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There’s a terrific quote when it comes to visual design of digital experiences by a Welsh designer Mark Boulton: "If designers are getting wireframes from people and told to make them pretty, they're not designing. They're decorating." Well said. The best digital experiences are informed by data-driven user insights and a fundamental understanding of audience behaviors and desires. These experiences create a unique emotional response to your brand—one that makes your audience lean forward and engage.
Visual design is, at its roots, about storytelling—a method of crafting clear, entertaining, and emotionally engaging narratives through imagery. Using color theory, typography and layout, the best designed digital experiences create an emotional shorthand to your audience, conveying at first glance what your brand is all about.
When web design first began, as one might expect, its sensibilities were still rooted in traditional print-based rules and aesthetics—and hampered by technology. On the whole, we simply didn’t yet know what the possibilities were.
The rise of e-commerce introduced a compelling reason for web design to become user-centered: money. Bad design left dollars on the table, so UX (user experience) design became codified, browsers improved, HTML caught up, and broadband became the norm. But, even as we progressed, visual design was often an afterthought to make a UX design look visually appealing—or as the only thought: lacking an integrated approach to a user’s experience.
We’ve come a very long way in a short period, with a lot to contend with and learn. Just when we had it down on the desktop, phones suddenly got smart, and priorities shifted again—and then, blink, tablets. Hardware costs came down on laptops and displays got bigger and cheaper and there are now a seemingly infinite range of screen sizes to contend with. Now, there are wearables and the Internet of Things (IoT). One thing we know for sure, the only constant is change. Enter responsive design.
Never before has visual design and design strategy been so important.
The key collaborator in our visual design process is always our client—after all, clients know their business better than anyone else. In many ways, our initial creative presentations are more akin to a workshop.
In the past, the digital creative process traditionally followed a waterfall approach, starting with strategy exploring what our clients needed from a business standpoint. Then strategy would hand off their findings to the user experience team who interpreted them, created wireframes and then handed off to the visual design team. Decorating.
However, as digital experiences have grown more complex and sophisticated over time, digital visual design has come of age. While great visual design still fundamentally seeks great aesthetics, we believe incorporating an agile process, introducing visual design earlier alongside UX design, yields far better results. By allowing you to see the creative vision at a far earlier stage, we reduce risk, create more efficient feedback cycles/shorter timelines, and ultimately deliver the very best designed digital experiences for your business.