Design is Everything (almost)…

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Any time I attend a networking event and tell people I build brands, there are several people who respond with, “Branding is so important. Thank goodness there isn’t anything wrong with mine.” And so it goes. Nobody thinks their kids are ugly—and they certainly don’t want to hear that they are from someone they’ve just met. Sadly, sometimes I have to deliver bad news to the parents who birthed their own brands without any professional assistance. It’s a difficult conversation, which often leaves the recipients with looks of shock and horror on their faces. I try to explain they did the best they could with the information they had, but if they wish to grow their business, changes need to be made. So how do you know if your business uses good design? First, you need to understand what “good design” is and how it works.

Design makes or breaks the user experience. They either like what they see and understand it completely—or they don’t. Rarely is a reaction ever lukewarm. Investing in good design efforts up front will prevent costly re-work down the road. Without considering how design impacts the final product, service, or user experience, you might be headed for a disappointment, or worse, a disaster. I’ve seen bad design really negatively impact the ability to sell. The feedback I often hear is: “I didn’t get it.” or “I didn’t think they were a serious business.”

Believe it or not, great design is a bottom-line investment. Now more than ever companies need to give serious consideration to design as it relates to how they show up and compete in the marketplace, because today’s innovation is inextricably linked with design. It has become a decisive advantage in many industries and a crucial tool to being special and unique.

How can great design make you more money? Your product or service is fighting for mind space, visibility, and the opportunity to prove your product or service is the one your customer must notice, try, and love. Is your brand’s design getting you noticed? What kind of impression does it leave? Does it begin conversations? Does it answer questions and connect the dots for your audience? In other words: does it eliminate questions in the minds of the audience as to whether or not your product or service is the right choice for them?

Less is more. We live in a world of noise and distractions trying to compete for our attention. Consider police cars. Back in the day, all they had was one single light on the roof of their car. Now, the things light up like a Christmas tree. Have you ever wondered why? It’s because they are trying to get our attention in a world where people have become desensitized to noise and lights. Obviously, you can’t add another row of red lights in the business world. Noisy and over-designed marketing pieces actually create too much stimulus for people to digest in one sitting. There are too many ads, campaigns, and promos competing for our attention. Each one seems to be louder and more complex than the next, just hoping that if they add more, use brighter colors, or try to be more clever, they’ll get the attention they seek. People want peace and calm and serenity because it’s different than what they get every day. They don’t want to work hard to figure things out when there’s already too much competing for their brain power.

That’s why simple, minimalist design wins. It’s so unexpected, refreshing, and easy to understand that people can’t help but pause and hang around for a minute. That’s all you need: that one extra minute the competition doesn’t get. With so much noise in the marketplace, allowing your eyes to “rest” is something consumers crave. They don’t want to have to work hard to get the information they seek. They want answers to resolve their needs quickly, and with minimal effort.

Make it relevant. Your graphic design must be appropriate for the audience it identifies. It must be relevant to your industry and the audience to which you are catering. Getting up to speed on all these aspects requires a lot of in-depth research, but the investment of time is worth it. Without a strong knowledge of your industry, you can’t hope to create design that successfully differentiates you from your closest competitors.

Good design is one-half closing the loop for people. (The other half is positioning and messaging.) How you appear is a direct reflection on how you are perceived because, in design, perception is reality. Have you looked in the mirror lately?