Digital AF

Episode 15 - Creating Meaningful Design


Jessi Cox

Inspired by street art, punk music and obsession for design, you won't find two more interesting blokes than our Art Directors, Raf & Thom. In this episode of Digital AF, it's time to say goodbye to Canva DIY. Our AF Art Directors expose the importance of creating meaningful design to strategically target your audience.

Inspired by street art, punk music and obsession for design, you won't find two more interesting blokes than our Art Directors, Raf & Thom. In this episode of Digital AF, it's time to say goodbye to Canva DIY. Our AF Art Directors expose the importance of creating meaningful design to strategically target your audience.

Jessi (00:01):

Welcome to Digital AF. My name is Jessi. I'm a Marketing Manager here at April Ford and today, I want to chat about the importance of creating meaningful design. We have a full in-house design team here at April Ford that work across various industries to create design for the services that we provide to our clients, such as social content, branding, email marketing, web development, digital advertising and more. Design requires a purpose, strategy and meaning behind it to connect with the target audience, which is exactly what our design team strive to do when designing creative that accurately reflects the brand's message.

Jessi (00:33):

In this week's episode of Digital AF, I have our two art directors, Raf and Thom, joining me to chat about the importance of creating meaningful design to strategically appeal to the target audience.

Speaker 2 (00:47):

Digital AF, the digital marketing podcast that features real conversations from those who live and breathe the digital agency life. April Ford digital agency shares their tips, tricks, and exposes the truth about what works and what doesn't. Welcome to Digital AF. Let's get into it.

Jessi (01:12):

So Raf, just to give some background knowledge, can you explain your experience working with design, whether that is your qualifications or years of agency experience?

Raf (01:21):

Hello Thom, hello, Jessi.

Thom (01:23):

Hi, Raf.

Raf (01:24):

I actually concluded my degree in industrial design, where I had the opportunity to learn the history of arts, perceptual psychology, theory of communication, fundamentals of language and design, fundamentals of human expression, other subjects. Then I started my MBA here in Australia in digital management with focus on marketing. That I had the opportunity to study relevant subjects to provide techniques for the development of meaningful and conceptual design.

Raf (01:56):

I had subjects such as leadership, marketing strategy, disruptive innovation, marketing analytic management, digital marketing management, consumer behaviour, data analysis, marketing psychology, ethics and sustainability, emotional intelligence, culture, intelligence diversity. I think these degrees more important to learn the different clients that we need to understand the market necessity, customer necessity, and what people are talking about. So, I think when you get this information, we are able to bring something meaningful to our work.

Raf (02:36):

I have been in the design and advertising industry for 18 years. I have worked with multinational agencies also, and I had the opportunity to work alongside many important creative professionals, I still work with. So, it has reinforced the importance of the concept of why we need to bring concept to design, how to make it through trends and how to create awarded campaigns. 360-degree thinking and exercise to come up with, to bring ideas for companies, ads and branding as well. How to solve the consumer's desire, needs and wants through design. So yeah, we have to update and recycle ourselves, our minds constantly.

Jessi (03:22):

Yeah, that's amazing Raf, and it's great to see that you have so much experience and knowledge in this area of design. Thom, what is your experience with design and agency work?

Thom (03:30):

Well, that was a really amazing answer by Raf, so I'm going to try and follow that up. So, I've been in the design industry for around 20 years, I hate to say it. I studied at Queensland College of Art Bachelor of Design, way back when. Really focused on design and art as well. So I took a lot of art classes when I was younger. So, what that gives me is quite a creative approach to my design process.

Thom (03:55):

I've been lucky enough to work in Brisbane extensively, overseas in the UK, which is a path to a lot of designers from Australia take. And now luckily in later life, not like I'm retired, but I wish, we have settled on the Sunshine Coast for lifestyle reasons, but it does actually have quite a little vibrant design hub, once you start ... design culture, I should say, once you start getting beneath the surface of the shiny beaches and the holiday town, there is some really nice creative things going on locally. But yeah, 20 years across the board, I'm always focused on design, but with a little bit of an artistic bent, which I try to bring into the work just to really drive those ideas for our clients.

Jessi (04:33):

Yeah, great. And it's also great to see that on the Sunshine Coast we have such an amazing design team here at April Ford.

Raf (04:38):

Thom just forgot to say he's an excellent photographer and painter as well.

Jessi (04:41):

Oh yeah, you did forget to say that, Thom.

Thom (04:43):

Well, yes, hobby as a photographer. But yeah, I love all aspects. I love knowing how things work. I think if you know how things work, then you can really use them to your advantage. So, photography is one that I dabble in to support my design. Animation, we do animation in-house. Branding obviously is a big one that I love, type setting, all aspects of design essentially.

Jessi (05:05):

So here at April Ford, you both work across a broad range of projects and industries. What industries do you specialise in or love creating design for? I'll start with you, Raf.

Raf (05:14):

Well, my background is in various industries. It was important to get experience in, for example, tourism, automotive industry, FMCG, real estate, property, news, healthcare, wellness, pharmaceutical, education, universities, agribusiness, retail, shopping centres, hospitality, restaurants, bars, events, marketing, fashion, finance. I think everything was important to do my job nowadays.

Raf (05:44):

Always when I had the opportunity to work with these clients, was to work with clients in Australia, or China, Fiji, Brazil, the US, England, in Latin American countries, which allowed me to develop works for big multinational brands. So, I think it was important because it's different. Sometimes you need to adapt to the culture, sometimes you need to adapt to international alignment. If it's a big client, you need to respect the brand’s guidelines, so it needs to look the same globally. So, it was pretty important. And of course, I think this kind of thing is pretty relevant to create something, to get experience, to create meaningful design.

Jessi (06:26):

Yeah, definitely. It's great to see that you've had that experience with all those industries and also internationally, as you're from Brazil.

Raf (06:34):

Yeah, actually, yeah, originally from Brazil.

Jessi (06:36):

And Thom, what industry of design do you specialise in?

Thom (06:39):

It's quite varied. So, over my general career, it's been quite a mixture. At the moment, we've been working in-house quite a lot with quite a lot of health clients and quite a lot of education clients. So, obviously healthcare system, healthcare systems, probably not the right way to phrase that, but healthcare industry, we've been making some really beautiful branding in that space, getting some really good outcomes for the client. So, that's a more recent industry that I've been enjoying working in, but across my life as designer, it's been really varied.

Thom (07:09):

So real estate, obviously, I think a lot of designers inevitably end up doing a little bit of real estate. Education's another big one that I mentioned. So yeah, obviously education, branding's quite an interesting one. And then all the fun ones. So, as Raf mentioned, the hospitality, who doesn't love a really cool restaurant brand?

Jessi (07:28):

Yeah, hospitality's fun.

Thom (07:29):

Yeah, and then social clients, I think the beauty of AF is so varied. So, it is a really wide-ranging mix of clients and we try and adapt our skill sets to anyone who comes through the door. But yeah-

Raf (07:43):


Thom (07:43):

... no, it's a good challenge. But yeah, it's quite varied, I would say.

Jessi (07:47):

And as you both work across a broad range of projects, you also work with the production team, copywriters, ads team, and account executives to achieve results. I would say that understanding the brand is essential to creating amazing design. So Raf, what methods are put in place to ensure you are fully briefed and understand the client before creating design?

Raf (08:05):

Well, in the discovery meeting we study the client to ask many things, as much as possible to try to get all information, understand the market necessity, consumers necessity in what people talk about. As I said before, they understand the desires, wants, needs, points of difference, mission, values, purpose, culture, demographics, target market, what clients do, how they do, why they do. It's so important to understand why they do it.

Raf (08:35):

Identify the keywords and points and put them together. I think if you make your notes, and you select the keywords. I think it's so important to translate this in branding or campaign, everything.

Raf (08:51):

And after that, we develop the position, logo, tagline, concept, and tone of voice. Yeah, we need a consistent plan. Also, data and strategy are essential for our work. I think design is strategy, when you develop something. In terms of brand, we transform everything in emotion, story, personality, culture, and vision through the information that we got before. We think about each detail such as colours, fonts, graphic elements, illustration, photography, videography, and then also the tone of voice, of course.

Raf (09:29):

We have to create engagement through campaigns, ads, and social media in creative ways. And you have to understand how to make it through trends, or try to bring something new, original, disruptive, through new technologies, international things, and with what make a difference in people's life. I think it's so important nowadays. More and more brands gets more attention and engagement with social and environmental ideas.

Jessi (10:00):

Thom, we touched on it with Raf a bit, but how important is it that the design reflects the client's brand, especially across all marketing channels for an omnichannel approach, and how do we ensure this is achieved?

Thom (10:10):

So, it's a really good question. I think it's about understanding the client. So, we obviously really do deep dives at the start of a design process and identify what those channels are, how we're going to approach the channels. Obviously, you want the customer experience to be consistent across the board wherever they're coming into contact with that brand. So, whether it be social, on a website, I guess it's our job to try and make that as consistent as possible. And we do that through the kind of items that Raf mentioned. So, our formal brand structure is like typography, colour imagery, but the biggest one is probably the strategy. So, it's making sure that that messaging is really on point, it's relevant to what the client trying to get across to the consumer or the target audience. Copywriters play a huge role in that.

Thom (10:57):

So, our internal copywriter, Carmen, does an amazing job and Tayte. They both do really good work around the words. And I think in terms of design, sometimes the language that is put into design is sometimes under-looked, which is something we definitely don't do because we know it has strong meaning and it can be really effective. So, it's a combination of all these elements that we concern ourselves with at a micro level across all the channels, that just brings together the entire package.

Jessi (11:23):

And as you said, it's really important that we convey what the client is trying to. While reflecting the brand through the design is a priority, we also have to ensure that we are delivering design that the clients asked for and loves. So Raf, how important is it that we create something the client is passionate about?

Raf (11:42):

Well, the client's insight, information, and point of view are always welcome of course. However, we need to be careful to develop effective and meaningful work. I think they need to match the concept in our recommendation. Let's bring benefits and reflect positively on the brands or production work effectively in terms of profit and return on investment. So, I believe this vision is what clients expect from an advertising agency.

Jessi (12:08):

Yeah, exactly. And if we are creating something that will appeal to their target audience and we've listened to the client, we'll be creating great design for them.

Jessi (12:15):

So obviously, the design for each client will be very different to reflect their individual brand. For example, the style of messaging for a doctor's clinic would be very different to a trendy restaurant. How do you differentiate between design for different clients and how important is it to create design specifically for the client and industry you are creating design for? Thom, could you answer that?

Thom (12:34):

Yeah, I guess the first thing that springs to mind is probably something we focus on, which is tone of voice. So my understanding of it, and people might vary on this, but my understanding is that your branding should almost be like talking to a person. So, if you picture a restaurant as a person, how would that person sound? What would be the type of dialogue you would have with that person? I think that's a really good way of getting personality into the brand.

Thom (13:00):

So yeah, obviously, if it's a really fun kind of night spot aimed at 25-year-old hipsters, to people, I don't know that makes me sound old, but obviously that tone of voice, that brand's going to be very youthful and playful, where if you're talking to a surgeon, you want them to know what they're doing, but you want that tone of voice to be still really engaging, not authoritarian, but I guess the word I'm looking for is trusted, knowledgeable. You throw all these words around.

Thom (13:28):

So, it's really important the individual client has a really unique tone of voice. The design direction matches that. So again, if it's a really cool restaurant, you're going to have really edgy graphics, beautiful photography. For a surgeon, you still want really interesting, beautiful design, but it might be a little bit more understated and a bit more strategic in terms of a calm approach, visually. So obviously, every client comes with its own set of criteria that we want to consider building out that brand. We definitely take on board how that brand wants to sound, how it wants to feel, what it wants to achieve. So, like an emotional approach to a brand almost.

Jessi (14:06):

And that's a great way to look at it as well with treating a brand like a person. Thank you both. Was there anything else any of you would like to add?

Raf (14:13):

Well, I think design needs to be done with passion, with all clients features, strengths, culture, opportunity, and then connects everything. Transforming a strong conceptual brand campaign or any marketing action. Because design means concept, so it needs to be meaningful for brands, for products, for people, or for the planet and society. This is our work, this is what we love to do.

Jessi (14:37):

And did you have anything else you wanted to add, Thom?

Thom (14:39):

We want to do work that people are excited by and we want to do work that connects and achieves certain outcomes. So, that's the aim.

Jessi (14:46):

Well, thank you so much for joining me, Thom and Raf. And thank you to everyone listening. If you are interested in implementing creative and meaningful design for your business through any of our services, including email marketing, social content, branding, website design, advertising and digital TV, please do not hesitate to contact us on 1300 004 777, or jump on our website We are always happy to have a chat and discuss how you can grow your business and improve your digital marketing. Thanks for joining me. See you.

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