Design is something that is typically under appreciated and under valued as a marketing asset, probably because our brains automatically absorb visual elements without necessarily thinking about the impact they have on what we are reading or viewing. In fact, design is so integral to what we see, read, think and feel that we often forget it’s there.
The fact is that whether your marketing campaign is online or offline, a good design is critical to brand recognition, ensuring your marketing message is delivered and eliciting the emotional response from your audience that you’re after.
Brand recognition is all about design
The biggest brands all have simple and cleverly designed logos that are used consistently and prominently throughout all marketing communications. The best logos encapsulate the brand’s identity, message and values in a single glance. This is no small feat.
You’ll need a creative and experienced design team to create the right logo for your brand, and then once you’ve got that logo you need to use it consistently, everywhere – storefront, website, signage, letterhead, business cards, invoices and paystubs – anywhere your company name exists so should your logo. And when you’ve done your job right, your logo can eventually replace your company name because it will be as widely recognized.
What’s in a good logo design? Legendary graphic designer Milton Glaser, creator of the “I Love New York” logo says it’s all about simplicity. “You want to move the viewer in a perception so that when they first look at [the logo]…they get the idea, because that act between seeing and understanding is critical,” he told the graphic design blog Design Informer.
Great design works within this realm of the instantaneous – we see something and we either see and understand, or we see and misunderstand. For brands, strong design is critical because it controls the understanding that we as readers and viewers have. In this way your message comes down to design, even more so than your content.
Content and design work together
In the era of content marketing, design is often taken for granted. Yet, it’s the design of your website, ad, blog, email or mailer that determines whether someone will actually take a second glance. Joe McCambley, creative director and co-founder of the Wonderfactory says “anyone who believes that design is unimportant to content marketing must also believe that design is unimportant to their brand.”
Of course the headline or subject line has a lot to do with whether someone will read on, but before they even read the headline your design has already had an impact. A bad design can cause readers to glance over a strongly written headline while a good design can elicit an emotional response before a single word is even read.
With the most effective B2B marketers spending 39 per cent of their marketing budgets on content marketing, one can’t help but wonder how much of that marketing spend is being wasted because the content is accompanied by a poor design. According to Joe Pulizzi, founder of the Content Marketing Institute, “if the design is not engaging or does not grab attention, the words may never be read.”
Google is a great example of a big brand publishing high quality content on Think with Google that, up until two years ago, was hardly read. A poorly designed website was the main culprit. Yes, even Google has design struggles. “Tech giant that it is, Google has been somewhat slow to get into the content marketing game. Their Think with Google site has been around for awhile, but it’s only in the last year or two that it’s really become a content powerhouse worthy of its discerning marketer audience,” says Ashley Taylor Anderson, a writer and content designer with Ceros. Now, “they have a great website design (finally) that makes you want to stick around and read more.”
How can a huge brand like Google miss the mark on design? “Many people fail to appreciate how psychologically compelling design is,” explains HubSpot’s Liz Alton. “Where does a viewer’s eye fall on a page? What emotions do the photographs, colors and layouts that you chose evoke? Does one area — the most important takeaway — stand out above everything else? Good design can take a masterfully crafted pitch or concept and add gasoline to its ability to drive conversions,” Alton argues.
Good versus bad design
So, what elements are necessary for a good design? This is not an easy question to answer. “People may not always be able to articulate what they like about a design, but they know what they don’t like,” says Phillip Brooks, director of content marketing at SEMrush. Good design is an art form, and like art, what makes one piece better than another is an intangible aesthetic quality that is difficult to put into words. We feel art, instead of think it just as we feel design.
Still, there are some general guidelines that can often be followed – but don’t be afraid to break them if it works. Remember that good design is about being creative and thinking outside of the box.
Five Guidelines for Good Design
- Keep it simple.
- Ensure your design adds to understanding rather than distracts from the message.
- Don’t be afraid to use design to stand out from the competition.
- Content and design should not just co-exist, but work together to complement each other and achieve your marketing goals.
- Remember to use all elements of your brand’s design consistently across all marketing platforms without exception.
Design is an integral part of marketing, so integral that it’s often taken for granted despite the fact that your marketing campaign won’t be successful without it. So, take a moment to thank those unsung heroes in your company (or marketing department) – the graphic designers whose creativity and genius makes your marketing campaign look good.