How combining tech and design can produce captivating work

Chairing a jury at a festival such as the Cannes Lion International Festival of Creativity is quite a responsibility. But as I discovered, it is also very exciting when you come across work that demonstrates how inventive the design industry can be. Some of the most impactful campaigns at this year’s Cannes festival shared a common attribute: They showed how technology can be used to drive and unlock creativity in inspiring ways.

Life is electric テレビCM120秒【パナソニック公式】

The Grand Prix winner of the design category 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 21 batteries in 21 different ways—including using power generated by cheerleaders, a hamster, and someone doing a workout—as a means of making electricity visible and starting a public conversation about the value of the energy source. The firm also made a machine with which to facilitate the battery charging.

We all loved this project 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 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) did something similar, earning a gold Cannes Lion 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 the bus’ interior windows, much to the delight of its passengers—Washington DC, school children on their way to the USA Science and Engineering Festival. The message, amplified through social media, aimed to inspire children to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

The Next Rembrandt

Another Cannes winner in the Cyber & Creative categories also struck me because of the thoughtful way it used technology to celebrate human achievement. ING Bank, a company that has 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 and of itself, this work used data as the fuel to create a modern masterpiece. The campaign used seriously impressive technology 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, Lockheed Martin, and ING’s cases, brands are incorporating technology 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 we’ll be seeing increasing use of VR technologies as an insight tool to aid our creative teams.

Virtual reality
Image courtesy of Flickr user Maurizio Pesce

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) is a great example of this. 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 entrants demonstrated the importance of using technology; not because we can, but because we should, in order to deliver meaningful difference.


This piece was originally published by Design Week (30 June 2016).

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