Columns / Creativity

Could Happiness Be The Key to Great Design?

Amy Gravley

There’s nothing new about the link between happiness and creativity. Especially in the fields of technology, design and innovation, psychologists and thought leaders have been examining the link between our attitude and our ability to create for years. 

According to Dr. Robert Epstein, a psychologist with more than 20 years of experience studying the creative process, “greater creativity breeds greater happiness.” If that’s the case, and if there’s any truth to the Law of Inverses, then one would assume greater happiness also breeds greater creativity.

Despite what the archetype of the tortured, starving artist might have you believe, studies show that when serotonin is flowing, the creative juices are never far behind. In fact, a good mood might be just what you need to spark inspiration.

Brands can learn from this trend too, and in today’s consumer landscape, happiness is becoming more and more of a requirement. It’s not enough for brands, products and design to just be useful; they have to make people happy, too.

Why? The reality is that people want a user experience that actually fosters joy. It’s part and parcel to what makes visitors prefer the clean, bright websites of brands like Apple, Amazon and Zappos to the clunky, complex frustration that comes from visiting sites that pay little attention to user experience. In fact, users often rate their happiness level much higher after visiting sites with a positive, pleasant user experience than those without. Achieving this happy marriage between brand and technology doesn’t just happen.

There’s a certain process to design and creativity that we tend to follow: research, plan, create, analyze. But what if we’re missing a step? Where does happiness play into the mix? It’s an often-overlooked phase in the creative process that informs everything from responsive design and user experience to brand identity.

Without a step that asks the question, “will this make someone happy?” we miss out on a critical design element: the one that activates a person’s joy sensors, and cements a bond between product and user. This is the step that keeps customers coming back for more.

Consider Coca-Cola as an example. Coca-Cola sells a feeling—memories, nostalgia and all the emotional currency that comes along with it. In short, they sell happiness—the most coveted commodity in the world.

So, what really makes designers happy?

If you ask our team at Mingo Press, they’ll tell you that happiness is often in the details. Things like support, recognition, reliability, even surprise—they’re all part of the equation for a happy customer.

In fact, at Mingo we believe so deeply that happiness translates to loyalty that we’ve built our entire 2016 marketing campaign around the idea.

From being surprised and celebrated, to feeling supported, to having something to look forward to, Mingo’s yearlong campaign pays homage to happiness. The brand’s personality pops via their own use of color and creativity in marketing materials, which are intentionally designed to spark new ideas in the customer.

Vintage pin-up women share the page with geometric shapes and circus-bound lions, creating designs that are both surprising and charming. It’s this very manifestation of tone and personality that tells Mingo’s customers the only thing they really need to know: this is a company that values happiness and creativity.

It’s not necessarily a novel idea; if you want happy customers, give them something to be happy about. It’s the same thinking that fuels rewards points, surprise and delight marketing, and loyalty programs. Often, as a company’s customer appreciation rises, so goes its customer satisfaction rating—sometimes without any product augmentation. For many brands, customer happiness is becoming the only differentiator that matters.

In the old days of design, it was imperative that a designer and printer share a close relationship. Designers looked to printers for guidance on things like inks, scoring, cutting and design files well before the eleventh hour of product delivery. Without a knowledgeable printer armed with the experience necessary to point out holes, printing intricate designs was a crapshoot, leaving customers to cross their fingers and hope for the best.

With the rise of instant file sharing and automated online printers, many printers became vendors, rather than artisans of a craft—especially in the online world. All of sudden, printing expertise was left out of the equation, ushering in a whole new host of problems and challenges, and relegating printing to a status of automation and—quite frankly—disappointment.

Today’s graphic designers are rejecting this standard of printing, once again seeking creative partnerships in the form of expert, design-oriented printers. In a highly-digitized world, these creative professionals desire high-touch creative consulting—tactile products that clearly demonstrate a difference in quality, and the guarantee that what’s in their head and on the proof is going to mirror what comes out on the page. In this sense, the printer isn’t just responsible for technical execution, but for making recommendations on papers, techniques and how to take a product from good to great.

The most important ingredient for a healthy printer-designer relationship is communication. Having a partner who responds quickly with pointed recommendations and honest feedback can make all the difference for a customer. The Mingo team sees themselves as part account managers, part creative conceptualists—always focused on the greater goal: customer happiness.

Don Vaughan, President of Mingo Press, says taking the technical aspects of creative execution off the designer’s shoulders also feeds the company’s overall goal of bringing creative ideas to life.

“We’re a designer’s best friend. It’s built into our company’s DNA, but it’s more than that—creativity is fueled by happiness. We’re here to deliver on both.”

Amy Gravley, account director at Mingo Press, is a great storyteller. She’s a master of many talents, including quotes (making them, and remembering really good ones), treating customers with respect, and making sure all their stories have happy endings.

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