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Visual May Not Be So Superficial After All

November 9th, 2013

Screen shot 2013-11-09 at 9.38.32 AMIn the mid 1980’s, Billy Crystal famously portrayed a fictitious Latin talk show host named Fernando on SNL, and immortalized a catch phrase, “It is better to look good than to feel good.”

It was all a joke, of course. Our recognition of the ridiculousness and vanity of the statement was what made us laugh. Yesterday, as I watched a viral video that is gaining popularity, it made me wonder about the relationship between feeling (and being good) and the look of something.

Degage Ministries sponsored a makeover of homeless Army veteran Jim Wolf of Grand Rapids, Michigan. Wolf, disheveled and downtrodden, is shown plainly, staring stoically into the camera as a time-lapse sequence reflects a dramatic transformation:

This morning as I read the news, I found a compelling article in The Wall Street Journal that shares the results of a study on adolescent photos, and whether the expression of a subject (specifically, the smile or disposition) could possibly determine things like future success, happiness, divorce rate, etc.

For someone who has worked in visual design for brand and marketing over the past 30 years, I’ve spent a lot of time belaboring the relationship between strategy and design, the importance and order of form and function. I’ve been in my share of meetings where design was relegated to its place as “implementation” or “execution,” far behind the research and strategic planning functions.

Yet, I know how much tangible value we have imparted with a smart, appropriate redesign, a simple, instinctive overhaul of the visual representation of brand. There were plenty of times when our client managers simply did not have the resources for front-end research, or even very much in the way of strategic planning.

Each day, I see existing client communications and marketing products that, given the chance, I am absolutely certain — with 100 percent conviction — we could transform, showing an immediate, drastic improvement in performance for our clients. I know of at least ten flagship brand products at this very moment that would benefit from an Iridium-led redesign and relatively speaking, it would not need to cost a great deal. The improvement in engagement-factor alone and resulting business benefits would far outweigh our modest fees.

Strategy is, of course, critically important. But a design firm with an experienced, team of proven, skilled, specialized professionals can deliver game-changing value to an organization. As with Jim Wolf, the right visual design can make the entire enterprise behave differently. It can impact business value. We make marketing and communications more engaging and compelling, more easily read, more inspirational. We find ways to bring sleepy brands to life.

Smart, appropriate design can add credibility to organizations. We can revitalize communications with exceptional content that, so often, are not earning the same trust through their existing presentation and delivery of information.

These days, many of us are so focused on social, digital, research, and metrics — on simply populating content across multiple channels — that we seem to have lost altogether the importance of the actual experience for customers.

The experience of a brand for the end-user is sometimes considered an automated function of expression, the result of an internal team that executes through template tools as a routine. A thoughtful, responsible challenge to that process — to the look and feel of how you express who you are, what you believe in, and what you deliver — can yield a substantial, important difference for the entire enterprise. And it can energize the internal team as well as external audiences.

Sometimes, as it turns out, looking good truly can have a dramatic affect on being good.


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This entry was posted on Saturday, November 9th, 2013 at 10:10 am and is filed under Advertising, Brand Image, Business, Customer Experience, Design. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

Founder & President,
IridiumGroup Inc.

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