Working with so-called 'ordinary' objects is always the hardest. Sofas, balloons, mixers, pants, cars, fonts, ropes, children, kettles and paint are ordinary because thousands of dedicated people worked on them for several hundred years. So good luck doing anything new.
(Grip was conceived by INDG as a piece of software that produces photography for ordinary products semi-automatically. It needed a name, an identity and a creative strategy.)
Researching Dieter Rams
In my worldview, whatever deals with industrial design is better be inspired by Dieter Rams. So I went through his interviews and copied out whatever regularities I could find. Here is an incomplete list:
Simple & complex words
'In the early years, we began working on a more modest product language that derived from function but was stripped of the formal mendacity that was commonplace at the time.'
Whenever a generic term is used, it's always very simple: 'thing', 'product', 'it'. However, specific properties are articulated with sophistication, sometimes metaphorically, with more complex words such as 'unobtrusive'.
Point of view
'Innovation has to come from the inside and then influence the outside.'
Dieter makes statements about the world, how it is and how it should be. He doesn't make statements about his role or work or any other particularity. Overall, he always is interested in a global context.
'Good design is innovative. Good design must be useful. Good design is aesthetic design. Good design makes a product understandable. Good design is honest. Good design is unobtrusive. Good design is long-lasting. Good design is consistent in every detail. Good design is environmentally friendly. And last but not least, good design is as little design as possible.'
He never talks about money or people. His goals never include money per se, but rather just designing 'good' things that are useful or beautiful or touchy.
'Without doubt there are few companies in the world that genuinely understand and practise the power of good design in their products and their businesses.'
Dieter's sentences have very few adjectives. The main load, surprisingly, is often carried by participles and nouns. Verbs are rarely surprising or strong.
Identity & visuals
Shuka produced a simple, effective and graceful identity, as is their custom. Braunesque, surely, in both essence and presentation. Done with no borrowing of graphical elements: graphics, fonts and layout are distinctly different and modern. What can I say—hire Shuka.
That Man and myself produced main terms and the manualtje* of style. I quote excerpts below; the full thing is too long.
99 of your 100 words should be neutral, simple, moderate and understandable for ESL readers. What distinguishes our style, however, is rare usage of high-brow words for emphasis and dramatic effect—as long as they are used not for embellishment, but pragmatically and to support the message.
[Don't] Grip creates beautiful images, awesome videos, shiny product pages, exquisite widgets, inviting interactive apps, and using it is easy-peasy, just as you like it!
[Do] Grip produces photorealistic static images, videos, product pages, embeddable retailer-friendly widgets, rich interactive apps, and it demands very little from its users.
Be as specific as possible without being too technical.
[Don't] Grip helps you create visual assets of your physical products.
↑ Too generic and ambiguous.
[Don't] Grip processes CAD files and generates 3D models that are available for real-time rendering and post-production. It exports the final assets as layered Photoshop files with resolution up to 5120×2880 px.
↑ Unnecessary technical.
[Do] Grip will produce a retouchable high-resolution PSD file. Along with it comes a 360 view of the object and a 3D model file.
Humour and wit is encouraged, as long as it plays well with style and used in moderation. Never insult the reader and don't invade their personal space. Don't entertain for the sake of entertainment; use humour to strengthen the core message.
[Don't] Obvious associations, pop culture references, dad jokes, inside jokes, puns, cat gifs, memes, emojis.
[Do] Moderate self-deprecating humour, irony, original and fresh observations, unexpected twists and turns.
Avoid telling things that readers already know. Every headline and sentence should push the narrative further and add new information. Strive to surprise. Use the so what? test: if you read a sentence and find yourself asking, "So what? Why should I care? Why am I reading this?", rework the copy.
[Don't] There is an ever-growing demand for high-quality images and videos of physical products.
↑ Stating the obvious.
[Do] Producing thousands of good visuals is complicated, but it shouldn't be.
Respect the intelligence of the reader. When trying to explain complex matters in simple terms, don't dumb down—simple means clear, to the point, and without fuzzy jargon.
[Don't] Showing how a product works is the essential part. People rarely buy microwaves and electronic toothbrushes purely because of their aesthetic qualities (although a pleasant-looking item is always better than an ugly one). Which is why looking at static pictures taken out of context doesn't quite help to make a decision. What would be much more helpful to the buyer is a step-by-step demonstration of the main use case of a product.
↑ This paragraph tells a marketeer how to do their job. Not really something they would appreciate.
[Do] Grip converts CAD files into Archetypes that can be used to produce static images, videos, websites and apps. The conversion is semi-automated and takes about a week.
Avoid the word product whenever possible. Replace with more specific goods, items, objects, things, devices, appliances. Exceptions: established phrases, such as product pages.
[Don't] Grip Archetype is a collections of 3D models of physical products — based just on CAD files, done within a week or less. The models are later reused for multiple purposes to showcase the products in different contexts, environments and platforms.
[Do] Grip helps showcasing physical objects, putting the essentials in front of their future owners.
Preceding the first major deals with Heineken and Nivea, Grip had to be demoed with fake FMCG products. Their witty recognisable design is courtesy of Gordon's. The renders have been made by Fil Gorbachev.
* 'Little manual' in Dutch. Whatever you apply -tje to becomes 'the little version of'. A common name is Maartje, 'little March'. Typically a girl is named that if born in March. Return ↑