We all know great design has a critical role to play in building a great brand. But how do we go about making that happen? I recently had the opportunity to speak to three top designers about that very question: Robert Brunner, founder of the design shop Ammunition and author of Do You Matter: How Great Design Will Make People Love Your Company; Joe Doucet, founder of Joe Doucet Studio and David Hill, vice president of design at Lenovo and author of the Design Matters blog.
Through these conversations, it became clear that the link between design and branding is important, and that having a top design team is to crucial to having a winning brand.
Here's what I learned:
- Branding and design are, to a large extent, inseparable. Brunner says. "A brand is not your logo or ID system. It's a gut feeling people have about you. When two or more people have the same feeling, you have a brand. You get that feeling via smart design, which creates the experiences people have with the brand. Everything you do creates the brand experience, ergo design IS your brand."
- If design is the brand, stop thinking of branding and design as distinct disciplines. Doucet says. "It's all about integrating design and brand. We need to cease thinking of them as different disciplines. The essence of the Apple brand comes through its design. Take the logo off a BMW and you still know it's a BMW."
- Brands need to create an emotional relationship with people. Brunner says. "We are all emotional beings and we have emotional relationships with brands we trust. Designers need to make that happen. A designer must take the values and assets of a company and transform them in a special way that connects with people emotionally."
- Designers need to "get" the essence of the brand. Hill points out. "For designers to build a great brand, they have to understand it. You need to understand its history, its values, and what it means to people. Can you imagine designing the latent Jeep without understanding the brand archetype of what it means for a product to be a Jeep?"
- Design needs to be strategic from the outset. Hill said. "For design to have a major impact, it's got to get involved at the strategic level. It can't be an afterthought or superficial trappings to be put on post product creation. Samsung's brand became powerful only after they put a Chief Design Officer in place and made it a priority for the company."
- Integrate design early in the process to drive innovation and create solutions. Doucet says. "Good designers approach design as an opportunity to ask questions. Solution generation starts by questioning initial assumptions. Rather than ask myself 'How should I design Widget X?' I need to be asking 'Do we really need Widget X or is there a better solution to this customer problem? So a designer needs be there at the beginning and be connected to the decision-makers. For example, at Braun, Dieter Rams sat across from the owner of the company."
- Don't overdesign. Hill says. "With the increasing emphasis on design in the world today, it's important to avoid the 'over-designed syndrome. A simple, well-thought-through, authentic design is often the best. Everything doesn't need to be redesigned; sometimes what we have in hand is better than what we seek. It's not all about being different; it's about being better. If Levi Strauss wanted me to redesign the patch on the back of their jeans, I would look in their archives for the original."
- Use design to continually reinvent the brand. Doucet says. "Some folks think they know branding. Figured it out long ago. 'Hi. I'm someone you'll like. You'll know it's me because I always wear a red polo shirt (pantone 185 to be exact) with blue pants and a yellow belt.' You can't think that way today. Brands need to allow themselves to constantly update, and be much more fluid. Look at Google; they morph their logo for special occasions. Constant change is a big part of who they are."
- Use design to make a difference. Brunner says. "Design can make a difference in how we live. Take sustainability. A lot of what is done in that area is 'making bad, better.' We're taking wasteful things and seeing how we can make them not so bad. We need to start thinking about how we can use our design tools to encourage people to change. You do that by making 'doing better' also be fun, interesting and (importantly) the path of least resistance. And you do it in an encouraging, not controlling, way. Design needs to do that in order to reach a larger audience than just the small group that is socially driven."
While these steps may require a new way of thinking about design for some, they're key steps to the path for those who want to build a great brand and make life better for those who experience them.
COMMENTARY: In order for a brand to be successful, it must make a powerful emotional connection with the consumer. When branding is executed to perfection, the brand and the product become one and the same. In commodity industries some brands have developed such strong emotional ties that they become brand loyalists or evangelists. They live and breath that brand. If you say tablets, an Apple brand loyalist will say 'iPad'. If you say smartphone, an Apple brand loyalist will say "iPhone." When emotional connection with a brand has become that strong, you have a landmark. A lovemark is the brand that comes to mind immediately and foremost when you mention a product. Whether its a tablet soft drink, those brand loyalists will almost universally say, "iPad" and "Coke." If you are No 2 or No 3, it no longer matters how much you spend on branding. I think this is what you are seeing with Apple products. All of them have become lovemarks. They have become inseparable from the brand and the product. To the consumer they are one and the same, and that is the strongest type of branding that can be attained.
Courtesy of an article dated Aprilo 16, 2012 appearing in Fast Company