I walked into a friend’s home and found the fridge covered with refrigerator art from her seven year old. The traditional home often features such childhood artwork but this was extremely precious as the child has learning disabilities and drawing.
The artwork was beautiful. I stood there transfixed at the crude scribbles, trying to find distinguishable shapes and forms. Then I realized it didn’t matter. They were her attempts to connect visually to her world and translate it.
A few days later I watched a presentation by Aarron Walter, author and UX director at MailChimp. He explained how we need to design “small kindness” into our site designs, personal touches that connect with us personally through personality, story, and voice.
It’s not about the products. It’s about the effect of those products on the people and their lives.
This is what those pieces of art on the refrigerator made me realize. While they are scribbles to someone else, the effect of these on my life, because I understood the big picture and real story behind them, made them even more important and special.
Walter cited Seth Godin’s book Tribes as he described client demographics, how tribes are important to culture as they are inclusive but also exclusive, serving only those who want and need to be a part of the tribe, the community. The following comment stopped me in my tracks.
When you design for everyone, you design for no one.
He’s so right. You must take your site personally and design and create content for the part of the tribe you serve, not everyone. When you design for everyone, everyone loses, including you.
He showed examples of companies changing the concept of branding and marketing. General Electric, one of the top five corporations in the world, changed their messaging and marketing to let employees tell the story of the company to make this huge corporate represent the individual.
Many companies are completely rethinking the way they market their businesses to make them more personal – they have to. Think of the Geico Gecko, Progressive Insurance’s character Flo, and Target’s new ad campaign which pokes fun at the high fashion industry by making laundry soap sexy and chic. The blog and social web has forced them to change their messaging strategies, making them get personal, sometimes seriously personal.