Why design is finally having its day and being recognised as distinctly different from advertising

 
Matt Parkes
FRANCE-TOURISM-ACCOMMODATION-INTERNET-AIRBNB
Airbnb is among the firms that has recently launched a new brand logo (Source: Getty)

This year so far has been a big moment for brand stories.


A number of high profile rebrands have been hugely successful, while others have faced public scorn and confusion.

On the positive side, Airbnb’s transformation from its name to a symbol was radical, but clearly reflected the meaning behind the brand and was easily to interpret. The symbol represents two of the brand's key values, belonging and togetherness, so the change made sense and had purpose.

In another bold move, Google’s redesign was criticised by some, but there’s no denying that there is strategic planning and meaning behind the decision – every aspect of the new design represents an element of the brand and can be clearly explained and justified.

Uber’s recent rebrand was clearly an ambitious attempt to elevate itself into a global marketplace, but its new logo with different colours for different geographical regions was dismissed by many as confusing and obscure.


Read more: Ride hailing app Uber has changed its logo and branding

Added to this, it had removed the iconic "U" symbol, leading to numerous customer complaints that they could no longer find the app on their smartphone.

So why are these big rebrands happening and what makes them so important in the wider world of business?

The answer is the increasing appreciation of the power of design. Some of the world’s biggest brands have woken up to the role design can play and won’t think twice now about leading their marketing activity with a campaign based on a striking visual concept or an innovative new product design.

Historically, there’s been an argument that creative agencies tend to focus on landing the big idea, informed by a killer insight that enables the idea to travel effortlessly across different media, channels and markets.

Read more: Creating disruption: Advertising financial services and Nutmeg's new campaign

Added to this, there’s been a tendency for design agencies to be perceived as problem solvers, focusing on what was needed and crafting an idea within an inch of its life rather than thinking beyond the brief to use design to improve business performance.

But the tides are changing. More and more, we are seeing design agencies taking their seat at the brand development table earlier, and with more of a say, than ever before. And the results speak for themselves.

Not only does there seem to be more admiration for design than in previous years, but modern consumers have started to demand – and respond well to – ideas and concepts that are highly visual, shareable and memorable.

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