There is a lot of buzz going on in recent times about design. After the pandemic struck, the need for design agencies shot up in the market as new crop of small businesses, a lot of them — went online. Even traditional companies were looking for effective ways to do so.
But is going digital as simple as just making a website on a template?
No, it is definitely much more. And that’s where the designers step in.
Though a lot of designers are good at understanding the end user, they neglect to focus on the impact they create on the business they are working for, which in turn impacts its positioning in the market.
It is time for designers to pull up their sleeves to understand more about business.
One of the most important aspects for any design business is to look at the way they position themselves in the market. This article explains the importance of internal branding and internalising brand values while positioning the agency in the market. It is about everything I learnt during my internship with Frozen Iris.
For you to make a business out of design, start by learning to design your business
But what is design?
When I decided to do my summer internship in a design agency, I had zero knowledge about the industry but had the enthusiasm to learn. To start off with, the aim was to understand the essence of design. After a lot of research, attending talks of designers and leaders, endless searches on different design agencies and talking to the in-house designers, the prime thing gauged is that ‘Design is a process of solving problems’.
A famous quote that intrigues me about design —
“A Design is to Design a Design to produce a Design”
After this extensive search, here are a couple of quotes from thought leaders that stimulate one’s thought process on design and impact they have on a business.
“Design is a plan for arranging elements in such a way as to best accomplish a particular purpose” — Charles Eames
“Design Strategy is a link between creation and a business challenge” — Hari Nallan
Where do business and design meet?
Design is an industry, a buzzword in recent times since it’s recognised to cultivate innovation. A simple diagram below explains the phenomenon:
When a business (viability); design (desirability); technology (feasibility), all three come together, it leads to innovation. This is the process, also called design thinking, plays a crucial role in the start-up ecosystem.
One of the major challenges one will face while understanding design is that there is no standard definition that is agreed upon by the majority. There are multiple interpretations of design. It will boil down to what one feels justifiable and applicable to you that is related to your work.
The Business of Design
It was critical to understand the business of design and there is often a gap seen while communicating with the clients. There are four important aspects that one needs to consider when one is in the business of design:
- Right Focus. This involves understanding the actual problem that the company is facing. Once identified, companies quantify the impact of design like the adoption rate, retention, consumer satisfaction level, user engagement and efficiency.
- Right Alignment. It talks about how the problem needs to be dealt with the correct set of tools. Like the use of appropriateness of correct service that needs to be used for the client to solve the problem
- Governance. The design agency needs to identify the top 5 problems, what to do with the issues, how have you made an impact. Focus on the portfolio as it would project factors like talent, research insights, design experiments and maturity of the problems.
- Right Language. When going to a client, we need to focus on the correct language that needs to be used with the client. This becomes very important as the other party needs to understand the value that is provided to their business.
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Every company has and stands on its own values. During my internship at Frozen Iris, I was able to draw a direct relationship between the company’s values and the positioning of the company. Interesting right! It is all in the magic of internal branding.
Internal Branding is generally referred to as a continuous process where you ensure that your employees understand the ‘who’ and ‘why’ behind your business proposition. A company’s morale, culture and productivity can affect the overall business of the company. If the employees don’t understand what the company stands for it would be difficult to represent the true company image to the clients.
Start with Values
For example, Frozen Iris stands on four strong value pillars; Integrity, Relentlessness, Transparency and Responsibility. These values are indirect emotions that are communicated through marketing, approaching the potential clients, in the duration of the project and activities post projects are just to name a few. It is the intrinsic value that needs to be bought by the employees of the company and can’t be achieved without them fully empathising on these values. If not prioritised, one may run in the likelihood of constructing a gap between on how the company operates internally and how it is perceived externally. Isn’t that what positioning is all about?
Building on Values
The importance of developing and nurturing a company’s culture is growing. Culture talks about the shared values and beliefs established by the leadership that shape employees’ perceptions, behaviours and understanding. If employees don’t align with the thought process of the leadership team, there is a high risk of different voices across different platforms that will have a direct impact on brand perception and image. It becomes a necessity to drive a company with the purpose and make employees excited about the business, give them something to be proud of and a reason to be the brand promoters.
The Brand Positioning Exercise
In marketing classes, one of the first concepts introduced is positioning. Positioning is the perception of the brand in the consumer’s mind. Frozen Iris wants to position itself as a brand agency in the market. Therefore, a positioning statement was written and says, “A strategic design practice helping brands scale through the first principles of design.” But does positioning end with a positioning statement? No. It is something that takes a lot of time and effort to imprint into consumers mind.
There are two things that need to be kept in mind, voice and tone. Voice is the brand personality that it entails which is derived from the positioning statement and tone is the expression of the personality. Voice is always constant but tone isn’t. The first thing is there needs to be a good understanding of the principles and positioning of the brand internally to maintain consistency. There is a common misconception that marketing is all about promotion but promotion does play an important role but isn’t restricted
There were a series of experiments in the tone of the brand to project the voice. We made changes to the pitch deck and changed it to deliver the message it is intended to. We tried to re-design emails sent to the clients. The marketing posts across social media platforms started incorporating the positioning. All these were done to ensure consistency and shed the same message from all directions.
To conclude, it is important for any design agency to understand the craft of differentiating yourself from others. The core of any design agency is the people working towards bringing out the best design to make a real impact. Unless you as a leader bring in consistency to their thoughts and approaches, it would be very difficult to make a real change in the perspective of the client. A strong knit team who share similar vision and aspirations becomes vital to define who you are as a brand. Therefore, we believe that internal branding is the foundation to position any design business.