In the world of branding and marketing, clichés often get thrown around far too easily. “Content is King” is a great example of this. The number of blogs and social media posts declaring this so-called truth would be mind boggling if it weren’t so tedious. The problem with clichés is that, through overuse, they’ve come to sound stale and dated. And, more than this, they often articulate ideas that in and of themselves are now stale and dated too – ideas that no longer represent reality. “Content is King” is no exception.

“It seems that in the coming year those wonderful things called written words will be dethroned. This reflects a fundamental shift in how we consume information, from textual to visual.”

Tham Khai Meng, Worldwide Chief Creative Officer at Ogilvy and Mather

In a modern internet world, the idea that “Content is King” sounds more and more archaic. As Mr Meng points out, we now consume information in an entirely different way. In a more interactive and engaging way – reliant on visuals, not words words words. Design has been there in the background all along, quietly pulling the strings – the Thomas Cromwell to Content’s Henry VIII, Alastair Campbell to its Tony Blair, Pinky to its Brain – but now it’s stepping up to the throne, finally receiving the full credit it deserves.

Design is Your First Impression

Famously, you only get one chance at a first impression. When meeting someone, studies show that the first impression window lasts just seven seconds. Online it is even shorter. As a brand, in that short window, you need to present yourselves as professional and trustworthy – as well as conveying the essence of your brand. It is impossible for words to have any effect in such a short period. People simply can’t read quick enough, and don’t consciously process language this fast. Whereas imagery, colours, design, they bypass consciousness and spark a deeper emotional reaction, immediately. Design gets your foot in the door faster than any words can.

Design Torpedoes Trust

A study conducted by Elizabeth Sillence asked a test group to find websites related to hypertension, then to record whether they trusted or distrusted the website, and why. The results showed that when people distrusted a website, the primary reason given was design. In fact a massive 94% of people cited design as their reason to distrust a website. Bad design makes you look unprofessional and untrustworthy. Average design makes you look corporate, and untrustworthy. Good design looks seamless, mirrors the core of your brand and inspires trust. And if you can gain trust, you’ll gain customers.

Design Reinforces Your Brand

Design is your visual identity. It is the face of your brand. While your content tells the story of your brand with words, your design (if it is good design) tells it with visuals. After all, a picture is worth a thousand words.

Visuals, through imagery and colour, evoke emotions. While words make you think, visuals make you feel. And that is what great branding is all about. Great brands make you feel a certain way. Nike makes you feel strong and determined, Apple makes you feel creative and inspired, BMW makes you feel efficient and… well, German. You feel connected to the brand on a deeper level. You value and trust the way the brand make you feel. Visuals achieve this more effectively than words ever could.

Design Sets You Apart

Great design is memorable. In just the same way that you can’t get a great song out of your head, so it is with design.

During an online hunt for a new suitcase, I recently stumbled onto Away Travel’s website. Their web design was simple yet functional, thoughtful yet slick, and perfectly encapsulated both their product and everything they stand for as a brand. Long story short, I found myself being asked by an embarrassing number of people over the following days why it was I kept going on about a luggage website. Fair enough too. I’m pleased to say I moved past this phase, and haven’t talked about luggage out loud since.

But, amidst all the thousands of different luggage companies out there, they managed to stand out. They set themselves apart, not with anything flashy, not by trying to stand out for the sake of standing out, but with simple and slick design that mirrored what they represent as a brand. And I still want one of those damn suitcases.

Design and Content as King and Queen

The reality is, of course, that Content is going nowhere. It’s still a vital part of branding, and always will be. However, it is becoming less and less effective on its own. As we continue to engage with information in an increasingly visual and interactive way, content, which has always been enhanced by good design, is now becoming reliant on it. The two are now more interconnected than they have ever been before. And not only do they need each other, but they improve each other. Like any good King and Queen, they raise each other up.

So whichever you wish to call King and whichever you wish to call Queen (and, after all, it’s 2019 and the sex of the monarch is irrelevant), they belong together, united, ruling in unison.