Powerful design that connects with people on an emotional level can do amazing things — like moving millionaires to give vast sums of their money away and getting kids to break their piggy banks to help others because it’s the right thing to do. Vibrant posters that convince us to eat better or daring bumper stickers that help change behavior are products of good design. See Bill Weger’s latest column in the October 2014 issue of Public Relations Tactics, published by the Public Relations Society of America.
Effective multicultural design not only influences buying decisions, but it can also increase social engagement and mobilize communities to save lives and improve quality of life. Great design puts both the creative and rational sides of the brain to work to master the art and science of persuasion. We all form opinions about design based on our own unique perceptions, culture and experiences. Salient design speaks to us, often reflecting tradition, history, culture, humanity, nature, thought and the future.
So what makes compelling graphic design?
4 things design must do
Multicultural design that creates space in the mind and builds loyalty must do four things:
1. Earn trust.
It’s important to understand your audience and expand your cultural lens. Review demographics, including consumer buying data, media habits, reading levels, educational background and social trends that impact your audience. Know the traditions, values, heritage, religious beliefs and social environment of your stakeholders. Be authentic. People must feel comfortable that you have done your homework. Consistency and a commitment to excellence are vital to establishing trust. For example, “A mind is a terrible thing to waste” has been the slogan of the United Negro College Fund for more than 40 years. It’s a strong message and it sticks.
2. Evoke emotions.
The best design strikes an emotional chord within us. It makes us laugh or cry. It tells a story and taps into the human experience, including memories and unconscious dreams. Be sure that your images are respectful and relevant to the culture. Avoid stereotypes and use imagery that is inclusive and representative of your target audience. Make certain that your design and content flows and is easily digestible to the reader.
3. Stimulate the senses.
Exceptional design touches us in real ways by stimulating the senses. Through our senses, especially our eyes, we absorb information that we quickly tag as meaningful or irrelevant. The more often the five senses are involved, the stronger the response is.
Brands come in many shapes, sizes and scents and arouse the senses, which send data to the brain for processing and combine with stored messages from past individual experiences. Carefully selecting the correct use of symbols, illustration, lines, art, typography and, most important, colors for your campaign or product can stimulate the senses. Remember that colors have varying degrees of impact on the nervous system and on individuals based on life experiences, gender, culture and age.
4. Inspire action.
Whether you’re promoting safety belt use or launching a new commercial product, it’s important that your design inspires action. Let your story and your design set the stage for a persuasive call to action. Then communicate it clearly and succinctly.
Organizations interested in truly connecting with multicultural audiences must invest in excellence and take their design and visual communication to the next level. Push the creative envelope. We often hear “think outside the box” but who put us in a box in the first place? In other words, create freely and without borders. Be visionary. However, don’t lose sight of your design purpose and the audience. Think and feel as your audience does and the inspiration will come. Test your designs to determine their value to intended stakeholders.
Exceptional design turns the ordinary into the extraordinary. Efficient and effective design is never wasteful. We only remember what is memorable.