Why Concept Is King and Being Popular Matters

Sometimes someone makes a pretty design, and that’s nice. However, it is rarely a long-term solution. If there is no concept, no narrative supporting the design, it really is just decoration. And while it might work for some, it’s hard to argue why it looks the way it does. And what the story it’s supposed to tell. And it’s even harder to build upon and develop later on. More importantly, it’s hard to make it appealing to a broader audience. Because why should anyone buy into something again and again, just because it’s pretty?

A means to an end, not an end in itself.

Design and art might have similar interfaces, but the purpose is vastly different. While craftsmanship is important in both disciplines, no one expects a piece of art expressing the designer’s inner voice in a design job. Not if it’s strategic and needs to appeal to a broad target group at least. Here, it is important to remember that the designer probably isn’t the target group him- or herself. So never design for yourself or other designers for that matter.

Making a good design is never easy. Making it last and loved is even harder. Hence, it’s important to find a conceptual frame that activates the strategy, especially in a fast-paced online world. The decision to choose a product and nudge people in your direction has never been easier. Yet, at the same time, there has never been more noise. If you can create a bigger idea (concept) in relation to your product, there is a story for people to tell, share, like, and explore. Especially packaging design can build a bridge between selling the product while building a stronger brand, rather than seeing it as the icing on the cake.

Design has become like karaoke.

The Internet has brought about endless possibilities. But it has also created total transparency. Designers in Sydney often search the same places for inspiration as their peers in Stockholm. Pinterest, blogs, Behance, and design competitions create an undesirable environment for creative artisans. Design has become the noble art of karaoke, where everyone is mimicking each other. Starting with a concept is the antidote. The explorative journey will take you places, and it’s not just a matter of style and trend.

If you start with a concept, you find a creative engine that will give a unique take on multiple solutions. When everyone can find the same references and play the imitation game, we go around in circles. The trend of more minimalistic and streamlined design, driven by private label, overtesting and the fear of being different, where you both visually and verbally tell the same story, needs a counterpart where you build a stronger connection to a consumer and have the ambition to tell a story to strengthen the brand. We see stronger concepts in fine art and illustrations but less so in commercial design. And that’s a pity.

Listen to the clichés.

The foundation for a strong brand platform, including brand essence, brand personality and reason to believe, can never be visualised simply by decoration; it needs an emotionally engaging idea. It sounds cliché, but clichés exist for a reason.

To let your solution grow within a bigger idea helps you find ways to create novel solutions. It enables you to unbox experiences by guiding the consumers towards a deeper understanding of your brand’s essence. A strong concept makes it easier to approach the consumer at the right time with the right message (digital channels). The concept in itself is a toolbox with a wide range of solutions, where a design without a conceptual idea becomes repetition and a feeble marketing push, at best.

So, don’t judge a book by its cover alone. Judge it on the story too. To make people care about your product, you need to tell a story, and you do that by having a conceptual approach to your design. Emotional selling points become a stronger driver with a relevant narrative, and it’s much easier to defend a concept than a design without proper reasoning behind it.

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