Dating and Design Relationships: It's the Substance that Matters

Keith LaFerriere, Chief Experience Officer

November 11, 2015

Relationships… am I right? You may not realize what you're chasing, but I guarantee you should think twice before you do. New relationships are hard, regardless of the type. You have goals, they have goals and everything you do sets off a chain of events that may or may not leave you feeling like you've satisfied the desire or squashed the insecurities that either drive or thwart your progress.

Not surprisingly, dating and design relationships have a lot in common.

For example, beginning the dating process might look something like this:

Congrats, kid! You just landed the dream date of your life. This is the most attractive human you've ever seen. But, before you get all prim and proper for the big night out, let's keep in mind that you're about to very quickly go through a set of emotional checklist items that could change how you feel, or, for that matter, where you end up.

But, beginning the design process may look a little like this:

Congrats, kid! You just landed the dream job of your life. This is the sexiest brand you've ever worked on. But, before you dream of putting this thing into your “book” and bragging about your first launch, let's keep in mind that you're about to very quickly go through a set of business requirements that could change how you feel, or, for that matter, where you end up.

Neither of the above scenarios have a lot to do with one very important ingredient: SUBSTANCE.

Why Substance Matters

Imagine the dating scenario above playing out: you're sitting across from said amazing human and you've done enough staring to make them feel like raising the menu in front of their face. When you finally have the nerve to start a real conversation, your smile starts to slack. Slowly, your eyes begin to look around. Your brain starts to subconsciously manage the dead air or the awkward moments with filler content about your second cousin's video that you guaranteed to put on Facebook but totally forgot because, well, dating the amazing human.

That right there? That's why substance (or content, or valuable engagement, etc.) matters.

While that conversation is happening, you start multitasking (like, say, excusing yourself to the washroom so you can … uh… never come back).

That's a very bad thing for the start of a new relationship, but it's a killer to a new design. Can you imagine this being the situation for a brand that's trying to get you into the purchase path? If you don't give them any substantive content (or context), you'll lose them AND their intent to purchase.

Do We Need “Pretty”?

Yes! We absolutely do need the pretty. We need it to bring our brand to life and we need it to get people from the surface to the deep water content as quickly as possible. Which is to say, we need substance to go with the pretty. Unlike in the other scenario, our chances of successfully obtaining this is a heck of a lot higher than it is in the unicorn world of dating. We just need the right steps to get there.

Three Steps to Designing “Pretty” Substance

1. Decide what needs to be pretty - there are serious decisions you have to make that are completely influenced by

  • Your client relationship
  • Your budget
  • How much content you have at your disposal
  • Business requirements
  • Measurement and analytics
  • All the things! (Seriously)

2. Get the team to a manageable size - when you have too many people involved in a relationship (mother-in-law, second cousin… back-seat designer…) you can't possibly focus on the task at hand. There's no magic number, but keeping only the essential people involved for most of your effort is going to save you a lot of designing by committee.

3. Form = Function - design is not more important than engineering and engineering is not more important than design. Like any great relationship, it's a partnership. Include each other on brainstorming, planning and presentations and you'll have a much easier time getting to your goals.

Verndale employs a multi-step approach to getting content and context into our design. It's why we believe that the best experience is one that's born from great relationships and collaboration with each other and our client. Learn more about Verndale's XD offering or tweet at me @KDLBoston for more information using #VerndaleShares!