Last night, I was researching resorts in North Yorkshire for a staycation. I was spoilt for choice, but one thing was obvious… the way each town’s website was presented had an immediate impact on whether I kept it on my shortlist of potential destinations… or unceremoniously chopped it immediately.
Oh, the sins against design… typefaces that went out with tablets of stone; amateurish embellishments; clashing colours; grainy images; and ill-positioned headers. The list could be much longer but you get the gist.
Anyway, this experience – in a nutshell – sums up the importance of professional design in marketing communications.
The value of refined design
Just as we make instant judgments about people we meet based on the way they look, are dressed, talk and generally present themselves, we make similar judgments about the way companies and organisations face their publics.
While I firmly believe that appearance alone should not define a person, in business the harsh reality is ‘you never get a second chance to make a first impression’. This slogan, first coined by the advertising copywriters of Madison Avenue (MadMen) in 1966, is as relevant as ever.
Now, in the digital age, we are bombarded with more marketing messages than ever before. It has been calculated that the average consumer in the UK is confronted with anything up to 10,000 such messages every day. Sound incredible? Well, think about your typical (non-lockdown) life… you’ll be confronted by billboards, posters, messages on the back of buses, radio ads, eshots, mailers, TV commercials, digital ads when you go on Google… the list goes on… and on.
And this is why great marketing professionals understand the value of refined design.
Visual intelligence helps you stand out. It brings clarity to your messages. It makes it easier for your audience to contact you. Above all, it helps position your business as a quality entity. If you don’t care about how your business is presented, the subliminal message is you won’t care about your customers either.
So what is good design?
Ah, the million-dollar question. Of course, there are established ground rules and practices – principles that are taught on degree courses are then honed and refined by designers when they enter the commercial world. It’s about avoiding the superfluous and injecting freshness and clarity.
Explaining why something is well or poorly designed is challenging. Hopefully, the following anecdote will help.
A prospective client came to us last year with a newsletter she’d had designed by a mate, at a mate’s rate. Although she said it was ‘OK’, she knew it wasn’t quite right and didn’t reflect the quality of her business as she’d hoped.
Our design team took one look and identified immediately what was wrong (all that studying followed by years of experience). The key elements were all there but there was no care, no finesse, no attention to detail, no love in what they saw. For example, an important building that featured on the front cover cast a huge shadow, making the overall page look grey and a bit bleak; images had been poorly cropped; and there was no hierarchy or consistency to the size of fonts used throughout.
Each of these things jumped out at our designers and were easily fixed. The point is, the client (no longer a prospect) knew something wasn’t right – she had a feeling in her gut – but she couldn’t put her finger on what was wrong. And this is the thing – good design often comes down to subtleties and nuances.
Good design works
When digital cameras first became readily available, cost-conscious marketing teams slashed their photography budgets because they were able to take photos themselves. Commercial photographers across the land went out of business. Fortunately, the savvier marketers and company bosses have come to recognise the difference in quality between a shot taken on an iPhone and one taken by a professional with an eye for composition, using professional equipment.
The same applies to design. With all the software now available, anyone can have a go at designing anything. The trouble is the amateurism is glaringly obvious.
Your son might have got an A in art; your wife might have done a graphic design course at night school; your local printer might have agreed to ‘throw in’ the cost of design; and, yes, your local newspaper might have offered to design your advertisement for you.
Is the potential saving really worth the potential loss of business? Good design works. It conveys in a split second your values, your position in the hierarchy. Good design can help you command higher fees for your services or higher price points for your products … good design implies so much more about you. Can you think of a single famous brand that looks as though a 10-year old designed it?
Professionalism is everything in business & design
As you’ll have gathered, we feel strongly about the value of design and are passionate about delivering great design to all our clients, no matter how large or small the job. We take pride in our work and you should be proud of how your business is presented, too.
Would you use an unqualified accountant, lawyer, dentist or physio? Of course not. You’d choose skilful and accomplished people. Amateurish design looks exactly that. It says things about you and your business that would be better left unsaid. Amateurism is fine for hobbyists. In business, professionalism is everything.