Authenticity in Design & the Search Bar as a Design Tool

Authenticity in Design & the Search Bar as a Design Tool

The internet – friend or foe?

The internet is without doubt a mesmerising and beneficial thing but in the world of design, the immediate access for all designers and clients to images of the best projects in the world can potentially lead to a lackadaisical and homogenous design language that negates the need for any struggle to generate good solutions and in many cases can risk losing out on authenticity.


Web free design

When I first started in design if you wanted some inspiration you would have to: take a walk, go look at some things, travel maybe, even read a book, talk to your colleagues, talk to your client, do some sketches, play around with some ideas, listen to music, any activity that enabled you to think of 2 or 3 dimensional solutions.  If you needed some ‘look and feel’ images you would have to take a walk up to Magma book shop and buy a book or magazine, take it back to the studio and photocopy or scan a page (you didn’t want to be the guy that cut images out).  If you wanted to see what’s new at Milan, you had to go.

Balancing stimulus to get the best outcome

There’s no doubt that the net gives designers an amazing opportunity to find out what’s going on, supports research and development and can be a huge benefit as part of an iterative design process.  My concern is that access to so many images of other projects and design ‘noise’ gives us designers a great opportunity to short-cut some thought processes that may have previously added to the richness of a solution. The aesthetic aspect is one thing but also there is a risk that on some projects we are missing out on a great chance to create something really authentic for the client.  We are in a fast moving industry that needs innovation, which needs to be captured and shared.  Projects are getting more challenging, programmes shorter and design fees challenged but as designers we need to ensure we have the time and process to fully explore solutions without cutting corners, easier said than done.

I honestly think that the use of found imagery in design is why you can look at projects around the world that have varying briefs and users but a lot of commonality of design features.  There has and always will be design trends and movements but capturing the spirit of an age is different to repetition of design features.

The solution?

Using found imagery is part of the design process, always has been, but it should not be the start of the process. 

By putting skill, experience and reflections right at the start of the design thinking process, supported by not led by found imagery. I think currently a lot of the time it’s done the other way round which is wrong and leads to a potential lack of authenticity. 

Our job in the world of a post-corporate design language should be to express, encourage, enable and support a business characteristics, not add a veneer that mimics others.

The pen is mightier than the search bar!