We tend to think of design in terms of aesthetics. It’s about how things look, isn’t it?
Actually, as Steve Jobs instructively pointed out, design is not just about how something looks, but about how it works.
Here’s what he said:
“Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.”
In fact, there is not just one type of design – there are several. Understanding the differences between them will help you to make your marketing materials and website work harder for you and produce better results.
So, next time you approach your Design Agency and ask them to ‘pretty this up for you’, remember you are doing them – and yourself – a disservice.
Design is not about making things beautiful. It is about making them work beautifully.
Types of design
The word design itself suffers from being applied to so many things.
- Product manufacture
- And many other activities
So, let us get a little more specific and start talking about the types of design. We’re going to focus here on just three aspects: graphic design, web design and motion graphics design.
Graphic design is a form of visual communication that uses images, layout and other visual elements to convey ideas. Typically the graphic designer will work on material intended for print rather than on online marketing materials.
Logos, billboards, magazine adverts and catalogues are brought to life using typography, shapes, colour and images. The best graphic designers use static images that can convey a dynamic sense of urgency and help the eye flow naturally to calls to action and significant elements. They will have extensive knowledge of the print process itself, particularly the demands that different print environments and materials may have.
Interactive or web design
Creating a beautiful design that works is only part of the job you need when it comes to web design. Interactive or web designers must also understand the technology used to build websites if they are to successfully turn their designs into actual online experiences.
In addition, in today’s multi-device world, they must also know how to ensure that the designs work just as well as an app, on a mobile screen or on a desktop computer.
Landing pages, email newsletters, blog templates, entire websites and mobile apps are the digital spaces occupied by the interactive designer.
The complexity of web design has seen the emergence of several fields of speciality. Understanding each of these is critical to your overall appreciation of just how design can help you achieve your goals.
User experience (UX) design
A UX designer focusses on ensuring that the experience people have using a site, app, or tool is positive. They plan and test to create digital materials that are easy to use and not confusing.
Sometimes they are referred to as user interface (or UI) designers because their main concern is the overall user journey through the site, not just how individual pages work.
Their work also shares many similarities with interaction designers whose main concern is usually improving the conversion rates of a website by facilitating a smoother and more appealing sign-up or checkout process.
- How do people move around the site?
- What happens when people click on this button?
- Why do people not click on this button?
- Will changing the colour, position or size of a widget influence user behaviour?
To gain insight into these areas user experience designers employ user testing, sometimes with a panel of users but more often using A/B testing on the live site.
Information architecture (IA) design
The IA designer is usually involved in the very early stages of a website. They will create a blueprint that tries to organise and structure it in the most understandable way.
This may involve wireframes (or templates) for individual pages but it will always involve work on the navigation and menu structure of your site. Their main challenge is how to simplify without losing the visibility of content.
Information architects do not all come directly from a design background but may have first mastered the art of classifying large amounts of material as a writer, editor, journalist, librarian or psychologist.
Motion Graphics Designer
If a graphic designer must tell your story effectively through static images and layouts, and a web designer must allow users to find their own story through interaction, the motion graphics designer must create a moving narrative from moving pictures.
It’s an important role: studies have found that conversion rates for sites that use video are as much as 64-85% higher than those that do not. Why is this? It could be to do with the fact that 57% of consumers say videos give them more confidence and our brain can processes visuals 60,000 times faster than laborious text.
(These stats are taken from this rather wonderful SEMRush blog post.)
The work of the motion graphics designer may evolve painstakingly frame by frame but its effects are instant.
They may create an explainer video for a new service, a promotional video for a product or an animated presentation for a company, but they always bring movement to otherwise static images, text, illustrations and more.
They will typically start by creating storyboards that map out each scene based on a script. From there, they put the scenes and images together, adding motion and graphical elements to ensure it creates a strong and compelling narrative.
Each designer above works in a different way to achieve different effects. There is a world of difference between an information architect designer and a motion graphics designer.
Yet, when you understand what they can do, they will all help your marketing and online presence work beautifully.