While I’m taking on new clients, learning about their businesses, and generating proposals, I get asked a lot of questions.

Though most inquiries generally involve, “How much time will X take?”, or “How much will X cost?” some questions deserve more involved answers about the nature of design itself. So, I’ve decided to turn some of these questions into blog posts for some good ol’ fodder for the interwebs. I would like to introduce you to my new series: Q&A with NMD! Things just feel fancier and more legit with acronyms, no?

Today’s question:

“I’m wondering if the fonts and images we’re using are too whimsical and not professional enough. I’ve received some feedback about our materials, and I’m now unsure about the visual direction we want to use (thus the re-brand and why we’re contacting you.) What are your thoughts?”

My answer:

Here’s the thing about design: it’s subjective.

No matter who you talk to, friends, colleagues, etc… there’s always going to be someone who says “I don’t like yellow,” or “I only like ‘clean’ fonts.” It’s just the way it is, and something us Designers are used to hearing.

In order to strip away the subjectivity of the visual arts and move away from opinion-based design decisions, it’s the Designer’s job to provide some insight and objectivity to the problem being solved.

The way this is done, is to ignore your personal design preferences and get in the mind of who you are as a business, and who your target audience is.

A great way to do this is to ask yourself some brief questions:

  1. How does your current visual direction convey your value proposition (i.e. what makes your business special and why someone should choose you over someone else?)
  2. What are the core values you/your business has that you want your audience to know?
  3. How do you want your customers to feel when they work with you?
  4. What is the one big result your customer will get from working with you or buying your product?
  5. How do you want to be perceived by your market and audience?

Let’s get specific.

Let’s say, you’re a Veterinarian and your current visual branding elements shows hospitals, doctors, and medical equipment. How does this visual direction convey your value proposition of healthy animals, peace of mind, and quality care for pets? How does this aesthetic improve the emotional state of your customers and exceed their needs? Why will this visual direction appeal to your audience and make them feel good about choosing and working with you?

Now, let’s pretend your customers are typically distraught when they find their way to your office. Their beloved family dog is ill and feel like Fido’s future in uncertain, they’re frazzled because this is an emergency situation, and they’re worried about how much the services they need will cost.

Now, imagine this person sees your design materials showing a generic hospital, doctor and medical equipment photos. Will those images comfort your customer or further freak them out? Will that direction calm them down and reassure them, or reinforce the dreaded feelings their already dealing with?

Oftentimes, after answering questions like these, then taking some time to look at your branding, you might discover your design isn’t reflecting your goals accurately to your target audience, or meeting your audience’s needs. And when that happens? It’s time for a re-brand.

The job of any good Designer is not to be a mere order taker of a client’s personal design preferences, but to marry the two worlds of what our client wants, with what is going to be best for their target audience. By asking thorough and thoughtful questions, we can drill down into what is most important so that the business succeeds by obtaining the customers it deserves. At least, that’s my philosophy.

Natalie McGuire

Natalie McGuire is a Web Designer + Digital Strategist for purpose-driven solopreneurs because she believes the world is a prettier place when people make money doing what they love. Want to make more money with your website? Get my FREE 3-Day DIY Websites That Sell Mini-Course!

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