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Walk a mile in THEIR shoes, not yours – how design should really work

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.” – Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

That’s such a great quote, isn’t it? It’s so descriptive. It creates a sense that you really need to imagine what it’s like, what it feels like to be that person, before you understand them.

It’s not easy, but it’s entirely possible.

We have an incredible brain that’s designed to allow us to imagine how it feels like to be someone else, or even what it would feel like to be in a different place and time. It’s one of the skills we have that separates us from most of the animal kingdom. The exception to this is chimps, apes, and rats, which scientists believe can build out an interpreted maze in their mind.

We can do it, but we need to practice ‘climbing into their skin’ and we must do it when we’re creating and designing.

When design is successful it’s because it resonates so deeply with the consumer at the other end that the reader feels like this was written or created for them.

It’s why strong marketing deals with pain points and problems.

Do you agree?

Good, then you’ll understand why so much marketing fails because it does this instead…


What usually happens in a design meeting…

“Morning everyone. Today we need to create a new brand and marketing message for XXX company. We’ve got Epic Marketing Monkeys to help us.”

Then the conversations start and the ‘brain storming’ begins and all seems well.

Two, three, and even ten heads are better than one and the ideas are flowing and the focus for the campaign is drawn out.

But wait… what? What’s going on here?

“I find this works really well.”

“We loved this campaign by so and so.”

“I really love this design style!”

“Oh… I’ve been waiting to use this font/typeface/graphic in a campaign for ages! Yippee!”

Hang on…! Who’s this campaign for again?

Approaching it like this will lead to failure.

What very often happens is that the client (and sometimes even the designers in an agency) tend to look at the creative ideas from their own subjective viewpoint, not their consumers’.

It’s the end user, the consumer that you’re trying to attract.

And some might go down a route that looks ‘pretty’ or reminds them of a brand they resonate with.




We’re not hired to please you, we’re hired to please your customer

Good marketing and branding should only be defined as a success if it achieves its goal. If we’re honest, we’re not out to impress our clients. What we’re out to do is impress their clients or customers.

Good design needs to move people to take action and that’s the end user’s action.

We’ve been hired by the client to design something for them and our principal responsibility is to get results, not please the client. That’s why we’re often seen as a naughty agency and we’re telling everyone that we’re brief makers, not takers!

We want you to get the best results from your marketing and that comes down to the right and best design and branding.

We do this by understanding.



The way to do this is to walk a mile in the shoes of the intended audience

In other words, design for them, not you. As hard as it is, you can’t draw from your own likes and dislikes and use your own pain problems.

You have to get into the end user’s mindset.

  • Get in their heads.
  • Understand how they work.
  • Feel their pain.
  • See their world for what it is.

This way of working often helps our own clients become clearer on their ideal customer. It’s something so many fail to really nail down. Are you clear on yours?

By understanding this and who your ideal customer is we can then create something that hits the mark and therefore creates a reaction. Whether that’s to increase sales, increase brand awareness, or engage teams – good design and marketing can do it with the right initial focus.



It’s not you, it’s them!

Get out of the way! You’re not designing for you. As much as we’d love you to be happy with the design and branding that we supply for you, it’s not for you, and it’s not you we’re interested in. Sorry.

It’s not you, it’s them we’re interested in.

When we’re working on a design we understand that it’s very important to remember that we’re not designing for ourselves or the client, we’re designing for their audience.

It’s important that we get into the heads, into the shoes, and under the skins of the people the collateral is aimed at, because otherwise you’re at risk of not getting good results.

Spend time getting it right. To understand someone, you need to see things from their point of view, and to market to them you really need to get good at understanding them.

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