The Twelve Deadly Sins of Design

harlanwestblogphotoBy Harlan West, Design and Marketing Professional with nearly 30 years of experience designing communications for major healthcare organizations, municipalities and large corporations.

Old Cemeteries - Row of Tombstones

Heed the warning and don’t make the following mistakes. Successful corporate communication designers know how to avoid these pitfalls:

1) Failure to include a call to action.  What is the purpose of a marketing or sales publication if it doesn’t produce a return on investment (ROE)? Let’s face it, the print world has largely gone away. Clients are looking for results from their advertising and marketing budgets. Promoting awareness or providing information alone just won’t cut it in today’s marketplace.

2) Failure to follow the client’s corporate design standards. Don’t overlook the brand. Shame, shame, on you if you do!!! Effective corporate communications are branded to help promote awareness of the corporate brand and to promote consistency of look and style.

3) Failure to select images that are not carefully vetted. For example, never show a person not wearing a seat belt in a carpool photo. Never show a bicyclist not wearing a helmet in a promotion for Bike to Work Day. Never show just one person driving a car in a brochure on ridesharing or commute options.

4) Designing text using colors that are too difficult to read.  This means colors that are too light, too bright or that are printed with fluorescent inks. I once saw a publication created by a popular art school that was indeed beautiful but you needed sunglasses to read it. Beautiful as it may have been, the publication was completely illegible since all the type was printed in bright orange fluorescent ink against a pure white background. Yikes.  Pass the sunscreen!

5) Failure to place functionality over aesthetics. A beautifully designed work of art which does not sell the product, promote awareness or even reach the targeted audience is a zero design. A piece can be the really beautiful, but if it doesn’t work what is the value? Remember what my grandmother used to say, “Beauty is only skin deep but ugly is to the bone.”

6) Failure to design a piece that cannot be easily printed. Many inexperienced designers create pieces that do not have proper bleeds, do not contain proper color call-outs, do not have plates that separate out or do not have postscript and properly licensed fonts. Have the printer review the art during the process to make sure that it can be printed using their equipment. Make sure that the printer has the correct print specifications.

7) Failure to include diversity or demographics.  Today’s world is important—it is a global community. Don’t “look yesterday!”  Be sure to represent people who are the intended audience and who represent the local community. Publications that fail to do so will be overlooked.

8) Failure to modify or enhance a stock image. These images can be easily spotted. Furthermore, you don’t want your photo to show up somewhere else.  All stock images need to be customized to the publication. Change the cropping, colorization, angle. Add a funky border treatment or combine photos or superimpose type so that the images do not look generic.

9) Failure to use high resolution images for print. Cell phone images usually don’t cut it. When designing for print be sure to use images that are at least 300 dots per inch. Low quality images almost always look bad.  Remember, ”garbage in is garbage out.”

10) Failure to use fonts that are easy on the eye. Using a condensed font, italicized type or all caps throughout can be a legibility nightmare. Don’t make your client go blind while attempting to read your publication.

11) Failure to design for the audience. Use large type for an older audience. Use graphics and color schemes which relate to the demographics and cultural traditions of the target group. Don’t design a super hip publication for an older audience and don’t create a stodgy traditional layout for a group of teens or millenials.

12) Failure to properly outline hair on people or what is known as the “helmet-head effect.” Avoid those bad hair days when your parents put a bowl around your head and cut off the excess hair. Hair needs to be soft with flowing strands, not hard angled and choppy. Don’t attempt to give someone a haircut if you are unskilled in Photoshop.

Follow these valuable tips and design with confidence.  Don’t be a sinner along the way.

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If your company or organization needs an innovative or unique solution for a promotion or marketing campaign, please contact HWDS at hwdesign@west.netWe make beautiful things happen. To find out more, please visit westdesign.com.

Harlan West is the author of successfulcorporatecommunications.com and has been working as a creative director and design professional for nearly 30 years and has designed and art directed hundred of publications for both print and online purposes. HWDS and Associates, Inc. has been in business for 25 years.

As a Communicator, It’s Your Job to Help the Client See

harlanwestblogphotoBy Harlan West, Design and Marketing Professional with nearly 30 years of experience designing communications for major healthcare organizations, municipalities and large corporations.

Give Your Client Reading Glasses.

The road ahead is dark and clients cannot see with your help. You need to illuminate it.

Help them understand what you are thinking; they cannot read minds. Unfortunately, the client has an inability to visualize concepts without reviewing a layout or comp. Just assume that the client is not right-brained and cannot imagine what you are proposing.  Provide a conceptual roadmap.

patient at oculist

Create a map to the finish line
This starts the ball rolling. Some clients are unwilling to commit on a proposal or don’t know where to start. By jumping in feet first and developing some concepts, you give them a better way to get engaged with the project and to have a map to the finish line. Continue reading

Create a Crowd—Advertising that is Worth the Wait

harlanwestblogphotoBy Harlan West, Design and Marketing Professional with 25 years of experience designing materials for major healthcare organizations, municipalities and large corporations.

This is a follow-up to my previous blog, Harness the Power of Word of Mouth, posted on September 10, 2013. Actually I am amending that post where I wrote that the most powerful form of advertising is word-of mouth. Yes, I still believe it still is, but I would like to add “creating a crowd” as a great form of advertising.

Waiting in LineNow this may seem obvious, but many people miss the fact that a line is actual advertising. In fact this is a phenomenal way to advertise a business. When people are waiting for food, more people will want it. It’s almost as if it were contagious.  GENERALLY THE ASSUMPTION IS THAT IF PEOPLE WILL WAIT FOR IT, IT MUST BE GOOD. Now don’t get me wrong, this doesn’t include food at the ballgame. It just pertains to food in regular restaurants, cupcakes or other short-order items. It might also apply to retail items such as a run on a new style of blue jeans, tennis shoes or a particular “must-have” toy for the holiday season, or tickets for a rock concert, pop star or latest movie phenomenon. When people see a line they are curious and want to find out more. We all want a piece of the action. A line is in your face and it gets noticed.  It’s peaks our curiosity.

Making people “wait” fosters anticipation and strengthens the desire to possess something that we can’t yet have. All of this is part of the psychology behind marketing decisions and our basic desiresmacha green tea sweet donut on white background inherent in the purchasing of non-essential items.  In short, “producing a line” often translates into “positive buzz” and often increased sales.

After I wrote this blog, I actually happened to see a wonderful movie this weekend, called Chef, which illustrates this very point.

Is it not true that sometimes the longer we wait for something and the harder it is to get, the more we desire it? In other words, sometimes, a good marketing strategy can consist of playing “hard to get.”  It’s basically a the law of supply and demand.  If you tighten the supply channel for a product or service already in demand, in many but not all cases, the demand for a product will rise and so can the price.

DonutHaving a new recipe for a specialty item such as donuts, ice cream, or cupcakes can get people to wait in long lines for an item that is normally considered ordinary or commonplace.  We see these lines and wonder what is all the fuss?  We ask ourselves, “Maybe I need to try it to see what everyone is ‘buzzing’ about.”  In other words, I don’t the want to be left out, kind of like jumping on board with a politician who has momentum behind their campaign. No one wants to be associated with a loser but everyone wants to be part of a “winner.”

So the next time you see people in a long line (and not at the bank or DMV), ask yourself, “What is the merchant doing different to generate this type of demand?” More importantly, ask, “What are the unique selling points of their product or service and how does that differentiate and/or make it better than that of the competition?”

Make your customers line up at a visible place and you are sure to generate a following. The big issue is how do you create increased demand and hopefully create a crowd?

Some tips:

  1. Create a completely “new” and never before heard of recipe or formula for a product or service.  It may also be a new process or way of doing business.
  2. Limit supply.  It might be good to run out.  Then you can take orders for the next day.
  3. Create an event around the release of a new product.  This may involve a costly advertising campaign that promotes “anticipation” as well as excitement
  4. Create excitement around the line.  Give people something to talk about.  Generate press releases. Hand out samples and coupons to people waiting in line and hold contests. You might even try providing music and hiring a band to promote the experience. Make it a community experience.
  5. Tie it in with a benefit for a local charity.  Maybe 2% -5 of profits could go to help a local non-profit foundation to give back to the community.  People will feel good about patronizing your establishment.
  6. Maintain consistent quality and value and try to keep it “new” for as long as possible.
  7. Use social media to develop events around a product and excitement.  Sending out Tweets and developing an active Facebook and Instagram following along with a blog will help to get people wondering and may even drive them to your business.

Create a line.  You will create “buzz” and more people may line-up to get your product or service.  It  will be a “crowd-pleaser.”

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If your company or organization needs an innovative or unique solution for a promotion or a marketing campaign, please contact HWDS at hwdesign@west.netWe make beautiful things happen. To find out more, please visit westdesign.com.

Harlan West is the author of successfulcorporatecommunications.com and has been working as a creative director and design professional for more than 25 years and has designed and art directed hundred of publications for both print and online purposes.

Silver Marketing—75 Bold Ideas to Make Your Publications More Successful

By Harlan West, Design and Marketing Professional with 25 years of experience designing materials for major healthcare organizations, municipalities and large corporations.

I am proud to commemorate the publication of 75 blog posts! Celebrate with us by continuing to read our blog and encouraging your friends and colleagues to subscribe as well.  Here’s a list of the last 25 blog posts on our site. These constitute 25 unique ideas for making your marketing publications (online and print) more effective and hence successful.

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Here’s 25 fabulous reasons since our 50th blog to keep reading, rereading and forwarding.  Each one of titles contains a link to the original article on our blog at  successfulcorporatecommunications.com.

75. Make Your Marketing Grow Green

74. A Great New Visual Effect for Beautifying Corporate Reports: Pairing Grayscale with Color Images

73. This Mothers Day, Give Mom Flowers—By Design

72. Marketing Materials are More Effective When you Paint with Your Content

71. 23 Tips for Developing an Effective Park District/Recreational Catalog

70. Delivery: Too Often an Overlooked Piece of the Marketing Package

 69. Using the Influence of Art Deco Architecture to Add Elegance to a Publication

 68. Fashionable Design

 67. Avoid Milk Toast Marketing for the Masses

66. Why Retail is Dying a Slow and Painful Death

65. The Benefits of Press-Checking a Printed Publication

64. Flying Off the Web Press with 50,000 Quantity

63. Political Campaigns: Dont Throw Your Hat in the Ring Without Effective Branding

62. A Well-Designed Interview About Design—Part II

61. A Well-Designed Interview About Design—Part I

60. Refreshing Your Newsletter is Like Getting a Car Wash

59. Why Small Businesses Need Newsletters for Effective Marketing

58. Why Doctor Groups and Healthcare Professionals Need Newsletters

57. Fly Higher with an Airline Newsletter

56. The Value of Transit Industry Newsletters

 55. How the Printing Industry Has Become Environmentally-Friendly

54. Look No Further for Inspiration

53. Paper Adds Weight to Your Marketing

52. Happy Halloween from Successful Corporate Communications!

51. 50 Reasons to Follow the Successful Corporate Communications Blog

Use these great ideas to grow your corporate marketing, design more effective publications, gather inspiration, use paper effectively, refresh your newsletter, develop effective recreational catalogs, make delivery services run smoothly, and to try new photo treatments.

Like silver, a precious metal which symbolizes a “75th anniversary, these 75 blog posts are precious tips for building successful corporate communications

 

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If your company or organization needs an innovative or unique design solution for an invitation, corporate report, newsletter or website, please contact HWDS at hwdesign@west.netWe make beautiful things happen. To find out more please visit westdesign.com

Harlan West is the author of successfulcorporatecommunications.com and has been working as a creative director and design professional for more than 25 years and has designed and art directed hundred of publications for both print and online purposes.

 

Delivery: Too Often an Overlooked Piece of the Marketing Package

harlanwestblogphotoBy Harlan West, Design and Marketing Professional with more than 25 years of experience designing materials for major healthcare organizations, municipalities and large corporations.

 

Too often a publication can be beautifully designed and printed but the delivery goes a-rye and makes the project a complete failure. For instance, I once had a client use a very high-end marketing kit for a press conference on delivery-trucka huge federally subsidized underground railroad system.  We designed a beautiful promotional kit for the event. At the event were to be lots of VIPs including U.S. Congressmen, Senators and various other federal, state and local government officials.  All steps were taken to ensure that this was an exquisite piece with optimum print quality, a press check, aqueous coating and a special spot color plate.  No expense was spared and no corners were cut. The piece looked great.

Then came the delivery…

Unfortunately the final delivery was attempted but the driver took a wrong turn and arrived at the venue after the event occurred. Needless to say the client was quite embarrassed due to the actions of one individual in the mix. Luckily we did not hire the printer but had merely provided the names of several good local printers. Nonetheless, everyone looked bad since the end-product was basically rendered useless.

Here’s some very simple suggestions to avoid delivery disaster:

1. Be sure to ask the client, “Is there a hard deadline such as a conference, board meeting or other public gathering?” Always request projects back from a printer at least a day or two before the actual event.  Waiting till the morning of an event for the delivery is just too late.  You don’t want to end up with egg on your face!

Continue reading

Political Campaigns: Don’t Throw Your Hat in the Ring Without Effective Branding

harlanwestblogphotoBy Harlan West, Design and Marketing Professional with more than 25 years of experience designing materials for major healthcare organizations, municipalities and large corporations

First, let me start off by saying that I have a BA in political science with an emphasis in public administration.United States Election Vote Button. Many years ago, I even worked in Washington for an Illinois congressman.  Creatively, I have contributed graphical identities and event promotions for political figures in their campaigns for Los Angeles City Council as well as various other local issue and public service campaigns throughout Southern California.  I spent a total of thirteen years working in three government agencies and have developed communications for countless government agencies and municipalities.

Effective Graphics for a political campaign: Don’t run without an effective branding.

Here’s some things to keep in mind when throwing your hat in the ring:

Know your potential supporters. They can help define how you determine the look and feel for the  campaign. A local political campaign probably needs to look more community- based and more home-baked than a campaign for statewide or national office. On the local level, it is best not to look too polished. It can sink an otherwise worthy campaign. Be part of the community. Potential supporters/voters will respect you more. Don’t look like an aristocrat in a working-class neighborhood.

Hire an experienced marketing or design firm to brand your campaign. You need a distinctive color scheme and layout for publications as well as a unique logo. Consistency of message and look is critical. Use colors that stand our from the crowd. This is critical when a plethora of yard signs start to populate your neighborhood. The logo and type treatment should be simple clean and direct. Have your marketing firm develop a branded set of letterheads, ads, yard signs, invitations, buttons and website and e-blasts. All materials should have a standardized look and feel.

Develop a catchy slogan that sums up your talents in a few punchy words.  Make it memorable. Develop a slogan that speaks for itself. A double entendre is often effective. Try catchy taglines such as  “Building a City that Works,”  or “Creating a Better Tomorrow Today.”

Use only extremely flattering photos of the candidate, their family and supporters. Show the candidate working in the neighborhoods. Show the candidate working with business, schools, community, civic, governmental, activists, and religious leaders.

Provide testimonials from well-connected leaders as well as the “man” on the street. Potential supporters want to get to know the candidate. Make sure to use only reputable and respected contributors. Add audio clips to the website and radio or TV ads.  As stated in a previous blog on this site, word of mouth is the most effective form of advertising.

Tell us candidly what you, as the candidate, will do.  Avoid pie in the sky promises.  Make a platform and do not deviate from it. Find your voice.  A few key issue statements and principals will help focus your campaign.  Be bold with your messaging and political posturing. Voters like candidates who at least appear honest and who have a “backbone.”

Know your opposition.  You may have to battle them on your turf. You also need to be able to effectively refute what the opposition is saying.  Find out how to differentiate yourself from the other candidates.  Develop a list of unique selling points to stand out amongst a crowded field of candidates. Think of yourself as a box of cereal in the breakfast foods aisle of a grocery store. Offer something unique to get people to buy what you are selling, namely your electability.

Develop a website where people can make campaign contributions online. Make it easy to find and user-friendly to navigate and purchase an easy to remember URL.

Find the one or two primary issues which will help define your campaign. Some candidates campaign on a platform of safety issues and reducing crime. Others like to promote to city services, better schools and parks, road and pubic transportation improvement and economic development.

Maintain a positive image and stay above the fray. Don’t wrestle with dogs and don’t stoop to the competition. Keep your campaign on a higher level.  Integrity, strength and leadership say it all!

Now if you have a thick skin, go ahead and throw your hat in the ring!

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If you need help creating a brand and identity for your political campaign, please contact HWDS at hwdesign@west.net.  We make beautiful things happen. To find out more please visit westdesign.com

Harlan West is the author of successfulcorporatecommunications.com and has been working as a creative director and design professional for more than 25 years and has designed and art directed hundred of publications for both print and online purposes.

50 Reasons to Follow the Successful Corporate Communications Blog

harlanwestblogphotoBy Harlan West, Design and Marketing Professional with 25 years of experience designing materials for major healthcare organizations, municipalities and large corporations.

I am proud to commemorate the publication of 50 blog posts! Celebrate with us by continuing to read our blog and encouraging your friends and colleagues to subscribe as well.

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Since we just completed our 50th blog post, here’s 50 fabulous reasons to keep reading and rereading:

  1. Take advantage of valuable design tips for your newsletter.
  2. Use color to make a more effective publication.
  3. Learn how to create effective mastheads.
  4. Escape the pitfalls of staff meetings.
  5. Learn ways to deal more effectively with your clients.
  6. Discover how to create more effective bilingual publications.
  7. Find valuable tips on advertising.
  8. Learn about effective branding.
  9. Gain valuable information about e-publications.
  10. Increase your knowledge of printing techniques.
  11. Increase your appreciation of elegant paper stocks.
  12. Learn how to create effective event promotions.
  13. Discover ways to include effective infographics, charts and diagrams in your publications.
  14. Learn about ways to find employment as a skilled graphic designer.
  15. Unearth new ways to promote healthcare events.
  16. Invent new ways to illustrate your newsletter with the use of graphical icons.
  17. Find ways to develop an effective logo for your company.
  18. Learn about ways to add a mascot or cartoon character to your newsletter or publication.
  19. Differentiate your company’s product and service from the competition.
  20. Produce beautiful maps that provide more than just directions.
  21. Explore new ways to be more responsive to your clients.
  22. Recognize how to find a quality print vendor.
  23. Realize the beauty that nature can add to a publication.
  24. Originate the use of iMags for your company’s publications.
  25. Learn how to save $1,000’s on publication costs.
  26. Conceive of new ways to use patterns in your publications.
  27. Innovate the use of online publications in your company’s publication requirements.
  28. Discover ways to add navigational elements to a newsletter.
  29. Lean how to use photos for maximum impact.
  30. Make the best use of typestyles to increase the legibility of a publication.
  31. Find new ways to maintain quality control.
  32. Learn how outsourcing the design of your publications can save the company money and can increase the return on investment (ROI).
  33. Find out why it is important to use a marketing firm that specializes in your industry sector.
  34. Learn what makes your client “tick.”
  35. Discover the importance of having a corporate newsletter.
  36. Explore new reasons why corporations should outsource their marketing efforts.
  37. Unearth the ultimate checklist for developing successful marketing materials.
  38. Invent new ways to harness the power of the word of mouth.
  39. Explore how color defines your brand and shapes your newsletter.
  40. Find out how silhouetted graphics can shape your newsletter.
  41. Invent beautiful patterns and graphics through the use of shadows.
  42. Learn how metallic pins can make great promotional items or giveaways to honor anniversaries, celebrations, or facility openings.
  43. Discover how to use fruits and vegetable shapes to craft an unusual masthead or headline.
  44. Learn how to create healthy designs for healthcare marketing.
  45. Pioneer new ways to include graphical portraiture in your publication.
  46. Benefit from testimonials and how they can create great “buzz.”
  47. Discover how to make your newsletter soar to new heights by adding architectural elements.
  48. Find out how to add edgy border treatments that will make your articles jump off the page.
  49. Recognize the importance of type and how it impacts the look, feel and legibility of the publication.
  50. Discover ways to “tune-up” your marketing without ever getting your hands dirty.

These topics and more can be found on our blog.

Happy reading!  But remember to ask yourself the following question: “Why just be a reader when you could also be a leader?”

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If your company needs an innovative newsletter, e-publication, meeting presentation or  advice on communicating, please contact HWDS at hwdesign@west.netWe make beautiful things happen. To find out more please visit westdesign.com.

Harlan West is the author of successfulcorporatecommunications.com and has been working as a creative director and design professional for more than 25 years and has designed and art directed hundreds of publications for both print and online purposes.