What is Design?
What is design? Isn’t that the question for the ages. Design is inherent in every single thing around us. It’s the reason you may prefer an iPhone to an Android. The technical functions may be the same, but the simplicity of Apple’s interface has led to its dominance in the tech world. And the reason? Design. Good design and marketing are what have allowed some brands to prosper while some die out, what creates brand loyalty, and ultimately, keep customers coming back to you.
Principles of Design
Now that we have the definition out of the way, let’s talk about some of the fundamentals of design. Now you may say that design is about creativity, and we couldn’t agree more. But we can’t deny that design has some basic principles, or theories. Once you understand those, you can let your imagination go wild! So let us save you a trip down the Google black hole and outline some key principles that will help you create effective design.
The first rule of design: structure. Now that doesn’t mean that you can only use straight lines, it means that you need to ensure that there’s an order to your design. This is called alignment. Imagine you’re creating a new Word doc. You start with the heading, which you typically keep center aligned. Now, your paragraph starts in the next line. You have the option of aligning it with the page borders, i.e. left or right, or to the heading, i.e. center. But you can see how one element can inform another. Consider alignment to be the first step of the design process. Here, you’re creating a sense of organization where all the elements follow a defined structure, which ensures that things are even across the board.
The next principle is the hierarchy, or listing out all the messages you want to convey in order of importance. Apply this to the design elements you want to incorporate: the most important message should be the loudest, or the most obvious. You can establish this through a variety of ways: playing with text sizes, adding bold colours like red, or simply bolding key elements.
Our eyes are more sensitive to visual elements than we realize. The aim of any graphic is to ensure that the viewer is paying attention to the right parts of your design. If their eyes are stuck on a huge flower, and not the text that’s talking about an upcoming sale, well then, Houston, you have a problem. What you’re keeping in mind here is visual weight, which refers to the visual force that different design elements attract. E.g. red will always attract more attention than blue, bigger elements more than smaller ones. The key is to keep the visual weight balanced so the eye is not distracted.
Now, this is where it gets interesting. While you want to use design to drive home a marketing message, you also want to ensure that your design is instantly recognizable. What comes to mind when you think of Coca-Cola? The iconic red and swirly white logo. How were you able to make that immediate connection in your head? Through their effective use of repetition throughout their creative branding. No matter what their messaging may be, the design will always feature their iconic red, along with their white logo. Similarly, check out Durex India. Not only are they delightfully naughty, but they also use the same logo placement and colour palette to ensure that all their designs look consistent. Repetition, take a bow.
Ever felt like your design was lacking that extra oomph? This is where contrast is your best friend. To put it simply, contrast refers to two opposing design elements placed together, e.g. black and white, short and tall, thick and thin. Contrast is used to draw the viewer’s eyes to the main focus of your design. This is especially important when it comes to text-based designs. Try it for yourself. Play with different background and text colours to see when a design pops out to you and when it doesn’t. This will be a great exercise in understanding the use of contrast.
Types of Design in Marketing
Now that we’ve covered basic design elements, let’s explore some popular design styles and their best use cases.
Graphic design tends to encapsulate most designs you see on social media. This style involves creating visual content to drive a brand’s messages or communication through digital advertising and marketing. Here, a brand’s creative style is highlighted, from the use of colours, fonts, to visual styles and tone. The biggest job of any graphic designer is being able to communicate complex messages through visually appealing designs. Some examples of graphic design include:
- Social media creatives
- Digital advertisements
- Website images
Branding is one of the most crucial aspects of design. While it may technically fall under graphic design, logo and branding designers specialise in creating a visual brand identity. A well-thought out brand identity can help cement the brand in their consumers’ minds. All of us are familiar with Bira, the popular beer company, but did you know that each part of the brand identity was carefully chosen to convey a playful vibe? Branding design includes logos, style guides, typography that are consistent with the brand to create a recognizable identity.
Packaging Graphic Design
Product packaging is another form of branding. It’s your opportunity to directly speak to your consumers in a hands-on manner. Since the customer is able to interact with your product, this gives you the space to convey your story and identity in a new format. A good packaging designer is not only a visual storyteller, they also have a strong working knowledge of print processes and industrial design. Packaging design plays an important role in establishing a brand’s visual identity.
UI and UX design
UI/UX plays a big role in the creation of websites and apps and is a term you’ve probably seen floating around a lot, so let us break it down for you. UI is user interface, or the way your website looks to your user. This concerns more of the graphical layouts, from the colours used, to the layout, to the interactive elements like menus, icons, clickable buttons. UX, or user experience, is how the website works, like creating the wireframe and functionalities. Think about a house. UX is the physical structure, plumbing, electrical system. UI is the wall colours, the furniture, the doorknobs, the lighting. With this symbiotic relationship, it’s clear that UI/UX go hand in hand.
Motion Graphics Design
A relatively new style (and our personal favourite) is motion graphics. The definition is in the name- this style refers to adding motion to graphics. Motion graphics includes everything from GIFs, animations, to videos and text animations. With the abundance of visual content across all digital platforms, motion graphics is an effective and engaging format with which you can delight your customers while driving home your communication. Most social platforms are now favouring video content, which means that in order for your marketing efforts to be successful, motion graphics needs to play a big role.
Why is it important in marketing?
As we’ve seen, design plays a huge role in helping marketers communicate messages to their audience. But if you’re still not convinced, here are some more reasons to show how good design can make a huge difference in helping your business succeed:
Establishes Brand Identity
Consider your visual identity to be your brand’s calling card. Are you high-end or approachable? Do you stand for comfort or luxury? Once you’re able to communicate your core values, you’re able to establish trust with your consumers, which in turn, drives their buying decision. From Nike’s swoosh to McDonald’s golden arches, all successful brands use design to construct their brand identity and positioning in the market. But this is not the time to be lazy- low quality design can be the downfall of many a company, so treat your identity like the valuable asset it is.
Let’s not pretend that creating a recognizable identity is easy. There’s a lot of noise and competition, so the only way to really distinguish yourself, and your brand, is through impactful design. Now, that doesn’t mean that you trot out a tired design from the 80’s just because it worked then. Design and marketing trends are constantly evolving and a good designer knows that. Take the time to figure out what your audience is responding to best- are they into the more sleek, minimal look, or do they prefer something that’s more loud and colourful? In this case, it’s best to let good design do the work for you.
Design can be pretty. Good design, however, can drive actions. While people might dismiss design as just making things look pretty, they’re neglecting to consider the psychological impact that good design can have. Take a look at the examples below and notice how powerful they are in the emotion that they evoke in you. Similarly, all good designs have the power of influencing thoughts and emotions. This is especially applicable when it comes to marketing and design. The average attention span is decreasing, which means marketers need to convey more complex messages through minimal means. This is where design can be your best friend.
We hope this introduction to design has helped you understand why it needs to be an important part of your marketing strategy. It might seem a little difficult at the beginning, but trust us, once the results start showing, even the doubters become believers. A helpful exercise is to train your mind at visual communication more analytically- what message do you think the brand wants to convey? Are you feeling more convinced than you were before seeing the graphic? If there are some designs that stand out to you, why is that? The more you get used to analysing design, the better you’d be at creating it.
If you’re finding yourself creatively blocked, or just want to understand how to integrate design into your communication plan, reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org!