Date Posted: November 1, 2017Reading time: 3 minutes
I was a kid in the 1980s. I was surrounded by the toys of the day like He-Man, GI Joe, and Lego. And man, I couldn’t get enough. There was something great about adding the latest action figure to your collection. Your friends all had Battle Armor He-Man, and now you’ve got one too! But now that we’re all grown-ups, there’s so much less of a pull toward mass-produced cheap junk, isn’t there? (although I must confess, I’m still surrounded by Lego).
So, what happened?
About 10 years ago, I heard an interesting prediction, something along these lines: “mass-marketed products will always be important, but they’ll begin to lose their widespread consumer popularity.” In other words? Gen Xers and Millennials (before we even called them that) won’t want the cold, plastic, destined-for-the-landfills world that their parents had. Every generation defies the last one, right? So, if this new group of people won’t be interested in factory-made crap, what will they want? They’ll want things that are authentic. Made by hand. Things that are real. Don’t believe me? Well, all you have to do is look at the proliferation of farmers markets, craft beer, and far-too-expensive bespoke t-shirts. The appeal of mass-produced “stuff” just isn’t what it used to be. We’ve all crossed that line and some of us didn’t even realize it.
I’m a graphic designer-turned-art director and I live & breathe the visual arts, at work and at play. So, what’s this “handmade” business got to do with the visual arts? Well, the same thing as everything else, really. In the end, consumer packaged goods try to appeal to a market’s sensibility – and so does graphic design. Both have to be attention-getting. And both sell a lifestyle. And they both have to be a bit of a statement in and of themselves. For example, you need a blanket? You could go to Wal-Mart and grab something for $40. Or you could stop by a local wool shop and spend $80 on a hand-woven piece of art. I think the same way when designing, say, a headline-driven poster. Sure, I could pick one of a thousand fonts, but then it’d look just like everyone else’s poster. Or I could spend more time and use string art, or cut paper, or even ranch dressing to create something unique and special. Because special things get noticed!
And I’ve gotta level with you. There’s another reason that I love using handmade elements in my work, and it’s a little selfish. See, I was lucky enough to be born with the amazing ability to explore and create. And as a member of the human race, it behooves me to do everything that I can with these two hands. It’s a huge part of what drove me to become a visual artist: not only do I have to create for a living, I get to create. And that’s a major gift!
On a side note: whatever your special skill is, be it ballet or singing or carpentry or baking – show everyone just how amazing you are at it. It’s so great that we weren’t put on this planet as beetles, or cows, or fungi – we’re humans, and humans can do incredible things, so own it.
I create handmade art as often as possible because it’s unique and it gets noticed, and because I’m lucky enough to be able to. I don’t want to make the same stuff (or be the same person, for that matter) as everyone else. And I know I haven’t spoken much about marketing at large, but it all comes down to universal truths; we all want to be seen and appreciated!
Do something special and something only you could do. Be one of a kind and watch the world take note.
But leave me my Lego. Don’t touch my Lego.