Ode to the Cliché
From the French word meaning printers blocks, the cliché, both visual and textual, are among the most despised in my profession, but many of us gloss over their usefulness.
We as designers need to be aware, and even use, visual clichés from time to time as a way of communicating effectively. If I want a visual metaphor for intelligence, nothing is as immediate as an owl or a pair of glasses. Instantly, an idea is expressed visually and effectively.
Likewise, the blending modes available in photoshop (bevel, emboss, inner glow, etc) are so prevalent they have become stylistic clichés. Yet if I am to design a candy bar wrapper, or a potato chip label, I need to study and make use of the established language. Unless a candy bar looks like a candy bar, it won’t be read as one in the over-stimulated world of the grocery store. So that means the visual clichés need to be considered.
However, proceed with caution. Making a company unique, while using tired old visual language, is an ineffective ploy to say the least.
The most effective and compelling solution would be to seek out and find your own metaphors. Create new clichés. However, as Giulia wrote on our blog last week, beware lest their meaning be lost on your audience