22 Oct Design Aesthetics and Trends
Looking at Look and Feel
Hordes of mad scientist designers sit behind their machines, going ham with their Adobe suite design software, cutting up pictures and playing with colours purely for the task at hand, without looking at the ‘whys’ of the actual artistic work laid out. A small font, a dark background and one thinks they’ve created a masterpiece – or just brought to life what the client wanted. But what actually influences the truly creative executions? What are the pillars and processes on which graphic design stands?
aesthete (adj.) - someone with deep sensitivity to beauty of art or nature
Hold up, what exactly are we talking about?
Like any other art, graphic design in advertising is a craft that requires skill, but also an understanding of contemporary influences. It’s an odd balance; trying to be different while riding on the wave of what is currently popular. Here’s a definition which sums it up nicely (courtesy of the magical internet): “Aesthetics is a study of the mind and how our brains interpret something as being beautiful or ugly. It is crucial for design because our first interaction with almost anything is based on how it looks. Judging books by their covers — we all do it. A “design aesthetic”, therefore, is a style.”
Designers, agencies and brands all have a style; a kind of flavour that sets them apart from others. It has the potential to become a distinct signature. We’re not saying to be legit you should tie yourself down to one, but it does often generate a relatable, and easily identifiable brand. This look or ‘quality of being beautiful, admirable or impressive’ is often tied to the historical period the artist or creator is living in.
A trend, then, is change or development in a general direction – think a type of fad, craze or fashion that affects (or dictates if we’re going with extremes) how we do things.
Currently, the international aesthetic is gravitating towards clean visuals, sans serif web fonts and bold pictures that dominate the ad. Think the Coca-Cola ‘Taste The Feeling’ international campaign. You feel some type of way because of the reds and browns and urban imagery with diverse models displayed because that’s what our brains compute as ‘nice’ in this age.
Yes, but you haven’t mentioned the elements within an aesthetic…
Ok, ok, firstly, the composition of a piece of communication for starters. In the visual arts, ‘composition is the placement or arrangement of visual elements or ingredients in a work of art’, in other words the organisation of the individual variables according to the principles of art.
Closely tied to the visual elements is typography, if it exists at all in the piece of design. Typography is the art and technique of arranging type (or typeface, lettering, text or copy – whichever word you choose, artists are free like that). It combines font choice (including size and position), layout and balance of type, colour scheme, design theme (with reference to shapes), space used as well as white space left clear. All these will influence whether the overall look is considered pleasant to our sense of sight – even before we begin to conceive what the ad is actually trying to achieve.
The best design trend is not to follow one.
So, in the eye of the beholder, then?
Not quite. While individual perception will affect an attitude towards a piece of advertising or marketing communications, what is popular or trendy during that era will still play a part in whether the ad is considered effective. The onus is on the creator to provide a compelling rationale for work that deviates from the current craze, which would make the choice of design elements used easier to swallow for those who “don’t understand” the thinking behind a choice.
The question remains as to whether an aesthetic can be differentiated from a trend, or is to be considered part of one? Often the easiest thing is to mash up the two to build a suitable identity. Take us for example. Shift Engage is known for attractive, super modern, international visuals that often bring a crisp ‘edge’ to what is being advertised.
We employ both our individuality (our agency’s unique flavour in the way we present visual art) and the industry’s contemporary design variables in coming up with impactful work, while giving a nod (more of a mini-nod-as-necessary) to what is popular. Basically we’ve found our aesthetic formula, and it works beautifully for us!