Design Doesn’t Come From a Vending Machine…Brands do.

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But brands only come from a vending machine because someone makes them desirable to see and choose. Designers. More than ever before, successful brand building is down to design.

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Design is winning out in the marketing mix. And the truth is that the advertising boys know this – they are now becoming multidisciplinary brand agencies that talk about the brand idea, but who use design to express it through all the channels of communication.

Design makes an impact and designers are experts in creating that impact for brands. Having expertise by default implies skill and craft, commissioned not supplied, and is not a service or servile. Don’t lose sight of this. Stand up for it – and resist the slide towards commodity buying of design unless you want to fulfil the bland destiny of becoming a vendor.

Designers are experts in all things visual and do something that often clients cannot understand, but know that they need. We create brands around the world with massive value and yet weaker elements of our industry are allowing it to undersell itself, and are losing sight of the skill and craft we bring to brands and the impact we can make.

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Yes, craft. We all talk about technology but, actually, it would be more correct to talk about a digital craft. This new digital craft has allowed Joe Public and his trusty Mac to become a creative in his own backyard. But that does not devalue you: the true expert. No one else can do what you do – if you choose to do it well - and that demands recognition. The best designers recognize that what they offer is a skill and a craft, not a service. Everyone, including management in design needs to harness this mindset and remind procurement that ideas and design doesn’t and never will fit the same criteria as boxes on a conveyor belt.

And whilst digital currently rules, nothing beats design centered on tradition and craftsmanship, on the physical and the tactile. And as experts - as designers - we must continue to revisit our roots and our love of the physical craft.

And with this in mind, we have recently made two new additions to the team at Pearlfisher: a 3D printer and a beautiful old letterpress. From opposite ends of a similar trade and time, these two machines led us to think about a new movement in design that is uniting previously detached points of the same spectrum – but, essentially, about how we view and use OUR craft.

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Our entire team has been having workshops to fully understand and learn the craft of the letterpress. And on the back of this we have instigated an internal project, an Alphabet exploring the brief: ‘What is creativity?’ I hoped that such a wide open question would lead to prompt deeply personal responses - the letterpress format, options and constraints of size, giving the output a richly diverse answer that will feed our design culture and minds. It has been fascinating to stand back and watch the team re-learn this craft and interpret creativity through this medium in the form of words, quotes, conundrums…and the work is currently adorning the walls of our gallery space and throughout the Studio as an ambient source of inspiration for us and our visitors.

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Watch this space to see our final designs or see a few of them, amongst some other creative surprises at the upcoming Dieline conference as part of my speech. In this age of making it’s about embracing our wonderful expertise and playing with the parameters of craft, innovation and design – digital and physical. Above all, it’s about showcasing the transformative power of design. About using our craft and our expertise to make magical ideas – that add value – to brands and to culture.

by Jonathan Ford

Pearlfisher

Jonathan will be presenting ‘An Odditorium: The curious, risky and creative world of Pearlfisher’ at The Dieline package design Conference on June 23rd in Boston.