Using video for design PR: 3 things that work well

It has never been easy to demonstrate the value of interaction design, but the ubiquity of video as communication tool has helped a lot. Video is a great way to reach online audiences: It is easily accessed on YouTube and Vimeo, and it is expected to be short and to the point. With little investment, design firms can capture high-quality video with any number of relatively low-cost cameras, and use powerful editing tools to tell our stories. When a video is done well, it helps humanize the design, and gives a peek into the methods behind it.

At Cooper, we have been experimenting with video, and we pay attention to what others are doing in that space. As we share more about our process, we are also changing our clients’ and the general public’s expectations of disclosure. While it’s a great idea in theory, in practice we find that finding the right formula can be tricky. For example, video is a more spectacular and emotionally effective medium than static blog posts, but subtle mistakes in tone and presentation run the risk of coming off as pretentious, overproduced, off-topic or just downright goofy. Here are three big things we’ve noted about how to get it right.

Great execution goes a long way, but overproduction kills it

I can’t help but admire the high production values of this video, although I am unmoved by the product concept. It’s a beautiful mix of well-paced shots, beautiful photography, time-lapses, and live sketching. Throwing in a British guy using ornate words like “beguile” is always a plus. (Actually we do the same at Cooper. Our visual design director Nick Myers always adds a touch of European allure to our videos.)

Glossy and overproduced representations of a perfect future with perfect people don’t really serve the purpose of demonstrating visionary thinking, since it feels too slick to convince us it’s real. The future according to Nokia is a peculiar place: By then, 90’s Oakley-style glasses will be back in style, white text will be readable on white backgrounds, and stalkers will be socially acceptable. Come on, we need too keep it real to be believable.

Transparency and sincerity is good for business

I remember this video being quite popular on release, probably because of the perceived transparency of a usually-opaque process. This is not to say Apple should forego its legendary secrecy, but showing a little process simply adds legitimacy to your products.

MINIMAL founder Scott Wilson is responsible for one the most successful kickstarter project ever, the TikTok watch. His introductory video for his new concept, the lunaTik iPad pen, is a great example of completely transparent design, which I think is a trending formula for success. In this video, Wilson details his process at length and believable sincerity. LunaTik greatly exceeded its funding goals.

We should not romanticize our work

The one is a great parody of the self-congratulatory case study video, even if it does not directly pertain to design. The gist of it is the following: the client came with a problem, we waved a magic wand, the result was a success, high-fives and chest bumps all around. Design is not a magical craft, and people should understand that it is an arduous process that requires time and experience if we want them to accept our value.

Seriously, how many times have you seen videos of designers sticking Post-It notes on a wall? We get it. Designers are a special brand of people who think visually. But can we please stop making it look like we are creative because we are armed with sharpies and sticky-notes?

What’s next?

While design video canons are emerging, it seems we are still figuring out how video can help us design better. What are other ways to use video? Can we use it as an additional service to our clients and make their experience better? We’re happy to hear what you think! Feel free to post inspiring/funny/crappy examples of how design videos are used in the wild.

Addendum: The new kid on the block

Quirky is a crowd-sourcing product design agency with a boatload of VC cash and a fresh business plan. Members participate in the design process of nifty everyday products, curated at key design milestones by in-house Quirky designers. Participation points are given to members whose ideas actually make it to the final product, resulting in profit shares if the product sells well. Quirky started a reality show about the site’s inventors as they carry their creations from napkin sketch to the aisles of Walmart.

Is reality TV the ultimate design PR video?

Raphael Guilleminot

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