Time for a major change, or not?
A digital brand’s design is the visual message it projects to the wide world. Effective visual design boosts web conversion up to 200% and effectively so, considering how 90% of the information transmitted to the brain is visual.
Indeed, people are visual creatures, but as they say, that’s only half the deal. The real deal is that your customers are visual creatures. And as businesses, we can’t afford to overlook the gold mine of potential customers missing out on a product because of a poor or outdated visual design experience.
This makes many digital companies stop and think: when is the right time to propose visual redesign within their digital brand? What aspects should the redesign touch upon and what place should viral trends have in shaping your design concept and the overall visual makeover of your brand?
Here are the reliable signs your digital brand needs a visual design makeover, vs. false alarms you can confidently pass, according to Visual Designer and UI expert Anastasia Roitman.
Businesses often think that when their digital product’s UI changes, the brand’s whole design concept must mirror those changes. The opposite is also considered — any changes in brand redesign must be applied to the digital product’s UI.
Visual design expert Anastasia Roitman explains the difference. “In a digital product, the focal point is usability. For example, our product is created to be simple to work with, efficient, and perfectly understandable. Our customers need to comfortably work with our product for hours each day, and its UI caters to their goals of simplicity and professionalism.”
Naturally, if your digital product’s UI and general brand design are a perfect match, there’s no need to make changes. But if you feel pressed to redesign your brand’s visuals just because of a recent change to your digital product’s look and feel, there’s no need to, Roitman assures.
“It’s perfectly fine to have your product and brand share one visual concept, and it’s just as fine to have complementing concepts,” says Roitman. “The company’s website, social media, and overall visual design are part of its heart-to-heart impact — not just its usability, like your product’s UI. It’s the designer’s job to work hand in hand with marketing and sales departments to bring this emotional message across in the most convincing way. In our case, we wanted to make our digital brand’s emotional impact vibrant, energetic, and bold — reflecting both the creators that stand behind our product and our customers.”
The exemplary moment to think about visual redesign — and even wider brand redesign comes when a larger transformation is taking place within your business. A good example is when your company has just redefined its business values and vision.
“A few months ago, our company embarked on a major transformation through brand archetypes,” says Roitman. “After defining the major brand archetypes for our business, we applied them to all levels of organization — from design to marketing, sales, and HR. The concept I put at the heart of our visual redesign is bold, energetic, and vibrant — just like our team.”
For anyone not in the know, brand archetypes are a leaf out of psychoanalyst Carl Jung’s book and a staple of modern brand building. Defined through a company’s inherent values, archetypes are basically a “brand portrait” or a condensed version of brand values that instantly relate to your target audience. Apart from being a staple of marketing and business growth, determining (or switching) your brand archetype drastically transforms a company’s approach to its UX, UI, and visual design.
Visual design trends are constantly evolving and for design experts, it may be tempting to experiment within a business environment. However, trends are major shapeshifters, and just because one has become viral doesn’t mean it will be of any use to your particular business.
“When I started redesigning our brand, I didn’t base my visual conception on any particular ‘viral’ trend. However, when it all came together, I noticed how attuned our new design is to various leading concepts. As I see it, mixing in various visual design trends into your palette is a natural outcome rather than the purpose of a designer’s work.”
As Roitman adds, a visual designer needs to primarily base decisions on the specifics of the reworked platform (e.g. website, social media, newsletters, and other digital branding) as well as the business’s clients and TA.
“If you have a large website or platform with a considerable audience and a lot of content, your designers won’t be able to keep up with the ebb and flow of each new trend. Following trends to the letter would be like building a sandcastle since each new trend wave would crush it.
“However, a great experimental platform for trying out the latest visual design trends are short promo ads specifically designed for YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, etc. This is what we usually do when we want to experiment with an interesting trend, a/b test it with our audience and see if it’s worth implementing in more permanent elements of the brand image.”
The most appropriate visual redesign concept is one that’s based not on trends — however ‘viral’ they proved for another business — but on your company’s unique analysis. For visual design experts, working hand in hand with product and marketing departments provides action points when it’s time for a major shift, says Roitman.
“We constantly research how customers work with our products, how our sales platforms function, and what attracts people to our product. As a visual designer, I receive the gist of this research from our BA and product department and base my design vision on the portrait of our evolving audience and its usability goals.”
Unless your redesign ideas are based on solid research with the current and prospective users in mind, there’s no point in switching things around in favor of a trend or even your team’s own opinion.
“If you have a viral trend that your design team is super enthusiastic to try out on one end of the scale and a target audience that you suspect is ‘out of its league’ on the other, always tip in favor of your audience. Design trends aren’t created for designers. They’re only the means to the heart of your customers.”
Artists have an unsung rule — never show others an artwork that’s only half-done. Visual designers, with their symbiosis of clear technical logic and broader artistic vision, can confidently share that mantra.
Even though brainstorming visual design ideas together with your team may sound like a good idea and “feedback has never hurt anyone”, nowhere will you meet as many conflicting opinions as when it comes to visual design.
“When we were in the process of the makeover, it happened that some propositions came to our team’s attention while still half-done and caused conflicting feedback. In a certain aspect, discussion and even disagreement are good things. They mean that what we’re doing strikes an emotional note, it doesn’t leave people indifferent. But to avoid chaos, designers should reserve feedback for completed concepts, not raw ones.”
What’s often overlooked is that “a visual designer is only a prism reflecting the business’s wider vision,” says Roitman. Consequently, visual designers aren’t exclusively responsible for the brand’s visual conception.
“Business owners, particularly those who outsource their visual design need to see that they’ve got to have clearly formed ideas — based on their research, TA, or a brand concept — prior to hiring a designer. Don’t hire a designer to tell you who you are. A visual designer is someone who takes your ideas and brings them to life in an awesome way. But the ideas themselves must be brand values — not the designer’s, not the team’s, not the manager’s subjective views.”
When your business has been around for some time, all visual platforms, especially your website, accumulate content. Cautious of making a major shift, you’re tweaking things here and there, leading to short-term improvements but a long-term design hodgepodge.
“At some point, tweaked content turns into a mess of poorly structured design elements or what I call a ‘content Frankenstein’. At that point, a visual designer has to really sit back and consider — how can I visually restructure the concept, not just shuffle ideas around?“
For example, visual redesign is imminent when various structural elements are out of sync, Roitman says.
“When your visuals and texts communicate different messages — for example, your visual elements are bold and vivid, while the text is generic and rarely updated (or vice-versa), your audience won’t fail to notice the problem. If our goal with visual design is to convince and convert, content that is not wholesome will achieve neither.
“If the discrepancy is small, you can just correct it. But by the time brands notice the problem, it’s usually spread out across numerous pages and platforms. At that point, it’s much easier to redesign the whole and inject new life into your design, rather than waste time on ‘galvanizing’ separate parts.”
A digital brand’s visual portrait consists of many aspects: from its product to its website, social media platforms, communications, and general branding.
As Anastasia Roitman concludes, “Visual design isn’t just about images, color themes, or switching things around for better optimization. Design is about cohesion. If your digital brand image in general or in certain parts lacks that wholesomeness, it’s the visual designer’s job to expose the problem and propose a new harmonious image based on the brand’s values.”
Visual design is the first point of impact for a digital product’s customers, and the job of business owners and design experts alike is to make that first meeting the beginning of a love story.