Copy-paste culture and homogeneity in design

Dec 30, 2019 · 3 min read

In a time where Pinterest, Instagram and thousands of inspiring blogs are only one-click away, designers (including myself) have started to become very lazy.

For Massimo Vignelli, the city of New York was his inspiration. He would walk around and be inspired by music, exhibitions, museums and life… Being curious about and understanding the visual world propelled him to create new ways of expression that were effective and stood the test of time.

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Various examples by Unimark from the Vignelli Archive at Rochester Institute of Technology. Image courtesy: AIGA
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Kenya Hara in his studio, Photographed by: Paul Barbera

I read this fantastic piece in Design Anthology magazine about Kenya Hara. For whom looking carefully at things was a way of discovering the “future” in the familiar. It sounds obvious but how many of us actually look at things around us and examine them?

He is skeptical about how the technology is shaping the world. Is everybody too busy collecting facts but not really understanding the subject?

“Too much information stops us from thinking.”

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Various Muji items. Image courtesy: Design Anthology Magazine

As our attention spans get shorter and our will to “remain uncertain” becomes lesser, our desire to find single click solutions surges. Online, we are able to create countless moodboards from designers around the world. The same way we instantaneously order lunch and rent any movie on the planet on demand, we seek inspiration on demand.

Before internet searches, designers would study the context of a project in great depth. If they were designing the logo for a brand, they would spend time with the company, its people and space; record their impressions as written notes, doodles and photographs. They would interview the client and together explore the history, personality, and eccentricities of the brand. They would scour the real world for analogous materials and the end result would very likely be something one-of-a-kind.

To feel inspired is hard work. It necessitates that we embed ourselves in different contexts, learn, understand, empathise — expand our minds and our understanding of what’s possible. The internet is surely an excellent way to find inspiration, but I question if designers should so primarily rely on this easy, one-click solution?

These days websites selling t-shirts look similar to chemical company sites and apps that stream movies look like those that help with your calculus homework. My ex-boss used to always say — “Why does everything have to look so boxy…” I think this was his response to the mind-numbing monotony that we see on the web today (and throughout the field of design) that is not only devoid of context but also devoid of any meaning.

In effect, this process silences a brand’s personality, denying it the chance to tell its unique story and develop its own graphic elements. And therefore, by paying attention to this problem, we get the opportunity to make a brand the best version of itself.

Adapted that last line there from a client (thanks Anirudh)

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