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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Deciding on a new design

Here is a preview of what will likely be the new design/style of our publications and websites. The process behind the change may provide you with insights into effective strategies to incorporate changes in your corporate identity, branding, and client relationships.
First, some background. We've been using our 'old' design for more than a decade, since 1996 when I met designer Ray Levielle and he offered prices and service levels far better than the competition. Through thick and thin, the good times and hard times, he has worked with us at times producing hundreds of pages a month even while serving many other clients.
With month-to-month business demands and responsibilities, and the challenge of not knowing whether a redesign would help or hurt the publications, we never changed it.
But we now have a business planning and management system, and we decided at our late spring planning meeting earlier this year to rethink the design to adapt it more effectively to the combined Internet/Print model. The project still sat on a back-burner -- but now we had an 'action item' regarding the need to redesign the publications.
Two weeks ago, Ray got to work, and presented several design choices. Now I had a different kind of problem. Which design should we use? I polled our staff and contractors. Some of the original design options looked good but would not be feasible with advertising and postal requirements. One logo design looked too close to a competitor's title. Still, I had four apparently good design options.
"Why not ask our readers?" I thought. Previously this choice would have involved much delay, expense and uncertainty. But the online survey simplifies things immensely.
Frankly, the survey-set up of our email provider Constant Contact isn't perfect, especially for a survey requiring readers to select from graphic options. But I patched something together, offering a modest inducement of a free $25.00 subscription or advertising credit to readers who respond; then sent the survey to about 2,000 names on our Ontario database.
Within eight hours, we received 46 responses; and a solid majority (59 per cent) chose the design you see here. Several readers also offered insightful comments.
The impressive thing to me about this process is that I was able to take a challenging business decision and, with reader/client feedback, obtain virtually instant response to something that is highly subjective. While the survey certainly is not scientific, the results here are clear enough to allow us to make an informed decision.
The survey is still live. You can get to it at this URL:

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