Q&A with Dylan Koh: What’s the Value of a Creative Concept?
Design is not just about making things beautiful.
All of Bang’s best brand websites and demand generation campaigns start with a compelling creative concept. Our clients often ask us what goes into developing these concepts, so last Friday, I had a chat with our Creative Lead and Senior Designer Dylan Koh to find out.
Here are some excerpts from our conversation:
First off, what are creative concepts?
For us, concepts are really the story behind our creative. When you lead your audiences through a journey or tell them a relevant story, you connect with them on a more personal level and help them to understand your message that much better. With a good creative concept, you’re not just selling a product; you’re telling a story that then connects people to the product.
Why do you even bother with concepts in the first place?
They just make our campaigns and our designs that much more interesting. A concept brings the design to life. For instance, we work with a lot of IT clients in the B2B space. We see a lot of the same messaging, and a lot of the same product-focused benefits that their competitors highlight. So, through our creative concepts, we can help them differentiate on both the rational AND emotional experiences that their customers have with their brands. When we develop our concepts, we focus on people’s emotions and try to inject elements of fun into the brand experience.
What differentiates conceptual design from other kinds of design?
I remember going to a design conference where the speaker raised up two Ziploc bags. One was full of poo--yes, actual poo! The other bag was full of poo covered in gold. He made the point that no matter whether you had poo or poo covered in gold, it’s still poo.
In the same way, you can have design. And then you can have beautiful design. But a creative concept is what really brings that design to life and makes it something else entirely. It gives the design meaning. Then, it’s not just design; it’s more of an idea.
Design is not just about making things beautiful. Everyone can design to a certain extent. You can be the designer with the best Photoshop skills or InDesign skills or Illustrator skills, but what I find differentiates a good designer from a great designer is whether or not that person has thought it through and can tell a story through their design.
What is your favourite concept from the past couple years?
Our IBM Tealeaf campaign with CEBS was one of my favourites. I liked that one because it’s really out of the box. It was so direct and straightforward in the idea that the solution let you put yourself in a customer's shoes, but the execution really made it fun.
Who would have thought you could use a fashion item on an IT company’s page? A pair of runners is not something you’d ever expect to see when you land on a page sponsored by IBM. But it just made sense.
It was also very interactive and was one of the first campaigns we did that used HTML5 effectively. Whatever shoe they picked changed the whole look and feel of their environment, so it was really contextualised as well. The campaign was also a first for the client and earned a global best practice nomination as a result.
What’s your first step in developing concepts?
You always go back to the single-minded proposition (SMP). It’s what differentiates our clients from their competitors, so I always concentrate on that. I start by thinking, ‘How can I say that—but in a different way?’ That’s when you start jotting out different ideas. Keep writing them down. Even if I think it might be stupid, I write it down.
What kind of brief helps you develop the best concepts?
A good brief is not only when the SMP is clear, but also when there are really clear key messages. What are the benefits? The pain points. I like it when there’s a strong back story and I understand what their brand stands for. It also helps when the brief highlights their competitors. Then I can research what others are doing in the same space.
In the end, the best clients are the ones that give us free rein and are willing to work closely with us. Coming up with concepts is one thing, but the interaction with our clients is another thing. If you can couple the two, your work just gets much better. If we can bring our client through the process with us, then there’s more of a sense of trust around the concepts we come up with.
How do you weave brand archetypes into a concept?
When you start thinking of concepts, taglines, headings, tone of voice, you’re very conscious and cautious of the archetypes. You don’t want to come up with a concept that is totally different from that brand’s archetypes. If a client embodies a really strong archetype—especially in a brand campaign—it’s really important that the archetype plays a role in influencing the way we come up with our concepts. We weave it in to make sure that the visuals, the idea, the tagline, the copy all fits with the character of the brand.
Is it easier when a brand has defined their archetype?
On the one hand, archetypes are great because they set you on a direct path. But then, as a designer, they limit me from doing whatever I want. That sometimes makes it harder. So while they do sometimes restrict my creativity, in the end, the archetypes actually make our concepts stronger and more consistent with the brand.
Why do we tend to present more than one creative concept for each new brand or each campaign?
We give our clients choices because to be honest, we’re not always going to get it right. Unless we know the clients really well, and they’ve already told us really specifically what they want, it’s always good to go in with at least two concepts.
Also, at Bang, we always try to deliver one concept that is a bit safer. But we also want to push the boundary and show one that’s a little bit cooler, a bit more fun and out of the box. Sometimes clients already have an idea of what they want in their heads. If you go in with two or three concepts, you’re more likely to get that right. But it’s also our job to encourage our clients to go out of their comfort zones a bit.
People are quite blasé about the different ads out there. So you want to go in with something that’s really going to stand out from the crowd. We want it to be relevant, but we also try to help our clients be a bit disruptive and different from others.
Hope that answered some questions! To learn more about how creative concepts, brand archetypes or our other Bang methodologies might help you solve your brand challenges, please get in touch.