Why you should be paying attention to your visual communication strategy
Jul 27, 2021
In storytelling, we often intuitively think about words. Words matter — it’s a core value at P&G — and we understand how a person’s interpretation, acceptance and actions change based on the approach or content theme.
Visual communication — using graphics, art and design to convey meaning — is an added layer that can help (or hurt) your chances of explaining and amplifying important messages in a way that resonates with the audience.
There are infinite ways to plan a project, and it’s easy to consider design a less-important part of the story delivery. However, when looking at a project holistically, each element has an important role in supporting the purpose and goals. A critical message can get lost in ineffective design, and a beautifully designed, expensive piece can have no real substance or direction. But when everything works in harmony to communicate, a story has real power. The details and symbolism may not be overtly noticed by everyone, but their brains will make the right associations. And that’s by design.
This process of discovering the “it solution” — the one that captures the true essence of the goals — is one of my favorite parts about my job.
Here are the steps we take at P&G to ensure communications messages are doing the best job for our clients:
We analyze the purpose of your project. What action do you want people to take? What does success look like? There’s always an element of learning, but there’s also usually a next step that involves contributing, participating, supporting, engaging, purchasing and enrolling, to name a few. The answers to those fundamental questions support our recommendations for the final product, delivery method and how to achieve and track results.
We consider your budget. While quality and strategy are never compromised, budget may affect the length, size, structure, data visualization and custom graphic creation for a publication. Not every publication or piece of collateral is printed, but we plan for it when that is necessary. We talk with different printers to consider sizes, print volumes, paper stock and other factors that could drive prices up or help budget dollars go further.
Trust me when I say we don’t want to blow the full budget on a fancy specialty print or expensive paper stock if it won’t add value. In all cases, we make sure the full scope of the recommended project is mostly realistic (and sometimes include a few blue sky ideas as well) before presenting it to a client for approval.
We recognize we may not be the target audience and turn to primary and secondary research to help us gauge reactions. Developing content themes requires us to understand different ways information can be presented contextually and identify whether or not the data shows an audience is likely to respond to a particular story. Paired with visual design psychology, we assess product sizes, shapes, layouts, colors, typography and styles that will help tell the story, connect the dots and flow naturally. That process can help information stand out, create subtle and subconscious associations and add value.
We evaluate our strategies to make sure they align with your brand and values. More than sticking to established brand standards such as fonts and colors, we want to make sure the position of the organization is clear and consistent with the values and goals. Even when we’re trying to reach a specific audience or do something new and innovative, we don’t want to push something that just isn’t right. In the right instances, it’s possible to push the limits if it does so in a way that respects the voice of the client as well as the audience.
Final thoughts: Why does it matter?
Whether creating something as simple and straightforward as a social media graphic or as complex as a printed publication, it’s important to make sure the way the story is told doesn’t create a barrier for people to understand what you’re trying to say.
Even better, if we take advantage of the opportunity to consider how every detail plays a part in telling the story, odds are much greater the message will reach your audience and inspire them to respond to the call to action presented.
The value of taking this time to consider and plan for visual communication strategy is worth it. An old saying goes, really good design goes fairly unnoticed, whereas ineffective design is super obvious. And if you can find that perfect way to tell a story that inspires somebody, the impact will be real.