This article is part of our October 2018 series about the state of design and creativity. Click here for more.
Some of my education is in graphic design, so I appreciate a great visual identity. I know the value and impact of smart additions to our visual culture and the way an organization’s branding can stand out in the mix.
But these days, the way organizations want to present themselves to the world can often lag behind the rate of change occurring within them. Just think: In the past several years, Uber has redesigned its identity three times in an effort to reflect the changes happening within its business.
Customers today are motivated by more than just a new logo. They are also impacted by “experience”–the way we see, touch, listen to, and feel a brand. As a result, the design world needs to pursue more fluid, interactive, and authentic ways of showcasing that brand experience.
That’s where brand data and brand experience come together.
Customized brand experiences that are designed by using a company’s own data—from quantitative facts and figures to aesthetic, visual content—represent an authentic connection to a company’s ever-changing role in the marketplace. Data changes at lightning speed, so if we design experiences that leverage this real-time ingredient, we can better parallel the “nowness” of any modern, data-driven company. As such, data-driven experience design may be the new benchmark for identity and branding.
Designing A Data Experience
Participatory, interactive experience design gives brands the opportunity to engage audiences through real-time information, content, and data. In this way, we should consider that data is far more fundamental to a company’s brand articulation and design DNA than pure aesthetic positioning. After all, what contemporary organization doesn’t think of data as an intrinsic part of the value of its products, services, and insights? Whether it’s Amazon, Oscar, Uber, or Mint, data is core to their business proposition and evolution.
In retail, specifically, it’s clear that a consumer brand’s street-level experience serves as a more direct connection to the company’s DNA than its own identity, logo, or mark. After all, does the “Swoosh” compel you to buy Nike apparel or does 10 minutes inside the brand’s interactive, data-rich Soho store make you more inclined?
These experiential brand spaces can also use data to express a brand’s mission and values. For example, United Therapeutics, a multibillion-dollar biotech/innovation company, offers a suite of data-driven brand experiences at its new net zero energy headquarters building. Anchored by the building’s energy-usage data, these experiences communicated a companywide vision for sustainability and social good.
Physical experiences are containers. They are the bounds within which real-time activity happens and where a call and response between company and customer plays out. When that activity data is funneled through the lens of good design, the result is a continually evolving expression of a company’s offering–from interactive workplaces to retail.
Given that contemporary organizations, especially those in technology and innovation, change at digital speed, it’s strange that identities are one of the things most left unchanged over time. Even Uber’s three-time identity rollout is a small iteration compared with the sweeping product innovation and scale change since the first “U” app icon showed up on our mobile phones.
But things are shifting. “Living in beta” is now a common ideology for startups and even more mature technology companies. Like its products and platforms, everything is in flux inside an innovation-fueled company. Pivots, versioning, releases, trials, and failures are the norm–and they break down the fundamental, monolithic identity design frameworks of the past.
What data-driven brand experiences offer that traditional identity systems do not is the ability to travel a parallel path that reflects the steep curve of a company’s change. These experiences are about leveraging adaptability and audience behaviors, not bold icons or rigid visuals. They harness creative technologies that provide the same digital nimbleness that many modern companies have built into their own DNA. By delivering data-driven and data-rich experiences, organizations can communicate more intimate representations of their missions, vision, cultures, and aspirations.