by Alex Leopold
When you land the job of creating or re-branding a large or even mega-size company’s identity there’s usually a long list of people involved on both the client and agency side of the business and everyone wants their say on how things should look. With over 25 years in this business, I can tell you that the art, design, and identity all gets done and signed-off on by the client before the presentation builder even gets a chance to comment about building functionality to what just got dumped on his/her lap. Only the savviest organizations work the function and design simultaneously, most don’t, it’s a result of how the majority design, ad agency, and branding firms are structured and how project managers and design teams operate together. The truth is even some of the larger firms farm out their template building at the very end of the process.
The problem typically originates with the creative and design leads, they fail to realize that a presentation template needs to be able to function properly in the hands of the average user, not the expert they may be or expect others to be. I’ve always been the design lead who advocates that all users with even the basic knowledge of the software (e.g., PowerPoint, Keynote, etc.) should be able to carry the element of the intended design without being an expert in the presentation program. It’s a repetitive conversation I have each time with every organization and often it’s me against everyone else in the room.
Experience in this business tells you what part of a template will work and what will quickly fall apart even before the client’s users get their hands on what may be a beautiful looking branded tool, but how well will it function? Will it be a productive tool? Will the users adapt quickly or is it beyond their capabilities? Frustration equals failure.
It has been a common theme over the years to remind the design end of the business that those 15,000 or even 1,500 client users will not have the same skill level across the board. We need to build templates that are intuitive and functional, especially as the software gets more sophisticated. Sure, in an ideal world everyone would be properly trained in the software and in the new template when it gets introduced but in my experience, that’s far from “rollout reality”.
Alex Leopold is based in the New York metropolitan area and currently leads the visual communication sector of Verizon’s Network Transformation division. He has taught at New York University (NYU) and has served as a presentation and template development consultant to dozens of management consulting, branding, and financial institutions throughout his career.
You can connect with Alex on LinkedIn.