Opinion

Design For All

Community and the power of the collective is increasingly a force to be reckoned with across all aspects and sectors of society. And whilst I don’t want to revisit the crowdsourcing or creative collaboration debate when it comes to brand design, that is not to say that I think we should completely negate the concept of togetherness in a creative context. I’m not talking about short-term initiatives for highlight’s on the retail calendar—such as Valentine’s Day—but the recognition that, as age demographic parameters continue to shift, there is the very real opportunity to better design for relevance across all ages and embrace the increasing importance of a collective mentality.

There are of course, so many factors that come into play. One of which, is about recognising an increasingly democratic mindset. Whilst for the iconic brand leaders democratic messaging has always been part of the integral offer, for younger and newer brands it is now very much another consideration as they learn to embrace an amorphous society. It could be argued that designing for retail multiples is always about the collective but initiatives such as London’s ‘The People’s Supermarket’—an evolving and growing retail co-operative by the people and for the people—is about particularly celebrating a difference and diversity founded on togetherness. Designer’s Unreal describe their brand design process—‘…we stumbled upon a potential icon that we felt was instantly recognisable, basic, honest and utilitarian. The ‘Euroslot’ is the hole punched at the top of numerous packaged products around the world. This handy little device goes un-noticed in day-to-day life despite being synonymous with retail…It has the ability to evolve from a decorative feature on letterheads and business cards through to forming the handle of bags, or a tab device in in-store signage.’ A consistent, timeless design device that perfectly represents both unity and versatility. (Source: press release from http://identitydesigned.com/the-peoples-supermarket).

It’s also about recognising the power of ethical and eco value and the value for designing to attract this mindset regardless of the age of the end user. Many brands have already successfully harnessed this concept through their brand design – from confectionery (from brands such as The Natural Confectionery Company) to cars (the continued success of the trailblazing Toyota Prius). But this approach is compounded by the fact that our future society is likely to become an increasingly owner-less one as options for fractional ownership and lifestyle leasing business models increase.

And this owner-less mentality is probably the newest and most prescient consideration for brands. On the one hand, it means that brands should attract a greater majority of consumers, be more visible and a lot of the marketing may actually be done consumer to consumer. But, it does, of course, have its share of issues. Take as an example, the evolution of the inner-city bike rental scheme. It is essentially the means of transport, the value to the individual and the ecological and sociological effect on society that is the focus rather than the brand.

As we now face this age-less and owner-less society, the test for brand design will be not just how ecological or sustainable its offer is but whether it can truly embrace the bigger societal picture and represent this through a considered and conscious design approach—that means something to both the individual and the new collective mindset. At this stage, I don’t by any means have all the answers but just wanted (in the spirit of togetherness) to share my thoughts as we embrace this latest creative challenge.

About the Author

Jonathan Ford is a designer and co-founding partner of Pearlfisher. He oversees a portfolio of award-winning designs, including a high profile list of ethical, entrepreneurial and iconic brands. He is also a frequent speaker at high-profile international industry events and regular contributor and commentator in the design and brand press.

Jonathan can also be followed on Twitter—@Jforddesigns