Why Design Etiquette?
Whatchamacallit? That’s the most common question clients ask me when they are starting a new business and don’t know what to call it. This identity dilemma is like being pregnant and searching a thousand ugly websites for baby names, while nervously thinking about your name choice and how it will affect your son or daughter’s future. It’s worse if you’re looking for a brand name, because in the case of a brand, you cannot just call it John, or Paul, or Ringo, or George… Your brand’s name should be strategic in so many ways (that I will discuss in another post).
In 2009, when I decided to go bossless, I learned that in the realm of branding, this specific service is called “Naming”, and people pay Lannister gold for it. Since this was my first time as an entrepreneur and I didn’t have the money, I baptized my design studio.
I wanted a name that was unique and easy to understand no matter where you were in the world. I also wanted the name to be a reference to the clean and elegant designs that I wanted to create for my clients.
Design Etiquette: People either hate or love my name choice. There seems to be no middle ground for it, and according to “Hello, My Name is Awesome”, by Alexandra Watking, it’s not the best name either: it is hard to understand, hard to write, and for a lot of people (Siri included) hard to pronounce.
Maybe, it is a name that provokes a lot of mixed feelings because it is controversial: the french word etiquette, refers to conventional forms and codes of conduct, established conventions and good taste. This is when some people start asking themselves: Should design have dos and don’ts? Is there such a thing as creative decorum? I myself, think so.
In my early years as a designer I was led to believe that design was a divine talent granted to a few lucky hipsters. A wild spirit animal that you were either born with or not. In a sense, it was insinuated that colors, typographies, patterns and graphic choices came from my intuition, not my knowledge or skills.
While studying a Master in Visual Design in Milan, Italy, I was relieved and delighted to learn that Italians treat design as a science, everything has to be in place, everything has to have an explanation. For them, design is methodical. Even though they are not as strict as the Swiss, Italians respect and take pride in their craftsmanship, and most of them —from a designer, to a chef, all the way to a barista— care about the little details of their occupation just like a good old artisan would. As much as they believe in the muse of creativity, they also know that in order to be good at what you do, you have to evolve your skills and learn from your superiors.
Creativity without strategy, conceptualization, and education is just dull.
The best designs, products, and buildings are created when creativity meets intention, talent, skills and strategy. Coming up with an idea just because –more often than not— is not enough, and going the extra mile, whether in education, precision, style or passion, is what makes a piece of wood an Eames, some concrete blocks a Zaha Hadid, and random letters a Jessica Heische. Even James Victore’s work, including his “F*ck Perfection”, contains a full dose of strategy, talent and passion.
So, if you ask me, design should have etiquette. There needs to be a balance between the magical side of creativity and the methodical side of our right-brained occupation. By doing so, I believe we’ll improve our craft, and increase the value and quality of our work.