Friday, May 14, 2010

Design or Copy - which would you choose.

So recently my business partner in our sister company Primal Creative and I had a recent discussion about what's the most important aspect of advertising/marketing. Is it the design or the copy that goes along with that? Check out the video above.

Of course most of you knowing me are probably guessing that I'm coming down on the design side - which I guess is pretty true. I do think design in a visual industry is the initial introduction to the viewer and for that reason alone becomes more important. That's where it stops for me. I think the copy needs to carry us through to really get your message across. Mainly though I want to emphasize that what's most important is concept. Without a real concept and a real plan it doesn't much matter if copy leads the way or design leads the way. My business partner, Rodney, argues that design can improve copy, but copy does little to improve design. True or not, it's a harsh statement for our current environment.

In today's world of 140 characters is design and concept going to trend to be more important or less? I hate to think we are going to be raising a bunch of rugrats that will have no aesthetic ability. Will this next generation suckle at the teet of technology only caring what their peers think and hollering at each other through cyberspace? Or will this next generation rebel and send the Millennial generation packing with their tweets and status updates? 

Hmmm - I know we like to think that technology only improves the world, but think about the history of communication. Think how far we've come from drawing images on the walls of caves. At what point is just emanating information not considered communication. Let us all remember that communication is a 2 way street and frankly whether it's done with copy or design it makes little difference if no one wants to listen.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

What to Doodle

This last year I've been sitting on the board of the American Advertising Federation. Overall it's been a great experience and personally I have loved the stuff I've poured myself into, but there is one small thing I can't stand. What's that you ask - well it's the 2 hours that we meet every month to discuss the particulars. I know it's a necessary evil, but for me, a creative person, it's like driving a nail slowly into my skull. There is one thing that keeps me from going nuts and that's doodling. I know everyone probably thinks I'm ignoring the goings on and not paying any attention at all, but the reality is that couldn't be further from the truth. There have been many studies done that show doodlers, whether in a meeting or on the phone, are actually taking in more information then people that don't doodle.

If you aren't a doodler I know it's hard to believe, but what the studies show is I'm concentrating on what is being said and in a subconscious way by doodling my mind is occupying that other part of me that I guess doesn't really want to be there. The doodling uses a low functioning part of your brain - thus the high functioning part is left to listen and take in information. It's not like I'm texting or checking my email like so many other people I see - that takes concentration. The sad part playing with your phone doing a meeting has become acceptable. All I ask is the next time you see someone doodling don't just assume we are ignoring you - the truth is in today's world we may be the only ones truly listening.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

What's in a Price

I often talk with clients about pricing. Obviously, it's one of the most important things there is to do before starting a project. Yeah I have the clients that I've worked with for so long they know I'm fair in the way I charge and have no worries about my pricing. Lately though, I've been running across a lot of potential clients that want comprehensive pricing - I applaud that. I don't know if I would want to work with a client that doesn't want to at least know what a project would cost up front. But in the end I want to say don't just make a decision on pricing. I've got more then one client that went with the cheaper firm and after they paid them they hired me to do the job right.

Here's the thing - all prices aren't created equal. This applies to almost everything in life. Yeah you could go with the lowest price, but you have to ask yourself are you confident with that firms work, are you confident that they are going to turn your project around in a fair time frame and most importantly are they going to make those 7 rounds of changes expediently? I've heard of clients that end up waiting 4-5 days to get simple text revisions made.

I'm not the cheapest place to get design done, but I'm also not nearly as expensive as an ad agency. My overhead is low and my quality of work is stellar. I pride myself on responding to my clients and making sure the are getting the best product for their business. Maybe that's why I have many client relationships that are well over a decade old.
I love what I do, but I hate to see people pay a lot of money for really bad work. Next time you are looking to hire a design firm take a good look at their work, talk with the actual people you'll be dealing with and most importantly make sure they really want to build a relationship with you. Believe it or not there are a lot of firms that are just trying to pay this months bills and aren't thinking at all about the future.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Education of a Logo

Recently I've been doing a lot of logo work and I wanted to talk about how the whole process should work. Most people think a logo is a simple thing to produce. That it could be done in a few hours and really shouldn't cost that much money.

First the client really needs to define who/what they are. What is the logo for? How is it going to be used? What are your competitors logos like? Are your competitors logos really viable? What makes you unique? These are all questions that I ask when starting the process of developing a logo. Sometimes I have clients that come to me and say "I don't know what I want, but I want it to be red". Really? Why Red? "No real reason, just because it's my wife favorite color." This is not a good reason. Honestly most people don't care what your wife thinks.

Most people see the start of their identity as their logo and for the most part this is correct. The logo is what most people see first before they ever step foot in your business so it's one of the most important items in defining who you are. I've had clients come to me and say do what ever you want (of course this is always a bad sign - it's a sign of a client that has no idea who they really are or they just don't care). You can't really expect a designer to define you if you can't define yourself. Do the homework and get knee deep in it.

Once I have all the information I need from the client I start sketching and brainstorming and building ideas. The one thing I'm really trying to do is to define several different directions this logo could go. I prefer the elements of a logo to have meaning and I have to know that the finished piece is going to have appeal to the appropriate audience. All this back and fourth, beating ideas up and then bringing them back to life happens in the studio (luckily because some of the stuff belongs in the pasture with the cows). This is the part the clients don't get to see. They don't get to see the bad ideas that helps get us to the great ideas.

From here I pick the top few ideas and present them to the client. We have conversations about the font (serif or sans serif). We talk about colors and the overall impression that a logo will give. Hopefully after that is all said and done I'm on the way back to the computer to refine a couple of strong ideas. After the ideas are flushed out and the client is happy this is really where we start perfecting color. Too many people get hung up on color from the beginning and personally a lot of times I will only show a logo idea in black and white to star. I can't tell you how many times I've had clients not like a logo because of the color - they weren't even seeing the concept.

Once a logo is chosen and the colors are refined I create final art in several different formats. Depending on the client we will also produce usage guidelines that shows anyone that would be using this logo what's appropriate. So next time you think doing a logo is as simple as hiring your next door neighbor for $100 you might want to really consider if that's what's best for you and the future of your company. You might want to think of what the real value of your logo is.

How Design Has Changed Me

This morning I was thinking about what I was like when I first started my own design studio. This was 15 years ago so it's been awhile. The main thing that I grabbed onto in my trip down memory lane was what I used to think being a graphic designer truly meant.

Back then I thought being a graphic designer meant making stuff look cool. That's it, if I couldn't make it look cool (at least to my standards) it was some lame client that just didn't know what was good for them. Over time I slowly matured, I slowly begin to realize that my job was to really figure out what my clients goal was, what they wanted to accomplish with this piece I was producing. Believe it or not for the first few years I was doing stuff that just looked cool. I know it's hard to imagine, but so much of my work was for night clubs and the music industry and the main goal reall was to just get someone's attention. I was doing my job, but it had truly little design merit.

In the past decade I've been truly looking at concept and function and for the most part everything I have done is cool in its own way. I learned that I really have to live in my clients industries and learn to define my client as a leader. It's their business, they know what they need, but it's my job to make sure it has a concept and that it is graphically pleasing and functional. I love what I do and I can't imagine having any other background then I have. The preconceptions and mistakes in my past have made me who I am today. I think my clients would agree that not every design studio is created equal.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Looking for Inspiration

We all specialize. Whatever your job is you are constantly looking at other peoples work (most likely your competitors) that are in the same industry as your are. I know as a designer I use to saturate myself in work other design firms had produced. Lately though I've found great inspiration by looking completely outside what I do. Instead of looking at graphic design I find myself looking at fashion, interior design or even nature for inspiration. I look at furniture and examine the textures and qualities that make a piece amazing. Believe it or not I've found it very helpful in spurring me in a new direction for a project I'm working on.

By going outside your industry and examining well produced work and well crafted products you can become inspired. Let's face it, you most likely are doing something that someone else has already done in your industry anyway. Your goal should be to lead not to follow. Be original and exceed boundaries that have been set. In this new era of anything goes don't be afraid to push the envelope. If you have a great concept and you are communicating effectively it will be successful. Look beyond all that junk that you've collected on your desk.

I can honestly tell you that sitting in front of a computer screen is that last place you are going to come up with new and original ideas. Find that place where you are able to think creatively. For some people it's driving or sitting under a tree while eating lunch. I know for me it's in the shower (don't tell the environmentalists). I can stand there for hours and just zone out while the ideas pour out of me. Now if I can only work on that whole waterproof paper thing.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Why Handmade

Photo snaked from Knack Studios

I was doing a little thinking last night and a conversation came up between my wife and I about why "handmade" or the "DIY" look has become such a big thing. You may not realize it, but everything from clothing and jewelry designs at
Anthropologie to the new lines of furniture at Pottery Barn has the feel of reclaimed or "I did it myself" to it. Personally I think it's awesome because this comes from a real movement that has finally hit the main stream. It is the "DIY" movement that has created websites like Etsy and ArtFire with artists and craftsmen selling their own handmade and crafted wares.

In the graphic design industry it has prompted a complete revival of letterpress artists across the US. 5 years ago you would've been hard pressed (no pun intended) to find more then 5-6 decent letterpress operators across the states. Now almost every town has one. I dig it.

So here is the question. Why has this movement become so big? Especially when you think about all the people that love to be in constant contact by keeping their Iphone in front of them 24/7 and making sure they have all the lastest apps. Especially when you think how everyone sits in front of a computer all day. Hasn't technology just made our lives so wonderful? Isn't it great that you don't have to (if you don't want to) ever devote your attention to anything that is perceived as "real".

I think we can all learn something from the Buddhist's ability to "live in the moment". To appreciate our time with our loved ones and to devote our full attention to something other then these little bits of technology that control our lives. Maybe that's why this "DIY" movement is so important. Maybe everyone getting out there and using their hands to create something is the escape from this control of technology. Maybe we all need that time to think and meditate about our goals and aspirations in life. Who knew "handmade" could be so profound. The irony is once we make all this stuff what do we do with it? We sell it online.