Concept vs. character.

As far as most media are concerned, there seem to be two main categories of theme:

  1. CONCEPT
  2. CHARACTER

Concept is, as it sounds, a theme unifying around an idea. Concept has been the main, primary driving force in design and advertising since at least the creative revolution of the ’60s. The entire notion of postmodernism is just the idea of a piece of work becoming more important than the execution of the work.

Concept was really effective in the print-driven advertising world, where we had only one page to convey so much information against so much competition for attention. Compared to, say, a 10,000 word essay on Zbigniew Brzezinski, an ad had to be incredibly impactful and in contrast to its surroundings to stand out and get read.

In the past few years, however, familiar media have become much more idea driven. Maxim magazine, to use an extreme example, is 150 pages of pure concept. Even the editorial content is chunked down, optimized, streamlined, and simplified down to just the idea. Just the tidbit, none of the context.

Complicating that further is the web, a billion pages of ideas with no unifying theme, raw information with little relationship to any of the content on the page. A 100 word news blurb is set next to “phrases” representing navigation, ideas totally isolated in meaning connected only through the context of the interface. This is concept taken to it’s absolute extreme. The web itself is a concept, unviewable, unimaginable in any concrete way. It doesn’t even exist in any physical, relatable form. And it changes form in real-time, updating, shifting, transforming with every click. It’s nothing but concept.

So how does one stand out in this wash of nothing but pure concept? By standing in contrast to the surroundings.

The ideal web campaign is one filled with character.

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