Fourteen years

Fourteen years!

I do sometimes have to pinch myself. In February 2003, I was made redundant. For a few months, I floated around, being a freelancer in-house, then getting a job in a print firm until the realisation, this was it. In the September I saw the chance to go it alone. Never again, hopefully, would I be given the opportunity to start my own business.

I have never wanted to employ anyone.  Something I know people can’t understand.

I love working in collaboration with other small marketing businesses to create teams for projects. It feels fresh every time, and I don’t have to get bogged down in office politics. I do NOT miss that!

I am working with a great team. I belong to a BNI networking group in Derby. In BNI we form “Powerteams”, which is true to name. Powerful.

With a web development company, marketing expert, video and animation team, copywriter we have a great foundation for most projects that come up. I have worked with some of these for years, others are new, but we fit because we have a say in who joins the group.

Why would anyone build a big firm when collaborating works this well?

We are so easy to refer to other businesses, so working together in this way means we get more business all time.

If you would like to see how we work in a BNI power team, then ask me for an invitation to visit our group on Tuesday 26th September in Derby, where the marketing power team will be demonstrating the POWER within BNI.

Oh, and we are looking for a photographer, social media expert, printer, signage company, events company or if you work in marketing or need help with your marketing we want to meet you!


Sales presentation design

February has been a very busy month for me. Lots of returning clients, and some fascinating new customers.

Lately, I have been working on quite a few sales presentations. These are usually punchy, and straight-talking documents which support a sales meeting delivered on iPads or similar devices.

My clients have had a lot of success with these too. Often small companies, who are selling into the defence or energy supply chain, they need to stand out in such a competitive market. We have had some great results, many of them securing new contracts with world-class organisations that they could have only dreamt of working with.

Obviously, I can’t take all the credit, they are brilliant businesses who have a fantastic team of advisors, but I help them get dressed for the occasion. Make them memorable.

If you need help with your sales presentations, either visually or with the content, let me help. I will also introduce you to the team behind them, who dig deep into your business and ensure you are heading for growth in your business.

So for a laugh, I paid a branding consultancy £12k…

Last night my husband brought to my attention the Steve Coogan audio book, Alan Partridge: Nomad.

In it, Alan describes the new logo he has designed with his branding agency.

It is quite frankly, the funniest thing I have heard in ages.

Well, they do say that there is nothing funnier than the truth, and although I haven’t had clients quite as prescriptive as Alan Partridge, I have had some that really should leave the designing to the designer and walk away.

Have a listen. Then imagine if you were being orchestrated by a client like that. Be kinder to designers.

Listen here:

Thank you Steve Coogan, you are amazing!!

New Year: a fresh perspective

I’m thinking of refreshing my logo. It’s been awhile, and with the change in my business, I think it is a good idea. Designing for myself, however, is a total nightmare. I’m a tricky customer to design for. It won’t happen anytime soon.

I often have clients come to me who are apologetic during the design stage of a logo. They hate to inconvenience me should a logo go through one or two rounds of development. It always makes me smile.

It is rare that a logo is created perfectly in the first draft*. Extremely rare. I often think the development phase is something we need, client and designer. The logo grows with us and, at the end, it should always be a something we both wanted.

This is why I HATE crowd designed logos, or ‘off the shelf’ logos. They sort of fill an initial hole but they will, like most cheap sugary things, leave you needing something more substantial.

So now comes the thorny question of cost. I recently had someone say that I was considered ‘too expensive’ because my designs were better than the ‘cheaper alternative’. I was never asked for a quote.

Wow, so I was too expensive because I was too good. I am, in fact, cheaper. I have no idea what the cheaper person was charging, but experience tells me that cheap means it will need doing again sooner. Lack of experience in design (cheap) can often lead to inconsistencies across a brand and a slap-dash approach.

A logo, in my opinion, shouldn’t be something that is redesigned every couple of years. How on earth can you gain any visual brand recognition if you do this?

So, if you are reading this and you have rejected a designer on looks alone as being too expensive, please please take the time to have a chat.

Don’t shop for design on price alone. You will just be wasting your money.


*This has happened to me. It was fabulous. I had a fantastic brief, and a great client team to work with. Kismet.

Goodbye 2016

So, 2016 is almost at an end, the studio shuts for Christmas next Tuesday anyhow.

It’s been a turbulent year, from Bowie dying (heartbroken), to the whole Brexit and Trump debacle.

This year, I had a few things I wanted to achieve in my business:

  1. Find some new networking groups
  2. Form a partnership with a web developer
  3. Decide how I’m going to move forward

Item 1 was soon achieved. I need to network, it is a great way to find work, and get me out of the studio and meet people. I found a BNI group in Derby that had the Graphic Design seat free, so I snapped that up. BNI has been great for me in the past, a great place to get referred work (the best type for me) and a great place to find new colleagues to partner with.

I loved the Derby group straightaway, we are in a great venue – the Velodrome, and it is mid-morning. This suits me, at the moment.

Item 2 on the list soon followed item 1. I had been starting to talk to VOX Digital about working together, so when I joined BNI and saw the Web seat was free I invited them. They are now too a member, and we try and work together as often as we can.

Item 3 is a lot trickier. With the help of my coach ( – also a BNI member in Hertford), I have decided to be more transparent about what I do. I am NOT an agency, and after some thought I have decided I don’t want to do that. I love collaborating with lots of different creative people and don’t want to employ them.

Next year, I want to do some more smaller creative projects and, also throw myself into larger reports and presentations – which I really enjoy doing. These will hopefully allow me to get involved in some larger brand identity projects and audits (dream).

I hope 2016 has been kind to you too, and I wish you a prosperous 2017.

13 years of Seventy Three Design

I’m not a superstitious person (unless I am dancing to Stevie Wonder, but that’s a whole other matter), so I wasn’t planning to celebrate my 13th year of running Seventy Three Design.

However, it just happened that I finished the new website the same month, which was a bit of luck!

When I started out all those years ago I used to freelance around design and marketing agencies in the Northampton and Milton Keynes area.

In no time at all I replaced that work with clients of my own. And I have enjoyed every moment since. Some times have been hard: recession. But like everyone else I have managed to bounce back and keep going.

I have to stop doing that, “I managed to bounce back”, I don’t give myself enough credit. The reason I keep going is that my clients trust me. I am fair with my charging, often delivering more than asked. And my design gets results, otherwise why would people come back.

I’m looking to work with new companies in my 14th year. I don’t work with everyone who asks, it has to be fun for me too, so I am quite excited about the year ahead.

If you want to join me, drop me a line, let’s have a coffee.

National Stationery Week

Not only is my daughter 6 months old today (29th April), but today is also the start to National Stationery Week.

Personally, I love stationery. The smell of fresh paper, the first mark of a new pen. It’s amazing. It is definitely a big contributing factor to me being a graphic designer.

So I wanted to celebrate today with another stationery lover, Pauline from the League of Gentlemen. Pens are friends!

Oh, and don’t forget to check out the state of your business stationery: business cards, letterheads, compliment slips. It is often the first impression that you make, and as we know that is usually a lasting impression.

10 top tips

This week I was asked to write my 10 top tips when appointing graphic designer.  So here they are:

1. Get recommendations – seen something you like, then find out who did it.

2. Meet the designer – you can tell a lot about someone in the first 30 seconds or so, so take time to meet your possible new designer. It will also help them, they will produce better design work if they have met you.

3. Don’t make it a beauty contest – shopping around for the cheapest designer does not guarantee you the results you need.

4. Tell them your budget – be honest straight away. You may not have to find another designer, a good designer will tell you what you can get for your budget and work with you.

5. Write a brief – once you have verbally briefed your designer put pen to paper and create a written brief. This will help the job moving forwards, particularly if you are working with a large firm, you will then be moving in the same direction.

6. Check their terms and conditions – before you start working with a designer check their T&Cs. Will you own the artwork after you have paid them? This is important to know, and will save you huge headaches further down the line.

7. Pay a deposit – creatives these days expect a deposit. This is not unusual, and it is not unreasonable. They are giving away their intellectual property, you are not paying for a computer operator, you are paying for creative thought which is finished off on a computer. Quite different.

8. Take their advice – have faith, if you have chosen the right designer based on the points above, you have done well. Now, let them do their job. Let them create, then give feedback, don’t micro manage them from the beginning of the process. The results will quite frankly be crap.

9. Stick with it – work with your designer for more than just one job, don’t keep moving around. Good designers are passionate about consistency, we are all a little OCD. Embrace this, you will end up with some great results and a stronger brand.

10. Have fun – you are working with a creative person / team. Enjoy it!

Free design competition

Once upon a time there was a man. The man wanted a house. So, he asked five building companies in the area to come along and meet him.

To the first builder, he said “build me a wall for free, so I can see how good your brickwork is”. The builder had a spare half an hour, so he built him a wall.

To the second builder he said “build me a wall for free at right angles to this wall please, so I can see how good you are at doing right angles”. So the second builder whacked up a wall in his tea break.

To the third builder he said “build me a wall for free parallel to the first wall, but joining on to the second wall, so I can see how good you are at going round corners.” So the third builder got his new apprentice to build a wall, to see how good he is at building walls.

(Getting bored yet? I find this whole process so tiresome.)

To the fourth builder he said “build me a wall for free that joins all the walls up into box shape, so I can see what a box looks like”. The fourth builder had a spare wall in the back of his yard, so he dropped it in place.

The man felt very pleased with himself. He had four walls!

To the fifth and final builder he said “build me a roof for free and pop it on top of the brick box over there please, so I can see how well you can build slopey roofy things”. The fifth builder looked at the brick box, he had nothing better to do, so he cobbled together a slopey thing and popped it on top of the box.

The man was ecstatic, he now had a house. And he hadn’t paid a penny for it. Genius!!! He was very pleased with himself.

After cutting a door and some windows into the ‘house’ (because he had forgotten about that bit) the man entered the house. Water was pouring through the roof and the walls were draughty, the house wasn’t what he wanted at all. It was poor quality and would never do as a house.

And this ladies and gents, is why we don’t take part in unpaid design competitions.

Recently, we have been asked to provide ‘free designs’ as part of our quoting process. This is really bad practice, and should be avoided by all companies. Don’t ask for this. You are not getting an idea of what the designer will design for you, what you are getting (if anything) is a half-hearted attempt to keep you happy.

A brief has not been taken. It is not a considered response. It will harm your business if you use it.

Worst of all for designers, the ‘man’ is more likely to take elements from the five different designs and get the cheapest person to cobble together the final design.

Don’t do it.

It is time that designers said NO, every time. Have some respect for your craft, and hopefully, the ‘man’ will learn to respect you too.

So how do you find out if a designer is worth using?

  • Take a look at their portfolio: we have two, one online and a more indepth portfolio we are happy to show if anyone asks;
  • Get recommendations: seen something you like? Ask who the designer was, then have a chat, they could be the one for you;
  • Get references: if a designer has done a good job, people are happy to talk about it. Ask for references.