Design is the new cool. Ad Age and The New York Times have both reported on this trend. “Whether a company is on the enterprise side or on the consumer side, design is front and center,” Andreessen Horowitz told Ad Age. “It’s important to realize that designers in general have elevated themselves to being equivalent to engineers.”
Design is a promise of quality. It’s a promise that the public is not going to be let down.
Design, has always had a place within every marketer’s toolbox, usually used in narrow applications such as logos, letterhead, packaging and displays. Apple and Target are among the most obvious examples of those that have in recent years used design to its fullest power, and now, it seems, others are catching on.
Consumers today are turned off by much of paid media, which includes advertising from broadcast to digital. Earned media is often viewed as the most important and legitimate form of media, and the credibility marketers “earn” from word-of-mouth and expert opinion is invaluable. However, owned media, properties such as websites and packaging and user experience, is often the first place where consumers place judgment on a brand. That’s what Google and others are realizing.
The most commonly held belief today is that we can no longer underestimate savvy consumers. Consumers expect brands to be transparent, engaging, proactive and accommodating. And they’re quick to filter out brands that don’t meet their expectations. Increasingly, design is recognized as an amplifier of a brand’s values and at its best, superior design reflects a superior brand experience – from values to customer service to quality to innovation. It sounds simple, yet many brands have prioritized temporary communications and platforms over design strategy.
Good design builds trust, and successful brands recognize this. Look at Mint.com. The free financial-planning utility had a major barrier to overcome: How do you get consumers to put private account information for their banks, credit cards and loans online and in the hands of a startup? By prioritizing design, from their logo to their clear user experience to the visually stimulating charts and graphs, Mint has built a following of nearly 5 million loyal users.
Design can live on for years, rather than the months of a TV campaign or the days or minutes in social media. Designers are problem solvers with the ability to change behavior. A redesign of nutrition labels could change consumers’ relationships to food. More than logos, packaging, photography, web, retail and collateral, design impacts utility, innovation and customer experiences. Design is a powerful practice, with the ability to change consumer behavior as well as corporate behavior.