Matching the Message and the Design

What comes first? In our business, the answer isn’t the chicken or the egg, it’s the message or the design. Often, the message and the audience dictate the design of the collateral materials, whether it’s a brochure, trade ad, internal memo or magazine. We listen carefully to what the client is trying to communicate and develop the collateral pieces and the campaign based on that message. Just like the chicken and the egg, they both have to be in synch.

When you think of a bank or other financial institution, what comes to mind? Colors of blue and green, block copy in a basic font and straightforward language—something that evokes a conservative peace of mind. Would you trust your bank if you had happy smiley faces on your bank statement? It’s your money and there’s nothing cute or funny about it. Whether conscious or not, all elements of a design play a part of the branding process.

Bottom Line recently concluded an internal customer service campaign for a bank client. We threw the above rules out the window and came up with something fun, clever and easy to duplicate. The scope of work was to help create a greater focus on customer service, both internally and with customers. We had a bit more creativity than the standard quarterly earnings reports because the message was for internal use with employees. The messages came through loud and clear using a fun, upbeat logo that did, in fact, include a smiley face and bright colors throughout the four-month campaign.

An important step in determining message and design is to consider the audience. Another client trusted us to create a brochure to help market an innovative piece of medical equipment. Knowing our audience would be highly skilled neurosurgeons, our message had to be brief and succinct. The brochure design was graphically pleasing, showing the equipment in use. The copy focused on how this product would save time in the operating room—a benefit for both the surgeon and the patient.

At the first client meeting, listen carefully to the message. Look at samples of what they currently use and start to get a feel for what they like. Whenever possible, have the graphic designer sit in on that initial meeting so you can begin to work together to match the message to the design and come up with something the client will love.

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