Facebook, WordPress, Instagram, Tumblr, Twitter, Vine and more—how did we gain so many accounts, so many methods to express ourselves, and yet lose our individuality? Eons away from the unique backgrounds and browsing tunes found in the heyday of MySpace and LiveJournal, almost every social media site has become a blend of muted blues. The only personalization to be found is in the blitzkrieg of advertisements bombarding users.
The homogenization is strange. Sites such as Facebook (and the newly revamped Twitter) have stripped the user of the chance to utilize design in building a brand across social media outlets. Instead, the sites dictate the uniform layout, color, and font to be used. I would accuse the instrument of wishing to outshine its wielder, but given the bland similarities between sites one certainly can’t argue that social media outlets are attempting to establish themselves via design.
Tumblr and WordPress, to the grateful relief of small businesses everywhere, are the odd men out. Both organizations have blithely handed users the keys to their respective castles, allowing the user to dictate not only the content published, but the container in which said content arrives.
Why is this important? Visual repetition is needed to build a brand and embed oneself within the collective consciousness. We immediately know what golden arches signify; we have connected hot pink and cursive font to a particular product. Most small companies do not have the power to build franchises across the nation or dominate aisles in retail stores. For these organizations the repetition of linking a particular design and product must occur digitally. When sites such as Twitter deny companies the ability to do this by limiting design features they prevent companies from achieving their full marketing potential.
Without a wholly unique design, one’s content or product must assume the responsibility of distinctiveness. And in these times? Distinctiveness is in extremely short supply.