Engagement in graphic design

There was an FT article recently that trashed the belief that brands need to engage digitally with their customers. In the words one senior marketer “After 10 or 15 years of f***ing around with digital we’ve realised that people don’t want to ‘engage’”.

There are of course brands for whom this does not apply, whose customers really do want to be part of the story.

A speaker at TEDxBrighton spoke fondly about his jeans, that they cost an awful lot of money, but that they were guaranteed for life, and would in fact longer than he would. He stopped short on naming the brand, but Huit Denim would surely be a contender, telling and living a story that must resonate with anyone who cares about quality and origin, and just doing good things. Their Twitter feed is peppered by customers spontaneously praising and communicating. A love of jeans, yes. All products, not necessarily.

The article focussed on TV advertising v digital engagement, and concludes that TV has far from been usurped by digital in it’s ability to engage. And that TV ads work best when they don’t try to sell, but when they help us remember the brand fondly when it comes to purchase time.

In graphic design, engagement has long been a term we’ve used. It remains a vital element in branding, web design, advertising and packaging. I first truly understood the meaning of design and ‘engagement’ at college. Not through a tutor, but through a piece of work that to me, encapsulated graphic design. In response to the brief to “illustrate two opposite words”, many in the class presented illustrative and literal responses.

One student presented this:

Engagement in design

This encapsulates Saul Bass’s description of design –  “thinking made visual”.

A Smile in the Mind (a book on every designers shelf) showcasing wit in graphic design, and the pleasure of decoding, includes this summary of the psycholocial process from the Hungarian author Arthur Koestler:

“Admiration plus self-congratulation equals intellectual gratification.”

I prefer this though. It clearly passes what another student from our class, the brilliant Martin Cox of Blast Design, termed more memorably as the “does it make you smile” rule.

Smile. Like. Engaged.