It’s rarely been heralded as a cornerstone of business basics, but marketing is design. It’s about communicating your product, brand or service by going beyond facts and text. You have to design your message, define a need or highlight how you offer a solution.

There’s another aspect to marketing that’s often overlooked: emotion. When it comes to marketing, facts go out the window and emotions filter in. You have to create a sense of feeling surrounding your product. Take the iPad for example. It isn’t just that it’s a sleek and incredibly easy to use gadget. The iPad, or any Apple product for example, exudes “coolness.” Sure, you’re getting a need filled. You’re using high tech and affordable equipment to execute a task – but you also feel very stylish doing it.

This is in essence why Apple is so successful and continues to be a leading example of a perfect brand. Apple has been around for a while; however, Apple became a staple only when they began keeping design as a primary focus in creating and marketing their products.

So where does that leave small business marketers?

Small business marketers need to understand that marketing is essentially emotional design – or at least it should be. The bulk of your marketing efforts are communicated visually, more so if you’re an online presence and relying on digital media as a mode to reach your audience base.

The younger generation understands this better than veteran business owners do. Job market newcomers already know image is everything and have long since shifted from basic resumes to infographs and video resumes. Most recently, they’ve adopted the idea of visual portfolios using tools like Pathbrite. The San Francisco-based startup allows job seekers to create one digital destination where they can fuse together multimedia work samples on a Pinterest-like board with compact bio data. The focus is on visuals and visuals are far easier on the eyes and faster to sift through.

Visuals work because they instantly provide the data needed to make an accurate and split second decision. Now whether that data is communicated accurately depends on how you fuse emotion into your design. Emotion is imparted by everything down to the font type, size, spacing, color scheme, graphic quality and of course type of content itself. But even the emotional appeal can vary between two identical samples simply by a shift in the finer details, between light and dark, serif and sans serif or even a combination of the two.

You can apply this idea to your own business by create a niche element in your marketing approach, one that includes a visual portfolio. Hopefully your content management system allows for some flexibility. If you’re with WordPress or another template, try and see if there’s an accessible or affordable template that focuses on visual representation (but is also accommodating copy and social plugins). If you have access to (and the budget for) a great graphic designer, work with them to create a custom page that weaves in more unique style elements to communicate a stronger aesthetic and emotional appeal. Creative portfolios that consider unique icons, navigation menus and displays prove they’re creative companies worth doing business with.

The key is to keep your visual portfolio simple and easy to navigate. Users should be able to navigate both portfolio images and text. Images should link to additional photos of the same sample and should offer some basic text that tells viewers what they’re looking at. Just like with a text resume, you should make sure your copy optimizes that limited space you have available to share details. Focus on identifying project, service or product benchmarks and results.