As a graphic designer, I know that good design is good business. I know that without good design, communications do not educate and engage employees effectively. High-performing organizations make employee communications a priority. They know that an engaged workforce contributes to the company’s success.
The organizations that engage their employees the most know that good design helps that goal. It’s the constant the blends message, images, illustration, typography and motion graphics into an appealing whole.
Here are four reasons good design is good business.
1. Good Design Pays Off
The DMI Design Value Index applies six good design management criteria to publicly-traded U.S. companies on the S&P 500 Index. The criteria reward companies that invest in good design practices as a business strategy. Some tactics include:
- Designers have a presence on the leadership team
- The company grows its investment in design
- Design is integrated into company procedures and policies
Of those companies, 16 met the standards of good design. These members of the Design Value Index outperformed the rest of the S&P by 211%.
“We see design not as a pure factor that makes our DVI company’s stocks perform better on the stock market, but rather as a highly integrated and influential force that enables the organization to achieve outsized results,” wrote Jeneanne Rao, CEO of Motiv Strategies, who partners with DMI to create the list.
2. Good Design Saves Time
When it comes time to decide on format—for example, a JPG, TIF, EPS, PDF or GIF —a good graphic designer knows which print or digital format gets results. If it’s alphabet soup to you, it may be time to engage a designer. The same goes for RGB versus CMYK color modes, paper weights, and uses and types of website content management systems. Are your communications scaled properly and do they have enough color contrast to be easily read when published?
Graphic design professionals have the training, mastery of industry software and years of experience to make the correct choices. You won’t have to waste time and aggravation to try to figure out what makes for good design.
3. Good Design Saves Money
It pays to invest in good graphic design. Cheap design often means poor design. Yet, poorly designed graphics can be more expensive in the long term. Without the expertise of a professional graphic designer, you may end up with a product that is not formatted for print or online publishing. It could be expensive to print due to color management or layout problems.
Changes, delays and redesigns cost money. A cheap, crowdsourced logo may end up costing more than one from a higher-priced, experienced graphic designer. It’s just further evidence that that good design is good business.
4. Good Design Keeps Employee’s Interest and Attention
Whether it’s webpages, emails or printed materials, communications with high-quality visuals grab attention at a higher rate than those with poor design and no images. Online shoppers cite image quality as one of the most important criteria in their purchasing decisions. In one study, 46% of people ranked a web site’s design as the number one way they rate a brand’s credibility.
Good graphic design uses smart layouts, high-quality photography, infographics, illustrations and video to create successful, attention-getting communications.
I’ve worked in employee benefits communications for almost a decade now. As a graphic designer and communications expert, I’ve seen and created my fair share of pieces. These include guides, newsletters, postcards, posters, narrated videos and more. Benefits are complex and the stakes are high, so I feel good about helping clients deliver meaningful and visually appealing materials.
Not everybody has the luxury to work with a professional communications services firm to design their campaigns. If you’re in a DIY situation, this blog post teaches best design practices to improve benefits communications.
Best practices show a thoughtfully constructed layout combined with well-crafted text results in better comprehension. So remember to spend some time on design as you prepare to talk about your company’s benefit programs.
Employees rely on you to educate them on new offerings, changes to their current plans, or any perks that may be available. Design is a strategy to grab their attention and make it easier to navigate complicated information.
Here are five best design practices to give your materials that visual edge.
1) Have a Focal Point
At first glance, your piece needs a visual focal point. In a newsletter, for example, use a catchy headline in a bold font to reel in your employees. If you’re introducing new cost-saving benefits this year, make them stand out with a headline that reads something like: “Guess What’s Coming in 2018? New Benefit Offerings to Help You Save Money!” A visually striking headline is one best design practice that will make your employees want to read more.
2) Use Quality Photography
Quality stock photography is another best design practice that improves benefits communications. Select photos that help personalize your messages. You could take it a step further and use photos of your own employees to communicate your company’s benefit offerings. Balance text with memorable images to spark employees’ attention and communicate in a visually pleasant way.
3) Pick a Color Scheme
Simplify your newsletter with a minimum of two to three colors. If your company has a specific color palette or branding guidelines, add some of those elements to create best design practices. This insures the “look and feel” is compliant.
A color scheme brings a sense of harmony and balance to the layout. If you want to direct your employees to take action on a specific task, you could apply your company logo color to a call-out box. This draws more attention to the eye and helps guide your employees to take action.
4)Use Enough White Space
Allow enough space in between paragraphs, columns, images and text boxes to help identify where content belongs. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve come across pamphlets or brochures where the text from one column ran into another. This is clearly not a best design practice! When text and imagery are spaced proportionately on a page, it makes it easier to read and understand the material.
5) Keep Your Fonts Simple
Just as the context you’re communicating is important, your font choice is just as crucial. I typically stick with two fonts, at a minimum. Too many different fonts make your newsletter feel cluttered and turns away readers.
A helpful way of incorporating good font usage in your newsletter is to use a typeface from a font family such as Arial or Franklin Gothic. This enables you to apply a bold, italic or semi-bold font from the same family and not go overboard with competing font choices. This best design practice will improve your benefits communications
These simple adjustments to your designs will win over your employees. They will stay engaged and interested in learning the value of their benefit programs.
Ever wonder why some communication materials get more attention than others? If the message is solid and the delivery method matches your employees’ preferences, your collateral should hit the mark. Does it have your logo? Check. Does it use the company colors? Check. It should grab employee’s attention, right? Well, does it include five design standards?
Although “art” can be subjective, good design is not open to as much interpretation.
Good design plays an important role in educating employees about benefits. This is especially true for “visual learners,” folks who prefer to learn by seeing, versus hearing or touching. Whether you create the design or approve a design produced by a vendor, you should understand how various elements work together. These design standards are valuable to engage the workforce with your collateral.
As a designer who has developed benefits-related and other types of communications for more than 20 years, let me share five design standards for your communications. They’re presented in an infographic, of course.
Over the years, I have noticed the following procedures correlate with efficient design projects.
Tell us your problems, goals and expectations
A big part of the design process is figuring out how to solve your problems and meet your goals and expectations with an exciting design. Before designers begin working with colors and images we put a lot of thought into how we can communicate your information in a logical way. Design can help solve your communication problems and meet your goals and expectations. One problem could be how to communicate a complicated open enrollment benefit chart in an easy-to-understand way. Another issue is how to make sure your target audience receives important information. If we know what you need to accomplish, we can figure out the best way to get the results you want.
Give us your guidelines, stylesheets and deadlines
The more information you give us the better. If you are not sure what you want (besides visually-appealing content) even the smallest detail or note is helpful. But, remember, the less information we have the greater the chance the proof will not be what you expected, and it may require extensive revisions. The deadline is also important. Most designers I know will change things and think of new ideas and modifications until the end of time, so we need a deadline. A deadline helps us fit all creativity, design execution, and proofing into the time available to us.
Tell us what you don’t you want
Telling us what you don’t want is also helpful. It helps us narrow down what we have to work with and also makes you happy since your proof won’t contain your pet peeves. If you do not like purple, Helvetica, and cartoony art let us know upfront.
Give us examples
If you have an example of what how envision your project, show it to us. We won’t copy the examples but will use them to get an idea of what you want for the project’s overall look. Maybe you envision it clean with a lot of white space, or fun, or corporate. Since all these styles are subjective an example helps us determine your idea of “fun.”
Tell us what you like and dislike about the proof
We took all information you gave us and figured out a way to visually represent it. The proof is now in your inbox. The first draft should be close to what you were expecting relative to the amount of information you gave us. If the proof is not what you were expecting there is a positive consequence. We now have an example of what you don’t want. The best thing we can do is apply the above steps to the proof. Tell us what you don’t like about the proof, give us examples of what you do like, and give us guidelines on what to change.
Working with your graphic designer and achieving great results will be easy if you follow the above recommendations.
As summer draws to a close, I’m gearing up for open enrollment season. Communications consultants and HR staff face the brunt of challenges during the season.
As a designer, I manage much of the production, print fulfillment and mailings. Designers don’t develop tactics, answer employee questions, or oversee a large campaign. We have our own challenges to face. Let’s take a look at what goes into creating client campaigns throughout the season.
Our communications team talks to our consultants to discuss which clients are returning. We review how those clients received last years’ tactics. We ask what we can do to improve those tactics or propose fresh ideas to install for their new campaign.
Have any of our clients had any major changes to their business? Mergers, growth, down-sizing? Do any of the clients’ materials need a refresh? We could discuss with them the possibility it’s time to consider a major campaign update. As clients update brand guidelines and add new benefits, does their content look like a hodge-podge of updates? Also, we take stock of what new clients have knocked at our door. Out of all the proposals we made over the winter and spring, which client looks promising? What is the possibility of new clients that we never even took into account?
As we get deeper into August, we begin to get a better view. We fill in spreadsheets with more detail and assign staff to clients. Clients start to confirm their open enrollment dates. We talk to our printers and ask for revised quote, trying to get better prices and securing press space. By now, all last year’s files have been cleaned up and are ready to go. We hold weekly meetings to bring new team members up-to-speed and discuss the tactics and concerns of our clients.
We begin to research new clients to interpret their brand guidelines and capture their aesthetic . Working with clients’ design, marketing, branding and HR staff , we create templates for their new content.
For current clients requesting a re-design, we put the finishing touches on their revised look. The team is familiar with clients’ previous challenges, letting us to prepare the changes that will come to their plans.
Most importantly, we rest and take time off, while things are still calm.
Once Labor Day passes, the pace has begun to change, rapidly. More and more emails go between consultant and client. Things are begging to go into layout. Drafts pass back and forth. Printers and quantities are confirmed. Postage estimates start to come through. Finally, by the middle of the month, you realize open enrollment is here.
The first few campaigns make their way to press and mailing invoices need to be paid ASAP. Small, inevitable delays in production cause jobs to be sent to press a day late. But, our always savvy printers have already taken delays into account and fulfill requests by the mail date!
When I first came onboard, open enrollment was described to me as a wave. Just before it comes to shore, there is a drawback, then a small surge, then before you know it you are riding the crest of the wave. Before you know it, the wave has dissipated and you are back in the calm again. It’s really the best analogy I’ve ever heard for the period.
By now we are riding the crest of the wave. If you have done your homework and worked your best to prepare, it’s a blast. While everything is down to the wire, the rush of rapid turnaround does not leave any time for indecisiveness. We make decisions quickly and hammer out projects with speed and efficiency. It’s not unheard of to have daily deadline. Hundreds of emails that need your attention and response flood your inbox. The headset of your phone is permanently attached to our ears as we call printers with last minute changes and updates on any delays.
As October closes, things begin to wind down. We still ride the wave, but it’s lost much of its energy. Final jobs make their way out the door. We see print samples and mailing seeds. Our focus moves from communications to the implementation of employee benefits by the end of the year. Campaigns draw to a close and by Thanksgiving, things are ‘normal.’
Of course, with all our prep, our open enrollment season will be text book perfect! I’m prepared, are you?
Earlier this month I decided to print a tee shirt. Not only did I end up with a cool shirt but since I engaged in a creative and stimulating mental activity, I gave my intellectual wellness a good workout.
All of the steps seem simple enough: create a design, print the design onto a transparency, make a screen, burn the design onto the screen, and squeegee the design onto a shirt.
The execution of these steps…not so simple.
The design needs to be manipulated, so it translates correctly. The transparency image must be opaque. The mesh has to be stretched and glued banjo skin tight. The photo emulsion needs to be evenly applied. The screen exposure time has to be determined. The squeegee pressure and angle should be consistent. Each of these processes relies on the other and each has a major impact on the end result.
I enjoy printing tee shirts because it is a challenging and creative endeavor, which builds on many of the skills I’ve developed throughout my graphic design career, including my current position on Trion’s Communications Practice. On this team, I create a wide variety of media including animated videos, websites, html emails, open enrollment guides, postcards and infographics that our clients use to communicate employee benefit information to their employees.
Working with an old school process and medium is a rewarding and inspirational change of pace from my daily computer based projects. There are plenty of things to learn and hands-on skills to master—in the graphic design world and beyond–which is good news for my intellectual wellness.