Design Should Be, by Definition, Fit for Purpose

September 30, 2011 by  Filed under: Advertising 

It can be difficult for someone from the graphic design, brand design and advertising industry to resist the temptation of applying too much polish to their work. After all as professionals it is only natural that we want to produce ground-breaking and beautiful work but we must remember that it shouldn’t be at the expense of effectiveness. After all, design, by definition, should be fit-for-purpose.

“A good example would be the Easy-Jet brand” says Dominic Rutterford, founder of Piers and Dominic. A few years ago I was working at Landor when a creative director told me a story about when Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou, founder of Easy-Jet, approached them to talk about his new low-fare airline. Sir Haji-Ioannou shared with them some initial thoughts he’d had for a visual identity that included the font, Cooper Black, and a primary bright orange colour. The guys at Landor felt that the identity needed some work. Stelios did not. What does the son of a Greek shipping magnate know about branding?

To be fair to guys at Landor, it can be very easy to fall into this trap before looking at the larger picture. When I lived in Auckland, New Zealand, I remember scoffing at the unsophisticated nature of some of the local advertising on TV with Auckland Glass’ advert a personal fave for ridicule. If you haven’t seen it (you would have to be outside Auckland not to have) it consists of a slideshow of still-photographs of domestic windows, shop fronts and windscreens and a low-fi smashing graphic effect that looked like it had been applied using Powerpoint.

Cue effect and voiceover –

smash “Auckland Glass”, smash “Auckland Glass”, smash “Auckland Glass”. “If it’s broken, call Auckland Glass.”

It wasn’t until I tried fitting a cat-flap that I understood the true power of advertising.

These two examples highlight how simple communications can be effective but that is not-to-say that marketing communications should always be stripped back to bare basics; it totally depends on the brand and its target market. Design appropriateness can be ascertained through a clear understanding of your clients requirements and, once understood, it should be a pretty straight-forward process to produce on-brand and coherent communications; saving both the client and agency time and money in the long-run.

A good bench-test? If a designer or advertising team are finding it difficult to rationalise their ideas around effectiveness and appropriateness for their client then their solution is probably neither effective or appropriate.

For fit-for-purpose graphic design, brand design and web design examples visit

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