This post is the first of a new series—Talk from the Top—in which our fearless leader will be sharing her personal insights on a range of topics at the heart of marketing and communications. Over to Freya…
Talk from the Top: Why your design should go beyond aesthetic appeal
I think design has three key aims in marketing and communications. The first is to capture attention and draw the eye. If you can also delight the eye, then so much the better.
The second is to reflect brand personality. If your brand is lively and quirky, your design should be too.
The third and most important aim, and I may be showing my bias as a writer here, is to get the copy read. You may find it flattering to have people admiring the aesthetics of your latest eDM, perhaps even adding it to their Pinterest board, but admiration from a distance won’t do much for your bottom line.
Good design should make your copy easy to read. It should draw attention to the key points. It should guide the eye through the exciting benefits of your product or service, and then land it firmly on the Call to Action.
I’ve spent time studying many a high-converting webpage, and let me tell you, they’re not all pretty! In fact, some are downright ugly. A good example of this is US advertising site Craigslist, which opts for an incredibly simple list format that I think it’s fair to say is quite unappealing.
While such sites may not be beautiful, they are simple, clear, and easy to use.
So what should a designer pay attention to in order to ensure your copy gets read?
Remember that most of your audience will not be designers. They may appreciate a beautiful layout, but they’re mainly looking for a clear, simple site, leaflet, or eDM that’s easy to understand and navigate.
Don’t overload the eye. White space is not blank for no reason; it can draw the eye to areas you wish to promote, and allow the reader to make better sense of the product as a whole. The Google homepage is a great example of this.
Structurally, a simple way to keep your design clean is to use boxouts. These can highlight important pieces of information and help to separate key facts from the body copy.
Your copy may be simple and clear… but what is it you want your audience to do? Subscribe to a newsletter? Give you a call? Buy something online? Tell them. If your reader is forced to spend valuable time and brain power figuring it out, they will lose interest. Draw their attention with a bright, stand-alone call-to-action.
In a noisy market place it’s vital to grab your reader’s attention quickly, and short, punchy pieces of copy are easy to digest. However, designers shouldn’t make lines in a paragraph too short. If there are fewer than five words in each line, the eye must jump about and the text becomes hard to read.
A good designer should know where on a page or screen readers tend to look (for example, the ‘F’ pattern). Key points should be placed in these hotspots so these valuable bits of real estate aren’t wasted.
In short, function trumps form when it comes to designing sales materials. Make sure both your copywriter and designer understand this, and ideally, have them work together.