People-First Design: Download the Paper
Enlightened companies are talking about design and its benefits like never before. Product, brand and service design are on the agenda because they speak volumes about the company that produced them, its values and priorities. It is also good business, as smart design makes money.
Unfortunately so few do this or do so remotely well. One cannot attend a design or marketing conference without Apple being lauded as the pinnacle of design thinking. I recently was a Keynote speaker at the Tsinghua International Design Management Symposium in Shenzhen, China and joked with fellow presenters about who would be first to mention Apple. The joke is actually a bitter one because there are few other companies to cite.
There are many reasons for this very real drought. The first is that design and its practice has been made overly complex. We have assigned words, processes and tools to design that confuse more than enlighten. Now “design” is analogous to “strategy”, it is a word that has come to mean so much that it means almost nothing when we hear it.
The second reason is putting design at the heart of an organization is tough stuff. Business is complex with many competing priorities and focuses. Too often design is viewed as a supporting player. Where design is at in business today holds eerie parallels to where branding was ten years ago. Design advocates are attempting to convince the C-Suite that a Chief Design Officer should be at the ‘big-boys’ table.
For design and design management to be valued it has to demonstrate a clear return on investment. It will do so by solving business problems, by putting people first and by making each person believe that whatever was designed was designed solely for them.
What Digital Agency Clients, Staff and Leaders Say in Private
Digital agencies enjoy a reputation of being cool, cutting-edge and creative. They even have a bit of a bad-boy persona because they talk about challenging the status quo. Their offices are hip and their employees are hipsters. They are positioned as the future of marketing and advertising.
Read the article in Advertising Age.
It is too easy to pick on a new logo. Everyone has a subjective opinion that is largely reactionary and often knee-jerk in condemnation. Objective opinions are dry and boring…outside of graphic designers not many people care about precise kerning, bevels and pantones. Having contributed to new logos, or more dangerously updates of existing ones, I have been at the epicentre of criticism.
The socialization and acceptance of logos take time. They are not an overnight affair. One is highly successful if 51% of the people who see a new logo actually like it at the outset. Time must be given so the logo is imbued with meaning and can be associated with tangible results in the business. Branding is long-term strategic game not a press release announcing a new look.
So instead of simply attacking the logo design let me share my opinion regarding the whole Yahoo! program behind it. This is what worked and didn’t work…
30 Days of Change
This worked because the company put out a new logo every day to build excitement and stay in the news. It didn’t work because we all grew bored three days in.
This worked because Marissa Mayer was hands on. It didn’t work because the change doesn’t go far enough to represent the strategic changes she is attempting to make in the business.
This worked because it opened up the debate on whether branding and marketing can be done within a company. It didn’t work because the objectivity a third party can provide is often invaluable.
What the !
The updated logo should reflect a change in strategy. At best, it is cleaner graphic update. The company would have got more attention if they dropped the juvenile “!” as part of this effort. This was the biggest missed opportunity graphically.
You know, now that I think of it maybe Marissa should have changed the company name. Yahoo! is so 2001, so Pets.com. This is how the company describes itself…”Yahoo! is focused on making the world’s daily habits inspiring and entertaining. By creating highly personalized experiences for our users, we keep people connected to what matters most to them, across devices and around the world. In turn, we create value for advertisers by connecting them with the audiences that build their businesses.”
That is an awesome brief for coining a new name. A name that signals a change in business as usual followed by a logo that communicates the new direction. Such a move would have ensured a different result from the one Yahoo! has now … namely a logo that’s embarassed of its name.
“It is one of the tasks of a leader to ensure the continuous renewal of systems over which they provide.” John W. Gardner
Brands are not static. They are constantly evaluated and re-interpreted by customers. It is a challenge to remain relevant and different, yet that is the point of branding. Unfortunately, many brands either become stagnant or confuse real substantive and competitive change with cosmetic modification.
There is a reason that the same brands are mentioned at every marketing conference and why those brands top lists of being the ‘best’. They have made branding a priority because they understand and manage the brand as a tangible economic asset. Often achieving freshness, difference and relevance requires objective expertise. Companies and their people can get caught up in the day-to-day and need help to evaluate and change the course of their branding.
Many marketing businesses and consultants offer audits, workshops, and plans. Brand audits are useful tools to help articulate where you are today. Workshops help generate ideas and gain buy-in. Communication plans provide a roadmap to capture opportunities. Precious few consultants offer the activities and benefits of all three in a thorough and pragmatic service.
The Brand Acceleration Program from Swystun Communications is focused and intensive. It challenges competing offers that promise reinvigoration of your brand in two days, which is so highly unrealistic as to be laughable. As well, it acknowledges that you do not have the time, inclination or funds to spend months addressing your brand. This program is offered over fifteen days either consecutive or spread out depending on your needs.
Read more and get the brochure.
Check out the July edition of The Brand Intelligencer…over 30 stories covering branding, marketing, and advertising. Also the latest in innovation, design, creativity and some fun stuff too.