21 Mar 2014  •  Marketing and Design  •  4min read

Some People Think About Design As Putting Lipstick On A Gorilla!

Here, Marketing Director Les Jones talks us through exactly what he means…

What I mean is that design is sometimes used to put a bit of surface gloss onto something that is fundamentally not that pretty underneath.

To use another analogy, it’s a bit like using a nice wallpaper to paper over the cracks in your wall. It’s short-lived and doesn’t address the underlying issues.

For me, design (when used correctly) has the power to fundamentally transform a practice’s performance and provide the framework for successful growth and profitability.

But how important is design to your dental practice?

Take a look at the three practice logos. Which one do you think is a family practice, which is a city centre spa and which is a long-established Harley Street specialist?


Assuming you’ve made your choice, think about what’s just happened here. You’ve made assumptions about these practices simply by the typeface they’ve used in their logos. There were no other factors. That’s how powerful design is in affecting people’s perceptions of your practice.

So, it was interesting when I recently gave a number of dentists a list of business functions (marketing, finance, HR, staff training, strategy, planning, service development, design, etc.) and asked them to rate them in order of importance for their practice.

In almost every case, design was ranked in the bottom two by those that took part.

Why is that?

Well, for a start, it’s a strange phenomenon that, for a profession that is rooted in communication, designers are not that good at explaining its benefits. Which means that for most people, the power of design to influence the performance of their practice is not something they have been sufficiently well informed about. As such, it’s an area of business they pay little attention to. And when they do, it’s often an afterthought or something that is left to others to carry out without having the necessary level of input in what is produced.

But take a look around your practice; your reception layout (designed), your surgery (designed), your dental chair (designed), your corporate literature (designed), your uniforms (designed), your website (designed), your dental tools (designed), your practice logo (designed) – I could go on.

The key question here is… are you in control of your practice design or is it something that is more often imposed on you by others? Or is it a part of your business that simply gets overlooked because you have more ‘important’ things to do?

Design, at it’s most basic, is essentially about making decisions; about what you are going to do and what you’re not going to do – i.e. doing things ‘by design’.

Let’s take a look at your branding for a few moments. Give yourself a few minutes and write down five words that you would hope people would use to describe your practice when they visited – are you warm and approachable, or cool and funky? A friendly, family-focused practice or an exclusive city spa?

Now take a look at your branding, your literature and your environment.

Are these elements of your practice perfectly aligned to what you are trying to project, or is there a disconnect? If there is a disconnect, then you are not harnessing the power of design to help your practice grow.

For me, design is one of the most productive and influential tools available to dental practices. It’s also one of the most under-utilised, which means if you do use design effectively, you are likely to gain some competitive advantage.

The challenge for us designers, is to get that message across more effectively and get the industry to buy into the benefits that design can deliver when used correctly.

If you’re looking for more guidance on the most effective ways to market your practice, head on over to our Resource Library, where you’ll find an array of even more interesting articles by Les and many more dentistry experts.


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