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Command, Shift, Design - Resetting Our Relationship with Design in Advertising


‘Up a bit, down a bit, left a bit, right a bit’. If you’re a designer in the advertising industry you’ve probably experienced comments like this. Annoying, right?

There isn’t a ‘design button’ which can create design on demand and despite most creative teams and studios using Macs and similar software, design is not their core talent or indeed role.

When I first discovered graphic design, I was inspired by Josef Müller-Brockmann, Massimo Vignelli and Ian Anderson from The Designers Republic.

Their aesthetic was bold, symbolic and beautiful - but it was their scientific approach to visual communication that excited me most. It was strategic, multi-layered and communicated powerful ideas without explanation.

As the Internet exploded in the first few years of my career, Apple products in particular brought about a design renaissance to the masses.

We were all exposed to good design every day – it became intuitive.

Design within integrated agencies began to evolve, it offered breadth and depth with multiple specialisms. The graphic design and typography that's so familiar was now being joined by interface design, experiential design, data visualisation, 3D, motion graphics and product design.

Furthermore, a recent McKinsey study which looked at ‘The business value of design’ over a five-year period found that organisations that put design at their centre are more profitable.

And I’m pleased to say it’s not only us. High-end design representation within creative departments and the board room is on the rise.

Both McKinsey and IBM have recently made senior-level design appointments, ad agencies are buying out design consultancies (AKQA bought Universal Design Studio and Map Project Office) and higher education is being reformed too with design firmly in the curriculum.

‘Command Shift Design’ aims to disrupt our understanding of strategic design thinking.

I’d like each designer who attends to feel like they’re making a positive contribution to our industry and inspire them to always chase the best work. The design process is fundamental to the client solution and through better collaboration across the agency, design is starting to have its rightful place at the top table.

Hiten Bhatt is creative director of design at RAPP.

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