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Making Meaningful

If there’s one word that has overshadowed the ‘storytelling’ stream of design consciousness this year it has to be ‘making’. If you’ve been following us on Facebook & Twitter, it is likely you’ve been subjected to our year-end countdown—#MakingOf2015. In the manner that designers, brands and the world are celebrating ‘making’, the connotations are multifarious—sometimes it is about pride, at other times about discovery by doing and so on. But this post at the end of the year, is not about all of these. It is about our view of making and why it excites us. It is about making meaningful.

One of the most obvious ways in which brand design in India tends to get vilified is the notion of eye-washing and frivolous pandering to aesthetics. Scepticism seeps in from both ends. For clients & businesses, it can come from “we have a good product, brand design is an indulgence”. For end-users and consumers it can come with “I’d buy this product/service, anyways”. Making, in the context of brand identity and communication, needs to find its raison d’être, its reason to be. The finding of the reason to make, is not only to serve the sceptical audience or client. It is the means by which we can find greater purpose and clarity in the act of making. The resultant is a view of making not just romantic, but also sharply strategic, functional and valuable.

Above: Some challenges need to be experienced to truly understand. In the field for an ongoing communication design project for a pharmaceutical brand. From the #MakingOf2015 series.

Meaningful making starts, most simply, by letting go of the anxiety of getting to the finish line. It starts a little by unmaking—by re-questioning and re-establishing boundaries and directions. This bit of glorious mess and argument at the very onset, can potentially change the course of the conversation that guides brand projects. It can draw in key stakeholders, regardless of their vocation, into a framework of useful collaboration that informs making. It can create champions and critics on all sides of the table, who in varying degrees bring relevant arguments that bolster making.

Above: Every bit counts, especially the really tiny ones. Illustration design for an ongoing communication design project for a pharmaceutical brand. From the #MakingOf2015 series.

Meaningful making, in the context of identity & communication design for brands, must also inspire and enable making in the future. I choose to talk about ‘inspire’ and ‘enable’ since to me they represent critical points in transfer of responsibility to creative teams—in-house or commissioned that a brand/organisation continues work with, after our handover. ‘Inspiration’ (in this conversation) is about sharing the intangible character that brings distinction when used with all other brand design elements, like symbols, colours and fonts that may be more tangible or visible. It can be a mood, or a characteristic trait or quirk. These are often articulated most strongly at the identity creation level, but can be extremely valuable in briefing through the lifetime of a brand, given that its relevance holds true. ‘Enabling’ is about understanding that sometimes our role as communication designers is to prepare a blueprint for other teams to build upon. Hence the argument—for making that is informed by eventual implementation, that respects and innovates with frugalities and creates a work-flow of making.

Above: Impact only starts with a good idea. To sustain impact, requires consistency and clarity. Guidelines for the award winning identity for #AskingForIt campaign with Breakthrough. From the #MakingOf2015 series.

Meaningful making especially for brands, needs to come with authenticity. The world at any given point of time is buzzing with likeable trends and viral thoughts. However strong & sustainable distinction comes from authenticity, that requires a great deal of introspection into the brand & context at hand. Authenticity in thought builds brand ownership from the inception of a design project and continues to then strengthen the unique character in design interventions and craft henceforth.

Above: Authenticity of craft, brings meaning and uniqueness to brand expressions. Custom display font for Wildcraft—hand-drawn with brush and ink, and love. From the #MakingOf2015 series.

And lastly, the more we make, the more we learn. Have a wonderful end to what’s left of the year, and I’ll see you on the other side.

Above: Building the maker’s vocabulary for an ongoing identity design project for a new homegrown technology products brand. From the #MakingOf2015 series.