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What we do and why it's important.

We often get asked “what is it you do exactly?” It’s a tricky question to answer because so much is demanded of design these days. So here is our attempt to articulate and understand what it is we actually do.

Design isn’t just making things beautiful. To design for functionality or form is no longer enough. Design now listens. It understands. It simplifies. It communicates. It connects.

At ilka, we often find our role is to simply use our fresh perspective to understand and clarify a key message that helps people creatively connect with an organisation. For us, design is a series of considerations to create experiences full of feeling and meaning. But with this connection comes great responsibility. Yes we design brands, but it’s ultimately about designing conversation between a business and their customer. When creating an environment or experience we are essentially designing emotions. Becoming more aware of this influence we have on people’s behaviour, we looked at our design process to pull together a checklist of design values we look to achieve no matter the project.

Design should...

1. Be clear and consistent.

With constant streams of distraction people respond positively to brands and experiences that make interaction easy. This is done by defining a simple and relevant message that clearly directs action. As Donald Miller states: “People don’t buy the best products; they buy the products they can understand the fastest.” You could have the best organisation in the world but if people don’t understand it they simply will take themselves elsewhere. Communicating clearly, cohesively and repeatedly across the customer experience is essentially what builds your brand. Design should make it easy for people to see, hear and understand you.

Further reading: Donald Millar: Building a Brand Story

2. Mean something

What is the point? What do you stand for? Hold your values strong and use your communication to practice what you preach. Understanding the core need of your audience is what makes your organisation worthwhile. It’s the key to creating a meaningful experience and sets you apart, creating real value that goes above and beyond your functional product or service.

Further reading: The Meaning of Design

3. Be collaborative

Inclusivity, ownership and authentic insights are just a few of the benefits of a collaborative approach to design. Whether it’s customer feedback or staff engagement, designing together builds a sense of community and agency beyond the product or service itself. Focussing on the design process together ensures a result that is flexible and responsive, constantly building an experience that is forever relevant.

4. Be confident

To cut through the endless noise of emails and advertisements, design needs to be cleverly quiet. Trying to interact with your customer in too many ways causes clutter and confusion and as a result actually puts people off your business. Time is a precious commodity and valuing your customers’ can only be an added benefit of using your service. A refined approach to communication makes your audience stand up and listen when you do actually have something meaningful to say. So filter and be confident.

Know it’s own consequence.

Alice Rawsthorn describes the role of design as “an agent of change that helps us to interpret changes of any type – social, political, economic, scientific, technological, cultural, ecological, or whatever – to ensure that they will affect us positively, not negatively.” Whether it instigates an impact on material resources, the wellbeing of people or the waste it leaves behind, every design solution should be aware of its consequence. Always being creatively conscious means we can design with consequence in mind, seeing it as an opportunity to liberate, innovate and inspire. Striving for ultimate impact without leaving one.

Further reading: Alice Rawsthorn: Design as an Attitude

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