How many times have we reacted to a product, advertising or idea with “I love this” or “I hate that.” Instinctively we react emotionally, branding and creative is meant to affect us internally. I always quote that “Branding is a space you occupy in someone else’s mind.” So if this is the case, is there a flip side to creative subjectivity without emotion?
As someone who has been creating, producing and directing creative projects for years, I use many factors to determine if an end creative is successful. Most often the strength of the end product is a reflective of how strong the starting objectives were. A detailed creative brief can set the plan in motion of who the appeal is for, what it should say and what it should direct them to do. And with all creative, there is never just one correct interpretation of the brief. This is why we present multiple concept directions specifically when creating a new logo or identity design.
The next step is an interesting one, to move forward with the internal (account team) and external (client) providing feedback and implementing refinements while removing their own subjectivity from the evaluation. It helps to re-ask the questions throughout the process such as “does this appeal to the target audience?”, “does this creative fit the strategy set out in the brief?”, “is the creative development staying on time and on budget?” This consistency of asking the same questions helps to keep on point.
The next big thing that happens is it hits the masses. Often people don’t ask themselves those questions before they respond emotionally to the creative. Even if they are unsure of the questions, the audience, the objectives, they still relate it to themselves and their own perceptions. There is often a focus on the sub-points such as what specifically they are seeing, liking or not liking specific to an element or colour. This is all natural and completely expected. Truth be told I do this myself everyday. It is hard to dis-attach oneself and place ourselves in the shoes of others perceptions.
It is also difficult to remain unbiased on creative subjectivity when viewing only a portion of the end product. For example, we might evaluate a logo and place great importance on how it looks and makes us feel. However, that logo is a small piece of a bigger puzzle. It is only one touchpoint for the brand essence which is brought to life in countless other ways. And sometimes, when someone renders a design that fits the visual essence of that organization, the client or audience who has always been so closely connected to it may feel uncomfortable with something new. It often takes stepping outside of their box to evaluate things with a larger brand picture in mind.
So I go back to the question, can one have creative subjectivity? It depends. As someone with a career in evaluating creative as well as a human being carrying an emotional first reaction, creative should be meaningful and strive to solve a problem. It should do “something” for “someone” and tell them “something” that will affect their decisions moving forward. Sometimes you are the intended audience and sometimes you are not. The trick is to know the difference, ask yourself the right questions and then make a judgement.