Does your Design deliver?

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Does your Design deliver

In the marketing world, very often “graphic design” and “Design” are used interchangeably. The reason is quite simple – “graphic design” is one of the most visible faces of marketing, thru packaging, online, offline, etc. As a result, anyone driving his marketing operations from the commercial hub of any city, would come across numerous “Design” houses, offering everything in the name of “Design” solutions. What they actually deliver is just “graphic design” solution.

A few days ago, I was looking for a Design house to develop a new packaging for a cosmetics client. I met at least three “Design Boutiques”. My initial discussions revealed that they are just graphic design houses, offering Mac iterations / experimentations on some forms of random concepts. They pitched in by adding how their solutions “would attract various age groups, be easy to produce” etc. The whole rigueur of concept development behind Design was completely missing!

The core problem lies in our basic understanding of Design as a function, which continues to be limited. In our society, perhaps the word “Design” has been commoditized to a large extent. Design has become more of hype, and less of an enabler. It has also become an easy vehicle for newbie practitioners to make a quick buck early in career. And if those early rewards are handsome too, we have yet another bright talent losing an opportunity to carry forward the responsibility of Design.

Majority of the creative practitioners perhaps ignore the “accountability” part of Design. Hence while we have an explosion of “Designs” in our daily lives, we fail to see how yet another Design helps us more – even in terms of art or aesthetics. How many times we see “Design” playing a key / driving role in the creation of or aiding to the brand / product concept – esp. among smaller local brands?

At its core, Design is supposed to solve a problem, set in motion a certain feeling about the product or brand among its users, and be overall, simple in its every manifestation. Some good examples are Ikea, Ideo, Apple, etc. (in products) and Amazon, Google, etc. (in user experiences).

And in its ability to solve a problem, the practice “Design” has evolved into an independent faculty of “Design Thinking” – which, simply put, is the application of Designers’ orientation and approach to management processes. More and more societies and economies are utilizing this faculty to solve behavioral problems – be it on social, academic or even commercial levels.

Considering the deluge of designs and designers alike, I feel it’s the right opportunity for communication practitioners to re-look at our craft through the eyes of Design thinkers and solve the “perception” problems associated with our brands. Doing so would eventually develop newer attitudes and behaviors, which would in turn help our brands to be more meaningful to their adopters. It would also do well to liberate our static and limited consciousness associated with Design, into something more divergent and powerful.

Design can differentiate, not by creating yet another set of graphic elements or visual identity or even a new campaign, but perhaps by giving a solution to the needs and wants of consumers.

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How to make a good creative idea, GREAT!

As advertising professionals we love to claim that “we are in the communication business” – regardless of whether we are setting guidelines for fresh recruits, or making an impression with our clients or even when we are casually chatting to our co-travellers on a flight. However whenever it comes to making our presentations – long or short, pitch or regular, ideas or facts, creative or strategy, etc. – we often tend to forget this simple reality!

While there have been many suggestions / tips available online on how to make a “powerpoint” or “key-note” presentation more interesting, we rarely come across practical, workable tips to help our young, fiery creative professionals demonstrate their creative ideas.

Long ago, one of our very senior creative heads used to highlight the point that regardless of whether it’s a print, radio, or TV idea, every creative person must master the art of story-telling while presenting their ideas. Story telling helps to build up interest, creates suspense and makes the audience realize the true potential of an idea.

For example, while presenting the idea for a print ad, he used to take off from the communication strategy, outlining the approach for message strategy, and then introduce the visible clue that captured the central idea. The clue could be a typo treatment, or a sketch, or the main visual of the ad. And then talking about how it would lead to the main message (verbal / non verbal) he would reveal the full creative idea in its totality. By this time the client was already sold to the idea.

I came across so many young and bright creative professionals, who lose out while presenting their print creative. And more often, I have come across people who present their TVC script / idea in “Audio”-“Video” format, reading out each section as if it’s a chore! By the time the script is over, the audience starts wondering: “what was the big idea?”

TVC is almost like a 3D presentation – in the sense that apart from visual and aural inputs one also starts getting a 3rd dimension – that of a vibration, feeling or empathy with the characters or elements used in it. This 3rd dimension is absent in a TVC script, which needs to be re-created while presenting the idea. Otherwise the idea gets canned!

How many creative professionals know, or more importantly practice, these principles? Once, a senior creative professional demonstrated the power of his creative idea, by enacting his whole 30 second TVC live, by performing the role and action of the central character of the film, all by himself!!!

This TVC was about a phone with a theft-tracking feature. To demonstrate the TVC, first he spoke about how the scene opens, and who’s the central character. Next started the story, by started enacting all the things the character was supposed to be doing in the film – i.e. snatching the phone, jumping out of a bus, running through myriad obstacles / situations to get away as far as possible with the stolen phone, etc. And then he stopped, talking about the reveal, or how the film ends, highlighting the USP of the phone.

Now who wouldn’t get sold to this kind of demonstration? And how many of our young creative people take the pains to do this?

All ideas are, in a way, good ideas! However, it requires the passion, storytelling ability and demonstration to make some of the ideas come alive, and be one great idea!

How to simplify design, yet maintain functionality?

  • How can you bring simplicity into the design of products – taking out complexity while not compromising capabilities? Question by: Hitesh Parashar;

Well… frankly, I’m not a designer; but I guess any profession involves some kind of “design” – e.g. the day-to-day life is also some sort of “design” formulated by the creator of all! I feel that following approach is quite universal, regardless the field or profession you are in:

1st step – Forget you’re designing!!! Think you’re solving a problem!
2nd step – Once a solution is found, don’t stop… look for more solutions – at least 5 more!
3rd step – Apply logic and reason to see if the solutions are different and address the problem fully
4th step – If yes, see if they’re simple enough for applying in reality, and go ahead!

In daily life, we see problems and try to solve them – not just see if the solution was easy, difficult, looked good or satisfied my peers, etc.

Hence the first step always is to stop thinking you’re designing. Good Designs born out of the Philosophy of “Simplicity”.

Some useful links: Google’s Simplicity; Maeda’s Simplicity; Ikea’s Simplicity;

Also Look for Other answers;

Note: This post was originally created on 3rd April 2009 @09:28 am. It is also posted under Answers@LinkedIn page

Art of Copywriting in 6 steps

  • What topics would you want to have covered in a copy writing course, if you were a copy writer (most likely a corporate employee type)? LinkedIn question by: Kimberley Deas

Copywriting is as much a science as an art. While there’s a vast content available offline and online on “what’s a good copy” or “how to write a great copy” or “How to write for grabbing customers”, etc., rarely we see any guidance on developing original skills that made many copywriters jump out the threshold of “GOOD” copywriting and reach the level of “GREAT” copywriting.

If I were to start a new course on copywriting, I’d like to develop it into 6 modules, which are based on my experiences with the good, bad, ugly and “great” copywriters. Each of these modules actually teaches a skill, and leaves the learner on his own to develop, polish and sharpen these skills to such a level that it becomes an art. Here are the 6 modules:

  1. The Art of writing Simple English – Copywriting is for communication of a thought or info. distribution. The more jargonised, sophisticated the language becomes, the less comprehension occurs at the receiver level. Nick Curtis has a wonderful book dedicated to this aspect (available from Oxford Univ Press)
  2. The Art of Saying MORE with less – When a copy communicates more with lesser number of words, it expresses a thought and not just delver symantics. This is not choosing complex words, but more about choosing the right thought and delivering in a few words. This also helps in headline / slogan development.
  3. The Art of the Logical Thought – Structured thinking has a unique place in copywriting, since it helps organise knowledge and plan out the optimal ways of sharing the knowledge. This is also known as “Analytical Thinking”
  4. The Art of AIDA – Whether one writes for advertising or any other content, the basic rules of communication are same and need to be learned carefully. A=Awareness grabbing I=Interest generation D=Desire development and A=Action stimulation. The process starts from Awareness, which includes impactful attention grabbing, and leads thru Action generation – i.e. doing something after one reads the copy.
  5. The Art of the Illogical Thought – Once the above 4 processes are mastered, only then one should concentrate on this, since depending on the individual, this skill needs more time to adopt. This helps in idea generation and thinking out of the box / creatively.
  6. The Art of Synthesizing – This practice helps one to synthesize information and ideas into creating a new idea. Although this is not how many creative professionals choose to think, but it serves as an important secondary process to generate new creatives
  7. Homework: Last but not the least, one should also learn basic English grammar, which is an important skill to write any language.

I’m sure to raise some eyebrows from some sections of the profession. I’d like to have all your opinions below, so that this could be improved further. For others, including students of copywriting, even though you might not be following this type of course, make this your life-long learning goal for delivering (and teaching) great copywriting.

Also look for Other Answers in LinkedIn.

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Art of Copywriting in 6 Steps is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

What’s more important in an AD: words, graphic design, or both?

  • Essentially the question is – when you see an ad, or a TVC or a DM piece, what catches your eye more? Words? Design? Or are both equally important? LinkedIn Question by: Steve Olenski

Advertising, even in its most basic form, is expected to “influence” human behaviour in some way. To do this, advertising should first attempt to stimulate at least one of the 5 senses of the target – eg. see, hear, touch, smell and taste – in order for him/her to develop a perception about the ad. This stimulation will contribute to development of “A” or the “Awareness” stage of the simple AIDA (Awareness-Interest-Desire-Action) process / model.

In case of print advertising (eg. Press ad, DM) the first stimulant is the visual appeal whether by image / typography / graphic / color / layout, etc. that attracts human attention first. If this stimulant is powerful enough, the target goes on to the 2nd stage – i.e. taking Interest in the piece of communication (or simply, reading the headline and trying to relate Visuals with the headline to understand message).

In case of TV too the opening visual / scene draws attention first – but here, due to uniqueness of the medium, sound (eg. music, dialogue, or both) – or sometimes “silence” – also plays an important role, albeit marginally less than visual.

In case of Radio, the sound is the first stimulant. In experiential advertising / marketing, taste and smell could be the first stimulant too in some cases.

However, once the first stage is successfully addressed, the use of words / text (in case of Print) script / storyline / characters (TV and Radio), etc. become extremely important for sustaining Interest, generating desire and driving action among the target. For total advertising message delivery, other / additional elements complement / contribute to the importance of the ad.

Or in other words, for an advertising to be successful, visual, words, graphic design, message, context, etc. are all important – even though what catches eye / senses first could be visual (print)/ sound (radio) or both (TV).

Also Look for Other Answers;

How to liberate your senses and get inspired

Creativity is all about being able to identify connections, relationship, patterns within our chaotic life and processes, put an order or semblance, in order to create something new.

This needs one to: have an open mind, expand perceptual levels, be interesting and ready to be interested in things, as well as be ready to share and let others share too! Thankfully, there are plenty of tried and tested methods, by practicing which you can become more creative and idea generator!

I have covered a few that I found effective for myself.  I have listed these on this page (Click here).

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