Everywhere we look these days there are attractive, seductive, provocative visuals to lure us into clicking, reading or watching. Without these enticements, we move right along until something captures our interest. Okay, it’s fair to say that there are indeed words that can do this as well. Actually, phrases would be more accurate. The right mix of information can succeed in stopping us dead in our tracks and getting us to pay attention. Combine that with the right image, and you’ve got a sure winner. But wait…let’s take that one step further: the right combination of words, the right visual and a crisp, professional presentation – now there is a formula that leads you by the nose down the path of no return. You’ve been apprehended without even knowing it. So powerful is the attraction that you’ve lost all awareness that you’ve been sucked into a trap, your curiosity propelling you deeper and deeper into the beckoning abyss. Suffice it to say that this constitutes the essence of effective marketing, one of the most manipulative forces in the cosmos. Transcending culture, intelligence, profession, and every other human characteristic, this is a phenomenon of unimaginable proportions, capable of moving an entire lifeform to a desired end.
But what a fickle lot we are. With the attention span of no more than a nanosecond, it seems, we are a nation riding on the coattails of the latest craze, intoxicated by a momentary infatuation with the newest whim, usually a product of the media circus. At this very moment, we are all caught up in the LeBron James decision, the BP oil spill, the obesity epidemic and the global recession, in that order. But give it a couple of days and we’ll be on to a whole new spectrum of more current issues generated by the buzz of that day’s spin.
As a result, competition is pretty stiff for all those aspiring to achieve marketing superiority. Complicated by the many ways we have to market which include a predominance of those that are visually driven, I reintroduce the topic of this article: the importance of graphic design.
What exactly is graphic design? It is both art and science. It is the ability to package a visual presentation in the trappings of intellectual brilliance, psychological influence and cosmetic glitz. Using style and content to elicit the optimal viewer reaction, successful graphic design controls the entire experience of message delivery, one where the reception is strong, convincing and permanently memorable.
Walk down the aisle in any supermarket, take a drive down any major thoroughfare or spend some time browsing the Internet or flipping through the channels and you will be bombarded with an endless array of visual stimuli. Color, shape, size, and composition – these are the variables that define our options. Do we respond to big, bold and rich, or delicate, subtle and pale? Modern or classic? Plain or embellished? Simple or busy? Smart or dumb? Ridiculous or sublime? The alternatives are endless. Effective graphic design grabs us by the throat and forces us to react impulsively based on our innate sense of taste and preference. Without a moment’s hesitation, we either like it or dislike it. Buy into it or dismiss it entirely.
This can be quite the gamble for the marketing team, betting the farm on a single concept which utilizes a particular mode of graphic design. We in sales all know you can’t please everyone all the time. But tell that to the overbearing client who expects the moon on a silver platter.
What works better: the tried and true, or the revolutionary and innovative? Do people feel safer with the same old thing or crave the excitement of something new and different? It really depends on which market you are appealing to. With the tools of graphic design to work with, some marketers scheme to enthrall the gullible masses with their favorite tricks of the trade which usually consist of miraculous claims of suspicious origin. Then there are those who take an alternate route, resorting to sophisticated overtures to dupe a trusting segment of the market into swallowing their pitch – hook, line and sinker. My octogenarian parents used to fall into this group: suckers for a letter telling them they had proven themselves worthy of belonging to some distinguished group who recognized that higher prices indicated true quality. Oh, the tactics that give this profession a bad name! Few and far between are the reliable vendors who take the high road, representing their goods fairly and unequivocally, in a manner that emulates the utmost in excellence.
This puts an enormous onus on the graphic designer who must be able to fulfill the role of expert marketer, client liaison, creative director, copy editor and visual conceptualizer, not to mention duplicitous prevaricator and deceptive exploiter, in some cases. And in more than a few small businesses, that role is accomplished by a single person.
While traditional Madison Avenue advertising boutiques may have utilized a group of specialists in the heyday of the industry, the outcome of that type of collaborated effort was often a watered-down rendition because of too many compromises brought on by egocentric goals. When a single artist is given free rein, the end result can be an astonishing departure from the norm. Art by committee rarely is. Of course, that assumes that the graphic designer be of the genius variety with the ability to comprehend what is needed and how to make it happen. Too often, either because of lack of experience and/or lack of talent, graphic design can easily fall short of its goal, sometimes confusing the issue beyond recognition – even stifling its appeal with a total lack of aesthetics!
Since graphic design is a component of so many varieties of communications including ads, mailers, banners, publications, reports, letters, invitations, trademarks, websites, greeting cards, signs, displays, programs, film titles, packaging, posters, dust jackets and more, to name a few examples, its applications are universal and its impact indispensable. Next time you are faced with a quandary which involves making a decision about which product to buy, just ask yourself: “Am I getting this because I believe it is the best choice, or rejecting it because it costs too much?” Whichever you are doing, it is highly probable that its graphic design has influenced you in one way or another!