January 9, 2019

Concepts are a currency designers use to communicate ideas. While we could just tell people “hey! drink more water!” …the message isn’t all that intriguing and in fact it feels a bit bossy. People yelling hydration imperatives at people are likely to get the response of “step off!” But when we frame messages in conceptual ways that express the content in a new or engaging way, messages are fresh and often inventive. People like fresh and inventive.

Let’s hear more on this from Shawn Barry on the anatomy of a concept.

Let’s dissect a few great concepts to learn how they work.

a political protest poster of richard nixon
Synergisms, Clearly, 1971 poster

President Richard Nixon famously stated in one of his speeches “Let me make myself perfectly clear. I am not a crook.” Nixon was eventually impeached for his role in the Watergate scandal. This poster highlights the absurdity of Nixon’s statement by blurring his face. The poster is bold—only in black and white, featuring only one image. The concept is powerful. Nixon said he was clear but his image is not. It’s an image of a man whom the designer did not think could be trusted.


Associate Professor

Miami University