Effective Design Creates A Powerful First Impression


Recently, a new restaurant opened up near my office. It had been vacant for almost ten years, and people were very excited for it to reopen. I remember how upscale the inside was and was hoping a nice sign would capture how nice it looked. This article, written by Dan Antonelli for SignCraft Magazine, appears in the Sign Africa Journal

But, like many small businesses, they opted to cut corners and simply put one-colour cut vinyl on top of the old sign. And to be truthful, it looks awful. Yet, this same restaurant has pricey appetisers and entrées. Would the average person be able to make the leap in assuming how classy and high end the interior and meal selection was from a drive by? No, they would not.

Image Is Everything

We’ve all heard that saying before, but it speaks to many truths about how people judge by impressions they have formed. Whether you’re a restaurant, or a service business, how you present yourself to the public is how they perceive your business. Design functions to control that perception by building a positive brand impression. The idea is to have people assume or feel something about that business, even if they know nothing at all about it.

Warm, caring, and friendly — that’s the brand promise instilled by this brand. It just looks like a nice company that’s going to do the right thing for my family and home.

Some Of The Ideas The Design Might Foster Include:

– That sign looks professional, so they must be, too.
– They look honest and caring.
– I’d be comfortable with them working in my home.
– They look professional so I expect them to be in business a long time if I ever have issues.
– I bet they have amazing food inside because the sign is beautiful.

Yet so many businesses lead with either a negative or neutral brand promise on their signage and vehicles. Some of those feelings they might inspire in consumers include:

– I’m not sure I want these people in my home.
– They look like they do bad work.
– They’re probably the cheapest but I worry if they’ll stay in business.
– Based on that sign, I’m not sure I want to stop and eat there.

The message here instills the idea of timeliness, showing up on time, and getting the job done. The mascot is friendly and capable. The design will attract a lot of attention while also communicating the company’s professionalism.

The Battle For A Consumer’s Mind Starts With A Brand

As designers, it’s our job to help set the tone for the perception of the business we’re being asked to design for. Never underestimate how important your job is. The health of that business is dependent on us being able to help get our brand to stick in the consumer’s mind. As it relates to service businesses especially, many consumers are already skeptical of contractors. So having them feel good about who they’re having give an estimate goes a long way towards building trust and connecting with that homeowner.

We want to lead with a positive brand impression. So if they’ve judged the business only by visuals that the business has put out on their vehicle, before that contractor gets an opportunity to ring the doorbell, they’ve already established an expectation that is likely to be favourable. They already think this company is reputable, honest and professional.

This brand is fun and helps to create a friendly, memorable franchise-like approach. Most duct and carpet cleaning companies don’t look like this — which is exactly what we wanted to exploit.

The biggest problem many small businesses have, especially service businesses, is that they in fact do perform a good service: They just don’t look like they do when judged by their image. We’ve seen what happens when you match how amazing a company performs with a brand that actually speaks to that excellence. Those businesses grow faster, are able to get more money for their services, and connect with consumers faster. As the old saying goes, it really is all about the brand.

The next time you’re designing a sign or truck lettering, ask yourself this question: If I knew nothing at all about this business, and only saw this sign or truck, what assumptions would I make about that business? If they’re negative or neutral, you’re not doing it right. Lead with a positive impression, and you’ll be helping that business win the perception battle.

This article was republished with the permission of SignCraft magazine.

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