Ever been to a tailgate party at a bank, an insurance office, or a hospital? Not likely.
I just returned from a speaking gig at an awesome event hosted by the Creative Director for the Houston Astros. The event brought together leading creative thinkers in the sports world, including creative leaders from the MLB, the NBA, MLS, and the NFL. It was three days of great stories, great ideas, inspirations, and attacking shared challenges.
During the event, I heard RiCardo Crespo of th13teen Brand Advisory suggest that marketers and design teams that design for traditional businesses like banks are in a category that he calls Design for Commerce. While these are important businesses, they are not likely to inspire tailgate parties in their parking lot. But there is another group of businesses that absolutely do inspire tailgate parties. They also inspire t-shirts, personal fan pages, and even tattoos! And the designers that work for these brands are in a category RiCardo labeled Design for Culture. At this event I was surrounded by representatives who designed for these types of businesses.
Sports teams, bands, movies, and TV shows that excite customers to get behind their brand all fall into the Design for Culture category. But there are some that go even further than this. For example, The Seattle Seahawks hype the 12th man, The Grateful Dead have their Dead Heads, Star Wars fandom is legendary; in these cases the customer actually becomes the brand. How cool is that?
Since I look at design through the lens of a company founder that created tools for designers to “Do the work they love. Automate the rest”, I couldn’t help but think about what challenges the Design for Culture designer may face that others in the design community might not. I can confidently say that the number one challenge they face is velocity. The need to get stuff done fast.
These design teams are constantly faced with the deadline of the next game, concert, or episode. This presents a unique challenge. Last night’s team performance or the latest hit TV show necessitates a fresh new design to be created for customers – aka fans – in the blink of an eye. Not to mention the fact that fans expect the highest standards for quality and creativity; they won’t tolerate weak representations of “their” brand. So how do Designers for Culture manage these challenges? Here are some tips I think will help. And even if you are a Designer for Commerce, many of these tips can serve you well.
- Automate project requests
Creating a brand new project plan, filling out worksheets, making assignments, etc. for every single project can be a time-suck. But there’s good news: you’ve done this work before. You already know every task for creating work – whether it’s a web page, print, email, or video clip. So create a pre-populated form for each type of work. Pre-populate all the fixed details and simply allow for an acceptance of the defaults. Provide an editable space for what changes you or your client may want, such as venue, dates and/or times. And that’s it!
- Template recurring designs
Create design templates for different types of creative work by thinking through last year. Web pages, print, and social are best served by templates that set you off on the right path. When you need to create new work, simply start from your template and update the photos, tag lines, and body text. You can still be hyper creative in your imagery and language, but eliminate your struggle with layouts. Another upside of templated designs is that it enables junior designers to take on more work while freeing up the senior designers focus on the initial concepts and layouts.
- Approval part 1 – Creative Rationale
When you submit content for review, include a simple description that provides the reviewer with the goal of the piece – i.e. “this piece was created to drive ticket purchase for day-of-event.” That way the lens for which they review is aligned with your design objective. Also provide direction on what exactly needs to be reviewed – “Please review and confirm the price”. Better and more specific direction to reviewers eliminates versions.
- Approval part 2 – Systematize routing for review and approval
Map your process. Multiple stakeholders are often required on signoff. Set order and rules so that review and approval is consistent. Which stakeholder goes first and should it even progress to the second stakeholder if early review edits are required? Define the requirements in an if/then format so that you can manage and adjust rather than send haphazard updates. Get consensus on what gets reviewed and what doesn’t. These are often tough choices but in the end will allow you to focus on what matters.
- Anticipate ahead of this year’s design needs
You probably had events that triggered reactive design needs last year. This year make them proactive. Look out over the course of last year to help you inform what needs should be anticipated for the new year, season, or tour. Further that idea by getting pre-approval on designs that you may or may not use to eliminate the need for review cycles. Use past experience to your advantage.
There is a thread of advice that may seem counter-intuitive given the challenge of going faster. But the wise know better; slow down to speed up. Take time to think and map through processes, whether you design for commerce or creative. Done right, folks will be so excited to work with you they’ll be setting up tailgate parties and cheering you on in your parking lot as you build your creative teams fan base.
Let’s go D-SIGN!