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Steal This Idea: The design well

When you apply the design process both deeply and broadly, you can create rich brand experiences that turn customers into believers. The trick is to do what Shakespeare did in creating his plays. By designing entertainment products that worked on multiple levels, he was able to increase not only the number of customers but also their satisfaction, so they came back again and again. Here’s a diagram called the design well that will help your visualize how your company is understood by its various audiences.

The top of the design well visualizes your company as a set of concentric rings. It starts with vision at the core of the company and ripples outward through identity, culture, products, and brand – the place where your company touches customers. Each of these rings presents a design challenge, and it’s important to design a clear alignment from the inside to the outside. If there’s a disconnect between vision and brand, for example, your brand will be seen as muddled, inauthentic, or even suspect.

Alignment across the top of the well can be addressed through an organizational understanding of brand, plus the structures and processes needed to enable it. My books The Brand Gap, Zag, and The Designful Company will give you a better grasp of brand alignment.

The side of the design well shows the range of levels at which your audience can encounter your company. The shallowest level, at the top, is perception – the surface of human experience, including what we see, hear, touch, smell, and taste.

The next level down is reason, the logical processes we use to make sense of products, services, companies, and communications.

Going deeper into the well we find emotion, the feelings that drive many of our decisions, including those that are hidden beneath our reason.

Below the level of emotion is resonance, which gives us the intuition that a relationship with a given company, product, or offer is “right” for us.

At the deepest part of the well is ideology, the tribal connection we feel with a brand – the deep knowledge that we “belong” to a company or brand.

When you touch people at more than one level, you not only deepen their experience, but you reach a wider audience, since people vary in their sensitivity to each type of experience.

Designing deeply cannot be achieved through organization mandate. It can only come through the personal mastery of the designers doing the work. While Shakespeare was a great collaborator, it was his personal vision and skill that gave his plays – and his business – the richness and authenticity that created a legend.

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