Why Design Matters


Engaging design helped to draw employees in to learn more about their company's product – a sealing adhesive with an elastomer that provides the cohesion needed to keep ice cream cold. Huh? (Design by Communication Results)

Design influences everything, from your decision to purchase a $4.25 cup of coffee at that appealing new café to which direct mail offers you bother to open and the articles you choose to read in your favorite magazine.

As a business communicator, my job is to influence opinion or change behavior in order to achieve business objectives. To accomplish this, people need to interact with my client’s message. A page of 10-point Times New Roman text is seldom compelling, so what you are left with to persuade people to read a publication or advertisement or to engage in a website, is design.

Color, photos, illustrations, and engaging feature copy are what entice viewers to care enough to consider the message. Design and copy hold equal importance in the communication process, but companies are more likely to have a staff writer than a staff designer. I do both writing and design, so I  understand the need for balance.

Why does design matter?

Design differentiates. Design creates and clarifies an organization’s identity. Design should fit the culture of your firm and should convey a genuine sense of who you are. Beware the designer who campaigns for a trendy new looks. Develop an identity and stick to it. You’ll tire of it long before your customers do. That Nike swoosh has been around for a long time. The Coke and Pepsi logos haven’t changed much since I was a child.

Design organizes and gives meaning. Without design, your favorite magazine would be gray text with no indication of where one article stops and the next one begins. Design should clarify the message of your article and invite the skimmer to spend more time. Good design will make things easy to find on your website.

Design solves problems. Say you have three major points to convey in 1,200 words. The reader may never invest four minutes to read your copy. Consider cutting the story back to 400 words to free up space for a strong headline, photos or illustrations and captions that can get your point across in 10 seconds and perhaps entice the customer to read every one of those 400 words. Consider making the visual elements and captions tell the full story on their own. The narrative should expand on the visuals for those willing to invest the time. This applies to publications, websites and even advertisements.

Design conjures emotion. To win customers and create brand loyalty, you need to make an emotional connection. Consumers are willing to pay $4.25 for a cup of coffee that they could brew at home for eight cents because the interior design supports an experience that makes them feel good and invites them to linger. People feel more emotionally connected (brand loyal) to an organization that uses good design practices. I have been a passionate Apple computer user for more than 20 years because their products are exceptionally well designed, they support the way that I think and they make my life easier.

It is important for writers and marketers to interact effectively with designers and to engage in a give and take that supports better communication.

© 2009 Jocelyn Canfield, ABC

This article originally appeared in IABC’s Communication World Bulletin


About jocelyncanfield
Graphic Designer/Writer/Photographer and owner of Communication Results

One Response to Why Design Matters

  1. Pingback: Selecting and Working with a Graphic Designer « Business Dialogue

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