Sunday, October 28, 2007

Design for primal impact

"Moon Mask"
Fredrick Baker, Coastal Salish, First Nations, British Columbia Canada

When one looks at storytelling as a method for persuasion you begin to unravel how successful organizations have captured the imaginations of their intelligent teams, stakeholders and markets.

Storytelling is a primal function and code of communication built into human nature. In our world today a good story can be used to control the masses, build a community or create a cult. The story gets read, offers an experience in turn creates action.

The successful story has five elements:

1. Passion
2. Hero
3. Antagonist
4. Transformation
5. Awareness

The organization that offers design solutions then has a story to tell.

Design is about passion. A visual word mark symbol or logo can effectively develop into iconic proportions. A careful combination of strategic brand planning that extends and integrates with powerful visual elements is proven to drive competitive advantage. The challenge for the organization is to inject the proper amount of business acumen, storytelling and design brilliance into the identity development to ensure the launch will sustain and gain momentum.

A good designer knows about primal response. Paul Rand's legacy is about an individual who within his design career made a seminal contribution to Corporate America's design movement his passion for storytelling and scripting of rationale for corporate identities is the stuff of legends.

His book A designers Art is an excellent primer for anyone inclined to develop a vocabulary around design. Paul Rand designed many of the great corporate identity systems of the 20th century his book has enshrined for readers the logic applied to these corporate brand systems.

Much of what he defines of course is universally practiced today.

One of the examples he touches on in the book is the metaphor of the mask. He refers to a Aboriginal Corn Mask. The mask through the ages has been a spiritual element used as a powerful visual communications device. The mask was used and integrated into a variety of ceremonial events, medicinal cure's or shaman chants. The mask was always present to followers and owned space in their memories either for better or worse.

Within the ceremony the mask charged passions about specific rituals and effectively convinced followers that some extraordinary paradigm would unfold and impact on their lives. (Politicians today attempt this stuff)

Paul Rand draws very profound analysis between the mask used during primitive times and corporate identities that are ubiquitous today. We can presuppose the theater experience and tribal drama associated with how the mask was central to driving emotions and ensuring memorable events. The mask is known as a powerful element for transformation and community building. Organizations today use powerful visual metaphors and effectively brand themselves. They create and build large community followings.

Rand explains visual logic for example primal elements including the circle, the cross, stripes, human elements in the form of caricature. He touches on the human interest in puzzles and problem solving. Colour application and humor is also reviewed from the perspective of design.

Storytelling is central to strong brand. Identifying what you have within your organizations offering that generates primal response is an effective starting place toward brand leadership.

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