- Kuber Chopra, Founder, Creative & Strategy Director of Rasta writes why design plays a key role in brand building.
- He says that it is safe to say that today design is a long term strategic pillar and also a short term growth hacking tool for modern businesses.
Each of them always had design as a core function, even before design became a buzzword.
It is important to appreciate that the Design function at these brands has further sub-functions, ones that you typically will not find in the organizational structures of the majority of the companies in business today, both legacy and emerging.
Product, Graphic, User Interface, Packaging, and Experience to name the broadest set of sub-functions. The design focussed brands align their business objectives with this set very intricately.
The most primal intent of designing for brands is recognition.
The other important purpose of designing for brands is to positively influence preference within the product category.
There is a great debate on what is good design. It really depends on the life stage of the business. Brands need to manage the expectations from their design depending on their life stage and positioning.
Following is a list of reactions good design can draw:
“I know that, let me have that”
“I can relate to that”,
“Let’s try it”
“I’ve gotta have that”
The role of design professionals is not only to create designs that draw such reactions but also help brand owners feel secure while they’re making this critical choice so they can appropriately invest behind making their design part of culture.
At the very base of designing for brands are principles of colours, shapes, typographic and mnemonic devices that the field shares with Art, the more irreverent cousin.
Andy Warhol famously said, “Art is whatever you can get away with.”, that's why as someone leading a creative team I implore with my designers to not have illusions of being artists. You can't get away with bad design.
What does a hard-working design mean?
Today, brands are leaving their design footprint both consciously and subconsciously.
Our role is to make most of this effort conscious and purposeful.
Which means when someone comes across this design footprint they take away what the brand wants them to.
Design must be created with the least bias and most empathy for the user/customer.
I’m a huge fan of Oatly, the Swedish FMCG company whose contrarian, self-referential meta advertising complements their packaging design.
What’s even better is that if you hop onto their Instagram page right now you will see the same “I can relate with that” wit on show.
In other words, hard-working design is consistent, scalable and distinct all at the same time. This was always the case one might argue, so what has changed?
Modern customers are not simple shoppers. With an amazon of options available to them, they are purchasing to manifest their personality onto their lives. They didn't know what it meant to settle, or wait. Yet when we were forced to both settle and wait during the pandemic, we did. This tension between what the modern customers want and what they need will get further pronounced and will shrink their overall shopping basket.
The other overlooked aspect of designing for brands and indeed, marketing is looking beyond demographics and focussing on behaviour. Armed with mobile phones and super apps, there is a fast-growing creative consumer class that is designing for itself. This creative class is using design elements such as photography, typography, and layouting, on an everyday basis. How does one create for creators is one the most pressing questions confronting branding and design professionals right now?
Younger companies are largely doing a better job at this as they’re able to structurally adapt quicker. Other than those mentioned at the beginning, larger companies who dictated culture in the past decades are also slowly adapting.
Let’s say you’ve started a company and you’re confronted with this choice for your branding:
Bad design that works or good design that doesn't? What would you go for?
This might not seem as rhetorical a question as it is.
Your rational mind would want whatever you create to work in terms of business objectives but your irrational mind would also want you to create something aesthetically pleasing.
The pinnacle of great design is being able to achieve both.
Fortunately, today the degree of freedom between you and your customer is shorter than ever and the feedback loop is much quicker. This is true whether you’re testing your prototypes, UI mockups, logo design or whether you should invest in memes focussed communication.
It is safe to say that today design is a long term strategic pillar and also a short term growth hacking tool for modern businesses.