Last week, I had the opportunity to visit Ai Weiwei’s exhibit at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. Unfortunately, the exhibit has now closed, but it was worth seeing. As you might know, Ai’s a very controversial artist, mainly focused on human rights and social change. For some reason, it struck me to take pictures of his work, and the guards encouraged it is a part of the exhibition because he wants to get the word out about the meaning of his work.

All of his artwork is created with a purpose and a message. Throughout school, I learned that that was what I needed to do as a graphic designer. When I’m creating a logo or designing another piece of marketing collateral, it’s not about simply “making something pretty,” but about the message that is being conveyed to its audience. It has a purpose, just like Ai’s art does. It’s about communicating the message appropriately and understandably. In order to do that, there are a variety of ways. From the typeface chosen to the colors used, even the imagery and shapes within the designs all has a purpose. Everything subconsciously gives off a meaning. It may differ from one person to the next, but the majority of the meaning of the image will remain. So what’s the main message people will get from your design? That’s what matters and that’s what needs to be demonstrated to your audience.

This being said, the thinking behind a design has to also fall in line with the messaging of other marketing techniques around it. Copy for a brochure can’t sound playful while the design looks dark and gloomy. No, they have to run alongside each other. In school, it was always one person writing and doing everything. Here at Roundpeg, it’s a mixture of everyone working together to get the same messaging across all platforms. This means being consistent with all marketing tactics, design included, and the easiest way to stay consistent with designing is to have a brand sheet and guidelines near for quick reference.

Why is this important? In order for your audience to digest the message, it needs to be consistent and understandable. Giving it meaning makes it even stronger. Ai’s exhibit curated to illustrate his thoughts and feelings towards government. It had this theme running throughout, and that’s what design should have too.