Friday, 28 December 2007

Clever by Design

How designers add value to anything.

Designers today are expected to play a vital role in the business strategy of all major brands. There has never been a greater need for creativity in every business and every service; a very exciting time for designers who have never been more important in creating the fabric for tomorrow’s brands.

Can designers really add value to businesses, that have depended on a certain skill types, specifically the suits for a very long time: Can companies really depend on designers for some serious thinking, the core of any business or brand, “the strategy”? Can they depend on the lateral thinking, colourful, creative types to provide an invaluable dimension to their business? Or are "creativity" and "innovation" industry jargons that complicate things further?

In truth businesses today are trying to simplify the technology and information overload. Simplification today means clarity; clarity and focus lead to success. It’s no wonder that
“Simplicity” in itself has become a rare and most sought after commodity in any business. Designers are the masters of “information deconstruction” they tend to extract the most important information first and put it to action. They think in a non linear pattern and are used to working backwards. At times, can even jump in, in the middle of a project and are able to connect the dots that are needed to solve the problem.

One of the greatest examples of a brand that benefited from involving designers at every stage is Starbucks. We all know that Starbucks positioned itself on the idea of providing a community space to its consumers, a value proposition that was unrivaled at the time; an idea that revolutionised branding and environments. What we also know is that if there is any brand that most effectively utilised designers from conception to delivery, is Starbucks. Overtime it has developed a strategy based on a consistent set of brand values, and uses design as a way of aiding the delivery of a consistent service experience to its customers.

Tim Brown, the head of Ideo says, you need to learn to think like a designer if you want to do a better job of developing, communicating, and pursuing a strategy, in an article in Fast Company Magazine. “People need to have a visceral understanding -- an image in their minds -- of why you've chosen a certain strategy and what you're attempting to create with it. Design is ideally suited to this endeavor. Because it's pictorial, design describes the world in a way that's not open to many interpretations. Designers, by making a film, scenario, or prototype, can help people emotionally experience the thing that the strategy seeks to describe”, adds Tim Brown.

I can support this with evidence. When I was in the midst of my MA in Design Studies at Central Saint Martins, we were given a task of identifying a gap in the market, a trend that can be named and a service or a brand developed on that premise. We were a group of seven creatives including designers, strategists, and business managers. The group was predominantly female and we identified a trend in over 30 working single women who prefer to remain unattached. We developed a service idea based on this insight and instead of making long boring PowerPoint slides to show our findings, we made a short comical clip to share the insight. What could be more convincing than humour and wit based on an experience that the target market could relate to? A story line was developed in an urban setting and the characters were lipstick, mobile phone and a sandal (the inseparables of an urban diva). The perspective service was named “GUYSHA” from geisha. Soon after which “The Memoirs of Geisha” film came out and our insight never seemed more relevant. It was a simple way of showing something that could have otherwise fallen prey to long boring research and strategy presentation. This way, everyone got it and our insight was an instant hit with the crowd.

Click on the play button to view the short clip.

My next blog will be an extension to this post, a collection of thoughts on designers who have continually demonstrated their value in society by their simple and clever thinking approach.

Posted by Nadia Aamer
Printpixels
MA Design Studies
Central Saint Martins

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Eleven lessons on strategy and innovation from big business

Ever wonder how big brands like Sony, Starbucks, Microsoft and Virgin Atlantic rise above global challenges to build business and increase market share?

The Design Council researchers visited the design departments of these global companies to learn how they use design to improve their brand strength and boost their competitiveness. We talked to CEOs and Heads of Design for an exclusive insight in to the processes used by each company when developing new products and services and bringing them to market.

Common themes emerged when studying each company's development process, highlighted by real-life examples of the role of design in creating successful products and services. Each company also revealed how and why design is built in to every aspect of their product development – from the systems and processes used to their analysis of customer needs.

Find out more and read the full case studies from each of the eleven companies on our website:

Thursday, 27 September 2007

UAE consider this for a change “There is No Box.”

CREATIVITY & MIDDLE EAST ADVERTISING

When the advertising gurus proclaim that the “advertising in the region is at par with the international advertising standards”, I say “take a walk down the streets of New York, London and Tokyo and then compare to Dubai”. With a very few exceptions, the streets of Dubai do not reflect the sort of advertising that you experience in other metropolis. It doesn’t just exist in their books, but is seen on the streets and ideas reflected in all forms of media from contextual to experiential advertising.

The overall creativity of any region is not determined by the most creative ad but in my opinion the general level of creativity including the worst ad that you have ever come across (and I have seen some of the worst advertising in this region for example a horse almost as large as the building staring at it Eg1.Taken in Ajman. 05. 06). The standard of advertising should be determined from the bottom to the mid level, because the amount of great creative advertising is far and few anywhere in the world.

The big players pay little or no heed to anything other than “above” and “below the line”, words which are considered almost extinct in contemporary advertising. There is still, not a single agency that produces media neutral ideas because below the line activities (as they like to call it) are given a back seat in the structure of the agency, better known as the side kicks of the larger agencies. They are also the half hearted attempt of such companies to call themselves a “full service agency”. An example is the latest Campaign Middle East Awards for direct mail and interactive communication, while there was no winner for the interactive award; all three awards for the direct mail went to a single agency not to mention that the same agency also won Gold at this year’s Cannes Lions. It is not surprising that this “below the line” arm of a bigger agency is doing well (perhaps because it takes creativity to other mediums?). The direct mail for the adobe by the same agency is far the most effective piece of advertising seen in the region and all the awards going to a single agency made me Wunder, “how many agencies in the region can come up with an idea like that when they still don’t consider it as mainstream advertising?”

It might be about time for the big wigs of the region to start thinking laterally and re-think the traditional agency structure and how it approaches the problem. Or else the trend conscious market of the region would soon be shifting projects and full-scale brand building assignments to smaller, nimbler, and less-30 second centric agencies and the bigger agencies would be left hanging on to their box trying to think out of it.

Very soon the marketers and brand managers will begin to realise the advantages of hiring smaller unconventional agencies where the organizational structure is almost flat and the turn around time much faster. As media becomes more and more fragmented larger companies in the west are already turning towards the hip and trendy agencies like Mother, Strawberry Frog, and Amalgamted.

Mother, a London based advertising agency has enjoyed a roaring success with clients like Orange and Coca Cola who were looking for unconventional direct approach to advertising. The success of the agency lies, not only in its people, but the way the agency deals with its clients. The agency has done away with a department known as the “client servicing”. So when you ring up the agency as a client, you talk directly to the creative department. The client doesn't just have one relationship with one person called an account man or whatever - they have a relationship with everybody and everyone works from the same open-plan office which was a former fire station in east London.

In the near future, the rise of the next generation agencies, with names like “tonic” and “face to face” in the region may pose a stiff competition while the number of Hot Shops and Specialist Boutiques who really understand the value of planning and research is still negligible. The result might still be “advertising placement” ideas rather than holistic and integrated campaigns that deliver an experience. To be fair there are a lot of clients who still want placement ideas rather than explore newer and unfamiliar territories of contemporary marketing; the clients who get sold to a 30 second centric media plan.

In all fairness this market has still to evolve and reach that saturated point for clients to demand more from their respective agencies. But then why are agencies the last ones to adapt to the demands and lifestyles of the market when there is an opportunity for agencies to reinvent their thinking and not just think out of the box but consider this for a change, that there is no box.


Contributor: Nadia Aamer
MA Design Studies
Central Saint Martins
University of the Arts London