Design Doesn’t Need to be Fancy

Cynthia Bartz • August 18, 2015

I’m not like most designers. While I love Helvetica and Charles & Ray Eames like the best of them, I do not think you have to have everything designed to the “t”. I believe every visual aspect of your business has a job to do, and it’s not looking pretty. Whatever it is, the primary job of any marketing, branding or signage is to communicate well. This goes for things that look “fancy” and that sign your printed out of Word.

The Fancy

Well designed ads are useless if they don’t communicate well, like the ad below from Sephora. People have short attention spans. If an ad does not quickly communicate in 2-3 seconds consumers just move on. From this ad you definitely get that they are selling some kind of face/body product, but it is not immediately clear what makes this product special. The photo is certainly captivating, but the product is forgettable. My first thought was that it was for a super moisturizing lotion, but nope, it’s anti-aging “superfood” skin products. Even if you take the time to study the advertisement, there are still questions. What do super food have to do with skin? Why do I need anti-aging? I am in the target market, and I’m definitely not sold. Consumers want to know what a product or service is going to do for them. And when they are confused you will lose their attention.

The marketing of Super was so unsuccessful that it was ultimately pulled from Sephora’s stores. The design of the ad was on target for the 20-somthing females that Super was marketing to, but the message was unclear. Having a clear value proposition in advertisements is essential to turning views into sales. The bottom line is you can’t just be pretty.

The Basic

On the flip side, simple ads that communicate well can do the job, but may not build brand recognition. I drive down to Florida from Atlanta at least once a year. As a designer in the marketing industry I’ve always been struck by the simplicity and effectiveness of the ads for numerous farm stands on the drive. The signs are simple, some of them even have spelling errors, but I always know exactly what they are selling: fresh (I mean super fresh) produce.

While these ads are good at driving traffic to the food stands, there is no brand loyalty. I couldn’t tell you the name of any of the stands we stop at. In my mind they are all the same, even though that could not be farther from the truth. For the farm stands it’s not a problem, because they are just one stand and brand loyalty is build through relationships after they get you off the road. For most other businesses this tactic can only take you so far. If you want your business to grow and take hold of more that just your local market you are going to need both: communication and design.

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