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Monday, January 23, 2012

Guest Commentary: Why Good Design Really Does Matter!

By Kelsey Roth of The Management

It’s a new year, and that often gets us thinking of ways we can spruce up our business. Maybe it’s getting some new business cards or brochures, placing a new ad in a local magazine, updating the logo, or even giving the website a much needed make-over. It’s often tempting to go to one of those big online printers, easy website builders or a design or logo contest site. They are cheap, fast and some of those designs aren’t half bad. But clicking that “Place Order” button could actually be losing you money.

Does design really make that much of a difference that it could be losing me money? Absolutely! We like to say things like, “don’t judge a book by its cover” but the truth is that we all do. And it’s certainly true in the world of design. The quality of your design is often the first impression that people get of your business, and if you give a bad first impression, you usually don’t get a chance at a second. A 2011 study found that 70 percent of people claimed they would not buy from a company with a poorly designed website. Another study done by Stanford in 2002, showed that the “appeal of the overall visual design of a site, including layout, typography, font size, and color schemes,” is the number one factor we use to judge a site’s credibility. This applies to all forms of media. People make value judgements in the blink of an eye, 50 milliseconds to be exact, so there is very little time to make an impression. A bad or outdated design tells the customer that you don’t care, even if it’s on a subconscious level, which could indicate a lack of company credibility. While most people haven’t studied principles of good design, they will react emotionally to a good or bad design. Imagery that is out of balance, has mismatched colors, conflicting messages, or mistakes and typos can cause confusion and mistrust. When people don’t trust a design they tend to not trust the company as well.

But what about those big online printers or pre-made template sites? Clearly, those were created by designers, why can’t I just get something from them for cheap? While it may be tempting to get your website made for $5 or use a free template for your business cards, those designs weren’t actually created specifically for you or your business. The relationship between a company and a designer is more important than people think. A good designer will understand the company, its goals and motivations, its owners and employees, its customers and clients, and most importantly, the company’s philosophy and personality. How could a pre-made template or an anonymous designer ever properly understand all those things?

Logo and design contest sites seem like a good way to get a lot of designs to choose from for little cost. Aside from often being unethical and damaging to the design industry, contests and spec work sites suffer from the same lack of intimacy with the client. The client may be able to submit some guidelines, but it usually is the bare minimum a designer should know about a company or brand. You may save some money initially, but if the design isn’t representing your business as well as it should, that money you saved could be costing you more in lost revenue and a tarnished brand.

Like everything else, when it comes to finding a designer, it pays to stay local. Having a face-to-face relationship with your designer ensures that they are creating designs that communicate effectively with your target audience by understanding your business, your customers and your products. If you live in Somerville, look here first. Somerville has a thriving artist community which means there are a lot of good local designers. Will it cost a lot? Certainly more than $5, but a good designer will know how to work within a budget, know where you can save money and still deliver designs that produce results.

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