Charity Disco for Marlborough Plunket

Karen recently designed this poster to promote a Charity Disco here in Blenheim, to benefit our Local Plunket (Facebook).

As Parents ourselves, we are huge fans of the advice and support Plunket provides to Parents. Particularly in the early, ‘wholly crap we have a baby, now what’ days.

With that said, we’re proud to present what will be a hilarious night of fun and dancing at Drylands Restaurant with DJ Glenn Kirby of Marlborough Light Entertainment.

Disco poster design for Marlborough Plunket

The Death of the Print industry?

What is the future for magazines?Today I felt like a little online magazine research.

I was met with beautifully creative layouts and the option of flipping through the pages online or downloading (which was quick). What does this mean for the publishing industry as we know it? A slow and tragically unremarkable death as the masses all jump on the iPad bandwagon and plug themselves in?

Actually I hope not.

While browsing magazines online can make the pastime more accessible, for me, nothing can really beat the experience of turning the printed page. A print geek, I’ll admit, I love the smell, the paper (sorry trees) and the break from a computer screen.

That said… here’s one online magazine I rather liked. (PDF download)

Image by Fontshop

7 ways to get the best from your Web designer

Web DesignerI recently wrote a post how to get the best from your graphic designer. This post takes the same stance with web design.

As with Graphic Design, effective communication, along with preparation is key to working well with a web designer and getting the best results. A little planning and education go a long way to ending with a site that looks great, and promotes your business effectively.

Here is a checklist to make sure you stay on track to a great website.

1. Know why you are investing in this website

What is the purpose of your website for your business?
Deciding this is actually easy. There are only a handful of things that a website can do.

  1. Lead generation for offline sales
  2. Supporting information for offline sales
  3. Provide content to position yourself (or business) as the expert in your field
  4. Online sales – make the sale and take the money

Explaining exactly what you want your website to do for you is critical to getting a great end result.

If on the other hand, you are building a site purely to tick the ‘we have a website’ box, then run out and get the simplest website you can as cheap as possible. At least people will find something if they look for you online.

2. Who are your visitors going to be and how can you help them?

What will your site offer your visitors?

You absolutely MUST know what you are offering your visitor to your site and why they are there so you can give them right information.

Visitors to your website are there because they have a problem or at least they have a question. You need to have a good idea of what that problem or question is, and answer it for them as soon as possible, or at least, show that your business can solve it for them

Any successful website includes a strong call-to-action, and it is much easier to convince someone to take an action if they want to do it already.

3. Get inspired

Here’s a license to muck around on the web for a while. Spend some time bookmarking some websites you like the look and feel of. Surf around for sites inside and outside of your industry.

It is great for you to get an idea of what you like and what you don’t like, and be able to discuss them with your designer. Your designer is never (hopefully) going to copy these sites. But it is a great to get an insight into how you view your business.

4. Simple Keyword research

You need people to find your website. Ideally, they will be people who are interested in your products or services. To do some simple research into keywords, you need to jump back on Google.

I recommend searching for your products or services in another large city, maybe in the US or the UK. Take a note of all the search terms you use. Also scroll to the bottom of the results and note the ‘related searches’ suggested by Google. They are recommended for a reason – because they are popular terms others are searching for.

Ideally, your web designer will do more exhaustive research than this, but it is excellent to have a place to start from.

5. Take ownership of the content

All too often, the content is left to last, after everyone is happy with how the website is going to look.

Content is King…

The words and images of your website are what speak to your visitor, answer your visitor’s questions, solve their problems and they are what sell to the visitor.

Your web designer can guide you through what content you need and help make the copy web friendly (or recommend a professional copy writer). But the original content needs to come from the industry expert (that’s you). You know your business better than your Web designer…

6. Collate your resources

Create a folder with all of your current branding and resources. Your website designer is going to need copies of your company branding (logo etc), and standard imagery you use.

Examples of your current promotional materials are excellent for a designer to ensure the web design is consistent with your current branding. While it is nice to have the latest in website design, it needs to be consistent with your total brand.

7. Keep the lines of communication open

You should be getting regular progress updates from your designer throughout the process. Constructive criticism is important to a successful end result. Give opinions early, even (especially) negative ones. It is much easier to make broad changes earlier in the process than towards the end.

Making decisions quickly will prevent the project from getting stale. If you have a larger organisation, make sure one or at most two people have the authority to make the calls when they are needed.

Conclusion

A website is an integral part of marketing in todays business environment. To get your business represented in the best light on the internet you need to have a good relationship with your web designer. As I mentioned, earlier, clear communication and a little preparation help the process run a lot smoother. Helping your designer understand your business and your goals is a great place to start.

photo credit: mecookie

7 ways to get the best from your Graphic Designer

Business card graphic designA Graphic Designer can take your business to the next level. Slick, well designed promotional materials speak volumes to your clients and prospects about your professionalism and quality of service (or products).

Your relationship with your graphic designer and the quality of your communications, can make all the difference to the final result.

Here are 7 tips to get the best possible work from your designer:

1. Know what you are trying to achieve with the design

When you are paying for an advertisement in a newspaper or magazine, what is the goal of the ad? To sell something? To position your business in the market? The end design will have a different feel and calls to action depending on the goal.

If you don’t know the goal of a given promotion, STOP. Don’t bother asking your designer to come up with anything until you know what you want it for.

2. Who is your target market and what is the aim of the work?

A design targeted at 18 year old mountain bikers is going to look different to one aimed at 40 year old mothers. That is pretty obvious, but important.

Are you wanting to inspire, educate or shock your audience? Great graphic design elicits an emotional reaction from the viewer, and different groups are going to react differently to colours and imagery.

The old cliche, ‘If everyone is an audience, then no-one is your audience’, holds true. You are better to be loved by some and hated by others rather than ignored by all.

3. An idea of what you want it to look like.

Stop here for a minute. I don’t mean you should turn up with the design already done. But it can help a designer greatly to give some examples of work you like. Or even better, some of your current promotional materials as this helps with continuity within your brand.

“I’ll know it when I see it” doesn’t help.

There is nothing worse for a designer to work hard on some concepts and you all of a sudden realise that they are nothing like what you had in mind – tell them what you have in mind from the start and discuss it with your Graphic designer.

Do some research of design you like online (even from different industries). Ask yourself how adventurous are you willing to be to stand out from the crowd?

4. Make sure you have the information your graphic designer will need to complete your job.

Each job will be different, but most will at least need these in some form or another.

  • High resolution logo
  • Any images you use.
  • Examples of your current branding or promotional materials (to make sure the branding is consistent).
  • The copy you want to use including a call to action and contact details.

It’s a great idea to keep all of your resources and marketing materials in one folder on your computer, so you always know where they are. Once you have an ongoing relationship with a designer, they will likely keep these on file as well, but it pays to keep your own copies, just in case.

5. Set a reasonable timeframe

Tomorrow is not reasonable.

Allow for time to review and critique the designers concepts as they supply them to you. Constructive feedback is critical to get the end result that you want.

With an important job such as a company logo, that will be the face of the company for potentially years in the future, allow time for discussion and back and forth changes.

6. Discuss issues early.

If the design isn’t going in a direction you are happy with, let your designer know as early as possible. Throwing out a couple of hours work is a lot easier than an entire days effort. And cheaper, as the final cost is based on creative time spent.

7. Care about the design you are asking for.

If you don’t care about it, your designer can tell and you won’t get the best results.
It is hard to put in 100% effort for someone that isn’t going to appreciate it.

How do you let your designer know you care?

Sell your business to your designer, tell them where you are going and what you are going to acheive. Get them excited about your business and they’ll do their best to get you there.

Oh, and do all of the steps above…

Conclusion

What a Graphic Designer does… is make things look cool… but more than that, they aim to relate the work to the target audience through colour, images and text. They are trying to tell a story of your business or offer and entice the viewer to engage with it.

The more work you do with a designer, the better they will understand you, your business and your goals.

Do you have any burning questions about working with a Graphic Designer?

New Zealand businesses slow to invest in the web

I just read an article on the TVNZ website about the incredibly low rate of New Zealand businesses having websites. According to a survey run by MYOB as of right now, only 34 percent of New Zealand businesses currently have a website.

I have to admit, that this astounds me. The internet is the biggest opportunity in a generation. in little more than 15 years, it has changed the way we communicate, find information and has broken down traditional barriers.

Even for small, local business, the internet can’t be ignored. As explained in the article:

“The way we shop today is very much just popping on to Google and tapping in a quick search. It’s really key for a business to think how they might use the internet to support them.”

MYOB says a business can just use a directory listing online but the evidence shows that a good online presence is a strong driver of business growth.

Opportunities

With only a third of all NZ businesses having a website, the internet landscape still has relatively low competition. In other words if you already have a website, or are moving to get one soon, you are still well ahead of the curve.

The web moves fast

Things change quickly online. Savvy businesses are already using Social Media to build an audience, foster relationships and create loyal fans. How hard is it going to be for latecomers to catch up?

Does your business have a website? Why do you think New Zealand businesses have been so slow to move online?

How to get great testimonials to use in your marketing

Testimonials are a well known tool for marketing products and services, for good reason – They work!

I recently attended a webinar on internet marketing, as I do from time to time to pick up any new ideas or practices that I can transfer to marketing real world businesses. One of the presenters got me thinking about testimonials.

The presenter of the webinar pointed out the extraordinary lengths that infomercials go to get the testimonials they need to sell their products – They:

  1. Go out onto the street to video the public
  2. Pay celebrities for their endorsement
  3. Do “live” demonstrations with volunteers
  4. Show amazing results from previous clients/guinea pigs

Now I know that we all watch the infomercials thinking, “yeah right, sure he got his 8 pack abs from ONLY using their face cream for 30 seconds per day”. But at the end of the show we’re all ready to pick up the phone for a 14 day trial.

Testimonials just work!

Testimonials are the next best thing to a personal referral. Someone standing up and saying ” I know you are nervous about using this product, but I did and it worked great for me” gives a sense of security, it removes some of the perceived risk of making a purchase.

If testimonials are such a great tool, why don’t businesses use them to their full advantage?

I encourage all of the businesses I build websites for to gather some testimonials for the site, and without exception, they are always the last content that I get supplied, if at all.

People are scared to ask for testimonials, and particularly here in New Zealand I am sure people are worried that asking for a testimonial is somehow reducing their authenticity.

How do you get testimonials?

How often do you follow up with your clients to check they are satisfied with your service? This is a golden opportunity and should be a part of your customer service process. Whether you do this in person, via email or thank you letter, always ask for feedback.

When talking to a client or customer and they mention that they you gave them great service, or that they loved your products, just ask “do you mind if I use this as a testimonial” all they can do is say no, but I bet a lot are happy to help.

Make it easy for them to give you a glowing testimonial

Avoid wasting an opportunity to get an inspiring testimonial, by helping your client give you the information you want. Ask the right questions to get the answers you want. Try these out to start with:

  1. What was the number one reason that helped you decide to purchase our product or service?
  2. Was there any reason you considered NOT using our product or service? What overcame this?
  3. How specifically did our product or service help you?
  4. Would you recommend us to a friend or colleague? If yes, why?
  5. Do you have any other comments on our product or service?

These questions will get you some specific, informative testimonials, as well as help you understand why your clients buy your product or service (and why others don’t).

Now go and get some testimonials, and if you are really keen, you can always get out on the street with some product samples and a video camera!

Brochure design for Khan Photography

Khan Photography is a successful Christchurch based business run by talented husband and wife team Nazeef and Rachael Khan.

I had the privilege of being introduced to them as they were on the hunt for a Graphic Designer to improve on their previous wedding photography brochure.

This couple blew me away with their work. Still a young company, Khan Photography are steadily gaining a good reputation that is well deserved. Nazeef and Rachael carefully refine each image to achieve the best possible results for their clients.  Their attention to detail in this way is what I think makes them so good at what they do.

Nazeef and Rachael were keen to see the size of the existing brochure and it’s content reduced, so to create an attractive DLE card to replace it, became the brief.

Khan Photography - Brochure design

Khan Photography - Brochure design

What we came up with was a clean and simple design, which showcased their stunning work. The change in direction was subtle enough to support their current branding but offered a smart, fresh and contemporary result.

If you or anyone you know is getting married soon, we would defineately recomend checking out  more of Khan Photography’s beautiful images.  You won’t be disappointed!

Print Finishes

Design in print is one thing. But the design OF YOUR PRINT is another thing altogether. AND well worth taking a look at exploring.

Within the realms of paper finishes and print finishes there is a whole new element to design and the influence it can have over the completed job.

 A designer can and should consider the end product when developing a concept. This means more than taking into account the most appropriate paper stock. It means thinking about how a myriad of other tricks and techniques (within the budget) can be used in tandem with the graphics to meet the brief.

Our son was given an organic cotton toy that was packaged in a special brown shoe box, printed in natural ink colours and die-cut at the side to expose the logo. Everything about the packaging screamed “natural!” to me and even though it had a matt finish and was predominately brown (think paper bag), the overall impression was one of absolute quality and that the product was worth treasuring.

A simple business card doesn’t have to be on clean white stock like everyone elses’ UNLESS this supports how your business is positioned. Sometimes a different finish, such as an emboss or metallic for example, can set your business apart from others as well as saying more about your brand.

 

 

When it comes to advertising

It is helpful if your company has a strategy regarding advertising for the year, which relates to your company’s broader brand framework.

Regardless of whether you’re that organised, booking an ad last minute and giving your designer half a day to ‘come up with something’ is a waste of resources.  Even worse if it’s not your designer but someone else’s! My apologies if you’ve ever been forced to do this, but let me explain…

It goes back to the necessity of writing a brief and treating each ad as an investment which must bring back some ‘bikkies’ in return.  If an ad doesn’t do it’s job then it can be a glorious waste of money.

Last minute advertising opportunities are always out there.  Perhaps you have an ad you can rerun, which can fit the space, and you know gets you results.  Great!  But be wary of making a booking and handing your logo over to a publication which can ‘rustle’ something up.  This can weaken your brand and render the ad ineffective.

When it comes to advertising…  Have a plan.  Have an advertisment or better, an ad campaign ready to take advantage of advertising deals when they come up. 

Less is more…

Sometimes the most effective visual devices are the most simple.

I was reminded of this over the weekend, as I read to our wee 16 month-old son, and we poured over the illustrations of some of his favourite books.

The ones he enjoyed the most had loads of white space, bold illustrations and simple catchy text.

This is a formula often overlooked in printed media.

The saying, “Less is more” was often overheard where I studied. A reminder to keep students from over-working drawings, or adding too many elements into a design. A bit like the ‘too many chiefs’ analogy; building in too many elements can create confusion.

Giving the eye less to decipher and making the most of the choicest components in a design offers the most impact in the shortest amount of time.  Lets not forget that amongst the hustle and bustle, thousands of businesses compete for those precious split seconds where a glance from a potential customer is the door to a sale.

It’s well worth considering how you can say as much as possible with as little as possible.