Thursday, 5 February 2009

The Infinite Digital Revolution?

There are a wealth of publications celebrating Visual Commercial Design’s rich history and place in visual culture. I cannot find any publications however which discuss the implications of the digital market on this area that may raise questions about the future of Visual Commercial Design. I don’t wish to lament the end of Commercial Design (after all it hasn’t happened) but without the constraint of shelf space in physical retail and the unending late nights installing intricate windows how can a true picture of how it effects the customer demands be revealed? There is a wealth of research in to the value of this part of Design but to understand the wider perspective it is perhaps necessary to look at the general subject of Design itself?
Interestingly as a self confessed online shopper myself I am therefore (apparently) ‘goal’ orientated and often know what I want or need and therefore try to avoid the distractions from sales staff and marketing – although this is a terrible confession for someone so passionate about shopping and Retail Interior design not to enjoy the experiential process, however I do tend to go ‘shopping’ just for the retail experience rather than necessarily the purchasing of a product experience, finding what I want, testing, trying etc. and purchase it when I get home online, maybe it’s a male trait?
However there are usually so many products jostling for attention, that creating a defining image that slices through competitors is of course so crucially important. We are massively over stimulated visually every day and perhaps gradually we are all becoming far more discerning in our purchases or maybe simply anaesthetised to the multifarious aesthetics? However what seems clear is that Commercial Design has yet to cross over (in its conventional sense) to the digital media and therefore perhaps not as central as it could be to the visual culture of the digital version of the brand unless of course the brand in question has a particular graphic package and that it flows through the whole brand package but that’s just transferring an image in a variety of forms and very easy to do.
It is of course ever more important that brands have a strong visual identity because it is the way in which at least in some part that we define ourselves, however what does seem to be missing at the moment are display design concepts – I say this in the traditional sense of display rather than a graphic package placed in a window. How can this cross over into the digital media using ‘traditional’ display design techniques with mannequins, props, narrative concepts etc.? Digital technology is beginning to make retail store display stores themselves appear antiquated or jaded much like going to the Circus or Zoo became and therefore there is evolving an interesting juxtaposition of traditional and modern forms of experience with no (at least not yet) obvious solution?
What is so interesting therefore is that so few brands are following through their concepts from their stores and store windows into the digital arena, almost as if they are completely unrelated personalities or separate departments are working in different parts of a building somewhere and no one is talking, I am not sure. Perhaps we just haven’t discovered or perhaps the technology hasn’t yet been developed to allow us to translate three-dimensional concepts convincingly into the digital arena?
How then do we capture traditional store windows and the experience of these enviroments that flows through to an online presence?
I am thinking of, for example seeing a musician play live and buying their music on line, the emphasis perhaps is on the showmanship? Ultimately we still seem to be competing between the virtual world and the actual one and perhaps we need to begin to find solutions to this?
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