So, what do you think? Courier or Cambria? What about the kerning? Too much? Should we adjust it? Come on, this decision is critical to the fate of … client approval? Your next lead-generation campaign? The world?
Well, here on planet ad agency, fonts and typography are considered mission-critical, along with a whole host of other design elements that are too numerous to mention. I’m not a designer, but a couple dozen of my colleagues at gyro Cincinnati are. Around the office, the atmosphere can be thick with, um, lively conversations about design, color and layout — as it should be. We’re paid to ignite something, to bring brilliant business ideas to life, in the most humanly relevant and dynamic way possible. In fact, last May, gyroVoice contributor Adam Swann welcomed us to the new era of design, declaring we live in a time in which “design has been democratized” and marketers need to meet these new, and higher, design standards.
But what about what’s going on outside the figurative four walls of our global ideas shop and beyond our marketing universe? What does a font have to do with reaching a nuclear arms agreement or relief efforts in the Philippines? We may be living in a new era of design, but it’s a challenging time for our planet, too. It turns out, good design is doing a world of good about it in countless ways. Here are just a few of them:
1. Generating clean energy — while maintaining architectural integrity
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), there are about6,600 operational power plants in the United States. In general, power plants tend to be pretty big, but not so pretty. Smokestacks come to mind. Now, US Tile and SRS Energy has come up with an aesthetically pleasing alternative. Solé Power Tile looks like Mission-style roofing tiles in blue, but really they’re the first “truly integrated solar solution in the nation, combining flexible solar electric technology with a premium roofing product.” Remember those solar panels once seen on houses that looked like they’d been yanked off a decommissioned space station? Solé Power Tile is light years ahead in terms of seamless design. Looks like generating clean energy at home no longer needs to be a neighborhood eyesore.
2. Inspiring Stanford students to look at social entrepreneurism in a new way
Stanford’s Design for Extreme Affordability is not for the faint of heart, or just those majoring in a design discipline. The intense “two-quarter, multidisciplinary, project-based course” is open to all Stanford students. Offered by Stanford’s Hasso Plattner Institute of Design through the Graduate School of Business and the School of Mechanical Engineering, Extreme challenges participants to “design products and services that will change the lives of the world’s poorest citizens.” They work on real-world problems and come up with real-world solutions that make a real impact. Some past projects include a rolling water container that makes it easier to transport potable water, and an infant warmer that costs “99 percent less than a traditional baby incubator.”
3. Recycling plastic bottles for the fashion runway
Okay, so this probably won’t hit Milan or Paris anytime soon, but Virginia-based Renew Merchandise makes T-shirts and not-too-shabby-looking polo shirts out of PET bottles. The bottles are processed into pellets or flakes of plastic resin, which is then turned into yarn that becomes fabric. According to Wired.com , Renew Merchandise does this for its recycling partners. However, with billions of pounds of plastic ending up in landfills every year, plastic T-shirts could fast become the fashion that makes a statement.
So those are just a few of the ways design is making a difference in real and practical ways throughout the world. While some of the examples seem a far piece from the crossroads of business and marketing, or a third-floor office in suburban Cincinnati, they have a very real impact on our own work in marketing, as billions across the global gain more and more buying power.
As marketers and human beings, there’s always going to be this tug-of-war between dreaming and doing, between the impossible and the practical. But beauty isn’t a luxury; it’s built into the earth we live on.
As shuttle astronaut Ron Garan said, “When we look down at the earth from space, we see this amazing, indescribably beautiful planet.”
Great design is about approaching a problem with fresh eyes, bringing beauty and practicality together to create something entirely new that makes life better.
And what could be more humanly relevant than that?
Pamela McWhorter is a senior copywriter at gyro Cincinnati.