Five tips for great design.

Bill Bernbach (the founder of ad agency DDB) once said “A great ad has four things: Intelligence. Insight. Wit. Surprise.” I totally agree: here are 5 more things that the Office of Sarah does to contribute to a great final design.

1. Everything must be wonderful.

Great work draws out more great work: it’s a positive feedback cycle. Therefore it’s very important that everything MUST be wonderful, from the tiniest detail to the largest billboard. All the pieces are very important to build to that successful whole. Our internal work philosophy is that if it’s not great it doesn’t leave our studio, independent of timelines and other limitations.

And really, if it can’t be done well, why bother?

Poor work doesn’t benefit our clients, their customers or our studio. We want to be proud of everything we put out into the world, and we want our clients to be proud too. In short, if it’s important (and why would we be creating it if it wasn’t??) then it should be done well.

2. Respect your audience.

Never be discourteous of your audience’s time, intelligence and feelings. You are entering someone’s home, office place or the daily trails that they walk in their cities: be courteous of their visual and auditory space. Don’t lecture them – a stranger telling you what you’re doing wrong is rarely a compelling technique. Instead, give them some delight and enjoyment. Make them glad that they looked at your ad or poster. Think about what you’d do if you were talking to them in person: in other words, charm the pants off them.

3. Be honest.

You can tell when someone is lying or withholding information from you – so can your clients and customers. Be honest about your business, what you want and what you’re doing, and you build trust with everyone (your employees, your customers, your suppliers). Funnily, people like working with people they like, and buying from brands that they trust. Who would have thought?!

4. Everything starts with a story.

Everything starts with a story and a good story inclines your audience to care – emotionally, intellectually and aesthetically. A good story draws the audience in – it makes them a participant in what you’re doing. The key is to figure out what your story is, what’s relatable about it, and why your audience cares.

5. Find the small idea.

Generally success comes from focusing on one, niche thing and doing it superbly well. It doesn’t mean you can’t communicate a million messages: it just means those messages will be most successful (i.e. retained and engaged with) if you share them one at a time. A small idea executed well becomes a big idea.