B2B Articles - April 13, 2023
By Matt Pilon, Content Specialist
In digital marketing assets, design is as essential as the message it conveys. The two must be paired to be effective.
“When design and content work well together, they guide the journey you’re sending your reader on,” said Sara Backus, Ironpaper’s Design Director. “Design very often determines the first impression a viewer has of your company. Its job is to be the envelope of your message, and if it’s weak, doesn’t capture someone’s attention, or feels irrelevant, readers won’t even read.”
“When design and content work well together, they guide the journey you’re sending your reader on”
- Sara Backus, Ironpaper Design Director
Like writing, design isn’t a static art. It’s always evolving.
Backus and Ironpaper Designer Abby Dodson shared their observations about the latest trends to watch in B2B content marketing design in 2023.
Brand marketers have long sought to engage buyers with a rich and personal user experience. This has only accelerated in a post-pandemic world where people are craving connection.
“Really, this is everything that Ironpaper does – helping people see themselves in the solutions that we're providing,” Backus said.
Dodson says representation is key.
“It’s really important, I think, to push it beyond the bounds of what we see on everyday corporate sites and kind of move into a direction where it’s more expressive, a little bit more creative, and a lot more representational,” she said.
The COVID-19 pandemic made people feel isolated. “Everybody was kind of alone for a while,” Dodson said. “And so now they're looking for connections everywhere, be it in real life or online. A brand should be speaking to you as a human being.”
One implication of this trend is that stock imagery and graphics could increasingly evolve into custom illustrations that provide a more personal touch.
Many might be familiar with brutalism as an era of building design, but it applies to content design too. Brutalism is characterized by a raw, unpolished aesthetic in order to convey authenticity and eschew boredom and tiredness.
“Now people are saying ‘OK, I followed the rules, now what? I’m exhausted after seeing the same thing over and over again.”
-Abby Dodson, Ironpaper Designer
“Brutalism is often confused with building things that are just ugly to be ugly, but in reality, it's more about pushing the boundary of what I'm creating,” said Dodson.
Brutalist design (Wikipedia is seen as a classic example) can be seen as a reaction people have to wanting something different. For example, COVID-19 created new rules to follow in many people’s lives.
“Now people are saying ‘OK, I followed the rules, now what? I’m exhausted after seeing the same thing over and over again,’” she said. “How can people push the envelope, and give something new?”
Artificial intelligence tools seem to be taking off in 2023, both for content creation and design.
While these tools have shocked many with how fast they have developed, there are still limitations for designers in using them, and it will still take some time for them to truly take hold.
First, there are legal rights issues to sort out. For example, is the AI stealing other creators’ works?
More broadly, AI may not quite be ready for primetime. However, Backus says her team is keeping close tabs and anticipates that these tools could eventually help designers achieve desired results more efficiently, at least for certain tasks.
“The technology is very exciting, but the practical application of using it in design isn't quite there yet,” she said. “It's just the beginning and it’s going to turn into something we can use. It’s about being ready for that and how to use it.”
Designers are working to determine how to use these tools where it makes the most sense, including for repetitive, manual tasks, Dodson says. That could include tasks like removing image backgrounds automatically rather than using Photoshop manually.
“The positive side of it is definitely that it will help us work way faster and way more efficiently,” Dodson said.
The current crop of business leaders is constantly aging into itself, and a new decade also tends to bring a new wave of nostalgic marketing.
So while B2B buyers often want to see design and messaging that feels different, at the same time they long for themes and styles from the days they were in their prime.
It’s long been the case that this trend evolves every 20 years or so, but technology tools have only made it easier for designers to use nostalgic typefaces, color swatches, and other design elements from yesteryear.
Making emotional connections with buyers that take them back to when they were in their 20s or 30s can be a powerful tool.
“It's appealing to the decision-makers, and also recognizes what they were experiencing in this decade when they were having fun,” Doson said. “And so it’s that same human condition. It’s seeing themselves in this style.”
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