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Objectively Subjective: Align These 3 Design Elements to Your Business Goals


Have you ever looked at the image in an advertisement and wondered, “what are they actually selling?” Or maybe you’ve been in an endless meeting trying to reach agreement between several different options for your company’s new logo. John really doesn’t care for the color purple and Sally can’t stand the way the “w” looks in that font. It’s sometimes hard to know what makes a design successful or how to separate your personal tastes from a sound decision about a piece of collateral that makes your business strategy tangible.


As a graphic designer, I’m constantly straddling the line between my personal favorite look for a design and what I know hits the goals of the creative brief. To help make the subjective more objective, let’s look at three elements of visual design that can clearly communicate a desired message.

1. Imagery: A Compelling Visual That Captures the Meaning of Your Message

With a multitude of stock photo sites out there and millions of images to choose from, selecting the right image can be daunting. I usually have a checklist of items I want the photo to contain. Sometimes the most compelling images ask the viewer to make a mental leap to connect what’s in the image to the words you use. Here are two examples of the same message with different visuals.


There’s nothing wrong with the image on the left. It’s a good illustration of career counseling. The woman is getting advice from the people across the desk. It’s probably similar to the first image that comes to your mind when we think “career counseling.” However, it’s limiting in that it’s specific to an ethnic group and may cause viewers to feel excluded.

The photo on the right doesn’t illustrate the concept of career counseling outright. It invites readers to place themselves in the image. They imagine starting down the open road and are drawn to know more about the future that awaits as they move forward. The difference is that the first image is literal, and the second image is conceptual. Both have their place, depending on the goals of the project. It’s good to keep both in mind when determining the best way to capture attention through photography.

2. Typeface: A Font That Accurately Communicates the Tone of Your Message

Font selection is an important piece of the design puzzle. With so many different fonts available (and many free), it’s easy to click download, activate and start applying a buffet of sweet fonts to the latest draft of your document. However, it’s good to take a step back and really analyze whether your font selection matches up with intended tone of the message being typed. 



Ultimately, picking a font can be like getting dressed. Are you going to a costume party or do you have an important presentation with the folks upstairs? Just as with clothing, there’s a huge difference between typefaces that seem fun (or scary) to use and those that are appropriate for a certain situation. While choosing on the basis of appropriateness doesn’t always make you the life of the party, it should be the guiding force behind meaningful font selection.

3. Color: A Palette That Conveys the Emotional Tone of the Message

Color selection is a very important factor in effective design. In fact, there’s some science behind it known as color theory or color psychology. Basically, different colors bring out different emotions in people either consciously or subconsciously. Here is a chart that breaks down some of these common reactions to various colors: 


Source: Canva Learn


What emotions do you want to associate with your brand? Color can be meaningful and more objective than you think in hitting a strategy that works for your company. While some of these examples may seem exaggerated or obvious, similiar decisions can pop up in more subtle ways during the creative process. Going back to your business strategy and weighing it against your design choices can help you make objective decisions towards a creative solution that is moving, meaningful and profitable.

The great part about hiring an agency to help with creative work is that we help you navigate the subjective and make sound decisions that can lead to both beautiful branding and meaningful interactions with your audience. If you have questions or are looking for an agency with experience to do the heavy lifting, we would love to hear from you.