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29/10/2020

The Trouble with Being Different

“Don’t worry about being different. Be good. Good is different enough.” Paul Rand, Designer

When you’re updating your brand and your site, everyone weighs in with an opinion. Some are welcome, even encouraged. Others less so. 

“You’ve got to show how you’re…different” was one we were hearing a lot. So I thought about that. Different. 

I had a look around us and I had a look at us. I saw lots of examples of brands focusing on being different. Fixed-pricing packages. Lean teams. Fast turnarounds. Nothing wrong with any of those, but it seemed like the focus for everyone was to be different. And when everyone is focused on being different, different becomes the thing. Rather than the work being the thing. 

Here’s an example for you. 

There was a hairdressers near where I used to live in Islington in London. They liked to say they were different. They charged customers for the amount of time it took to cut their hair. 

I considered this for a while and I thought ‘that’s complete nonsense’. I get the logic of it and all that, but come on. If that’s all you’ve got to show how you’re different, I’d argue that you’re really not all that different in the first place. 

And I worried that’s what I was trying to do. Find a way to be different, to be different.

The dirty secret is that most of us are really not all that different at all. There really aren’t that many ways to put words on a page in service of the client’s brief. Sure we ask lots of questions, we partner with clients, we’re nice (I hope). But surely all those things are just price of entry. 

Then I remembered Paul Rand’s words and I stopped worrying. I stopped trying to be different. 

We’re not trying to be different, we’re trying to be good. And hopefully that’s different enough.

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