I am going to start this stream of consciousness how I will end it

No matter how hi-tech and modern our world becomes, human beings will always be stimulated by the smell of coffee in the morning or the aroma of freshly baked bread. No matter how much the world changes, people will always be sensory beings who are moved by tangible experiences.

People have often asked me whether design is still relevant in today’s world. I don’t really understand the question. What’s changed? How we interact with each other? In some cases, yes. How brands interact with consumers? In some cases, yes. But let’s not forget what hasn’t changed – people’s need for a real, meaningful connection. Great design is here to stay because man’s desire to be moved and inspired will never change.

Great design doesn’t work in isolation. It considers the world it lives in and adapts accordingly. And in today’s candy store, where there are thousands of products and brands all screaming “pick me, pick me”, design can play an important role in differentiation.

Digital – scary monster or just another instrument?

The new buzz word is digital. Marketers have a belief that if you’re not in it then you will be left behind. What nonsense, just because there’s digital, it doesn’t make everything else obsolete. Don’t be intimidated by digital. Digital is just another key instrument in the great orchestra of communication. It allows more people to listen to your music. So now you have a greater audience what do you do with it?

To create an iconic brand all the touch points must work together. Take a movie like Avatar, it took many different disciplines working together to create greatness. In the same way, collaboration between all the elements in communication creates iconic brands. Don’t be afraid or territorial if you want your picture to be a box office hit, use the best, and when I say ‘best’ I don't mean a wannabe designer, an in-house digital person or a moonlighting writer, you get the point. And at the heart of it all, remember, it’s still about great story telling, brought together beautifully. Close your eyes and hear the music.

Is logo a ‘no go’?

There’s another debate currently doing the rounds; is the logo dead and should it be replaced by brand visual language? There seems to be a trend that brands want to almost create a pixel on a page and the consumer must guess which brand it is. In my opinion, the logo will never be dead, long live the logo. In the future I believe a logo will take on more meaning because there're so many platforms that a brand must participate in. Intelligent brand ID designers will have to understand how pixels work in the most reduced size on a mobile phone as well as how to create impact on a billboard. The logo will create the consistency. Like all elements of communication, a logo is just one part of a total brand experience. Take, for example, Google, is it a great logo? Whether it is or isn’t, it is not the brand, the brand is made up of experience, reputation, and so much more. All the great principles of good design will always be relevant, designers just have to adapt to the changing communication vehicles.

Why do I like a particular brand? I can tell you it’s not because I saw a great video about it on YouTube. Just as easily as I am affected by the video, I can also be affected when, the next week I go into the same brand’s store and experience bad service or dodgy products. From hero to zero in 3 seconds. Brand’s need to design experience into all their contact points. These experiences should be carefully designed so you can’t put your finger on any one thing, all you know is that the overall experience has left you feeling good about the brand. There’s a brand in New York called YELP! If you visit a restaurant and, for some reason, have a bad incident, in a matter of minutes that experience can be circulating and doing damage. The orchestration of the music is so critical.

The world is changing at a rate many people, especially brand custodians, find intimidating. But if you look deeper, you’ll realise some things will always stay the same. As human beings we still want very human experiences, we still want a voice and we still want to be heard and understood. Brands that get this will find the future an exciting place. Because no matter what amazing innovations get developed, not even the geniuses at Apple can compete with the smell of freshly percolated coffee in the morning.

- Nathan Reddy


100 Day Plan
Brand Council South Africa is committed to a process of action on behalf of the broader branding and creative industry in South Africa. Watch this space closely for regular progress updates on our first 100 days commencing effective 1 March 2012.