The NeXT Big Thing
When Steve Jobs was forced out of Apple, Inc. in the mid-80s, he set out to form a new computer company, one that would focus on the higher education, science, and business markets. These would be top-of-line machines, built in custom factories here in the United States, and their purpose was to change the world.
Always a devotee of the power of marketing and branding, St. Jobs met with rock-star graphic designer Paul Rand to create a new brand for his new product. Jobs had a budget of $100,000, and he needed this new identity to be a home run.
The initial interview with Rand?
I asked him if he would come up with a few options, and he said, ‘No, I will solve your problem for you and you will pay me. You don’t have to use the solution. If you want options go talk to other people.’
These terms were reluctantly accepted, and Rand allegedly delivered a 100-page brochure detailing all aspects of the brand, including the precise angle at which the logo needed to always be displayed, and the new company name: NeXT.
Now, the computers were not a commercial success, but they built the foundation for St. Jobs return to Apple, and they were the soul of Apple’s legendary resurgence.
The logo, however, was iconic. Some people love it (including me), some do not. It is still studied and judged to this day, though, and that speaks to its significance.
Rand was a character, for sure, and he designed some of the most important logos of the last 100 years. He carried a gravitas to his portfolio and could walk into the client meeting, with St. Jobs of all people, and demand full payment for one final logo. No iterations, no revisions.
He was the professional graphic designer, not the client. He knew what he was doing, and would not suffer suggestions from those who did not.
What Fresh Hell is This?
On the other side of the spectrum…last night, while skimming through FB, I saw an ad for a company called Tailor Made, claiming a person could “Create Your Own Logo Today For Just $24! Save an extra 25% when you use the code “tailor25″”.
Through the use of their magic algorithm, a person would only need 10 minutes and $24 and they could have a complete brand identity.
Fascinating. Laughable… if it wasn’t so disturbing.
The use of artificial intelligence (AI) to guide customers through design development is a growing trend right now. The idea is that all of the salient decision points can be put into an algorithm, and by answering a series of questions, the system can produce “custom” graphic design work for the client.
The human element is irrelevant. Your expertise is unnecessary. Your ability to understand your client’s problem is insignificant. Your entire skill set can be shoehorned into a decision matrix.
Now, in the time it takes for a pot of water to boil, and for the cost of a couple of pizzas, anyone can be Paul Rand!
Dancing With The Devil
After my initial revulsion subsided, honestly…my next thoughts were: Could I incorporate this platform into my own work. Could this be a tool that I could use to generate logos quickly? Could I leverage my experience to steer the algorithm accurately for my clients, and use it to make my own work better?
Nah. Well…maybe. I don’t know.
Ultimately, I think we have to find space for these platforms. And that is not to suggest that we have a choice — we do not, they are here. It is probably a good thing for some clients to use these services — especially the kind of clients who give guidance like “I don’t know what I want, but I’ll know it when I see it.”
There will be clients for whom these DIY solutions, where they can spend their time going through the AI process and creating their own graphic design work and websites, will be the best choice. That is a fact.
Are the finished solutions inferior? Of course. There is not website done in Wix or Weebly or TheGrid that can truly compare with a properly built custom site. And there is just.no.way. that an algorithm, that will be pulling elements from a static database, can ever be as creative as a human.
But, for some clients, they are certainly good enough.
After all, very few clients sit down to dinner with a $100,000 budget. At least, not the clients I meet with.
And not many of us are, or will ever be, Paul Rand.
There is still a lot of open ground between $24 and $100,000. More than enough, and that’s where I’ll be working.
Originally published on LinkedIn.