The Future is Now:
The Role of Multimedia Design

The Internet is maturing and a clearer picture of the many ways it can be used are emerging. Corporations that might have otherwise abandoned the medium are taking a more strategic approach with the help of a new breed of consultant known as the Multimedia Designer. PacInfo has such a professional component on board and is ready to work with you. Read on and find out how...

When the World Wide Web first took off during the early 1990's, many companies jumped on board to "test the waters". These companies tested by building on-line brochures and all-encompassing information centers. Many companies quickly discovered that unlike conventional printed brochures, Websites needed to be managed and updated on a regular basis if they were to maintain any kind of consistent presence. Such maintenance required a level of resource and time they weren't prepared for. It turned out that the the Web is more like a magazine than a brochure: it needs something more like an 'editor' and production staff to keep it alive. Companies began to question its value relative to the effort required.

Now that the Web is maturing and a clearer picture of it's applications is emerging, corporations that might have otherwise abandoned the medium are taking a more strategic approach with the help of a new breed of consultant known as the 'Multimedia' designer — a breed that has grown out of the graphic design profession.

Part of the clearer picture comes from a recognition that the Web is not the great communication panacea of the age... destined to replace paper, television and whatever has gone before. While the interactive, dynamic nature of the Web may require new approaches to customer and market communication, it is now clear to many companies that the Web cannot be treated in isolation, separate from other communication avenues.

Interactive media can play a significant role alongside other marketing channels, especially print. For the vast majority of organizations, printed media still remains the primary means of marketing communication. Print media is traditionally used to express the image of the company as expressed through its logo, annual report, and so on. Print media can also be used as an adjunct to sales efforts, as expressed through newspaper and magazine advertising, direct mailers or sales brochures and flyers for use during one-on-one contact.

Brand Awareness

When it comes to the actual publicity and promotion of a product or service, companies turn to the advertising agency. When it comes to the image and packaging of the product or service (and the company behind it), it is the visual skills of the graphic designer that is called upon. Another way of saying image is brand-awareness, or how a particular item (or range of items) is perceived in the marketplace. This brand-awareness revolves around not just the product itself (which includes its packaging, advertising and the environment it is sold in), but also around the company producing the product, its perceived reputation, quality and integrity. The same applies to service organizations who have no tangible product.

Companies work very hard at fine-tuning and maintaining such brand awareness to insure continued sales growth in markets that are constantly changing. Graphic designers provide help and guidance on brand awareness starting from the company's entire corporate identity to individual product packaging styles. Now, with the widespread acceptance of the Web, companies are demanding such strategic planning be extended to embrace interactive media as part of their overall marketing and image initiatives. They see the value of the Web as a support tool: a medium to make available a broad base of information, from which the customer (or potential customer) can draw conclusions and make decisions — hopefully buying decisions. For an increasing number of businesses, these buying decisions will actually be carried out over the Web. This is the growing domain of electronic commerce (eCommerce) and storefronts; a domain where the foundations are rapidly being laid by companies like PacInfo.

Strategic Integration

Companies today are demanding that graphic designers include the Web in strategic corporate image and brand identity planning, concepts and executions. For graphic designers, this is a new challenge that they are more than qualified to meet. On the face of it, this does not seem to be so. Traditionally, designers have been slow to embrace new technology. But designers are trained to think from a very broad perspective. Their job is to see the big picture — and by not actually being too immersed in the technology, they are capable of stepping back and gaining a much wider view. The design business is coming to understand the nature and capabilities of interactive media very well, and a number of corporations are now bringing in design professionals like PacInfo to design the positioning, image, structuring and features of their Website, not to mention the final visual look-and-feel.

These are complex issues which often only experienced design consultants like PacInfo can address, with their extended viewpoint of the current technology issues, as well as their knowledge of the industry, image and market. Web designers and the many technology-focused companies that concentrate solely on the design, production and maintenance of Web sites often fail to see or are simply unaware of the wider picture. In the end, a great many companies have superb-looking Web sites, loaded with information and humming with the latest interactive features — but sadly, the real potential of those Web sites to synchronize with the company's overall marketing strategy for generating sales is being missed.

Companies are now redefining what they mean by a "good" Web site. It turns out a good Web site should not only fit well with and reflect a company's corporate image, but it should also act as an interactive beacon, able to attract and hold the attention of the customer. When done well, it will shine bright — casting a positive light back over the entire organization; including its products, services and its customer reputation.

Emerging Design Role

In the US and Europe, examples of Web sites that have been planned from the outset with the effective use of Multimedia Design are already starting to emerge. PacInfo has expanded its production expertise to handle both print and interactive media side-by-side. Again, this is where the term 'Multimedia' design is derived from. From the production point of view, designers are already working closely with the technical experts needed to build the immersive, interactive, 'data-based' Web sites of tomorrow.

For organizations who have already jumped on the Web, this might mean a total restructuring of their Website — or perhaps revisiting their corporate identity and readjusting their printed material. The latter is particularly relevant for industries who are moving to electronic media as a principal means of doing business. The financial industry is one such area.

Whatever your decision may be regarding the Internet and your company's involvement with it, the Web is here to stay. Today's companies need to start thinking about how the World Wide Web can be integrated into their overall image and strategy. The Web is going to continue to exert a strong influence over brand awareness, market perception, and customer loyalty in ways that are not always obvious from the inside looking out. Early planning and careful integration of the Web into your company's broad picture is essential. Place your vision in the hands of the skilled people at PacInfo and think integrated... think broad... think long-term.

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