Graphic Design Ideas & Inspiration
Tips for Non-Designers
Designing advertisements can be great work for graphic designers. It can mean recurring work, it can be very creatively satisfying, and the final product is often high profile (and let’s admit it, our egos love it when lots of people see our work). The trick is to be good at it. The amount of direction you receive and the degree of creative freedom you’re allowed will depend on the client and the project, but all advertisements have these same four components.
These four components are a promise, a concept, the tone of the ad, and how it is implemented. All of these will be informed by the values that the brand stands for, its target market, and its competitive edge in the marketplace, so be sure to use an effective creative brief.
The promise of the ad is the claim it is making about the product or service being advertised. Every ad needs to make a promise of some sort, whether it’s explicit or implied, and the stronger and more compelling that promise is, the more effective the ad will be. This could be a promise of lower prices, better customer service, higher quality, or anything else that engages the customer.
What emotion and tone are being used to convey the promise of the ad? An ad promising lower prices, for example, could be funny, ernest, absurd, or even shocking. The right tone for a particular ad will depend on the target market it’s trying to reach and the emotions that you’re trying to associate with the brand.
The concept of an ad is the idea that is being used to convey the promise and the tone. For example, the concept behind the famous and often spoofed “Got Milk?” campaign was that we take milk for granted untilit’s unavailable. The promise was that milk is a satisfying drink and the tone was fun and humorous, but in this case it was the concept that really made the ad campaign strong.
Likewise it’s possible to use cartoonised/non-realistic design within a professional setting. A great example is Blackstone Oil and Gas Investment logo design – an animated design of an oil well, which contrasts well with the professional and serious nature of resources investment. Contrasting design is certainly possible and can add real value to an advertising concept – it just needs to hit the mark.
Implementation is how you bring the previous three components together and as a designer it’s the part that rest most squarely on your shoulders. You need to create a design that conveys the promise, tone, and concept of the ad in a way that is engaging and understandable to the target market. Many designers only really concern themselves with this part of the process, which is fine as long as the previous three components have all been established and are being taken into account.
We are in the age where everything happens on the online platform. We meet, greet, buy, sell, learn, study – anything and everything can happen online. And especially with the boom in e-commerce, impactful presence online is equally important. We have the freelancing industry that is heavily dependent on the online mode of communication. In such a scenario, most of the communication happens online, and there’s practically nothing in person. This brings into picture Online Collaboration Tools. Want to have a quick meeting with your employees scattered all over the world? Well, there are a host of tools to effortlessly help you conduct conference calls. So let’s take a look at the available options when it comes to online collaboration tools:
Well known and loved all over the world for one main reason – Its free! Communicating becomes a lot easier as Skype allows interaction via multiple devices at the same time. Network issues may have marred your Skype experience sometimes, but it’s still the best bet! It can also help businesses reach out to their interstate or international customers – take this mortgage broker in Noosa Australia for example. Skype enables his service to be offered nationwide.
Another excellent option for online collaboration, Hangouts lets you chat, send messages and even video call. The best feature of hangouts is that you can connect it to whichever device you want, all you have to do is log in to your Gmail account, and you are all set. Hangouts on Air is one main feature which gives Hangouts an edge over other tools. Personal chats and group chats both are possible via Hangouts, making it a smooth, go-to option for many.
It is an excellent tool for those video conference calls, that too, in HD quality. Meet anywhere, everywhere on any device! Keeping in touch with your team becomes a lot easier with GoToMeeting. Plus, they have a whole set of options that allow you to customise as per the needs of your team and organisation.
Mailbird is an email management tool, and unlike Outlook (which takes a lot of time to learn), Mailbird can be absorbed very quickly in a short time span. Various features such as a one stop for all your inbox related issues, app integrations, customisation, multi-language support that is available 24/7 are few which help Mailbird make a mark.
A cloud-based collaboration services provider, Slack is becoming increasingly popular by the day. It is probably the best team messaging app out there with a bunch of features that make communication among your team easy and practical.
Zoho Project manager:
Seamless collaboration is what Zoho offers. Adopt Zoho in your organisation and get all your work done on time. It helps you to manage meetings, documents and integrate with your favourite apps. And it is already gaining popularity.
Hope this helps you to zero down to the alternative that is best suited for you and your organisation’s needs.
Having trouble at pronouncing your words, right? If English is not your mother tongue it is only natural to experience difficulty while speaking it. Pronunciations errors are bound to occur. Here are a few tips to improve your English.
- It’s often difficult to hear pronunciation errors in your own speech since you are concentrating really well and communicating rather than the sound you are making. In the event that you can’t hear your pronunciation problems, it’s hard to correct them. Take a stab at recording your speech with your smartphone or PC and making a note of specific areas you have to improve on
- Numerous English learners think that speaking fluently implies they have to talk fast. This isn’t right. Speaking too fast reinforces negative behaviour patterns and makes the speaker sound nervous and indecisive. Speaking slowly will give you an opportunity to breathe appropriately and think about what you need to state straightaway. Since it gives you an opportunity to think while you are speaking, you’ll feel more relaxed and have the capacity to concentrate on making your English sound fantastic
- Close your eyes and think about how to make a sound before saying it. Visualize the movement of your mouth and face. In the event that you have contemplated with the phonemic chart, think about the sound you are making and how it identifies with other English phonemes. In the event that you have utilized diagrams of the mouth and tongue, think about the shape you have to make inside your mouth on the off chance that you need to make the sound correctly.
- Pronunciation is a physical skill. You’re teaching your mouth another approach to move and utilizing different muscles. Notice difficult sounds every day. Experiencing difficulty with ‘th’? Put your tongue between your teeth (don’t clamp down) and blow out some air of your mouth. Feel the air move over the top of your tongue.
- Stand in front of a mirror to see the placement of your tongue, lips, and shape of your mouth when you make certain sounds. Compare what you see with a video of a native-speaker saying a similar thing.
- There’s no replacement for learning pronunciation from the experts or native speakers. So, listen! Listen to English radio programs and stare at the television and movies in English. Copy what you’re hearing regardless of whether you don’t know what they’re saying yet.
- Pronunciation problems hold on the grounds that we’re reluctant to commit errors. Make scenarios meeting someone out of the blue, ordering at a restaurant, requesting directions and then showcase the discourse without anyone else’s input. Try not to be bashful.
With Christmas just around the corner, there are plenty of people out there looking for last minute ideas for the graphic designers on their list (and many graphic designers making lists). So today we thought we’d feature a few fun gift ideas for designers and other creatives. Or, if you’ve been too naughty to get presents, you may want to buy them for yourself.
A great present for color lovers and design nerds alike. Available in many colors and as sets.
What better way to take notes while sipping coffee from your Pantone mug than in your Pantone notebook?
Adobe App Pillows
For those who eat drink and sleep Adobe.
The best toy ever and a great way to get the creative juices flowing.
Mighty Muggs Customizable Figure
Design your own action figures! Tons of fun.
Photoshop Magnet Set
Make the photos on your fridge look like they’re being tweaked in Photoshop with this fun magnet set.
Photoshop Picture Frame
A fun gift for both photographers and designers!
I think all creatives love the classic Moleskine notebook. Classy and useful.
Moleskine Folio Tablet Cover
It will go so nicely with their pile of Moleskines!
Wacom Pen Tablet
A very natural-feeling way to design, particularly for those that like to sketch.
Subscription To Lynda.com Software Tutorials
Lynda is a great, self-paced way for designers to upgrade their skills and learn new ones.
Livescribe Echo Smartpen
Automatically records your client meetings while you write. Later, you can review the audio from any part of the meeting by tapping the notes. Never miss a detail again!
The Pantone Guide To Communicating With Color
A great book about color psychology and how to use color more effectively.
An excellent resource for ideas and inspiration.
An invaluable resource for designers that work with logos and branding.
A classic documentary about a classic typeface.
The Mystery Of Picasso
A very cool documentary that lets you watch Picasso’s paintings as they progress.
Art School Confidential
A funny and slightly misanthropic look at creative development.
We’ve all been there. You take the time to sit down with a client and discuss their needs and then worked hard to craft a well thought out quote at a fair rate, then the client says “Can’t you do it cheaper that that?”. You sigh. What do you do? You want the work, especially since you’ve already invested time into quoting them. There are a variety of ways you can deal with this situation. My favorite is this five step approach.
Step 1: Confidently Say No
The first step is to confidently and clearly say “no” or “I’m afraid not”. This is important because it asserts that your pricing is what it is, and is not open to negotiation. If your no isn’t confident (“um… well, I’d really rather not”) then an aggressive negotiator may take advantage.
Step 2: Reassure Them
Some clients ask for a better price because they don’t have a lot of experience with designers and are afraid of being taken advantage of. You can help to assuage this fear by reassuring them that you have provided them with the best quote you can. Even if their motivation isn’t fear, this helps reinforce that you’re quote is non-negotiable. Want to know more about reassuring clients? You can read more here at FTAdviser
Step 3: Offer To Reduce The Scope
If the client continues to ask for a better price, offer to reduce the scope of the project in order to meet their budget requirements. If the client truly can’t afford the full project, this gives them an option to still work with you. If the client is merely negotiating for the sake of negotiating, they will likely accept your full quote in order to get the work they want done.
Step 4: Offer To Do The Work In Stages
If the client needs the full scope of the project, but still insists that they can’t afford your quote, offer to do the work in stages to give them time to get the additional funds together. If they choose to go this route, be sure each phase is paid in full before moving on to the next.
Step 5: Be Willing To Not Get The Job
The key to successful negotiation is to be wiling to not get the job. This isn’t just a mind game. Unless you’re desperate for the work, it’s rarely worth taking a job at a reduced rate. I can’t count how many times I’ve heard many designers expressing regret after accepting reduced-rate jobs. If, having gone through steps 1 through 4, the client still says they can’t afford the job, it’s time to politely send them away. Michael Harder, a mortgage broker in Adelaide notes that he actively chooses to filter out potential clients when they show they’re heavily influenced on price, instead focusing his energy on higher value clients which increases his overall business profit.
This five step process is very effective for dealing with hard-nose negotiators while accommodating those who genuinely don’t have the budget for the process. Most importantly, it allows you to negotiate with dignity and establishes your rates as fixed.
Here’s an example of how these steps work in practice:
Client: Your quote is just to high. Can you do it for less?
You: I’m afraid not. I always quote with the best price I can. If it’s outside your budget, we could skip the brochure you’ve asked for and just do the business card and letterhead.
Client: No, I really need the brochure, too. It’s a big part of my sales process.
You: OK, maybe we can do the business card and letterhead now, and then start on the brochure in a couple of months once you’ve had a chance to get the funds together.
Client: That’ll work.
OK, so it may not always be quite as smooth as that, but give it a shot, it works pretty well.
In the slick, pixel-perfect world of the web, designing with texture and crafty styles can really make a site stand out. Be it hand-drawn elements, paper textures, or illustration, a little craftiness can bring a whold new dimension to a website design. Here are some examples to use for inspiration!
File management can be a big deal for graphic designers. Low-resolution proofs are easily sent by email, but when it comes time to deliver big press-ready files, email usually won’t cut it. File management becomes an even bigger issue when you’re collaborating remotely with other creatives. Here is a quick look at some of the options for transferring big files.
Setting up an ftp account on your website was the de facto method of large-file delivery for a long time. It has the advantage that it remains entirely within your control, but it also has the disadvantages that you need to maintain user accounts, periodically clean out old files, and it can be confusing for clients that are not very tech savvy.
One way around the responsibilities of ftp is to use an ftp service like Yousendit.com. With yousendit.com you simply upload the file you need to send, add the recipient’s email address and a short message, then send. The recipient then receives an email with a link to download the file. It’s very easy and it’s free for files up to 100MB.
Another option is to send files via Skype. This has an advantage over most services in that it doesn’t have a file size limit, but it has the limitation that you need to connect with the recipient on Skype in order to send it.
Dropbox is a service that a syncs a local folder on your computer to one on the internet. It can be a very handy way to collaborate on a project because any changes you make to the file will automatically be reflected on the online version (assuming you’re connected to the internet), and you can give your collaborator access to your dropbox folder.
Dropbox also has a feature to email a download link for an individual file, meaning you can deliver files up to the size of your account (2GB for free, paid plans offer larger folder sizes).
File dropper is a similar service to Dropbox in that it acts as a form of online file storage and transfer. File dropper doesn’t offer a free account, but it’s paid accounts are a little more affordable than Dropbox’s are (50 GB for $5/month). If you need more than a couple of GB of storage, than File Dropper may be a better option. Otherwise, you’ll probably want to stick to the free account on Dropbox.
Many graphic designers, when asked what they do, will either answer with just “I’m a graphic designer”, or they’ll ramble a little about the types of projects they do. There’s nothing wrong with either of those responses, but there is a way to respond that is more likely to get you clients, and that’s with a polished “elevator pitch”. This is especially important for freelance graphic designers, but I’d recommend it for designers who work with agencies as well.
What Is An Elevator Pitch
Simply put, an elevator pitch is a 30-60 second commercial about yourself. The idea is that if you were in an elevator with someone and they asked “what do you do?”, you should have an answer ready that tells all the most important details of your business before the elevator ride is through. If your elevator pitch is good, when you meet a potential client at, say, a networking event, you can have them interested enough to contact you within a very short conversation. Sydney Mortgage broker George Poullos notes that in his frequent networking events, almost three quarters of participants don’t know how to provide an elevator pitch or short message which conveys what they do and how they can help you, leading to lost potential business and contacts.
What You Need To Cover
In our post 3 Questions All Marketing Needs To Answer we talked about how important it is for a business to answer the questions of who they are, what they do, and why potential customers should care. The fact is, you’re in business too, so the need for those questions also applies to you. If you cover these three points well, you will have a successful elevator pitch.
How To Write It
Get out a piece of paper. Now, write down what you do. There’s a bit of a balance here, because you want to be specific, but at the same time succinct. Treat it as if you you were making this list for someone who has no idea what a graphic designer does, but try to limit yourself to 3–4 items on your list.
Now, make a separate list of the 3 top reasons why a client should hire you rather than someone else. This can include your specialties, your experience, your training, or any other highlights of why you are a great designer. With these two lists, you now have all the points you need for an elevator pitch.
How To Use It
I don’t recommend memorizing your pitch word for word, because you’ll sound like you’re reading the script for an advertisement. I do, however, recommend memorizing the bullet points from your list, and practicing saying them in a friendly, casual manner that isn’t too boastful. Here’s an example of an elevator pitch answer to the question “what do you do”:
“I’m a freelance graphic designer. I specialize in marketing materials for small businesses: logos, brochures, websites; that type of thing. I have a background in marketing, so I can offer business owners a strategic approach to design and ensure that their materials are both attractive and effective.”
Now all you need to do is start using it! Get in the habit of answering the “what do you do” question this way, regardless of who’s asking. In a networking situation it can win you clients, but it’s even good in a social situation because it’s clear and effective communication. The people you’re talking to will have a better understanding of you and your career because of it. Plus, you never know when that person you meet socially might need a graphic designer!
Good habits come from reminding ourselves over and over of how we strive to be until it it happens on its own. This is equally true whether you’re trying to improve your posture (you’re slouching right now, aren’t you), eat better, or be a better designer. Below are eight axioms that I try to remind myself of often so that they will become habit. They’re all simple and common sense, but they are also easy to lose sight of.
“I am not the target audience”
Your personal tastes and preferences are bound to have huge influence on your work, and that’s only natural; it’s how you develop your own style. That being said, to be successful designers we need to be versatile and keep the target audience of our work in mind. I may like grungy, textural design, but if my client has an older, conservative customer base I need to provide a design that is clean, respectable and appropriate to their target market.
“The most satisfying solution is not necessarily the most effective solution”
We do creative work because it’s what we love, and it feels great when a project is challenging and uses our skills to their fullest, but sometimes the project calls for something simpler than that. Learning to recognize these situations is an important skill, and can be as important as the skill you’re being paid for.
“I am grateful for the clients I have”
We’ve all been in situations where a client is driving is us crazy and their project feels like a curse more than a privilege. It’s only natural. At times like these I take the time to remind myself of two things: where I would be without my clients (the answer, of course, being unemployed), and how much worse it would be dealing with obnoxious clients if I were doing a job that I hated. I know I’m incredibly lucky to be getting paid to do what I love, and reminding myself of that point from time to time makes the tougher times a lot easier.
“The client knows their business better than I do”
Have you ever been in a situation where you think your client is wrong? They ask for revisions that make your design ugly, or makes the website harder to use, and you reluctantly do as they ask because they’re paying the bills. I’m sure this sounds all too familiar, and it’s frustrating to see your work picked to pieces like that. Remember, their business is at least successful enough that they can afford to hire you, so they must be doing something right. They spend most of their waking hours thinking about their business; it’s reasonable to presume they know it better than you do. You’re entitled to your opinions, but learn to let go of them when you need to.
“I’m successful when my clients are successful”
This is a big one. It means switching your focus from achieving your goal (successful and profitable completion of the project) to the client’s goals (what they’re trying to achieve with the work they’ve hired you to do). If you learn to keep this mentality you’ll take more pride in your work, you clients will thrive (which means they can hire you more often), and they’ll be falling over themselves to send referrals your way. Genuinely caring about your clients’ success is possibly the single best thing you can do for yourself, your business, and your clients.
“My existing clients always come before a potential client”
It’s no big secret that it takes way less time and effort to keep an existing client than to get a new one. Why, then, do we so often lose sight of this when courting a potential client? Maybe it’s the thrill of the hunt, or a particularly appealing client, but many of us make the mistake of impressing the new client at the expense of neglecting our existing client base. We need to be careful that if the new client doesn’t pan out, we haven’t lost others in the process.
“The coolest client is not necessarily the best client”
It’s easy to be dazzled by the “cool” clients. These are the clients that sound really impressive when you tell people you’ve worked with them. There are definite benefits to working with cool clients: it looks great in your portfolio, gives you clout, and can often be a lot of fun. The down side, however, is that everyone wants to work with them, so they may expect you to work cheaper than you normally would, or you may find yourself ever-extending to make them happy. When the cool factor is involved, make sure to take a rational, objective look at the job and make sure that the pros balance out the cons.
“Every piece of work is a portfolio piece”
Treat every job, no matter how small, as if new clients we going to judge the quality of your work based on it. This may seem obvious to some, but on smaller, or less exciting, jobs it can be easy to slip into the “just get it done” mindset. If you approach the project determined to make something great (even if it means a bit of off-the-clock time), you’ll end up with a product that your proud of, and the client may just get asked “hey, who did this for you?” by a new client-to-be.
We spend a lot of time talking about what to do to create a healthy graphic design business. Sometimes, however, it’s not about what you do but what you don’t do, so today we thought we’d take a look at it the other side of the coin by looking at some of the worst things you can do for your business. You may be surprised because some of these are a lot less obvious than you might think and some are downright counterintuitive.
Treating Good Enough As Good Enough
Regardless of the industry, business that are exceptional thrive while those that aren’t stagnate. When we work with clients (particularly fussy or difficult ones) it’s easy to fall into the trap of making your goal to get the design approved, but the problem there is that while they are satisfied, they may not be ecstatic. Satisfied clients pay their bills (usually), but ecstatic clients refer their colleagues and friends.
Working Without A Contract
Many designers (especially new freelancers) jump in without a contract because they’re convinced they don’t need it or they’re afraid a contract might scare away the client, but working without a contract is dangerous. Sure, you may have been fine so far but sooner or later you will hit a snag and having a good contract will save your bacon.
Treating Your Clients As Threats
I see it time and time again: the designer vs. client mentality. The designers are so worried about protecting themselves that they forget to think about what’s good for their clients (and miss the fact that what’s good for their clients is usually good for them).
Being Excessively Modest
Don’t get me wrong here, nobody likes a bragger either, but to succeed in business you need to be able to tell potential clients what’s great about your business and why they should hire you. Being too modest in your sales pitch will only lose you clients.
A designer who thinks they’re god’s gift to clients is just the opposite. Egos are everywhere in creative industries and are often clients’ biggest complaints. You may be great at what you do but remember where your paycheck comes from or that paycheck may disappear.
Badmouthing Other Clients
Speaking ill of your clients (or even ones you chose not to work with) is just plain unprofessional and tells everyone who hears it that, should they choose to work with you, you may end up taking about them the same way. Being professional doesn’t mean you have to be stodgy or without personality, it just means respecting the people you work with.
Promising Too Much
Doing everything you can for your clients is great customer service, but it can be very easy to take it too far. Sometimes we try so hard to please the client that we end up making promises we can’t deliver on, which makes the client more disappointed than if we had said no in the first place.
Giving Too Much Away For Free
Sometimes we need to a little work free of charge to keep the client happy. Maybe we under-quoted or weren’t clear about what was included; there are plenty of reasons we might choose not to charge for something, but there always needs to be a reason and the client should be aware of what that reason is, otherwise you’ll end up doing a lot of free work.
Creatives put their heart and soul into their work, which can make it hard to take feedback or constructive criticism, but feedback and criticism are part of the process. If you take it as a personal affront every time a client asks for a change you’re not only going to hate your job, but you’ll lose your clients, too.
Every business needs a plan if it wants to grow but far too often we fall into the trap of over-planning, which is to say spending so much time planning that we never get around to doing. Sometimes it’s better to leap in with only a vague plan than to plan an idea into oblivion.