Blog

SHY, but confident

This is SHY UK.

Two years ago, I took their brand identity and transformed it.

Business took off under the new brand vision:

  • They have since exhibited for the first time;
  • Moved to new larger premises;
  • And next week have a customer experience 2-day event there.

The new logo has given them the confidence to move forward.

They have grown with this new found confidence.

And are now seen as the go-to people in their field for innovative window shading.

Design is so powerful: when done well. It will help a business grow. So approach design with caution if you can’t handle the new business. 🙂

Rare as unicorn sh*t

Today I found out I am a unicorn.

No, I’m not prancing around in rainbows and glitter. I am a Graphic Designer, and it seems, not many people understand what we do, and the ones who do are as rare as the proverbial.

I have had an online business directory try and sign me up for a week or so. I was interested in hearing how I could gain business from the business directory. The conversation about the best category for my company to feature in came up quite quickly. The directory rep knew precisely where to put me, under web design. I don’t design websites.

I explained that I’m a Graphic Designer. I design logos, brochures, exhibition graphics, reports, in fact, anything that is visually engaging and falls within a companies marketing.

After a bit of digging, and establishing I don’t make large relief signs that go on the outside of buildings, or laser cut out logos to go on display or do PR, or print brochures, it was clear there was nowhere on this directory for me.

Of course, this isn’t the first time, and I am sure won’t be the last time, someone doesn’t understand what Graphic Designers do. Want a brochure: go to a printer; want some leaflets doing speak to a photographer (yes this has happened); need a logo, ask your friend’s mum who did a good drawing of your neighbours cat (yes, and this one!).

So, what do Graphic Designers do?

In short, we take information and through magic (and graphic design skills), present the information, in an attractive, easier to digest, memorable way. We present companies and brands visually, so their customers can understand their offering. We make sure important information is easily digestible, so the public is informed and not confused, whether that be a public health leaflet, or signage (in a legible font) to get you somewhere.

In short, if you need anything for your business that falls under marketing, speak to a Graphic Designer first. Once they have designed what you need, they WILL know the Printer; the Web Developer; the Signage company; the Photographer; the Videographer; the Exhibition Builder; the Marketer to write your marketing strategy in the first place; and the PR person to shout about how the campaign rolled out.

You will save yourself lots of time, and hey, you might spot a unicorn!

15 years!

Another year and I still can’t believe how fortunate I am to work as a freelance design consultant.

The last two years have been fantastic, with 32 new clients, stretching right across Europe (France, Ireland, Austria, Denmark, Finland, Italy), and some exciting work coming in from the U.S. too. Working with: charities, manufacturing, estate agents, logistics, healthcare, pharmaceuticals, and some public sector, have seen a rise in my business of 33% turnover. Not bad!

I have a great partner in the business who has introduced me to many of his clients via his Aerospace and Engineering clusters. Many of you may, or may not, know I am passionate about working with Engineering and Manufacturing clients. Another love is working with Healthcare businesses too, some of the work I am most proud of in the last year was in Healthcare. Lots and lots of lovely illustration work.

So much of what happened last year was via referrals, the absolute best way to grow a business, and full of surprises!

I have lots of plans for next year, if anyone wants to work with me or any of my partners, drop me a line (*pops champagne*).

Back to school

A couple of months ago, I was contacted by Forum Talent Potential (http://www.forum-talent-potential.org/) and asked if I would be interested in engaging with a group of students in Derbyshire. As the focus was Graphic Design, I was up for it.

The students in question were year 9 students at Pingle School, Swadlincote.

Having previously, briefly, taught design at a college, a very frustrating experience (another blog post), I was keen to see if all years were quite as lazy as the 19-21yr olds, or was there still a passion for design in the younger years.

The project made me reflect on how I got into design and what it meant to me at school. I was passionate about school, it was my haven from a difficult home life, and the design and technology teachers were fundamental to that level of care I received. They listened. They encouraged. Without them, I would not be doing what I am now.

To hear that design and technology are being phased out of schools makes my blood boil (https://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/2017/03/10/design-technology-gcse-axed-nearly-half-schools-survey-finds/) it is a very short-sighted Government that can’t appreciate the way design helps create a rounded society. Only today I saw an article by Design Week on this very subject (https://www.designweek.co.uk/issues/16-22-july-2018/design-being-squeezed-out-of-state-schools-says-va-director-tristram-hunt/) which reminded me to write this post. It is not all about cash-rich brands employing advertising companies to design wacky adverts, without design exploration in their lives, there will be a whole generation of suppressed creatives with astounding mental health issues (http://www.artsandhealth.ie/perspectives/mental-health-recovery-and-the-role-of-the-creative-arts/). It is a ticking time-bomb.

So, I had to get involved.

I was asked to set a couple of briefs based on jobs I have completed within my business. These were mainly set around logo design and the application of the logo.

The students had these briefs woven into their curriculum. After discovering more about logos, branding and graphic design in general, they set to work.

The results were interesting. Some kids were not interested, but I could still see some passion coming through from others. I recognised a naivety that I had at that age, the use of clichés, but generally, I was encouraged. I picked out three of the most interesting submissions and awarded them with a book about design. If I can bring just one of these students into the field of design, I would be thrilled.

The great thing about being involved in this project is that I got to see the feedback:

Benefits for the Students

‘It was an experience because you got to learn how they thought throughout the process of making it – and it was kind of stressing at times … it was good to have a graphic designer comment on it because it’s what they do.’

‘It’s taught me that it’s not as easy as it looks. It takes a while to think up the logo.’ 

‘I never get complimented on work, because everyone else’s is better … I feel proud of myself because I didn’t think I could produce the work.’

‘It was a fun experience because it’s different from being given a task and doing it … Because it’s not the teacher that gives you the task; it’s someone who’s actually in the real world – someone who knows what it’s like.’ 

Benefits for the School

‘The students were motivated to undertake work to be presented to an external employer …. Students were excited that an external employer would be viewing their designs and asked on numerous occasions whether I thought the employer would like particular elements of their work, demonstrating to me that the extrinsic motivator was enhancing their learning.’ ‘I would definitely be interested in repeating the project either with the same or a different graphics designer.’ 

For me, getting involved in this project has made me ask a few questions about how I can help the design industry in the future. I am going to speak at more schools, particularly at Primary level. I started this last week at my son’s school in Burton (year 5). Here the kids were very open to finding out how to work creatively, they had no preconceived ideas about working in design and running a design business.

It was a relief to see this.

The need for brand identity consistency

I feel that I talk about this quite a lot (and I shall continue to shout it from the rooftops). It stems from my passion, to make sure all of my clients’ brand identities mirror their visions, values, and ethos…it’s really at the heart of what I aim to achieve as a designer.

As humans, we are hard-wired to make constant judgements about everything we see, hear, touch, smell and taste.

We quite literally cannot help doing this – you would need to be bereft of using your five senses if you didn’t. A few day-to-day examples: this can be anything from walking down the high street and deciding what café to eat gauging your choice from the wafting aromas in the air, to judging how people are looking at, or speaking to you, to which of your neighbours has the best-dressed windows or maintained gardens.

Well, imagine if people were making constant judgements about your business – how does it appear in their minds? What does your brand identity say to them? In fact, this is what your clients and potential clients are doing! So, you need to make sure that your vision, values and ethos are clearly signposted in your branding, the keyword being ‘consistency’.

Consistency in your branding gives your business a personality and identity to which people can relate. People will feel they can trust your brand; the consistency has helped to strengthen this, building your reputation as dependable and trustworthy.

Customers will be so pleased with your company, they; will return to you time and time again and feel confident to spread the word to others, too.

Brand identity runs throughout everything you do, from the macro aspects of your business to the micro, such as email logos, documents, presentations, and printed marketing collateral such as flyers and brochures, so make sure you check and double-check every last detail. Make sure your staff aren’t using old branding – you could be sending out mixed signals. In turn, this could affect your ‘standing’ in a judgemental marketplace, especially if your competitors are more up-to-date than you.

Brand identity consistency is key across all your communication channels. Check your tone of voice is consistent across all your social media, your website and any packaging or signage you have. Do your vehicles carry the same identity as your website and premises signage, for instance (although we understand because of the expense, it can take time to update a fleet)? The use of your logo, brand colours and key messaging across all of your communication channels is essential and will help to strengthen your brand identity.

Pulling together all of the different aspects that make up your identity will define and solidify your branding.

Consistency in branding is the key that unlocks your identity in the eyes of others.