Industry Insights: Tim Robertson RGD

Tim Robertson RGD has been an agency owner, advised companies in the developing world, and worked with Toronto’s social media startup scene. He shares his thoughts on how designers can get a larger piece of the marketing pie by leveraging digital marketing as an entry point. Having knowledge in this area can make the difference between having a say in strategic direction to just being handed design work after the fact.


Having worked both sides of the table as “the designer” (or agency) and as “the client” (marketing director or stakeholder), I have experienced first hand how design is usually perceived inside organizations. Design is often an afterthought, something that happens after all the strategic and tactical decisions have been made. This is not shocking news to anyone in the design profession. It’s one of the reasons we spend time and effort trying to raise the perceived value of our services in the first place.


Design and Digital Marketing 

Design is process driven. You start by investigating what the client is looking for and once the design objectives are defined, you do research, experiment, create mockups and come up with final design solutions. Designers are comfortable with processes, refining ideas, getting feedback and pushing forward the elements that work. Ultimately, designers are helping organizations to make connections, start conversations and build relationships with their target audience.


I propose that designers can get a larger share of the marketing pie if they enter strategic conversations sooner. Many successful design firms focus on doing just that, by positioning themselves as brand strategists. Another strategy is for designers to engage in digital marketing initiatives.


Digital marketing is also process driven. Like design, it involves investigating what the client is looking for, experimenting, creating mockups and discovering solutions that work. In this case, the process is mostly economic: it’s very inexpensive to test the market. Because the risk is low, you have the freedom to make mistakes, experiment and then scale up when the going is good. This is where the opportunity lies for design to step in. Good design and design processes are intuitive and interactive. Good design raises conversion and engagement rates, generates more interest, conveys more value and builds more trust for target audiences. So here is your entry point. 


The purpose of all digital marketing is to create connections, start conversations and build relationships for a specific market. Ask your client how they intend to reach more prospects, generate more leads, increase brand awareness and grow their database. The answers will surprise you. Often they are looking for solutions and suggestions for how to achieve their goals, or they are not happy with the results they are getting. Sometimes they aren’t sure and are overwhelmed by all the options.


Making Connections

So how does a designer start this conversation? Establishing a general understanding of the basics of digital marketing will help, including important metrics such as Customer Acquisition Cost. Most of all, use the knowledge that is inherent in your role as a designer to ask the right questions: How do you intend to reach out to more people? What conversations do you want to have with your market? And in what areas do you want to build trust?


If designers can get involved in digital marketing decisions, they can then start to move up the value chain of design services. Involvement with so many of the touch points for prospects and customers will lead to greater influence around branding and brand messaging, which gives the designer a larger slice of the aforementioned marketing pie.

he explores trends in digital marketing where designers can make a difference. - See more at:


Join Tim Robertson's Webinar, Digital Marketing: The Designers Edge on November 26th, where he will explore trends in digital marketing where designers can make a difference.


RGDs interested in submitting an 'Insights' article can download the 'Guidelines for Contributing Content' PDF and email