If you were put on the spot right now, would you be able to sketch your favorite company’s logo or biggest brand identifier? Even if you struggle with drawing (like I do), you could probably do that. What about describing the aesthetic or vibe of the same company? More than likely, you could do both of these tasks fairly quickly. Why do you think that is? You might be thinking that this was just the work of a great designer; but it is also connected to the harmonious relationship between public relations and design.
In today’s world, visuals and graphics have taken over basically every aspect of media. Public relations is no outlier. Integrated communication is the best way to communicate with a public. Designers now play a crucial role in a modern public relations practice.
Building a Brand’s Identity
One of the most vital ways a designer should be integrated into a public relations strategy is to help build a brand’s identity. Once a mission statement is created and core values are set, the designer should be expected to maintain the mission and values in their designs. In doing this, the designer is establishing the company’s core values and beliefs to the public, which influences the company’s image.
Another important aspect of building a brand’s identity through design is consistency. In public relations you need to be consistent in your messaging and values. Nothing is different in the design aspect or in public relations. Designing consistent graphics and visuals help establish the core values, beliefs and aesthetic. People see the same logo and designs on anything the company does, which produces brand recognition and exposure. The more exposure a company gets, the more likely that company will be to maintain mutually beneficial relationships with its publics.
Social Media Content
This exposure is now typically gained through a social media following. If you don’t have stellar designs, with the amount of information and content that is available on social media, you won’t get exposure. It’s that simple. People scroll so quickly through social media that if you don’t put out eye-catching content, they’ll pass it up without a second thought. Creating great social media visuals is key to good public relations because, let’s face it, people don’t want to spend even five minutes reading a news release about a company that they aren’t all that familiar with. If a designer can get that same information out through the use of aesthetically pleasing visuals, it will have a far greater impact and reach.
Design can also tie up loose ends in a company’s public relations strategy. Whether it be a website, a social media account, a product, a letter or anything else with the company’s name on it, consistent design can bring more awareness and exposure because people will immediately know who the post, product or news release belongs to. Again, this will greatly increase the chances of establishing a mutually beneficial relationship.
Considering Visual Interests
One final and rather obvious way that design can influence and affect public relations is simply by taking people’s visual interests into consideration. People are more likely to interact with something that is simple and clutter-free. If a post looks visually stunning, more people will stop and see the company’s logo, placed right where a person will look. Many times, people will subconsciously make decisions based on the design of a product or post. Many public relations practitioners will focus more on the information or campaign (which is still extremely important) but neglect to think about design. This will, in the end, only hurt the cause that is being publicized because people won’t want to look at it. If you see a social media that is poorly designed, or even comically bad, that will cause you to associate a poor view to that company. This is precisely the opposite of what that company’s public relations is trying to accomplish.
In the end, design needs to be used as a tool in public relations. It is not the end all be all. You still need to have good campaigns, products and services, but design can be used to boost those tremendously. If you want your brand to be recognized, you need good design. Think about a time you saw a company with terrible design and then contrast that to a massive company (Nike, Apple, Amazon, etc.). How do you think the massive brand got to be so recognizable? Good design and good public relations work harmoniously to integrate the communication process with an experience that others will remember and enjoy.
Joshua Hughes is a junior digital design major with a minor in biblical and ministry studies. He serves as the treasurer for Waynesburg University’s AIGA Design Club.