There is a word that strikes fear into the heart of every consultant, businessperson, and many technologists: design. Design feels both incredibly general and very specific, and sometimes appears just out of the reach for the average non-designer. In truth, we use and appreciate design principals every day; the outcomes of design are more intertwined with doing business than many companies and individuals have been conscious of up until this point.
There has been a shift toward giving purposeful attention to design as large and influential companies have emphasized it in their materials, products, and even apps (think Google, Apple…even airlines like JetBlue and Virgin, and car companies like Tesla and Lexus). It’s time to acknowledge that design is not bad or scary, it’s the way we can clearly and concisely express our findings and recommendations, and it’s also the way we can engage our audiences to interact with the solutions we build.
DO Design for Business. Although this sea of change is well on its way, there are still some parameters design for the enterprise must operate within. Rather than lamenting the lack of creativity this may cause, companies must instead become comfortable with these boundaries in the pursuit of providing wonderful and effortless customer experiences. The use of brand standards and style guides, and the reuse of meaningful graphics helps communicate key messages and familiarize your audience with your products and messages. They will be more likely to quickly understand what you are conveying and this consistency will build brand trust.
Although you don’t see the Starbucks name on this mug, it’s apparent the mug is part of the well-known Starbucks brand.
DO Put the Audience First. Particularly when designing for the enterprise, begin with the end in mind—in this case, the audience’s expectations. Visual design can help surprise and delight, but at the end of the day, your customer is still in pursuit of his or her primary goal, and the presentation of your messaging should always support an effortless path.
DO Push the Envelope. When you are in tune with your audience, it generates opportunities to create compelling or risky approaches that are well supported by design. Weaving personal experiences into interactions with your organization can help your company feel relatable, or even adding some humor to a situation can draw in customers more fully…in this case though, less is more.
DON’T Start with Design First. Your message or report is a narrative, not a series of flashy, meaningless graphics. Even if your visual design is “on brand”, it could still fail to communicate your key points.
DON’T Ignore Brand Standards. One of the things that makes design for business distinct is that it is performed within the confines of a specific set of colors, graphics, and layouts. Keeping within these standards helps set expectations for employees and customers alike, and it creates visual consistency, which aids in rapid client understanding.
DON’T Pack Too Much on a Slide. Whitespace is your friend – Visual design can help you communicate an idea in a very concise manner, which eliminates the need for endless slides of bullet points. Don’t be afraid to let your slides breathe.
Design is not scary, nor is it out of reach for any type of organization. When done properly in a business context, visual design can have a huge positive impact and help you convey your message clearly, concisely, and with style.
Look out for future posts on minimalism and the slide deck deliverable to learn how to practically apply the principles touched upon in this post.