7 Things every marketer should know about design in 2017

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If you work in marketing, comms or social media, here are some things you should know about design in 2017. 

1) Design and marketing have fused

Design and marketing used to be completely different things. They lived in completely different worlds. That was before the economic crash of 2008. With less money in the system and smaller budgets, everyone was looking for ways to save money. One big way to do this was for expensive design work, done by external agencies or freelancers to be brought in house, often to the door of the marketing department.

To give you a sense of how much this has changed things, compare how things look today in a typical classroom where I teach (design related skills) compared to ten years ago. Back then, 90% of the people I taught were designers. Nowadays, 90% of the people I teach are marketers. 

2) Social media changed everything (that hadn’t already changed)

Of course, you know that social media has changed lots of things. But its impact on both marketing and design can’t be underestimated. As much as the lack of budgets have turned marketers into designers, so has social media. With all the design budget in the world, nobody would commission an external designer to create an image for a one-off tweet. Things move too fast. And anyway, who knows the brand better, an internal marketer or an external designer? 

3) Design has become an essential skill for marketers

All this adds up to the fact that now marketing and design are more inseparable than ever, and if you work in marketing, developing your design skills is essential. What I’ve observed over the past 5 years or so is that a strand of people, mostly creative women in their early twenties, have grasped this opportunity with both hands. They’ve been the ones to put their hand up when their boss has asked if anyone wants to take on the design of the company newsletter, or go on a Photoshop or InDesign course.

I imagine that in a few years time they will be the ones with the more senior, more interesting jobs when marketing and design have woven even closer. Because they are the marketers who can design, as well as do all the things traditionally expected of marketers. 

4) Professional designers work differently these days

Where does this leave professional designers? Some have thrived, grasping the new opportunities in designing for the new digital world as opposed to designing just for print. Others have found it impossible to make a living as more and more of their clients have taken their work in house. But one way or another, all designers these days have had to shift to accommodate the new realities mentioned above.

One way it’ll affect you as a marketer is that you’re more likely to be working with a designer who does some of the work, then hands it over to you, or gives you a template to work from. Collaboration between designer and client, unthinkable before a handful of years ago, is becoming the norm.

5) You’re competing with pro designers, whether you want to or not

In some ways the relationship between designers and marketers is cosier than before, but nevertheless, you might find yourself having to compete with them. If you’ve taken on the design of your company newsletter and you compare it with one from another company, yours might not seem so good. That might be because it’s been designed by a professional designer with ten or twenty years experience. Or you might look at the infographic that one of your firm’s competitors has created for their Pinterest board. It may be well beyond what you can do. Again, it may have been designed by someone with considerable experience and expertise in that field. 

6) Design is a skill

Things your boss might say: “You’re young, you’re creative, you can use a computer. Why can’t you create that [gorgeous infographic etc]? Can’t you just figure it out by watching YouTube?” You may have youth and brains and talent on your side, but that doesn’t mean you can design.

Why should it? It’s a skill. It takes time to learn to do properly, like caligraphy or architecture or upholstery. So don’t let anybody tell you that you should just be able to do it.

If it’s important for your company that you can design, ask them to send you on a course. If that’s not part of their plan, why not take matters into your own hands? Plan your own career development path, find a course and sign up for it. 

7) Design should be fun

With all this talk of developing your career, don’t forget that design should be fun. If you’re lucky it might just turn out to be the best part of your job. But in my experience, that’s only really the case if you’re comfortable that you know enough to relax and enjoy it.

So try and learn all you can from colleagues, friends, YouTube, any way you can. If you’d like to join other marketers learning this stuff together in a supportive online environment, we'll be announcing a program very soon that might appeal to you. Details will follow soon.