We have seen, largely thanks to Apple and other Silicon Valley companies, the huge commercial rewards that come from investing in good design.
Almost everyone, from chief executives to consumers, is more design-savvy than ever, discussing at length whether a rebrand or new product works well. Design is no longer a niche discipline – it has become ‘pop’ and part of daily culture. People have never been more interested in design.
When companies plan launches, they should think carefully about how to bring people along with them. They should think about their own teams as well as the general public. ‘Big Bang’ unveilings can create huge buzz but they can also confuse and anger people if handled badly. Having a story for why the change is happening helps people understand and engage with the brand.
Some companies that document the creative process think of this only as self-promotion. This can be off putting because it underplays the value of the teams involved, the reasons for change and specific details of the work at hand. If the case study is too self-promotional, it can feel more like a sales pitches where superstar egos take centre-stage and the craft, technique and rigour is left on the sidelines.
Some of the films we create charting the creative journey are not polished at all but they are authentic. Take the film we made following our work with HP as an example. This film speaks more about endeavour, work and energy than it does outcomes. Businesses need to be brave - there’s no point talking about the positive results unless you first explain where the company falls short of the mark, the collaborative nature of decision-making and the lessons your own team learned along the way.
This can be achieved in a number of ways. Making a highly polished film isn’t necessarily always best. A keynote presentation to peers or blog post in some instances can be more effective. Furthermore, there can be great value in sharing work in progress, rather than waiting until the official launch. Clearly not everything can be shared, but this openness and acceptance of change shows confidence
For some individuals, it can be hard to understand why so much time and energy is spent on design. Documenting the process is particularly helpful in these situations. The company can explain both the strategic and technical reasons for making these investments. For instance, subtle nuances that make typefaces ownable and effective across different platforms in addition to accessibility considerations. These elements are well known to designers but not always obvious to other stakeholders and members of the public.
This is why communicating how you arrived at a creative decision is an essential part of getting people onboard with the story of a brand and the direction it is travelling. It can also go a long way to dampening potential online abuse, which might question whether it was the right move and whether it offered value for money.
Not long ago, we were asked to create a 10-minute film for the BBC as it prepared to launch the first-ever refresh of its typography since it was founded in 1922. The piece, called Introducing Reith - the New Face of the BBC, illustrates just how many different groups are involved in a process like this, emphasising that this is far from a simple exercise.
Using interviews with the main stakeholders, we tell the story of the distinct and accessible ‘Reith’ typeface, which can be used on television, radio and online. By covering the profound and pragmatic elements of this font, the film invites people to explore ‘this holy grail of design’ further, drawing them into the story and helping them to see the value it brings to the BBC, its audiences and licence-fee payers.
Despite being short, the human angle of the documentary makes it relatable. It takes a bold company to be honest about the difficulties they faced and be prepared to face and engage with opinions about their creative decisions without backtracking.
While it’s natural that brands want to keep people onside and safeguard their reputation, they shouldn’t be afraid to show vulnerability and make decisions that are ahead of popular options and design trends. If the process has been good they can ride out the controversies and provide a compelling story to share with even their staunchest critics.
I often tell clients undergoing a major rebrand that they will experience some negativity – but by encouraging people to join them along their journey, they can tell their story successfully and comprehensively, and take pride in the changes they have made and the teams who have made the change happen.
Mat Heinl is CEO at Moving Brands