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Design and Marketing Should ‘Play’ Together, Focus on Connecting with the Audience

Exploring the Intersection of Design and Marketing

Design and Marketing Should ‘Play’ Together, Focus on Connecting with the Audience

By Amy Conover

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Editor’s Note: This HOW Design Live article recently appeared in the April 2018 edition of Printing Industries of America: The Magazine. PIA is the largest graphic arts trade association, representing an industry with approximately one million employees and serving the interests of thousands of member companies. See

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Paul Foulkes-Arellano, head of client programs at Precipice Design in London, recently noted in a white paper from HOW Design Live that “In the 21st century, design directors and marketing directors need to put their heads together, align their objectives and collaborate in the pursuit of common commercial goals.”

Foulkes-Arellano points out that marketers need to have an intimate understanding of design, and designers need to master the fine art of marketing. Indeed, it’s key for businesses of all kinds – including in the print space – to strengthen collaboration between marketers and designers.

“This is no small task,” says Foulkes-Arellano, “given that the natural instincts of the designer are often wildly different to those of the marketer. Schooling also has a part to play in this. Business schools pore over data, processes and statistics, whilst a design education is altogether different.”

Can These Two Factions ‘Play’ Together?

When Adobe’s Vanessa B. Dewey, senior product marketing manager, Adobe Creative Jam Enterprise team, thinks of design and marketing, she pictures images of battling warriors ruled by layers of hierarchy to mind. “Overall from my experience, it feels impossible for these two factions to work together harmoniously,” she says. “However, as my career evolved, one word that started to appear in my work vernacular was play. But how can this term, one that equates to childhood, possibly be applicable to in-house design and marketing?”

Dewey points to a quote from well-known designer and creative Kat Holmes, who said, “Curiosity and play are central to design.” Dewey says that when she read those seven words, a light turned on in her head. “Imagine if marketing and design could ‘play’ together,” she says. “The concept of play is very ambiguous and but also complex. It is self-chosen, self-directed and its process is more important than the actual outcome. Could play prove to be invaluable for collaboration of these ‘warring’ factions for producing brilliant design (products and brands)?”

Before design and marketing can play together, two things are needed, according to Dewey: trust and the elimination of un-meaningful procedures. “Trust in collaboration can be generated first,” she says, “if everyone checks their egos at the door and, secondly, if everyone is playing their ‘A’ game. Elimination of unmeaningful procedures helps to better achieve efficient product development by not slowing down or compromising the design process.”

Designers Should Also Speak Business

Fe Amarante, manager of global design at The Hershey Company, says the best designers she’s  worked with speak business while being wildly talented and inspiring creatives. “After starting my career as a designer, I pursued several business graduate degrees, exactly because I felt it was as important to be fluent in creative language as it was to be fluent in business language as a design strategist.”

Amarante notes that it doesn’t mean every designer needs an MBA to be successful, but “…truly understanding the why’s and how’s behind your marketing partners’ challenges is often as important as being the most gifted creative.” She explains, “This balance can be the difference between bringing your marketing partners onboard with your design recommendation – or going back to the drawing board yet one more time.”

Connect with the Audience


Douglas Spencer, president of Spencer Brenneman, LLC in Boston, Mass., suggests that a team should look at the intersection of design and marketing through the lens of the brand strategy. When doing so, he says one can boil down design’s role to one crucial, but


nuanced, goal: Connect with the audience emotionally. “Now, now, a non-designer naysayer somewhere is saying: ‘Design in marketing is to move product! Make sales! Earn money! Those assertions aren’t wrong, necessarily, but they are not the point.”

Spencer believes that a brand is the emotional connection we have with the products and companies that are most important to us, so design and marketing should focus on that. “As humans, we make decisions with two different types of input: analytical and emotional. The facts and figures about a product, the ROI, the specifications, etc., they all speak to our analytical side. It’s the brand that speaks to our emotional side. Brand comes to life through creative, both visual design and copywriting. Those elements in the most successful marketing executions connect, on some level, emotionally with the customer. Whether it is the use of shape and color in a print ad to excite, subdued lighting in a video to calm and center, or the nearly all-white canvas of a website to promise endless possibilities, all of those require an emotion — or our natural cravings for emotion — to really work.”

Amy Conover is the content manager for HOW Design Live, the most inspiring, educational and talked-about design event anywhere in the world. The event takes place April 30 – May 3, 2018 in Boston, Mass., and features The Dieline Conference and HOW Marketing Live with the American Marketing Association. To download the HOW Design Live white paper, The Intersection of Design and Marketing, featuring Printing Industries of America, visit