At what point do you class yourself as a Conceptual Designer?

My introduction into design was from studying Fine Art at University. Whilst there, the term conceptual was flung about often - with seemingly a universal understanding of what this word meant. A lose definition of a conceptual artist is one that favours the idea of a piece of art, rather than concerning themselves with a materialistic finished end product.

The conceptual revolution was famously pioneered by Duchamp's Fountain in 1917, and this was the first time that an artist had tried to exhibit something that he did not produce or craft himself - it was the idea that this urinal was a piece of art because Duchamp chose it and intended it to be so. He purposefully placed an everyday object in an environment which instantly makes the viewer see the urinal in a different way.

In design, labeling somebody as a conceptual designer seems to have many different definitions from one person to the next. Concept in design has only really been present since the 1960s, initially with the notable Volkswagen 'Lemon' advertisement in 1960. Here Volkswagen show a Beetle in its apparent glory, although it is only when you read the copy that you realise that this car was rejected because of a scratch on the chrome. Advertising that your company makes mistakes was a brave move compared to the typical adverts of the day. The reason that this advert is conceptual is because it has a strong idea rather than typically showcasing a product. It is engaging with its audience and is making them think (and laugh). Even though they advertise a 'lemon', an outcast, a reject - it still conveys the message that at least they do test their cars and get rid of the ones that are not up to standard.

It is a blurred line as to what might be classed as conceptual in design. You could go so far to say that any idea or brief that is produced is conceptual design because it originated from a thought - but is this true? Does being creative mean that you're conceptual? A concept is needed in certain design in order to connect with your viewer, wether this is to convey a certain message, intention or representation. It is often thought that conceptual design can override the practicality in design, and can be a little 'off the wall' or 'cutting edge'.

I think that a design is conceptual when the idea behind it, message or intention, is as important if not more important than the aesthetic and actual design itself. Here are a few that I found courtesy of


SBP: Will Work For Food:

Friends of the Earth:

Papermate - Ultra Fine:

McDonalds - The Real Milkshake:

Nothing wakes you up like Nescafe:

Please share your thoughts!

Alex Fisher @orchard_alex

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