How combining tech and design can produce captivating work

Tristan Macherel, executive creative director at Landor Paris and president of the design jury at this year’s Cannes Lions Festival, talks about how smart technology is being integrated with design to create inventive, inspiring creative work.

Chairing a jury at a festival such as Cannes Lions is quite a responsibility. But, as I discovered, it is also very exciting when you come across work that demonstrates quite how inventive our industry can be. Some of the campaigns that did well this year demonstrated how technology can be used to drive and unlock creativity in very inspiring ways.

The Grand Prix winner of the category I chaired (design) is a case in point. Life is Electric, created by Dentsu Tokyo for Panasonic encompasses everything the jury wanted from entrants.

The consultancy arranged to charge up 21 batteries in 21 different ways – including using the power from cheerleaders, a hamster and someone doing a workout – as a way of making electricity visible and starting a public conversation about the value of this energy source. They also made a machine with which to facilitate the battery charging.

We all loved it because it used technology in such an elegant, creative way to express a brand’s view of the world. Dentsu and Panasonic steered clear of the temptation to attempt to wow the audience with new technology just to look smart. Instead they took a unique approach, blending new and old tech in a way that felt meaningful and showed consistency across all formats.

 

Lockheed Martin (with its consultancies J Walter Thompson and Framestore) earned itself a Cannes gold for a campaign that incorporates virtual reality (VR) to educate school children about the wondrous possibilities of science. The Lockheed Martin Mars Experience Bus beamed footage from the red planet onto its interior windows, much to the delight of its Washington school children passengers. The message, amplified through social media, was that the brand wanted to inspire children to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and maths.

 

Another Cannes winner in the Cyber & Creative categories also struck me with the thoughtful way it used technology to celebrate human achievement. ING Bank, a company which have been involved in the art world for some time, commissioned a software designer to create an algorithm that ‘copied’ the painting style of Dutch master Rembrandt and used this insight to create a ‘new Rembrandt’. Rather than seeing data as a creative ‘result’ or ‘output’ in itself, this work used data as the fuel to create a modern masterpiece. The campaign used seriously impressive tech to communicate ING’s strong innovative brand credentials, but also to celebrate Rembrandt’s human achievement.

More and more design consultancies are integrating data to create powerful, empathetic brand campaigns. In Panasonic, ING and Lockheed Martin’s cases, brands are incorporating tech to create visual design that delivers fully-connected experiences and establishes narratives that are grounded in powerful insight.

My prediction is that over the next two to three years we’ll see more tech weaving its way into traditional branding, creating completely new experiences that people can interact with and share with others. In particular, I think that we’ll be seeing increasing use of VR technologies as an insight tool to aid our creative teams.

We’ve heard a lot over the past few years about how tech is transforming media, but I think this is the start of a wave of tech-enriched creativity that is going to mark a sea-change in how we all work, artificial intelligence (AI) being a case in point.

AI has the potential to make us more efficient and effective at our jobs, integrating data into our creative planning. As Brian Eno observed at the festival, AI offers most when it is used to enrich human creativity.

Tech alone doesn’t deliver the goods. You need a great idea that has powerful human implications, to really strike creative gold. This year’s Cannes demonstrated the importance of using technology; not because we can, but because we should, in order to deliver meaningful difference.


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Tristan Macherel is executive creative director at Landor Paris and was president of the design jury at this year’s Cannes Lions Festival, which took place in June.

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