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Good design still matters.

You know good design when you see it. It speaks to you. It brings out an emotional response. It’s an experience. It appeals to your aesthetic sensibilities, but also your appreciation for innovation, your openness to a message compellingly delivered. It makes you want to buy – literally or figuratively – what it’s selling. It always has.

When discussing how design continues to impact modern culture, you can’t help but think of one of today’s uncontested champions of creativity: Apple. With its candy colored iMacs, Apple differentiated itself in the homogenous world of PCs by showing millions of consumers that you don’t have to compromise on form to achieve outstanding function. As Alan M. Webber said in The Apple effect, How Steve Jobs & Co. Won Over the World, “Look and feel, touch and sound, the user experience is baked into the DNA of Apple.”1

But the genius of Apple was precisely that looks aren’t everything. Its devices and services must also be designed to offer superior performance. In the case of cleverly engineered – not to mention slickly packaged – products like the iPod, iPhone and iPad, they’ve opened up a whole new world. And millions of people now live in this world.

This same symbiosis of aesthetic appeal and execution of purpose also applies to successful print projects and campaigns. Print advertising continues to deliver results – i.e. sales – for virtually any type of business. Everyone from car manufacturers, to fashion houses and even technology providers are capturing attention and market share thanks to artful magazine and newspaper ads. This traditional tool clearly still packs a powerful marketing punch, with many advertisers successfully combining it with digital media for maximum multi-channel impact.

Print also remains a favorite in the non-profit sector, with a majority of fundraisers – 65.1% – identifying it as the most successful technique for raising awareness and money for their causes.2 Moving images of animals on the verge of extinction and regions of the world torn apart by war or ravaged by natural disaster seize the heart and the mind. Emotional written appeals for financial help accompany these visual calls to action, and easy-to-use response cards and self-addressed envelopes provided for sending contributions. Good design thinks of everything and that’s why it works.

This notion of good design engaging people on behalf of a great cause is embodied in the Design for Good initiative launched by AIGA, the professional association for design in the U.S.3 Design for Good is a movement to ignite, accelerate and amplify design-driven social change by providing designers with the tools, resources and opportunities to use their creative talent to address community needs.

The project, launched in 2011, has already scored a number of successes. Take the impact of the printed piece created by the in-house design team at the University of California Office of the President. With its modern and compelling arguments, it helped convince the State of California to restore $848 million to the higher education budget.4 In a slightly different twist, some design studios like Joey’s Corner have become non-profits themselves, providing pro-bono services to help charitable organizations create more professional images and printed materials to convey their messages more powerfully.5

Design really does still matter, whether your ultimate goal is to open people’s minds to new experiences, generate profits, raise funds or increase awareness of an important social issue. And a quality printed piece can speak loudly on your behalf – and get you the response you are looking for.

1   Webber, Alan M. The Apple effect: How Steve Jobs & Co. Won Over the World. The Christian Science Monitor, September 17, 2011
2   Direct Marketing Association 2010 Statistical Fact Book
3   Design for Good, AIGA 
4   Case Study: Support California’s Public Higher Education, AIGA 
5   Joey's Corner 

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