Why is it that 3-legged stools are such a pervasive analogy? Perhaps it’s that they’re a nostalgic reminder of old Americana, or maybe it’s just our basic understanding that a two-legged stool would never work. When it comes to creative design for print, for mail, or for marketing, the comparison works. Design is always the critical third leg of the stool. Whether the vehicle for communication is a postcard, a brochure, an email, a website, or even a simple form, it’s the design that makes the message appealing and readable.
As an example, let’s consider a simple postcard that promotes an event. Content is the first leg of the stool. The language frames the message you want to convey, in this case what the event is about. The offer is the second leg. The postcard must convey a clear call to action if you want to generate the desired response. So, discounted tickets are available. Design is the important third leg that compels the reader to dig in, understand the message, and react to the offer with a visit to your website or a phone call to buy the tickets.
Unfortunately, design is the element of communication that is most frequently ignored. We tend to think in terms of “throwing words on paper,” when appearance is such an important part of getting the message across. That’s why Sphinx Business Solutions has put such an emphasis on the design services we provide for our clients.
Yes, you can create an attractive do-it-yourself (DIY) design with Microsoft Word. You love the way it looks on your computer screen, but when the printed product is delivered, the result is . . . unspectacular. Even with the advances in print technology, print design is still an exacting combination of art and science. You have to understand both aspects to translate from pixels to ink on paper. Our experience indicates that it’s better to pay for professional design than to pray for good results.
How do you define professional design?
There’s a lot to it, but here are a few of the basic components:
- Understanding of white space and color.
- Balance that combines text and images.
- Knowledge of how people read and what they notice.
- Creativity - with art, typography, and layout.
Good design integrates form and function. For example, a letter in a standard sized #10 envelope may include an important message, but the same message in a smaller, more colorful envelope is more likely to be opened and read. Similarly, packing all of the information about the next conference on the back of a 6 x 9 postcard transports the information to the recipient, but a small, attractive booklet is a better way to ensure the informational content is actually read and understood.
The same principles apply to online messages, whether they’re on a website, an email, or even a banner ad. The DIY approach frequently results in too many words crammed into too little room, sometimes with an image or graphic thrown haphazardly into the mix. It’s important to understand formatting and balance, and especially important to tailor the design to match the media. Again, a few considerations:
- Online content is scanned, not read intensively.
- Headlines guide the reader to information they want.
- Bulleted lists can convey detail.
- Images, graphics, and color keep the reader on the page.
Large companies typically spend thousands of dollars on branding efforts, and occasionally they miss the mark (see the Pepsi/PacMan logo on the right). Advertising agencies add a lot of hype around a brand to justify their fees, but the real purpose is simply to connect an image to your organization’s identity. Here’s what’s important:
- A clean, memorable image.
- Complementary colors that work across print and online channels.
- Adaptable shape that fits in different space dimensions.
- Easy identification with what you do.
The Value of Professional Design
Without the third leg, the stool falls over. That’s why Sphinx Business Solutions offers professional design as a service to our customers. No, it’s not free, but the investment in a good design can make an enormous difference in the way your message gets across and the response you receive.
For the best results, let’s talk as you’re planning your next project. If it’s print, we’ll make suggestions about paper, shape, and layout. We’ll suggest a practical approach to corporate branding, and we can help you design online messages that convey information.