When transforming a business, strategy and design must work closely together. You may have a carefully crafted business strategy, a compelling brand positioning and a differentiating new product offering. However unless you communicate all of these visually, it is unlikely that your customers, staff or stakeholders will take note.
Humans are highly influenced by visual impressions. Design makes strategy visible across all touch points a brand has with internal and external audiences. Far more than just a logo or a colour scheme, design acts as a tool to make complex thoughts and ideas quick to grasp and understand. It is an organisation’s visual behaviour, created by a combination of elements and rules. These include the typeface, colour code, motion principles, UX and UI principles and more. All of these elements combine to shape the way that people interact with and respond to your brand.
The consistency of the visual language is an indicator for the consistency of the product or service, as well as suggesting other important qualities of your organisation, such as whether you are digitally literate, or customer-centric. Good design drives an emotional response, and when you make organisational change, you want to drive a positive emotional engagement amongst customers with the improvements you have made.
Therefore, when you change your business strategy or product, you need to think about how you will also be updating your visual identity. If your transformation is going to be holistic, you need a visual identity that represents your new reality externally and internally.
Externally, design is most obvious in product and customer experience. We often say that a brand is about delivering on a promise it has made to customers. Brand strategy is part of the story, but its impact is undermined if there is no visual dimension that makes clear what the difference between one product and the other is, or what benefit one brand offers in comparison to another. For your customer, a new visual identity is an expression of change that should be backed up by experience; an improvement in service, or a better product.
Design is just as important to inspire and shape internal culture. It establishes a visual culture within your organisation. To drive the internal change, to make your new strategy a reality, your employees have to understand and experience the new direction, so they are able to communicate a new reality to customers. From signage to office chairs, there are a myriad of ways to ensure that design helps the organisation live the brand from the inside out.
Each business will of course have a different reality. If you are a digital-only business, your visual identity will be less complicated to change. For a company like Rostelecom – the largest telecoms provider in Russia – the new visual identity designed by Saffron had to create impact across an ecosystem of digital services, as well as countless physical touchpoints across the world’s largest country. From remote controls in St Petersburg to vehicles in Siberia.
3 Truths about the power of visual identity
The gap between brand-savvy organisations and those left behind is widening. Brands that decide to invest in design are raising the bar of what is expected and accepted. In the words of Bridget van Kranlingen of IBM, “The last best experience that anyone has anywhere, becomes the minimum expectation for the experience they want everywhere.”
Even if you don’t believe in great design, chances are that a competitor will. You leave yourself open to disruption when your user interface or product isn’t as well designed as that of your competition. Customers will move to a competitor that lives up to their expected standards.
A contemporary, well-designed visual identity will work wonders for your Employer Brand. Staff and talent are inspired to work for companies that have put thought into how they present themselves to the world. They seek purpose in the work they do every day and a visual identity that proves this to them will engage them more deeply and for longer than one that doesn’t.
Design starts from the top
If you are a CEO, CMO or Head of Brand, you have the power to kick-start the process, and inspire your organisation with a new visual identity. Lead from the front on design as well as business and brand strategy to enact real change.
By Gabor Schreier, CCO