Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Tension of Organizational Goals and Graphic Design

There has always existed a tension in organizations between what its stated goals are and what it does on a daily basis. Sometimes the tension isn't felt as much when the organizational goals are aligned with their daily conduct of business. But most organizations don't consider how their daily conduct impacts their goals. One area where this is so is the tension between quality and speed. A business may say they are all about quality, but speed seems to consistently edge out quality when the rubber meets the road.

But no organization wants to admit that they will sacrifice quality for speed, right? Well, maybe. But organizations that are very clear that speed is their business (e.g. FedEx), define quality as doing speed right. On the other hand, a business that knows that its business is quality (e.g. Apple), will sometimes sacrifice speed to get the product itself right. Does that mean that they will admit that they sacrifice speed of delivery for high quality products? Not exactly. They admit that they strive for efficiency and price their items accordingly.

Businesses must be aware of the tension that exists, and not ignore its impact on their very character. Yes, in each case efficiency is the key to their success. But efficiency is defined by what that organization is willing to sacrifice to meet it's goals, and justify its existence.

So how does this affect graphic design? Businesses that are known for high aesthetic value (e.g. P&G, Apple), design is an essential component of their business practices. Therefore design needs to be reflected in everything from their products to their advertising and brand materials. This is a key component of their brand in a sense. On the other hand, if speedy delivery is of high value, design is not essential to its overall business practices — but it must be in positioning that business within a competitive industry.

Other tensions also exists that affect how design is utilized. There is not only the speed and quality tension, but the price/quality tension, the thought/industrial tension, the complex/simple tension, and on and on. An organization that understands this is better able to know how to use graphic design to position and enhance its brand in the marketplace. While those that don't, or just see it as a way to make their stuff look pretty, will not utilize design to their advantage. And in some cases treat design as part of their speedy services, rather than a market-positioning partner.

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