User Experience Designers:

The New Brand Designers

Scott Brown | Originally published on May 7th, 2015

In the User Experience industry, we tend to shy away from serious brand conversations. We follow cues from brand and marketing departments, aligning with their color palettes and type guidelines, integrating their voice and tone into our work, generally remaining deferential to their brand standards. This has the potential to make our lives a little easier as we can focus on more important design decisions.

But, we’re missing an opportunity.

Just consider the qualities of most digital experiences. They move, they respond to input (even our physical touch), they have behaviors that we can choreograph, they can understand context, and they’re getting pretty good at anticipating our needs. In other words, we’re creating living, breathing experiences that have the ability to interact with humans and imbue personality. Experiences that actually have the potential to deliver on a brand’s promise in a way that a tv spot, billboard, or print ad cannot (no ill will aimed at my friends working in brand advertising).

Of course, a digital experience needs to be intuitive and usable. But it can, and should, do more than that — it can actually bring a brand to life, much the same way a retail or customer service interaction has the potential to deliver a positive or negative brand experience.

A study from the Harvard Business Review recently attempted to quantify the impact of good versus bad customer experiences. They found that it wasn’t just possible to quantify, but that the effects are often dramatic.

No doy, you say.

Yes, delivering great experiences seems like a no-brainer, but they often aren’t realized for a variety of factors (limitations of time and budget, varying priorities or agendas, just to name a few). But there’s one simple way to ensure that an effort gets off on the right foot — by starting with the brand’s purpose.

It’s often a missed step, but as UX practitioners we need to start with an understanding of why a brand exists to help customers (i.e. its purpose) and how the experience we’re creating is a clear extension of the brand and its promise to its customers. If we can’t connect those dots then we’re going to have a hell of a time delivering a good experience because there’s very little foundation to guide the tough decisions ahead regarding requirements, platform, device, feature set, design intent, and so on.

Where purpose intersects need.

At Citizen, this is what we mean by bringing companies and their customers closer together. Our design methodology is modeled to deliver experiences that are capable of delivering on a brand’s purpose and identifying exactly where that purpose intersects with a real human need. In our experience, the best solutions come to life at this intersection. And as our lives become more and more connected, the brands that deliver meaningful experiences in this overlap will be the ones that succeed.

Let’s not underestimate our ability to help them get there.

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