Finally, a video (shown below) that answers that age-old question, “How is Design Like Underwear?”
Good design and branding (as well as social media and user experiences) do their job best when they fulfill their roles without calling attention to themselves, just like good underwear.
Not Too Tight.
Not Too Loose.
Answer these questions:
- Ever wear underwear that looked good but, as the day went on, wasn’t cut out for the job of simply supporting you throughout all your daily activities?
- Ever put on a pair that become “public enemy #1” during your morning commute or simply after a couple of boardroom meetings?
- If you’ve done either of the above, you understand.
Very simply, underwear shouldn’t become a “necessary evil” — something we have to tolerate like medicine with the “it’s-good-for-you” warning mom gave us when we were young.
How a Good Brand Covers Its Own Assets
In the wrong hands, design is guilty of a number of things:
- Cosmetically covering up missteps without addressing the real business problems;
- Making things pretty or chaotic or whatever just for the sake of… whatever;
- Trying to be authentic as a “corporate initiative” (rather than building it into the culture);
- Being done for the sake of who-knows-what, resulting in branding solutions and strategies whose purpose is to eliminate problems brought on by poorly conceived design, and of course;
- Letting a committee guide the process at all. (No list would be complete without this last one, which causes an endless parade of ineffective decisions. The result reduces brands to an avalanche of bland crap that stale vanilla is welcomed as an exciting taste alternative).
Design is a tool of branding, not an end in itself.
It must further company objectives.
Like it says in the video below, design is like underwear. Listen for yourself.
If a brand is to have underwear (or be used as an analogy):
- it should function first,
- be practical first, and
- be comfortable first.
Design must solve those issues before it can solve anything else.
Which does not mean b-o-r-i-n-g. It just means, know your objective and target and use design to help your brand meet that target.
Don’t get me wrong–design is an extremely powerful tool.
So is language, imagery and user experience.
But branding is the grand unifier. It brings it all together so it SINGS. Like a conductor of an orchestra.
All together, well-orchestrated, what they can achieve are pretty much without equal.
But branding is like software: Just because you own it doesn’t mean you should use it.
Just like you wouldn’t use a Rambo-style bandanna or a handkerchief as underwear, you also wouldn’t use the wrong tools or talent for design or branding.
The lesson here is simple: Don’t put design, branding or underwear in the hands of those who are better off doing other things (like things they actually know about and can effectively perform).
Need some examples of design that supports? Here are some excellent posts that show and tell:
- 27 Years at Nike: “What I Learned about Branding”
- Milestone Systems: How an INC 5000 Company Got it Right
- Accessory Snobs rebrand: How the Wrong Logo Nearly Destroyed my Marriage
- Coco Polo Chocolate: Chocolate Makeover at the Fancy Food Show
- City of Osceola: 12.3 Billion Reasons Tourism Branding Makes Sense (the branding of a city)
- Glob Colors: Oscar Night, Prom Disasters and Rebranding
- and no list would be complete without How to Rebrand: 19 Questions to Ask Before You Start
An earlier version of this article was originally published in Fast Company.