Time for a Design Spring Clean

Every year around this time we think about giving our home, our office, and our life a spring clean. Applying some professional wardrobe de-cluttering theory and asking whether the jacket had an outing in the past 12 months, we ruthlessly bin the old and re-organise the new. It’s a positive experience similar to the feeling of packing light for a holiday or moving into a new house or office – although some secret hoarding issues may be unearthed.

So we organise our physical space but what about the brands we manage? Day-to-day workload means we have a long urgent to-do list but an even longer must-get-to-it-one-day list. Likewise, clients have a similar list. When was the last time you as a client looked at everything (I mean everything) your organisation created in the last year and ruthlessly item by item asked some tough questions?

Did this do what we wanted it to do? Do we even know if it did? Should we do this again next year? Does our work look like 10 different brands or one? And so on. Many big brands seem to be so busy delivering that little thought has gone into the ordering anymore. There seems to be an element of “the usual please” in your local pub or favourite restaurant. The question “why are you doing that?” is often met with, “because we always do”. Just look at some retail, utility and telco work out there.

The core to being a designer is simplification and clarity. So take a day this month, say St Patrick’s Day. Surely it should be some sort of global eco day and excuse to drink to excess. It should be a day to dispose of deadlines, fill a room with everything you created in the last two years and start simplifying what you are doing. Apply a keep-it-or-bin-it ruthlessness to your decisions. Does it make the clarity cut? If not, it goes. The annual Up to the Light client survey, indicated that 78% of clients want to reduce agency costs (I’d go with 100%). The easiest way to do this is to create less. Less projects, less media spend, less printing and so on. Is the ‘less’ effective though is another question entirely. Your design agency can help with the process and it should be fun.

Some 80 percent of clients “look forward to meetings” with their design agency and 96 percent believe that design and creativity is an “enjoyable” part of their business lives. The report showed 66 percent of clients would like their agency to be more proactive about developing more cost-effective work practices. So here we are saying, let’s meet, let’s fill a few bin bags and sort out the communications clutter.

One of the surprising things about a brand spring clean can be the amount of deja vu moments. With corporate memories shortening, there may be a few ‘snap’ occasions where different silos – or even the same departments over time – have created from scratch some remarkably similar materials. So let’s simplify and start again now, but with quality not quantity as the priority.

Originally published in Marketing.ie Magazine March 2015.