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Design versus Concept in Advertising

Design is defined as “to plan and fashion artistically or skillfully.” Concept is defined as “a general idea or notion; a plan or intention.” When we think about design, we don’t always think about concept. But to create a stronger design, you should really start with a strong concept.

Sure, there is something to be said about seeing a nicely designed ad or brochure that makes us want to pick it up and read it, but if there is no message or story that then engages the reader, the design isn’t much more than pretty pictures.

Nike combines design with concept beautifully

When it comes to advertising, “concept” is often something that is neglected. I’m sure there are many reasons, like budget, timing, etc., but more often than not, it comes down to not understanding the important role concept plays in your design. Look at some of the most successful companies and brands: They often have a way of telling a story or conveying an emotion that people can relate to and makes them feel a connection to the product or brand.

Nike blends concept with designNike does an amazing job marketing itself—and it does this through concept. There is a plan and intention behind everything they put out there. They want people to feel like they will be a better athlete or score the game-winning goal if they are wearing their sneakers or apparel. Most of the time, the focus of Nike’s advertising isn’t even their products; it’s about a moment in time or a feeling you get when you are an athlete out on the field. Great examples are Nike’s ads for the World Cup. Each player is “bronzed” like a statue in tribute. The brand elicits an emotional connection with you.

Nike has done so well in its conceptualizing that when you think of their brand or logo, you think football, soccer, Michael Jordan (not the sneakers), shorts or golf clubs. It’s no coincidence they endorse the best athletes in the world and use them in their ads and on their billboards.It takes more than design to create something so powerful.


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Austin Williams is a fully integrated advertising and new york digital marketing agency, our in-house services include research, brand identity, campaign development, media planning and buying, website development, digital marketing, content creation and public relations. We are a financial advertising agency, healthcare marketing agency, higher education marketing agency, and professional services marketing agency.


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