Style and substance: Why good content design is good business

Thomas Watson Jr. said “Good design is good business” and here at Paraffin, we couldn’t agree more. Our in-house design team carefully designs every single piece of content we create; from workshop invites to comprehensive toolkits and everything in between. This is not to say that excellent, inspiring and thought-provoking content is not important. High quality content is the foundation of everything we do, but beautiful design ensures that our content is user-friendly, easy to digest and seamlessly leads to action.

“Good design is actually a lot harder to notice than poor design, in part because good design fits our needs so well that the design is invisible” (Donald A. Norman).

Design thinking has a human-centred core. We might be designing infographics or powerpoint slides rather than computers or handbags, but the user experience is still central to everything we create.

In this article, we’ll share three reasons why we believe style is just as important as substance:

  1. Humans are visual creatures

Vision has always been the most dominant sense for humans; in the past it allowed us to quickly assess major threats, potential food supplies and reproductive opportunities quickly and efficiently. We are incredible at remembering pictures: hear a piece of information and 3 days later, you’ll remember 10% of it. Add a picture and you’ll remember 65% (source). Pictures beat text every time because reading is so inefficient: our brains see words as lots of tiny pictures and we have to identify certain features in the words to be able to read them, which takes time. The brain processes images 60,000 times faster than text (source). As technology has progressed, we’ve seen this human love of pictures mirrored in increasingly sophisticated visual digital offerings, from social media to online learning and e-commerce.

“Storytelling is the most powerful way to put ideas into the world today” (Robert McKee). 

It’s clear we live in a visual society but what does this mean for the design of our content, in practise? We don’t simply present data; instead we marry meaningful content with beautiful design to tell engaging visual stories which are memorable and inspire people to act. The journeys and experiences we create may be in the form of short films, carefully designed infographics or clever slides. Careful copy writing ensures that we never use more words than are absolutely necessary.

  1. Our clients are overloaded with information

“A wealth of information creates a poverty of attention” (Herbert Simon). 

We are blessed, and cursed, by an abundance of information and knowledge. In both our personal and business lives, we spend our days bombarded by e-mails, articles, research, social media posts, Whatsapp messages and more. Psychologists have long acknowledged that human beings have a very limited ability to store and process information. Influential psychologist George Armitage Miller proposed that people can only process about seven pieces of information at a time (source) and that when overloaded with information, people make poorer decisions.

With this understanding of human psychology in mind, we ensure that our content is as simple as possible; that we “chunk” connected information together into stories and that our use of visuals enhances the end user experience and makes our content easier to process and remember.

  1. Superior design delivers a better return on investment

“Design is intelligence made visible” (Alina Wheeler).

Some agencies might argue that what you say is far more important than how it is presented, but at Paraffin, we believe that superior design maximises the investment that our clients have made.

A focus on style and substance in everything we do ensures that we get the most value out of the information we want to share as well as the clients who are working with the content; ultimately leading to the most competitive results. In today’s competitive corporate environment, almost every company has access to the same information but it’s how that information is actioned that ultimately makes all the difference.

If you’d like to learn more about how we can bring our signature Paraffin style to your project or business question, please contact us.