Believing in Design

October 20th, 2011 | Adam Johnson

Conviction. Belief. Design. Where does design go from being simply making something look good to an interpretation of positivity, belief, and profound value? As a designer, I struggle with this concept. "Is what I'm doing meaningful? Does it have value? Will people benefit from it or is what I'm doing just an ephemeral exercise in decoration?

If you are anyone who is in the service industry, I am sure you have been plagued with these questions. I often have to remind myself about what the positive, value-adding aspects of a project are. I try to focus on what information the public will want to consume most. How can I convey that content and message to them in a personal manner? I want them to connect. Internalize. Think about what they are consuming.

All too often in my job I am trying to sell something to the client. A service. A product. Whatever. The real thing to do is to step back and ask not “How do I sell this product to them?”, but rather, “How do I connect with them?” After the connection, the audience will actually feel and be moved enough to take action—essentially planting the seed in their mind whereupon they think they came up with the idea to consume what you are trying to sell.

Example #1:

DOW is famous for their “Human Element” commercials. Their team had engineering, science, chemistry, along with a super-business full of bureaucracy and org charts. In the end of that string, where do people fit in? After all, people are the consumers. People are who they’re making products for. Enter the human connection. Their team realized that they could talk about carbon, oxygen, science, yada yada yada and it would mean diddly-squat. In the end, they had to connect with people. Get the individual to relate to the DOW brand. Build value, connect them to their products and services. Make them feel good about the company. Spectacularly executed:

Example #2: NBC, More Colorful

Earlier this year, we had the pleasure of having the executive creative director of NBC come to WVU to present on NBC’s “more colorful” campaign. He showed the WVU University Relations team what it meant to believe in a brand. Their brand had become more of a philosophy than anything else.

The more colorful campaign actually began by a company called Capacity which NBC had worked with for several years. Capacity did a great job of writing up a case study on the rebrand which is really an excellent read. One of the more interesting sections:

“It wasn’t about just giving them a visual translation of their brief or creating clever graphic devices. We wanted to present a strong foundational concept that could have several visual interpretations and would leave room to evolve over time. In other words, we never wanted the rebrand to be thought of as a fresh coat of paint. The essence of the new brand had to be strong enough to inform the way producers would think about tone and voice in their promos, how the design team would think about using color and composition, how the writers would articulate their messaging.”

Changing philosophy. Redefining the brand and the company culture. Believing in the power of design.

Example #3: Teva Live Better Stories

Teva recognized that they have a strong brand. People know their brand. They know what they are trying to sell. The real turning point for the company and the campaign was realizing the human connection. They argue that life is made up of little moments that you remember. These little moments will then drive you. Motivate you to do what you love. Motivate you to live your life. Keep you doing that nine-to-five-dead-end-job as a means to capture those moments.

All of these examples show a strong connection between the audience and what is trying to be communicated. These stories make you feel like you are speaking with an individual—not a faceless fortune 500 company. They enable you to connect with the brand, product, and message. They convince you to believe and trust the company—all without you even realizing what happened.

What’s after belief and trust? Sales, revenue, and customers raving to friends. Mission accomplished.

If you have any good stories of companies that connect with their audience through design, belief, and/or philosophy, please share those messages in the comments. Thanks to Weld for talking about the Teva Live Better Stories.

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