I began my career in advertising as a photographer in the pre-digital age. During shoots at my studio it was not unusual for the agency creative team to spend the long periods when they weren’t needed on set brainstorming campaign or ad concepts. Most typically this would be an art director/designer and a copywriter kicking around words and images to find a winning combination.
Strangely, now that we are solidly into the digital era, at many agencies the brainstorming paradigm has not changed. The role that technology plays in today’s marketing world demands that brainstorming methodologies evolve to consider technology optons along with design and messaging. It also becomes incumbent upon designers in the digital space to acquire a comfort level with web and interactive technologies.
Too often I see designers stuck in the print paradigm from which they came. Designing in a vacuum and tossing a psd file over the wall to the tech team for implementation is a recipe for mediocrity. When technical flaws are found in the design they will be fixed by programmers rather than designers. Even more importantly great opportunities for leveraging appropriate digital technologies are lost simply because it’s not how a print designer thinks.
The digital brainstorming team needs to include a number of specialties including design, copy, usability, technology and strategy. The real challenge is that each specialty must have a comfort level with all the others. The edges of the disciplines are necessarily blurred to achieve the best results.
The designer that is knowledgeable about technology options and routinely asks the technology lead about what is and isn’t possible is a gem. The programmer who understands the messaging strategies to the point of being able to make tech suggestions in support of brand goals is a rare find. The copywriter who understands search and can weave keyword strategies into compelling copy is a terrific asset.
I think that one of the reasons that agencies are so fond of flash websites is how similar the process is to TV and traditional creative. Art directors dream up whatever they like, hand off to the flash developer and a site is born. Issues like SEO, page load time, usability and mobile options are often afterthoughts. A small team can develop the site from beginning to end (discounting back end requirements) protecting agency profit margins. Also, screen captures look great on the portfolio page.
I don’t mean that flash is necessarily the wrong technology. I’ll let Steve Jobs run with that one. I only mean that the decision about which technologies to apply and how to do it require a multi-disciplinary team to ensure that relevant options are considered, good choices are made via sound reasoning, and marketing and brand goals are achieved.