Convention vs invention: what does your brand need?
October 2, 2009 12:59 PM
The world around us is built on conventions, a common language made up by symbols, colours, shapes and actions. They reduce the amounts of friction in the everyday flow of life, minimise learning curves and ultimately increase productivity. Conventions definitely have their benefits, this is without any doubt in my mind.
As an interactive designer, my job is to take a problem, analyse its parameters, and then create a solution that ticks the right amount of boxes to achieve the desired results. Pretty straight-forward process really, although every day I find myself faced with the issue of "convention versus invention" when executing a concept or brief.
More often than not, a client will comment on something according to what they have seen or liked from one of their competitors, believing that this is the right way to go, is the current trend, and one which they are willing to follow. This is often a safe option that almost guarantees results and value for money, but how much value exactly?
When thinking about the design for a website for instance, sticking closely to the conventions may seem like a wise and tested route to take; logo top left, header, top navigation, brandbox, body, footer.
This website is going to serve it's purpose for the next 2 to 4 years, yet already it's old, recycled and repurposed. It's like releasing a 'best-of' album; sure, it's going to get added publicity for a limited amount of time, but 3 months down the line nobody is going to care much. They've heard it all before.
So what is this really showing about you as a company, or about me as a designer? Is this not showing that we are both lazy? Just taking elements from other designs and changing the colours or font sizes isn't going to distinguish us from the crowd. How much value am I adding? I respect that there are certain conventions that are in place that help solve the smaller, less trivial problems, but they should allow us move on to try solving the larger and higher impact ones that could very well make the difference and put our heads above the rest.
We don't have to re-invent the wheel, but stand out, change things and get some attention. We have to throw some great big tyres on it, and strap it to a Porsche-engined VW bug. It's called "progress."
And yes, you can have a 'Facebook' icon on your contact us page... rock on!