Back to school

A couple of months ago, I was contacted by Forum Talent Potential ( 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 ( 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 ( 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 ( 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.

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.

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.

Using design to help sell a business

Recently it has struck me how many of my successful clients have sold their businesses 3-5 years after a full re-brand.

Goes to show how important a comprehensive brand identity can really bolster a business. I’m not going to claim that it is the be-all-and-end-all, the thing that sells a business, but it definitely has an impact. The hard work obviously comes from the team within the business, the strategies they put in place.

Many of these companies had their business exit at the forefront of their thoughts when we started working together. They were looking towards the future.

So how do I think that brand identity helps you get your business ready for an exit?

If you ‘look’ ready to do business, people will instantly feel comfortable with exploring your business further.

Brand identity, done well, with consultation with stakeholders, can do wonders for morale within the business. A business that looks together, visually, helps staff feel proud and motivates them as a team. Its subtle, but it works.

Are you planning on selling the business in 3-5 years? Why bother with a rebrand? A new brand identity puts a solid line under your business, it says we care, we are reaching out to the market place and we are actively marketing. It is less likely that everything else is going to be chaos within the business. So it gives buyers confidence.

If you are interested in how a new or refreshed brand identity can make big changes in your business or begin the exit process, drop me a line and I will show you some examples of the businesses we have worked for that have recently sold.

How much??!!

Why Graphic Designers want to be paid for what they do and other ideas about the cost of design.

I am constantly surprised, bemused, insulted that companies expect a lot of graphic designers (and other creative services) to work for very little or, in some cases, free*.

Yes Ladies and Gents, this is going to be a bit of a shouty blog post but it will also, hopefully, be insightful.

I guess the above statement* has come about because a lot of the tools that are accessible to creative people are generally very accessible to the public at large. Go out and buy some paint, and you are an artist. Snap a few nice photos, and you are a photographer. Drag a few things around the screen and print it out and hey presto you are a graphic designer. That’s right isn’t it?

Not so. With all these disciplines there is craft, skill and knowledge. And my personal opinion is that you are born with a leaning towards these disciplines so there is an ‘essence’ that can’t be learnt and that is the bit that makes the creative person brilliant. It also makes them passionate, crazy, and obsessive about what they do.

“OK, OK, we get it” I hear you cry. “But why do they charge so much?”

I can only speak about how a graphic designer works. Personally the design journey starts the moment a client opens their mouth to talk. I need to feel the personality of the client, read their body language, look at what they are wearing, and generally get a really good overview of them. Within 30-60 seconds we all make the biggest impression we will make on another person, the first impression, and that is the moment I start designing.

Within 30-60 seconds we all make the biggest impression we will make on another person

As the brief unfolds during this first conversation my mind is wiring away, concepts are forming, stuff I can’t vocalise, and I tuck this away for later. As I leave the briefing, usually in the car, my brain is really starting to chip away at the brief. I may not physically sit down to work on this job until much later, but believe me I am thinking about it all the time. Hell I even dream about it.

By the time I am ready to sit and scamp out the concepts and work them up they are almost fully formed. Things change of course, but years of experience helps me get to my goal in this way.

At Seventy Three we charge a minimum of around £1000 for a logo (you can get off the floor now), which is quite frankly really reasonable if you consider how long the logo will last your company and what business it will attract to you. But how much did the big brands get charged for their logos? Find out here. Obviously this is just the starting cost, consider how much they then go on to spend to keep their brands visually fresh and exciting. Find out how much some of the big brands are worth and what they spend here.

Some of those costs are quite shocking but consider this; the big agencies that worked on those brand identities LIVED it for months and months. Teams of creative’s worked as one mighty brain to unravel the clients business, aspirations, goals and worked with their strategy-bods to create the perfect brand identity for that client. The brand identity is their spokesman when their people cannot be there to represent them. It must be right. It must make them profitable.

A final thought, design isn’t there to make you look pretty that is a bi-product. It is there to solve a problem in your business and make you profitable. As the Design Council said in 2011:

“Every £100 a design alert business spends on design increases turnover by £225.”

Alltruck 2015 Culture Book

You may remember last year we showed you the Alltruck Culture Book, if you don’t, take a look and find out more about this remarkable company.

This year, Alltruck are 25! To celebrate, we helped them produce another Culture Book, taking a look back over those 25 years. See the new book here.

A huge achievement for a company these days, and this one is going from strength-to-strength.

Here’s to the next 25 years!

Branding, rebranding, blah, blah, blah!

Everyone keeps going on about their ‘brand’ don’t they? On and on and on. Why should you bother?

Over the years, I have been to quite a few business networking groups, and as soon as I mention the companies I have worked with to rebrand I see the eyes glazing over. This is often followed by the phrase, “well we don’t bother with marketing, it is an expensive waste of time, we have been going for XX years and still get business”. My response is usually, “marvellous, so glad to hear you are busy”, and I move on, exasperated.

So, why should we bother?

I don’t know about you, but when I get up in the morning I like to clean my teeth, have a shower, put on some make-up (gents you are excused from this, or maybe not), dress so I am not looking like a tramp, check it in the mirror, all before I start my day. Even if I don’t have plans to see anyone.

By doing this, I am outwardly showing people that I have some self-respect. Basic branding.

Branding your business is no different. The ‘Brand’ is the concept you want the world to grasp, your ideals and values, that’s the bit you do as it is all about you. The ‘Brand Identity’, the bit I like to do (the logo and marketing material), is the make-up and smart tailored suit.

It feels good to look good doesn’t it?

Sometimes life takes us in a different direction, so we need to visit our Tailor to get a new cut of suit, and chose a new shade of lippy. This arms us with the amo we need to take this new direction with vigour and determination. It’s a rebrand.

So when you find your business is going in a new direction, finding new business streams, moving into new markets, make sure people understand your offer and values. Hold up a mirror to your ‘brand’ and check it is still a look that is working for you. Or give me a call, and as your brand consultant I will help you with that.

That’ll do

Yes Ladies and Gents, that was the Valentines card I got from my husband. Charming! At least he did it with humour and 20 years of marriage under his belt.

It did get me thinking though, I see this ‘that’ll do’ attitude a lot in how brochures, leaflets, flyers (in fact most marketing materials) are designed. I suppose it is because marketing can often take a while to bring any tangible results, and often needs a campaign of repeated contact with a consumer to get new business. It can be quite easy to just react to your business situation, rather than plan your marketing. This is especially the case in B2B marketing. Does this really justify rushing marketing material just to ‘get it out’, not really caring what it looks like?

The answer is no.

Of course this doesn’t apply to you, because you have taken the time within your business to establish a brand identity with guidelines on how your marketing material should look (if not, we need to talk), so you can put together a quick marketing piece that looks onbrand and at a glance visually supports your company’s brand.

An easy way to ensure this happens, is to get a graphic designer to spend some time setting up templates for every day marketing items like memos, flyers, e-shots. Done well, these should ensure that future activity is actually cheaper without compromising on the final result. Larger items like brochures and exhibition stands, can then have a bit more time spent on them, making sure they are right.

This approach can also be taken for the written content of these items. Start working with a copywriter who writes with the right tone for your business. Sit down with them with a plan for the next 6-12 months activity. They can then go away and come up with content, which you can then pull bits from to use across social media and blogs, as well as using it in traditional marketing pieces.

With a bit of planning, and by using professional marketing services (graphic designer, copywriter, marketing consultant, photographer), you can actually stretch your marketing budget further. It will feel like you have been given more money to play with, in fact you are just working smarter.