“Daddy, What’s a Brand?” and 9 More Awkward Questions for Uncertain Times


Naked, without its logo

1. “Daddy, what’s a brand?” Chiquita, Victoria’s Secret, The GOP, Amnesty International. They all use marketing and invite trust in a distinct belief system. They’re all, to one degree or another, brands. For a brand, nirvana is when your good name is so widely endorsed that it enters the language. “Pass the Kleenex.” “Google it.” But that’s the top of a long and slippery slope–look at Toyota and Tiger Woods. A healthy brand drives up your stock, and vice versa. These are the things we thought we knew. It’s 2010–are they still true?

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CREATIVE CLICHÉ CORNER #1 – Is it high-time we turned off the high-energy light bulb..?

I hope to make CREATIVE CLICHÉ CORNER a regular feature over the coming months. There are plenty of hackneyed motifs out there in the designosphere that, though anathema to the few great graphic artists of our time, are over-used by thousands of others. I hope you’ll find my choices amusing, and I’d love to hear your suggestions too.

Broken light bulb


For the first Creative Cliché Corner, I’ve chosen my favourite (probably not the right word!) commonplace icon, the light bulb – not only because it’s a regular traveller on the creative corn cart but also because its days might be numbered.

The ubiquitous glowing light bulb image has over decades burnt itself into our consciousness as the motif of choice amongst designers of business book covers to represent a bright idea. (And in all sorts of popular media for that matter – there’s a great list here.) Why I wonder? Well I guess there’s a clue in the word ‘bright’, and I suppose we’d all agree that great ideas do have that kind of switch effect – sudden and out of the blue, a flash of inspiration.

But we must now ask ourselves in today’s renewable energy obsessed culture whether there’s still a place for the incandescent, argon-filled, short-lived power muncher – on book covers, or anywhere else for that matter? Will we begin to see the (somewhat less than iconic) curly tubes of the energy-efficient replacements? Can’t see it happening, can you? For a start, what would the inelegant, gloomy, slow-to-glow model be saying about our ideas…? On the other hand, how soon will it be before the traditional bulb starts to appear as old-fashioned as a gas lamp? You only have to look at those amusing 1980s photo library shots of the then state-of-the-art mobile phones to see how clunky they will seem. Not much of a choice then: slow and dim or, well, outdated!


So, the urgent plea to designers everywhere must be: start searching, and fast, for a 21st century ideas-icon replacement.

Or, more to the point, maybe instead we should be asking our scientists to invent an energy-saving light bulb that will make designers, and the rest of us, happy – one that’s just like a good idea – bright, quick and elegant!

Please share your thoughts.

(The ‘One Life To Live’ lamp is a beautifully designed, though decidedly macabre, alternative to the traditional bulb!)

A serious footnote: You may
already know that the new ‘green’ fluorescent lamps (cfls) contain the highly poisonous heavy metal mercury. I’m no expert on this subject so I won’t offer my opinion, but you should be aware of how to dispose of them. There are plenty of other sources of information so you might want to do a web search to determine the facts for yourself.

This post was first published August 2009 in The DeZine Journal.