Archives for posts with tag: designthinking

A while back I was asked by Patrick Stal from Interbrand if I would do an interview for their quarterly magazine IQ. This issue is all about digital and I had the opportunity to talk about digital branding and the role of design in this context. Read the full article below.


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As a designer I’ve been always a firm believer that there is no good design which is not based on a deep understanding of the people who will be using the thing I am designing. Understanding them and their context enables me as a designer to create something which is meaningful and relevant to my audience.

The confusion | Now there seems to always be confusion between what people want and what people need. Asking a person or a group of people (e.g. with a questionnaire) what they want, or what they think about something you have confronted them with will sure give you some valuable insights you should always take on board in your design project. But this will not tell you anything about their actual needs.

Ice cream at 8:30 am | Last summer I was on holiday with my son in Italy. When on holiday I tend to be, as most parents are, a bit more relaxed about what he eats (candy, ice cream etc) as that’s what holidays are for, right? So one morning after getting out of bed and making breakfast I ask my son what he would like to eat. His response was ice-cream! Mind you this was 8:30 am!!! Now as a responsible parent I did not give him ice cream, but prepared him some cereals with milk. He complained, of course, but I know I did the right thing.

Now back to the topic…

My son is not yet aware of what he NEEDS to grow up in a healthy way. What nutrients he needs that will give him enough fuel for the day. I have to have a deeper understanding about what is good for him in order to look beyond what he says he wants and actually provide him with what he needs to grow up a healthy child.

This is no different when designing anything for people. People often do not know exactly what it is they need.

So how do we surface these needs?

Now that we have cleared up this confusion, what remains is looking into where to start to uncover the needs that people have. Researching cultural, people, societal, economic and technological trends is where to start. Making future projections of what the drivers and motivations will be of people in the future will enable us to see things that people themselves do not yet see.

Use these drivers to inspire your ideas and design and let the creativity flow. Once the ideas materialize, this is when you want to confront people from your audience with your design to understand if what you’ve created resonates with them and to be able to gather the right insights to further tweak and finalize your design.

In 2008 Mark Churchman and I explored the notion of Brand Behavior in the article How to Make Sure a Brand Behaves Itself published in the Design Management Review of August 2008.

We made a case for the orchestration of all brands’ manifestations according to a set of core values a brand lives by next to the more traditional visual corporate identity.

Marty Neumeier, author the Brand Gap defines “A brand is the consumers feeling about your product, your services or your organization.” This basically means that it is the emotional reaction of a consumer when interacting or thinking about a brand. This is the exact same way we as humans relate to each other.

Relationships between people are based only for a very small part on appearance. Sure we are attracted at first maybe by how somebody looks, dresses etc, but very rapidly as the relationship deepens it is about WHAT someone does, and HOW he or she does it that determines whether the relationship is a good one, or a bad one. As people we never only see our identity as our name, and appearance. It is indeed an element that makes us recognizable, and through fashion we can somewhat express what we are about. But our identity is really formed by our core values that drive our actions and reactions.

Brand are like people. Building a meaningful and ongoing relationship with consumers has never been more essential for a brand than now. With the rise of the influential consumer with the WEB 2.0 revolution and the mobile revolution we are in, understanding the building blocks of a relationship is essential for successfully designing a brand identity that goes beyond a logo, a typeface and a color scheme.

In my opinion a Brand Identity 2.0 should be looked at from these 3 aspects: Why we do what we do, what we do and how we do it

Why we do what we do | First of all a brand obviously needs to be clear about its values, establish clearly what drives the brand. This has to be in line with the expectations of their audiences/consumers.

What we do | To keep a brand’s integrity and authenticity in social media space, what it does has to be driven by the why. The choice of which conversations to engage with and clearly defining what the things are a brand wants to say is key.

How we do it | Now here it becomes interesting from a design point of view, as this really is the actual manifestation of the brand. How the brand engages in social media needs to be carefully designed, written, and styled in such a way that the true character/identity of the brand is truly experienced by the audience.

So if the how is the manifestation of the brand, and therefore what consumers actually experience, this is the brand’s instrument to influence the emotional reaction consumers will have to a brand.

Designing a brand identity in social media has to go beyond the traditional guidelines describing visual elements. A brand needs to define why it engages, what will it say, and how will it say it. By delivering the right brand experience through the dialogue, building an authentic relationship with its consumers.

Am I making sense?

There are many definitions of the word “design”. It is both a verb and a noun, and as such we refer to many things as design.

I’ve noticed that most people refer to “design” when they speak about objects with certain aesthetical qualities. But as a designer of interactive media I have always felt very strong about design being the process we use to get to an end result, and not the result itself. Aesthetics are part of the process but not the only ingredient and certainly not the most important one.

In essence I like to look at the journey we go through as designers in 3 basic steps: Learning, exploring and creating.

Learning | On one side we observe the people we will be creating something for and the context in which they will use it. This to truly understand what it is that will be meaningful and of value to them. On the other we distill and frame the objectives from a business point of view.

Exploring | Based on our newly acquired understanding we explore new ideas. We create sketches where the essence of the ideas are visualized and the true meaning of the ideas is captured. The ideas that best fit the business objectives are selected and refined until a specific idea can be selected.

Creating | The selected idea gets detailed out in all it’s elements: Function, aesthetics and technical specifications. Always keeping the people in mind who will be using whatever it is we are designing. We design for them, not for us.

Of course I have over simplified these steps, but to me this is really what it boils down to if I think of design.

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