I remember the advertising and design industry in a time before computers arrived on the scene to make our lives easier. In this time there was no internet, stock image libraries used to send large printed catalogues around to every agency and you had to send out your typesetting to specialist foundries for the text to come back as bromides which were then pasted on boards by, the then, artworkers.


Now don’t get me wrong, computers and all of our modern digital technology have certainly made life much more efficient and convenient. They have made it possible for us to realize our creative vision in a way never dreamed of back then.


However, there has been a down side to this advancement.


Firstly, when you needed to commission third parties (with their associated costs) to even place an image in a layout or get the font you wanted it really focused your thoughts on what you actually wanted to achieve, in detail, before you did. This meant that a deeper creative thought process used to be employed by young designers, thinking things through with pencil and paper, reaching a satisfactory solution before you even thought to work something up to a presentation format.


Today this same process seems to take place in the virtual environment of the computer without a pencil getting a look in. A brief kicks off an online stock image search, which is placed directly into an illustrator layout, choose from your extensive library of fonts, bash out a quick headline and Bob’s your uncle – an ad! As you can image this approach often leads to shallow, ‘wallpaper’ advertising and design.


Secondly, because we can produce almost finished looking work even for our first presentation to clients, understandably, this is what they have come to expect every time. Worse still, because we are showing what to all intents and purposes appears to be a finished ad, clients feel that they must respond to it in kind. By that I mean they critique it as a finished ad. Now the ad may look finished to the client but to us it is still only a concept and I think this is where a lot of the confusions in modern presentations arise. Faced with such finished work clients obviously feel obliged to correct any mistakes they can see, especially so as not to allow them to creep into any finished production. So while the client is now focusing on the detail of models expression or model of car in the ad, we are still trying to convince them of the general approach. This means we are not talking the same language and get frustrated when we feel that we each miss the point. A return to scamps for client presentations would allow us to debate the general concept first, any fundamental issues ironed out before the detail is even considered.


In both these cases I would like to suggest a part return to those earlier times, as I do at Gulf Marcom. For designers and art directors to re-learn the art of thinking with pen and paper before jumping on the Mac. Making sure an idea is robust and addresses all concerns before presenting. And for clients to start accepting scamps again as a respectable presentation format. In this way the idea comes first and execution can be discussed and fine tuned to achieve an optimum result for both agency and client alike.


After all no matter how good the detail of art direction, the idea is always king.


- Dean Massey