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Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Both sides of the paper

My mum wasn’t allowed to pursue a career in art. Her father, whose name was Billy Elliott, didn’t think commercial art was a ‘proper’ job. Surprising considering he ran an upmarket grocers in Carlisle and was one of the first people I came across who understood the importance of brands. His meticulous windows proudly showcased point-of-sales for ‘superior’ names like Epicure, Baxter’s and Cross & Blackwell.

The upshot was that my mum went to work in an office until she married and my brother, sister and I came along. Her artistic frustration then expressed itself, helping me express myself; in paint, in pencil and plasticine.

One of my earliest sources of inspiration came from her war-time school art book. Two things struck me about it. The paper was coarse with bits of wood in it, and she’d used both sides of each page. Even pre-pubescent schoolgirls did their bit fighting the Hun by conserving precious materials.

The reason I reminisce was brought about by something our head of digital told me. During 2009, more information will be created and ‘put out there’ to consumers than all the messages created since the dawn of time: which is quite simply mindboggling.

It’s wonderful that today we have so many mediums and opportunities to talk to each other and to consumers. As a communicator it’s great that we no longer have to be held back by a lack of resources or materials. Metaphorically, we no longer have to use ‘both sides of the paper’. And fathers have generally become less restrictive too.

However have we lost something with the ease in which we create messages in the 21st century?

I’m not advocating a return to pre-Guttenberg days, with the only sections of society able to communicate being the wealthy institutions or privileged intelligencia. However, how on earth are our messages going to stand out in such an ocean of information?

I believe the answer lies in imagination, craft and ingenuity, and in taking the time and consideration to apply them properly. One of the greatest gifts digital messaging has given us is time. Yet how often is it squandered? Why change things at the last minute just because we can? Have we lost the ability to commit to a message and design before the night before the presentation?

Like most creative people of my generation Bill Bernbach is a hero. This is one of his many insights to the creative person: “…every idea, every word he puts down, every line he draws, every light and shadow in every photograph he takes makes more vivid, more believable, more persuasive the original theme or product advantage he has decided he must convey.”

In other words every detail is a precious commodity. Let’s use them wisely, just like they did with paper in 1939.

Geoff Turner
Executive Creative Director

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