By Ben Gibbs
Put your hand up if you love data. Keep your hand up if you love big data. Ok, keep your hand up if you think data is subjective? Humm. Only one.
More and more clients have realised the importance good data can have on their business. We all love data driven solutions to drive direction and delivery don’t we? The great thing about data is it can help steer us to a decision or an outcome, but we should be careful that it doesn’t actually start steering us to the solution. Sometimes we just need to use gut, instinct and intuition to try things and to make mistakes. Scrawled on a wall by our studio’s resident retired stonemason was a quote by a clever chap (Albert Einstein) ”Logic will get you from A-B. Imagination will take you everywhere”.
After taking a client through some solid strategy we presented the logo to them… and they loved it — after the meeting we thought “job done”. The next day a little request came in “Can we see 100 variations — we just want to be sure that the one you showed us is right for us”. I didn’t quite understand – 100 variations of the same thing that you all loved? Why do you need this? Then the penny dropped and I realised this was them needing to see that data. The variations helped them confirm the one that we all liked at the beginning was the right one. Phew.
Data can be a safety net. Trusting someone’s whim isn’t so safe a net to rely on. This is where I find myself fighting with myself. With a history in information design and a recent history in creative branding the two worlds collide. I like having things backed up with reason, rational and logic but I’m learning that sometimes you just need to throw a creative grenade into the mix to offer up something unexpected otherwise you will end up at destination B.
I read an interesting paragraph on subjective and objective data (I have to admit I had to read it twice to understand) and found this to be useful: If I respond to the question “How easy is your computer to use on a scale of 1 to 10?”, my answer “seven” is quantitative, but it has resulted from my subjective opinion, so it is both quantitative and subjective.
Like design it turns out can data be subjective. With quantitive data you can pick and choose what you want to see, you can phrase some words that change how a number is read. Qualitative data is primarily subjective and that is where I struggle – who do you listen to? Someone who has been doing this for 10 years or a reaction from 100 people on the street? Who’s data set is more valid?
As a designer I am processing lots of ‘design data’ in every decision I make — the more we design and longer we design the bigger the data set becomes. Our qualitative data influences our designs, that’s how we get variety. But then qualitative data can be subjective. I found out my client doesn’t like yellow and I do. Can we use data to settle this debate? Probably; but who actually cares – I’ll just not use yellow.
Sometimes people need to see the data set to help validate a decision or reassure the work has been done. It is very easy to present the recommendation but how can we justify that recommendation with no visual back up? Some people trust you. Some people need to see all the workings that got you to where you are – even if that means visualising something that you know won’t work.
So are 100 logo variations design data? Probably.
Ben Gibbs is a Designer at Wolff Olins, London.