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!
The word ‘stakeholder’ is used a lot, but who makes up your key stakeholders?
Take some time out to reflect on this; it’ll be worth spending time doing this on your own, and also asking colleagues or employees the same question to get a general ‘feel’ for the breadth of who your stakeholders are. Other people may come up with ideas you hadn’t thought about, especially those with their ‘ear to the ground’ as markets constantly evolve, change, and adapt over time.
You may hear the terms strategic messaging and strategic communication used. They both mean the same thing, really – messages sent out to all stakeholders involved in your business. Whether you or your colleagues use business jargon, or just express ideas in your way, that’s fine! At the end of the day, as long as you are all clear about who your stakeholders are, you’ll be heading in the right direction.
As a starting point, though, let’s think about your employees as stakeholders – your employees need to be your brand advocates, driving your business forward in full knowledge of your company’s brand values, ethos and visions. In fact, an excellent employee won’t just be aware of these factors; they will ‘believe’ in them. After all, your brand and company’s reputation is always at stake in a highly competitive business world, so make sure your colleagues are entirely on board with your brand. If your employees don’t believe in your brand, why should anyone else?
Next, let’s think about your customers – take the time to consider what these stakeholders are looking for carefully. Develop your brand to meet these needs. Today, customers have an array of companies to choose from. It may be worth thinking about what makes existing, or prospective consumers, ‘tick’; take their emotions and feelings into consideration when sending brand messages to customers. Remember, customers don’t just buy a product, process or service, they buy your vision, ethos and values. Look after them, and they will look after you.
Are your competitors stakeholders? Yes, they are, so try to keep on top of what their strengths are, as well as their weaknesses. How does their brand identity match up to yours? Are they doing anything different? Are there any new start-up companies in your sector, who may become a more prolific competitor in the future?
Also, are your suppliers, or distribution channels, on board with your brand? Make sure you are giving them explicit brand messages about your identity. Your good reputation will, in turn, benefit their businesses, too. They are more likely to remain a long-term strategic partner if they believe and fully buy into your brand.
What about your community? They are stakeholders in that what you do, and how you make the locality ‘look’ directly affects them. It is essential to make sure your community is happy with what you are doing; consider how highly Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is regarded now.
Two key ideas to leave you to think about are these:
1. Effective branding and messaging is consistent and straightforward.
2. All businesses communicate, but not every company sends clear messages to their stakeholders.
“Oh god”, I hear you cry, “not Christmas again.” Well, bah humbug to you!!
Think of it this way: Christmas, oh how wonderful, a chance to catch up with my clients.
Now that sounds better, doesn’t it?
Of course, ‘Christmas catching up’ doesn’t have to be one big round of drinks and merriment, making sure your liver is hanging on for dear life as you enter 2018.
Oh no, it doesn’t! (panto practice)
How about setting aside a couple of hours, picking up a pen (yes, a PEN – I like a Berol Fineline myself) and writing some kind words to your clients in your personalised Christmas cards.
It’s a thought, isn’t it?
Take a look at my Xmas card offer here.
Then, I suggest you grab yourself a couple of hours (space it out, we don’t want RSI.), some cake, what the hell, get some pre-season mince pies, and a nice hot cup of something, and enjoy putting pen to paper.
Order before 24th November.
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.
I was going to write this blog post last week about record cover design, it is something that as a studio we have been involved with. Mr.Seventy-three does a sideline in publishing vinyl too, we are a little obsessed.
Obviously, the World has changed now, the beautiful David Bowie is no longer with us. But as this is design related I have decided to carry on with the post.
I am a huge fan of vinyl, and with the quality of vinyl the main focus these days (nice heavy 180g – not the recycled wobbly rubbish of the 1980s) it is not a cheap way to buy your music. So, generally a lot of attention is paid to the packaging and graphic design.
I had pre-ordered David Bowie’s Black Star sometime last year. At £23 it is not the cheapest thing, but it is hardly a risk as it is a Bowie piece. The packaging really lets you know you have a quality product in your hands. It is great piece of graphic design.
When I get my new vinyl, I save splitting open the protective shrink wrap until I can truly savour it. A quick, gentle slice down the side and I am in. It’s all very exciting. And yes, I do always sniff the record, it’s part of the ritual.
The plain soft sheen black sleeve with the spot UV and die cut is so simple it is stunning. Through the star cut out on the front you get a glimpse of the product inside. It’s all very tantalising.
Inside there is minimal colour and the UV continues. The accompanying booklet has a matt laminate cover and lots of spot UV throughout.
The typography is lovely too, lyrics are laid out like constellations.
What a lovely portfolio piece for the designer. It was always going to be great, I mean, a Bowie cover! But now it is his last cover. Everything he did was so considered, part of the art, he obviously loved this cover. I’m very jealous.
I’m so glad I pre-ordered it.
I am always ranting on about how graphic design is more than using photoshop (and any other programmes you can think of). Finally I have found a video that shows you what I mean. Created by lynda.com it shows what tools we had to use before computers came along to create print ready artwork.
I’m not going to wax lyrical about how things were better before computers, because I don’t believe things were. There were better smells: PMT camera film, fluids, inks, spray mount and countless other solvents and sprays (I wasn’t a glue sniffer, honestly).
Things took longer, so in my opinion you were more considered and designers were better problem solvers. When it takes a day to get your type back from the setters before you can put it in your artwork, you tend to make sure things are just so. No rubbing out on the computer and changing it every 5 minutes.
So, here’s to nostalgia, let’s take a look back in time (to as late as the early 1990s, can you believe that!) and if you never worked in a studio at this time, then I do think you missed out but maybe I have those rose tinted glasses on again:
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.
A huge achievement for a company these days, and this one is going from strength-to-strength.
Here’s to the next 25 years!
We were asked recently to put together a brochure outlining some case studies, with a portfolio of work (with letters from the clients proving we actually did the work). We are quite pleased with it so have uploaded it as an online brochure, and here it is click here
Alltruck a very unique company, in my opinion. They are very transparent with their staff and customers and although they are there to make money (of course), they celebrate their biggest achievement – a culture within the business that in enviable.
This year to celebrate the Alltruck culture, we helped them produce a Culture Book. A bit like an annual, filled with photos and quotes, letters from the MD, and a record of all the charity work they do as a team.
This is such a good idea. If your business, like Alltruck (truck hire) doesn’t feel like it will be that inspiring. Then look to the people within your business and talk about them. Since Alltruck made the culture of their people the centre of their business, their turnover and profit has gone up and the perception of customers is that Alltruck is better.
This is almost tangible too, as you walk into the room everyone is happy. There is great banter and a lot of respect for colleagues. Brilliant!