March 22, 2018

Breaking the Rules: When to use Creative License

(Poetic License: Breaking the Rules to Produce the Desired Effect)

In my early days as a creative, I pitched the headline, “Beat the competition.” Then some rigid rule follower objected to my incorrect grammar and suggested I change it to the very literal but less punchy, “Beat your competitors.” My insecurity got the best of me and I changed it – regretfully.

I’m sure I know the rules, I’ve allowed myself to break them when necessary.

Intuitively, or maybe as a distant memory from 6th grade English class, I know the dictionary definition of poetic license: “license or liberty taken by a poet, prose writer, or other artist in deviating from rule, conventional form, logic, or fact, in order to produce a desired effect.” 

But there are those types who think it’s somehow more sophisticated – or educated-sounding – to follow the rules. 

They choose safety or being excessively literal over “producing the desired effect.“

One does have to know and understand the rules before breaking them, but after that, give yourself license to do what works best.

Here are some areas where rules are commonly broken and widely used to “produce the desired effect.”

    Grammar (Got milk? vs Do you have milk?) (Think different. vs Think differently.)    

    Punctuation (The few. The proud. The Marines.) 

    Upper/Lower Case (macy’s, adidas, pepsi)    

    Vocabulary/Spelling (Betcha can’t eat just one. Quicker picker upper.)

Below are some design equivalents (harder to achieve if you’re working with a rigid template)

    a) Using multiple fonts as an intentional part of a design    

    b) Text formatting, including numbers, dates, underlines, and italics    

    c) Adding an unexpected pop of color that isn’t in the brand guidelines    

    d) Breaking other brand guidelines on occasion for a very good reason

    e) An unusual or unexpected photo crop of a person’s face

CLICK HERE to run a rule by me that you’d love to break.