Design Fundamentals



Simply put, your "message" is whatever information you are trying to communicate to a group of people. The clearer your message, the better. The more focused your message, the better. The shorter your message, the better.

Your message is important. Once your message is clearly defined, you will use it to help make every single design decision you have to make.

Brand Message

The brand message is consistent and usually never changes.

The brand message is simply: what people think about when they think of your company.

Subway's brand message is "Eat Fresh." What do you think about when you think of Subway? Fresh sub sandwiches? Eat Fresh? Jared? Kids meals? All are correct answers, depending on your opinions of Subway. But the main message Subway wants to communicate is "Eat Fresh."

The others, Jared's weight loss, kids club, new bread flavors, breakfast, seasonal sandwiches, etc. are all marketing campaigns that will change. Eat Fresh is the primary brand message—must not change. If it does, Subway will start to lose it's brand recognition with customers—then it will lose it's brand loyalty. That's usually the end of a business.



Marketing Campaigns

The consistent brand directs each different marketing campaign.

Marketing campaigns can change and often do in order to target specific target markets. The marketing campaign can be, and often is, the company's brand.

Again, Subway uses several different marketing campaigns to reach different target markets—Jared's weight loss, kids club, new bread flavors, new sandwich choices, new menu items, breakfast, seasonal sandwiches, etc.

What types of messages do companies and organizations communicate?

Most businesses and organizations communicate or "sell" one of four things:

  1. Products
    These are tangible products that we can touch and feel like food, toys, tools, radios, computers, cars, cosmetics, books, furniture, etc.
  2. Services.
    These are usually intangible things that we purchase like health care, financial advise, web site hosting, cable television, phone service, an auto mechanic's knowledge, education, home cleaning services, a caterer serving food at your wedding, etc.
  3. Ideas
    Or sometimes ideals. These are usually intangible things like ideas promised by a politician, or a new concept taught by a teacher, or a new theory marketed by a researcher to prove themselves worthy of government or private funding.
  4. A combination of product, service and idea
    This includes many things listed in 1, 2 and 3. When you hire a wedding photographer you buy their service (their knowledge, training and expertise as a photographer) and their product (usually printed wedding photos). A college professor may have a new idea that he or she wants to sell, but they can only tell a limited number of students face-to-face. So they put their ideas on the Web in an eBook, or in a printed book, and sell it as a product.

Strong brands "own" a short message in our hearts and minds

What do you want people to think about when they see your client’s new logo, icon, direct mail piece, packaging, web site or advertisement? When customers think of strong brands, they usually think of short phrases or single words.

The stronger and clearer the brand, usually the more focused the message (brand) is in the minds of consumers. Your brand words should be a benefit that your customers will want.

Here are strong brands and the words people associate with them:

  • Harley-Davidson - rebellion and freedom on the open road
  • FedEx - overnight shipping
  • Taco Bell - Mexican fast food
  • Nike - high-performance athletic shoes
  • Subway - eat fresh, and freshly made sub sandwiches
  • Tide - clean clothes
  • X-games - extreme sports games
  • Krispy Kreme donuts - tasty glazed donuts
  • Starbucks - gourmet, high-end coffee
  • Coke - cola (especially in the South)
  • Mercedes - luxury car
  • Porsche - luxury sports car
  • Red Bull - energy drink
  • Timex - value-priced, durable watches
  • Hersheys - chocolate candy bar
  • Martha Stewart - Domestic goddess / homemaking guru