I'm a big fan of David Airey's site and design blog. He just recently posted a blog about a logo design request he received, similar to other job requests he receives from time to time. This request had the potential client telling David exactly what they want their logo to look like, and that they essentially just need a designer to execute their design.
The point of hiring a designer to help create and develop your company's logo is to utilize someone's creative talents and experience (a skilled designer) to work with you and offer a design that is better than anything you could have come up with on your own. If you already know what you want why would you pay someone else a bunch of money to execute the design?
Leave the creative heavy lifting to the experts. A good designer will want your input and will listen to your thoughts and concerns. From there it will be apparent that the designer understood what you wanted and pushed your vision further than you could have on your own.
That's why you hire a designer, or a writer, or someone to help you build a strategy, because they have talent and experience and a creative approach that can elevate your initial thought of what could be in these realms. Otherwise, you're really just looking for someone to simply execute your own ideas, which is totally fine, but if you're not really an experienced designer, writer or marketer the end result may be less than it could be.
I will say that I am a proponent of empowering solopreneurs and small businesses with tips, tools and advice to help them discover and/or create their own marketing materials as a result of their small budget and need for cost-effective solutions. This usually becomes a learning tool for the small business - they learn enough to be dangerous and get what they need done for the time being (and some actually find that they have some talent in these areas, which is great), but most do what they need to for their businesses current start-up necessities and move toward hiring a professional as they build their company beyond those beginning stages that required such tight reigns on various costs.
The result is they learn a bit about what goes into the design, writing and marketing strategy-building process and they gladly hire an experienced brand communications specialist to do the heavy lifting with a better understanding of what they're paying for.
Spec work is a brand killer
David Airey is a graphic designer based in Northern Ireland who is quite talented and well known for his work, his blog, and his book, Logo Design Love (affiliate link).
Airey, has specific thoughts in regard to speculative (spec) work. In the design world spec work basically entails a potential client requesting a project from a designer to be worked on and presented without pay to the designer unless the outcome presented is to the satisfaction of the potential client. Almost always, this situation gives the designer, who has the most skin in the game, the short end of the stick. This is because if the potential client does not like the presented outcome of the project they’ll simply request changes that will eat up more of the designer’s time, talent and energy (which they’re not yet paying for), or the potential client will simply walk away with nothing to lose wasting the designer’s time, talent and energy on a useless project. Meanwhile, the designer could have been spending that , now wasted, time working for a paying client.
Doing work on spec, for any creative entrepreneur or freelancer, is a very quick way to get frustrated and go out of business. You’ll end up working for free, or way below your worth, way too often. This will not only run you out of business, but it can give your brand a misunderstood reputation of being cheap, inexpensive, or sub-par--definitely not the route you want to go if you’re trying to make a go of your entrepreneurial pursuits.
In a recent blog Airey posted his reply to a request for spec work that essentially turned around the request for spec work back onto the requestor. It’s funny, and a bit pretentious, but then again so is any request for spec work.
Have you ever visited a really entertaining website for a service you were looking for, and it impressed you initially? You know what I’m talking about, those websites with the Flash animated intense motion graphics that initially suck you in and then transition you throughout the site with dynamic navigation.
Then when you come back to that website, because you want to reference something that you didn’t quite catch in your first visit, you become a bit annoyed with the fact that you have to wade through all that flashiness just to get to the content you’re seeking.
While on your initial visit you viewed the dynamic flashy nature of the website as impressive and quite entertaining, once past that experience on a return visit the site seems less helpful as a source for pertinent content because the site design and navigation is geared toward brand new visitors and not return visitors.
The ideal answer is likely a better balance of a site that has some flare to it and a site that has a clean design and functional user experience allowing the user to find what they’re looking for. However, if you’re going to err one way or another, I would suggesting erring on the side of simple, clean and functional. Flare and pizazz can always be added later, but if visitors arrive on your site and have trouble understanding the site, what your company does or how to find the information they’re seeking then no amount of entertaining motion graphics are going to convince that visitor to return and buy something from you.
Keep the information on your website/blogsite clear, concise and easy to find to communicate your company’s brand messages. If you can add some flash and entertainment value, great, but be sure a solid foundation is firmly in place first.
The greatest brand communication tool
I recently read an article in the Washington Post about business cards. The article written by Michael S. Rosenwald basically talked about the fact that business cards are still the preferred method of sharing business-related contact information.
There were several reasons given in the article as to why traditional printed business cards are still winning over newer digital versions (i.e. various smartphone apps, etc.), but one that stood out to me was the impressions one can get when they receive a business card. I’m talking about the look and feel of a business card. I’m specifically referring to it being a visual extension of your brand--your personal brand or your business brand.
Often a business card will tout your logo and tag line as well as your contact info. As stated in the article, you may be trying to recall a contact that you met at an event who happened to give you his/her business card, and though you cannot recall that person’s name you recall the shape of the logo or the colors used on their business card. Then as you thumb through your pile of cards you stop on the exact card you were thinking of with the contact info of the person whose name you could not recall. The logo and/or colors were memorable enough that your brain knew the exact card you were looking for in your pile of cards as soon as you saw it again. That’s brand communication at work--keeping aspects of your brand, the writing or visuals associated with your brand, on your mind enough to allow better recall of your brand with each exposure to it.
A well thought out logo design and business card design is one of the simplest and most effective brand communication tools you have. Take it seriously, and use it widely.
Learn more about Brand Communications and how to use it with your Inbound Marketing efforts
Stephanie Orma is a San Francisco graphic designer who runs a clever card line, She’s SO Creative. She also writes for Examiner.com. I came across her article, Printing matters: Why super cheap printing plus quality graphic design = waste of money, which explains why quality printing is crucial to good design. Be sure to read this one.
What's so great about being artistic?
Not long ago my niece asked me why I’ve chosen to pursue art and music throughout my life. Until that moment I don’t know if I had ever consciously reflected on my pursuits, and examined why I’m attracted to those outlets.
My first thought, after a quick pause to register what was just asked of me, was: “What a great question?” Then, I thought for another quick moment, and told her that I wasn’t sure if I totally chose my pursuits in art and music…in many ways those outlets chose me.
To me, there is a spiritually that exists in the process of artistic creation. The taking of a concept from nothing more than an idea to a tangible completed piece of work is a bit magical in my opinion.
I think what I’m attracted to, in regard to my interest in artistic creation and being an artist, is that when I create my expressions through my art and/or music I’m liberated. Liberated in the sense that there are no rules as to how, when, where, or why I create my expressions. Furthermore, because there are no rules associated with my creations (other than those that may be self-imposed) my mind, spirit, and even body—as I’m often engaging in a physical act of performing, drawing or designing—are free.
Something else that I realized that I’m attracted to is that my expressions are unique to me. No one else can create what I create in quite the way I create it—they can try but it will never have exactly what I put into it.
I suppose art and music are simply the vehicles of my expression. Those are the God-given outlets I have to realize and make sense of the world I perceive on a daily basis. It’s how I relate to the world and understand, and protect, myself within it.
Do you ever find yourself with a never ending “to do” list that you just don’t seem to be making progress toward completing? You end up feeling like you’re constantly doing “busy work.” Well, maybe you haven’t organized your tasks in a way that lines up with your strengths and how you work the most effectively. I’m talking about understanding how and when you work best on specific tasks, so you can be more productive toward meeting your creative goals.
For example, I know I am most creative when it comes to tasks like writing in the morning (with some coffee), in mid-afternoon and late in the evening after everyone’s gone to bed. Thus, I make sure to allow myself time to do those kinds of tasks at those times of the day.
I also write “to do” lists daily, and I’ll admit I usually get carried away with the items that end up on one day’s list. So, after I can’t think of anymore things to add to my “to do” list for the day (which I usually create in the morning) I then simplify that list into only two or three priority items that are important I get done that day. If I get to more on the list, great, but if not at least I got a few important things done. It’s important to mention that Rome wasn’t built in a day, and you need to cut yourself some slack if you can’t complete everything on your “to do” list every single day. I’ve mentioned this before in other blog posts, but it’s important to mention again: Just try to get at least one thing done each day that will help further your creative goals. The idea is that you will string along several small actions that will have larger results over time.
I also like to get up and move after I’ve spent a good portion of time in focused concentration on any one project. For example, if I’ve just finished a draft of a logo design project for one of my clients or after I’ve finished recording a demo song for a new album I’m working on I like to take a walk or go for a run and let my subconscious continue to reflect and perfect what I’m working on. Then I’ll come back to that project later with fresh eyes and ears and new subtle ideas that will enhance the project toward realizing the vision that’s in my head.
In conclusion, I recommend taking some time to reflect on when you work best, in what environment you work best, and how you can organize and prioritize your time to maximize thoseyour ability to check things off of your “to do” list.
Freelance design quality
I recently read an article in HOW Magazine (Feb. 2010 issue) titled The Q Factor. This particular article was talking about how in-house designers (that is, designers within a company’s own creative and/or marketing department) need to focus on the quality of their work. In the article, it was clear that the quality of an in-house designer’s work is important to stand out and make the company’s business execs take notice.
The article went on to say how in-house designers are often treated as liabilities, profit drains, and necessary evils in the eyes of corporate execs…at least until execs meet and talk with designers realizing that they are a vital part of business, and understand business and marketing objectives.
In many ways I think the same holds true for freelance designers. I notice this especially when a non-creative business (i.e. an accounting firm) or executive hires a freelancer. Not all the time, but many times in those situations designers get treated as if they don’t understand enough about business, in terms of numbers and profitability, to understand the needs of that business’ marketing messages. As stated in the above mentioned article, “Too often, management assumes that designers are needed just to implement the ideas of others.”
While designers can certainly implement the ideas of others their real benefit is that they have many of their own creative ideas. Designers have a knack for beyond-the-box thinking to solve various communication challenges. In a sense designers offer a level of quality for a company’s visuals and marketing messaging that business execs. can’t create with their spreadsheets. Hence, it’s necessary to hire a quality designer. Your business will thank you later.