Who cares if it works, I don’t like it!

By: Evan Scott, Vice President, Strategy and Development

Establishing objective criteria is critical for effective creative concept development.

First a word about graphic design. Graphic design, by definition, is not artwork. Art is creativity without boundaries. Art exists for itself. In fact, the best art is recognized as such, in part, because it allows the observer to come to their own conclusion, tell their own story, or create their own feelings.

Graphic design is just the opposite. Creativity in graphic design is not based in freedom, but in boundaries. First, there are boundaries of meaning, or messaging. Next, you have timelines and budgets. Then, you have deeper, more complicated issues of audience psychographics and other things – for example, if I’m selling soap, my “cleanliness” message might change depending upon whether I was addressing young men or older women, athletes or academicians.

Because graphic design and, by extension, creative concept development are there to serve a particular purpose, we create objective criteria to measure whether or not our creativity is serving that purpose. When developing a new brand identity, there are two ways to approach it:

Subjective criteria

•            Pick colors, fonts and messaging that you think are cool.


Objective criteria

•            What do your customers want to see and hear?

•            Identify and assess competitive identity packages:

what colors, fonts and messaging are they using?

•            Identify key thoughts, ideas and messages that you want the identity to communicate

(e.g., professional, trustworthy, willing to go the extra mile, etc.)

•            Will the new design and messaging work across all media and color choices?

•         And, finally, does your messaging explain, inspire or otherwise energize your audience?


You’ll want to be sure that the choices you make for your creative development speak to

your customers and prospects. Because in the end, you want them to feel and believe that

your product or service meets their needs, is different and better than any alternative, and

stands for something meaningful.


Penny Ohlmann Neimann

The Ohlmann Group has a rich history that began in Dayton, Ohio in 1949, where the agency was founded as Penny and Penny by Bob Penny and his wife Jean. In 1964, Walter Ohlmann joined the firm. Ralph Neiman came on in 1969 and the firm became Penny/Ohlmann/Neiman. In 2011, P/O/N was renamed The Ohlmann Group to better reflect the agency's ongoing evolution and collaborative nature.

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