Is it time for your law firm to revamp its branding? Are you faced with the challenge of gaining consensus among your partners on whether and how to make this crucial marketing investment? If this scenario sounds familiar, rest assured that you are not alone. Many firms hesitate to hire a design firm due to concerns about potential internal conflicts. Achieving consensus can often seem like an insurmountable task, even when it comes to simple decisions like choosing a paint color for the conference room.
Any law firm, including yours, can achieve consensus by working with a consensus-building process. Instead of starting with color schemes, your design decisions should be based on a combination of data, expertise, and strategy. Prioritize research and align all design choices with your business objectives. By making design decisions grounded in high-quality research and well-defined goals rather than fleeting design trends, you increase the likelihood of your firm’s stakeholders rallying around a shared vision. This approach also yields better, more sophisticated design outcomes.
The Consensus-Building Process for Law Firm Design Projects
Here is a step-by-step breakdown of a process that fosters consensus for a meticulously crafted design system.
It’s essential to begin this process by conducting an extensive research phase to evaluate the firm’s existing brand and uncover public perceptions. Begin with a competitive analysis combined with an assessment of your current branding materials, website, and marketing collateral to clarify your starting point. Through internal and external interviews, insight is gained into your firm’s perceived strengths and weaknesses. This discovery process often reveals gaps between how the market perceives your firm and how your firm perceives itself. Often partners are surprised by the findings.
Present Findings and Make Recommendations
The research phase culminates in a comprehensive report, which is presented to your partners with a set of recommendations for moving forward. The purpose of this step is to ensure that your team comprehends your firm’s current reputation and understands how to refine your positioning to actively advance your business objectives. These recommendations are consensus-friendly because they are evidence-based rather than subjective preferences. This shifts the focus away from aesthetics, which are highly subjective, and redirects it towards achieving shared business goals.
Design With a Purpose
Once you have refined your firm’s positioning, the design process begins. Think about form following function, meaning that every design decision made is aligned with your objectives. It is no longer about the choice between blue, green, or red for your website; it is about what makes the most sense based on your agreed-upon goals. As your team solidifies around the new positioning, making rational and well-supported design decisions becomes easier. While aesthetics remain important, the designs not only prioritize visual appeal but also effectiveness. Throughout this phase, your team is guided towards consensus by continually referencing the positioning and other strategic objectives when differences of opinion arise.
The Consensus-Building Process in Action
Viewing design choices through the lens of positioning often makes the right path forward significantly clearer. This direct link between clear positioning and effective design is evident in our recent collaboration with leading litigation firm Hueston Hennigan.
Hueston Hennigan hired Decker Design to rework their web design. Over the course of our engagement, we helped this innovative law firm uncover its new positioning as being uniquely disruptive. As a result, the website we designed for them emphasizes disruption, from the stark black-and-white palette to the use of motion, including video and motion graphics.
Of course, the design you see now on their website wasn’t the only option we presented to them. But it was very clearly the best option given their desire to be identified as disruptive. Despite this, a portion of the team preferred another design option we presented (with some even questioning whether the black-and-white palette in the winning design was too edgy). But even with these differences of opinion, we were able to arrive at a consensus because we all understood that we needed to use our agreed-upon positioning as the filter through which we gauged the design options.
The most disruptive design won out. As well it should have.
Our process with Hueston Hennigan perfectly illustrates the importance of taking an evidence-based approach to design. When firms are tasked with choosing between multiple design options and the only difference between them is aesthetics, reaching a consensus may be nearly impossible. But with positioning as the driving force, consensus is achievable. And the results are guaranteed to be more effective, too.
This post was originally published on Lynda’s LinkedIn newsletter, Marketing without Jargon. Lynda leads a team at Decker Design that focuses on helping law firms build differentiated brands.