James Bond, “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang”, and Good Design

A yahoo I once dated loves the sophistication and action of James Bond movies. He laughed when I told him the movie Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is one of my all-time favorites. I guess you could say our cinematic inclinations were quite different. We eventually arrived at an agreement in our relationship where he got to pick out a movie and then I got to pick out a movie. The other usually whined and resisted when they didn’t get the position of power to choose the next 2-hour viewing. It turned out that I had really good timing when I finally got to pick Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. We had just completed more than 12 miles of winter hiking, and all either of us wanted to do was curl up on the couch with a plate of high-calorie food and a remote control. He was powerless to resist.

“What does this have to do with design?” you might be asking.

Hang in here with me. To my delight, he actually got excited about Chitty Chitty Bang Bang when the opening credits listed Ian Fleming as the creator of the story. I recalled that Ian Fleming created James Bond. And then the name Albert R. Broccoli, the legendary producer of the James Bond movies appeared, as the producer of CCBB. There was even more cinematic DNA in common: CCBB’s screenplay was written by Roald Dahl, who wrote You Only Live Twice, and Gert Fröbe, who plays Goldfinger, plays CCBB’s Baron of Vulgaria.

It was as if all the (movie) stars aligned. He was won over.

Again, you might ask, “What does this have to do with design?”

That two totally different approaches to storytelling could be produced by essentially the same creative team is a perfect example of a key principle in design: knowing your target audience. James Bond movies are geared toward viewers who love action and creative innovation, which are the same things a child (or child at heart) who watches movies like CCBB loves. However, action and innovation are presented quite differently in both these movies.

When designers, artists, writers and other creative types approach their projects, they have to consider whose attention they are trying to capture, and what response they are trying to elicit. Molding and creating work based on the answers to those questions is imperative.

All the thought that goes into designing a particular product is not always immediately apparent to the end user. It is, however, unfortunately quite evident when consideration of the audience is left out. This is why a marketing and design strategy is so valuable.

Every good designer can tell you that you don’t use the same typeface for a children’s book as you would for a book of essays. You wouldn’t even use the same type size. Colors used to market a healthcare company may likely be very different than colors chosen for an outdoor festival which celebrate cherry blossoms. The imagery for a food company will obviously be different from that of a company that supports the mental health of their clients. The visual tastes of your customers might even be drastically different from your personal tastes and from the art you would personally hang on your wall. And then there’s the whole issue of the medium of expression to consider: print versus digital.

In the best scenario, these important factors are considered when a project begins, and they are continually refined through the partnership of the client, designer, and end user.

I’m guessing Ian Fleming, with his long creative career, would agree that success isn’t always assured when the end user’s interests and tastes are taken into consideration, but when a nice twist of creative expression coupled with the right presentation gets added to the mix, a positive response is so much more likely. It’s certainly what good design is all about. And it’s what I love to do!

For more interesting trivia about Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, go hereAnd for more trivia about James Bond, go here.