The Magic Touch

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Why haptics are more important than ever

New information. Trends. Technologies. Inspiration. With so many people physically and emotionally stranded by the pandemic today, we are missing the No. 1 in which we, as humans, interpret the world—touch.

Darcy Briks is one of those creatives with an up close and personal view of the consumer’s constant quest for all of the above—a quest that leads them to feverishly devour everything and anything they can to stay current. In some of the most recent conversations she has had with her clients, best practices is a topic that keeps coming up. The founder and creative director of Second Language Design continues to brainstorm new and meaningful ways with her clients to stay afloat amid the challenging times. Along with ads and social graphics, when the talk comes to more hands-on, printed one-use collaterals like menus for COVID-19 safety, the conversations get a little more interesting.

The menu almost seems like something we took for granted, innocently and nonchalantly passed by a server to kick off the ordering process. But today, the thought of touching a menu delivers a whole new set of emotions. “We’ve been focusing on revamping physical branding, especially if you have a storefront or retail business,” Briks says.

“I think for designers, we get to use the latest methods and paper technology/materials to create a really exciting experience, or even keep it classic and elevated.”
— Darcy Briks, Creative Director, Second Language Design

For example, Second Language just provided a full branding suite and packaging design for a retail shop, SIRENA, in Santa Barbara, California so that its customers could unbox something special in the mail or enjoy the store in person. The project included signage, variable logos, stamps, business cards, hang tags and postcards.

“The store was able to pick and choose what they include in online orders, and we made signage and mirror decals—for selfies—for when customers are allowed in the shop,” Briks says. “It’s all about creating a fun experience for the clothing store, while reinforcing their brand. I think for designers, we get to use the latest methods and paper technology/materials to create a really exciting experience, or even keep it classic and elevated. That experience helps brands stay memorable and is another vehicle for them to further enforce their identity.”

As for how the pandemic and any protocols that will follow, Briks believes it will take time to see what shakes out for print and the ability to create impact with touch. She says because values are constantly shifting as new information reveals itself, creatives must remain open and pay attention to the ever changing landscape.

“In my experience overall, it has been a change in the tone of voice and the visual stories that we are telling,” Briks says. “Encouraging people to slow down and savor where they are at. Focusing more on creating new experiences than trying to recapture or reminisce about old ones. There is a lot more research and reflection from a design perspective and encouraging clients to do the same. Across the board it has been re-examining everything from brand ethos to how a brand connects to its consumers/clients—if that still applies in this climate. Getting back to basics, starting with the ‘why’ has lead us to the ‘how.’”

Just a touch away

Kristin Jaworowski started her creative journey as a photographer, which helped filter each project through that unique lens. The viewpoint, she says, allowed her to create graphic synergy through heightened attention to texture, color, shape, light and movement. Over the past 10 years, she has worked both in-house and on the freelance side with everything from large corporations all the way down to small studios.

Today, working under the studio name Prima Materia Creative as a freelance art director and designer at The Nature’s Bounty, she has a firsthand look at how brands are working to craft stories and create meaningful connections without one of its most important senses.

“Overall, I think this new way of working requires creatives to be more adaptable than ever before,” Jaworowski says. “We will continue to adapt to new processes, new ways of thinking, new technologies and, most importantly, new ways to create true connection between yourself, teammates and clients.”

“We will continue to adapt to new processes, new ways of thinking, new technologies and, most importantly, new ways to create true connection between yourself, teammates and clients.”
— Kristin Jaworowski, Designer, The Nature’s Bounty

In a world where touch is for the brave, so to speak, Jaworowski believes the biggest theme will continue to be how to communicate and relate in a landscape that changes constantly. So on one side, she says, creatives must continue to do what they do best—understand the consumer/user. Have their needs changed? Have the way they access your brand or product changed? Is your brand voice still relevant or does it have to shift to better connect and communicate with the consumer?

“I think entire marketing strategies have to pivot,” she says. “That includes using all kinds of media: digital, print and social media. All of this affects what creative assets will look and sound like and, ultimately how it will connect to a consumer or user.”

A big part of the process is being able to clearly and concisely communicate. “That will be more important now than ever before,” Jaworowski says. “We can’t always read facial cues, tone of voice or body language with the various forms of digital communication we now rely on. Creating that connection with a client or colleague, making them feel heard, and making sure you understand your role and expectations is critical. So much can be lost in translation.”

Before the pandemic, Jaworowski was working on a product launch, which as irony has its say, was for a stress relief product. While everything already was concepted for the launch, the ideas no longer applied or related to consumers in the current state of the world, especially during a lockdown.

“We had to start from scratch and re-think our campaign,” Jaworowski says. “That spanned from tone of voice, visuals and the stories themselves. It was a very stressful time, but it offered an opportunity to really reflect on what was needed at this time in our world. How could we connect to the consumer and offer them a product that could potentially be helpful in a time like now?”

What role will print and touch play in the new landscape? Jaworowski says it will continue to shift people into the present moment instantaneously. “We slow down and focus. Our culture has a hyper-focus on digital technologies. Don’t get me wrong, some of them are amazing and ground breaking. But one of the drawbacks is that we can endlessly scroll through our interactions, which puts us in an auto-pilot state. It is easy to be desensitized and distracted. Your sense of touch stops you short. You pay attention to what you have come in contact with and your brain becomes receptive. One of the goals of marketing and advertising is to capture people’s attention and connect to them. Touch is a great way to do that.”

Perhaps Susan Herda, art director with Rule29, sums up the role of print and touch best. “It has always been a powerful tool, but when it is done well it is such a memorable experience because it is different than touching a screen, watching your screen, or typing on your keyboard. It demands you to hold it, slow down and focus on what it is asking you to do. It’s a different experience to open an amazing packaging or experience a unique direct mail or brochure.”

As we move forward into new worlds, all of us will long for that experience to return.