After the second world war, capitalism took off in a big way. Brands vied for our attention through television, radio and print advertising; each of them attempting to convince us to choose them over the others. It was a one way conversation. Messages flowed in one direction, from the company to the consumer. Branding was, in essence, the packaging and advertising of products, and brands needed to be expressive in order to get our attention. In millions of households across the world, televisions beamed advertising messages into the brains of consumers to convince them to part with their hard earned cash. TV was the perfect medium – engaging, entertaining and emotional. Brands understood the power of moving images to make people think, feel and behave differently.
Conversely, the companies that produced those products presented themselves very differently. They didn’t need to interact with regular people. They didn’t need to be expressive. They were corporations, and corporations didn’t have personalities. This was about business and the only thing that needed to be expressed was what the company did and its corporate values. It was more important to present a consistent image with an identity that represented the company and so corporate identity was born.
Born in the age of modernism, corporate identity was largely about utility. It was a uniform that a company wore for the purpose of identification. Consistency was the order of the day and guideline manuals were followed to the letter with no room for interpretation. Corporate identities were toolkits made up of logos, colour palettes and typefaces; devoid of any kind of emotional expression.
Corporate identity designers were happy to follow the same formula for years, churning out corporate toolkits and identity manuals in their sleep. But it wasn’t until a little thing called the internet came along that things started to change. All of a sudden consumers were given a voice and the one-way communications of yesteryear became two-way conversations.
Companies could no longer present themselves as expressionless corporate uniforms. They had to develop likeable personalities, engage in conversation and express themselves in ways that surprised and delighted their customers. The game had changed. Companies too were forced to become brands – expressive, living entities that engaged with their audiences. Corporate identity was dead and brand identity was born.
That’s why everything and everyone is a brand nowadays – even corporations. You can think of brands as being a bit like people – living, breathing entities that seek the love and adoration of other people. Ultimately brands try to make people fall in love with them and that inevitably means emotion and expression are involved. Great brands know how to tap into your emotions with expressive personalities that attempt to influence how you think, feel and and behave.
That’s where motion design comes in. Film and animation are two of the most powerful tools we have as designers to shortcut to the soul and make people feel something. The marriage of moving image, music and storytelling resonate inside human beings in a way that’s primal. Film and animation transport us from our regular realities to new places. They tap into our innermost feelings and trigger our emotions involuntarily. Motion and emotion are therefore intrinsically linked.
That’s because film and animation are incredibly immersive media with both and sight and hearing being stimulated at the same time. Think of the last time you cried in front of a painting. Now think of the last time you walked out of a cinema wiping tears from your face. I bet one is more common than the other. It’s a uniquely human trait – one that separates us from animals.
Now more than any other time, motion is one of the most powerful tools for expression that a brand designer can draw upon because our primary interaction with brands is though screens. Whereas the brands of yesterday had television and cinema to tap into our souls, today’s brand designers can talk to their audiences though smartphones, tablets, computers and digital advertising displays to mention but a few.
So today’s brands must be designed with motion in mind. Gone are the days of static, corporate identities that live on stationery sets and corporate brochures. Brands reach us through a plethora of screens and mainly the ones in our pockets. So the modern brand designers must think motion first and print second.
A new breed of brand designer is required. Not one that thinks like a print designer, but one that thinks in motion. We need designers who not only understand traditional design skills such as typography and layout but also digital skills such as user experience, interface design and motion.
Tomorrow’s brand designers will be digitally native and build brands that are in touch with the uber-connected world in which we live. They’ll be as comfortable with code as they are with a pencil and they’ll build flexible, interactive, living brands that will delight us in ways we can’t even begin to imagine.
How will tomorrow’s brand designers exploit emerging technologies such as augmented and virtual reality? How will they harness wearable technologies to make the relationship between people and brands even more intimate? And what platforms will exist that we haven’t even thought? One thing’s for sure; they won’t be static.
But we don’t have to wait for that future. It’s already starting to become real. Designers across the world are pushing the boundaries of what brand identity can be. They’re finding new ways to create living, breathing brands with ideas that keep surprising us. They’re experimenting with technology and exploiting its huge potential to innovate. They’re thinking like animators, developers and engineers to create exciting brand expressions that get under our skin and into our hearts. These are the pioneers of the future of branding and this by far the most exciting time to be a designer.