Marketing design through design in marketing

The Best Design Awards are recognised as the leading celebration of excellence in the design industry. And as the official awards of the New Zealand Designers’ Institute, it holds significant gravitas as an indicator of the current role that design is playing in the wider marketing landscape.

We have long been a country that produces great creativity and this is vital in order to achieve our full commercial potential. After all, people’s purchase decisions are driven by emotion and the design of a marketing campaign or initiative is integral to this process. You would perhaps imagine that the aftershocks of the recession would curb creativity, but the number of entries we received this year pointed to quite the opposite trend. We had over 600 entries in total to judge, which was both rewarding and exhausting in equal measure. But it’s great to see the range of work that is being produced and it was reassuring to observe the high quality standard.

In keeping with increased importance and growth of digital, this year saw the creation of a fourth discipline – Interactive Design. This now sits alongside the other disciplines – Graphics, Spatial and Product Design. Every man and his dog seems to be selling the concept of social and digital media as part of today’s design and wider marketing offering, sometimes without the necessary integration. As with any new channel, we must make sure the idea and experience is the first priority, followed by the delivery. Fortunately, there were plenty of great strategies behind the interactive design offerings that demonstrated most people are keeping true to this concept.

The shift to making design more interactive reflects the fluid nature of 21st century marketing. It also reflects the need for continual innovation; or rather, the need to be aware of new creative practices and to choose the ones most applicable to the project in question. This year’s Purple Pin winner in the Interactive Design was won by Sons & Co for the new Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna O Waiwhetu website, which is quite extraordinary in the breadth of its content and just how easy it is to use. To prove it wasn’t luck Sons & Co also won three more golds and two silvers.

Regardless of the discipline, the Designers Institute is looking for common themes. This list is extensive, but includes originality; creativity; appropriateness; technical innovation; craftsmanship; skill; use of resources and the ability to meet the client’s brief. The procedures are pretty well honed, but it’s my job to ensure consistency in line with the way marketing in general is moving. In the last year or so there has been a definite move towards design, like advertising and marketing, being more of a two way communicative process. In addition, it seems like emotive weapons are being brought even more front and centre than before.

As an example of this, the entry that won the Purple Pin in Graphics this year was Studio Alexander’s site safety installation for Fletcher Construction’s Victoria Park Tunnel. Staff are reminded to ‘Check yourself – before you wreck yourself’. It’s part of a campaign to reinforce safety policies, and the need to use the right safety equipment. At the entrance to each worksite, staff now pass through a three-tiered installation which is illustrated with photos of staff who have been injured, and x-rays of their injuries.

Taking it one step further, there are portraits of family members with comments on how they were affected by the accidents. Finally, staff pass a full-length mirror, allowing them to check that they are wearing the right safety gear, from top-to-toe. The judges felt this project was special in its thinking and execution. It really connected with the intended recipients through the graphics spilling onto the ground, big and in your face without ever feeling preachy. And it put you in someone else’s shoes, to remind you of how important the safety messages are and your responsibilities. Here was a great example of skillful graphic design communicating messages that could potentially prevent injuries and even save lives.

The ability to get people to stop and think is key to any marketing campaign and design is no exception. A similarly effective entry was the winner of the gardyneHOLT sponsored Student of the Year award. AUT School of Art and Design graduate Anzac Tasker was the winner from another outstanding list of entries. Tutored by winner of the 2002 Prime Minister’s Supreme Award, the wonderful educator Dr Welby Ings, Anzac’s entry titled ‘How Matters’ was a thorough and very interesting exploration of an idea, expertly executed in every detail.

The student work often takes our breath away with the depth and thoroughness that projects can be given that in a commercial sense would rarely be realistic. However, this isn’t a criticism. It is often the one time in a designer’s career where they can really spread their wings, exploring and experimenting to find their future career directions. The skills demonstrated by the research and fresh thinking of the student work is really exciting for our profession, where we will see these skills brought to bear on our clients’ design briefs. Fabulous.

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