With the surge in popularity of design as a cultural preoccupation (poor, poor IKEA), the dichotomy between advertising and design remains firmly in place, perhaps more than ever.
Graphic design, as a cultural preoccupation, has made huge gains over the last ten years, seeing significant growth as a post-secondary course of study in spite of the competitive job market. There has been a universal change in the aspect and expectation of these fresh new grads as well. Many of them were refugees from fine arts programs, grimly accepting their fate and gamely looking to get paid to hawk ketchup.
Like copywriters, there was a certain fortitude in embracing the great ‘sell out’, in saying ‘yes’ to a career that affords certain creative possibilities while working within the confines of a less than edifying brief.
The challenge was always to beat the brief. Doing beautiful work in spite of the limits. When your work is fuelled by cheerful spite, you join the ranks of many esteemed predecessors in the arts, among them Michelangelo. It’s arguable that painting ceilings for the Vatican is a brief, and canon would generally agree the artist beat it.
As a fine art, design remains a bit of a whited sepulchre. It is, after all, primarily an applied art, often relying on a third-party purpose or client to exist. Why then, is design understood in our industry as the white knight, whereas advertising remains the sinister, conniving cousin? Advertising, while heavily reliant on design principles for success, is often characterized as smug, too clever by half, and even inherently evil. Interestingly, it is the more honest of the two pursuits.
Advertising directly acknowledges its purpose – to influence the public to effect a result, and its acolytes pick up their wins among the ashes of a thousand bad puns, arresting imagery (…often of packaging), and begged, borrowed, and boldly stolen one-liners.
We believe that harmony between advertising and design is not only possible, but the answer to what’s next in our industry. Advertising in its many, many forms provides the context for the fine art of communication, which is really the business we’re all in. Having the dexterity and strategic good sense to switch hit between visual and content-driven media is critical to sound strategy. Let’s face it. All artists want to be seen and heard. In our business, our creative reputation depends on it.