“Words and pictures are yin and yang. Married, they produce a progeny more interesting than either parent.”
— Dr Seuss Theodor Seuss Geisel
We’ve all heard the adage “a picture paints a thousand words”. But does it? As a digital copywriting agency, we strongly believe that words play a big part too.
As many entries at the recent DBA Design Effectiveness Awards demonstrated, the judicious balance of words and images provides optimal impact in design and communications. Indeed, the awards showcased several design projects that highlighted the importance of language in their strategic approach and execution.
Similarly, an intelligent and considered design process can help you create meaningful and engaging words or content. Many of the best design solutions use carefully chosen words and language to achieve their game-changing effect.
Tell the story
With design setting the scene, words tell a powerful story. And Honest Crust’s new packaging design encapsulates this theory perfectly. The sandwich and deli brand’s pared-back design with calming colours hints at the content’s honest goodness, while the messaging, “Eat good, do good”, drives home its mission to combat food waste and food poverty.
What’s perhaps most interesting is how the succinct wording mirrors the minimalist design to create a complete picture of simplicity.
What’s in a name?
Words are also critical in shaping brand names. And as we know, names matter. Nothing highlights this more than the agonising task of choosing a baby name. Hands up if you’ve found yourself curling your lip and explaining: “I knew an AWFUL [insert offending name here] at school!”.
The same goes for brands and products. A recent market interrupter has made us rethink how we see the vending machine with the name ‘Mother’. It instantly calls for respect. And at the same time, it reminds us of nature. Genius.
The supporting design elements establish the upmarket brand and create a slick user experience but, in my view, the word Mother is the most impactful element.
Language = personality
Similarly, the way a brand talks about itself and its tone of voice is a central piece of any fully integrated brand design. In today’s content-rich world, it’s not enough for a brand to look right for its target market, it also needs to sound right (and, of course, say the right things…see my views on content strategy below!). A great example of this is the brand positioning of TrueStart, a cold coffee/energy drink.
The brand language purposefully repositions it as an everyday drink, rather than one for fitness fanatics (as it once was). Phrases such as ‘naturally energising’, ‘wild for life’ and ‘own the unknown’ highlight its ability to invigorate but without pigeon-holing its audience for much wider appeal.
Design driving content
This carefully considered balance of words and images is also central to the creation of great content. The same design thinking principles that lead to great design solutions are those that drive killer content strategies.
Know your audience
In recent years, design thinking and human-centred design principles have been added to the toolkit of most leading global companies as organisations begin to understand the transformational power of great design. Some firms label their process differently or create their clever acronym to guide the activity. But all of them agree that great design starts with a deep understanding of, and empathy with, the people you’re designing for.
Similarly, a robust content approach starts and ends with real customer insight. This awareness helps you understand what topics and themes will connect with your audience – what are they interested in, what are they worried about, what information or content could help them.
The next step is to harness the power of the diverse thinking within your team or firm. Design thinking tells us that no idea is a bad idea, and sometimes an idea completely out of left field ends up being the right solution. Similarly, in content creation, it is often a new perspective or a surprising angle that can capture an audience’s attention and turn passing interest into more meaningful engagement.
Test and learn
Finally, it is critical to measure how you’re doing. Which articles attract the most attention? Which channels does your audience prefer? When is the best time to publish new content? This is a critical step in the design process: testing your solution with your audience and adapting it based on the results.
These steps closely mirror the design thinking process. Applying them with rigour is the key to creating relevant and engaging content – gather real and unique insights, encourages free-form idea generation, and then evolves through testing, learning and iteration.
A marriage of equals
So, while language and design are independently powerful tools for telling stories and creating compelling brands, both become even more impactful when combined to their full effect. And the same process that yields memorable human-centred design solutions can be used to power the creation of memorable and engaging content.