Information Design and Marketing

I realized this morning that yesterday’s soapdish/design rant managed to completely miss the point of this blog, specifically marketing. Which is too bad, because it’s relevant there. Can I still blame the stress of the conference for my oversight?

When I’m talking about design in a marketing context, I’m not really talking about aesthetics. Not that how things look isn’t important, but it’s not quite how my mind is oriented.

What I mean when I talk about design in a marketing sense is how information is accessed, and more importantly, making sure that it’s easy and intuitive to access that information.

A small conference-related example: One of my duties was to film and post to YouTube the association’s presidential candidates forum, where the candidates responded to audience questions about their ideas and goals for the office. Despite the work that went into creating the video (which was a fair bit more than usual, given the room’s dodgy lighting, some badly needed sound editing, and a truly comical number of problems just capturing the video into Final Cut), the aspect that my supervisor complimented was the video description.

The description wasn’t clever, but it was thoughtful. Since the final video was more than 40 minutes long, I’d identified the start points for each of the individual questions so viewers can see what was talked about, and jump to the points they are interested in.

While “eye-catching” is a more important virtue in marketing than in reporting on an association’s politics, thoughtfulness in design is still critical. If the information you’re trying to convey is hard to find, or hard to use, or hard to understand, brilliant aesthetic design won’t do any good.

The solution, I think, is testing. It’s usually easy to understand something that you create; can people who aren’t inside your head (and better yet, not inside your organization) understand it? If they don’t come away from your ad or website or event or whatever with a sense of what they should do, how they can do it, and why they care, then it has failed. But if they do have those things, there’s a good chance that you’ve made a fan.

It starts by making the important information clear.

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