Botoxed buildings

The world at large, and creative industries in particular, have a problem. This problem relates to our never ending quest for perfection. We’ve become obsessed with polished veneers, seeking to make everything around us so utterly ‘perfect’ in appearance that the notion of something being ‘too good to be true’ is moving from clichéd phrase to worrying reality.

In this never ending quest for perfection, we’re losing sight of the fact that just because you can do something it doesn’t mean you should. In the world of luxury and old heraldry brands crimes against design are being committed with increasing frequency. I’ve lost count of the number that have attempted to reinvent themselves and have ended up wiping out the subtleties, nuance and ultimately the importance of the very identities that made them special in the first place. By ironing out the idiosyncrasies in their typeface or logo the character behind the brand is lost.

Perfection and genuine uniqueness are not easy bedfellows. Art is perhaps the clearest example of this. Seeing artwork on a screen can never compare to viewing it in person. This is because it’s only up close that you can see the detail, richness and layering. The unexpected brushstroke, visible join or wrinkle in the paper shows you it’s handmade, and that’s where the value is. Computer generated work lacks the mystery and magic that these little imperfections convey.

The key is to avoid over processing things unnecessarily, otherwise the initial creative spark is lost.

In London we increasingly see the Botoxification of our architectural heritage. Beautiful period properties are being stripped of all their character, age and beauty by overzealous re-rendering. Rather than admiring these structures for what they are, in their quest for perfection, developers attempt to change them into something they’re not, and end up losing what the building stood for in the first place. There is of course another way. The ruin bars in Budapest are a fantastic celebration of faded grandeur. By working with what the structures are, rather than trying to revert them to their original state, they have created something amazing.

The world of fashion has of course fallen quite dramatically into the perfection trap. Fashion shoots can have amazing teams working on them, producing work with real, authentic qualities, all of which is then ruined by too much retouching. Creatively, we need to say enough is enough. The popularity of perfection has led us collectively to lose sight of how wonderful the natural state of things can be. Just imagine if Cindy Crawford has listened to all those people at the start of her career telling her to have her mole removed.

The key is to avoid over processing things unnecessarily, otherwise the initial creative spark is lost. This applies equally to sounds, visuals and words. Creatives and clients both have a tendency to keep pouring over stuff, but too much tinkering will obliterate the original spirit of the work. The instinctive rawness and energy behind the original idea must be preserved, and the danger of getting too ramped up in box ticking exercises to see this must be avoided.

Of course these problems exist across all elements of society. Politics provides us with a particularly stark example of where the misguided quest for perfection can end up. Politicians have been over polished perhaps more extensively than anything else. As a result they no longer say what they believe and so are becoming irrelevant. Just look at the leaders of the main parties, so finely tuned by their spin-doctors they have become carbon copies of one another. Polishing away the points of difference is turning them into empty vessels.

Politicians are failing to connect with the public because they no longer appear to stand for anything. This is why the rare examples that do stand out from the crowd (Boris, Nigel, Alex) have such an impact, because they appear real to voters. Turnout levels for the Scottish referendum showed how politically engaged people can be, if they’re presented with something real to connect with. All is not lost.

Brands can learn a lot from all this. They can be brave, be themselves, have a personality and know it will lead to better engagement as a result. It’s far better to be absolutely loved by a smaller group than have a larger group be ambivalent towards you. We should forget about perfection and instead focus on character. The results will lead to deeper and more meaningful relationship with customers, increasing stickiness and decreasing promiscuity. If you want to truly connect with people you need give them something to identify with and most importantly, believe in.

Dan Rowe, Co-Founder & Creative Director