Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Online Behaviour of Irish Graphic Design Companies

Before analysing the blogging activities of Irish graphic design companies, it is useful to give an overview of the relevant norms of online communication pre-exisitng within this sector. How the form and tone of the graphic design company websites contrast with the norms of business blogging is relevant to this research.

Much marketing of graphic design services is still constrained within the paradigm of the portfolio. Websites predominantly feature images of the outcomes of the company’s work: brand marks, brochures, packaging and so on. Even on websites making the most use of explanatory text, this is invariably a condensed project summary of the brief and deliverables, with little explanation of the analytic thinking and exploration underpinning the creative work. This approach is symptomatic of the ‘Old Economy’ mindset characterised by Krishna De as being “too afraid of giving away their insider knowledge” (De 2009, interview).

There are examples in the international graphic design industry of business blogs delivering the benefits outlined in the literature review. They enhance the understanding of the initial creative thinking that informs the design work and the personal and organisational interactions that shape its eventual form. Although they are experts in visual communication, a review of the websites of Irish graphic design companies gives little real sense of the personalities of the individuals behind the creative services being offered.

Limitations of customised website systems

Client’s baseline expectations for interactivity and engagement constantly increase and arguably now include some level of participating, commenting and sharing. None of which have yet become common features of Irish graphic design company websites, many still being online portfolios with few inbound or outbound links. Research has shown that design companies still de-emphasise the kind of community or link-based functionality that can play an important role in the business utility of their websites.

This research has observed personal blogs hosted on free service platforms delivering a far richer media experience than professional design company websites, many of which are unable to easily embed RSS feeds and other media content and cannot easily be updated with social media tools or other methods of client interaction. Rather than using standardised platforms with large installed user-bases and active developer communities (such as WordPress) the majority of the websites reviewed are one-off builds incorporating Flash elements with little semantic value. This suggests that being constrained within bespoke-developed website solutions may be one technical reason limiting the adoption of business blogging by Irish graphic design companies.