Effective Document Design Integrates Both Style and Substance

Companies can no longer afford to develop, manage, and deploy customer-facing documents in isolation from a bigger strategic picture.
Customer Experience

One of my favorite magazines is Architectural Digest. I like it because it portrays design as more than just creating something amazing. The designers featured in the magazine realize design is all about fulfilling a purpose, improving a given situation for its intended user. In the end, they create a space that is not only great to look at, but it also gets the job done.

I am drawn to this magazine because I view the communications that companies send to customers much in the same way the designers do in this magazine. Statements, as an example, should be considered a key component of a larger purpose. Yet, month after month, many companies continue to print and mail a host of customer communications, including letters, statements and other documents, that miss the opportunity to function as powerful touchpoints that strengthen the customer experience and brand loyalty.

In today's competitive environment, companies can no longer afford to develop, manage, and deploy customer-facing documents in isolation from a bigger strategic picture. Communications we send to customers should be part of an integrated program in which every piece has a consistent direct influence on the recipient, their choices, and brand loyalty over time.

Today, many companies that send out ongoing monthly documents are turning to color as a way to improve the look of these customer communications. And that is a good thing. In terms of the customer experience, adding color offers numerous advantages for getting your message across and advances in digital technologies are making it affordable to do so.

However, just adding color isn't enough. Poorly written, unclear, and cluttered statements continue to drive frustrated calls into companies, eroding the customer experience and increasing the cost of doing business. Improving statement design is much like what the designers I admire in Architectural Digest have to consider. Each finished piece should not only be easy on the eye, but it must also perform and fulfill its purpose. Improving statement design to ensure they are an asset to your customer communications portfolio requires consideration of several key components that ultimately deliver significant benefits to your company and your customers:

  1. Strategic use of color to reinforce the brand and draw the eye to key information
  2. Creative iconography, graphics, and other images to understand information quickly and easily
  3. Clear language writing to ensure the document is comprehensible
  4. White space to improve readability
  5. Consideration of system requirements to get into production seamlessly
  6. Testing to ensure the new statement is something that is useful to the end recipient

Take a close look at the statements your company or your client companies send to customers. What do they say about your company and the value you put on communicating with customers? With the substantial investments that organizations make to attract new customers and reach new markets, it simply doesn't make good business sense to risk losing loyalty as a result of tired, clumsy-looking customer statements that fail to grab attention and perhaps negatively affect the customer experience once they are on board. Take a cue from professionals in other fields we admire: Achieving good design is about creating something that works well for everyone, looks good, and adapts to the needs of the intended user.