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February 2022

A Better Design Manifesto


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A manifesto for better design, branding and visual identity design. 

A. Ask questions

Be constantly curious, like a magpie. Ask why, then ask it again. Don’t always settle for the first answer 

B. Bring the outside in

Absorb the world around you, like a sponge. Take everything in, then make note of it. Everything can be inspiration if you just look hard enough

C. Concept is key

Having an idea at the core of what you design is imperative. Come up with a good concept and everything you create becomes easier

D. Do things differently

Don’t follow the crowd. Crowds are hard to find people in. Go against the grain and walk in the other direction. That’s where the gold is

E. Empathy is the most important design tool you have

Walk a mile in the customers’ shoes. See, feel, touch, taste, smell the world through their eyes. Then design

F. Follow the brief, not trends

Trends come and go. Your brand should be here to stay. Follow the brief, not the new cool thing

G. Grow with what you know

Learn new things. Then apply them. Strive to be better and then do something with what you’ve learned. Always be planting new seeds, then watch them grow

H. Home isn’t just a place, it’s a feeling

Home is about belonging, it’s fundamental to being human. Branding can create a sense of belonging for people, this builds trust and trust builds a business 

I. Inside out design

Take an inside-out approach to design. Put your brand at the heart, think about how it feels before putting pen to paper and visualising it

J. “Just design”

Don’t underestimate the power of design. There is nothing “just” about it. It matters

K. Know what you don’t know

Always be open to learn. Accept that you will never know it all so be really good at one thing and then do it really, really well

L. Less is more

But not in a minimalist vs. maximalist sort of way. Strip it back, pair it down, distil. Keep removing until you are left with just the essence and nothing else is needed –  until you’ve found the core – then that’s the brand

M. Make it matter

Meaning is the most powerful thing you can create. Make something that means something to someone and your customers will fall in love

N. Nothing is original

An new idea is simply a combination of old elements. Connect things, steal things, re-work things until what you have is new and truly brilliant

O. Outside the box is the place to be

Inside the box things stay hidden. It is safe. Outside the box is where things get seen. It is brave to stay outside the box. Bravery is what will set you apart so do that. Be brave

P. Pigeon-holes are for birds not brands

Don’t get sucked in by repeating the same thing twice. Sticking to one thing or one style restricts. Great design expands

Q. Quality over quantity (except when it’s not)

Quality design, yes. But at the start of a project quantity is key. Get all the ideas out on the table, even the bad or weird ones. Quality control can come later

R. Read, read and re-read the brief

You will get sidetracked, probably many times, but you must get back on course. The brief (if it’s a good one) is the boomerang that must always come back to you, time and again until the project is done

S. Substance and style

Ideas are the substance, execution is the style and good design needs both. Make it beautiful, but make it matter

T. Trust your gut

Instinct will get you far, so trust it. Your gut and your brain are the greatest creative duo on the planet. Use them wisely and use them both

U. Use your head, but follow your heart

Ideas and thoughts are meaningless on their own. Make sure your idea lands with someone. Put your heart into it in order for it to earn a place in theirs.

V. Vision beyond the visuals

Uncover what makes a brand special, what’s its magic. What’s its endgame? Find out that, then make sure the visuals help guide you there

W. Wear blinkers, but don’t go in blind

Like a horse, wear blinkers. Look ahead, not around. Focus on the hurdles in front of you, not the other horses on the track. But don’t go into the race blind. Use your peripheral vision, be aware, but be a horse, don’t be a sheep

X. X-pect the unexpected

Strive to create the unexpected for people. Challenge them (and yourself) to do something left-field. Flip it, skew it, turn it into something they least expect. Delight

Y. You are not the client

Personal preferences, can be left at the door. That goes for designer and client. Branding is not about likes and dislikes, it’s about making the right decisions for the brand

Z. Zzz…the best ideas nearly always come at night

Step away from the idea, go to bed, go for a walk. Do anything else but work on the idea. Your best ideas will come when you’re horizontal

This post was inspired by this article

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Changes I have (and haven’t) made in my design business in 2021