I came into full time employment fully into the “world of digital”, starting as a junior developer. Fast forward ten years and I am managing the branding and advertising teams at a big (and very good) marketing agency.

I frequently see the “digital” and the “traditional” clash. We’re the digital team and we do it this way and we do it best, nur nur nur.

We’re the ad team and we have this production process, and this sign off box on our artwork and that works best, nur nur.

Hmmmm.

I don’t see the world as “digital” and “traditional”. I see as a place where we design things, and it just ends up manifesting somewhere (hopefully appropriate). Some of that stuff ends up “being digital”. Some of it ends up “going off to print”. Some of it– you get the idea.

The befoxing amusing me. Befuddlement. Owning territory. Whatever. I just look for commonality in approaches/method. Handily though my professional life learning the technicalities of the off- and on-line worlds comes in handy.

The “responsive web” is one of the latest things digital world is throwing out there, like it’s the current fad. You can see people espousing the need to do it, the convenience (and the inconvenience - “why manage two websites when you can manage one?”) You can see agencies using it to upsell “desktop sites”.

It’s an approach, as much as other ways of working are. Like storytelling… (A thing we’ve been doing for years, not just as an industry, but as, well, a species, but I digress.)

I love working at an ad agency. While where I work has a traditional/digital split, but we’re working on that. People are just taking the problem and seeing where it goes.

The other day we were going through a project - it’s a campaign, there’s print ads involved, there’s some digital media in there, and there needs to be a little website designed and built as one of the response mechanisms.

We’re talking the ads. We don’t know what the media schedule is but we’ve got to make sure we cover how the ad will look across various sizes. 48 sheet billboard ads. Full page portrait. Half page square. Standard quarter page. Landscape quarter page strip. Portrait quarter page strip.

What goes into the full pager that the isn’t on the quarter pager? What isn’t necessary? What’s the focus of the ad?

We look over the digital ad placements and give them a little thought. On websites. In train station and shopping centre digital displays.

A wide range of ratios - and physical sizes.

We have ideas, visuals, words, we have a priority of information (what is important, what can be dumped, what can be added in), and we have an idea of a design system.

Then we look at the website.

“What’s that responsive thing we need to know about?” I am asked.

I look at the ads up on the wall. Responsive design is there, staring me in the face. I point at the ads, and go through several - the 48 sheet, the full pager, the long-thin ad that runs down the right-hand third of a newspaper page.

“Think of the website like that. It’s a collection of elements we rearrange, display and don’t display based on the physical size of where someone is viewing the website,” I reply.

We talk about how ten years back we were less precious about sizes, how we put priorities on margins, spacing, focus on certain elements (“this face needs to sit just off-centre, centre-left”), how we had some simple rules for each ad concept, and there were “fluid” areas in our design that could be nibbled into and expanded depending on .

We weren’t particularly precious about how the ad went “into artwork” as long as it stuck to the rules. We could just check the ads as they came out.

So, there and then we collectively saw responsive design has been practiced by the traditional and digital arms for… well, traditional had been doing it longer, obvs.

But one last thought: That room for movement in design, that deviation also needs to exist in responsive web design, not just a set of static “here’s the desktop site design and here’s the mobile website design”. Getting that mentality of how a “traditional” designer approaches designing ads across various media sizes and then takes that approach to at least a web design - that’s a more important step.


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