Talking promise, performance and persistence with Brian Collins

“Not everything should be about storytelling or simplicity,” says the design guru.

Creative sage Brian Collins shared his perspective on the nature of advertising agencies at large before taking to the Design Indaba Conference stage, drawing from his wealth of experience in the business as a brand strategist. Though he celebrates the success of frontrunning firms and those he has collaborated with throughout the years such as Ogilvy, Collins challenges the commonly held belief that the best way to move an audience into action is through storytelling. In this interview he discussed the fallibility of creating a narrative where none existed before.

“Not everything is a story,” he said, reaching for a smartphone as an example, “This is a complex system. It’s a product. There’s no storytelling. It responds a certain way. There’s no narrative going on here. Advertising agencies are always trying to say that storytelling drives everything – it doesn’t.”

Instead, Collins presents a more dynamic, three-pronged approach to the practice of advertising and brand evolution. He is interested in the process of creating a future for his clients and not just presenting an emotive story to sell a product. The designer pairs the philosophy down into a succinct trio of concepts – promise, performance and persistence.

“I would say good design is something that inspires meaningful change. It is something that can make your life easier, make it more understandable, might even make it more complex.”

Collins questions the design world’s unending pursuit for simplicity, arguing that outright complexity has given rise to humanity’s most celebrated creations as demonstrated by musical masterpieces.

“Complex is a good word. This passion for simplicity is insane. The idea that design has to be simple? Maybe, but I don’t think it’s a worthy aim. I think it might be an outcome if needs be. But to say ‘simplicity is best’ – no! People usually say simple is best because simple is all they know how to do,” Collins proffered before concluding that it is creativity that inspires, that moves, that makes one reconsider something or creativity that makes life easier that should be heralded as good design.