If you’ve watched BBC’s The Apprentice you’ll have seen those tasks where they need to design and launch a new product – be it a cosmetic, something you eat, an ‘experience’, a restaurant – you name it, they can show us how not to do it.
During these tasks they’re often split into teams, whereby one team who has never made a new flavour of crisps in their life go off to make a new flavour of crisps, and the remaining people – who have only the vaguest grasp on reality – are sent off to a top graphic design agency to come up with the logo and packaging.
I mention that they use top graphic design agencies because they do. Next time you watch it, keep and eye out for the name then do a quick google afterwards. They’ll undoubtedly be getting paid big bucks to work on these tasks, because that’s the price of expertise.
What usually happens next is that the designer will take a garbled load of nonsense from a bunch of preening show offs with over inflated egos and try to forge a brief out of it. Using what very little useful information he has, he’ll make a decent fist of branding an entire product in an hour – which is not an easy ask of anyone. Then the muppets, sorry candidates, will sit over his shoulder and pick apart everything he’s done, telling him to change the font, and make it more garish, and add an inexplicable tagline and some silly clip art. By the end of the process, a terribly designed packet of awful crisps fails to impress a room of industry experts and at least one of the candidates … is fired.
How this differs from the real world is that if you went into one of these design agencies and asked to dictate where they click their mouse all day you’d be removed from the building and barred from ever returning. You don’t get a plumber in to fix your pipes and then sit next to him telling him what he’s doing wrong – you relax and reap the benefits of the expertise you’re paying for. Same goes for design. These candidates are trying to show Amstrad Alan that they’re great all-rounders, but branding and design expertise are not something you can just pick up by seeing posters and bottles every day. You need to understand why visuals are effective, when to choose a serif over a sans serif and why you shouldn’t stick green text on a red background.
A good designer has the best computer equipment, a huge expensive monitor, a massive desk with a drawing tablet on it and – most importantly – a plethora of successful branding projects under their belt.