• Transform magazine
  • April 16, 2024

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The power of designing with love

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Tom Carey, senior creative director at Wolff Olins, explains why it is vital to design with love and leave yourself open to heartbreak.

“Don’t get too emotionally attached,” they say. 

Impossible.

Impossible, if you want to create brands that make you feel something, that have personality and character, that create an emotional response. Emotions are the most important and powerful thing designers have to work with and we should embrace them. The strongest emotion of all? Love.

Designing with love. Sounds soppy? It’s actually quite tough.

It means leaving yourself vulnerable and open to heartbreak. It means fighting for what you believe in and convincing others to leave themselves vulnerable too. It means saying no to pessimism, panic and pressure.

Designing with love isn’t naive or fluffy. Designing with love is powerful and effective. It’s difficult and fraught with danger. This is an industry where it’s easier to say you hate something, rather than say you love it.

But it’s worth the risk. 

Love the imperfections

The brands I gravitate to are the ones that, like people, aren’t totally perfect. They have character, charm, soul, quirks and a sense of humour. Not every project should be a walking joke book, but even the most serious of brands can have personality and create a smile in the mind.

So, how do you go about creating a brand with actual personality? One that creates an emotional response, something you feel?

I’m not saying it’s easy. It 100% isn’t. Doing it at scale is tough, too – the pressure of time, money and reputation can weigh heavy on a team. 

But the world needs big brands that feel less corporate and more characterful. Google has long set the benchmark for approachable tech, and I love seeing brands in other ‘functional’ categories dial up their personalities. In aviation, British Airways brings a witty tone of voice to everything, from their ads to their safety videos. In finance, Monzo brings observational humour to social. And in healthcare, Specsavers is ready for any blooper with a well-timed use of its famous tagline.

Love the process

“It’s what you put in that counts.” And the same goes for creating brands. The emotion that it makes you feel is usually a reflection of the emotions that went into creating it; the feeling, atmosphere and ethos of the project.

A project that felt serious to create, probably will look and feel pretty serious at the end of it. A project that feels seriously fun, probably was. You can tell if work has heart and soul in it. And you can tell if work feels fearful, cautious and overly serious.

So, love the process – look after the team spirit just as much as you do the work itself.

I’ve always found I do my best work when I’m designing with a smile on my face. It means I’m creating something that makes me feel something – in the best of cases, something I love.

Fun, optimism and a sense of humour often rank as some of the traits people find most attractive in a partner. Sadly, they’re words that rarely live in a briefing document. But if brands want to create a relationship with people, designing with these traits should at the very least be considered seriously.

Love in the coldest of categories

We’ve spent the last year working with LG on reinventing its brand, bringing a smile back to technology and giving personality, character and emotion to everything it designs. 

How did we do it? By designing with curiosity, with freedom and with a smile. By tapping into the strongest human emotions…like joy, humour and love. And by embracing fairly primitive ideas that transcend cultures and languages – like the power of a smile, the joy of a dance and the wonder of a children’s short story book. 

One thing that literally forced us to design with emotion for LG was the design philosophy we created for them: Emotionally Intelligent Design.

Simply put, Emotionally Intelligent Design means listen first, understand people’s emotional states and then design experiences that bring that to life. So, if a person is busy, keep it simple. If they’re curious, be welcoming. And if they’re excited, be excited too!

Our LG team (aka Team Life’s Good) put many, many emotions into the project. Our behind the scenes video is a little glimpse of the approach that took us there.

Not every project will offer or open a vast range of emotions to design to, but when they do: go for it with all your heart.

With Love, Tom.

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