One of the most glorious aspects of gift-giving and receiving is the beauty and magnificence of the wrapping that encloses the surprise awaiting inside. Ribbons and bows adorn the stunning paper and exquisite bags with life-enhancing presents within. Some of the longest lines along the mall walls aren't at point-of-sales but stationed in front of the proficient gift-wrapping kiosks.
Tremendous effort goes into presenting a gift that has been well dressed and groomed for the occasion of giving. Often we forget that what matters most isn't the wrapping but what the wrapping holds. Design is treated similarly. It is more than just another pretty face to make marketing look good. Design compliments marketing, enhances it, and works with marketing to bring messages and campaigns to life.
Aesthetics applied to marketing contain more than what meets the eyes. Alexis Chng-Castor, CEO + Chief Creative Strategist of Hope By Design, helps us see beyond design's beauty and gives us a glimpse into its mind. We asked her a few questions to lead us on this journey.
Can you define what design is? Design is a combination of science and art. It involves constant interaction and thorough observation of human behavior to understand needs and problems. Design also involves gathering information methodically and actively using that knowledge to solve problems and improve lives.
So, what in the world does design have to do with marketing? The relationship that design and marketing share is symbiotic. It is like that of a left hand and right hand. You need both to achieve maximum results. Marketing sets the strategy, goals, target audience, and message. Driven by marketing, design then sets the creative strategy to visually bring the message to life. Marketing and design can solve problems jointly when there is a clear focus on performance.
What are some current design misconceptions? #1 Misconception: Design is all about aesthetics and making things "pretty." The most successful designs of many renowned brands may seem simplistic and straightforward, but the journey to achieve these impactful designs is complex and involves extensive collaboration between teams. Let's set the record straight once and for all; design is not just about looking good. Design done well has substance behind the attractive facade, which captures the user's attention (first step of engagement) and then influences them to take action. Good design does not stop there. It builds and drives the user to take the targeted action along the consumer journey. #2 Misconception: Design cannot be quantified or measured. This is untrue. Design can be quantified and measured with a clear understanding of goals and deliberate intent, especially in the digital space. For example, when designing a digital ad creative, you can work with the marketing team to factor in a creative variable to conduct A/B testing. With discipline and patience, building these insights and data over time can provide your future campaigns with great actionable recommendations. #3 Misconception: Design does not contribute to long-term business strategy. Ponder this. What shapes your audience's first impression of your brand? You may say your website, customer service, or even your advertisements. All of these touchpoints are components of your brand experience. Design is the visual portion of your brand that makes the intangible parts stand out and become tangible. When done right, design can differentiate you from your competitors and help you stand out in a busy, noisy marketplace.
If you had one wish for how design is seen and treated differently, what would that wish be? My wish has two sides. On the business side, I wish that business leaders and marketers could provide design a voice at the strategy table, just like other business functions, e.g., finance and sales. More and more business leaders recognize the strategic role of design in building a successful brand and connecting with their audience. Still, I hope that the growth will continue to accelerate. Design should not be viewed merely as a technical executor. When planning for any projects that require design, let's include the design team (whether in-house or agency) at the start of the conversation rather than at the end of the project to achieve optimum results. Celebrate the design team with the respect and recognition they deserve. On the design side, I wish designers would learn to speak the business language and evaluate their creatives through a strategy lens. Ask questions like how the creative can help meet the marketing goals, how can it complement the message to propel the audience to take action, and how can the creative help drive ROI. Be bold and set measurable creative goals for accountability. Setting goals and clear metrics allow both sides to understand the value of design. Build in time to test creatives and embrace the results. To be invited to sit at the strategy table, we need to level up and demonstrate that we have what it takes to own the seat
Design is worth unwrapping, friends. There is thought and intelligence on the inside. Allowing not only the outward but the beautiful mind of design to influence and impact your marketing effort will make it that much more of a wonder to behold!