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Images say more than words

Innovative ideas and good designs make powerful ads

The following is the eighth in a series of articles on design prepared in anticipation of the Herald Design Forum on Sept. 19-21. ― Ed.


An armed soldier aims his gun at someone. The end of the muzzle, however, is headed right back toward him, pointing at the back of his head.

Wrapped around poles and pillars in the streets of New York, the anti-war campaign posters delivered a clear message about the war against Iraq at the time, that “What goes around comes around.”

The creators, young South Korean designers Yi Je-seok and Park Seo-won, swept up medals and awards at numerous ad competitions with the design, which was highly acclaimed among critics for its impact. Now both are well-known ad-men here, running their own companies. 
Campaign image of Yi Je-seok’s “What goes around, comes around” (Jeski Social Campaign)
Campaign image of Yi Je-seok’s “What goes around, comes around” (Jeski Social Campaign)

Yi, who runs Jeski Social Campaign, said in a recent interview that images say much more than words.

“You need to study and research thoroughly about what you are doing. Then you narrow it down to the core. At the end, you should have this single cut that gets to the point, like hitting the bull’s eye with an arrow,” he said.

Then there are cases where not directly getting to the point makes it more obvious.

During the London 2012 Olympics, for example, Nike’s campaigns that were nothing about the Games in appearance were in fact all about the Games.

The sportswear brand ran a global ad campaign which featured athletes in locations named “London” all over the world such as East London in South Africa, Little London in Jamaica and London, Ohio, in the U.S., all but the capital of U.K. The core message of the campaign was that greatness does not only happen during the Games but is happening everywhere.

It was obvious what the brand, which was not an official sponsor of the Games or the International Olympic Committee, was referring to. Yes, it was criticized as ambush marketing, but legal advisors of the Olympics’ final decision said that it did not break the rules in the London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Act 2006 for the rights of sponsors.

Adidas, Nike’s rival and official sponsor of the Games, could do nothing but watch the highly effective Olympic-themed ad that did not utter a single word about the Games.

Innovative ideas and just the right design to realize them are essential in the world of advertising, market insiders observe. Not just TV commercials but even in product packages, convention-shattering ideas and just the right design to support them make the products sell. 
Coca-Cola package designed by Bruce Duckworth (Coca-Cola)
Coca-Cola package designed by Bruce Duckworth (Coca-Cola)

Bruce Duckworth, of the international brand design agency Turner Duckworth, brought a big change in the history of Coca-Cola with a “simple” idea.

He took out all the flamboyancy of the soft drink’s bottles and cans in 2007 and painted them red ― just red. The trend-reversing design was so simple that it stood out on supermarket shelves.

The work won the designer the Cannes Lions Grand Prix in 2008, lauded as the “best Coca-Cola design ever,” and 200 more awards.

Moira Cullen, the Coca-Cola company design director, said at the time that the strength of the design was in making what has become very complex very clear, pure and emotionally resonant so that it can stand out in the marketplace.

“In this category, simplicity was not the standard. So I think being able to really drive simplicity was very important for us, to have the confidence to speak in a more personable, simple style instead of shouting and screaming benefits to its customers. It was a very modern idea and one that we really welcomed,” said Cullen.

“It is not an exaggeration to say that today design is the decisive factor in a product’s success or failure. It is the same in the case of advertisements. When a brilliant imagination is realized through beautiful design, it is considered a great ad,” said Yang Si-hwan, head of local advertising company Sam Production.

By Park Min-young  (claire@heraldcorp.com)
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