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Campaign life cycle: How long should a design last?

One of the largest costs associated with any design project (aside from material cost - if any) is the concept and revision process. Finding the "perfect" balance. This perfect balance is usually a joint effort of client and artist, however design by committee projects very rarely hit their mark.

In trying to make everyone happy you make no one happy. Ultimately the singularity in which the brand is supposed to encompass gets lost, while conventional visuals and standard marketing rhetoric get found. Not an ideal situation when you're trying to communicate something that was important enough to hire a design professional in the first place.

Look at it this way. In communication the message has to be valid, structured well, but above all it must be interesting and unique - no matter what side of the scale. It grabs attention and warrants a reaction rather than passing it over with indifference.

How much time should I invest?

Clients and Designers alike need to understand the life span in which a design and campaign will remain relevant. There are a number of things to consider and factor in when understanding the life cycle and a number of scenarios to investigate in order to plan accordingly. This is where marketing calendars come in very handy. They keep us on track but also ensure our cash flow and budgets are handled accordingly.

What are you creating?

  • Advertisement
  • External Communication piece like a catalogue or annual  report
  • Internal Communications
  • Presentations
  • Website
  • Retail Signs
  • Business cards

One time or repeat?

From the examples listed above, we can make some clear assumptions as to the who, what, when and where your designs will be viewed. Having understood that, Client and Designer will have a pretty good idea of what amount of time should be invested into designing the piece. It's always good to work backwards as well to see how a design could translate into other mediums.

  • Will the design be seen more than once by an individual?
  • Where are they viewing this?
  • Can the elements in the design be reused?
  • What is the length the piece will be top of mind?
  • Is it a take away piece?
  • How long will they keep it?
  • How long will the content be relevant?

Relevancy in pop culture?

Jumping on a verbal or visual trend can be quite beneficial. Not only does it convey a brand that is in tune with the community but it demonstrates an understanding of the wants and desires of a culture. Speed to market is key to capitalize on this strategy. Show up late to the dance in last years fashion and you'll get criticized hard. The phrase is "that is so last week" comes to mind. Sad but true in today's social media space. Have you heard Gangnam style?

You can also strike out using passing trends if you remain in the same space while others follow suit. You may have been the first to market, but your creative might not be the first of it's kind that a viewer sees. Unless you want to put a disclaimer on the bottom that states "we did it first" you're never going to be able to control the he said, she said game. Judge Judy doesn't want to hear it and neither do consumers. It will look like you're trying too hard.

Recommendations to Designers

Give yourself enough time at the beginning of the project to ask yourself some of the questions I've posed. In doing so, you'll set your expectation on the finished piece before you've even started to put pen to paper (metaphorically, or not?). Now that your expectation is set you have a better chance of being happy with the designs you're working on, while spending less time second guessing relevancy, and over-thinking the creative.

Recommendations to Clients

Keep a clear vision and expectation of what the communication piece is ultimately going to do. Is it going to change your business forever? Or is it simply going to reinforce the brand and build equity and get a few glances? Whatever the case, make sure that you consider the time/cost implications along with a realistic idea of what the piece will ultimately do for you. You can't expect a designer to have 10 revisions on a sale post card, when the expectation is to clear out old inventory and make your cost back. You may end up losing money because of the revisions, not the lack of sale shoppers.

So how long should a design last? As you can tell it really depends - but you can expect to put a shelf life on your next ad already, and start planning for your next cycle.

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Paul Phillips
Written By

Paul Phillips

Co-founder, Partner and Creative Director at Jackson Wynne @tack_paul