5 Signs It's Time to Shake Up Your Graphic Design

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  • 7/28/2020
    Are you falling asleep in the middle of your own design work? Are there days where you sometimes want to throw your brand identity out the window and rebrand as something unheard of, like a healthcare company that doesn’t use the color blue? 
     
    Good graphic design that follows the rules of typography, balance and layout never goes out of style. But that doesn’t mean you can’t make a change in what you’re doing to help you better engage your audience and stand out from the competition.
     
    Pour yourself a cup of coffee, scrap that design project that made you fall asleep and join us on a quest to shake things up with your design.
     

    1. Things feel stale

    This is the “gut feeling” reason. If you’re sick of looking at your own brand’s design work, chances are it’s time to shake things up. Sometimes things naturally progress and become overused, stale or repetitive to the point where it feels like you’re churning out variations on the same basic concept day in and day out.
     
    You know your brand better than anyone else, which puts you at an advantage when it comes to recognizing boring design. But beware, this also makes it harder to trust your gut! Chances are you see and interact with your brand more than any member of your audience ever will, meaning you’ll get tired of it before they do. When you see something every day 10 times per day but your audience sees it once per week, you may be the only one bored with the current design trajectory. 
     
    If the feeling that things are stale or outdated sticks with you for more than a month or two, don’t ignore it! Take it as a sign to carve out time to flex your creative muscles and update your design work until it evolves into something you’re truly proud of.
     

    2. Engagement is down

    If your audience is no longer making the effort to like, click, share, comment or otherwise engage with your content, your creative may be the culprit. Monitor your audience engagement for a few weeks. If it remains lower than you want it or dips over time, it’s time to try something new.
     
    In terms of metrics that can indicate it’s time for a design change, engagement is one of the more accurate measurements. Sometimes, especially with higher ups, business instinct says to look only at the bottom line and correlate low sales dollars with as many factors as possible, including boring design. But sales is at best a weak indicator of issues with design—especially if the product holds an exceptionally long sales cycle. Focus instead on metrics like engagement, which shows how your design works in getting the audience’s attention in a crowded market. The more it stands out, the more likely it is to attract higher engagement. The more it blends in, the less engagement you’ll tend to see.
     

    3. Everyone else is doing the same thing

    Speaking of standing out, it’s hard to make an impact when you’re doing the exact same thing as everyone else! This becomes exceptionally noticeable in the consumer product sector. Take cars, for example. So many car lots seem to have the same commercials over and over. Someone excitedly shouting at you from the screen, b-roll of the inventory on the lot, confusing statements about APR and interest rates and a closing sexy shot of the vehicle on an oceanside/mountainside road. 
     
    We know you can picture it in your head now. So why is every car lot using this method to advertise virtually the same product?
     
    Take a look at your own competition and their engagement rates, especially on organic social media. What’s working for them? What’s not working? Take what you’ve learned back to your drawing board and do it differently and better.
     
    Pro-tip: You can see the ads a brand is running on Facebook and Instagram, including imagery and video. Go to the Page and click See All in the Page Transparency tab. Then select Go to Ad Library and take a look at their ads active in your country.
     
    Remember, when it comes to determining competitor design success, it helps to crunch numbers and measure their’ engagement rates in easy-to-see, controlled environments like social media. Just looking at their website or ads won’t concretely show you what’s working for them.
     

    4. You haven’t had a change in decades

    A good brand at its core should stick true and stay true for centuries. Apple has been known for innovative tech since its inception in 1976, but just because its name and mission have stayed the same for almost 50 years doesn’t mean its visual identity has remained stagnant. 
     
    When done well, it’s wonderful to modernize your brand to match the times. Technology has come a long way since 1976. If Apple kept its same clunky 70s logo today, their brand wouldn’t be nearly as powerful. Same with BP and Starbucks, both of which have hugely identifiable logos. 

     
    Notice that overall the logo evolutions have retained the essence of the brand. Starbucks has kept its siren and Apple its fruit-shaped icon. It’s okay, even encouraged, to shake up your brand and design if it's been the same for decades, but don’t veer so far off course that your visual identity becomes completely unrecognizable to your current customer base. We talk a bit more about this concept in our Marketing Trends vol. 12 magazine, available now for download. 
     

    5. You’re expanding your product line

    Storytime! Goldhorn Brewery was new to the craft beer scene when their signature branding made its debut. With two flagship beers, the large gold and white goat logo on a brown
    woodgrain background became a focal point for brand recognition. This worked great—until they decided to release more beer options.
     
    With new beers on the market, strong commitment to the same visual design would have meant that thirsty customers would have a hard time telling the difference between a Kleveland Kolsch and a Polka City Pilsner. To adapt to the shift, the visual design of the cans changed to feature illustrations unique to each individual beer. 
     
     
    These illustrations capture the essence of the brand while differentiating the products, creating a memorable experience for suds-seekers in an industry known for competing bold designs on heavily stocked retail shelves. Using new design ideas to differentiate between your products helps you stand out and not cannibalize your own sales. 
     

    Takeaway tips & tricks for shaking up your design

    If you’re thinking it’s time to put your current design in a blender and create something new, that’s awesome! We love seeing people color outside the lines of their traditional graphic design. Here are a few tips and tricks to ensure your efforts are a success.
     

    Evolution vs revolution

    A revolution, by definition, is a forceful overthrow of an old system to create a new system. Evolution, however, is the gradual development of something new. If your brand is at a relatively great point in its life, don’t blow up your whole identity and change everything drastically! Make sure your brand stays recognizable throughout the whole process. If needed, slowly introduce small changes over time.

    Start small

    A design change doesn’t have to be earth shattering. In fact, we recommend it’s not earth shattering. There’s no need to rush in huge change, so start small and build up.
     
    You can also change up your design temporarily with a campaign theme instead of a full brand overhaul. A campaign can last a month, a year or even three years, giving you time to build and evolve your design within the confines of something temporary. Measure the success of your campaign in terms of metrics like engagement and see how it resonates with your audience. Then expand upon that.
     

    Reframe instead of redo

    Another strategy for shaking up your traditional design is to reframe your marketing strategy. For product-oriented, this can be as easy as changing the way you look at your product. 
     
    For example, if you’re currently selling pillows, take a step back and instead focus on lifestyle. Show people having a fun time after a great night’s sleep on their new pillow. Show people with flawless skin feeling confident enough to take selfies now that their new pillow cover prevents oils from transferring onto their skin. Instead of selling your product in your design, sell an improved quality of life. 
     

    Update your messaging

    Once you’ve started small in slowly evolving your brand or reframing your design, update your messaging. We guarantee that updated messaging will impact your design execution and give you more ideas and opportunities for growth. Attach a new slogan or sales pitch to your product and see where your work evolves from there.
     
    Take the pillow example. Your old design just showed the pillow and some people sleeping it on it. Your new, lifestyle-based marketing strategy can center around messaging that uses words like “comfort,” “smooth,” “cool” or “restful.” Write those words down, brainstorm new design concepts and see how your work naturally evolves.
     

    Shaking up your graphic design

    We’re big advocates of shaking up your design and breaking a few rules when it makes sense. Because design is so subjective, remember, creating something new means getting everyone on the same team and incorporating feedback and ideas into your process.
     
    When done right, taking risks and being bold in your visual design can do wonders for dusting off your brand. But like all new marketing ventures, it’s important to be smart and strategic about your process. 
     
    Now go forth and color outside the lines!
     
    You can learn more about coloring outside the lines in graphic design, creating brand content studios for responsive design and more in our new Marketing Trends vol. 12 publication. Download your free copy here.
    About the author::Joe Cola, who sadly has no connection to the world famous brand, Coca-Cola, is the Art Director at thunder::tech. When he isn't designing, Joe loves going to the zoo or the metroparks. He also considers himself a "dinosaur expert."
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