Top 10 (Good) Branding and Graphic Design Cliches

If you do a google search for ‘Top 10 Graphic Design Cliches), pretty much all of the articles will focus on all the things professional designers cringe at when these a non-professional try (and fail) to to use to make their brand ‘stand out from the crowd”.

As right as they are, I can’t help but feel that there are many cliches which professionals designers use, and perhaps not realise are so commonplace in examples of good graphic design. So, I decided to investigate, and see which cliches and trends are used more often than most.

I’ll mostly be focusing on cliches that exist throughout multiple forms of graphic design, and have been popular throughout the majority of the past century.

And like I said, I’m not saying that using any of these cliches is a bad thing, since many of these examples are well-respected brands and designs. I’d rather think of these as the components to a branding agencies ‘safety net’.

No.10 – Integrating Graphics into Real Life

intergrating_graphics_into_real_life
Nobody wants an overly simple design where the text and images are separated, so designers often try to bring life to their designs by combining them into one. From using technology to overlay designs onto video, to actually drawing whatever text needs to be read onto its subject, the more a designer can blend image and type together, the better.

No.9 – Titles at the Top

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In western society, we naturally read from the top right, to the bottom left. This, plus the fact that most graphic products are stacked in a step-fashion, might explain why so many cover-designs have the title at the top of the page. Magazines, calendars, posters and book covers often have their titles at the top of the page, and who can blame them? It’s the first thing we read, after all.

No.8 – Layers with Reduced Opacities

layers_with_reduced_opacities
Layers are practically inevitable when it comes to graphic design, and it would seem many designers have taken advantage of this by making their layers anything but 2-dimentional. Layers can be used in a variety of ways, but the double-exposure effect seems to be the most popular way of using them. What can I say? Reducing opacity brings depth to designs.

No.7 – A Human Touch

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As human being, it’s inevitable that we relate most of all to our fellow human-kind, which might explain why so many brands use human-figures. By using a model, a mascot (even if it’s in the form of an anthropomorphised creature), or simply a facial feature, a brand can suddenly become more relatable, and help to attract the audience the brand is after.

No.6 – Using Type as Decoration

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Nothing says “I’m a great designer” like using text as if it’s wallpaper. Whether it’s stylising the text to make it stand out against the photographs, or creating other illustrations and logos with letterforms, an extraordinarily common cliche of famous works of graphic design is decorative type. It’s fun to read, and it’s fun to look at, so it’s pretty much a win-win situation.

No.5 – Circles

circles
There are various cliche shapes that are used in logo’s, but circular designs come up trumps. Whether it’s a standard circle, a ring, a dart board, or even a sphere, circles’ seemingly universal appeal make them an extremely popular shape for logo-designs. Not to mention that in our digital age, circular share-icons and apps bring an ‘all-around appeal’ (pardon the pun) into the 21st century.

No.4 – One Key Image

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There’s a saying that ‘less is more’ in design, and that applies to graphic design too. Rarely will you ever find a design which uses multiple photographs and/or illustrations, as using a single image helps to sell the brand in one breath. Web design did buck this trend for a short while with scrolling web-banners, but even that seems to be fading away with the rise of hero-images.

No.3 – Red, Black and White

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It;s amazing to think that with the number of possible colour palettes that can be chosen for a brand, the red, black and white one seems to pop up more often than most. But why exactly is this? Is it the strong contrasts? Is it red’s supposedly universal appeal. Is it something inspired by the Swiss due to their flags design. Whatever the reason, this palette doesn’t look like it’s going to die any time soon.

No.2 – Grid Systems

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This is a cliche you’ve probably seen a million times without ever noticing. Another cliche pioneered by the Swiss, designers will often use grids to bring a formality to their layouts. Although they’re mostly hidden, designers can sometimes bring the grid into the foreground and use it as a feature. There are just so many ways one UI designer can use one grid.

Honourable Mentions

Using Lettering for Logos and Slogans – E.g. Cadbury’s, Tesco

Cel-Shading – E.g. Taco Bell’s Logo, traditional animation

Bleeding – Any time an image is deliberately sliced off at the edge of the page

Indexical/Symbolic Logos – E.g. Apple, Museum of London

No.1 – Helvetica

helvetica
Did you know that half of all your favourite brands use exactly the same font-family? That family is Helvetica, designed as far back as 1957! It’s most commonly used for body-type due to its strong legibility despite being sans-serif. And yet, it’s managed to work its way into many of our favourite logos and brand identities. They don’t call it the Designer’s Font for nothing!

What do you think? Are there any cliche’s I missed? Do you think one of these cliche’s shows up more often than another? Fell free to express your opinion in the comment section below.

What Would Happen if the Internet Destroyed All Other Media?

There’s been a lot of news recently regarding how much the internet is changing the face of media. Not only has BBC3 become the first TV channel to move entirely online, but The Indepentant announced that it would be going the same way, and people are already asking whether or not Britain’s newest newspaper, New Day, will survive in a digital age.

Not only did this make me wonder what would happen to the media industry if everything moved to being online, but also to the creative industry. Therefore, I decided to examine this possibility, and have listed the most likely changes that would happen for us creatives.

A World of Coders

I’ll start with the most obvious change; coding would become an essential skill for nearly all creatives. It’s thought that IT jobs will grow by 22% by 2020, and if more creative careers become anchored in the world wide web, knowing at least a little bit of HTML or CSS would become a priority.

Physical Products Become Upmarket

Predictably, as more people would become adjusted to digital tools, those who are traditionally skilled would become much rarer than digital creators. Therefore, traditional craftsmen would be able (and required) to charge more for their one-of-a-kind products, as well as focus on quality.

Digital Fundimentalism

Fundamentalism is a design-style that was extremely popular during the Modern Age that focused on geometry and ‘less is more’. Not only does this bring focus to the layout of a page, but it would be useful for reducing unnecessary data for a web-page. Therefore, geometric websites and brands in would most likely going to become the dominant aesthetic.

The Return of Retro

For every person who looks to the future, there’ll be one who’ll relish in the past. Therefore, there would most likely be a subculture of creatives who’d specialise in old-fashioned styles. Signs of this are already apparent, as the music-scene is shifting away from EDM into more folk-orientated sounds.

The Fall of Live Broadcasting

Almost every web-page has the option to leave a comment, so the chance to voice your opinion has never been easier. Not only that, but pre-recorded shows are easier to watch as more people become increasingly flexible with their daily routines. Putting both aspects into consideration, it would seem that live shows would most likely to decrease in viewership.

Rising Advertising Prices

Most things people expect to find online are free, so that would only leave advertising revenue as the way people to make money of their websites. Combined with the lack of space available on one page to market, adverts would most likely become more expensive.

More Aggressive Adverts

Another thing to consider is that unlike the old-days, we now have the ability to either hide static adverts, or skip video-adverts after their first 5 seconds. With this in mind, many advertising agencies would have to think about the even smaller time-span they have to get the brands they’re selling noticed.

Extreme Target Marketing

Unlike the older days, when TV shows were watched by family members of all ages, we’re seeing an increase in people using personal devices to watch their favourite shows. This means the family-market could decline, and brands would become more targeted towards specific demographics.

Is a Completely Online World a Good Thing or Bad Thing?

In all honesty, I don’t really think it’s fair to say whether or not a completely online world would be good or bad. Evolution brings both positive and negative effects to just about any kind of industry or society, and usually in equal measure.

The purpose of this post wasn’t to be a warning, neither was it to be a demand. it’s simply a nudge to suggest what could happen, and if so, how we should adapt out skills to fit into the changing environment.

Perhaps you think differently, though. You might think the creative industry might change in a different way, or you have an opinion as to whether it would be for better or worse. If so, feel free to comment about it below.

Top 10 Music Videos that Don’t Star the Singer

Whilst I was writing a list of my favourite music videos of all time, I realised that there was a common trend among my favourites. Most of my favourite videos didn’t star the lead singer! After discovering this, I trawled through the web to find a list of these, but to no success. It seems like there isn’t a top 10 list for music videos where the singer isn’t the star. Therefore, I’ve taken the liberty to compose my own list of these music/movie gems.

Just so we’re on the same page, I’m excluding lyric videos, as well as videos which include either clips, lookalikes, or animated counterparts for the singer. I am, however, including videos which briefly feature the singer, so long as they’re not the stars of the show. It has to be someone or something else we all remember the videos for.

I’m judging these videos based on their creativity, innovation, craftsmanship, storytelling, and of course, how well they fit their songs.

No.10 – Rabbit in Your Headlights (1998) – UNKLE


Jonathan Glazer is probably one of the most underrated directors of our day, as he’s responsible for countless commercials and music videos we all love, despite not knowing his name. In this clip, we follow a man, played by the unmistakable Denis Lavant, as he strides through the tunnel, loses his mind and gets repeatedly run over by driers. After building up the tension, we reach a pseudo-biblical ending that is nothing short of epic.

No.9 – Imitation of Life (2001) – R.E.M.


This uses a rare editing technique called ‘Pan and Scan’ (at least, rare for stylistic purposes), where an imaginary camera zooms into pre-recorded footage and pans the scene from various close-up angles. The clip, if played from start to end without edits, only lasts 20 seconds. However, with the pan and scan, switches between playing forwards and backwards, and smartly choreographed lip-syncing, it makes this party truly unforgettable.

No.8 – B******* of Young (1985) – The Replacements


From one that’s filled with people, to one with barely anyone in it! In this black and white video, we dolly out from a booming speaker, watch someone’s hand hold a lit cigarette, and… that’s about it. Soooo, why is this spectacle of boredom featured on this list? Because this was, in fact, designed to be an anti-video, and be the complete opposite of videos from the likes of Eurythmics, Mick Jagger, and Madonna. Isn’t it ironic that it’s now on a list like this?

No.7 – One Day Like This (2008) – Elbow


To all intensive purposes, this video does everything completely wrong, by being poorly shot, aesthetically humdrum, and completely one-note. Yet, when you look deeper and watch our performer do his bit, we come to realise that the point of this video wasn’t to be entirely beautiful, but to show us how we could spot beauty in the most unexpected of places. It’s further complemented when you realise it’s song is equally beautiful in its simplicity.

No.6 – Born Free (2010) – M.I.A.


Practically a short film in it’s own right, this disturbingly uncompromising clip shows a terrifying portrayal of authorities breaking into peoples homes and taking kids to the middle of nowhere for genocide. It would have been terrifying enough with that theme alone, but when we learn the reason for these teens being victimised, it really pushes us to question our own ideas of conformity and popularity.

NOTE: Before anybody asks, no, I didn’t intend for the top 5 songs to alternate between 1997 and 1999. It just kind of turned out that way.

No.5 – Coffee & TV (1999) – Blur


I was debating whether to include this one, since the band does feature for more prolonged period of time in this video than others on this list. In the end, I decided to include it after all, because it really is little Milky who’s the star of the story. The chirpy animations and innovative plot make you want to watch it all the way to it’s more-than-worthwhile ending, which I recommend all of my watchers to get to. Just to say, this will bring a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘crying over spilt milk’.

No.4 – Smack My B**** Up (1997) – The Prodigy


Often labeled as the most controversial music video ever created, this is a P.O.V. movie of a night in the life of our lead geting high, drunk, and violent. Very, very violent (mostly towards women)! Some hated it for victimising it’s cast; others loved it for exposing how vicious all people of all genders could be. Either way, it’s nauseating look and twist ending are bound to leave this video embedded in your nightmares.

No.3 – Praise You (1999) – Fatboy Slim


Whilst another classic Fatboy Slim video, ‘Weapon of Choice’, was a contender for this list, I decided to instead choose ‘Praise You’, since Spike Jonse practically invented an art-form by making this video. Long before ’T-Mobile’ got their claws on the idea, this is essentially the first ever flash-mob dance put to film, complete with guerrilla-style filmmaking, and even a fictionalised dance company. And to think it only costed $800!

No.2 – Around the World (1997) – Daft Punk


With its devilishly simple idea to use a circular set to resemble a record player, and costumed dancers to resemble the songs different instruments, the video for this techno track made quite a spectacle for the MTV generation. It’s quirky choreography, and even quirkier look, make for an entertaining, memorable, and practically timeless impact. The lyrics play over and over again, and we can’t help but watch this over and over again!

Honourable Mentions

(Southern) California (1991) – Wax
Frightening, yet utterly breathtaking, this video may not mean much metaphorically, but it gave this one-hit wonder the fame/infamy it was after.

Drugs (2010) – Ratatat
Freaky faces, a steamy background, and a warped model of a head match both the conflicting feels of ecstasy, and rocktronica noise that crawls under your skin.

You Need Me, I Don’t Need You (2011) – Ed Sheeran
Gorgeously shot and expertly cut, the video is further complemented by Matthew Morgan’s ‘we won’t back down’ stare as he sing-signs to this rap track.

Mad World (2003) – Michael Andrews ft. Gary Jules
This famously depressing song isn’t easy to be creative with, but Michael Gondrey (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2005)) and his crew found a way.

The Day I Died (2009) – Just Jack
Accompanying it’s equally underrated song, the foreshadowing that our lead (James Nesbitt) will eventually realise he’s died creates a creepy yet charming reflection of the songs lyrics.

Rockstar (2005) – Nickelback
It might be labelled as one of the worst songs in history, but I’d be damned if simply watching a few hundred people mime this song didn’t make you “wanna be a rockstar” too!

No.1 – Viðrar vel til Loftárása (1999) – Sigur Rós


A controversial video for its time which has become a masterpiece today, this Icelandic band made an impact which only gets better with time. It’s not the first music video to show gay affection, and it’s certainly not last. Nevertheless, with it’s engaging younger subjects, cinematic scope and soul-stirring music, it’s by far the most beautiful. It has a poignant message and heartbreaking finale, which are bound to leave even some of the most manly men teary-eyed.

So, what do you think of my list? Are there any videos you think I’ve missed? Feel free to comment below and tell me of any more great music videos where the singer is only heard!