Catalyst Branding

The power of design: Integration to Drive Demand

September 28, 2013

For years, design in my professional life has been all about graphic design. Collaborating with great creative talents over the years, we built powerful design systems that distinguished important brands. These design “systems” fulfilled their briefs, but in retrospect, they were hardly systems. Instead, we built well-conceived graphic design solutions that helped convey a consistent look for brands across their many touch-points.

Today, design is once again top of mind in the worlds of marketing, communications and importantly, business. Fast Company just published their 10th “Innovation in Design” issue, Google is lauded for their design innovation across their portfolio of new products and Apple has just launched iOS 7 – a design driven transformation of its mobile operating system.

The difference between this design and the design I’ve worked with over the years is that today’s great design is a real system – composed of well integrated graphic, physical and interactive design – all working together to define the essence of the products we hold most dear in our lives.

These great design systems define the user experience. No longer is superb design just about shaping the “look” of a brand. Design today defines the look, the feel and the behavior of the brand. The difference between good and great is mostly about how well graphic, physical and interactive design are brought together to make the whole experience wonderful.

Think about it. Before the launch of iOS 7, Apple had two personalities. The look and feel of its products has always been distinctly Apple. But until iOS 7, the interactive experience was not. iOS versions 1 – 6 felt separate from the brand. The interactive experience was never fully formed as Apple. Something was always a bit off.

Last weekend, as I experimented with iOS 7, I experienced a more complete Apple. For the first time, the interactive aspect of the brand is one with the look and the feel conveyed through graphic and physical design. The user experience is more natural, which is imperative for a brand that prides itself as the most natural and intuitive in its space

American Airlines is another example. Fast Company just cited American for excellence in graphic design for its recent brand identity transformation. The newness comes across distinctively in both the new look and through the enhanced interactive design on the web and in both airport and mobile apps. But, when you get into an American plane, the transformation abruptly ends.

American has yet to launch the redesign of its physical space across its fleet. Thus, there’s a glaring disconnect in the user experience, which undercuts the impact of the work American’s done to this point to transform their brand. They will close this gap soon with a hopefully well-integrated cabin experience, but until they do, the new design system falls strikingly short of great.

As I grew up in the branding business, I was always amazed at how great graphic design brought to life a brand strategy I labored to develop. I loved seeing the power of design turn strategy from promise to reality. Now, as I work with superb designers who are creating well-conceived graphic, physical and interactive design, I am amazed at how much more powerful integrated design systems can be in defining the essence of a brand.

I always thought of graphic design as a tool best suited to engage target audiences. I now realize that the value of integrated graphic, physical and interactive design moves far beyond mere engagement. Today’s design systems are the most powerful tool we have to both engage and fulfill with each interaction across every important touch-point.

Design continues to expand its influence, for today’s integrated design systems are our most effective means for building, nurturing and securing demand. The brand experience delivered through a well-conceived design system is often the difference between simply good and truly great. When graphic, physical and interactive design come together as one, the result is both awe inspiring and business enhancing.

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