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Marketers and Designers: Yin and Yang

Jake Gibbs | August 18, 2015 

In Chinese philosophy, yin and yang describe how two opposite or contrary forces actually complement each other in an interconnected, interdependent fashion. In fact, yin and yang reflects how two different things could not exist without the other.

In our media-centric society, marketing and design have become yin and yang. While their natures are seemingly contrary at times, both work together to achieve the same goal. From banner ads, whitepapers, and websites to videos, flyers, and infographics, nearly all marketing collateral nowadays requires not only effective strategy and copywriting, but also effective design to drive marketing results.

While these two disciplines intertwine heavily, most businesses have specialized marketers and designers. This compartmentalization often leads both groups to focus so much on their role that they lose sight of the other half. While specialization certainly leads to better results, compartmentalization can lead to creating barriers of thought, communication, and goals between these two groups.

As marketers learn design essentials and designers learn marketing principles, both groups will create 1) more effective understanding and communication between each other, 2) greater creative and strategic synergy and 3) better marketing results and ROI.

To create more polished marketing collateral, designers and marketers should learn the fundamentals of each other’s craft, not with the intent to do each other’s job, but to understand the complete process of developing projects from start to finish. As marketers learn design essentials and designers learn marketing principles, both groups will create 1) more effective understanding and communication between each other, 2) greater creative and strategic synergy and 3) better marketing results and ROI.

Understanding Differences

Marketers and designers come in all types, but many times they vary in terms of what they want and how they want to achieve it.

Marketers want to drive leads, find new customers, strengthen brand loyalty, and improve marketing ROI. They have budgetary constraints, fiscal accountability, and timelines with which to achieve their goals. Often marketers lean left-brained, focusing on data and analytics to drive results. Since they often lack design skills, they see designers as an asset they can use to achieve these goals.

Designers typically want to make work that leans artistic in nature, is highly visually appealing, and that they can be proud of when it is completed. They may not be aware of the constraints and challenges facing the marketing team. Designers nearly always lean right-brained, meaning they thrive on creativity and innovation. They may feel constrained by timelines and feel stifled by the decisions of marketers that determine what they are able to create. They may not see the bigger picture of how their projects fit into the larger scheme of the company’s marketing strategy.

1. More Effective Understanding and Communication

When these two groups communicate, it can end up being a frustrating situation. Designers may feel creatively stifled with the lack of creative brief, constraints, and timelines given on a project, while marketers may feel that the designs produced, while nice looking, don’t achieve their intended strategic goals. Both groups may become annoyed with the other due to misunderstanding of each other’s goals or desires. Designers may eventually obey orders from the marketing team without questioning them, leading to a “Yessir, nossir” mentality.

If neither group understands each other’s situation, terminology, or needs, the two groups can become disconnected, untrusting or worse, hostile towards one another. Designers may feel like marketers are their taskmasters while marketers may feel designers are their untrusted subservients.

If designers understood marketing principles, they would understand why marketers ask for certain things. They would understand the core objectives of the project, and would make sure that their design is strategically accurate and not just visually appealing. If marketers understood design principles, they would be able to more effectively communicate their vision in design terms, making less of a guessing game for the design team to implement. Lastly, in all communication, both teams would be on the same page in terms of terminology. No longer would demographics, ROI, visual hierarchy, and other terms feel foreign to each team.

2. Greater Creative and Strategic Synergy

When designers and marketers are compartmentalized without pursuing mutual understanding, there is little creative and strategic synergy between the two. Their interactions are very transactional in nature. Marketing team says make this, designers make it. Designers complete tasks on time and then projects are completed. Nothing magical happens in that scenario.

In a better world, both groups would challenge each other to produce better work. For example, a designer may say, “The headline you provided is good, but what if we used a different visual image in the words that better matched this compelling image that I found?”. Or a designer may say, “This banner ad looks great, but the CTA color doesn’t seem to contrast with the overall design much. Could we make it stand out more?” These kind of healthy battles create conversation that refines marketing collateral into the best it can be.

Lastly, when designers and marketers combine forces from start to finish on a project, the entire project can metamorphosize into something much greater than if it started with marketing and ended with design. Through brainstorming and using the analytic and creative juices of both groups, campaigns will become more strategically accurate and more creatively compelling, which will produce better results.

3. Better Results

In yin and yang, the combined whole of the two together is greater than the separate parts. So it is with marketing and design. Combining the unique educations, experiences, and skillsets of both groups simply leads to better marketing. Period.

As both groups work together, every aspect of marketing will improve. Concepts become clearer and more powerful. Customers connect with the marketing efforts more, driving better results. Projects are more enjoyable for both groups to work on, as they begin to feel they are on the same team instead of battling against each other. Lastly, project timelines can even improve as both groups work more effectively together.

If you are a manager, marketer, or designer, strive to create a culture in your company of yin and yang and you’ll be surprised at the improvements that you’ll see in your marketing efforts and results.

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Jake Gibbs

Jake Gibbs | Design Specialist

Jake Gibbs is a Design Specialist at ListEngage and an expert at designing and building elegant, cross-platform compatible, mobile responsive emails and landing pages on the Salesforce Marketing Cloud. From brainstorming and ideation to polishing the final product, he loves the creative process. Jake has worked with more than 60 clients since joining ListEngage in 2014. Some of his projects have included L’Oreal, Vanguard, Carhartt, Harvard Business School, RCI/Wyndham, Huggies, and Planet Fitness.