12 Jun Whatever happened to original design?
With the arrival of HTML5 and CSS3, corporate websites became increasingly more interesting. We were blessed with UX behaviors such as sticky navigations, sliders, carousels, parallax and many others. This correlated with a better understanding of user experience, a rise of minimalist layouts and higher quality photography. Mobile experience challenged traditional desktop behaviors and called for Responsive Design. Altogether, it made a beautiful combination and as we can see it significantly improved experiences.
As organizations saw other organizations create really cool sites, they wanted to have the same for themselves. They went to their teams and asked if they could do the same and they did. At the same time, some clever folks figured out they could make templates of these approaches and sell this aspirational experience over and over again. Templates truly became impressive and could do amazing things, particularly simplifying web development and creating a high-quality experience on a frugal budget.
The formula for a professional web presence became very simple; a beautiful top banner slider and a vertical scrolling website, which elegantly changes from topic to topic. At this point, every other website looks like this. It looks like we settled on the ultimate website layout?
Maybe we did or maybe in the speed of releasing products and growing organizations, successful companies did not concern themselves any longer with analyzing the uniqueness of their brand. And maybe in some cases, it is indeed not needed because they get sold before differentiation ever becomes an issue.
But if a company is aiming for long-term success, original design is necessary to create a unique brand experience and is an important success criteria, partially to be uniquely identifiable but also to clearly communicate value in the best possible way. This is particularly true in a noisy marketplace where changes happen on a daily basis and just looking professional is not good enough. The value of a brand comes from the relationship users and customers have with it. This a long term commitment.
What is the meaning of original design?
It could be a visual design language which is unique to an organization’s brand. This includes a visual theme or particular brand elements which pertain to the organization’s experience. For example, with AT&T, the visual theme is the colorful speech bubbles you find in any AT&T communications piece. It could also be a unique product experience such as with Nest. Ideally, there would be both.
How do organizations create successful original design?
In order to create exceptional design, an organization needs a clear direction. They need to consider what is trying to be articulated with their brand. The answer is usually written in a concise document — a brand strategy. It outlines the goals and long-term vision of a brand. It articulates how an organization communicates the value that is being created for the customer. It captures the emotional relationship between the organization and its buyers. Finding the right articulation is a rational business driven process.
When the business objectives are clear, designers can take the strategy as a guiding principle and create a unique visual language to achieve the right emotional response from customers. A brand document also provides guidance for decision makers to measure the success of a design and evaluate if it matches branding goals.
If an organization doesn’t have clear goals in place before a team is tasked to design — it becomes a wild goose chase. The client relies on the creativity of the team, and in turn, while the team is probably producing something which looks great, it may not necessarily fit the needs of the customers. In addition, it is challenging for a non-designer to evaluate design. The process becomes an aesthetic exercise and a personal preference game and ends up very quickly back to the question of what other companies are doing.
Original design is first and foremost a clear strategy, then great creativity and excellent execution. The more effort a company invests upfront the better the outcome will be. Because design teams very clearly recognize the effort a client makes into their own clarity, and if they invest heavily, the team is far more inclined to go the extra mile. It makes for better relationships and fun project environments, and with a great spirit, come amazing solutions.