Everything in its right place: Designing experience is the new king in marketing

Gone are the days of merely slapping a slogan on a nice picture and saying “this is advertising”. This becomes apparent after just a few minutes listening to Pasi Lehtinen and Juha Mikkilä from the design and ad agency Työmaa*. In this short time, they’ve discussed the automotive industry, color blindness and positive feedback. “Of course, design is still important. But it’s not just about the aesthetics anymore, since we’re dealing more and more with services and software, and that’s where user interface design and user experience design come in.”

Mikkilä is the creative director and one of the founders of the Oulu-based ad agency. “We began venturing into UX design through a previous client, to whom we carried out a great deal of high level concepting in the digital field. After a while, the client stopped bringing concepts to develop and just brought in ideas. Now, UI/UX and digital marketing communications account for about 70% of everything we do.” He notes that, basically, web site design is user interface design, which they had loads of experience in since the 1990’s. “We had contacts with a large number of tech companies who found themselves in need of improved user experience. We just realized that ‘hey, we have this talent in the company’ and put it into good use.

A certain level-headedness is sometimes needed in the fast pace of things. “For instance, a certain car company decided to install Twitter and Facebook in their dashboards, and they received a huge amount of press for that. When I heard about that, I just thought ‘man, that’s dangerous’.” With a proper mindset, Työmaa has evolved such cases into more useful ones, like downloadable content for backseat travellers, with a full service platform.

Every case demands you to go deep into the world of the end-user. “We designed an interactive channel for the elderly, to be used in televisions – we had to redesign everything away from the usual computer design, no x’s in the corners of windows, things like that. And the whole language dilemma: it doesn’t necessarily mean anything that something is “loading”, if the term isn’t actually familiar to the person.”

UX’s huge role in branding

As the advertising field has swerved from print and television towards software and services, the amount of UX and UI companies has multiplied. “There are companies by the dozen who do that stuff now. What sets us apart from them is that we’re still looking after the client’s brand and their marketing needs, not just the user experience. A UX company usually gets its clients with products that need tweaking or improving, our clients come and talk about their business. More often than not, the product is a result of those talks that we have had, and that’s just the way we want it.”

This changed perspective of marketing has affected the way in which companies should think customers. “Social media has changed the playing field totally. The customer – or the end user – is the single most important marketing tool there is. It’s not the billboards, the banners or the commercials, because all companies have some sorts of services, and if those services dissatisfy the user, you can bet that bad things will be said on Facebook within minutes.” Lehtinen knows his case. Työmaa is the Lead Designer for Nordea Bank’s iPad application, and Lehtinen is the person responsible for the design and user experience. “There’s no room for shoddiness.”

* The Finnish word työmaa is familiar from a traffic sign, meaning “men at work”.