Archive for the ‘Strategic Graphic Design’ Category

The Discipline of Design

Thursday, November 12th, 2015

“There is no design without discipline.
There is no discipline without intelligence.”
— Massimo Vignelli

The definition of what role a graphic designer plays in developing an effective brand identity and overall look and feel of communications can be confusing these days. Much depends on the value the client puts on design to communicate their brand values and the skill set of the designer to be able to work across all media platforms. By choosing to pay attention to the how as much as the what, communications is made more connective, informative, distinctive and effective.

This is a challenge. Rarely is there an opportunity to build a brand up from a clear space and from the inside out. It takes a strong leader with vision to be able to reimage a company while having to manage it every day. Most times, a designer is brought in to solve a particular problem. Each assignment provides different degrees of “input.”

One of the core principles I teach my design class at RIT is this: To create great work, the designer has to own the project, not just work on it. There has to be investment. I love to work with strategic brand development experts as the first level of client investment. When I can become privy to their process of arriving at a client truth, I have something solid to build from that I know is right.

Once the strategy and direction is clear, it guides the way the brand story and all the visual attributes that inform the story can be developed. How we go about doing this is really important, not only in terms of being consistent yet uniquely appropriate as we build the brand out, but also inventive with the element of creative spark.

I wish more marketing and brand managers within companies understood better that how we build the brand story, how we create a unified brand architecture and all the communications infrastructure pieces that go along with it, can really be done efficiently. Not only does this save time and money in the long run, it also assures us that all the disparate communications pieces we develop connect and build on one another for a stronger brand.

One of my simplest yet most effective ways to avoid the request to just look at one aspect of the brand, like a website, is to start with brand and content development, both graphically and through voice and story. We can then think about articulating the tools we have created across media, keeping the brand connected and identity strong.

Design does become grounded in discipline, as Mr. Vignelli states.
A clear brand strategy based on a specific business strategy is the intelligence of which he speaks. As a designer, it is something I find hard to work without.

The Strategic Graphic Designer

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2015

An ever-increasing array of tactical communication approaches adds to the pressure to communicate faster, cheaper and with greater reach than ever before. To create economic efficiencies by assuring a clear and consistent approach to content development and messaging — an experienced strategic graphic designer is a great solution. While the term strategic graphic designer is loosely tossed around, it means different things to different people, and it crosses many areas of knowledge, experience, and expertise

Many times, a brand manager within a company will assume the role of strategist. They generally have a business degree, a good idea of how the business makes money, and what its brand personality might want to be. However, many brand managers have never developed creative from the ground up because they do not come from an experienced creative perspective.

Often, an art director from an advertising agency will be responsible for a company’s brand identity. But, art directors don’t think like graphic designers. Their job description doesn’t include developing a communication infrastructure. Nor are they generally interested in doing so. Their interest and advancement lies in developing bold, daring, and awards winning work. While the work may be stunning, it may be a less appropriate, inventive, and subtle reflection of the brand.

The strategic graphic designer seeks to really understand the implications of the core strengths of the brand and thus the positive key differentiators — key truths that research shows resonate with the customer. After all, that is what will inform creative development.

Some call this skill or innate process Design Think. As designer, that is how you are wired and trained to think – to understand the brand and reflect it in all the core communications. Done effectively, it paves the way for great creative ideas and execution. This is a thoughtful, reflective process. Do it right and extend it across all media in a unique, consistent fashion. It just makes good business sense to do so. Start with a solid foundation based on core beliefs within the company. Only then are you able to reflect and communicate values, beliefs and smart business acumen outside the company.

A strategic graphic designer has a difficult time making stuff up. Words like “refresh the brand” and “we’ll know it when we see it”, feel more like a style than a solution. Design should absolutely be fun and artful. But, without discipline of process, fun and artful can run counter to the basic intent of the strategic graphic designer. Make no mistake, brand identity is a discipline.

Using analytics to drive design and brand decisions is integral to the nature of a strategic designer. Being trained to look at design as a function of a business strategy conditions the strategic graphic designer to think efficiently, seamlessly, consistently, uniquely and yes, even artfully. Ultimately, that is what should drive any creative development.