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People who excel at makeovers have a special kind of vision: the ability to see what is and see what could be.

Makeovers capture our imaginations. When we see how an ordinary person’s image or living space can be transformed by professionals, we think “Wow! That stylist or interior designer saw possibilities we couldn’t see!”

If you are in charge of marketing, you may have considered a design makeover for one or more of the promotional vehicles you use. It could be your website, brochure, newsletter or magazine that is not living up to its potential. Maybe you are tired of the same-old-same-old, or something about the look and feel has gotten stale.

You know as a professional marketer that the look and feel of your promotional vehicles affects the way audiences look at your organization and feel about it. You want to get it right.

But you may be hesitating because you aren’t able to envision what a redesign could achieve. Very few marketing directors are designers themselves, so they can’t conceive all the possibilities that a professional designer can — especially a designer who is outside the organization and has no emotional attachment to the current design.

Two approaches you could take

If you’re determined to do something but are on the fence about a makeover, a simpler design refresh may be the approach that moves you forward. Here are two things to consider in deciding which approach to take.

Makeover: A design makeover is often part of a significant vision shift or upgrade in overall quality. It usually goes hand in hand with content restructuring. If you are ready to invest in such a major undertaking, start six months before you expect to debut the new design.

Refresh: If a total overhaul seems unnecessary or overwhelming, don’t let that stop you from doing anything at all. A cosmetic design refresh can have the same effect as repainting and redecorating a room: The structure stays the same, but the visual components get updated.

Four elements of a design refresh

A professional designer can develop concepts to show you what a cosmetic refresh could look like. It will likely involve one or more of the following considerations.

  1. Colors and fonts. Changing colors and fonts is one of the quickest ways to freshen up a stale design. As with all forms of fashion, color and font preferences change over time. Unless fashion is your business, there’s no need to appear trendy. But there’s no benefit in looking years behind the times. 
  2. Photos. Photography captures a moment in time, so it’s easy to see when that time is far in the past. In any refresh, the designer will replace photos showing flip phones, chunky desktop monitors and any other old technology. People sporting clothing or hairstyles not commonly seen today will also be removed.
  3. Proportion. The relative sizes of various page elements and their density can date a design. This is easily seen in the design of a home page or the cover of a print piece. Looking current today requires big, bold visuals. A cluttered page with many small elements says “old school.” Keep in mind, however, that a design reliant on giant visuals will fail if the visuals are mediocre. It pays to plan these shots well in advance and hire a professional photographer.
  4. User Experience. Designs are dated when interior pages are so chock full of content that the user/reader has trouble navigating through it. A common example is group shots of a uniform size clumped together with one shared caption. Users encounter a sea of faces and the gang caption hinders pairing of names with faces. The designer will strive to improve the user experience by expanding the amount of white space, varying photo sizes and shapes, and placing a caption with each photo.
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