Most of you who know me, also know that I don’t pretend to have any knowledge of design. On the contrary, design and creativity is for right-half-brain-oriented people, whereas I’m wired the other way around.

Having said this, I do see immense opportunity in this space. All brands must adapt to the reality of the digital age when it comes to design. Those who don’t, or do, but at a slower than others, will soon stand out as being old fashioned and will be a sitting duck. I firmly believe that not moving into this space is no longer an option. Process-wise, the world is being turned upside-down.

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Although I personally do not have a good feel for design, I would like to share some insights that we’ve gathered over the last two years on the impact of digital on design.

This was never intended to be a complete list, more some key findings gained from getting our heads around this unseasoned and developing space, and sometimes from learning by failing as well.

Very limited space

Imagine that a brand’s space to express itself is limited to a (small) screen only. Design has become user-oriented and much more visual, using infographics and icons, with UX and UI becoming key. Next, font types are now embeddable online and imagery and photography now have completely different requirements than before. Graphic design is fading out because of this. Nowadays, every time we create a design brief, they become more comprehensive as we work to grasp the constantly evolving design landscape.

New eco-systems are emerging

We see digital and ad agencies entering the space of branding – and design agencies, coming in from the world of programmatic advertising, building websites or digital campaigns. Whilst they don’t originally come from the design and strategic branding dimensions, they manage to convince clients to work with them. Apparently they are seen to be more “digital” – whatever that may mean – than branding and design agencies. Here lies a challenge for the branding agencies who now need to explain their worth as well as their added value when it comes to digital – this implies a paradigm shift for them, which ideally needed to take place yesterday.

Immaturity of the market

For brand owners life isn’t getting easier. On one hand they are looking at potentially partly insourcing creativity more and more in order to increase agility, and on the other hand they are unsure of the maturity and real ability of all the ‘new’ players in this domain and what value they may add.

Consistency versus coherence

Consistency has been the buzz word in creating brand design for decades – it’s been engrained into education and thus into many people’s thinking. It’s closely tied to static systems and rules, which have also changed completely. Within digital space and channels, which have multisensory functions, we’re seeing much more atomic or modular design, creating a coherent hemisphere. Together they form building blocks and elements which breathe the intent of the brand they represent. Building blocks online are way more interactive and dynamic because they are connected to behaviour (i.e. what happens when you click, hover, etc.); they are used in a more functional way (i.e. navigation and conversion), compared to the building blocks used in offline environments. These more functional elements such as buttons and icons are less able to communicate a brand image.

All in all this is no evolutionary change – disruption is coming for brands. We’re already seeing this in the business models of start-ups of course. My point today is that it has also fully arrived in the world of brand design and it’s a huge opportunity that both brands and designers should embrace. There will be much more work to do in this space than ever before and I’m wishing all of you good luck with finding your way forward. Anybody who wants to discuss, oppose or comment, feel free – always happy to discuss!

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