Eternal creative Beta

Google Reader for some algorythmic reason suggested that I read Fallon Planning‘s blog and while I am not a planner, Fallon didn’t sound like such a bad source. And as I read their first post about the usual “unmanage your brand”, “put people in charge” and “conversation-based campaign”, Conner’s mentioning of “eternal beta” stuck with me.

What if “eternal beta” , this expectation of flexibility and ever-changing functionality, usage and interpretation had to apply to the sheer visual veneer of a campaign? By now we are accustomed to users submitting stuff and this material being “all over the place” in visual terms. That’s fair enough since playing around with brand guardian-approved icons doesn’t produce the greatest variety or interestingness.

Pepsi Billboard

What if the whole campaign shell (layout, type, colors, contrast, GUI, sounds, animations) has no boundaries or fixed form? Is there any consistency left that makes a campaign recognizable, memorable and therefore have any effect? Sure, Tomato had an early stab at an ever-changing logo for SONY in 2001 and there have always been remixing tools for existing web pages, the latest being TenaciousD or Atmosphere’s Paint.

Between 0 and 1 on gold

Yet I don’t recall sites, banners or other digital formats that let you basically change absolutely everything. Choose a color combo from Adobe’s Kuler, pick your favourite DaFont and while you’re at it, flip through the visual preferences your social graph shares with you.

Of course all of that is pretty involved and works against the lean-back trend of consuming content online. Is it fair to say that eternal visual Beta isn’t in the interest of users, after all why should they come and re-arrange YOUR living room before watching TV? And if I want to see randomly designed pages that hurt the eye, I go to MySpace.

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3 responses to “Eternal creative Beta

  1. I think there’s a difference between having an every changing logo and letting your users/audience change everything. Tomato did a much more comprehensive job on the work they did for TV Asahi in Japan, constructing a visual language that was very versatile and always changing, yet still reminding you of the brand.

    In terms of user-generated or re-mixed design, the question – at least in design terms – is what purpose does it serve? Can the user just re-mix it for themselves on their own computer? Or are they affecting what everyone else sees? How would that all pan out on a site that is being simultaneously accessed by thousands of people? Does it have some kind of alignment to the site or is it just a trendy overlay in itself? I think there are situations where that kind of thing would work well, but the Guardian isn’t one of them. And, as you quite rightly said, MySpace is the ultimate example of amateurish design gone wild. Ouch.

    I don’t tell my dentist how to work on my teeth, I’m quite happy to let a decent designer lay out my type.

  2. Andy, unfortunately I couldn’t find any visual material on Tomato’s SONY or Ashai work, their site seems to omit those older pieces now. I only remember what John Warwicker showed last year at UTS.
    Good question what point it would serve to leave ALL design decisions to the user, I am not suggesting that it has one or that many would care enough to do it. Offering users the opportunity (and maybe display collective results) to pump their own visual petrol was simply an extension of the idea that digital communication has to adapt, reflect feedback, mirror what thoughts go on in real-time.

  3. That’s a shame. I have some of the TV Asahi stuff on my machine, but probably can’t post it anywhere.

    On a slightly similar but different track, I think personalisation has often been terribly misused in interaction design. I think it has often been thought of as being ‘interactive’ by marketing/lame strategy folks. But personalisation is often pretty crummy – I think a lot of people in an information overload era would prefer to have their online experiences expertly delivered and not have to fiddle about. That’s of course different when it comes to mobile devices and personal machines – their everyone loves to fiddle.

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