Effective Design

Developing new products and services rapidly and effectively is a very important skill in many businesses and the ‘decision to design’ can commit the business to hundreds of thousands of pounds and many months of work, as well as significant risk. The focus needs to be on minimising cost whilst reducing the time taken to develop the product or service and reducing the business’s risk exposure.

The problems with traditional design processes are that they occur sequentially and often involve ‘over the wall engineering’ in that one department ‘throws’ the design to the next department who then have to unpick the problems that have been designed in, often at great cost. In manufacturing companies, often the design engineers will not understand the production process and will design a product which cannot easily be made, or is too expensive, and in service companies often the marketing team will not understand in detail the operations function and will promote a product which is difficult to manage effectively – both examples of dysfunctional and sequential design.

During WWII, the need for rapid product development was recognised and the concept of Concurrent Design (CD) was born. The backbone of CD is the formation of a multi-function team consisting of designers, production, quality and test engineering personnel and key suppliers to develop a new product. This changes the cash flow profile (ie more money is spent earlier on), but can easily reduce the ‘time to market’ and post-design changes by 75% as well as reducing the actual development spend by up to 40%.

CD is a concept which is viable for both manufacturers or service sector businesses, but for manufacturers is complemented by Rapid Prototyping tools and techniques which have evolved to a new level of sophistication over the last 20 years, again reducing the time taken to receive solid models from weeks to hours and contributing to shorter development times.

Reducing time to market for new products and service can be shown to have many benefits including increased market share, longer product lifecycles and higher margins, but requires collaboration between departments and companies and the adoption of new practices and processes in the design value stream.

What I Learned In Design School: 9 Key Principles of Effective Design

1. Organization. There are seven essential elements to any design-line, direction, shape, size, texture, value, and color. The process of graphic design is the awareness of all of these elements, and organizing them in a way that allows each to interact in a meaningful way. It’s the placement of text, graphics, white space, and backgrounds that lead the eye through the hierarchy of information on the page.

2. Balance. Once all of the elements are placed on the page, it’s important to balance the weight of the text, graphics, color, and positive and negative space. Without balance, the eye gets confused, doesn’t know where to go weight of any of these elements are related to it’s size, density, and color. Essentially, an element that is large and contains darker, more saturated color is “heavier”, and will need other elements on the page to distribute the weight as evenly as possible. My trick is to squint while viewing the page to make sure the heavier elements are balanced.

3. Contrast. Big, small. Short, tall. Contrast occurs when two elements are different. The greater the difference, the greater the contrast. In design, big and small elements, black and white text, squares and circles, can all create contrast. Contrasting elements immediately attract attention.

4. Rhythm. Repetitive elements similar in nature, such as sidebars and figures, can create a visual rhythm that will unify the design. These elements are picked up as “pulsations” and causes the eye to briefly pause as it moves around the page. These pauses and shifts in rhythm can bring attention to important information.

5. Readability. Even if all of the key principles of design are followed, attention is lost without content that is readable. Factors such as size, background, and letter spacing determine the readability of text. And, studies indicate that some text is more readable than others. For instance, serif typefaces, such as Times New Roman, are slightly more legible than sans-serifs, such as Helvetica, for long body copy. And, three quarters of all readers prefer black text on a white background.

6. Proximity. The distance between elements on a page creates a bond, or lack thereof in a design. If elements are related to each other, for instance, they should be placed on the page together. Unrelated elements should not be in close proximity. The process of grouping related information and graphics creates visual cues, which help the reader scan and absorb the information easily.

7. Consistency. While working to achieve a successful design, keeping the overall aesthetic integrity of the elements of the page must be considered. This means keeping all of the visual and typographic elements simple and clear, and applying these styles uniformly. For example, using the Garamond Bold typeface in orange for all subheads, or framing all customer testimonials in a 3 point green border. There should be an overall visual system to all of the elements that unify the design into a coherent whole. Consistency brings recognition, which makes the reader more comfortable, and more likely to respond.

8. Demographics. Gender, age, social, physical, and cultural demographics play a key role in who will pay attention to the design. Before starting any design, research is required to understand the audience, and tailor specifically to their needs. For instance, a brochure targeted to seniors over 60 should incorporate a larger (minimum 12 point) and more readable (Serif) typeface throughout. Also, use a color palette that is more appealing to the 60 and over audience.

9. Color. Last, but certainly not least, is the use of color in design. Color is a key principle that affects everything we’ve talked about so far: organization, balance, contrast, rhythm, readability, proximity, consistency, and demographics. Similar colors will bond elements together (light blue and dark blue), just as colors located on opposite sides of the color wheel (purple and yellow) will create visual contrast, rhythm, and balance on the page. Studies have shown that women are more sensitive to color than men, women prefer reds, and men prefer blues. Therefore, audience demographics must be considered before choosing a color palette.

Graphic design is a creative process that combines art and technology to communicate ideas. The designer’s job is to work with a variety of communication tools, images and typography to convey a message from a client to a particular audience. Using these basic principles from Design school, can help anyone design a piece that is both beautiful and functional.

How to Effectively Design a Website When Advertising For Lawyers

Websites, when done properly, can be very effective advertising for lawyers. Today I will focus on why you need multiple calls to action on your law firm’s website.

Different people react in different ways to pictures, text, graphics, etc. on your website. This is why we give them various ways to interact with each call to action.

Since we don’t know what others will find appealing it is important to provide different ways for an individual to contact us. We have to remember that what appeals to us will not attract the attention of someone else.

As an illustration, say I want to write a guide that appeals to people with legal problems in my field of practice. What I need to do is display a professional looking graphic of the guide which also is a link to download page where a prospect receives the guide in exchange for contact information. In addition, I will write a short sentence underneath the graphic which links to the same download page. This way, I will capture people that wish to click on the picture as well as the text.

Another example is listing your phone number on all the pages of your site as well as a graphic and text links to receive free case evaluations. This will appeal to users that are ready to talk about their issue now as opposed to someone that is at another stage in the process. For instance, someone downloading an e-book may still be doing research, whereas the others are ready to talk today. Either way, I am providing outlets with which they can contact me.

“If a prospect wants to contact me they go to my contact us page!”

I agree that your website should have a contact us page, but you have to think about why a prospect wants to contact you. Think about things from their perspective. They have a problem they want addressed. Give them help with that problem in the form of a free e-book or consultation. When you do that, the prospect will have more incentive to call or fill out your form.

If you try out these methods on your firm’s website, you will see how online advertising for lawyers can help grow your practice.