"Do not try and bend the spoon. That's impossible. Instead... only try to realize the truth. There is no spoon. Then you'll see, that it is not the spoon that bends, it is only yourself."
Every day in branding brings me closer to a realization akin to Neo's spoon moment.
You start out eager to make stuff, to improve things with 'better design', to make brands better with better visual content. Design seems to have substance in and of itself. There's a reflex to pick up the pencil (or increasingly, for better or worse, to turn on the computer) and to start designing stuff.
And I get it. As a visual person I get irritated by bad visuals, bad letter-spacing, bad fonts, bad photoshopping, bad layouts, bad photography... It's our duty to do these things well and to follow certain aesthetic principles (and not to make things 'look good', but to make things relevant).
But when a brand is at its very best, there is no graphic design. Good design isn't a layer of butter that you can spread onto your toast, it needs to be baked into the bread itself. It's the product of research and understanding something deeply enough to be able to look at it in a new way.
Graphic design is a tool. It can be a sledgehammer, or a little screwdriver. Whatever it is, the end-goal is to get rid of something or to fix something. The goal is not simply to use the sledgehammer. You may have lots of fun wielding it, but nobody else cares until you knock down the right wall.
Think of graphics as harmful exhaust fumes. If you can get from point A to point B and produce less of them, that's always the more efficient and more desirable outcome.
Design (at least in the context of branding) has nothing to do with sitting on the computer and making things look good. It's 90% research. So before you start scrolling through that list of fonts for the hundredth time, think about whether you have any words worth writing first.