Hardly a week goes by without being approached by a design agency or recruiter asking for a designer with a ‘European design aesthetic’. Generally I aways reply, ‘yes that’s me’, I’m from Europe and I get what your after, but what exactly defines a European design aesthetic and does it still really exist?
I remember working at big design agencies in London who always had walls full of design books, these books were often divided into world regions or had dedicated books for each part of the world (London, Tokyo, New York, etc). Flicking through these books at the time you could clearly see a difference between European and American design.
European design tended to be more understated and cleaner, with minimal type usage and illustrations, mostly using Sans Serif typefaces. By contrast the American designs were type heavy, often using copywriting led communication with photography and serif typefaces. Not any better or any worse, just an overall heavier appearance. I do remember preferring the majority of European designs I saw.
That’s what I remember from design books some 15 years ago, but is it still like that?
Having worked in Los Angeles for the last 4 years and collaborated with designers from the US and other parts of the world on a daily basis I really don’t see that much of a difference anymore, with the exception of FMCG packaging which mostly feels dated in the US. I think the explosion of US based tech companies and the fact almost all brands have a global reach, along with our reliance on the digital space to expose brands I now believe the playing field has very much leveled. We are essentially seeing similar graphic design styles around the world.
Simplicity of communication is proving the most successful form of communication in what is an ever-increasingly congested world.
Don’t get me wrong, European design has always had a certain level of prestige in America, whether it be cars, furniture or packaging. But I now suspect those requests that come in from agencies asking for a ‘European design aesthetic’ are really just asking for ‘a great graphic designer’, and being from Europe does not automatically mean you’ll get that, there are amazing designers all over the world.
So my advise, which is pretty obvious, look at their portfolio and choose designers based on experience and their ‘own design aesthetic’. If that aesthetic works for your client then your good to go.