Good design adds value to your brand

What’s key is staying focused and welcoming all input

Graphic designers occasionally get a bad rap due to what I like to call "Artist Disease." The disease manifests when designers get so caught up in their designs or creations that they will fight tooth and nail to protect their vision from any third-party suggestions or changes.

This is perfectly acceptable for fine artists who sell their work or keep it for themselves. However, once designers enter the commercial world, the artwork they create isn’t for themselves — it’s for the client. It is the designer’s job to produce what the client envisions, since the client is the one who will have to close the sale. Granted, in most cases, designers are chosen for their style — meaning a client likes the technique of a specific designer and wants to explore and gain the same creativity for their advertising materials. Make no mistake, it is a collaboration.

For the designer, it is extremely important to listen and pay attention to everything about a client, such as past brand initiatives, store or office decor and personality of the staff and company as a whole. Once the designer defines what the personality, vision and mission are, he or she must complement them with graphics and messaging that will in turn add a perceived value to the brand.

For clients, it is important to trust that designers will not use the wrong color or imagery, and that they are thoroughly thinking through every part of the end product presentations. Clients should be aware of this when suggesting changes to certain aesthetic choices.

For example, I get a lot of requests to have red text in a design or advertisement. However, there are subconscious reactions to colors that people or everyday consumers take for granted – the color red, for example, increases heart rate and creates stress. Another example on the other side of the coin is blue. Think about the reaction most people have to a day where the temperature reaches 72 degrees without a cloud in the sky. People feel happy and comfortable. This is not a clever "Where's the beef?" gimmick, this is scientific. And it is a crucial aspect of color choices when designing and developing a brand.

Granny’s input

The biggest mistake people tend to make is not valuing input and opinions. Believe it or not, all opinions do matter with marketing. Of course, I think you need to take each opinion for what it’s worth and do your own homework.

I worked on a website project for a landscaper who took a very long time to make creative decisions. At the end of the day, he had people bending his ear who needed to see what they wanted — one was his grandmother.

She insisted that he put a picture of her childhood dog on the homepage of his website. At the time, I was with a company that charged $150 an hour for design and production time. This client insisted we spend more than 11 hours and more than $500 in photography purchases to find the right poodle picture for his grandmother. Don't get me wrong — I love my grandmother too, but I think every fiscally responsible businessperson can see the problem here.

But should Granny have been told to butt out and leave the marketing decisions to the "experts?" Absolutely not.

The grandmother was trying to tell us that there was too much lawn equipment and green chemical information on the homepage, and we needed to soften it up a bit to make people like herself — who hire landscapers — more comfortable through relating to the company in a personal and emotional way.

The marketing and design world is full of opinions, ideas and unfortunately, egos. It is a difficult task to see through the jungle of creative do’s and don’ts, but it is crucial to stay focused on your message and your brand.

Do your best to remember what made your product or service so innovative in the first place. Build on the foundation rather than starting fresh in new territories. Consistency in communicating your mission and message is the only way to sustainability.

Far too many times, I have seen companies completely rebrand themselves simply because the employees are bored of seeing the logo. If the company’s mission, services or products have completely changed, then there is reason for a new look. However, most businesses keep business through strong relationships and maintaining their integrity. That is an unseen quality that is tied to your brand.

Many people simply think they don’t need marketing. And there are lots of arguments on both sides of the table that I as a designer can appreciate. Which is why great design will always keep it simple. Great design should add value to your product or service.

Shawn Dixon, owner of Clover Creative Group LLC, Meredith, can be reached at

Categories: Marketing & Advertising