Everyone’s got an opinion, but when it comes to creative work, those subjective opinions, biases and perceptions can get in the way of great creative work and hamper the whole process.
Here are 5 subjective “sins” that come up most often:
1. Anti-Feet. One client I worked with hated feet. As a b2b company in the analytics business, there was very little reason for us to SHOW feet in the first place, but his preference was so strong that it became an unwritten rule in the brand standards. If we wanted to show people, we had to show them from the waist up.
This reduces the number of images designers have to choose from and slows down the creative process.
Marketing Manager: “No, wait. That guy’s foot is showing.”
Designer: “I’ll photoshop it out!”
Marketing Manager: “No, then he’ll look like he has no feet and then You Know Who will start thinking about his feet and it’s all over. Search again.”
2. The Purple Bias. There are some people who absolutely hate one color or another, sometimes for no good reason. Just because. In my experience, it’s most often purple. Oftentimes this hated color is in the brand’s color palette, but no one realizes it because someone has decided that they hate it and it can never be used.
What’s the point of having a palette if you’re only going to use 2 of the 8 colors? That’s like wearing only black and white every day of your life. It works for some people, but for others, it just gets boring. Sometimes a good shot of purple is just what your brand needs.
3. Real People. When there’s no money or true need for a photo shoot, stock photos from places like iStock and Getty fit the bill nicely–except when someone gets hung up on the people in the photos. Other times, people don’t realize that stock photos are just that–stock, off the shelf–and you end up throwing design concerns to the wind and focusing more on personal reactions like:
“But these people don’t look like us!” (Exactly.)
“I don’t like that guy’s beard. It’s creepy.” (Beard bias)
“I thought you were going to find an image of 7 guys in our company jerseys playing softball with the company mascot in the corner!!” (Repeat after me: stock photos)
4. The Parakeet Syndrome. Another common problem is when people like a certain subject to show up in all images–say, kids or parakeets–and insist on using those types of images, and only those types of images, for their brand.
For example, if you own a pet store, then sure, images of parakeets or dogs are fine. If you’re going for a concept that conveys, say, working like a dog or feeling caged in, OK, there’s a connection there between the concept and the visual. Note: This is not like choosing a brand mascot, such as the Geico Gecko (nice alliteration there, by the way).
But be wary of anyone who wants to feature parakeets on every ad just because they like parakeets, especially if it has nothing to do with their business or the big idea driving your campaign. There should be a reason, or method, behind the madness.
5. We Want to See Real People! There are times when using “real” people works–say, the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty or casual YouTube videos. And then there are times when using “real” people screams cheesy and low budget. If you’ve ever seen a TV commercial where a car dealership owner speaks in a monotone at the screen or an athlete is clearly fixated on the teleprompter, you know what I’m talking about.
If you want to use real people in your photos or videos, ask yourself why. If it’s because that’s all you can afford, that’s OK. But you must choose employees or customers who have good presence–they speak clearly and articulately, have energy, and look natural there in front of the camera. It’s important to find someone who fits the part. That’s why there are talent agencies–it’s all about finding the right fit.
Just remember, all art and creative is subjective. But when it comes to marketing, staying true to your concept and your brand is what’s most important–leave the Purple and Beard Bias at home.