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Make data-driven design without driving creative right into the ground

Design is no longer just a purely creative field. The rise of marketing data analytics

fueling data-driven design has been changing the game in recent years as companies seek to optimize their creative. But what about when when design and creative based solely on marketing data analytics goes too far and all creative intuition is left at the door?

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Data-driven success

By leveraging marketing data, designers can gain insights into user behavior, preferences, and pain points. This can help them create more effective solutions that meet user needs. Here's a couple examples on how data was used to fuel creativity, not snuff it out.

Share a coke

In 2011, Coca-Cola launched a campaign named "Share a Coke" that personalized their products by replacing the logo on Coke bottles and cans with popular first names. The company used data to determine the most popular names in each market and printed them on their products. This campaign was a huge success, increasing sales by 2.5% in the US and 7% in Australia. The use of data to personalize the campaign proved to be an effective way to connect with consumers on an emotional level.

AirBNB streamlining

In 2014, Airbnb redesigned its website and app to improve the user experience. The company poured through data to identify pain points in the booking process and made changes to address them. This included simplifying the search function and improving the booking process. The redesign resulted in a 30% increase in bookings and a 20% increase in revenue. The use of data in the redesign process helped to identify the areas that needed improvement, intuition and thoughtful creative built solutions to meet the challenge.

Data-fueled discovery

Launched in July 2015, Spotify's Discover Weekly feature uses data to create personalized playlists for users based on their listening habits. The feature analyzes a user's listening history, as well as the listening habits of other users with similar tastes, to recommend new songs and artists. The feature has been a huge success, with over 40 million users listening to Discover Weekly playlists each week. The use of data to personalize the listening experience has greatly improved the success of Spotify's design efforts.


Data-driven failures

While there are many examples out there where data supports and strengthens creative efforts, projects which were hindered by the extreme focus on data are much less talked about. I learn just as much from stories about what not to do, as I do from stories on what to do. So here are a few examples of data driving human creative intuition completely out of the room and sending design off the rails.


Juicero was a high-end juicer that was marketed as a "smart" appliance. The now-defunct Silicon Valley startup invested heavily in data, but failed to take into account the intuitive and creative aspects of the design process. Juicero neglected to consider the customer experience and whether it would actually make sense for consumers to purchase expensive pre-packaged juice bags. They also failed to consider the competitive landscape and underestimated the importance of marketing and branding in the crowded health and wellness market. As a result, the company's high-priced product and lack of emotional connection with consumers led to its downfall. Juicero's failure serves as a cautionary tale for companies that prioritize data over creativity and the customer experience. The result was a product that was over-engineered and ultimately failed to resonate.

Pepsi’s 2009 Logo Redesign

In 2009, Pepsi underwent a massive logo redesign, based on extensive market research and data analysis. However, the redesign was widely criticized for being too similar to other brands, lacking originality, and being overly focused on appealing to younger generations. Having personally scanned the unhinged guideline, you can immediately sense just how the rationale for the rebrand is buried six feet under obscure data. The document feels like a slight of hand diversion opposed to reinforcing reasoning. The company massive faced backlash. According to a survey by Harris Poll, 87% of Americans preferred the old Pepsi logo over the new one. Data was at the head of the table during that redesign, and intuitive creative wasn't even in the room.

Tropicana’s 2009 Packaging Redesign

In 2009, Tropicana underwent a major packaging redesign, based on extensive market research and data analysis. However, the new packaging was met with widespread backlash, as customers felt the new design was confusing and didn't clearly communicate the product's identity. Sales declined by 20% and the company reverted back to the original packaging. According to Nielsen data, Tropicana lost $30 million in sales due to the redesign.

Airbnb’s 2014 Logo Redesign

Probably one of the most infamous branding debacles in the last decade, Airbnb underwent a logo redesign in 2014 based on extensive data analysis and research. The new logo, which resembled a sexual body part to just about everyone on the internet but no one in the board room apparently, was met with widespread criticism and mockery. Customers found the new logo confusing and unappealing, leading to a decline in user trust and brand loyalty. According to a study by Siegel+Gale, Airbnb's rebrand was ranked as the third worst rebranding of 2014, with a score of only 27 out of 100 for simplicity, distinctiveness, and relevance.


Finding balance

So, can we balance the need for data-driven decisions with the intuitive and creative aspects of design? The answer is yes, but it requires a thoughtful approach that takes into account both quantitative and qualitative data, as well as the insights and instincts of experienced creatives.

Start with a clear objective

Before embarking on any project, creative professionals should have a clear objective in mind. This helps keep the project focused on what it needs to achieve and ensures that decisions are aligned with the goals of the project. By using data to inform those decisions, creative directors and contributors can produce designs that not only follow intuition and achieve specific business objectives, but also are all backed by data. One big happy family.

Data is a guide, not a cracking whip

Use data as a tool for inspiration and validation, rather than as the sole driver of design decisions. A designer might use data to identify user pain points, but then use their intuition and creativity to develop a solution that addresses those pain points in a novel and effective way.

A/B testing is a common practice in the creative industry, where two versions of a design are tested against each other to determine which performs better. This approach allows designers to incorporate data-driven insights into their creative decision-making process while still maintaining their intuitive and creative approach.

In fact, a study by Econsultancy found that companies that engage in regular A/B testing are 2 times more likely to see a significant increase in conversion rates compared to those that don't. It's important to note, however, that A/B testing should be used in conjunction with other design considerations, such as branding, messaging, and user experience, to ensure a comprehensive and effective solution.

One key to balancing data-driven decisions with creative intuition is to use data to inform and validate, rather than dictate, the design process.

Get creatives in the room

Involve creatives in the data collection and analysis process as early as possible. By doing so, designers can gain a deeper understanding of the data and use it to enhance their intuitions and ultimately inform their creative decisions. This also helps to ensure that designers remain invested in the data-collection process, incorporating it as a tool alongside their own expertise for holistic checks and balances throughout a project.

Don't rely solely on data

While data can be a valuable tool in the design process, it's important not to rely solely on data. Creative professionals should also use their intuition and creativity to guide their design decisions. By combining data with their intuition and creativity, creative professionals can create designs that are not only effective but also unique and innovative. We can’t sell the entire creative soul for more cash to double down on data alone. It takes a room full of creative minds to interpret the incoming data and inject it into a cohesive creative solution that balances project goals, audience objectives, messaging objectives, visual objectives, interaction objectives, and yes… data objectives.

Data is just a single ingredient in the creative soup of solution building. Albeit an important one, it’s just one ingredient. You wouldn’t look at a bowl of sliced celery and call it chicken noodle soup. It takes a symphony of ingredients to get it right.


Take a holistic approach

While it can provide valuable insights into user behavior and preferences, it can also stifle creativity if not used thoughtfully. The key to balancing the need for data-driven decisions with the intuitive and creative aspects of design is to use data as a tool, rather than as the sole driver of design decisions. By taking a thoughtful and collaborative approach to data-driven design, designers and business professionals can work together to create truly innovative and effective solutions that can have huge impacts.


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