Monday, August 29, 2005

Feng Shui and PR materials

New trends are the life force of public relations.
As marketing and PR professionals, we must be aware and study new trends in society- especially in the fields of wellness, lifestyle, fashion and design.
Even if it’s only a fad, managers, customers, journalists, target groups and the general public might embrace it - and longer than foreseen.
PR and corporate materials (websites, newsletters, brochures) must be contemporary to appeal to the target audience and reflect their feelings and tastes.

One of the trends to watch is feng shui.
Feng shui (pronounced fung shway) is the ancient Chinese system of arranging environments to maximize their internal harmony and the happiness of the people who use them.
It reached the West in the '90s, when trendy Westerners sought to apply its principles to their own homes and offices. Donald Trump is a recent fan.
It changed interior designs and launched many “how to” books, mirrors, ornaments and indoor fountains.

So how does it apply to corporate and PR materials?

The most important aspect of feng shui is ch'i - the life force that flows in and around everything, binding it together. Ch'i is the energy that must be able to flow well in order to create a positive environment - good feng shui.
Feng shui in PR materials translates into easy to navigate websites, easy to read newsletters and other corporate materials – the text, images and content must “flow”.

A bright and clean design brings good feng shui. The website or document must have bold colors, especially blue, which goes down well in all cultures (in feng shui, it represents water). Graphics should be clean and a pleasure for the eye. It should transmit the message without too much effort. To ensure this, don’t put too much text in diagrams and make details big enough to be seen effortless in all formats, including low resolutions jpegs and gifs.

Life and movement

In feng shui, life and movement are used to fill in stagnant areas or break up long, straight lines. In interior design it translates into putting plants in the corners of rooms, or fish tanks against boring walls.
In websites and corporate materials, it translates into creating a balanced design or document, by making sure that that great graphics fill empty spaces.
The graphics can be a company specific images (a product, building) or can be a general images (fields, river, beach, child at play, smiling people) to give the reader a “good feeling”.
In corporate websites, certain "wellness images" are repeated at the same location on each webpage, thus creating the flow that's so important in feng shui.

We all heard the term: “less is more”.
Especially when designing a website, make sure that you don’t put in too many multimedia gimmicks. People visit corporate websites to get information, not to be entertained. When using flash on the homepage, put in a “skip intro” function.

Straight lines
Nature consists of round forms – leaves, shells, and trees, including the human body.
Websites and documents are linear by nature. For good feng shui, you need curvy, flowing lines. On web pages, this can be achieved by making tabs round (not angular) or designing round buttons to click on. For good feng shui, there must be curvy design elements throughout the whole website and other corporate materials.

Whether it’s a document, brochure or a website, the user must find it easy to read it or intuitive how to navigate in case of a website. The document must be so appealing that the reader will pick it up again. In case of websites, the visitor must be enticed to revisit the site.

After reading the above, readers of this blog might come to the concluding: ”so what, I have been doing that all along”. In that case, good for you and keep up the good work.
However, feng shui is not a new design craze; it’s a more than 5,000 years old discipline that makes us all look at our environment and PR materials from a different angle.
Even if you, as a marketing and PR expert, are tempted to reject it as another passing fashion, be aware that a substantial part of your target audience knows about it, with a growing number embracing it.

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