Design is NOT a Beauty Pageant!

Design is NOT a Beauty Pageant!

I get it, you want your graphic designer to produce something beautiful and will invariably ask them to ‘”wow you” or to “make it pop”.

I wonder though, should you be asking that designer how she’s going to get your prospects and clients to read the piece? Isn’t it more about engagement than creating something that looks great? Any experienced designer can design the sexiest and slickest brochure, e-book or website, but if very few read it, then why bother?

When it comes to their brand, business owners and some marketers often focus on good looks over the purpose of the creative – which incidentally should be about attracting sales leads back to the business (phone, inbox or website).

Seasoned designers are highly skilled at capturing readers, and use type, imagery and colour to engage those readers through to the end, typically getting them to click on the call-to-action. And a solid creative agency will design your marketing material with engagement as their primary objective (as well as making the piece look great). When our studio creates a marketing piece, we’re more interested to hear how it performed over how it looked. Hence the reason we have the word “Results” in our tag line: Creative. Branding. Results.

To further illustrate my point, here’s a great story that will explain how misplaced objectives on creative can impact a business. And why you should be asking about engagement over beauty.

Several years back, our creative agency had a client that owned a rustic summer resort in cottage country. A nice place to spend the week with the family. Think Dirty Dancing, but without Patrick Swayze, and without the dancing.

At the first meeting, I found their marketing collateral to be tired and dated, and they were looking for help. But when I dug deeper, I found that they were not getting much traffic to their site – which meant that reservations were down, way down. Could the two issues be related? Absolutely, and that’s why they invited us in.

The discussion focussed on updating their branded material – logo, print brochures, website, and PPC banner ads. And the owners wanted, (and I quote) “a really slick high-end brochure, and a very sleek website to match”.  But when I asked them who their target market was, they told me “young families, middle income and barely able to afford a weeks stay.”

“Now we can do sexy and high end”, I told them, but that “would attract more affluent families, who would be sorely disappointed staying in your (ahem) rustic cabins”. Instead, I suggested a more modest approach and that we design the material to make your resort appear like the “value-based, fun-family resort” that it is, thus attracting the right audience.

They agreed, we went rustic, not sexy and it didn’t take long to get those reservations back up.

So if you still think design is a beauty pageant, then I’m ok being “Runner Up”. If it means our clients win big (by getting more leads), then we’ve done our job.

Greg Carmichael
Greg Carmichael

Greg is the Managing Director of Synergy Design, a creative branding agency in Streetsville (Mississauga), just outside of Toronto. Greg leads a talented team that creates effective marketing collateral for print and online, and he ensures their clients have a great experience working with them. To learn more, visit