Simple is not equal to easy

Like most communications and marketing projects, the goal is to capture the attention and imagination of your audience. Make it memorable. Make it honest. Inspire action. And then the dreaded words “just make it simple”.

So often creatives are asked to produce something that is “just simple”. This often implies that it will also be “just easy” and therefore “just cheap” and “just fast”. Imagine for a moment, that you own a fine-dining restaurant and you ask your chef to create a simple signature dish for the menu. In this case, if simple also means easy, cheap and fast, you may end up with a microwave meal.

Why simple isn’t easy

Simplicity leaves nowhere to hide. A simple end-product takes care and skill to execute. A simple design looks inviting. It has breathing space. It is easer for the viewer to process and digest.

What you won’t see in simple design though, is how it came to be. Behind the scenes of creating simplicity, you’re likely to find a designer hunched over their computer, zoomed in, aligning and tweaking vector points to perfection.

The words “don’t spend too much time” and “just make it simple” are often used together in the same sentence. However not spending the required amount of time, and rushing the process, can result in errors and imperfections. An experienced designer knows that while these imperfections may seem slight, they can quickly demote your brand. Every element of a simple design should have purpose and speak confidently, whether literally, in writing or visually.

Simplicity leaves nowhere to hide.

Susan Mackell, Smack Design

The process

Consider an engaging but simple 15 second video which leaves you with a clear message. It inspires you. You feel something. Maybe you like or comment on the video, and follow the page that posted the video. Maybe you join a cause or buy a product. You could contact the business and seek their services, or maybe you just mention them to a friend. Whatever the case, success!

While the end result is a snappy 15 seconds, there’s no doubt that the creative process would have been longer.

Obtaining the brief: A series of emails, phone calls and meetings is usually needed to gain a full understanding of the project and its requirements. Research is required and professional guidance is provided along the way.

Preparations: Once the brief is clear, preparations will need to be made. This includes storyboarding, script-writing, sourcing actors, props, hair and make up, locations, back-up locations and more. Other things to consider include time of day, weather and surrounding noise. In addition, camera batteries need to be charged, memory cards cleared, appropriate lenses – the list goes on.

Filming: An experienced videographer will assess numerous things when they arrive at the site where filming will take place. The lighting, background, props and more. They will set up their equipment accordingly, and make adjustments as required throughout filming. The videographer will provide guidance and suggest changes as required. With time and money in mind, they will capture everything they need and more, to avoid having to reshoot.

Editing: Once filming is wrapped up and before editing begins, an editor may need to watch hours of footage. They need to find the key sections that will most effectively tell the story, or explain the product, cause or service. The editor should understand who the message is for as they piece it together in a logical and seamless way. They will need editing skills as well as communication and story-telling abilities. They also need to keep the brief in mind throughout as they whittle down to a neat 15 seconds, which is suitable for distribution over various social media platforms.

Extras: A great video will also have audio right? This could be a combination of music and voice. The audio should align with the visual elements of the video, as well as the brand and mood of the message. Text or photos are often included, with permission and/or payment being required before fonts, photography, graphics and music are used.

This is just one example of one creative production process. The end-product may be a photograph, a painting or a logo.

The result

It may be an article, a brochure, a website or a song. Every project is different and has unique challenges. It’s the skill, adaptability and experience of the creative, that ensures these challenges are overcome. A professional creative works through problems and clears the way, to create confident simplicity, which speaks effectively to the intended audience.

A professional creative works through problems and clears the way, to create confident simplicity, which speaks effectively to the intended audience.

Susan Mackell, Smack Design

Most working creatives enjoy what they do, however turning their talents into a working model that pays the bills in a competitive industry, can take years of training, hard work and experience. This could be in the form of successful and failed projects, set backs, self doubt, accolades and rejections. The contribution of creatives are important. Creative work serves a purpose, whether in the form of graphic design, photography, web development, writing or film making.

By the time a creative professional has reached some level of success, they know how to gracefully take feedback, explain their choices and work with a client to ensure they get the best result in the most efficient way. They will understand that creating something simple, as opposed to something clumsy and rushed, is a beautiful balancing act. A balancing act that is worth effort and expertise, to achieve a truly professional result which can elevate your brand. A result they can be proud of.