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A picture paints a thousand words; you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression; first impressions last….. You could then counter these with another old cliché that people shouldn’t judge a book by its cover.  But, the fact is, they do.  Although we’re not big on clichés, they are often clichés for good reason.  You will have to work many times harder to win clients over if that first encounter is not positive.  So why do so many people skimp on the one thing that could save them so much time and effort: design?

Brand is a lot more than how your marketing collateral appears, but the design of it is visually how your brand is perceived, and what people often experience first and come to associate with. It’s this visual association that helps win the hearts of your potential clients and retain their loyalty.  So when people argue that cost is why they find ways to cut corners rather than purchase professional design, I would ask ‘how can you afford not to invest in good design?’

Good design doesn’t have to blow the budget.  And a good design agency will offer more than just a good design service, they will add value to your overall marketing strategy.

So what is good design?

A good designer will try to understand your problem in order to come up with an appropriate solution. You should expect questions about, and challenges to your brief. You may have heard the joke; “how many designers does it take to change a light bulb? Does it have to be a light bulb!”  Joking aside, if you look at product design for instance, it’s no surprise that Dyson and Apple have been so successful. Design is at the heart of these companies, challenging and shaping what they do at every level within their companies, in order to provide exceptional products. For them, their products are an integral part of what their brand is about which is why design is at the core of what they do.

It’s the same for service organisations, consider Virgin Airlines, who use memorable design that is consistently applied through all the elements of the customer journey.  It provides a first and lasting impression of what to expect, and differentiates their brand from other airlines.

So good design solves a problem, it conveys a message, it stimulates emotion and engages people, it supports your marketing and differentiates and positions your brand from your competition. It supports your business objectives.  In short, it has a very significant role to play that should not be underestimated.

You will be thinking, of course, we would say that, but it is actually logical.  The best idea for a direct marketing campaign will be less successful if the final solution is not thought through and executed well. A website that is poorly considered and constructed will be exited within seconds of someone landing on it, no matter how good the SEO or marketing campaign to get them there in the first place. This will also have a negative effect on how your brand is perceived.

Even with brand guidelines there is always going to be an element of subjectivity surrounding design and whether it is considered good or not.  It requires discipline to park personal preferences for professional judgment at times, but there are some important things you need to ask yourself about any design work:

  • Will my audience relate to this?
  • Will my audience like it?
  • Will my audience take away the right impression of my business and/or product?
  • Will my audience get the right message?
  • Will my audience recognise it as my brand?
  • Will my audience respond to it?

Having considered these questions, sometimes you may find you need to challenge your audience. It was once said that if Henry Ford, father of the motorcar, had asked his customers what they wanted they would have asked for a faster horse. It’s also been said that the late Steve Jobs, Apple CEO, put little store in customer research in defining the products they developed. Instead opting to challenge their designers, programmers and engineers to shape their future.

In the end, good design may be a lot of things but it is actually about solving problems and engaging your audience in one way or another.  If you tick all the above boxes, by all means then ask yourself if you like it.

Paul Bailes

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