De­sign­ing for dig­i­tal

Dig­i­tal-first brand­ing has fi­nally over­taken off­line brand de­sign

Web Designer - - Contents - Andy Cul­bert Co-founder of dig­i­tal-first brand­ing agency MERÓ http://works­bymero.com

Andy Cul­bert, co­founder of dig­i­tal-first brand­ing agency MERÓ, talks about change in de­sign.

The world is fi­nally switch­ing on to the fact that de­sign­ing for dig­i­tal chan­nels is an es­sen­tial way to fu­ture-proof a busi­ness. Dig­i­tal-first de­sign is ‘se­cond-na­ture’ to de­sign­ers who have come from a dig­i­tal back­ground; we know we have to cre­ate some­thing that works even on the small­est screens, yet up un­til now, de­sign­ers – in­clud­ing our­selves – have still ex­pe­ri­enced be­ing handed a brand iden­tity or de­sign that sim­ply doesn’t work in some dig­i­tal chan­nels and has to be to­tally recre­ated. Part of the prob­lem is shak­ing off old ways of think­ing and ap­proach­ing de­sign. Some­times, it’s com­mu­ni­cat­ing the im­por­tance of dig­i­tal to a wider or­gan­i­sa­tion, or gain­ing se­nior level buy-in that can be the prob­lem. But what about his­toric brands cre­ated be­fore the dig­i­tal age? Well Coca-cola and Audi are just some of the house­hold names re­think­ing their brand­ing from a dig­i­tal-first per­spec­tive – be­cause go­ing for­ward, they need to.

Legacy brand­ing that was de­signed prior to to­day’s ‘dig­i­tal world’ can be prob­lem­atic. As to be ex­pected, where the pre­dom­i­nant rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the brand (and au­di­ence’s ex­pe­ri­ence) was off­line, as­sets and iden­ti­ties were de­signed to best cater for these chan­nels to mar­ket. Then as new dig­i­tal chan­nels emerged, the brand­ing was ‘shoe­horned’ into on­line en­vi­ron­ments. Many are now find­ing that, as they ex­pand their dig­i­tal ac­tiv­i­ties, their brand is ac­tu­ally not fit for pur­pose. It sim­ply doesn’t ‘work’ dig­i­tally. The prob­lem with de­sign­ing for off­line first is that dig­i­tal brand­ing has a dif­fer­ent set of con­sid­er­a­tions ver­sus print. Fonts need to be avail­able for dig­i­tal and leg­i­ble at all sizes, colours need to be ac­ces­si­ble (we aim for any­thing be­tween AA and AAA com­pli­ant) and im­ages, lo­gos and other de­sign com­po­nents need to be care­fully con­sid­ered. Overly com­pli­cated el­e­ments get lost when scaled down to the small­est spa­ces. Some­thing that looks amaz­ing in print might not be us­able or func­tional when ap­plied to a web­site or app. And it’s eas­ier to scale a brand up­wards and out if you have con­sid­ered the small­est first rather than vice versa.

Video is another con­sid­er­a­tion and an in­creas­ingly im­por­tant tool to en­gage with con­sumers. By 2020, it’s pre­dicted that on­line videos will make up more than 80% of all con­sumer in­ter­net traf­fic, yet many or­gan­i­sa­tions give lit­tle or no thought to how their brand will move when an­i­mated.

And on top this, dig­i­tal ex­pe­ri­ences are con­stantly evolv­ing. There are more chan­nels than ever be­fore, each with dif­fer­ent re­quire­ments that can al­ter overnight. A brand iden­tity needs to per­form in a multi-screen, multi-chan­nel world, where each de­vice and plat­form re­quires dif­fer­ent sizes, fonts and im­age spec­i­fi­ca­tions. Even tone of voice needs are dif­fer­ent for on­line au­di­ences and in dif­fer­ent chan­nels; think of the vastly dif­fer­ent way brands need to be rep­re­sented on In­sta­gram vs Twit­ter – it’s sim­i­lar to how you al­ter your be­hav­iour when vis­it­ing an art gallery com­pared to a night­club.

The dig­i­tal land­scape is prompt­ing a need for brands to be much more ver­sa­tile. Yet many brands still have a set of static, off­line brand guide­lines that leave dig­i­tal teams scratch­ing their heads! One way that mar­ket­ing teams and de­sign­ers can bet­ter prove the worth of dig­i­tal-first de­sign is by get­ting to know the needs and re­ac­tions of the cus­tomer bet­ter and us­ing this to prove ef­fec­tive­ness. Dig­i­tal-de­sign al­lows this to hap­pen much more eas­ily. It’s more ef­fec­tive to test a brand on­line than off­line. We can use a va­ri­ety of tools to help make some re­ally in­formed de­ci­sions. Dig­i­tal de­sign means we can look be­yond whether the ma­jor­ity, or even one per­son, has a pref­er­ence to the over­all look and feel. It has to be tested to en­sure ‘it works’ and res­onates with the end user. Tan­gi­ble and mea­sur­able re­sults will drive the end prod­uct rather than opin­ions of few.

A dig­i­tal-first ap­proach is also vi­tal for those brands want­ing to fu­ture-proof their busi­ness by con­nect­ing with the next gen­er­a­tion of con­sumers. Mil­lenials and their Gen Z suc­ces­sors have high stan­dards when it comes to the dig­i­tal ex­pec­ta­tions they put on brands. Gen Z es­pe­cially have been raised by the in­ter­net. They’re multi-taskers, some­times jug­gling up to five screens at a time, which means they’re eas­ily dis­tracted. A brand’s on­line ex­pe­ri­ence needs to be slick and seam­less across all touch points. And above all it needs to be flex­i­ble to stay rel­e­vant to their au­di­ence. Dig­i­tal-first is the only ap­proach that can achieve this.

Coca-cola and Audi are just some of the house­hold names re­think­ing their brand­ing from a dig­i­tal­first per­spec­tive

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