My Career is a Laughing Matter. Here's Why I'm Ok With That.
Ok, so I have a confession to make.
First, please take a quick look at this design I made recently:
So here goes, ready? There is no Mount Pleasant Baking Collective.
There is a Mount Pleasant (in my hometown of Lancaster, Ohio) but to my knowledge there aren't very many socialists (I knew one, he moved to Bermuda) and definitely even fewer socialist bakers.
So why did I make this? The answer is, if you'll pardon the first of many forthcoming puns, because the jokes are baked-in to the idea.
Rising together. For the yeast of these. Bread for times like this. From each according to his ability, to each according to his knead.
The seemingly absurd juxtaposition of socialism and baking was actually inspired by a real-world event. In Venezuela's case, the authoritarian socialist state is banning bakers from making brownies and other fancier pastries and even arresting them for the offense. I turned this story around in my head and then I had this thought:
"What if some socialists pooled all of their resources together and made bread available to everyone around them... and gave it away for free. That wouldn't only be awesome... that would also be funny."
Immediately the puns started coming. So did the inspiration. A few hours later I had arrived at a logo that played equally off of old Soviet-era enamel pins and modern artisanal-minimalist (artisinalist?) design. I even snuck in a pun.
The reaction I got online upon sharing was really positive. I was able to take a political flashpoint like socialism (which people either really, really love or really, really hate) and a whimsical-yet-practical craft like baking and tie it together using humor. The logo above isn't yelling at you... it's winking at you. Stephen Colbert as opposed to Bill O'Reilly. You are in on the joke and what could be seen as political becomes a punchline. A punchline, mind you, that is just as skillfully crafted, thought-out, and rendered as any logo I would create for any client. But a punchline regardless.
Perhaps it's a professional risk for me to say this, but I believe that humor is essential to informing design. Humor is the soul of a story. It brings the viewer and that which she views into a shared space. It can vault over the walls consumers erect to shield themselves from the deluge of advertising. Humor reaches out.
Self-importance in marketing can sometimes translate to least important to your end user. Design and branding often take themselves way too seriously when some of the most effective ads of all time were just flat-out funny. And memorable.
DDB's "Lemon." Euro RSCG's "Most Interesting Man in the World." Weiden + Kennedy's "The Man Your Man Could Smell Like."
I didn't even have to name the product being sold. If you've seen just one of those ads just one time, you remember the brand associated with them. And you probably laugh.
Humor is an essential commodity in these darkening and suspicious times. It is a foil to anxiety and fear and nervousness. It's a gentle assurance based on this premise:
Keep laughing and everything will be ok.
It's what I keep telling myself and it's what your audience needs to hear.
Maybe that means that my career is a joke after all. If that is the case, then I'm just going to keep laughing all the way to the bank.