Does Design Matter?

On October 31, 2008, in Conferences, Design, Social Media, by Josh Hallett

Sarasota International Design Summit

“Does Design Matter?” That’s the question I asked during my presentation with Matt Jones from Dopplr at the Sarasota International Design Summit this past Tuesday.
Before I was crucified by the audience, I quickly said it still does, but perhaps not as much.
Why? I threw out the concept last week, asking, “when so much of a brand’s content is consumed via RSS, Facebook, Twitter…does design matter?”
Sure you can design a good looking blog, but if a large percentage of the readers use an RSS reader, does the design matter? Also, what is going to keep you coming back to a corporate blog? It’s the content, not the design.
Many organizations are realizing the interactions they have with customers on sites like Twitter and Facebook are very rewarding, however you have very limited design flexibility on those sites. In the case of Twitter you can tweak some of the page settings, but your primary brand-design element is a 48 x 48 pixel avatar.

We recently dealt with a client that had a logo that didn’t shrink well, that is when it was 48 x 48 you couldn’t really tell what it was. It sounds funny, but things like that are now a design consideration. I remember a while back when a brand was always worried about how a color logo would transition to black & white for print purposes, now it’s shrinkage :-)
In a post over on the Mplanet blog I touch on some of these same subjects. However one point I made was that perhaps in this new world of distributed content that small branding you can supply (even if it’s 48 x 48) might help you stand out in the crowd. Those that are customers or evangelists can look for that ‘official’ seal.
As I said at the Design Summit, I don’t have the easy answer. But, it’s an interesting issue that I think that every organization that engages in social media will have to deal with.
Cross-posted to VoceNation


3 Responses to Does Design Matter?

  1. I was thinking about this recently as well. I actually think it matters a lot less then we perceive. Chris Brogan’s blog was well read before the re-design, Louis Gray’s blog is functional and loaded with widgets, but not worthy of any design awards and most communication professionals (myself included) use templates with very little tweaking. Despite the hype about design, generating unique content really matters most.

  2. Chris Wilson says:

    I think you are right, if we are talking about design the way it has historically been viewed.
    What I think is happening is that design is having to evolve in the same ways that other industries are having to change their models (ie – publishing, music, marketing and advertising).
    Design should be a part of the problem solving equation, not just slapped on before something is launched. Just as marketing is having to become a more holistic, company wide effort that works across multiple touchpoints and channels, so should design.
    Some brands struggle with the how sites like Twitter and Facebook make them give up some of their visual cues. But I think in those channels it is more about designing the right experience than it is about visuals.
    We have to change the way we approach design. It’s not about knowing the right software, it’s about getting to the root of problems and solving them. This is something that I am exploring with the Rapid Change in Design Project ( http://www.rapidchangeindesign.com ) We are looking for collaboration and ideas that can help us grow together. Hopefully there will be a Part 2 to the project soon.

  3. Kevin Dugan says:

    I had a client at one of my first agencies that chose their new logo based on how it looked on a golf ball. Shrinkage indeed!

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