The most important design and marketing questions of a generation
360 Cities presents an interesting dilemma. It is a gateway for visiting places on a map and viewing them in 360 degrees--an example of the type of virtual experience that has become increasingly prevalent in recent years.
My first question is this: As a vacationer, if you can go to a place and experience it virtually, do you need to travel there to experience it physically? "Well of course," you say. "To really experience a place, you have to be there." True--but what if, having experienced it virtually, you don't deem it significant enough to merit a physical visit? How many destinations that currently trade on mystique and discovery can survive that type of virtual scrutiny?
Now let's explode the question: Can your client's product, service, or idea survive virtual scrutiny? When it is illustrated, diagrammed, and dissected--revealed for its true self--will it continue to command the audience it commands today?
Here's an example of what I mean: I recently visited a city and had no idea where to find a good meal. A few years ago I would have found something that looked appealing and given it a shot. But now I look up restaurants on a site such as Yelp.com and see what people who have eaten in places nearby have to say about them. It is a helpful development for the consumer but a potentially worrisome one for the seller (especially one that relies heavily on mystique and discovery).
How does this relate to graphic design and marketing? It seems to me that our key challenge going forward will be to help clients achieve or retain significance. Not conventional significance but uber-significance--a type of honesty, clarity, style, and consistency that can survive the conclusions of those who view it through the virtual microscope.
The days when clever copy and gauzy photographs sell inferior products are numbered. The days of building brands on story alone are numbered. The days of predictable public relations are numbered. Assuming an organization can find a way to reach a prospective audience, I'm guessing the quality of its product and the honestly with which it is presented will have to be (in many cases) light years ahead of where it is in 2009.
Our success as marketers, graphic designers, copywriters, illustrators, and photographers will be wholly dependent on our ability to help clients re-invent and re-brand themselves--to help them see the world from all 360 degrees.