Design is Not a Beauty Contest

The Goal of Design is to Solve a Problem

Understanding what constitutes design begins with understanding what it is. Design is essentially a process. And it applies to communications, architecture, interior, product, and any of the other design-oriented disciplines. It is a process that combines functional and strategic considerations. Design must balance creativity with pragmatic thinking. Although imagination, resourcefulness, and ingenuity are characteristics of good design. That’s only one facet. But the primary goal of design is to seek to solve a problem. In brand communications design combines function and creativity to convey the right message to the right audience. And in a way that is understandable and memorable. Design is not art nor is it purely creative.

In Branding, Design Decisions are Business Decision

There are many important design decisions required in the development and implementation of a branding initiative. The people responsible for making these decisions can be a chief marketing officer, creative director, brand manager, leadership team, or even board of directors. But in many cases, it’s middle management with the primary decision responsibilities.

“Design issues remain stuck in middle management, rarely rising to the C-suite. When they do, senior executives make decisions on gut feel rather than concrete evidence”

McKinsey Business Value of Design

Unfortunately, misguided design decisions are more the norm.

  1. A common misconception is that design is simply about creativity. And therefore a matter of subjective opinion.

2. Preconceived notions of what the solution is can often sway decisions.

3. Designers are frequently seen to lack the credibility of other more pragmatic disciplines like accounting, law, or management consulting.

4. Gut feel can dictate decisions that are more emotionally based.

5. Failure to connect a design decision to a business result is not uncommon.

Let Process Guide Solution-Driven Design

Just 4 simple rules will help get to a good design resolution.

1. Agree on the Criteria

It is essential that all stakeholders in the process agree on the criteria. It is the criteria that will drive the design. And then be used to evaluate the solutions throughout the process. Criteria should include both strategic and functional considerations. Business and marketing objectives plus other relevant information all factor into the process. This ensures that everyone (including the decision-makers) is in agreement on what will drive the design from the very start. Leaving anything out will result in frustration if not delays.

2. Define Decision Making

It’s important to identify who will be making the decisions. And what the decision-making protocol will be. Decision-makers need to participate from the beginning. While project teams and delegated managers can guide the day-to-day work, decision-makers must be involved at each key juncture that will require a decision. Most importantly decision-makers must have the authority as well as the responsibility.

3. Follow a Process

A good process will help guide informed and intelligent decision-making. The process must take into account the responsibilities of the decision-makers to evaluate the work and give guidance on the next steps. A pre-established time frame will ensure that the decision-makers can plan and be available at the key decision junctures.

4. Stick to the Goal

One of the principal goals of the design process is to help ensure that decisions are made in the context of the desired end result. This requires education on how to make decisions at each decision juncture and keep objectivity at the forefront. Design decisions are not emotional decisions. Regardless of whether the work is about a name, tagline, logo, or brand application, it’s essential to let the criteria guide the decisions that meet the business goals. Design decisions are made like any other business decision.

Education Matters

While it might be easier and more expedient to jump to a “feel good” decision it’s far better to be guided by an intelligent one. A branding consultant should be providing information on the principles throughout the design process. The intent is to educate, inform and provide background most relevant to the decision at hand. In fact, that should be a consideration when selecting a branding partner. A longer-term solution would be to add design fundamentals to a business and marketing curriculum. This would better prepare managers to help make better business decisions when design is a consideration.

The goal of How Brand Works is to share our experience, perspectives and philosophy on the different facets of branding intended to enable an effective brand management strategy.