Know your audience and design everything for and around them. At no point should the designer or the client feel the design is for them, for their taste, or their whims. The user-centered design keeps the focus where it must be, on the people who will use your product. This requires empathy for who and how they would use your product. To get the most from user-centered design thinking, you must partner with the right designer, who will build audience personas, research who they are and what motivates them, as well as what can frustrate or cause friction, and design an experience that informs and supports their mission while helping achieve your business goals and brand aspirations.
Customer Personas & Goals
I don’t like advertising, and I think the advertising world exploits designer talents to help them convince people to buy or do something they don’t want or need. On the contrary, if people want to buy or do something, it is imperative to enlist the talents of a skilled designer that will dig in and, through empathy and research, try to understand the potential user personas and goals, then reduce friction as much as possible, helping them achieve their intent.
Trust is the basis of any relationship. For people to support your brand (business), you must build trust and gain respect. And I mean to build trust because it just doesn’t happen. A business must know who they are and build a reputation through clear positioning and consistency in message, and the tangible part of that reputation is the brand promise. Breaking the brand promise will ensure you lose trust and respect for your business.
Expertise / Positioning
I have a simple formula for designing marketing-focused materials for businesses, especially websites: declare your expertise, then use every inch/pixel to support and legitimize that claim. Bigger isn’t better, better is better, and different is better. Define why you are different and thus better than your competitors, then use knowledge capital, expertise, case studies, testimonials, and any content and media you have at your disposal to support and verify. This helps build trust, too, as long as you are consistent and clear.
To ensure proper representation in the market, a clear brand promise, and facilitating trust in your business, you have to look at every touchpoint your business has with your audience and target market and be consistent in personality, visual language, and mood. If your social media is inconsistent with your website or storefront, you have a major issue. Take the time to understand who you are as an organization, define your positioning and brand essence, then make damn sure all touchpoints are all congruent and in tune with the brand, as well as helping the user to achieve their goals as well as support your business goals and brand aspirations.
Flexible Design System
Was there ever a time when a business needed a single logo to be successful and consistent in the market? Perhaps well before my time in the business, even looking back at the top design-led businesses like IBM and Apple, they employed a design system to flourish in the market, not a single rigid solution. This is why businesses need a logo system, an identity system, and many assets to ensure all brand pieces are appropriate and optimized for their application. Does your business have logos optimized for social media, print, signage, etc., and are they all accessible (when need be) to people with disabilities? If not, you are not creating the best possible customer journey.
Consistent Visual Language
With simple or complex design systems that support your overall branding, consistency is primary. This does not mean the logo has to be used in blue at all times; on the contrary, your design system should have variations and options curated and optimized for a slew of applications. Consistency does not mean the same; it means accurate, appropriate, and logical within the parameters of your well-defined and developed brand identity.