Lobo (with The Ebeling Group) revisited the aesthetics of their Skank One Song project, but this time they did it for Saturn (co-directed by MJZ) and Suez. Both projects are variations on the original idea, and both, I think, are successful, even if they lack some of the heart of their common ancestor.
I think it’s okay to borrow from your previous work if all the following are true:
1. The approach makes sense for the message at hand
2. You’re not “short-cutting” through your own creative process
3. The audiences are distinct and separate
The biggest danger is that with enough repetition, a certain look or approach to problem solving can dominate your work. When you’ve learned to use a hammer, the whole world starts to look like a nail.
Lobo works on a wide enough variety of projects that they don’t have to worry about this too much, I think. One week they’re doing a car advert, the next they’re doing opening titles for an indie flick. But that’s not true for the vast majority of studios out there.
Purists won’t allow for any recycling or re-purposing of previous projects. But that attitude, while honorable, is ultimately unsustainable. To re-invent oneself completely for every project is not only impossible, it’s probably unhealthy, a catalyst for burn out.
Any body of work from an individual or a consistent team is going to have some common threads running through it. I think those idiosyncrasies and quirks are worth celebrating. That’s the voice of the creators, the DNA of a studio made visible. I’m not saying that’s what’s going on with the Lobo spots; that’s up for you to decide. But I do think there’s room for designers to borrow—and learn—from themselves.