February 12, 2016
Nowadays everybody has a website, and naturally that makes the need to differentiate more difficult, but also more critical. For this reason, there’s been a change in what businesses want from creative workers. Individuals, startups and even some larger companies are more and more interested in trying unique and risky ideas. There have always been creative types, particularly in cities like Berlin, but what people in the business world want from them is becoming more bold than it used to be. I've seen light fixture manufacturers with look books that resemble fashion magazines, small concert promoters using the latest animation software for shows, and even mobile app-testing companies who put their logo on hot sauce bottles. It's as if the tech types want to project a creative attitude, and those handling the “creative” work want to play with the most advanced new tools.
Two major forces are meeting: artistic and technical sensibilities. The challenge is to be outstanding and eye-catching, yet align with the brand and product in question - all while using relevant tools. New is that teams are willing to take more dramatic risks in either direction in order to differentiate themselves from competitors on the market.
"The challenge is to be outstanding and eye-catching, yet align with the brand and product in question"
I’m really impressed with the output from My Trick Pony, a graphic design studio in San Francisco. I have also observed that people look more to film and the way that frames are created as a model for what looks good online. David Fincher, the director of Fight Club, and Edgar Wright, director of Shaun of the Dead and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, both use fast yet comprehensive cuts and surprising graphical elements that can be found in a lot of the most impressive visual art.
Mad Decent, the music label owned by Diplo, is another example of a company with a ballsy, successful marketing strategy. Decent are the kings of rearranging styles, ideas, and aesthetics into something new, evocative, and energetic. I think that’s pretty clear from the brilliantly calculated randomness of their videos.
I take a look at the client’s brand and product, and then at content somehow related to that brand or product. I break all of this down into a few key elements, and try to identify what makes viewers connect with this experience as a whole. Content could be anything; light shows, books, whatever I come across. What are the images conveying already and how do they interact with the client’s brand or product? Every visual choice needs to be explainable to someone who’s not a visual artist.
Aaron Draplin, for example, has an absolutely amazing enthusiasm and clarity about graphic design principles. Evan Puschchack is an amazing analyzer of creative work, and I keep checking NORTH, one of the coolest ad agencies in in my hometown Portland, Oregon. As I also create a lot of written content, I follow Jon Adams, who is a very multifaceted guy with an eclectic and witty range of texts. Reza Farazmand is another one to look out for. He’s a brilliant comedic writer who knows how to illustrate the right style for his ideas. I actually interviewed him once on my own blog Upstreamideas. Josh Daniel is a great creative communicator for important social causes.
Irving Norman resonates deeply with me. He was a political artist, and believed that by pointing out the darker side of human behavior, people would contemplate the consequences of their actions. His imagery disturbs some, but I find his ability to step back and examine big global patterns from his own perspective to be refreshing.
On the brighter side, there’s Bill Peet, who started as an animator for Disney in the days of Snow White but became more known for his ability to develop stories such as Alice in Wonderland and The Jungle Book. He also became big on his own as writer and illustrator of children’s books.
It’s obvious that I admire visionaries, and that of course also means David Bowie. The guy developed a visual style for his fan base at a time in the early 70s when carefully crafted imagery wasn’t something assumed to be necessary for a rock act.
Timing is everything. As the Germans sometimes say, “Die Zeit läuft, und wir laufen mit.” (Time keeps on running, and we’re running along with it).
Jesse Van Mouwerik and Stephen Bontly are always on the lookout for collaborations on inspirational projects. Want to get in touch? Go here for Jesse and here for Stephen.
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