Think + Do » an exploration of nonprofit marketing and design

When is it Time for a Redesign?

Collection of luxury smart watches on a white backgroundNothing lasts forever. At least that’s the way it seems in a world where constant change is the norm, and “new” barely registers before it’s back to the drawing board.

Should I strike while the iron is hot? Or am I better safe than sorry? As with relying on aphorisms that have an equally true counter-argument, it is difficult to know when the time is right to examine the design of your organization’s logo, publications, or website.

In theory, a redesign begins with a problem.

Designers excel at guiding clients from Point A to Point B – and helping them define what Point A and Point B are. Without proper diligence, a lot of time and money can be spent addressing the wrong problem!

The better the problem is defined – the better the solution will be. As Albert Einstein liked to say, “If I only had one hour to solve a problem, I would spend 55 minutes defining the problem, and then five minutes solving it.”

One of the first questions I ask when considering a new assignment is: “How will we know when we’ve been successful?” If there isn’t a rock solid answer, the problem has not been well-defined.

Common mistakes
The process of deciding whether the time is right for a redesign can be complicated by myriad reasons. Some of the most common ones include:

  •  Some clients have an itchy trigger finger. They want to do something – anything! – and the sooner the better. The new boss wants to make her mark, and a new design serves as more of a signal than a solution. This can create the veneer of change – which can have value – but if product, service, or operational issues are holding an organization back, better marketing will provide a temporary boost at best.
  •  Everyone else is doing it! As a teenager, this excuse didn’t sway your parents, and it isn’t a good enough reason to undertake a major redesign. Trends come and go (remember QR codes?), but makeovers should be driven by strategy, not tactics. Taking the time to understand customer needs and habits is always fashionable.
  •  Going too big – or too small. The project needs to be properly scoped to match your time and budget. You may end up with a better design if you focus on solving one high-priority problem rather than chasing multiple fixes. That doesn’t necessarily mean that other problems go unaddressed, but they may need to go on the back burner. If forced to choose, how will you prioritize?
  •  Discounting equity. We had one client that began an assignment nearly certain – based on scant anecdotal evidence – that the organization’s name was a problem. Had we listened only to them, and not also to the voices of customers and partners, their new brand would have been misguided – and required years to rebuild the name recognition and hard-earned trust that comes with it.

The time is right
Some of the best reasons for green lighting a redesign include:

  •  The story has changed. You may be serving different or new audiences than you were when the current design was adopted. Maybe the competitive landscape has changed. Maybe you’re celebrating a major milestone or anniversary. If the organization you have been is not the same as the one you will be going forward, your design – and your story – needs to reflect that.
  •  Your customers tell you. Whether anecdotally or by something that can be measured (web traffic, donations, sales), there are usually signs that your performance has slipped or your audience has changed. A redesign may be an appropriate response.
  •  Technology has changed. A logo never used to need to work as an avatar. Before responsive web technology, websites often worked better on desktop computers than on mobile devices. Technology continues to be a moving target – both for marketing professionals and for the audiences they are trying to reach. When existing formats don’t work as well as they used to, it may be time for a redesign.
  •  Does this logo make me look fat? No one wants their design to make them look bad or out of touch. While some companies have what appears to be a timeless identity that never wavers, most have undergone several subtle (and not-so-subtle) updates over the years. This sort of refresh serves as a signal for others to take another look – to hear the story again. And the refresh isn’t the story as much as how the new design will support your goals.

Know when to say when
There is no industry standard – a seven-year itch – to dictate when it’s time for a redesign. You need a compelling reason to invest the time and money (see reasons above). And while change doesn’t guarantee success, an intelligent redesign that solves the right problem can make a world of difference.

Related content:

Makeover Mania
How Lacroix Water Became a Millennial Sensation
The iPhone X is a User Experience Nightmare

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