Community and the power of the collective is still a force to be reckoned with across all aspects and sectors of society – from Flash mob events and YouTube sensations to crowdsourcing initiatives and customer collaboration. All of these initiatives endorse our desire for the collective but also highlight an inherent sense of freedom and creativity that we are pushing for and pursuing.

For the most part, it is the advance of technology that has made this new wave of initiatives possible. But, consumers are also becoming overloaded by channels and many brands are guilty of diffusing – rather than strengthening their offer – by indulging in knee-jerk reactions and ‘me too’ initiatives. Brands need to find new ways to engage as the tide starts to turn and consumers seem to want an increasingly limited or, at least, a more independent, fluid and free interaction with brands and products.

Essentially, for brands it’s now about actively balancing the concept of togetherness with the concept of independence in a creative context.

Brands need to learn to embrace and work with an amorphous society. It could be argued that designing for retail multiples is always about the collective but a stream of retail initiatives such as London’s ‘The People’s Supermarket’ – an evolving and growing retail co-operative by the people and for the people – is about particularly celebrating a (creative) difference and diversity founded on togetherness.

And from fashion to food, we are starting to see new approaches and spaces dedicated to – and more importantly designed to – connect with their audiences in a more fluid way. New York’s modular fashion store Aksel Paris is combining its clothes retail store with an art gallery and social cause support center. The company has ‘freedom’ as a core business belief and reflects this in its ability to mutate. Whilst in Sweden, a grocer has responded to ‘foodstagrams’ with home cooking instructions. The Ask CT Food campaign is enabling those eating out to Instagram their meal and receive a recipe to recreate it at home. (Source: Fast Company)

And whilst these initiatives are now finding ways to better refine and focus the offer, the biggest opportunity – and creative challenge – remains with brand design. Brand design needs to fully embrace the bigger societal picture and represent this through a considered and conscious design approach – that means something to both the individual and the new collective mindset.

There are already some consistently innovative brands. Cosmetics brand Llamascqua resolutely develops new beauty movements and philosophies. Its Human Fundamentalism range reflects this mindset through new and more cutting edge collections with a corresponding mission statement about ‘becoming who you are and not who you’re told to be’.

Brands like Illamascqua are being bold and forward-facing but it still comes back to needing to take the next step – and how this mindset and approach can successfully translate into the core brand design and communication.

Ultimately, It’s how we all react to it – and move it forward – that’s now of the utmost importance. For those of us working with brands, it’s about quickly embracing what is happening and carving a unique role for ourselves in how this develops. It’s not about us worrying that we might lose creative control but more about us using our expertise to help facilitate a new world that plays to creative independence that benefits – and satisfies – all.

Originally published on Second Sight