From strategic design and innovative brand positioning – Design Infestation founder Christo Maritz talks creativity and marketing
The value of knowing who you are and how to build a company that specialises in creative problem-solving. Design Infestation founder Christo Maritz talks brands, design, content and marketing that makes sense in today’s world.
MEET CHRISTO MARITZ
Born and raised in Cape Town, Christo grew up enjoying spending hours tinkering and fixing things around the house – a trait that’s maintained today in his passion for carpentry. And it was this love of creative thinking and solving problems that led to Christo discovering his love of design, branding and communications early in high school.
After graduating in design from CPUT amid stints at various agencies while learning from others and constantly upskilling himself, Christo founded Design Infestation in 2000, where he is still CEO and executive creative director today.
FOUNDING DESIGN INFESTATION
“I wanted to build a company that’s as great to work for as it is to work with,” Christo says. And, 20 years on, Design Infestation has grown from a primarily Cape Town-centred design agency to a full-service strategic brand and marketing company with clients across three continents – see some of Design Infestation’s exciting work.
And, while he jokes that the team likely thinks he nitpicks too much, he says openly that it’s the wonderful people in his team and being able to collaborate with them in finding creative solutions to clients’ challenges that make it all worthwhile.
“In the future, I want Design Infestation to be a sustainable force in the professional branding and marketing space.”
Currently residing in Oranjezicht in Cape Town with wife Nikki and daughters Leah and Anya, Christo shares some of his experience and insights into branding, design, content and marketing:
CHRISTO ON DESIGN AND YOUR BRAND
You guys specialise in brand design – what is it exactly, why is it important and who needs it?
People like to connect with companies, products and other people that they understand and can relate to. And to be that for your customer, you need to be able to effectively communicate the truth about yourself in a very noisy world.
So, with brand design, we work with businesses to discover those truths and then distil them into clear and honest visual communications that help define and differentiate their brand. It’s basically creating a visual language for describing who you are, and I think every company should go through a branding exercise – especially those who are growing and touching more people’s lives every day; you need to know what you stand for and showcase it to stay relevant and keep making an impact.
See more on Design Infestation’s brand design services.
You often speak about strategic design, how does that work?
Strategy is about understanding the reason and consequences of what we do. And when you bring that into the realm of marketing and design, you’re not just creating a graphic, animation or publication because a client asked for it, you’re creating things that directly feed into the company’s larger strategy.
Strategic design gives your creative purpose. And it starts with understanding the challenge that needs to be solved first, and then applying design thinking to create a more holistic solution.
What is the design thinking process you follow to create solutions?
Ask questions. Get into your client’s shoes. Open your mind. Empathise with both sides of the communication. Brainstorm solutions to the challenge. Then simplify and simplify some more. Design visual and content that resolves the problem. Test and review. Start from the beginning until the challenge is resolved.
See more on Design Infestation’s brand strategy work.
ON CONTENT MARKETING TODAY
What is content marketing, how is it different from traditional marketing and why is it an important strategy these days?
Content marketing is more engaging. It’s creating valuable related content that fills a need for the audience first before delivering marketing messages. And it’s becoming more and more important: We are all a little bored with one-directional communication. We’re curious by nature, so people will always gravitate to what interests them. And people are consuming more content, so we’re basically saying to brands: if you want my attention, talk to my needs and keep it interesting.
Where do you start if you’re considering content marketing?
Start with the audience. What excites them? What will they value? That’s the content you need to create, curate and share. And you don’t always need an agency for this – you know your customer best, so it’s great if the core messaging comes from inside your company.
What are you exploring next in content marketing?
I’m personally excited about the potential of social channels like TikTok and LinkedIn, and looking to do more e-learning and how-to videos for clients.
See the remarkable content marketing work Design Infestation does for Cape Town tourism.
And what about content in the digital space?
Well, we’re all consuming our content online, so it’s very important here. But you need to be relevant, thought-provoking and you have to be sure that there’s actually a market for your content. I think that SEO is still the most important marketing tool for most businesses, so whatever you do online needs to feed into that.
Any blogs or emails you subscribe to?
In your opinion, is print dead?
Mostly, yes. It’s expensive and slow. But there are times when it still works. Like with regional newspapers and magazines, for example. And, importantly, we all want to switch off from our digital lives every now and then. And that’s when the right print publication in the right position allows us a bit of guilt-free media consumption. So, if you’re the kind of brand that can really deliver something unique in that space, then print can still do amazing things.
OWNED-MEDIA VS PAID MEDIA
What’s your take on growing your own media base VS paying for media space?
I think everyone wants to grow their own channels because that audience likely represents your most loyal customers. And growing your own channels is particularly important for retail and consumer brands, if you can keep it focused and you’re sure you’re adding and maintaining real value.
But most brands still need to target larger audiences, which means investing in media spend. The key here is knowing who you are as a brand and accurately finding the places your audience “hangs out”. And, either way, you still need great content to perform in any media space.
See Design Infestation’s content creation and publishing work.
Founder, CEO and executive creative director of Design Infestation
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And explore new possibilities and owned-media (in any format) with publishing and content creation.
We’re super proud of the brand positioning, design and marketing we’ve done for amazing brands around the world. See some examples of Design Infestation’s work.