Let’s make beautiful things

I’ve been doing a lot of creative work in the luxury field over the past couple of months, which is great fun.

Doing so has really immersed me more than ever before in the ‘art of the beautiful’. My favorite example so far has to be Dior’s fabulously accomplished Secret Garden – every shot (and there are a lot) framed and crafted to perfection.

The use of this kind of high-impact visual-led marketing in luxury is common across print, film, outdoor and DM. But what are the implications for digital, and how do we in the digital brand planning segment come to terms with this? If we are to really deliver on the promise that our clients’ brands make to their consumers, how can we set ourselves to truly master the art of beauty?


Planning First

Here’s a planning perspective. Last week I had to write a creative brief in this area, and I found that using a strong planning template such as Mark Pollard’s simple approach (which I love!) wasn’t panning out.

Comms planning, and advertising strategy generally, relies on a consumer insight, a business problem, some personas etc, in order to arrive at some tension (I hate that cliché) to come up with a strategic position.

But what I found myself  thinking was that to launch this product, none of that matters. We just have to make something beautiful. I don’t want to provide Reason to Believe – I want to Stir Desire.

This has profound impact on the planning process required to get there. A typical creative output will lead with some kind of Manifesto – a verbal exposition of the idea in narrative format. But both this, and the process that gets you there, are too verbal, too logical, and pay no heed to the end result

The need for beauty, and our visceral attraction to it is not complicated, or verbal, or linked to any kind of reason or insights.

Therefore I came up with something that I’d hesitate to call any kind of framework or process, but is more a new way of organizing criteria for briefing.

Here’s how this ‘process’ compares to comms planning. Again, I’m not saying comms planning is broken, just that sometimes you need a different answer…



What do I mean by this? What kind of direction am I going to group under these headers to provide any kind of way in for creative?

  • By IMPACT, I’m talking about the immediate visual impression that the creative needs to make. It’s a truism to say that you always want to make a big impression – sometimes you can express yourself better through intrigue, minimalism, or tease. Either way, we must embrace the fact that we are trying to emulate the best of print and TV advertising. Deep engagement is not our game – we are simply trying to create visceral impact through digital, primarily visual, tools.
  • EXPERIENCE is about the journey through the creative. Here I’m not talking about some horrible multi-stage thing that follows through weeks of social posts, multi-stage campaign story development, or (aargh!) engagement, I mean this on a much more micro- level. In this game we need to have the impact of a print ad, but using the tools in our digital arsenal. Therefore the experience needs to be expressed in terms like exploration, play, addictive, idiosyncratic or linear.
  • INTERFACE is perhaps the hardest to explain. While device choice clearly influences interface, the areas I am trying to target here as part of creative strategy are how the content behaves. Here I am looking at terms like organic, seamless or modular. It dictates how you navigate the experience, and determines how the tone of the experience is developed through purely sensory stimuli.
  • EMOTION is of course, as in all human scenarios, very hard to define. Every campaign in this category should of course have wow and beautiful attached to it, but here we can include examples such as longing, self-identification, ambition, or sweetness.

In digital, I think there are few that do this well, it’s an art that has yet to fully express itself, but the best example I have seen is Hermes’ Discover.


It’s idiosyncratic to the point where even the US site declares it’s in French to Chrome, but it displays a huge range of sensuous ways to experience product, for no reason other than it’s beautiful to do so. If luxury brands live purely as the combined impact of multiple media touchpoints, then this is a huge brand power-up.



UX and Tech Next

I fail to see how these experiences can be realized solely by creative teams. I don’t think any one discipline can be heads-up enough to both perceive, grasp, interpret and implement all the potential creative devices in our toolkit. Much of this should come directly from tech and UX.

This is the gap currently filled by the Creative Technologist I guess – but it’s an unhappy compromise that I don’t see work too often, and certainly not in this space. We need people who are able to see potential in the market around them, and be able to connect the dots of a new device, channel, code library, whatever, into the needs and aims of generating beauty. It’s a big ask.



This post was really prompted by parallax.js, a fantastic mobile parallax experiment for your mobile device. These types of development offer countless opportunities for creatives willing to get their hands dirty in UX and technology.




I’m inspired by the idea of making beautiful things, and I think we have huge space to do this, provided we cut the cord a little from our typical behaviors as digital people, switch off some of our traditional practices, and hark back even further to Mad Men days when, in the best possible way, advertising meant drawing pretty pictures.

Author, Tim Dunn.

I'm Director of Mobile at Roundarch Isobar. While I've specialised in mobile for over 13 years, I now work across broad digital marketing strategy, and am interested in interactions, UX, media and marketing theory, and innovation of almost any description. Click About Me for more and info and what this blog is about. Follow me on Twitter @timmcdunn or connect on LinkedIn

  1. Grant Cleveland says:

    user tolerance for branding message type increases with screen size. Below a threshold screen size only pure function and high user value interactions are tolerated.

    • Grant Cleveland says:

      Dunno why this image is rotating all over the shop. Tim feel free to edit…

      • tim dunn says:

        Haha – I like the thought – where do you get the stats? I am very much not sure of this – check out the mobile example on the parallax thing and tell me you don’t instinctively love it? I think the rich interface of mobile in particular is great for branding!

        Check out http://toyota.co.uk/m/auris/explore/ on iphone for an example we did at Isobar – it’s certainly a Beautiful Thing that makes alot of what the interface has to offer…

        • Grant Cleveland says:

          From what I can tell, your uncertainty is based around the fact that the iPhone is suitable for branding. Which I

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