Thursday, January 27, 2005

How to spot and destroy bad ideas in graphic design


One afternoon I was hanging out at a friend’s workspace while he was wrapping up a project. After the meeting ended and he then introduces me to his client. The client told me he has been into my work for a while and I responded with an honest thank you. We then ran off the usual art small talk while he waited for his files to be burned to CD. In the midst of our conversation he sat down beside me and said, “Yeah yeah check this…” Now let me stop thestory here to say one thing. It has been my experience that nothing really good comes after the phrase “yeah yeah check this”. How many times have you heard “Yeah yeah check this... you won the lottery” or “Yeah yeah check this… the charges were dropped”? After his segway he stated he had a few ideas for a T-shirt line and with “his ideas and my art, it would be off the chain”. One of his “concepts” was for me to create an image of a brain behind prison bars with some poetry next to it. It took me a second to process this info. After I took it all in, I responded with:1. Who is going to stand in front of you long enough to read your poem or do you want dudes rolling up on you at the club staring at your chest for 10 minutes reading? 2. Brains aren’t really that attractive as bodily organs go. Especially when placed behind bars center mass on a white tee. Livers, kidneys, or maybe a pancreas but brains no. And 3. What makes you think this idea is Hot? Alas, this brings me to the point of this issue… how to spot, avoid and destroy bad ideas.
According to the Dubelyoo Edition of Webster’s Dictionary a bad idea is defined as follows: Any concept for an action or a product that cost lots of money yet makes no damn sense. I hear ALOT of bad ideas. Ideas ranging from the asinine to the ass backwards. We all have them, I have them all the time, but it’s what we do with them that really matters.


Now lets say you want to produce a clothing line (hey lets be real here, a T-shirt line). Everybody and their mama and mama’s cousin wants to get into the T-shirt game. It seems easy to start. Just get a few drawings and a silk screener and BAM you are in. That is true if you want to get in the T-shirt “BIDNEZ” but if you are serious about the apparel “BUSINESS” you’ll have to take a different approach. I had the opportunity to work for a major urban clothing company and took one thing away from the experience. The urban fashion business isn’t about talent, drawings, or dope designs, it’s all about “branding”. So when you think of starting a company ask your self “Will this name be easy to market and brand to my target audience” I hear so many names like “BLAH BLAH WEAR or “YADDA YADDA” GEAR. Now outside of Roccawear adding the word gear or wear to the end of a name sounds lame and it may put you in the wack pack out the gate. Avoid that like an ugly person trying to kiss youat the prom.
KNOW YOUR PEOPLEAbout a year ago I was attending an urban fashion convention and I came across a booth for a shoe company. Out of sheer curiosity I gazed around and inquired about a shoe that looked like a knock off of Nike’s Air Force 1’s. The sales rep soon made his way over to where I was standing. He was a white gentleman who appeared to be in his 50’s. Being that he was a sales person he began to pitch the product to me. He grabbed a sneaker covered in a pattern that resembled $100 bills and proclaimed, “This is what the hood wants”. I stood there, stunned, as he repeated himself “trust me this is what the hood wants”. My response was “sooothat’s what they’re wearing in your hood because in my hood they look like fake Air Force 1’s covered in fake money”. I have seen tons of bad ideas put out on the market because the company has lost touch with their audience or never really had a grasp on their targeted demographic’s tastes. So before you rush out and blaze the scene with your shirts or whatever, take a second to do some research. Bounce the idea off of a few people who aren’t family, close friends or someone you are dating. This may help weed out the weak ideas so you can focus on the stronger ones.


The Alcohol industry spends millions of dollars annually just to come up with ways to tap the urban market (or the Negro market as yall call’em) to get toe back and or tispy. Lets say there is a brand called “Big Time Beer” and they want to increase sales in the “urban” market, so they hire a marketing firm called Dubelyoo, Eckswazee and Associates. In this firmthere is a small team whose sole task is to target the urban customer. Then that small team hires freelancers to come in and make the teams market ideas look good. Now wait!What if their ideas were bad? What if their ideas are painfully lame or chronically corny? This was the case with a project I worked on years ago. I recall sitting at a meeting table as the marketing firm revealed last year’s campaign for their alcohol client and the concept would have been hot. If we all still lived in the year 1991. My business partner and I laughed because we thought they were kidding but much to our surprise they were serious. After mocking their idea and singing “Here Comes The Hammer” we all chuckled and moved on with the meeting. After the meeting I invited them to come out to a party I was throwing so they could test theirnew campaign on the partygoers. They showed up to the club early with 11x17 laminated card and a camcorder. We sat at the bar to chat for a bit before the crowd set in and then I stepped away to talk with the DJ. As the people began to show up The Firm started interviewing someof the “potential” urban consumers to get their opinion on the possible beer campaigns for nextyear. Later in the evening, when I had a free minute, I approached them and they asked my opinion on their ideas printed on the big cards. The first 2 were ok but the 3rd one shocked me. It was an image of a man laying down with a woman laying on top of him in a romance novel pose with the tag line “Big Time Beer All Up in Ya” (the names of all products have beenchange to protect the innocent) I blurted out what the hell is this and the gave a nervous laugh and said “haaaa that was a joke” This is the moment I realized that some people are corny to the core and have no business trusting their own judgement on issues of hipness. Those people need to outsource.

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