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Creative Expert Megan Giles on Having a Great Design Strategy: The ROI Online Podcast Ep. 86

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Humans make decisions based on emotions, so what better way to provoke emotion than with images?

On this Feature Friday episode of the ROI Online Podcast, Steve talks with Creative Strategist Megan Giles about the importance of design and its impact on your business’s marketing. 

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Megan is the graphic designer at ROI Online and founder of MG Graphics. She believes that a great, beautiful design is important but what’s really going to make an impact are the words you use and the strategy behind it. Megan helps clients with their marketing messages and designs every piece of marketing content to lead readers to your call to action.

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Most people think marketing materials are just supposed to be pretty layouts and designs, but they are vital tools for your business. You have to make sure you are communicating your message in the right way. 

Among other things, Megan and Steve discussed:

  • Megans’ experience and backstory
  • What Creative Design is
  • How to write a creative brief for graphic design
  • Creative strategy in marketing and what it means
  • Things your website designer might be doing, but shouldn’t
  • How to design a content strategy that helps you grow your business

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You can learn more about Megan here:

Follow Megan on LinkedIn


Read the books mentioned in this podcast:

The Golden Toilet by Steve Brown


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Topics: Small Business Marketing, Podcast, Business Tips

Steve Brown 0:01
Megan Giles, welcome to the ROI online podcast.

Megan Giles 0:05
Thank you for having me. I'm excited to be here.

Steve Brown 0:08
Megan, you are this creative genius. That's a part of the ROI team. And I'm excited to have you share your brilliance with us today. Oh, well, thank

Megan Giles 0:22
you for that. I humbly accept that compliment.

Steve Brown 0:30
So Megan, where did you fall in love with design? Oh, man.

Megan Giles 0:36
So I grew up on a cattle ranch in Kansas. And out in the country, most of design

Steve Brown 0:43
opportunities, obviously, yeah,

Megan Giles 0:45
for sure out feeding cows. And so one thing of country living is you join four h at a very young age. And I had no interest in the animals. But I had an amazing art teacher, Mrs. harden, um, and then my parents really did believe in my art skills and sent me to a couple art classes in junior high and grade school. And then in high school, I had the same art teacher from four H, in my high school class. And I would even, like I had talked my math teacher, into as soon as I finished my math homework for the day, I had my own spot in the art room. And I would go down there and paint for the rest of math class, or if study halls or whatever, I was in the art room all the time. So I really had a great teacher. And then my junior senior year, we were talking about what I was going to do with the rest of my life. And it was either I didn't I had no idea what graphic design was. She told me, well, somebody has to create the ads. It's like, Okay, that makes sense. All right. Sounds good. So it was either go to K state for graphic design, or go to beauty school and be hairstylist. Which, because I also love doing hair. And so I did a year at K state and halfway through, I was like, college isn't for me. I'm quitting. My parents said, No, you're not like, I'll just finish the year. And then I'm going to go to beauty school. So fast forward, I did beauty school, was a hairstylist for six years, halfway through realized they didn't teach me how to build a business. So struggling along. talking to my mom One day, she said, Well, why don't you see I was in Amarillo at the time, big city for me at that point in time. And she said, Why don't you see if the local community college has a graphic design program, you were always interested in it, you still draw a little bit. Like, okay, I was enrolled A week later, and got my associates in graphic design. And then when I was about to finish up with that,

Unknown Speaker 3:01
I

Megan Giles 3:03
decided maybe I wasn't ready for the real world yet. So maybe I should get a degree. So teacher told me about you and teen went down to University of North Texas and then told me about u and T i was enrolled A week later. Like when I make decisions, I just run with it and move down a couple months later. And then in that program, they have very intense art program. And realize

Steve Brown 3:32
maybe this

Megan Giles 3:32
isn't really for me. So finished out my bachelor's in business and then got into the corporate world. And that's the short story of how I got into the art space.

Steve Brown 3:48
I love that. So I think that the folks that are listening, this are entrepreneurs or business owners, they're their marketing directors, and they're relating because a lot of a lot of times now, this business world crashes into the creative world. And what I'm really noticed is that a lot, here's how it goes to the business owner finally goes, I think we need to get our act together. I think we need a website or something. And so we'll we'll put up with this creative creative the person for a little bit and get that Hurry and get it done and get it out of the way and get back to real business. But the truth is, it's a real aspect of an important business process, especially now and in the future. Would you agree or am I wrong?

Megan Giles 4:39
Yes, for sure the words you use matter, but nobody's gonna read those words if you don't have design pulling them in. So design is a key aspect to all things marketing.

Steve Brown 4:52
So I think that's a beautiful statement because a lot of people say we're in an attention economy. But I disagree I, I believe we're in a focus economy, you can get someone to teach and you can walk in a restaurant, drop a book on the floor, everybody else stop what they're doing and look at you like an idiot. And then they'll quickly go back to what they were doing. You got their attention, but you didn't learn their focus. And I think what you have to offer really brings it into the helps us overcome the challenge of actually earning their focus and keeping their focus. Hmm. You know, one of the questions I always get is, and I'm curious about your answer is what is creative design.

Megan Giles 5:42
So creative design would be the supporting role in your market overall marketing strategy. So you have your content, and the words you use matter for sure. But again, nobody's going to read those words unless you draw them in with design. So you have to creatively think through how the end user is going to read it. So and that's where your type treatments come in. So big hitters, the fonts you use matter, because they can create a, an emotional connection with the end user, depending on who your target audience is.

Steve Brown 6:28
So when you when you say emotional connection, I think that's a missed aspect in when people are approaching creative design, especially to solve a business problem. Why is that emotional aspects so important?

Megan Giles 6:42
Because that's how we make decisions based on emotion, even the big high up CEO. And it's been proven over and over again, in lots of studies, which I cannot quote, but I do refer business books that put those studies.

Steve Brown 6:58
Now there's, there's a part of the brain, the old part of the brain, the brain strim stem that no decision is approved until the brainstem, I call it the body guard signs off on that decision. And it's, it can't process words, it can't process language. It does it based on emotion. And I think that's so neglected, when people sit down and go, Okay, we're going to do this strategy, this marketing strategy, but they don't take into consideration all the things in your world. For sure, it's dismissed often as like this, this Aditi little cheerleader. Yep.

Unknown Speaker 7:40
Yeah. Which it can be,

Megan Giles 7:42
if you get the wrong designer in there, who doesn't know how to think through your target audience, or the goal you're trying to get with this one piece of marketing? Because so many designers will give you a beautiful design. And initially, you're like, Wow, that's really pretty. But is it leading your reader to your call to action, because in marketing, you're trying to make money, you're trying to like it as a business, make money or get people to take action, I guess I shouldn't resort Oh, is back to money, but you're trying to get people to take action. And if the design doesn't lead to whatever that call to action is, then it's failed.

Steve Brown 8:23
That call to action is coming from the business owners like, I would like to have something to show for this investment of time and money, not just something cute. And pretty, that when I show my mom, she's going to be all proud of me. But actually, I needed to help me move the needle in my business. Right? And I love what you're saying there. So. So tell me how to how, how do you write a creative brief for graphic design?

Megan Giles 8:53
So my thought is similar to a content strategy. It all starts with your end goal. What are you trying to do with this piece? Whether it's a website or brochure, a bookmark randomly? I have designed one in the last week, and even your business card, what is your goal with it? It's to get people to take some sort of action. So I always begin with the end in mind. And

Steve Brown 9:23
so is there like a framework You follow? Or is there like cutting give us some insight on how you systematically walk through that.

Megan Giles 9:31
systems. I love systems and processes. Mine are not ironed out completely yet.

Unknown Speaker 9:38
I'm

Unknown Speaker 9:40
with the flow of the conversation.

Steve Brown 9:42
We would expect that from a creative person. Right?

Unknown Speaker 9:46
Right.

Megan Giles 9:46
I I love the idea of processes and systems, but I also I feel stifled a little bit when i when i get into them when I'm in a creative mood i don't want to follow a system i want to just go with the flow and see where it takes me

Steve Brown 10:06
but how does that apply to business i mean that business owners not going to really accept that as a legitimate business process and so i one of the things that really excited me when i learned about story brand and where that's we have a calm and we have a common experience and our background and story brand as well right and you're our creative lead for roi online but oftentimes i think that process misses out on a bigger thing where you come in to play and that's by following that story brand process in an emotional application as well would you disagree

Megan Giles 10:52
i guess i do loosely use everything i've learned as a story brand guide so the seven steps while i do think through content wise on that i do think through it creatively and visually how can i represent each of those pieces for example it says all right we need to identify our hero

Unknown Speaker 11:15
hmm

Steve Brown 11:16
okay so when you're thinking in the creative process how would we how can we resolve or take that into consideration

Megan Giles 11:26
so one thing that i've started asking more in creative briefs is what does your hero wear what are their clothes look like and i think that gives a that helps visualize what that person like is looks like and how they want to present themselves to the world and probably what they're going to be attracted to

Steve Brown 11:53
so you're emotionally connecting so it's like in the in the store man process we need to be able to communicate we understand you and you're safe here because we get you and so when we look at a piece of creative the images the atmosphere the feeling of that piece not just the perfectly written text actually the text is secondary our eyes explore it differently right

Unknown Speaker 12:26
so

Megan Giles 12:29
most thing creatively you want to design it to draw readers in and so that leads them to the text sometimes it might be a large picture and if that picture is of a person let's say the screen is the marketing piece and you're framing that person you want the person to look towards the text where you want the eyes to go so that they get the message whereas if it's like this and you have the foot the model facing off the page the readers eyes are gonna lead off the page and get distracted by whatever's in their background dirty sinker dishes that kind of thing not read your message

Steve Brown 13:15
i love that and i didn't really when i started looking at your stuff and i was also i spend some time in the marketing the mind states area right and i started to see this you have this natural connection with the images that support the overall message that we're trying to do and it takes into consideration the state of mind that someone is in when they're looking at that piece of content

Unknown Speaker 13:44
yes

Megan Giles 13:48
so a good example bringing in the mind states side of things in the research that will he has done one thing i really love that he suggests and i've used this a lot is when fight sourcing images you want to also try to get the reader imagining themselves in that piece so if you're i can't think of a good example right now let's say you want somebody to read a book right and so instead of just showing them a book cover you want to show an image where the camera is kind of at the back of the model's head looking towards this person reading a book because then it's easier for the reader to imagine themselves sitting there reading that book

Steve Brown 14:40
that's a beautiful example you're setting up an aspirational image because when they're evaluating a website when they're evaluating a brochure there's a reason why they're there in that moment and it's because they're wanting to overcome a challenge they're looking for a solution That's going to get them to that place in the future they imagine themselves in, right. And you're facilitating that emotional transformation from, hey, I'm in a jam to Oh, I see a path. Right?

Megan Giles 15:17
Yes. See, you're better with words than I am.

Unknown Speaker 15:20
But you're better. You

Megan Giles 15:21
just said I could just match up images to it.

Steve Brown 15:24
Exactly. And that's, that's why it's a that's a beautiful point, because it illustrates why creative is such an important aspect, not just text,

Unknown Speaker 15:35
right?

Steve Brown 15:37
Yes, your your brain is deciding how much energy to spend here. And if I'm going to read text means I need to move from a fiber optic information processing process to you know, one of those 14 foot 40 modems, goes. Right? That's when you start reading, you're burning energy, that's your, you're getting information in a slow way. And your brain doesn't have much patience for that. So everything that you design is your actually, the emotional aspect is bringing in a fiber optic information process that supports someone that does want to go to the old modem.

Unknown Speaker 16:24
And slow down,

Megan Giles 16:25
right. And that's exactly right, when it comes to designing, especially when you have a text heavy piece. That's why you want those pull quotes and the headers to be bigger, so that people can scan easily. That's why bullet points are really big. And even within bullet points, highlighting key words in there in that so that the reader can easily scan and realize, okay, no, I actually want to read this content, I want to dig down deeper.

Steve Brown 16:58
Exactly, that so you're impacting that emotional process that immediate the body guard is going to give you permission to spend a little time here, but when we make decisions, we made it emotionally. But guess what we do we go look for the text to logically support the decision that we made. And so that's where your your brilliance comes in, and in greases the rails through that process that emotional process, right,

Unknown Speaker 17:28
exactly.

Steve Brown 17:30
So what I'm curious about is, I always get this question do web designers write content?

Megan Giles 17:37
They do but they shouldn't always. So I do think that is a skill set, a lot of designers need to hone in on so that they when they receive the content and the copy from professional copywriters who really do know how to write good copy, they can adjust the copy for the design if needed, because sometimes copywriters do get a little heavy handed on the words they use. And so we got to rein them in a little bit and be like, nobody's going to read this much copy, we need to narrow focus in and narrow down to the main point here, take out a couple sentences. But just writing copy from scratch, I don't think there's many web designers out there who are great at it. And I'm one of them for sure. I am not good at writing copy from scratch, but I can edit with the best of them.

Steve Brown 18:37
So I think that I think we should define for business owners when they think about oh, I need to go to a web designer to get my website redone. Okay, but there's a lot of players that they should consider. Who are those?

Megan Giles 18:52
Absolutely. So you need a content writer, a strategist, somebody who's going to be thinking, the 30,000 foot view of your website and how it needs to be designed from the high level, then that person is going to work with a content person, somebody who's going to write the copy for each of those pages, then you hand it to a designer like me, who will help bring those words to life so that people want to read them. And then you pass it to a developer. There is a difference between a designer and a developer, a developer makes it work online. They know how to code. They love the coding, but they're not they they don't always see visually how that should work. But if you if I hand them a picture and I say make this website look like this, they can get it done immediately. So really there.

Steve Brown 19:58
There's four main People you need main skill sets to build a website and not many people have all those four skills. You said that so well, that's you just described our quickstart process, okay. And that's why we were like, We found a gem when Megan became a part of our team, because she fit in there perfectly, and complimented that process. But so many business owners expect that developer to do all of those. And that's why they end up frustrated in the poor developers just trying to make them happy. Right. But they weren't set up for success.

Megan Giles 20:35
Exactly. Yeah. I wish more developers would realize that they need those extra pieces and say, Okay, I will build you an amazing website. But first, you need to talk to these three people on my team.

Steve Brown 20:54
So you said that the important piece there was content strategy? So how, how do you design a content strategy?

Megan Giles 21:04
So of course, it all comes back to your main goal. What are you trying to do with it, and story brand turns, you go through all seven steps, talk through the hero, what they're frustrated with their problems, give them a plan. And which leads them to success. But you also have to define failure in there so that people realize, oh, if I don't work with this person, then this could happen to me. So I do want to work with them. Because I want all the success in the world. So thinking through all those different pieces when it comes to content strategy. And then adding in where I come in is adding in the visual elements of things. And a good example that you pointed out. earlier was on my website, I have an image of a sticky note. And on it, it's talks about it says has checkboxes checkbox, right copy checkbox for design, my logo checkbox for brochure, brochure, design a brochure, and the last checkbox is cry. And that's the one that's checked. Because when building a marketing plan, you need a team. And if you try to do it all yourself, you're just gonna end up crying.

Steve Brown 22:35
Well, when I saw that image, immediately I was relating because I've been in that position where I'd written a task list for the day. And it was all these overwhelming things that I needed to do as a business owner, I needed to figure out how to do those. And at the end of it, I felt like I'm going to fail because I don't have what it takes to get this done. And when I looked at your website, my eyes first scan, and it went immediately to that, that image. And I looked at it and I giggled, and it's like this brilliant way to communicate the essence of what you do in just milliseconds. And that's so impactful. And it's just, it's just a great example of what you do for our clients. Where did Where did you get that inspiration? Where did that idea come from? back us up? And tell us your thinking, because you thought of our hero,

Unknown Speaker 23:36
right? Walk us through that.

Megan Giles 23:37
So how I relate to that is when I'm trying to write copy. That's what I want to do when it's on my task list. To write the copy for my website, I wanted to cry. And so it's just reversing the roles of copywriter and designer. Yeah. And I've talked to enough copywriters, and they're like, design is not my thing. I don't want to do it. It going into Canva gives me hives. Just I want to give you the words and you make them beautiful. Yeah, I've heard that over and over again. And that's how I feel when it comes to copy. Like, I don't want to write this email. So I'm gonna have somebody else write it. And then I can focus on design. And my zone of genius.

Steve Brown 24:32
It was really powerful because immediately I felt like you get me. She understands me, she's demonstrating she's been in my shoes. And I immediately trust you because I know that when we talk, you know where I'm coming from. That's what that one image accomplished in seconds. In less than a second. In that amazing

Megan Giles 24:58
Yeah, it is. And what's really funny is, like, almost sounds like I'm bragging, but it feels second nature to me. Like I didn't, I didn't think that deeply about it when I was doing it. I just thought I need an image, I need it to communicate. This makes sense, because everybody has a ton of sticky notes. So

Steve Brown 25:22
yeah, so we could have written all over that website. Hey, I understand you, because I know what you're struggling with. You're trying to do design this and this and this. But at the end of the day, you just want to cry? Yeah, I understand because I have. And so that's why we're able to help you kind of create a plan and get over this hurdle. So you don't cry. Okay, that would have been our content that we would create some version of that. But to be able to brilliantly, create an image that conveys that in just less than a second is, is amazing. And we do it, you do it over and over with our stuff. And I think that I think that's the main message of this podcast is that if you're not bringing in a creative person that understands your strategy, understands your hero, what they're trying to do and where they're going, you're falling short.

Unknown Speaker 26:16
Absolutely.

Steve Brown 26:19
So tell us a little bit about when, when this, every creative starts off, I like I like doing this, I like doing that right? until they get in, they start doing some processes tell us about one job that you I felt, but maybe we're missing a mark. And then one day the light bulb went off for you. When did that happen?

Unknown Speaker 26:42
Oh,

Megan Giles 26:44
you didn't have me prepared this question? Um, what? There's got to be one. I know, there's a lot of examples here, where it just, I think, a reason Okay, a recent logo example. The target market for this logo were high end high powered women, professionals. We couldn't go too girly, because then it feels like it's demeaning to women. We couldn't go to masculine because we didn't want to attract that high powered suit and tie CEO type macho man.

Unknown Speaker 27:33
So that was a,

Megan Giles 27:34
that was a tough balance. And we've gone round and round. And I think we're finally on the last stages where it just clicked. And we're almost there. So.

Steve Brown 27:47
So tell us about your process of because you have the you take these advances, and you realize No, that's not we're not we're missing the mark there. You didn't. What's your How do you? How do you know when you're starting to get close?

Megan Giles 28:05
It's a feeling inside, not to get all emotional. But it is because sometimes I just hit it and it feels good. And I was like, Yes, this is exactly it. But then sometimes the creative process is really funny in how sometimes you have to go through revision after revision. And then once you've tried everything, you realize, I need this, this and this from all these different revisions. And then boom, it just magic happens. And it works. I don't think I have exact words on how to make that work. But I think with practice, you get better and better. And the more experience you get with a diverse clientele, you can take each of those experiences into that next project. Even if it's headed for a different target

Steve Brown 29:07
market, I would agree that I think there was a time where I started to recognize there was a common theme and pretty much every conversation, even though they're from diverse backgrounds, and diverse domains or environments or business challenges they're trying to do but there was this common theme of Look, I need to get from here to there. But I'm I'm I'm stuck on this because I have to venture into this scary place of this creative virtual domain where I need to show up with my act together. And I'm been so good in the physical world. If you come to my shop, my office, there's my conference table, there's where you check in, all these things are clear, but in the virtual world, I'm at a loss. And when I realized that, even though they were putting it in all these different words, they were saying the same And then it was like, oh, here's, here's the flow. And then when I ran into the story brand framework, I think the big epiphany from there was framework. Okay? And I think that's You don't? If someone asked you your process, you actually have a process, you do it naturally. But it's like you imagine, alright, what's our hero? What is it they're trying to overcome? How do they feel right now? insecure, a little confused. And then, but they're trying to imagine themselves in the future successful. So let's define what that looks like. Then we can show them. Here's the plan. Here's the map. Here's the steps. And then it's like, everything's congruent. It matches. And you do that with your creative. But what's cool is you get to work with a team. That's honestly agent framework, with the content process, the text process. Yes.

Megan Giles 31:02
So we all speak the same language. At the end of the day, even though it's different mediums.

Steve Brown 31:07
Yeah. You think about what you're resolving is your act. If, if we were going to go back in time, people need to pack you up and take you with them. Because you're going to be able to draw on the cave wall and immediately can we're going to communicate better than someone that's like, I'm a good writer. So, right.

Megan Giles 31:32
That is a funny analogy. But yes, absolutely. If you'd go back in time, call me.

Steve Brown 31:38
But it's worth like, cave people, right? Our brains go there first. And that's what you're resolving. So what does it future look like for you speaking of time travel?

Megan Giles 31:56
What does my future look like? Yeah. Oh, man, it's about time to start traveling again. I've been stationary for too long. I so I set my business up so that I could travel, I refuse to get like a full desk top workstation, I would just want a laptop and a notepad. And I wouldn't be able to fit everything in a backpack. And so that I can travel and I was traveling quite a bit over the last couple years. And the past few months, I've been home, trying to regroup and figure out the travel and work and how to get it all done. And so but I'm itching to go again,

Steve Brown 32:42
the nomadic creative. Yes. So Megan, you would you would say that you've learned how to be impactful in your professional life and yet be able to work remotely from anywhere?

Unknown Speaker 32:57
Absolutely,

Megan Giles 32:58
yes. And I think for a creative, it's good to get out and experience new things and see new backgrounds. Because there have been so many times where I'm sitting, I do enjoy a good beer. And sometimes I will work from a brewery. And so when I'm sitting there, and I'll see something because breweries have amazing art everywhere. I'll see something or have a conversation and then something will just click on a project that I'm working on. And then I'm like, Oh, that's exactly what I needed the inspiration where if I'm sitting at my house, I wouldn't have that interaction. Because I see the same thing every day.

Steve Brown 33:43
That's That's cool. Plus the smell.

Unknown Speaker 33:47
Huh? Oh, yeah.

Steve Brown 33:49
breweries. But you're not just in breweries everywhere. No, no. You come out of the cattle ranch there. Smith there.

Megan Giles 33:59
There are smells there. Yes. Yes, I need more beaches. I was at a beach was a January down in Orange Beach, Florida. Beautiful, but it was a little chilly, wet and worked from our restaurant for the afternoon and huge waves coming up because it was so windy that day. And it was just it was a neat environment to be. I don't know, it's such a different landscape than I'm used to.

Steve Brown 34:32
So Megan, I always like to ask one question and slyke What's the one question I didn't ask that you love to answer.

Megan Giles 34:44
We've talked about everything. No more questions about me.

Unknown Speaker 34:52
I don't know.

Megan Giles 34:57
Maybe okay. I do have a good one. That I, what has led to my success? Yeah, one

Unknown Speaker 35:04
thing is I have really

Megan Giles 35:06
grown the past two years, I look at my bank account and I'm like, holy cow, I'm actually doing this. I built a business from my laptop. And my best answer is God, I pray every day. I am very faithful. And not well, it's a pro process, but he has blessed me abundantly. Because I feel that I continually try to grow closer to him. And that has just been an amazing transformation in my life.

Steve Brown 35:43
Love that now. That's why you fit in with us so well. Megan, what an awesome guest. You've been on the ROI online podcast.

Unknown Speaker 35:54
Thank you so much for having me, Steve.

Steve Brown 35:56
All right. And that's a wrap.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai