February 16, 2009 1 Comment
Lots of great offline feedback to my last post, Why Design Matters. Designers and writers can be great partners for improving communication effectiveness and meeting business goals. Following these tips can improve your communication tools and your business results:
Focus on audience and outcome. What do you want someone to do as a result of your piece? This is where you should start when determining how to approach any tool you need to put together. First ask, “Is this the appropriate vehicle or venue to reach decision makers?” Then, “What do I want the reader to feel or do as a result?”
Hire a designer who understands business communications. Your designer should understand that the role of business communications is to influence behavior and achieve business objectives. Err on the side of a designer with a communication degree rather than (or in addition to) an art degree. You need someone who will read and even challenge your copy and grasp your intent. If you are using an outside design firm, make sure they clearly understand the culture of your organization and have a sense of your current visual identity. Many designers come with their own “look.” What you need is designer who can create or work within YOUR look.
Leave time in the production schedule for design. Since design is a close-to-last stop, designers are often asked to make up lost time in the production schedule. Leave time for your designer to read copy and develop clarity around the goals of the piece. It is helpful if the content owner or client has been thinking visually and has secured available photos or at least cleared the path for the designer to set up photography or art.
Simplify your message and your visual presentation. Remember two important facts: Most people live in a constant state of information overload. Because of this, people skim—they don’t read. The writer should ruthlessly pare down the copy before it gets to the design phase. Some designers can help you simplify your message. My personal design goal is this: if no one reads a word of your body copy, are they still getting your message through the pictures, heads/subheads and captions? These are pieces that I am usually developing or honing for my client.
Design also needs to be simplified. Today I see frequent examples in which design is more about “maxing out” technology/fonts than it is about focusing on the needs of the reader.
Learn the Language. The writer or project manager should learn how to communicate with a designer. Remember that design possibilities are infinite. Have an idea about what you want. “I’ll know it when I see it,” is not clear direction. Even sharing sample of things you like and don’t like is a great help to your designer.
Understanding the value added by graphic design will help you to forge a better partnership with your designer, which will ultimately improve message delivery and lead to better business results.
This article originally appeared in IABC’s Communication World Bulletin