Positioning Clients for Success
If you’re a design consultancy, you’re in a position to not only design and usher your client’s product to market, but to also help them succeed beyond the product launch. Some clients prefer going solo once a design is completed, but here at Whipsaw we enjoy finding opportunities to help clients during each step of the design process, from concept to branding. The needs of each client naturally vary from one to the next, but they all want the same thing: a market hit. While there’s no exact formula for achieving this, Whipsaw Director of Industrial Design Cole Derby and Senior Visual Designer Ting Yen have spent a combined 25 years helping clients create star products, and these are their pro tips.
#1: Keep Asking Questions
Some of the clients that approach us at Whipsaw will have the science of their innovation down, but simply don’t know how to arrange and compose it into a winning product that consumers will instantly understand and eventually love. Says Derby, “Our client Ceribell, for example, came to us with the overall concept of converting brain waves into sounds to detect seizures. In order to determine the design’s look and feel, we had a series of collaborative meetings to uncover the exact essence they were after, and we ended up designing a lightweight and comfortable EEG headband.”
Another type of client is one who believes they have everything done and just wants a bit of design tweaking. Says Derby, “In many of those cases we often find that everything actually isn’t done. We examine the product and start asking questions, and by the end of a three-hour interview the client usually realizes there’s a lot they hadn’t considered. Our relentless digging into the problem always nets some new insights and breakthroughs and we may end up adding user research, UX or branding into that project as a result.” The more questions you ask up front, the less likely it is that the client will face issues down the road.
#2: Don’t Overlook Packaging
Many companies underestimate how much effort actually goes into packaging and how long it takes to get it right, so it’s an area that often gets overlooked until late in the development process. It’s therefore important to incorporate packaging conversations into your initial discussions and encourage clients to think of their product and its package as a holistic presentation to the consumer. The most successful clients tend to anticipate all phases of a product’s development, from the very first sketches to how it will eventually be featured on the shelf. “Before a customer sees and touches the product you’re designing, they usually experience it for the first time as a package. That’s a golden opportunity to make a strong first impression of the brand,” says Derby.
#3: Mind Your Corporate Identity
Many startups avoid spending money on branding, which is a mistake because if they don’t do a stellar job marketing their product no one is going to know about it in the first place. A classic example of a startup that put its product and branding on the same level is Method, as the company’s Co-founder Eric Ryan understood people would believe in the product if they believed in the brand. Oftentimes, however, startups don’t know exactly how to represent themselves, and that’s where designers can weigh in. An easy starting point is to select the brand’s overall visuals. “The key for visuals,” says Yen, “is to ensure you’ve established a tight-knit family of fonts and colors…Cohesiveness is critical.” You can then work with your client to create a logo that ties nicely into that family. Yen notes, “After completing our design for Ceribell, for example, we created a logo that meshed with their brand’s clean aesthetic.” Or, if your client already has a logo that doesn’t effectively convey the brand, you can always offer to refresh it. “The important thing,” Yen notes, “is to urge your client to go professional. If they try to cut corners by doing the artwork themselves or using an amateur visual artist to save money, it will show.”
#4: Ensure Your Brand Is Emotionally Engaging
A recent study finds that 94% of consumers will recommend a brand if they feel emotionally engaged with it. Says Yen, “When it comes to visual storytelling, the images need to create an immediate connection. For clothing and underwear sites, for example, the advertising trend used to be to feature models with ‘perfect’ body proportions. This recently changed and now more sites advertise the same clothing on all body types. Customers now see themselves, and therefore identify with the brand better.” The best storytelling, whether visual or written, captures the product’s core essence while also evoking a feeling. Startups should therefore expect to generate original content about their product, and established companies should review their existing and future content to ensure it delivers an emotional impact.
#5: Be Prepared to Scale for a Hit
If you and your client suspect you have a star product on your hands, you should plan to scale production according to its exact supply and demand needs and data. Says Derby, “You don’t want a hundred thousand products collecting dust in a warehouse, nor do you want to be flying emergency product shipments to long-awaiting customers. I think some potential scaling issues could be prevented by picking the right manufacturing partners at the start, particularly ones that handle distribution. If you spend a little more on contract manufacturers where there’s a point person in the US you can talk to, you’re way better off.” Granted your client will need to pay more upfront, but then they won’t face costly distribution issues later. “If you go with the cheap guys,” warns Derby, “it’s like hiring a cheap mechanic. Your car is gonna keep breaking down.” If your client scales properly however, they can take a moment to relish in their success before moving on to their next smash hit.