Thursday, June 17, 2010

Retreat Day 5: Design is. . . ?

"Design is not about "like." It's not about "dislike." It's about passion . . . emotion . . . attachment.

- Tom Peters, reveals the true power of consumerism, "Re-Imagine! Business Excellence in a Disruptive Age"

Design is so much more than just the cosmetics of a product or the marketing collateral of a business. Design is the new dollar that symbolizes creativity and quality. Within an instant, the public can visually see the soul of a product through its packaging; or the quality and integrity of a business by glancing at its web site.

True, there is a lot of fluff out there. But those who matter will be attracted by design first and foremost. There is substance in style. There is a message that runs deep through the design of products and businesses. The message is in the details, it is in the overall appearance and the overall experience.

Enter into a Starbucks and you will have realized the impact design has, from the flavor of coffee, to the overall experience in the store, Starbucks exudes design and branding. Starbucks sells more than just strong coffee. Let's face it, the impact of the overall design of Starbucks and the addictive power it has over people is its true value proposition. Its consistent use of the color palette from the murals on the walls, to the seating areas and the straws is about the brand. The shapes of the counters and barrista stations, the logos that appear perfectly with each eye movement brands the experience in your brain and leaves you wanting more.

Yesterday, I bought an iPad from the Apple store in Chicago. If you have ever bought an Apple product, you may understand the overall manipulation and power Apple has over its fans. They aren't just a computer manufacturer any more than Starbucks is just a coffee maker. The design of Apple is the true soul of its products. Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple understands the majestic magnificence design plays in the overall marketing of its company too. From the research and development of the Apple products, to the marketing, selling and delivery, design exudes throughout the entire life cycle of any Apple item. The clean, no-nonsense, fresh white space is the very essence of Apple, its stores, the products and packaging.

As our world becomes more polluted with loud noises, images scrolling at top, on the bottom and along the sides of our screens, designing - whether it is packaging, a web site, direct mail, advertising, etc., - needs to be concise, consistent, cohesive to what you are selling, who you are.

Reflecting on my career, I have spent the past several years suppressing my "graphic design" capabilities. I quickly acknowledged the lack of value many C-level executives have towards designers. Perhaps the market is so saturated with designers that it was difficult to prove value. Maybe those who claim to be designers but really just own a copy of Photoshop have tarnished the designer name. Perhaps design is not easily quantified by the bean counters. Whatever the reason, I am realizing the value and need for good design.

I recall an attorney, sitting in his corner office of one of Chicago's tallest skyscrapers telling me with surprise and delight after I turned a courtroom graphic into a visual that could better prove his argument say, "You desktop publishers ARE more than just glorified secretaries."

The nineties were my decade to be a pioneer in legal marketing with most law firms paying little- to no attention to the need of design. My mission was to give attorneys the visual credentials they needed to communicate they represented a noble profession. Attorneys are advocators of the American legal system, not ambulance chasers.

Years of education and proof of intelligence appeared in the certificate that adorned their offices, but law firms would take no value in the overall image, style, they were visually communicating with the marketplace. One of my first law firm clients was a medium-sized firm. They hired me to design in-house invitations for their numerous events. The year was 2000, and they had about 2000 versions of their firm's logo. They put a lot of emphasis on their ampersand, the "&." I made waves on the issue whenever I had the chance. It is a wonder the marketing director put up with my shenanigans as long as he did!

By 2003, they hired a big design firm to develop a standard logo. I would have loved the opportunity to have done that for them, but, in reflection, I wasn't ready to demonstrate the leadership in the boardroom to present visual solutions to be effective. I'd love the opportunity today to do that. I'm ready for it now.

More than being qualified for the opportunity, I am learning my passion for this. I LOVE the design process of gathering information, realizing the emotional characteristics of a business, its offering, its product and then creating concepts, presenting them with awe and voila! The new visuals give life to a company. The new image is like a makeover that takes someone who was timid and recreates their confidence into a shining super star! Visually personifying the business, implementing the image on paper, on the digital screen, watching the business' morale increase and the sales grow is the ooey gooey secret sauce in my business offering. Oh yeah. Here we go. . .

Today, law firms of all sizes must have the competitive advantage in the design, the overall brand as they market their firm through the web site, the brochures. In fact, any business that has any competitor- which is EVERYONE - should start to appreciate and take notice of the design, the visual impact they are making with the public, with their "potential" clients.

I'm thrilled to see the value of design grow globally. It makes me realize that I have a special offering I could build a business offering around. I love creativity. Let's let it grow!

Watching companies like Apple continue to increase its market value to its shareholders despite the economy reiterates the value of design.

To those of you who have competitors, and that includes everyone... It isn't a question of whether you have a visual impact. We live in a visual era. The question is, what impact are you making visually?


Mike Bergman June 17, 2010 at 3:16 PM  

And I'd love to add compelling words to those stunning designs.

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