Rush to the imbroglio en masse: Avoid design at your own risk


I’m quickly approaching the 15 year mark working in this evolving world of design, advertising, marketing or whatever-you-may-want-to-call-the-new-mash-up-of-things. I absolutely love what I do, which is really only helping businesses (aka people) introduce themselves to the world. I’ll develop an identity to a veterinary clinic that will serve the local community. I’ll create a website and help chefs discover an amazing new knife. I’ll produce a poster that will introduce a couple to a brilliantly directed film. Good design serves as a conduit between something someone has and something someone wants. Though my business is thriving despite this economic downturn, I’m troubled by what “experts” are pushing these days. Recently, companies seem to be focusing their money and efforts away from producing good design or even good businesses. Instead, they are spending it on what I’m calling the Great Social Networking Shitshow.

You might remember back to a heady time between 1998-2000 where everyone was pouring money into dot-coms hoping to hit the next big thing. Some companies made it, some companies didn’t. This isn’t an article deconstructing the history of the dot-com debacle – in fact, far from it. But remember that there was an overwhelming push to grow a company, rather than focus on good products or services. The idea was to expand, get marketshare, go public, and do it faster, quicker, and bolder than the next guy. There wasn’t a focus first and foremost on service or the customer because money was flowing. Until the money train stopped. And so the companies failed.

A common theme running through some of the surviving businesses is that they have a customer or product-centric focus. They didn’t jump on the internet just because it was the time to do it. Ebay killed the concept of local print classified ads. Google provided the gold standard of internet search. Amazon became an online shopping powerhouse. Yes, these are the three most popular of this era. Yes, they are huge companies with enormous infrastructure. But what’s behind all three? They fill the needs put forth by their potential customers.

So what’s the big story now? Let’s all say it together: Social networking! Get your twitter feed up now people! Rock that facebook profile and make sure people are fans of your – um – dental practice. I’m sick of it already. It offers so little return for so many of my clients. Perhaps I’m minimizing the value. Perhaps I should be pushing – and heavily billing – all my clients to do something they can do for free. The long and short of it is, you may or may notneed to be involved in the social space that’s currently all the rage. You may or may not need to spend precious hours that could have been put to better use. You may or may not need to spend limited marketing resources that might have been better spent elsewhere. It all depends on your business and it all depends on your customers. Maybe the reason we’re not fully out of this recession is that we’re spending millions of human hours on this Great Social Networking Shitshow.

It is an undeniable fact that good design can help any and all businesses. And chances are, you can’t do it on your own. Don’t believe in the power of design? This place makes bags to pick up dog shit look awesome. They are just bags. For your dog’s shit. And they are awesome. Imagine what design can do for your company! Take that dental practice I mentioned earlier. A beautifully designed site complete with useful information for your clients would help attract potential and repeat customers. A complete business package for a logo, cards and letterhead would heighten the perception of professionalism for the practice. Assuming your are a decent dentist, good design will help bring your business to another level. Daily tweets on root canal procedures? I don’t think so.

So to sum up:

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