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Competitive Edge via Visual Communication Design There is possibly nothing else that empowers business leaders with potential leverage as much as is made possible via good visual communication design

By Milindo Taid

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"Visual communications of any kind, whether persuasive or informative, from billboards to birth announcements, should be seen as the embodiment of form and function: the integration of the beautiful and the useful." (Paul Randin 'Thoughts on Design', 1947)

The graphic design currently encompasses a broad area of interventions, including, but not limited to design for print - from the small ephemeral item (for e.g. a ticket or a stamp) - to publication design concerned with "exteriors and interiors' of a magazine or book. There are also the widespread systems of information design - corporate identities for companies, signage situated in the built environment, and exhibitions as well. Graphic designers also address "multi-media design', traversing traditional print media as well as screen-based design for television, film and computers. Last, but not the least, Graphic Design also includes design for advertising and posters, as well as logos, symbols and trademarks; and remarkably, visual design lies at the heart of generating interest in a brand or company.

Opening the New Doors

As competition in the marketplace offers myriad choices, most companies look towards making an emotional connection with customers, and in the process becoming irreplaceable, while creating long-lasting relationships, even for life. A powerful brand makes its distinct presence felt in a fiercely competitive, often densely crowded marketplace. People "fall in love' with some brands believe in their superiority, trust them, and therefore keep going back to them; a "stickiness' facilitated centrally by well-conceived and executed visual communication design. How a brand is perceived has a direct bearing on its failure or success, regardless of whether it's a product, a service, nonprofit, or even a start-up. Good design is good business.

It can be said that businesses are currently only as strong as their brands, and there is possibly nothing else that empowers business leaders with potential leverage as much as is made possible via good visual communication design. If one were to tease out the primary functions of brands, they will read as:

a) Navigation: Brands aid people in making a choice from a plural array of choices

b) Reassurance: Brands put across the essential quality of a service or product and reassures people that they have made the correct choice

c) Engagement: Brands use particular, specific imagery, associations and language to help people identify with the brand

The good visual design integrates "the beautiful and the useful" in helping customers navigate the marketplace while being reassured and at the same time, connecting positively with a brand. Business leaders with vision invest in good visual design.

Branding as a Tool

Branding clearly is a disciplined process that is used to cement customer loyalty and extend awareness as well. Think for a moment of any of your favourite brands, and you will understand how effective branding cements loyalty. In business, branding calls for a mandate from top management with a willingness to invest in the future. Branding is unabashedly about grabbing each opportunity to communicate why people should choose one brand over another. In leveraging branding, companies express a desire to be market leaders, outpacing the competition, and arming the employees with the very best tools to reach customers.

Steady investment in design is certainly rewarded by the steady sharpening of competitiveness. The brand strategy clearly articulates and defines positioning, differentiation, a unique value proposition and the competitive advantage! One of the most influential visual communication designers – Milton Glaser - called a logo "the gateway to the brand.' Cutting edge visual design engages imagination, emotion and intelligence in a way that no other outcome does, all the while cementing customer recall and loyalty.


Milindo Taid

HOD, Visual Communication Design Department, School of Creative Arts, Whistling Woods International

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