Alike but Different

I can’t remember a time that I’ve met someone and my impression of them was “this person is a duplicate,” or, “that person looks like all the rest.”  When broken down to our individual parts, we are all very much alike – so it seems like you’d meet a few repeat people here and there.  So far, I haven’t.  If the human race is a series of iterations (which we may in fact be), we’re a remarkable one.

Most of us are fortunate enough to have two eyes, two arms, a unibrow, a couple of legs, and so on. I wonder then, with so many traits in common, how can everyone be so different and simultaneously so alike?  

I believe it’s this balance between different and alike that’s at the heart of every great ad campaign, TV series, newspaper column, blog, or painter’s oeuvre.  It’s radically different from anything that’s been done before it, and yet has just the right combination of elements, feelings or details to be recognizably part of its series. 

The way to achieve this balance is by having a concept that’s deep and wide enough to hold nearly unlimited diversity. The paradox is that the more focused a concept is on specific elements (like eyes, ears, noses, etc) – the easier it is to push the envelope, to explore variations and alternative processes and materials.  To get this recognizable diversity in your work, clearly define your parameters and then push them until they push back.

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