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Concept != Layout

Fellow Razorfisher and social media guru Shiv Singh asks, in the age of social media, do big ideas matter less? Truth be told, I've been thinking about how to craft my reaction to this since I first read a similar tweet from Michael Lebowitz, CEO of Big Spaceship about how the old ad agency creative partnerships are being replaced with other roles.

@bigspaceship: where(sic) putting the art director & copywriter together was the structure of the tv age, we put strategy, tech, design and production together

The quick gist is that there's a shift towards execution versus concept. The art school I went to had a very strong and simple philosophy that it taught its students: concept is king. In crits we were always asked, "Why did you pick that typeface?" or "What is that color supposed to signify?" or "Why did you choose that style of photography?" etc. There had to be a reason for all the elements in our designs and that reason had to be rooted in the concept.

Concept was not about layout. A concept (or idea) was your point of view on the message you're trying to convey. And the acid test for whether the concept was a true concept was whether or not you could verbally sum it up in just a couple of sentences and have a completely different design to support that concept.

Oftentimes the word "concept" gets thrown around in our industry. It has become a stand-in for almost any creative deliverable. Three designs are not three concepts. A concept, however, can be executed in three different ways.

Next time, a more direct reaction to if big ideas still matter. Hint: They do.

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