12 Apr Flesh and Blood Mechanics (And the Life Behind Great Design)7 min read
Every year we pick a concept that becomes the foundation of our work. It guides our thinking, keeps us relevant, and this year, it reminds us that we are in fact, human.
Our funkmaster of free-form, graphic designer Dylan Swindell, recently curated a piece of art to embody the place where Anderson Creative has found itself in this digitized-design climate.
And we’re pretty jacked up about it.
“When I first looked at the piece,“ said owner Jake Anderson, “I couldn’t figure out why it was a face. I thought maybe it was just something Dylan thought looked cool—which it is, it’s really cool. Then I thought about how the industries we work in are more mechanical but we try and take it apart and get to the personal. We pull apart a brand to get to the human element of it, with our art.”
Dylan replied with, “Well, yeah, that’s exactly right.”
Dylan’s a man of few words but many sketches. A quote from Marc Gani’s blog on Digital Intimacy says it like this:
“We are go[ing] deep into a world which assumes duality between soul and soul-less machines [to] find aliveness, “all the way up and all the way down.” The hills are alive with the sound of intimacy, and yes, machines are expressions of aliveness. Our responsibility is to download into the machine world our deepest compassion, aliveness, [and] sensitivity..”
BEHIND THE LOOKING GLASS
Our industries of graphic design, identity systems, web development and beyond are all mechanical processes. The tools of the trade are software. We wouldn’t survive a day without internet.
With all this hardware, it becomes easy to feel as though nothing is real anymore. Heartfelt. Thoughtful. Human. Has a real person ever touched this? Much of the business world of design is made and crafted based on analytics, data and SEO. It’s made from a checklist of requirements or built for an “audience” defined by numbers.
But what’s hidden underneath transcendent, arresting work within the business realm is the humanity behind it all.
Sidebar. I may have lost you right there with “arresting work within the business realm.” You may think those 2 things don’t jive.
Oh, they jive, they flat out get doooown. You just gotta know how to make it move.
And don’t you deserve them to?
More than half of your life is spent at your job or business and much of the rest of it is spent looking to consume someone else’s. Shouldn’t there be some oomph in it?
And what makes it dance is the story behind it. That connection to it’s life force through a design made all up in it.
How does that even work?
Through the hours of thought behind a web page animation that both looks dope and draws the eye to the important content. Or the hundreds of iterations of a logo, based on subtle differences in feel and balance and psychology. Or the brand development led by how my very own arthritic favorite Aunt Jean would’ve felt and needed from that orthopedic pillow.
Cognizant, one of the world’s leading professional service companies, names this philosophy and gives us a look into why this type of thinking–in this age–is critical in adding value to both a business and a client:
This approach – often called “design thinking” – is based on developing a thorough understanding of what the user goals are from multiple viewpoints – emotional, psychological and behavioral…design thinking can help craft an experience that is meaningful to the person engaged with it, one that seamlessly meshes the physical and digital interactions of people, processes and things
Especially as the world gets increasingly digitized, design thinking will be critical to defining the user experience, and it is that experience – rather than slogans, logos and marketing messages – that defines the brand. Today, user experience design delves much more deeply into creating an entire experience that meets users’ unacknowledged – and often unarticulated – needs, and mirrors how we straddle both the digital and physical worlds.
(Cognizanti Journal, Human-Centric Design)
Sure, you could pay a kid fresh out of art school a few bucks to make a logo–for this new face cream you made–that works and doesn’t look half bad either. But that’s all it will be. An inert design without a leg to stand on. Nothing about it tells of the hours of experimentation it took you to make it. The rare plant you stumbled upon in all your research that organically regenerates skin cells. The years of shame you felt as a kid from your chronic acne that drove you to find a solution. Or your deep desire to save other teens and young adults from that same fate.
In human-centric design, one gets to know your company, asks the wheres and whys and hows of your product. Dives into the people and the culture behind it. Researches how other companies are saying what you want to say. Meticulously seeks out your audience and experiences those people want to have. One re-lives emotions, experiences and behaviors akin to your face cream.
Then, and only then, design.
Using and tapping into the digital world necessary for the business of today and bending it to your life force. There is an indelible sense of intimacy, connection, and breath in this type of work expressed via laptops, iphones, and tablets.
DUDE LOOKS LIKE A LADY
Dylan’s artpiece, doing what he does best, not only came through with our Anderson Creative stance, but our style as well.
The grayscale geometric shapes of the background create an industrial setting, like the inside of a motherboard, and showcase AC’s classic play of shapes and vectors.
Your eyes then follow down to where the machinery’s been tagged by colorful graffiti swirls [in AC brand color palette, of course]. Their fluid form contrasts with the starkness of the acute angles and lines of the hardware. Human hands have added their signature, their take, their mark.
The street art leads us right over to our leading lady, clad in her “AC” head panels and life-like mask. Here we see the epitome of where we find ourselves as a design collaborative. The mechanical shell of the helmet pulls back to reveal human life. A reverse AI, armored in fibers and code, but driven by flesh and blood.
MAKE A STAND FOR MAN
In a world where our computers make us check a box to make sure we’re not other computers, we are all craving that human touch. That little something that feels like nature or our grandma’s mid-mod avocado couch or our dog Roscoe. Something that cuts across the endless sea of links and logos and consumerism and reminds us life is what’s meant for the taking, not that survey for a free sandwich.
That’s what Anderson Creative lives for.
The technological advances of our time allow for some of the most innovative and exciting means and expressions of design. We can create in a way no other period before us ever has. But the only thing that matters are the people behind it. The emotions, feelings and connection.
We believe that great design on a website or brand can help you know the essence, the people behind it, the story of a place.
Don’t allow yourself to be surrounded by dead systems. Technology is going to keep advancing on every piece of life that we have. Don’t let it squeak life out. Instead embrace it and fuse your life force into it. Demand beauty in the binary. Seek out work and design, even in business, that gives you the feels. Create a new space of form and function.
Every so often pull back that mainframe mask and check for a pulse.