The Fast Food Design Epidemic

The Fast Food Design Epidemic – or, why eating with our eyes is as important as ever.

When did creative work become automated? This is a question that was posed to me over lunch recently by a colleague. And it’s a good question.

Creativity, by the nature of the beast, requires the ‘creative’ and the ‘client’ (or partner) to experiment. To play. To wrestle. To build something and knock it down. To throw every idea onto a wall and see which one is sticky enough not to hit the floor face down. Yet we are seeing an increasing amount of creative work sought under the guise of ‘good’, ‘fast’ and ‘cheap’. It’s an impossible equation: to have all three requires compromise and loss of integrity in the end result. It’s a dangerous game to play, yet in this digital age, the appetite for everything at once is driving a worrisome trend.

In recent years there has been a fashion to homogenise everything online. Commoditise, accessorise, generalise. “Website for only $99!”, “Get a logo for a Fiverr!”, “Sign up now and get 1,000 free business cards!”. Wherever you turn there seems to be a solution. But is the cost of the website really $99? Or is the cost far greater when you look like everybody else? Is a logo really what you want? Or is the cost just too good to deny the integrity that goes with a brand that has been created based on knowledge, experience, passion and originality? Is there really anything that is free when it comes to creativity? Somebody has to lose something of themselves in order to give you that part of themselves that strives to create.

In order to justify that snappy headline, let’s look at it like food. It’s a proven fact that, as emotional human beings, we ‘eat with our eyes’. We make our decisions based on our senses. We choose a meal based on smell, image and description… so imagine this for one second. A beautiful artisan plate of freshly caught, succulent salmon strips. Cooked lightly enough to be moist yet firm, seasoned to perfection with himalayan pink salt and cracked pepper. Delicately butter-fried asparagus and sweet potato mash. Drizzled with garlic-infused virgin olive oil and honey roasted pine nuts. All topped off with a generous dollop of créme fraîche.

A percentage of people that read that, felt hunger. Their mouths may even be watering. Some may not even like fish. And I’m not a chef (though I’m told I poach some mean eggs). Yet that description was designed to place an image in your mind that is too good to resist. Something that you would be happy to pay for, to value, to consume and then recommend to others. This is design.

It applies to our everyday. It can make us smile, laugh, cry, shrink, grow and think. But it takes time, thought and usually the opinion and collaboration of others. Consider instead that the same plate of food I just described has been cleared from the table. I’m going to serve you something else. Dry stiff french fries, unseasoned. Beside a chewy chicken burger, cooked from frozen. Clamped together with a stale bun. And no sauce. How’s your mouth feeling now? Much like fast food, our palates will only settle for a lack of taste for so long when it comes to design.

Templated design offers speed and economy. Yet no originality. Should a lack of originality be the driving force behind your decision to be different? By design, templates are not different, they are carbon copies of a carbon copy. This is of course a biased viewpoint as I am passionate about creativity but I can’t help bringing it back to almost every aspect of our new outlook on life. Will the next Spielberg, Hitchcock, Banksy or Byron ever realise who they are if their only way of creating is to ‘log in’? It is a conundrum that continues to create interesting conversation and that in itself is something to champion. Talk about design. Talk about integrity. Start a conversation about what it means to truly create something original for your company and who knows… you might start throwing ideas at that wall I talked about.

As a business that strives to cook up something new every time, we place great importance on valuing the time that it takes to cook up something worth consuming. Though budget, time and expectations are always a consideration, cheap and fast will never afford the creative work enough time to marinade properly. If we become complacent. If we become content to dish up the same meal to our own customers or audience each and every time. An audience who are more hungry than ever before… can we really expect them to return, if our own stomach’s are feeling just a little empty?

Food for thought.