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Blog posts tagged design

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Powerful design: what's the difference that makes the difference?

May 04, 2011 by Fiona Humberstone

Powerful design enables you to connect with your ideal clients. It’ll help you attract, engage and seduce them into buying from you or working with you, and of course, it’s a wider thing than just design. It’s about your powerful design fitting into a powerful brand strategy.

How can you be sure, when you’re working with a design agency, that they’re going to provide you with powerful design and not just good design?

What is the difference that makes the difference?

Powerful design requires an in-depth understanding of your business, your objectives and your customers. Run a mile from anyone who asks you what colours you want or to sketch out how you’d like something to look.

Powerful design takes time. Coming up with creative concepts that will really connect with your audience and unlock something within them doesn’t happen in a matter of moments. It’s going to take time to develop those concepts and produce polished artwork.

Powerful design uses colour psychology to unlock your goals, values and message and also use it to authentically communicate with your ideal clients. There’s more to colour psychology than simply knowing that blue is calming and red can be aggressive. Colour psychology enables us to help our clients communicate coherently, authentically and with clarity.

Powerful design is creative. When we create powerful design we think outside the box. A business that works with large corporates should have a website that is bland and safe, right? Wrong! A designer must tap into a client’s brand values and company ethos to create a site that firmly differentiates their company from their competitors and enables them to connect with their customers. Oh, and win a whole pile more business.

Powerful design sweats the small stuff. Often the difference that makes the difference is the attention to detail. When you look through a powerfully designed website, it’s not just the homepage that looks lovely — that strong design runs throughout the site and reassures and engages.

Powerful design will cost you more than good design. You need to find a really good agency – one that has a firm understanding of not just how to layout a page, but typography, design trends and colour psychology. They’ll probably be very serious about investing in their team, which means that their hourly rate will reflect that. They won’t be the cheapest, but they will give you the best results.

Fiona Humberstone is an expert contributor to Marketing Donut and runs her own creative consultancy.

 

Five things to think about if you’re going to design your own leaflets

June 24, 2010 by Fiona Humberstone

You’re probably savvy enough to realise that you need to get the pro’s involved when it comes to creating your logo and website. But what about everything else? The reports, invoices, proposals and posters that you create yourself? Are they sending out the right signals, or do they chirrup “cheap! cheap!”.

The good news is that you can make some simple changes to the way you design your own collateral in-house that will make a big difference to how people perceive your business. Get it right and you’ll build more confidence and win more business. And you don’t need a graphic design degree or an expensive piece of software to do it. Here’s how…

1. Work out what’s important (it’s probably not your logo!)
2. Get some decent structure in place
3. Use fonts that enhance your brand (that means no Arial or Verdana!)
4. Use colours that engage and attract your ideal clients
5. Make sure your images are relevant and do you justice

1. Work out what’s important

With the exception of your business stationery, your company logo and name shouldn’t take centre stage – so move the logo away from the top! Think about what message your clients will respond best to and make sure that’s what stands out.  Secondly, think about what you’re asking people to do. Your call to action also needs to be clear.

2. Get a decent structure in place

Don’t send your text from one side of the screen to the other! Use columns and grids to add structure and clarity. And remember, odd numbers are good – threes, fives, sevens. Feel free to “break the grid” and use text across two columns.

3. Use fonts that enhance your brand

Fonts are often overlooked, even by some graphic designers, but nothing will scream amateur more than a dodgy stock photograph coupled with Verdana! The point is that fonts subconsciously create moods and send your clients signals about your business. Ask your designer to advise you on what fonts will work best with your brand and use them for all printed material. Emailing something? Consider creating a PDF if it’s important.

4. Use colours that engage and attract your ideal clients

Colour psychology is a powerful thing. Using the right colours will have a big impact on how your clients and colleagues perceive your business. And it’s not just about the colours you use – think also about the tones and how they all fit together. Ask your designer to recommend you a colour palette and make sure you use it!

5. Make sure your images are relevant and do you justice

Images can make or break your design. Try and avoid the temptation to use over-used and cliched “clever” images that you have to shoehorn a headline around. Instead, pick images that are in content relevant to what you do and are also visually pleasing.

And finally… let’s not get things out of perspective. I’m not suggesting for one moment that these simple tricks can replace your fabulous graphic designer. But I’m a realist – I know you’re always going to need to design something in-house, so why not learn how to make it look a cracker!

Fiona Humberstone is an expert contributor to Marketing Donut and runs her own creative consultancy.

Five easy ways to avoid collateral damage and win more business

May 19, 2010 by Fiona Humberstone

You’re probably savvy enough to realise that you need to get the pros involved when it comes to creating your logo and website. But what about everything else? The reports, invoices, proposals and posters that you create yourself? Are they sending out the right signals, or do they chirrup “cheap! cheap!”.

The good news is that you can make some simple changes to the way you design your own collateral in house that will make a big difference to how people perceive your business. Get it right and you’ll build more confidence and win more business. And you don’t need a graphic design degree or an expensive piece of software to do it. Here’s how…

  • Work out what’s important (it’s probably not your logo!)
  • Get some decent structure in place
  • Use fonts that enhance your brand (that means no Arial or Verdana!)
  • Use colours that engage and attract your ideal clients
  • Make sure your images are relevant and do you justice.

1. Work out what’s important

With the exception of your business stationery, your company logo and name shouldn’t take centre stage – so move the logo away from the top! Think about what message your clients will respond best to and make sure that’s what stands out.  Secondly, think about what you’re asking people to do. Your call to action also needs to be clear.

2. Get a decent structure in place.

Don’t send your text from one side of the screen to the other! Use columns and grids to add structure and clarity. And remember, odd numbers are good – threes, fives, sevens. Feel free to “break the grid” and use text across two columns.

3. Use fonts that enhance your brand

Fonts are often overlooked, even by some graphic designers, but nothing will scream amateur more than a dodgy stock photograph coupled with Verdana! The point is that fonts subconsciously create moods and send your clients signals about your business. Ask your designer to advise you on what fonts will work best with your brand and use them for all printed material. Emailing something? Consider creating a PDF if it’s important.

4. Use colours that engage and attract your ideal clients

Colour psychology is a powerful thing. Using the right colours will have a big impact on how your clients and colleagues perceive your business. And it’s not just about the colours you use – think also about the tones and how they all fit together. Ask your designer to recommend you a colour palette and make sure you use it!

5. Make sure your images are relevant and do you justice

Images can make or break your design. Try to avoid the temptation to use over-used and clichéd “clever” images that you have to shoehorn a headline around. Instead, pick images that are relevant to what you do and are also visually pleasing.

And finally… let’s not get things out of perspective. I’m not suggesting for one moment that these simple tricks can replace your fabulous graphic designer. But I’m a realist – I know you’re always going to need to design something in house – so why not learn how to make it look a cracker!

Fiona Humberstone is an expert contributor to Marketing Donut and runs her own creative consultancy.

Design now for a competitive edge

March 10, 2010 by Sara Drawwater

You don't need me to remind you that markets are much more competitive, revenues are being squeezed and many have lost faith in our politicians and our economy. At times like this when budgets are shrinking, it can be tempting to cut your spending on design. After all, design is an area that can be difficult to understand, measure and source. However, could it be possible to design yourself out of a downturn?

The fact is that it is even more important to invest in design when times are hard. Now is the time that your target audience needs to be convinced that you are the right business to spend with. Now is when your potential customers need to be aware of you, your products and services. Now is when you need to connect with your target audience by responding to their needs and providing solutions.

What's more, if you go against the trend of reining in design investment your business could gain an edge over your competition. Let your rivals reduce or completely cut their spend on design, but continue your own investment in design.

Attitudes to design

According to the Design Council, "When times are tough it is change, dynamism and vitality – not hunkering down quietly – which are the keys to success... The decision to innovate – to rethink and regenerate products, operations and image – can be taken by a company of any size and in any area. Design and brand strategy can help elevate a firm or its products from the ordinary, the tired or the predictable, demonstrating that the business is alive, dynamic and responsive. And in a declining market that just might make the difference between growth and collapse."

I strongly believe that attitudes to design need to change, especially in the minds of start-up and small-business owners. I hear small-business owners convince themselves that they can manage with DIY design solutions, because they are not the 'big boys' and can't afford dedicated design departments. But how can you ever become a 'big boy' without investing in design?

Case study

Let's take beer, for example. This industry is declining with consumers spending less, and reduced supermarket pricing and the smoking ban causing even bigger challenges. Then there was Castle Rock Brewery in Nottingham. Well aware of the weakening beer market, they realised that a stronger brand was a priority. According to the design team that worked on Castle Rock, "Its corporate identity lacked authority, was being used inconsistently and in most cases almost apologetically across its communications. The crafting and attention to detail evident in its award-winning beers was not in any way reflected in its customer-facing image." A clearer focus was brought in, a coherent range of beer badges created and individual beers were given their own personality, whilst clearly remaining part of the Castle Rock range. And the results? Since the rebranding, the company’s barrel sales have doubled (20% year on year), a full year ahead of business projections, in a market which is otherwise in decline.

Is it time to recognise that investing in design (especially in an economic downtown) is not an extravagant luxury but a competitive necessity?

Sara Drawwater of somethingbeckons.co.uk

What makes up a brand?

February 10, 2010 by John Hayward

So if it's not just your name and logo what is it? A brand will be made up of a collection of different perceptions that will have been built up after exposure to every aspect of your business. This can be a myriad of different things:

  • Product design and experience
  • Packaging
  • Sales experience - your sales people or distributors
  • Service experience - during the sale and after
  • Advertising messages and straplines
  • The way you look and sound - imagery, colour, fonts, personality and tone
  • Your website, blogs or mentions on social networking sites
  • The price, and how you discount
  • Your reputation
  • The shop, office or factory experience
  • Uniform, badges, vans and trucks 
  • Your people
  • The logo
  • Your name

Any one person could be exposed to all or just one of these variables, that when mixed together form the brand in their mind. There are many ways you will be able to influence what the brand means to people, so you can steer its direction.

Left untouched and uncared for, without clear direction, your brand will take a course that will lead to fewer and fewer customers. So have a think about the list above – and see what sort of brand you’re presenting across the board.  Is it all working to a common direction and goal?  Is it the direction you want it to take?  If not, you may just need to get clarity and some help setting the direction.  It doesn’t take long and will be well worth the effort.

John Hayward of Brand Glue

Do you have a visual competitive edge?

January 31, 2010 by Sara Brown

It’s a cut-throat world out there and as competing businesses clamber for ever wiser customers, you should be focused on carving out a competitive edge for yourself. A company has achieved a successful visual presence when their customers can find them easily and, more importantly, when their customers can understand them.

Graphic design is often misunderstood and seen as an unnecessary cost. Many businesses severely under-utilise the power of visual design. But one thing is for sure, design-led businesses stand out from the crowd. Successful businesses of any size are embracing design, using it as a strategic resource to strengthen their products and services in order to achieve profitable growth.

Visual design should not be seen as a cost. If a company is achieving a successful visual market presence, design is not money down the drain. Rather, a strong visual presence gives your customers a compelling reason to buy from you and not your competitors.

Before any potential client even walks through your door, they have undoubtedly experienced the visual identity of your company. This identity can make you look fun or serious, large or small, traditional or forward-thinking, professional or unprofessional. You need to strike a chord with your target audience. Customers know what they want. The question is, can you successfully communicate to them that you know what they want and that you have it?

Here are a few things to think about: What does your logo say about your company? What impression does your company literature give your potential customer? Is your website pulling in customers or turning them away? Why? Can your customers find you and can they understand what you offer?

 

Sara Drawwater is an expert contributor to Marketing Donut and runs her own creative consultancy, Something Beckons.

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