The Style Trap

The Style Trap

Well known as the creator of such brands as V&A (Victoria & Albert Museum, London), Reuters and Pan Am, and a founding partner of Pentagram (one of the world’s leading branding and design companies) Alan Fletcher (1932-2006) was famous for not having a style. Fletcher (pictured below, portrait by Steve Slayford) said,

“The solution to any visual problem has an infinite number of variations; that many of them are valid; that solutions ought to derive from the subject matter; that the designer should therefore have no preconceived graphic style.”

AF_Slayford_SmIt’s impossible for creatives not to be influenced by ephemeral trends that bubble up from time-to-time. Even fine artists are prone to being influenced by concepts and ideas in the work of others. From an artist’s point of view, there is nothing wrong with attempting to push a concept further than the previous artist. But in serving the needs of the corporate client, there is nothing worse than the imposition of a personal style, or using the client’s work as a stage on which to act out ones artistic ambitions.

The trap that adhering to a particular style sets is one of impurity. The solution will be tainted by impure intentions (trying to apply a particular style) rather than responding directly to the reality of the problem as presented in the moment.

Miyamoto MusashiMiyamoto Musashi (1584-1645) was a legendary Samurai swordsman with a style he called “the style of no-style.” His style was considered odd, but extremely effective. Japanese historical records state that he won over 60 duels to the death, and yet he did not adhere to a style or specific school of swordsmanship. Legend has it that he would trade his sword for the branch of a tree or the oar of a boat if it better suited the fight.

Creating effective branding and design that avoids cliches and the repetition of a style depends on the purity of the solution. A beautiful solution evolves from understanding the problem on a deeper level, not just stylish design. Alan Fletcher said,

“Style is a curious word because it can mean all sorts of things, from mannerism to charisma. However, as far as I’m concerned, either what you’ve done has panache or it hasn’t. You can’t design panache.”

Tyrone Pardue

Tyrone is the Director of Branding and Creative at 451 Marketing!

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