What 2020 Taught Me About Designing with Purpose in 2021
During the global coronavirus pandemic, 2020 brought on a series of events that challenge the way we live, work, and connect with each other. Through these events, however, I’ve grown more resilient, more empathetic, and quite frankly—more human.
As I start 2021, I remain conscious about keeping social distance. But I’ve also started asking myself ‘How can I bring people back together?’ I’ve also asked, ‘How can I forge communal experiences that reestablish the trust entire communities lost in 2020?’
No one really knows what will happen next week, tomorrow, or even today. An increasing constant is change—specifically dramatic change. Designing for change though requires us to return to our roots—to the origin of things.
The process of getting back to my roots started with asking myself why. I do design, branding, and marketing at an integrated digital agency, but why do I do what I do? By focusing on my purpose I’ve figured out how design can respond to a changing world. It’s my reason why:
In an era of human connection, I’m an honest partner that helps you make sense of the world while making the most of it
Have you wondered why conventional agencies push print and television ads, even though online marketing is more effective? Have you ever wondered why social media marketing firms say, “everyone’s got to be on Facebook or Instagram?”
Because, for the most part, companies sell, what they sell. If they do conventional marketing, they sell conventional marketing. If they do social, they sell social. I don’t operate that way. I’m not partial to any single strategy, old or new. I’m happy to tell you what won’t work and encourage you to ask why. As a creative devoted to redefining digital connections, I see three crucial ways you can be purposeful with your marketing efforts in 2021:
1. Start with people. Brand experiences are truly human experiences.
At its core, strong brands are built on stories that foster strong emotional ties with their service or product. As humans, we are hardwired to think in stories—in positive experiences. Today, we’re telling different stories—for each story based on distancing, there are dozens built around meaningful connections. I see stories about remote classrooms and family meals over Zoom, and stories of new flexible work structures and digital collaboration. Paying close attention to these stories has helped me determine what is actually meaningful to my neighbors, my friends, and even my clients. In all of this, I ask myself, how might I change the brand experience for these new stories? It’s simple. Start with people. People want to belong. They want to be part of the solution. And, by engaging with a diverse set of stakeholders and audiences, you have a better chance at fostering lasting connections, ones that feel authentic and personal, driven by human insight.
2. Embrace technology. Digital connections have become a brand’s primary interface.
The coronavirus pandemic has changed the way foundations, associations, education, and healthcare brands interact with audiences. I see this firsthand, how clients are forced to rethink their physical spaces and reconsider their audiences’ needs. I see how people alter activities to work with and take advantage of technology. I also see how people value individual access to technology more than ever. In the short-term, what can brands do to connect with people in meaningful and authentic ways? Embed technology—in a way that feels frictionless and connected within the environment. This allows you to deliver personalization and engagement and reinforce trust within the digital spaces audiences rely on. If technology is the layer that unleashes personalization, then you should leverage new strategies that trigger deeper connections with your audience.
3. Reconnect with each other. Inclusive and Accessible design is paramount.
People with disabilities face even more challenges during the coronavirus pandemic, such as the lack of in-person interactions due to social distancing. As a result, people with certain types of disabilities are relying on technology more than ever before. As we look to 2021, we can begin to imagine what a post-pandemic world needs, and that’s more accessible design. We have an opportunity to reimagine how we can make the web more accessible than ever before. Design in a way that’s useful and marketable to people with diverse abilities, accommodating a broad range of individual preferences, and easy to understand, regardless of the user’s experience. In a way, designing better experiences helps all of us reconnect with each other regardless of our individual abilities.
As we strive for post-pandemic design strategies, inclusive and accessible design must be central to the conversation around solutions-driven design. Through collaboration and creativity, these strategies can be the catalyst for equity in our digital ecosystems of tomorrow.
As you look to 2021, consider these approaches. Get back to your roots, your origin, and your purpose. Ask yourself, why? Think about the positive stories of human connection and tell them. Embrace technology to form stronger bonds with your audiences. And lastly, reconnect with your audiences and each other through inclusive and accessible design. It’s never too late to learn and respond to the changing world—even if we make incremental changes. Because even if we’re making small changes, we’re still on our way to making the world a better place.