Potent Graphic Design to Leverage Companies

It’s been said that image is everything, but just how true is that statement? Do first impressions really last a lifetime? Should a business worry as much about its brand image as it does about its products? The answer to these questions is an unequivocal “yes.”

Just as first impressions matter when making a new acquaintance, they are an essential component of business success. Businesses understand that stepping through the storefront can make or break a client relationship, but they also understand that the storefront is no longer just a physical space—it is a digital space. As the digital market continues to explode globally, graphic design will become an increasingly important component of sound business strategy, which is something that many companies have already learned.

A Brief Overview

Just a few short years ago, graphic design was the “it” career. As is generally the case with most popular fields, it was easy to find colleges that offered courses in this area. However, unlike other “it” careers such as fashion photography or working as a stuntman, the graphic designer career is one that’s practical and accessible for most people.

According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics graphic designers “create visual solutions to communication problems.” From roadside signs and newsletters to Web sites and social media, graphic design encompasses a wide range of communication mediums. However, the single most emphasized area of graphic design in the age of Wi-Fi Internet connections and smartphones is the digital world.

An article published in Business in Vancouver’s 2011 “How-To” edition of best business practices titled “How to Leverage a Business as a Design Asset” details exactly how important graphic design is in today’s market place. In fact, one study cited by the article indicated 63 percent of businesses saw a link between business performance and graphic design. Another study from the U.K. showed 75 percent of businesses that focused on improving their graphic design elements attained a competitive advantage over their less digitally savvy peers. With such evidence to support its importance, businesses ignore graphic design at their peril.

Design Principles

The reason that sound graphic design translates to a competitive edge is simple: accessibility. In building a communication system that is readable, understandable and in relation, businesses are able to effectively reach their consumers.

The principles of graphic design are fairly basic. An article posted on Michigan State University’s Web site details five principle areas of design: proximity, alignment, repetition, contras and typography. Within these five areas are the keys to creating a compelling image:

  • Proximity means elements of a similar nature should be grouped together.
  • Alignment is the practice of visually connecting all of the elements on a page and using them to guide the eye as it reads the information.
  • Repetition involves the repeated use of the same design elements throughout the piece.
  • Contrast functions hand-in-hand with proximity. Just as similar elements should be grouped together, groupings can be differentiated from one another using contrast.
  • Typography is extremely complex and involves the use of varying fonts and letter sizes. Suffice it to say that oftentimes, simple is better when it comes to fonts. Oftentimes companies utilize focus groups to help them select the appropriate one for their needs. As such, fonts that are theme-specific are used at one’s peril when placed anywhere other than document headings.

While these principles won’t make a graphic designer out of anyone who has not studied the field, they will help one to differentiate the good graphic design from the bad. In the end, if a person finds that a document is pleasant to look at and easy to navigate, it is generally a safe bet that its design is reasonably sound.

Case Studies

While it’s all well and good to discuss the principles of graphic design and the statistics that support precisely how important it is, nothing reveals graphic design’s true power like a successful case study. The place to start in understanding how graphic design affects brand identity is the company’s logo. A logo can either draw the consumer in or repel them. Without an effective logo, consumers won’t remember the company. Case studies abound that demonstrate the power of an effective logo. From UPS’ brown and gold to the sweeping script of Coca-Cola, it’s easy to see how essential graphic design is to leveraging a brand and furthering its competitive edge.

The UPS logo is a study in good design. Their former slogan, “What can Brown do for you?” is reflected in the brown and gold logo. According to Logoworks, the shield element of the logo reflects the longevity and prestige of a family crest. The color brown indicates simplicity and integrity, while gold represents value. The lower case font is designed to psychologically reflect that UPS values the consumer over the corporation. Finally, the swish across the logo’s top emphasizes the speed that UPS incorporates into its services. The logo’s tone is one that is incorporated throughout the company for a unified aura of dependability that reinforces the brand image.

The CNN logo, unchanged since the company’s founding, is meant to create an image of credibility and intelligence. The font of the three letters is merged together, emphasizing the idea that CNN is merged with the global community. The bold style of the lettering emphasizes power and integrity, while the logo’s red color not only emphasizes the risk taken in founding CNN back in 1980, but also is a color that conveys authority. For instance, the logo needs only to appear on a news story for that story to be taken seriously.

Coca-Cola is a brand whose image is of youth and unification. One needs only look at the famous “I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke” campaign to understand the power behind this brand. The logo, which is simply the word “Coca-Cola” written in red or white looping script, was, according to FamousLogos.org, first designed in 1885. It has remained largely unchanged since then because the logo represents the brand so well. The scrip is youthful, like Coca-Cola’s brand image. The colors, red and white, are vibrant and, again, appeal to the youth market, and those that remember Coca-Cola fondly from their childhood. Ultimately the logo is a study in simplicity, evoking both carefree whimsy and nostalgia that has lasted for over 125 years.

As the market turns increasingly to digital mediums, it is impossible for companies to ignore the need to interact with their consumers. Using sound graphic design principles to construct a cohesive communication plan that invites consumers to explore and interact with the brand is essential to leveraging the company and gaining the competitive edge necessary to thrive in what can be a vicious marketplace. From logo inception to integrated advertising and public relations campaign developments, graphic design is essential to communicating with consumers and managing brand image.