and interestingly packaged beverages that meet the needs of on-the-go convenience health and refreshment. Glass and plastic will dominate, but there will be a some new formats and stunners shimmering in the heat.
August: The London Olympics.A festival of global sport and culture, and well, to be truthful, branding. It's amazing how something so uncomfortable as the very different (by Olympic standards) London Olympics logo blends in after a while. A bit like a blister from a new pair of trainers, eventually the soreness goes away and you run with it. I predict a whole host of naive brands will try to capitalize on a vague sporting link, and those who go too far will feel the wrath of the Olympic trademark legal protection team and be shut down in their tracks. I also predict that we'll see some great new gold medal award-winning, smile in the mind stuff from Turner Duckworth for Coca Cola the official sponsors. Push the limits and set the pace boys please.
September; The after party effect.
The games will be over, the summer vacations will be over, and if its going to be like last year, no doubt a lot of other things will be over too. Back to school, work or the job search. Thousands of universities and art schools will have dumped their graduates into one of the worst western job markets for nearly 20 years. On the other hand, the BRIC markets and other growing economies will be lucrative for those people and businesses that want to travel and are willing to open their minds to more exotic business, culture and brands. Equally the post party multi cultural fest of August will have a lingering effect as our minds are opened up to new products, tastes and experiences from around the world reflecting their continued regional emergence.
October: Pearlfisher's last month as a teenager
Yep Pearlfisher is turning 20 years old. 20 years of brand design behind us, and some fantastic experiences along the way, yet I confidently predict Pearlfisher won't be looking back. That's boring and who needs another book on pack design or iconic design greats? If your'e reading this you know who you are! I also predict a damn good fireworks party, and a lot of sore heads at Pearlfisher. That aside, I predict that we will try use the moment to celebrate how great design can make an impact and produce something that makes people think about this in an original inspirational way.
November: the presidential elections
As a foreigner watching the circus that American politics has become, you wonder if in 20 years the candidacy process will be reduced to a yelling competition in a mud bath. Where's the dignity gone? Whatever, and whoever stands against Obama the second half of the year will be hotting up with more gibbering hot rhetoric than a monkey in hell. What with the fact that many other governments are going through turmoil, I predict a slew of political satirist, propagandist inspired design on everything from home wares to food and drink to beauty. A lot of red and blue will abound, but my vote is for those that resist establishment and go for the independent approach. These will be the award winners and is what I will be looking for if I get to judge them.
December; The end of the world.
Hollywoods block-busted it, and those bi polar Mayans predicted it (maybe that's why they invented chocolate to cheer themselves up?). But maybe, just maybe, the world as we know it will end in a really original and inspirational way. I'm not talking about a sudden implosion of the earth, but what if people had an undeniable reason to change the way we all looked at ourselves. Say the SETI scientists do get a reply from the universe around Christmas time, or the rate of earth-like planetary discovery is so stacked in favor of life out there, the Higgs boson is discovered for sure, or Jeremy Gilleys one day of peace initiative becomes nominated for a year round event, wouldn't that change the way we looked at ourselves all for better? Nope, I'm not taking weird stuff as I write, but in my jet-lagged state of mind I do have hope for a global reappraisal of what is essential to life sometime soon, and which would affect material consumerism and therefore wasteful design which can only be good. And when that happens I predict I won't be being asked to fit 10 messages on the front of a pack. Here's to 2012!!
Jonathan Ford, Creative Partner of Pearlfisher