When designing your next logo or brochure or website or packaging or storefront or book cover, or deciding what to wear, ask yourself one simple question.
What do I want to remind people of?
The whole point of (most) design is to remind people of something, even if only subconsciously.
The screenshot of the website above reminds me of Basecamp or many high quality “Web 2.0″ sites that I’ve been on before. That’s exactly the point and it’s perfect. I already have an idea of not only how the website works but what type of company they are before I click on anything.
A Malcolm Gladwell book looks and feels very different than a self-published book. If I handed you a book you’ve never seen before, your mind immediately notes which of the two it reminds you of.
A Bell & Ross watch feels significantly different than a Timex from Target. There is no right or wrong, but if I handed you a watch, you could probably tell whether it reminds you of one with a three digit price, or a five digit price.
The same is true with customer service. If you start a new business and your outstanding customer service ‘reminds’ a new customer of phenomenal service they remember from Disney, Zappos or Nordstrom, you automatically reap some of the benefit from that customer’s positive memories.
Everything your business does, says, feels or displays will remind someone of something. Do you know what that something is? Is it what you want to remind them of?
The only exception is when you’re designing something so unique that you (intentionally) don’t want to remind people of anything. The iPhone. The Blue Snowball microphone. The Soul iD book. If your product is that remarkable, you don’t need (or want) to remind people of anything, you want to blow the lid off.
[Be careful if you’re thinking your product or service belongs in that exception category. It’s possible, but unlikely.]