It’s easy to be a bit sceptical about designers, especially if you are busy running a small business and you haven’t got a big budget for marketing. We agree – to some extent. There’s no need to paint the Sistine chapel or spend £50,000 on a logo if you are a small business but that said, there are some key points about good design that really do matter and will make the difference between good marketing and marketing that just misses the mark.
We hope that if you are thinking about your brand and design that this will help you sort out what things you need to focus on and what you can afford to leave on the drawing board!
- Good Design in the context of the internet
When we are talking about design in the context of the World Wide Web it’s not just about lovely colours and beautiful photographs. We are sure we don’t need to tell you how annoying it is to land on a website where you can’t seem to find anything or that is just maddening to use on a phone or whereby it’s hard to read.
Web design is just as much about function as it is about form and ensuring that a web page is well laid out in a way that allows a user to find what they are looking for quickly and easily is just as important as how gorgeous the colours or fonts are. We use WordPress themes to help us to design our websites because they have been tested thousands of times. That means we know that they are going to be intuitive to use which will make a better experience for your customers. (It’s less expensive, too).
- Good Design for recognition
If you don’t brand your business properly, how do you expect your customers to recognise who you are and what you’re selling? Think of huge companies such as Apple or something iconic like Marmite, and you know that you can recognise them easily and you know, largely due to their successful branding and effective marketing, what they sell and what values they represent. On a smaller scale you need to do this with your business so that over time, your brand comes to represent something to the people who recognise it. This means consistency is key when it comes to your marketing, from colour to fonts, logo to key phrases. Creative agencies like ours are here to help bring this consistency to your business so that you can start to build up the ‘recognition factor’.
- Design for professionalism
In the same way that recognition is important, so is a professional look and feel. This goes for your online and offline marketing efforts. We know that starting a business can be tough especially when it comes to budgets, but a bad looking brand is damaging, a site that doesn’t work properly will put people off and a home-made leaflet that’s produced badly will not create a great impression. Think about how you would judge a company with shabby marketing and then act accordingly.
- Design for consistency
Brand guidelines can be quite expensive to invest in if all you want ‘is a simple logo’ but if you put your logo on loads of different marketing with fonts, colours and images all over the place you’ll get something that is inconsistent and that can be hard for your customers to understand. What you want from your customers is that they know that it’s you when they see an advert, a leaflet or a web page, so don’t leave them wondering! A good example of good design is something as simple as the big four supermarkets. They consistently and simply brand their stores, products, shopping bags and everything in between with colours, fonts and a layout that makes you recognise it immediately. You want to aim for a similar effect with your own business so that customers find it easy to recognise. If you are working with a creative agency then ask them to supply you with some simple brand guidelines so that if you use a different designer in the future they have the design blue print to work from.
- Negative space matters
Have a look at these two examples of web pages:
The one on the left is well, just crazy on the eye! It’s so busy you don’t know where to look. Using negative space and allowing areas for pictures (see the example on the right) means that you know where to look and what to look for. It’s tempting to cram in all the information that you can but a good designer will show you how to create negative space so that a user can find what they are looking for easily. This is just as important for Graphic Design for print as it is for websites.
- First impressions matter – online
Research from various internet testing companies such as the Neilson Norman Group shows that you really need to ensure that you can clearly convey your business proposition within 10 seconds of a user landing on your homepage. A cluttered, badly designed or ageing website is not going to help you do that, and you will lose people in that all-important ten second window. The longer people stay on your site, the more likely they are to enquire about your services so you want to engage people and get them to read on. That means compelling copy, decent imagery, professional branding and an all-important Call To Action! (eg what do you want them to do as a result of reading your homepage?) A good design will help you to achieve all these things on your homepage.
- First impressions matter – offline too!
Imagine you have a shop with the name spray painted on a sheet above the door, or a shop with a well designed, well produced sign above it. Well, I know which one I’d like to go into. When it comes to signage, uniforms, printed materials, brochures and anything else to do with showing your potential customers who you are, impressions matter. We know that it can be expensive to pay for all those items and that’s why having a realistic marketing budget is important. Only produce things that you really need and make them high quality so that they last! We can help with quality production for any kind of printing so ask if you need a quote.
- We’re not designing it for you, we’re designing it for your customer
Part of the point of hiring a creative agency to help you with marketing is so that you can get fresh eyes on the matter in hand. We know what it’s like to be ‘up against it’ with your own company – you look at it for so long that it’s hard to see the wood from the trees. However, when we get a brief, our first job is to create design that will appeal to your core customer. That means that we need to know who that customer is and why they might want to buy what you’re selling. And THAT means research, thinking and understanding and it can take time and money to make sure that we know what you’re about. So, if we produce a design, we aren’t doing it because we know that blue is your favourite colour, we’re doing it because we want to help your business to SMS (Sell More Stuff), which of course, is the point!
- People judge everything visually, now more than ever
Take a look at the front page of the New York times from 1900.
Now look at the Guardian’s homepage today. Visuals, visuals, visuals. The way in which we use technology from phones to computers now means pictures and videos, infographics and lots of colour. So, your marketing needs to be visually attractive be engaging in a VERY competitive market, because everyone else is doing the same thing. That means that your social channels need to be properly branded. So do your emails, your website, your headed paper and everything else that you do. Think about the way in which you use media and then think about your marketing. Standing out is hard, but if it isn’t well designed, then it’s almost impossible.
- Taste is subjective, good design isn’t
Don’t misjudge a good design that you don’t like. A design that allows a user to understand and navigate the information that they are looking for is key to your marketing, rather than what colour or font it’s in. Obviously we don’t want you to hate it! However, when it comes to working with any agency or designer, make sure you understand the difference between good design and poor design. It’s not about whether or not you think it’s pretty, it’s about whether or not it works. If you decide to start tinkering around the edges and edit things endlessly to your taste you will be in danger of editing out what’s good about it in the first place.
Urban Attic is a full service creative agency that works with small and medium sized businesses to help them make their marketing marvellous. If you want help to make your business beautiful (but more importantly, successful!) then drop us a line and we’ll be happy to talk to you about how we can help.