What Is Marketing Design and How Can I Master It?
Learn the basics and the different fields of marketing design, and find out how good marketing design can benefit your company.
Table of Contents
As one of the most prominent and important types of graphic design, marketing design is everywhere. In this article, we’ll go in depth on its fields, applications and benefits of use and lend you some tips on how to improve your marketing design.
In branding and marketing, visual design is everything. The first impression the visual aspect of your brand makes, can stick in viewers' memories for a long time, and sway their perception of your company for better or worse.
Of course, marketing is a complex and multifaceted process in which marketers, art directors, content and copywriters and designers work daily. But, no matter how good an idea is, if it doesn’t look good, it most likely won’t be successful.
That is the exact reason why marketing materials should be well thought out, creative, and most importantly well designed.
In this article we’ll discuss the different categories of marketing design, what are the benefits of high quality design in marketing, and how you can use design for better brand awareness and sales.
Marketing design basics
Simply explained, marketing design is the process of creation and iteration of visual assets, for the purpose of advertisement, branding and other promotional activities, whose goal is to improve a brand’s perception, visibility, and ultimately commercial success.
Marketing design is a field in which graphic designers work, producing visual content and design elements in cooperation with marketing experts. They base their products on design principles, but also on a predefined set of rules and guidelines that define a brand identity.
Sometimes designers also work on branding itself, but other times they are mostly focused on producing a type of content used to target audiences through advertising.
The goal of marketing design is to attract audiences, while at the same time enforcing the brand identity through consistent messaging and visual language. This is done through the production of different marketing materials and efforts, which we will explain in more detail in the chapter below.
Marketing design fields
As we mentioned earlier, marketing design spread into many different fields and activities, which is why it’s hard to just refer to it as such. Different graphic designers specializing in marketing work in different companies in industries, from marketing agencies all the way to software companies and small businesses.
Here are some of the most common marketing fields in which graphic design plays a vital role.
Branding design, although a specialization in itself, falls under the umbrella of marketing design.
Branding design focuses on the conception, creation and enforcement of a visual identity of a certain company, product or service, hence helping viewers form an impression of its brand.
Graphic designers specializing in branding do thorough research on brand missions, values and story, as well as current trends and competitors. Then, they sketch initial logos and create concepts and visual identity systems that they later build on.
Branding identity guidelines include logos, brand marks, colors, typography, imagery, symbolism, usage of photography, packaging and other design elements.
The importance of branding design is immense, because it serves as a base for any and every marketing campaign, ad, lead generation project, anything that might be used as a marketing tool in the future by that company.
According to Web Engage, moment marketing works for two reasons:
Digital display advertising
You might think that in the digital era print marketing is not as relevant as it was in the 20th century, but think twice. Magazines, flyers, catalogs, billboards, stickers, promotional tote bags, notebooks: print design is still everywhere, only in a different shape and form.
Print advertising designers, for the bigger part, work for marketing agencies and design studios, and rarely in-house for companies themselves. In their everyday work, they create attention-grabbing designs that are optimized for printing.
That means that they have to create the right dimensions and ratios, use the right colors (digital and ink don’t look exactly the same), and have a knowledge of the printing colors, materials and textures.
Print advertising designers work on posters, adverts for magazines, newspapers and other print publications, stickers, brochures, flyers, billboards, even decals for busses and whole buildings.
Digital marketing is yet another field where graphic designers take care of a considerable amount of creative work, that is perhaps most reliant on good looks.
The average person’s attention span online is only eight seconds. In a vast ocean of information and media, advertisements and other marketing communications need to look extremely catchy and unique to grab attention.
Digital marketing design, as you can see, is very important in this industry. And it can be split into many different categories, out of which we will focus on the most important.
Social media marketing
Probably the first thing when you think about digital marketing is social media because that is what most people see and the channel where they receive their daily dose of ads.
Social media is an incredibly dynamic and ever-changing playground, and graphic designers working on creating visuals for marketing purposes on this platform always need to stay in the know and experiment a lot with colors, shapes and fonts that will catch the eye.
Furthermore, trends on social media change very quickly, and unfortunately, people have a shorter attention span every year, so designers have a hard task producing visuals that are true to the brand, attention-grabbing, stylish and trendy.
Social media marketing designs include feed images, ads, stories, in-stream motion graphics, thumbnails, covers, dynamic ads, etc. Marketers then place these visuals on platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube, TikTok, and others.
You know them, and it’s possible that you hate them: ads that pop up on search engines, articles and apps.
But most of the time, search engine marketing is annoying because it is repetitive and rarely creative. It doesn’t tick the memorability and uniqueness boxes.
Graphic designers often work on creating and optimizing visuals for placement on search engines as ads, and usually need to pack a lot of information into them, while at the same time making them look good.
These ads are usually used for pay-per-click advertising and in-article banners, so often they require a lot of deep knowledge of the field, due to the many size and format options.
Lead generation marketing often requires the use of more complex design tools and knowledge of web design, as it often is done through the creation of landing pages and interactive multimedia platforms, such as polls, quizzes, research, e-books, live-updated infographics from user generated content, etc.
These marketing activities have a clear goal of collecting people’s data, given with their consent, to later use for marketing purposes. That is why they need to be clear, concise, well-designed, true to the brand and offer a great user experience. People won’t participate in your campaign if the landing page or form is not intuitive and easy to navigate, so graphic designers producing lead gen visuals have a hard task at hand.
The most important part of good content marketing is undoubtedly the writing itself. The writer’s skill, SEO optimization and answering the search intent of your readers is what makes a good blog. But, don’t forget the power of visual storytelling and data visualization.
In content marketing, graphic designers need to create a consistent, blog-wide art direction with the use of the brand colors, as well as additional graphics that will enhance the storytelling and understanding of the subject matter.
Not only that, but often they need to design visuals quickly and under pressure, because in publications things always need to move fast.
Despite many predictions that email marketing will slowly die out with the improvement of segmentation and targeting on social media and the obligatory GDPR rules, it is here to stay.
Needless to say, skillful copywriting and great offers are the key to a successful email campaign, but without the right banners that will help convey the message in seconds, an email is bound to fail.
This field is an industry in itself, and one might argue that web design has more to do with customer satisfaction and sales, than marketing. But consider this: for a startup that doesn’t have a brick-and-mortar shop, a website is everything. It is part of the experience, it is the place where customers learn about the business, and it is the main platform where they can show their brand identity.
For this reason, website designs are definitely a part of a brand’s marketing strategy and design.
Web designers create the visual side of a website: everything from main pages, testimonials, interactive guides, blogs, all the way to the small and simple elements like buttons and backgrounds.
In that process, they need to understand the branding identity, needs of the final users and trends in website design.
Product design is the process of imagining, creating, iterating and optimizing products that solve a certain problem for the end users. It is close to UX, UI design and prototyping, but it is a fusion between marketing, business analytics and design.
One great example of product marketing is Slack’s story: they created a product that wasn’t necessarily made for an existing market, so they made a market from scratch. They learned that remote teams have a problem with communication, whether because of lack of communication channels, or too many of them.
Product designers are on the very verge of being a completely different discipline than graphic design, but still follow the basic conceptions and principles of design.
Benefits of marketing design for businesses
The most important reason why a business should employ good design is that it brings many benefits. From brand recognition to customer loyalty, here are only some of them.
Improves brand experience and awareness
Brand bias is a strong driving force for sales. As much as 82% of adults in the US claim loyalty to a product brand.
If you want to achieve brand loyalty, you must persistently remind potential customers of your products and core values with your visuals: a good logo; layout techniques for a clean and comprehensive website design; impressive and inspiring advertisements; beautiful packaging and branded social media pages—all of this needs to paint a cohesive brand image.
When your logos, brand colors, unique symbols and typography are tagging along on print and digital ads, people are more likely to remember them, and through it, your company and brand.
Creates an emotional response in viewers
Visual images create a strong emotional response in people. Whether something is funny, striking, sad or beautiful, chances are your audience will remember it much better than you trying to explain it.
This study found that when people hear information, they’re likely to remember only 10% of said information three days later. Compared to that, if you pair that information with visuals, people will retain 65% of it.
According to marketers, the most important emotions your ads should evoke are anger, disgust, affirmation, and fear. Try to objectively judge the messaging behind each ad you see in the future, and you’ll see most of them are based on that.
Good marketing design not only establishes but also enforces the brand identity. It helps a company be recognized in a sea of competitors, and share the brand story easily.
Builds trust in the brand
A brand that invests time, resources and creative power into designing great marketing and branding, is a brand that takes itself seriously. For that reason, good marketing design can really help your audiences form an impression of your company as one to be trusted.
Helps with sales
Graphic design plays a huge role in modern marketing trends, especially in digital marketing. A well-performing marketing plan leads to better sales, and the visual aspect of a campaign is especially important.
As human beings, we are susceptible to things that look good, that catch our attention, and invoke emotion in us. A West Rock study shows that 63% of consumers make purchase decisions based on packaging design. In the world of web and mobile app design, 75% of consumers say they judge the credibility of a company based on web design.
The famous “Share a Coke” campaign is credited with a 2% rise in sales for Coca-Cola at launch, for the first time in a decade. Coke didn’t rebrand or create a new product; it just transformed the design of the product packaging to create a “just for you” feeling by personalizing the can or bottle for each member of its target audience.
Marketing design tips to bring your strategy to the next level
Okay, marketing design is important, we underlined that many, many times. But how can you create design that stands out, touches people and stays memorable? Here are some tips to get you started.
Don’t be afraid to experiment
Sometimes, holding strictly to what you know and works fine like its gospel can stop you from creating really memorable marketing campaigns.
Even huge brands experiment with designs and concepts: Pepsi and Coca-Cola troll each other, same as Burger King and McDonald’s, Dunkin Donuts rebranded into just Dunkin, Airbnb completely changed its logo and branding style a while ago.
As long as changes and experiments don’t do you brand more harm than good, you should feel free to reach out to new audiences and strike some heartstrings with creativity.
Relatability is incredibly powerful. Audiences before wanted to see eliteness, luxury, unreachable benefits in their fashion, leisure, luxury goods and cars.
But lately, the audiences respond much better if they know that the people behind the products and services they use are just human, just like them.
Relatability is a buzzword in marketing in the last few years, and it brought many benefits with its relevance: body positivity, racial and ethnic diversity, LGBT inclusion… We see more chubby models, diverse groups of smiling people and women in suits, slaying in the workplace. People want to see themselves represented in the media, and it all starts with advertisements.
Here is an example: Dove’s The Self Esteem Project. The beauty and cosmetics products company made an obligation to use models of all sizes and colors, to help young people see similar bodies like theirs in the media, and hence help them feel comfortable in their bodies and raise their self esteem.
Follow trends, but never break your brand image
It is important for marketing teams and brands, in general, to know that trends are good to piggyback on and use to reach more audiences, but never at the expense of disrespecting the brand values and image.
Here is an example: in 2020, the world started doing the Jerusalema challenge. It is a nice sentiment: people around the world doing a TikTok dance, all to the same song. It is a representation of diversity and perseverance.
Until your bank accountant starts doing it, dressed in a uniform, and dancing to a “hip song the kids listen to”. If a bank's brand image is based on keywords like respectability, long-lasting tradition, loyalty and professionalism, hip, cool, youthful and TikTok-popular should not be a trend they are after.
Use holidays and plan campaigns ahead
Okay, everyone does a flash sale for Black Friday and gives discounts around the Christmas holidays periods. But what if you found holidays that no one knows about, but are relevant to your particular product or business?
Here is a brand that sells mattresses, celebrating Daylight Savings Time change because it gives their customers an extra day of sleep.
People who sell mattresses such as the folks at Casper probably realize that that one hour makes all the difference, as well as quality sleep. They decided to make a rather insignificant day for brands, the day when the clock goes one hour back for daylight savings, a reason to give their customers a 10% discount and give them a shot to spend some time sleeping on a great mattress.
Surprise audiences with moment marketing
When the whole world is buzzing about a topic, brands can use the hype and strike with a cool campaign.
Moment marketing proves to be extremely helpful to brands to go viral. Examples like this one below, just a few hours after Donald Trump lost to Joe Biden traveled the whole world in just a few hours.
- Customers are already part of the 24/7 news cycle because of the immediacy and richness of content available today on demand.
- Brands want to insert themselves into the daily conversations of their users and since people talk about trends, making use of these trends automatically removes the brands’ guess-work.
So whether your brand tweets about the latest episode of a hit show, roasts another brand or simply makes fun of an ousted US president, make sure it does it quickly and when everyone else cares about it.
Marketing design is extremely important in helping brands be remembered, trusted and economically successful. Each brand has its own strategy and focus, as well as visual identity on which it can base every marketing effort and branding asset. These foundations can evolve over time, but brands and their marketing respectively should never stray too far from what they stand for and believe in.
Journalist turned content writer. Based in North Macedonia, aiming to be a digital nomad. Always loved to write, and found my perfect job writing about graphic design, art and creativity. A self-proclaimed film connoisseur, cook and nerd in disguise.