They’ll Notice

Start-up businesses and organizations tend to hold themselves back in terms of establishing reputation and solidity by under-budgeting and under-investing in the brand-building graphics and communications they need. Time and money constraints lead to quick decisions about logos, web sites and marketing collateral, and very often the business owner will throw a web site together or use the equivalent of clip art for a logo and hope no one notices. Their intention is that, once their business gets off the ground, they will have more money to invest in a web site and graphics.

But people will notice. An unprofessional web site and low quality graphics will hinder a brand from the beginning, and the enterprise will struggle to establish itself. People connect with a product or service over time, and reliable, consistent experiences create that connection. Low quality design, whether print or web, does not help establish reliability or consistency.

A start-up that intends to succeed over time should set aside the funds necessary to engage knowledgable, experienced designers – people they can work with over the start-up season. The mind-set that design is something that is bought ready-made, something the business owner can do himself, or that is crowdsourced to the lowest bidder is the mindset that delays the enterprise in becoming established.

A study by Stanford University focused on what makes a website credible. Design was the aspect most often (46%) attributed to for establishing integrity and reliability. Other concerns, such as information structure, information relevance and accuracy, site functionality and customer service, were scored much lower. Why the emphasis on the look of things?

People are first and foremost visual when it comes to taking in information. Gestalt psychology and design theory supports this principle. For most of us humans, vision is the primary means of understanding our world. Reading, watching the news, driving, exploring, walking, etc. all involve our eyes. We assess our environment quickly and make immediate decisions about what to do about what we see. We want things to be in order, pleasant to look at and comfortable to deal with. We linger around pleasant things. When what we see is not appealing, we make a value judgement about it — it’s not good.

The design of your web site, logo and other graphic assets is the first thing your audience will notice.

Appearances count. How something looks is one of the first assessments people make when sizing up other people, environments, purchases, graphics and web sites. Most people do not dig deeply into details but form opinions and responses based on initial impressions, and will dismiss or accept something based on a cursory review.

In short, the design of your web site, logo and other graphic assets is the first thing your audience will notice. If you want your product or service to have a quality reputation and desirability — if you want to gain and keep customers and clients — you want to lead off with quality design.

I’ve discussed many times before how good design makes a difference, and good design is not subjective. In our current marketplace, as businesses and entrepreneurs seek new ground and jostle for position and differentiation, the quality of design plays a significant role in getting noticed and keeping customers.

As you contemplate your next product rollout, service launch or marketing campaign, ask yourself if you’ll be better off by going cheap now and fixing things later, or by making the investment up front in the caliber of design your business needs.

Alvalyn Lundgren

Alvalyn Lundgren is the founder and principal of Alvalyn Creative, an independent consultancy providing brand strategy design and bespoke illustration for more than 30 years. She is the creator of Freelance Road Trip — a business school and podcast for creative freelancers. She teaches design and design practice on the college level with design schools and programs.