The rights and wrongs of seasonal design | Heart Internet Blog – Focusing on all aspects of the web

It may not feel like it, but Christmas is just around the corner. In fact, if you’re a design agency working with e-commerce clients, the chances are they’ve had Christmas on the mind for a couple of months now. It seems hard to believe, but the biggest retailers start their Christmas PR push as early as June.

So now’s as good a time as any for you to think about how you can add a little design magic into the mix. After all, Christmas is the busiest time of the year for many kinds of business. And if you help your clients to win big during peak times, they’re more likely to keep doing business with you.

Let’s look at how seasonal design can help businesses make a bigger impact on their customers. And also some of the pitfalls that you’ll encounter with designing for a specific holiday or event.

New Year seasonal design can include hats and noisemakers

Getting it right – Seasonal design is not rebranding

As designers, one of the most rewarding things we get to do is work on a rebranding project. Rebranding lets us leave our mark on a company in a way that can last for years. And it can also allow us to be at our most creative as we help guide clients on the path to a brand identity that’s right for them and their business.

But seasonal design isn’t rebranding. It’s about introducing seasonal elements in a way that complements the existing brand image.

The foundation for seasonal design should always be a company’s existing brand guidelines and image. For example, adding a Halloween theme to a skateboard shop’s website will probably work. But having zombies and ghouls pop up on the site of a chartered accountant almost certainly won’t.

Seasonal design is all about emphasising the relevant parts of a brand’s identity. Supermarkets are excellent at this, both online and offline. Look at their websites, watch their adverts and walk around their stores. You’ll be able to see how these huge brands are constantly telling customers that they, the supermarket, are an integral part of people’s everyday life. From this starting point, they can add a seasonal element to their branding to show customers that their particular supermarket is a vital part of Christmas, Halloween, the summer holidays, or almost any other seasonal event you can think of.

Valentine's Day seasonal design can include candy hearts

Getting it wrong – Seasonal design is just a few snowflakes

At the other end of the scale, we have the idea that seasonal design isn’t really to be taken seriously and all that’s needed is the addition of a couple of snowflakes.

If all you’re doing is adding a few little graphical effects, then your client isn’t going to experience the full benefits that seasonal design can bring.

Events like Christmas, Halloween and “Back to School” are a great way to drive sales through a sense of urgency. After all, you can’t really buy your Christmas presents in January, have a Halloween party in November, or send your children to school without the right uniform.

Done well, seasonal design helps drive this message of urgency. It highlights the products that people will need to buy, and emphasises if they don’t hurry, then they’ll miss out.

Extra elements such as snowflakes at Christmas will help boost that seasonal feeling in customers, and perhaps prime them to take action. But if there’s no obvious action for them to take, then the effort spent adding those design elements will have been wasted.

Ideally, seasonal design elements should be there to support a relevant product or special offer. If your client is set on seasonal design, but doesn’t have a specific campaign in mind, your work will be a lot easier if you can convince them to at the very least offer a seasonal discount. Doing so will give your work a central focus, making it much more effective.

Easter seasonal design can include chocolate rabbits

Getting it right – Seasonal design is a cross-platform job

Seasonal design for a website is good. Seasonal design that covers a business’s website, social media platforms and marketing emails is even better.

You’re a designer, so you’ll already know about the benefits of consistent cross-channel design. But your customers may not. As such, it’s your job to explain this to them, and to convince them to embrace it.

There may even be an opportunity for you to upsell here – for example, if you know a client is using email marketing, but you’re not responsible for designing those emails this might be a chance to win that extra business. A good pitch here could help cement your relationship with the client.

Summer seasonal design can include beach scenes

Getting it wrong – Thinking timing doesn’t matter

Getting your timings wrong with seasonal design can destroy all chances of a successful campaign. If a Christmas design project doesn’t go live until December 27th, then clearly it’s not going to help boost sales.

Equally, launching a campaign too early can have a negative effect on its results, and can also mean that an opportunity for a more relevant seasonal campaign is missed. Starting a Christmas promotion in early October isn’t a good idea for most businesses, and if the company could have launched a Halloween campaign instead, then it may actually miss out on sales it would have otherwise picked up.

The key here is planning. Discuss your clients’ needs well in advance of the deadline for a seasonal campaign. That way, you’ll be better able to manage your workload. A strong understanding of the way your clients operate also helps here. If a client usually has a Christmas campaign, but hasn’t mentioned it there’s absolutely no harm in checking to see if they’re planning one. And if you have a client that has a habit of requesting last minute rush-jobs, then try to predict their needs based on the kind of business they run.

Planning ahead as far as possible will help make sure you stay on track. Even if clients do throw up a surprise or two along the way.

Halloween seasonal design can include jack-o-lanterns

Summing up

We’ve touched on some of the ways that seasonal design can make a difference to your clients’ businesses, and some of the ways that it can go wrong. Overall, the most important thing to remember is that part of your roll is to guide your clients towards making the correct design decisions for their business.

What are your views on seasonal design? Let us know your thoughts in a comment below.

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