Good Design: Not Just What We See, But What We Hear

by Jenna Briand, CCO

I often find myself sitting with a visual designer, happily tweaking a layout together.

Color by color. Pixel by pixel. That font’s too heavy. This line’s too light. Until we both say, usually in unison, “There it is.” We’ve got it.

Good creative, whether it’s written, designed, filmed or recorded, beyond the requisite technical skills and platform considerations,  is a lot about intuition. And sometimes it’s difficult to explain in plain English why the spacing between two lines of text is off-balance when the slightest nudge up or down seems to solve it. Fortunately, for me, my team often reads my mind and a gesture or grimace will suffice.

Clients, I’ve found, prefer not to rely on telepathy. Rightfully, they want to understand the approach and the reasoning as we embark on their creative. They want to see visuals that excite them, disrupt, engage, but never feel off-brand. And they want to know why it will work.

Good design should make we, the creators, proud. But the most innovative design in the world, in the work we do, is not a true success if it doesn’t help advance our clients’ goals. I believe that successful designs — those that make clients high five and inspire customers to act — have to begin not with what we feel, but what we hear.

At Redbird, we follow these three steps to create innovative, on-brand design work:

1. Listen

Visual design begins with our ears. A deep understanding of a client’s brand, goals and business objectives are critical to the creative process. A designer must have a clear grasp of the brand and earn trust before ever trying to evolve it.

2. Learn

You have to know the audience you’re creating for inside and out. Start by answering these questions:

  • Who are they?
  • Where are they?
  • What do they care about?
  • What do they look at, try or buy outside of our client’s products?

The better we understand the ever-shifting, ever more-sophisticated tastes of today’s consumer, the better our chances of getting the desired response.

3. Let Loose

This deep understanding of a client’s goals does not, in fact, stifle the creative process or lock us in a box. It unleashes us. It helps us remove our own preferences and egos from the equation, allowing us to effectively solve the visual challenge. In this space, with knowledge and trust under our belts, we can stretch, elevate and iterate, and see which piece “lands” exactly where both we and our clients want it. In other words, this is when we can play fearlessly: Try safe things. Try crazy things. Some ideas will resonate. Many will not. And yet, the exploration provides value for the entire team.

From these steps, we deliver end results that are on-brand and innovative; easy to consume but never simplistic; complete and informative but entirely committed to clarity.

It still requires intuition to nail good design every time. But with a whole lot of listening — as well as a deep respect for the brand and its business goals grounding us — intuition actually thrives.