By Guest Contributor Stephen Gates, senior creative director/designer
Design is all around us, but most of us don’t spend a lot of time thinking about how it impacts our lives—from what excites and inspires us to where we like to go and what we choose to purchase. But when we experience great design, the impact is undeniable. We remember the brand, often attaching greater value to a specific experience and the brand overall.
Most people respond instantly and unconsciously to designs they like, so organizations can’t escape the importance of the role of design. It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about marketing for things we use every day or influencing people’s decision about where they will spend their well-deserved vacation.
Why design matters
Design influences everything from company culture to the bottom line. The best companies realize that design is something far more powerful than just a visual artifact. Design can create and shape indelible, differentiated experiences that inspire, excite and, ultimately, retain customers. If you think of some of today’s greatest and most recognizable brands (Apple, Nike, Mini Cooper to name a few) what’s striking is that design is the foundation for everything they do; the look and feel of their images and products are inseparable.
What this demonstrates is that there is a tremendous opportunity today for companies to leverage the power of design to build their brands, and not just in a visual sense. People want to experience a deeper connection with what a brand really stands for.
Good work can be the greatest threat to great work
There are many examples of how design helps a brand’s experience stand apart. Retailer Target can drive a higher price point than its competitors because it has been able to get consumers to understand the value of good design in the products it curates for its stores. Connected thermostats existed for a while, but it wasn’t until Nest combined stellar product design with beautiful app design that you started to see them in mainstream retailers and consumers really started to buy them. Similarly, smartwatches were introduced more than two years ago but it wasn’t until Apple released its Watch that you saw consumers take that form factor seriously. As a result the Apple Watch outsold the lifetime sales of all of its competition in under 24 hours.
All of these examples show how design can elevate experiences and leave lasting impressions on customers and impact a company’s success. These companies also demonstrate the need to continually challenge traditional ideas about how something could look or what has worked in the past. Yes, it’s true there is a lot of really good work being done today, but that’s not enough. Truly successful brands push and challenge design beyond what is good and safe toward what is unchartered but great.
One of the most critical questions that creative teams, marketing directors, and executives need to answer is, “How can we create experiences that stand out and leave positive, lasting impressions on customers?” Answering that begins by looking at what it means to innovate, understanding how to take a leadership position when it comes to design and experience, and determining how to incorporate design into everything from the colors and fonts chosen for a website and apps, to the look and feel of physical environments.
It’s time to think differently
Digital and its role in consumer experience has exploded. Every single day, creative directors are looking at how design, technology, and media can be combined to create memorable experiences for customers.
Anyone working in digital marketing knows it’s one thing to create a website and app to simply check off items on a marketing plan. It’s quite another to build a website and app that really work, that inspire and attract visitors again and again. When that happens, digital experiences can become the standard against which competitors are measured and customer loyalty is built.
Design is the secret weapon that breaks through the media noise that makes it hard for brands to get noticed. While a great product or service can get people to make an initial purchase, a well-designed brand experience builds loyalty elusive in today’s market and keeps people coming back for more.
As brands battle for dollars and clicks amid the digital noise, organizations need to transform their view of design, recognizing it is a solid investment, and not an expense. Design is fundamental to shaping consumer consciousness, and for businesses it is truly its own value proposition.
Senior creative director/designer Stephen Gates, the son of a creative director, has more than fifteen years’ experience leading world-class teams in the creation of award-winning integrated global advertising campaigns, and building Fortune 500 brands and innovative digital experiences for web sites, mobile apps, wearables, social media platforms and emerging technologies. His clients have included American Airlines, W Hotels, Disney, ExxonMobil, Acura, Nationwide Insurance, Verizon, St. Regis Hotels, Subaru and many others. His work has been recognized with over 150 major design awards including Canne Cyber Lions, Webby Awards and Web Awards. He also has extensive experience working as a pre-release partner for Apple, Google, Microsoft, IBM and Adobe for Apple Watch, iOS 7, iOS 6, Windows 8, Adobe Creative Suite, Chef Watson and Google Glass. Apple has featured his work in eight keynotes, two commercials, in Apple Stores, on Apple.com, in the iTunes App Store and their Human Interface Guidelines.
This post originally appeared on the Creative Cloud Blog.