Tuesday, August 16, 2011

What Every Designer Needs

Photo credit: dtl from morguefile.com

Most designers do not like to operate with unclear objectives or parameters. It's like trying to travel from California to New York with no directions and no money. And the preferred mode of transportation is a boat. Sure, a boat is a nice way to travel. But that won't get you to New York. Without a clear message objective, even very attractive designs fail to help an organization make sales, increase memberships, or position them in the public's mind.

What every designer needs, on a basic level, is a clear communication objective. This is more important than the look and feel, because the look and feel follow the message objective. And clear messaging comes from a clear understanding of what outcomes are expected. For example, if I want to travel from California to New York, I have to consider how and when I want to get there before deciding on the mode of travel (boat, car, or plane).

Unfortunately, some people see this step as a nuisance when they really want to get something done quickly. ("Just make it pretty!") But it becomes even more necessary when time is of the essence. It's a bit of A BEAR sometimes to think through the central communication theme and messaging. But to avoid unsatisfactory results, it must be prepared and delivered well to the designer.

A. B.E.A.R. it is

Where can we start if we don't know what to say, but know we need something? Start with what's typical. What are some typical message objectives?

Awareness is one of those vague terms that can mean anything from name recognition to publicity. The former refers to a group of people's ability to recall a particular organization's name. The latter, to what an organization does to be seen by the public. Each requires a different strategy and specific messaging depending on many factors (environment, competition, barriers, etc.).

Brand building is basically the attempt to build a reputation through consistency (of service, experience, look and feel, and of messaging).

Engagement is where an organization wants to have some sort of interaction with their target market. (Request for more information, sign-up for something, or volunteer their information.) Messaging is all about information and helping with understanding.

Adoption is when someone from a target market decides to move from spectator to adopting an organization's product, service, or mission. This can mean purchasing a product or service, becoming a member, or becoming an advocate for the organization's cause. The messages at this point center on affirming the adopter.

Relationship is the stage where a customer or member desires more interaction with the organization by bringing others to the organization, products, or services. They also are regular contributors in their membership activity or in repeat sales. The messages at this stage should center on keeping them loyal, either through incentives or offers.

Starting with one of these motives helps clarify the main objective in messaging. Of course this objective needs to translate into well-written copy before designers ever touch it. But a clear message objective with well-written copy provides the designer with the right tools and freedom to create a beautiful design that is also effective.

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