Conceptual Technique: Pair Up

If you aspire to do big things in the creative industry, you need to be able to generate concepts. An ability to use proven techniques will help. Here we share one of our favorites and give you some tips.

Pair Up

Pair up is a technique we use a lot at Portfolio Studio. One of its key strengths is that your underlying message can say more than one thing. Usually, we emphasize focusing on just one message in advertising and design, but in this case, you can talk about two or more things simultaneously. That makes it a versatile technique. Do you need to advertise both shoes and toys? Pair Up lets you do that. 

Target's Wants/Needs campaign created by PMH

Target's Wants/Needs campaign created by PMH

Target Slinky

The Pair Up technique gets its surprise from an unexpected combination of elements. Another bonus: It is also is fairly easy to roll out into a large campaign. 

Nike Write the Future campaign by Weiden and Kennedy

Nike Write the Future campaign by Weiden and Kennedy

Nike Pair Up

Copywriting can also use this technique in surprising ways. 

This award-winning campaign for Swiss Life cleverly showcases the twists and turns that can happen in life. Created by Spillman/Felser/Leo Burnett in Zurich

This award-winning campaign for Swiss Life cleverly showcases the twists and turns that can happen in life. Created by Spillman/Felser/Leo Burnett in Zurich

Student Work

Since Pair Up is useful for both design and advertising challenges, when it is done well, it makes for award-winning student portfolio work. 

Restaurant Week by student Nicole DeRosier. The possibilities to roll this concept out are endless using skylines and forks. She did just that. 

Restaurant Week by student Nicole DeRosier. The possibilities to roll this concept out are endless using skylines and forks. She did just that. 

Poster for New York City Ballet by Kaitlin Schupp. Can you see the skyline?

Poster for New York City Ballet by Kaitlin Schupp. Can you see the skyline?

Lipton Tea ad by Jennifer Lau

Lipton Tea ad by Jennifer Lau

Pair Up is a good go-to option for brand and logo design and is communications information quickly and simply. The key is looking for "overlaps" in elements that can be pulled together in a single image. 

Devil's Cakery by Elizabeth Williams

Devil's Cakery by Elizabeth Williams

Story Shop student work by Brooke Lingenfelder

Story Shop student work by Brooke Lingenfelder

Viking Barbershop by Christian Capuchino

Viking Barbershop by Christian Capuchino

Methodology

Ready to try? Here's how you go about using the Pair Up Technique. 

Overriding Goal: Bring two, different, (perhaps) unrelated things together in order to create new meaning. 

Investigate:

  1. Build lists: Write down key words and attributes of your product, service, or brand.
  2. Create symbols that surround the brand and the brand culture.
  3. Look for overlaps in imagery including shapes that are similar between different elements.
  4. Look for overlaps in the story - places where words can meet.

Conceptualize and Build:

Things to consider: 

  • Can you combine elements from different categories in clever ways?
  • Is it possible to overlap or connect two or more different elements seamlessly?
  • Does the combination of different symbols or words spark a new idea?
  • Can you pair up text, or headlines?
  • Make lots of combinations (hundreds) to discover the perfect solution. 

Good luck! 


Portfolio Studio offers courses on ideation and concept creation and development. At Portfolio Studio, ambitious students work with industry pros for training and portfolio building.