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Episode 14: Why Great Design Is Fundamental In Your Business

This topic is a very heated matter… Some say design matters and others believe that it doesn’t really matter at all. Perhaps it is just pretty pictures and it’s not really that important.. So let’s think about it rationally and try to leave our views and opinions at the door for the next five minutes.

We are all trying to do the same things – to capture this most elusive thing – people’s feelings and attention – using just words and pictures;. Can we all agree that if we look at a business card or a website we don’t really trust it? If somebody has a website they are not necessarily trustworthy, right? Can we agree that we might not even pay attention to it? Can we agree that we form an opinion within 50 milliseconds?

When we meet a person at a conference we quickly make an assumption and we form an opinion of the other person. But I hear you say, “No Alex, I’m different, I don’t judge a book by its cover.” Yeah, yeah, yeah, I’m sure you don’t. So let’s assume you are an angel and the rest of us do judge. We form an opinion about the other person subconsciously. Three studies found that a mere 50 milliseconds was all people needed to form an opinion about a website. Google did a similar test and found an even slimmer margin!

The results show us and teach us that visual complexity and prototypicality play crucial roles in the process of forming an aesthetic judgement. It happens within incredibly short time frames of between 17 and 50 milliseconds. By comparison, the average blink of an eye takes 100 to 400 milliseconds.

When people first encounter a website, a business card, a flyer, a design or a marketing campaign a few questions go through their mind: –

• What is this?
• Who is this?
• Is it trustworthy?
• Is it professional?
• Is it credible?
• Am I in the right place?
• Will this solve my problem?
• Is it worth my time and attention?

Think about what kind of first impression you want your customers to have. If you want to appear trustworthy you need to make sure your designs are spot on.

Why do people care about design so much? Well because we live in a visual, materialistic world and people judge based on what they see. People have preconceived ideas about what great and beautiful are. Consumer awareness for great design is at an all-time high, because companies like John Lewis, Apple, Starbucks and Harrods make design their top priority. They understand how important design is in buying decisions.

Successful companies know there are compelling reasons why they need to prioritize design to improve the odds of success. Good design creates meaningful impressions, helps you differentiate and boosts brand awareness and the bottom line.

Somebody asked me to share something on social media for them. I know the person, I know the product but the design is horrendous. I don’t want to share that because it looks bad. I don’t want to send a signal to people that I have bad taste. This is the brutal truth.

Why do you think people share things online and with their friends? We are all sending signals; look, I found this amazing workshop, look, I found this amazing product, look how smart I am, look how great I am at making decisions, look how great I am at finding new interesting things. These are all signals that we send. Why do you think people buy Louis Vuitton? To send a signal that they are successful.

I shared ‘The Humble Brush’ with some of my friends. I did a video about it on my fan page, I shared it on IQD podcast, I told some clients about it and I shared it yesterday to a potential client. Why did I do that? I love their story. I love their designs. You see I believe in what they do (developing reliable products that are eco-friendly and socially responsible, with an innovative twist). Basically I like being different, I like finding new things that make an impact. The real reason is I like sending a signal that says I’m smart and innovative. They gave me a story and obviously a good design shows that explicitly.
The thing is you can’t have good design without meaning. What’s the point? It’s like a cute girl without substance. There are plenty of cute girls on this planet, but this guy articulates it perfectly in his video. He says: –

Yeah you cute but…beauty fades, you cute and that will be good but that’s icing, but where’s the cake? Nobody will sit and continue to eat a bowl of icing. It’s supposed to be added to something. So don’t just come with icing looks, and icing swag. I don’t need icing, I need substance.

That’s the biggest problem right there; substance. You can have great pictures and great designs, but if they don’t have substance – what’s the point? Great design will grab somebody’s attention and that’s the first step, but if there is no substance the person will get bored and leave. That’s why we need both great design and substance.

When we have ugly or bad design people subconsciously think that the quality of the product or service is substandard.

When we buy Nike, we don’t buy it just because we love Nike, we buy because we want to send a signal to the world. When we are working at a Starbucks and open our MacBook we send a signal to the world. Different Apple users have a different story; some send a signal of pride, some a signal of design aesthetics, some a signal of coolness. I don’t know if it’s a coincidence, but I’ve just thought of it; the majority of Apple users I know have better design aesthetics than Microsoft users.

Here’s another vivid example I remember…. Last year I attended about six workshops/conferences and I shared only one on my social media profiles. There is one conference that I attend yearly (Infinite Man Summit) and that particular conference changed my life two years ago. I didn’t share anything online during the three days I attended this year in Lisbon. I did a vlog later yes, but on the day I didn’t share it.
Last year I shared only Grant Cardone’s 10X Tour, because of the story, because they had nicely designed banners and because I like how their brand makes me feel. Did I not enjoy the other five events? Yes, I did. One changed my freaking life, but I didn’t share anything, because they didn’t position themselves for people to share. Their designs didn’t make me feel anything. I don’t actually remember if they had something to share.

It’s like putting yourself in a position to succeed. If you want to run faster you hang out with runners on a daily basis and eventually you will run faster. If you surround yourself with people who watch TV every day, you will start watching more TV. That’s why it’s important to put ourselves in a position to succeed. That’s why when you do workshops it’s important to get your branding spot on. It gives people reasons to share your brand.

Brand, design, storytelling they are all important components for people to feel something, to share something. Your workshop might be amazing but if the design is not great people will not be inclined to share and they will not even know why.

I know some people that have great services but their designs are so horrendous that it makes me unfollow them and unsubscribe. Talented people lose so many opportunities from people they think will buy from the because of their knowledge and referrals. Yes, it’s partly true, some will buy, but it will take more time, more energy and more effort to convince somebody. Some people will immediately say no thank you and then you will have to spend more on advertising and promotion to convince them.

Right now you might be saying ‘Yes Alex, but that’s just you’. Really? Is it just me? Do you think so? I’m sorry, I don’t. I’m just stating the facts. Marketing studies show that the average American is exposed to around 5,000 advertisements and brands per day. Out of that veritable flood of 5,000 ads, the research found that only 12 ads made enough of an impact to leave an impression.

We know that £18.3 billion is spent on all forms of advertising and marketing in the UK every year. We know that 4% is remembered positively, 7% is remembered negatively and 89% isn’t noticed or remembered. So that’s roughly £17 billion of advertising wasted. Ads that might as well not have run.

The reason why companies continue to push and push is because 99% of people think that their advertising is in the 4%. How do they get approvals, I hear you ask?
You know that you can make up any number now and say oh we have impressions. People don’t change their stories and beliefs very easily. It’s easier to blame than to take responsibility.
I’m sure some people from Blockbusters are still blaming ‘the market’ and ‘lazy millennials’ for their bankruptcy.

Because you and I don’t have the budgets that multinationals companies do and we want to be effective and efficient with our marketing activities, it’s important that we work with professionals and we open our minds to new ideas.

When consumers are faced with a decision between things with similar features or benefits, they go with the one they either recognize or that has a more pleasing design. Smashing Magazine’s Steven Bradley explained it well: –

Human beings have an attractiveness bias; we perceive beautiful things as being better, regardless of whether they actually are better. All else being equal, we prefer beautiful things, and we believe beautiful things function better. As in nature, function can follow form.

Here’s how Stephen Anderson demonstrates this attractiveness bias so clearly with a simple button example: –

Cognitively speaking, both of these are obviously buttons. Neither button is ‘wrong’. However, research into attention, persuasion, choice, happiness, learning, and other similar topics suggests that the more attractive the button is, the more likely it is to be used.

When creating, make sure you use well established design principles when creating your brand assets, website or anything else that your customers see. It will go a long way and it will help your business stand out.

But let’s not forget how important the story that follows your designs is. A while ago I decided to write my two cents worth in a group where a gentlemen asked for feedback about his new logo designs. Bear in mind I don’t usually get involved or write feedback because I just think if they hired a designer they should have done their research and if they didn’t get in touch with me why should I waste my time writing my opinion because it means I’m basically consulting for them. This time I decided to be generous and write my feedback. Here’s the question: –

Here’s my response: –

This is the reason why I don’t get involved, because the majority of times I feel that I’m not articulating things correctly. My point is simple – consider who are you trying to serve, what your beliefs are, what do you want to convey – and then start the creative process. I believe there was no brief involved in this project and it was just a conversation about let’s do a nice logo.

This is why creative briefs for designers are fundamental. It’s not about the blue colour; I don’t know what he wants to convey. If he wants to show boldness BLUE will not do the job, he needs red. If he wants to convey luxury, he needs black not BLUE.


This is truly the definition of beauty without substance from the icing and the cake we discussed before. It’s the same as if we sat on the Northern Line and just kept going without knowing the destination. Where are we going? Heathrow? Cyprus? Spain? Stratford? Canada? What is the destination we want to reach? It’s important to know the destination in design, and in life too we need to know our destination. Then we need a story. That’s why substance is a fundamental layer in the design process.


Do you really need good design? Yes, if you want to build a meaningful and sustainable brand. No, if it’s something that you are testing and you are not serious about.


What is a good design? Louiza, our creative designer said: –
“A good design evokes people’s feelings and solves problems”.

So it’s not just a nice picture, or nice aesthetic, or a nice logo to look at. Design solves a problem, because it influences people to act on something. The most challenging thing to get from people is their attention and feelings- and this we need to consider seriously. If we don’t take our brand seriously how do we expect others to take us seriously?

If you need help with your brand identity you can always send me an email or give me a call and we can discuss this further. I would love to hear your opinion on why ‘Great Design is Fundamental in Your Business’ in the comments. Let me know your opinion and if I have forgotten something. Let me know your thoughts.

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