Great Design Goes Mainstream

June 4, 2012

Place settingFor the past several years, I have been working with people who share my conviction that the same design principles that are used to create award-winning websites, compelling logos, and stunning point-of-purchase displays can and should be used in PowerPoint presentations. This viewpoint isn’t commonly shared; the majority seems to believe that PowerPoint is nothing but a necessary evil that must be suffered through like some kind of horrible rite of initiation. These people are missing out on a powerful design trend: the mainstream acceptance of good design.

We are surrounded by increasingly sophisticated designs without necessarily being aware of it. Think about how easy it is to order just about anything under the sun from Amazon.com. Their revolutionary website sets the bar for great user experience. Industrial designer Phillipe Starck’s work for Target changed the way mainstream America believes even such mundane items as dustpans and trash cans should look. When Apple introduced the iMac in 1998, with its translucent case and bold blue accents, it smashed the paradigm that personal computers needed to be housed in beige boxes.

For some reason, this increased design sophistication doesn’t always carry through to a company’s PowerPoint presentations. Tired sales reps and harried admins are still banging out text-heavy, bullet-pointed borefests in much the same way they did in the late eighties when PowerPoint first hit the market. The only difference now is some of the “cool” animation effects and clipart available in PowerPoint 2010. But presentations can be made much more effective with great design. And the public is increasingly demanding great design.

Welcome to the Era of Design proclaims the headline of a recent blog on Forbes.com by Adam Swann, head of strategy at gyro. This article talks about how design is becoming mainstream, affordable, and expected in today’s marketplace.

In an era of design, bad design really stands out as being, well, bad. Today’s innovators stay ahead of their competition by ensuring that great design is carried out in all aspects of their marketing mix.

Your turn

What role does design play in your business?

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Should my logo be on each PowerPoint slide? No.

October 16, 2011

I'm Bob Jones of Bob Jones InvestmentsNow, I know you’re probably thinking along one of these lines:

“We paid a lot of money for that logo, and I want people to see it!”

“I’m reinforcing my company’s brand by showing my logo on each slide.”

“That’s the way our template was designed.”

I would counter that if you start and end strongly during your presentation, with a good title slide that has your logo on it and an ending slide with your logo and contact information, then people aren’t going to suddenly forget that they’re at the XYZ Company presentation during slides 2-48.

Branding has many aspects; logos are just a part of it. A company’s brand identity comes across in the designs they choose, the typography, the style of photographs and/or illustrations, the color palette, the type of messaging they employ (e.g., playful, serious, trustworthy, irreverent), their jingle, uniforms or clothing color, etc. etc. etc. These things come into play in all components of a company’s marketing mix, including the PowerPoint presentations.

Need more convincing? Well, let’s think of the logo-on-every-slide deck as a real-life conversation:

“Hello there, I’m Bob Jones of Bob Jones Investments. Thanks for visiting Bob Jones Investments today! I’m Bob Jones of Bob Jones Investments. How can I help you? I’m Bob Jones of Bob Jones Investments. I specialize in retirement planning. I’m Bob Jones of Bob Jones Investments.”

You see what I’m getting at here? People don’t need a constant reminder of where they are, who you are, why they came there, and what company you’re from.

You need more convincing? Well, how about this: your logo’s taking up a lot of real estate on the slide, room that could otherwise be used to get your message across.

Slides with and without logo in footer

Take a look at the slide on the left. Because the logo is part of the footer and must remain separate from other slide elements, it is taking up about a quarter of the slide! It’s competing visually for our attention with the graph because of the clashing colors and all that white space surrounding it.

In the slide on the right, the logo is gone so the graph can be bigger, placing the emphasis on the data.

So, not insulting the intelligence of your audience and having more room for important information on each slide. Pretty compelling reasons not to put your logo on every single slide, eh?

Your Turn

What do you think? Is it important for you to have your company’s logo on every slide in the deck? Why or why not?


Cheating Death by PowerPoint: Animation

April 7, 2011

Click here to view video


How do your clients communicate?

October 20, 2010

My son is in Cub Scouts, and it had been a while since my last email from the Den Leader. I finally received an email from her telling me that she had sent out an invitation to everyone in the Den about the new Facebook group page she had set up and urging me to join. I had never seen the invitation because it had gone out as a Facebook message, which I don’t check very often.

My husband lives by his Outlook calendar. If an event isn’t listed in Outlook, it isn’t happening as far as he’s concerned. I have learned to put all of our family events — birthdays, outings, parent/teacher conferences — in his calendar so that he’s aware that something’s going on. Writing these things on our home calendar, posted on our refrigerator, is less than useless as far as he’s concerned.

The Hubbardston Business Association, of which I am a member, sends out regular emails through Constant Contact, telling people about upcoming meetings. One older member said that he hates Constant Contact because he can’t get the program to accept his email and he’s given up trying. As a result, he never receives HBA notifications.

What these three examples show is that not every form of communication is going to reach everybody you want to communicate with. The trick is finding out how your clients prefer to receive messages from you. Some people respond better to electronic communication, such as text messaging, emails, blog posts, tweets, and Facebook messages, while others act on phone calls, direct mail, radio and TV advertisements, print ads, and billboards.

By sending out messages in different formats and tracking the results from each, you will see patterns develop and learn which media work best to reach your target market.

Because electronic forms of communication are often the least expensive and easiest to produce, some people believe that they’re better for their bottom line. But that doesn’t mean that these are necessarily the best choice for their business. It’s important to retain a balance in a company’s marketing mix, not to rely solely on one form of communication to reach and influence customers.

Would a hometown diner benefit from an email blast to its customers? Maybe, but if this were its only form of advertising it would probably not be very effective. Many diner patrons are people who just happen to be in the neighborhood, or older people who don’t communicate electronically very often (if at all). That’s not to say that this form of advertising would be a complete failure, because everybody’s gotta eat, and there are bound to be customers who are often online. And my hometown diner has a Facebook page.

Again, it all comes down to balancing the marketing mix and not relying solely on one form of communication. Find out how your customers communicate, and you’ll be speaking the same language.


Getting People to Open Your Mail

October 19, 2010

Everybody knows that people are deluged with hundreds of marketing messages every day. “Click here!” “Like us on Facebook” “Make $$$ from home!” It’s easy for electronic marketing to get lost in the email shuffle, to be instantly put into a spam folder or ignored completely.

How do you break through the clutter? With a handwritten note.

A client of mine has recently asked me to design some stationery for him, something he can use to send news clippings to clients, or to just wish them well. He knows that with all of the marketing his clients receive, he needs to do something different.

Last month, I received this from the realtor from whom we bought our house:

Handwritten envelope

Now, I don’t even watch football. And it says right on the envelope “Magnetic Football Schedule Enclosed.” So why did I open this? Because the realtor had hand addressed the envelope. I felt like I meant enough to her for her to take the time to send it.

In short, I was able to relive the joy I used to feel when I’d receive a letter.

See if you can work handwritten letters and notes into your marketing mix. Stepping back from the computer and actually putting pen to paper is a time commitment, one that your clients are bound to notice.


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