Design is now a must-have in silicon valley

Designby Tony Fannin, CEO/Partner, BE Branded  |

In the heady days of the late 1990’s until 2010, design counted for little in online world. And there was a few good reasons. New tech drew people without having to be aesthetically pleasing. SEO was based on key words and phrases, not design. Google didn’t value design, they determined everything through testing, even the color of a link. That has worked fine, until it didn’t.

In the last few years, marketers have began to realize that effective online marketing must include great design. Here are a few reasons why this attitude has shifted from “tech is all you need” to “it’s got to be beautiful”:

• The rules of SEO has changed – Before, SEO only addressed the tech side of the search equation. Now, many SEO firms are singing an old song. They realize it is the complete brand experience that makes effective SEO. Yes, it includes effective key words and links, but consumers are much more savvy and don’t liked being “tricked”. They are searching out brand experiences. Now days, true SEO is about integrated brand experiences across multiple platforms and media channels. (This is something we old timers have always believed). It includes meaningful social media, branding, positioning, culture, mission, PR, advertising, promotions and many others. There is a great whiteboard that charts out this point (for more on this, see my blog post: SEO isn’t what it used to be). So how does design effect SEO? Your “brand dressing” as Apple calls it, must evoke everything that you stand for. Apple believe it so much they went to court over design with Samsung (and won).

• Great design is now expected – It is no longer good enough for your tech to work. That is expected. Now people expect it to be beautiful. Great design is no longer an option, it’s mandatory. Design is front and center from web sites to mobile apps. Properties like Pinterest, Airbnb and Path, have founders who are also design leads.

• Design is where the money is going – VC firms, like Kleiner Perkins, are putting their money where the future lays, design. When they look at digital investments, they are now looking for design talent that is equal to technical prowess. They’ve even set up a Design Fellowship Program to pick great design students to work at digital companies. A quote from Google’s Larry Page, “Google needed to be not just smart and fast, but also beautiful.” He said this to a graphic designer who was hesitant to join Google because of their history to not value design.

More new companies are going to have great design baked into their DNA from the beginning. We have already seen this in the last 3-4 years. When it comes down to it, tech has become a commodity. Once an idea has launched, within months, you’ll find 5 more sites or apps that will do the same thing. The only differences are how well defined is the brand, how beautiful (or ugly) is the graphic experience, and how consistent is the brand experience across multiple media channels.

The rise of design is causing many tech companies to make a cultural shift from subordinating all functions to engineering to raising design as an important part of the brand experience. They must change because this is what the market place demands. In the end, we are people, not machines. Beauty matters. Emotion matters. This is all part of the “human” experience.


About Be Branded

Tony Fannin is of President of BE Branded, an integrated marketing firm who helps clients BE Somebody to their customers. If you aren't somebody, then you are commodity.

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