04/20/20

Take ideas to the next level by improving your craft.

LinkedIn is full of thought leaders, storytellers, and idea makers. In the flooded world of advertising, however, even great ideas are unable to gain traction when they can't "cut through the noise."

Seemingly, with all of this thought, we should expect to see ads that are less irritating and more engaging. Is "the concept" as important as it is made out to be? Surprisingly, boring shit can be made interesting with simple messaging and effective displays.


Is it time to take a break from concepting and worry more about craft?


Become different through craft.

Chances are, another company offers similar products or services as your company (aka, you have competition). These companies will likely have similar messaging and promotions. For most companies, separation from the competition can be pretty cut and dry. A company can have a better or worse customer experience than its competition. Good news, coming out on top of this situation is simple. Take the quality of your business's design seriously.

The most common example of a business succeeding through a "design and craft" approach is Apple. Lately, Apple makes so-so digital devices that generally cost a fortune. Yet, Apple accounted for nearly 40% of the US smartphone shipments market share during 2018/19. Apple's current website hero image reads "Lots to love. Less to spend." and shows an image of their iPhone SE device.

Apple hero image

Apple's current hero image as of 04/20/2020

As you can see, this approach is not rocket science from a conceptual standpoint. It basically states that their product is good and possibly affordable. The rest of the page mostly lists features of the device. Needless to say, the design of the phone itself is beautiful, but it looks similar to newer Samsung or Google devices. Visually, the site uses a sans-serif font and is almost entirely monochromatic. So, what makes this page distinctly Apple?

  1. The design organization
  2. The typography
  3. The photography styles
  4. The elegant animations
  5. The removal of any jank

Integrate craft.

Nearly every company is striving toward a look and feel to create a certain type of customer experience. The challenge is not finding a look and feel, it's successfully crafting it. If something doesn't look or feel right, it was probably designed incorrectly.

Over the past few years, there has been a large push for thought leadership and new ideas in both the workplace and at colleges. This focus on thought rather than action has left the marketing, design, and advertising industries with few people who know how to build out ideas in an engaging format. The sameness we see is often due to an overuse or lack of skill around certain technologies and design tools.

Understand your business's current experience.

Design creates an experience. The first step toward gaining a higher level of quality and effectiveness in your company's consumer experience is by knowing it inside and out. Take time to put yourself in consumer's shoes. It may help to conduct interviews or surveys of current customers. The goal is to understand what consumers are seeing, feeling, and thinking while interacting with your and competitor's brands. Knowing what consumers are looking for and the tasks they're trying to complete will also aid in creating a seamless user experience for both digital and physical spaces.

Focus on the quality of design rather than the creative ideas behind it.
Concepting

Rather than coming up with hundreds of ideas, start with the bare necessities. A product or service that's worth buying should speak for itself. The creative direction should develop around the product and its consumers.

Visual Design

The visual design of every product or service should be held to the same standard as the most impressive brand in their market. Whether we like it or not, books are judged by their cover. In today's world, we've all seen beautiful brands. If your brand's look doesn't hold up, it may be time to make a change.

For companies having a hard time creating that perfect look, start by completely breaking down your inspiration. Looking at your inspiration piece by piece will help you to understand exactly how that look you're going for was created. With that knowledge, you'll be able to adapt that look to serve your needs.

Messaging

Always start by being to the point with messaging. Too many times we've seen product messaging that's indirect and hard to understand. Again, if your product or service is worthwhile, it should speak for itself.

Remember, we're speaking to other humans. There's no need for overly complicated industry lingo or fancy terminology. We connect with brands that offer real value. People are impressed by quality and simplicity, not a massive word palette.


Define a standard for craft.

By setting an organization-wide standard for craft, a business can ensure that its brand is being delivered at the same quality throughout all touchpoints. A brand guide is a great place to make a reference to craft and quality. By showing examples and creating explicit guidelines to follow for messaging, visual design, and development, there's less room for confusion during the creation and approval process.

Making clearly defined rules won't limit creativity, it will guide it.


Encourage craft.

When a project isn't going the way it was thought out to be, it can be frustrating. While sometimes we may just want to yell, "THIS LOOKS LIKE SHIT!" It's not going to solve our issue. This problem often rests on developers, designers, and copywriters. Balancing quality and workload is challenging. Below are a few tips to help get your team on the same page in regards to craft.

1. Share inspiration

Sharing inspiration allows us to quickly give a physical reference to our thoughts and ideas. Especially with visual people like designers, inspiration gives them something to look at and go off of while designing.

2. Understand how your ideas are going to be built.

Understanding how ideas will be built can help to optimize that idea in favor of your team. These optimizations let team members know that they are heard and respected. It will also make your concepts undeniably possible, if ever in question...

3. Break down your ideas and inspiration with the people creating them.

While sharing ideas and inspiration is important, it can be discouraging to others if they find them to be irrelevant or impossible. Thoroughly explaining why and how will help others see where you're coming from and where you want to go. It will also help surface any obstacles that can derail the creative direction.

Understanding your inspiration is important. If you're inspired by something, reach out to whoever made it! It's way too often people share cool stuff but have no clue on how it was made or conceived. If you have no idea how your inspiration was created, how do you expect your team to?


Now, go make nice things.

Time is more than money, it's our lives. Anything worth doing is worth doing well. Consumers deserve better. Don't be afraid to say, "We can do better."

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