Design needs a story

While good design can offer greater impact in marketing (MW 11 February), I do not believe that it alone that will make a piece of communications successful. Content should never be forgotten.

Words: Come before design

It is true that design and content should go hand in hand. However, most marketing communications projects are placed with design firms and developed as follows:

1 Account handler takes brief from client;

2 Client explains what messages must be pushed;

3 Account handler briefs designer;

4 Designer comes back with three options – “safe”, “strong” and “out there”;

5 Copywriter is engaged to write it up;

6 Photographer is engaged to do the shoot.

And so you get a formulaic bit of work. No one thought about what it would take to engage the audience. No one worked out a narrative. No one worked out how best to make words and imagery work together.

The result is generally visually impeccable but, given it was intended to engage you, almost entirely hopeless.

There are times when a client needs to have visual people in charge of a task. But it usually makes more sense for the storyteller to get to work first – to think about what the audience wants, work out the most appropriate channel through which to target them and to consider the design. After all, you wouldn’t illustrate the story before it’s been written, would you?

Paul McKinlay, director, Triffid

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