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Marcd is a hyper-multi-disciplinary design studio based out of Columbus, Ohio creating interactive environments, products, and identities in both physical and digital space.
Marcd is a hyper-multidisciplinary design studio based out of Columbus, Ohio making things both digitally and physically. We work out of our apartment at an IKEA Linnmon desk. Marcd is two people. We don't have a studio but we can meet you anywhere or you can stop by if you'd like. We each have one phone, so you can call us too. We'd love to work together on whatever you're thinking about doing with your life.

Attention and a Dying Industry 

Multi-Disciplinary Design’s role in revitalizing a dying design industry

There’s a rumor going around that I’ll lose you by the time you get to the end of this sentence.

Like see ya!
Like you’re that incompetent.
Like you have the attention span of a goldfish.

Does that hurt you deep down to know you are reduced to the equivalency of a goldfish? Well, it should. Thanks be to the almighty BBC for doing some extra digging and concluding that you’re better than a goldfish. So now you can skip the rest of this article and resume whatever scrolling / trolling you’d rather be doing without having to push yourself through until the end. You don’t have to practice regaining a healthy level of dispensable attention BUT we did include a lot of pictures and videos so at least stick around for that, please.

Will our politeness be the tipping point in your guilt bucket that keeps you from hitting that back arrow?
Please message to help us crowd-source vital data. 

E-commerce now is almost just commerce.

I recently had a conversation with Chris Thalgott, Chief Marketing Officer at Monteverdi Tuscany, who brought up an interesting observation: brand identity is a dying industry. The design studios that built themselves solely on the ability to brand a business are struggling. I’m sure (’cause I actually did it) that if you googled, “is brand identity a dying industry?” or “marketers, who needs ‘em?” you’d come across differing opinions. One thing that’s unanimous in those searches (check for yourself) is that marketing and brand identities exist within a different framework than they once did. Chris explained to me that her personal transition from branding to marketing came as the result of businesses having to rely less on studios that specialized in the craft of packaging design, print materials, etc. and more on the aggressive move to digital space.

Does this idea hurt you really really deep down? To know that you have a decreasing chance of holding a beautifully designed package in a fluorescently lit store on a last-ditch effort to get a decently personal birthday gift?

I hurt. . . but I also see that there are some businesses that are keeping physical branding alive and so let’s take a moment appreciate them:

Teenage Engineering’s Pocket Operator

Our favorite as of late is the packaging design of Teenage Engineering’s Pocket Operator. Not only is the design of each individual PO sleek, but the whole identity is exquisite. The way in which they display the operators in stores make them stand out- not by taking the easy route of neon dyes and flashing lights- but of tones and arrangement that make them irresistible. They’re somewhat mysterious in their functionality, and entices the consumer through the subtle nature of their design to explore - turning the package over to fully view and understand the product. It definitely leaves an impression and one to which we keep coming back for inspiration.

Lily Dent & Matt Massara

Our local, Columbusian(?) favorite is a designer by the name of Lily Dent, a designer and student focused on graphic design, branding, and product photography. She uses her keen sense of spatial composition with splashes of rich color to produce timeless menus, posters, packaging, and other print materials. Her most recent project, in collaboration with A&R Creative, is a mobile popsicle cart called the Little Paletera with her boyfriend Matt Massara - an equally talented designer and artist that works more in the realm of sketching and screen printing though his versatile knack for design can also be seen in branding pabst blue ribbon and Ethyl and Tank. The duo seems to be a perfect match in producing both quirky and highly professional graphic work that make an argument for the value in physical brand identity remaining relevant.

Maybe it comes back to attention. . .

With that being said, and a whole lot of other studios to support our case, maybe it all comes back to attention (glad we’ve kept your thus far). As BBC discovered, it might not be the attention span to which we refer as the culprit for a misunderstood industry, but the lack of hours in a day that one can devote undivided attention to something. The current climate suggests that the future rests solely upon the internet as the medium in which we engage - but just long enough to browse our wants within the cheapest price range and demand our ideas reign supreme. That is, only to log off shortly after reaching a short term threshold of satisfaction and to continue on our visceral hunt for tangible vices like fast food and social acceptance.

If we continue on a path of filling the internet with statements and shallow opinions, it's no wonder that what will appeal to us most is shallow design.

That’s right. We will lose the engagement of others and wind up building a world that revolves around instantaneous gratification if we continue on this design path. Not to mention, we’re building our obsessions around intangible, digital objects - where even human existence become objectified when it becomes too difficult to discern between real in reality and real in digital space. A genius design solution to this can be seen with Alan Resnick’s Live Forever As You Are Now.

I think the key to re-discovering the value of an identity is exchanging relentless statements with genuine, and open-ended inquiry that force us to take a moment to really think, and engage in a conversation (externally or internally). It creates an important balance that will allow us to retain a healthy relationship with digital and personal interactions and teach us to develop a more complex sense of awareness. If marketing and advertising rely on consumer insecurities, and a brand identity is supposed to be something to which the consumer can relate on a deeper level, then figuring out how to do both may be more valuable in this digital age than ever before.

As designers, we focus on creating identities that make the consumer really feel, really connect, and really believe in the product.

But what if it didn’t stop at just an attraction?
*He plays sports AND reads?!?!?!*

What would it look like for that identity to perpetually influence? Would it have to be designed by an expert? While so many businesses trust the design experts when it comes to their brand, Frank Lloyd Wright once proposed that experts don’t have ask why because they already know. They no longer question the possiblities of design. Maybe this is why brand identity as a whole has fallen to the background. It has lacked the ability to fit into the fabric of contemporary workflows. It’s passed on as we looked to digital marketing to take its place.

So now what if a multidisciplinary designer were to take a stab at it?

A brand designed with each step in mind. As Christopher Butler outlines in his article The Future Belongs to Multidisciplinary Designers, an expert is specialized, but a multidisciplinary designer is a generalist and “[a]s far as individuals are concerned, you have an intellectually strategic edge as a generalist”. If instead of going to a separate design expert (e.g. web designer, graphic designer, digital marketer) to develop each individual design, you no longer risk communicating a different aesthetic each time your idea is explained or being forced to cut one design element out due to a lack of budget from paying for a handful of design experts’ premium prices.

A graphic designer that produces the logo for example, may be an expert at graphic design, but they probably won’t ask questions that they don’t have to answer (and we don’t blame them - it’s part of our nature to reduce the mental load in order to increase our efficiency). The questions to which I refer may look something like “what does this look like when the interior designer or architect uses this for signage,” or “how will this look when the web designer turns it into a favicon for to be displayed in the tabs on the browser.” These questions challenge scale, 2D vs. 3D, physical vs digital, and other things that may be overlooked because it isn’t  within that designer’s typical scope of work.  All of this is a result of approaching design with an expert mentality rather than one that asks questions.

Approaching from this perspective will be directly reflected in the way in which the consumer interacts with the product - only exacerbating the issue of instantaneous gratification that results in a lack of substance and a further issue of brands exhibiting brief and shallow existences.As multidisciplinary designers, we approach design constantly questioning what we know to be true. It forces us to reach new conclusions within the bounds of each discipline by experimenting with how and when they may overlap. If an identity is reimagined as a part to a whole, can a brand survive without it?

Written by: Jake Pfahl & Malu Marzarotto