Simon Manchipp founder of SomeOne. SomeOne is a design practice that launches, relaunches & protects brands from Eurostar to The National Maritime Museum. Simon is an outspoken voice in the design industry and a member of the D&AD Executive Committee. He’s 8ft tall and owns over a thousand watches which he wears at the same time.
Terminology of job roles is a surprisingly potent thing. For years we at SomeOne shunned them, refusing to enter into the argy bargy of ‘my job is bigger than your job’. But it soon became clear that it was important for clients to know who they were talking to.
It was a bit like being at your degree show private view, spending a good hour doing your best to impress a person you were sure could be a potential employer — only to realise they were David’s Dad who was actually an actuary. So actually useless to your quest to become the world’s greatest graphic designer.
So we changed. But we didn’t want to do the Junior Designer, Middleweight Designer, Senior Designer routine — no one wanted to be a middle weight. Just as no one wants to be Mr. Pink — they all want to be Mr. Black.
So… we used terminology to describe the seniority of designer that was taken from the legal profession. Partners for the top, Design Associates for the senior, Design Counsel for the middleweight, Designers for the juniors.
It was a nightmare. No on understood who was doing what — unless you had studied to be a lawyer.
There’s a similar thing going on in Branding. There are all sorts of titles and descriptions surrounding the practice of launching, relaunching and managing brands. Thing is — Branding as a term just doesn’t really do it anymore, as anyone touching all manner of things from Social Media to Strategy affect how people experience products, services and organisations. So we’re all in it together.
I trained as a designer — I’ve always described myself as a designer and it’s what it says on my passport (alongside ‘Giant’ under distinguishing features). But even this fails me in polite conversation. ‘A designer of what?’ they’ll ask…
I’m left wondering, is there a better way of describing what we creative people do? Should we be creating a better way of not only describing our role, but using the opportunity as a rally call for the sector?
It seems to me that the work that clients pay us for — and that the award schemes recognise as great is that which makes an artistic leap. Great creative work is a lateral not literal interpretation of a business problem. It’s commercially minded, but artistically led.
Be it graphic design, typographic design, digital design, user experience design — all great design marries business imperatives with leaps of inspired lateral connections. Design is both commercial and artistic.
My father trained as a designer and when he started working professionally he was described as a Commercial Artist. Being a Commercial Artist gave him enormous flex — In fact he later worked in advertising, design, illustration, publishing and teaching. He’s now dropped the commercial part of the title and prefers to exhibit his work in the Mall Galleries & The Royal Academy. But the fact he has both parts of the picture, his commercial sensibilities and artistic abilities have enabled him to lend his hand to all manner of brand challenges. And so the same is true for today’s creative talent.
As a visiting external assessor of the Advertising & Design sides of Central St Martins I’m seeing some amazing students creating radical and progressive solutions for brands. They are fearlessly developing new ways for old brands to re-connect and re-invent with customers. In a single presentation I saw copywriting, strategy, animation, graphic design, typography and sound design. The new breed are not designers. They are commercial artists.
‘Creatives‘ are many things to many people. It doesn’t really matter what is written on your business card. It’s what you believe in that counts, how you act. Brands are not what they say but what they do — and people are no different. However the best people in creative positions today are not designers. They are Commercial Artists. It’s this mentality that changes everything.
It’s not a new term. But it’s the right term to describe what we are and what we should be aiming for. I work to launch, relaunch and manage brands. That‘s what my company is designed to do. Thats’s the truth. But it’s important not to confuse what is true with what is interesting. And what’s interesting is the way we work with those brands. It’s unconventional, compelling, exciting and rewarding. It involves music, paint, ink and cutting edge technology. It’s artistic. We have a Studio not an office.
Interestingly the number of entries last year to D&AD in Branding were up on the previous year. I think this reflects a new energy in the Branding practices around the world. There’s a new recognition that working in Branding these days isn’t like creating Corporate Identities of old. We now have an embarrassment of riches at our disposal. There are no limits to what we can conjure to create ownable branded moments for clients worldwide.
So this year — believe in yourself that little bit more. Delve deeper into your creative minds — remember what the chaos was like in Art lessons at school and later at university. Channel the clients commercial KPI’s, needs, wants and desires through your artistic abilities to create something that changes fortunes for all those involved.
So you’ve graduated. Start as you mean to go on. Be a Commercial Artist. Not a designer. It’s so much more rewarding for all involved.
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Stay tuned for more great stuff this week!