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

A New Year Design Manifesto

springtime landscape

Here’s a list of resolutions to help you start out designing a successful New Year:

I WILL print less, digitize more…In this age of green, we can only move to greater use of online e-publications that have little impact on the environment. That does not mean that we should abandon print completely, but rather we should use it were we can have the greatest impact. Such effective uses include annual reports, car catalogs or product brochures and some direct mail pieces.
I WILL produce sustainable events that employ digital invitations, reusable directional signage, recyclable tableware, hand-printed nametags. Attendees might also be encouraged to use ridesharing or alternative fuel vehicles to reach the event.  Include commute options with the invitation.
I WILL design for cell phones, tablets and desktops with responsive design that adjusts to the device.
I WILL not print 2-color materials. Four-color printing gives so much more bang for the buck especially with the widespread use of digital printing.
I WILL design with clean, uncluttered and simple layouts with lots of white space.
I WILL use infographics to display data and I will skip the boring charts, graphs and tables. No one reads them.
I WILL refuse to use clipart.
I WILL refrain from using stock photos that have not been customized or altered. This consists of modifying photos so that they are unique to your publication or website.  This prevents them from reappearing in another publication and avoid the use of a stale prefabricated, canned image.
I WILL try to use PowerPoint less frequently for my presentations. In my opinion, it is dated and trite. I will try other programs such as Adobe Keynote or programs such as Adobe Muse to provide interactivity. Simple talking points with a few visuals are often enough. Why put the audience to sleep? If I do use PowerPoint, I will limit my presentations to five words per slide, and I will not repeat what is already visible on the screen. Try something new and original.
I WILL design websites that are informational and functional, rather than complex works of art. The days of websites driven by special effects and animated graphics are long gone.
I WILL create communications that show diversity and inclusivity in the use of photos.
I WILL strive to create publications that have a localized feel to better tie products and services to the community
I WILL strive develop publications which promote giving back to the community or that have a charitable component.
I WILL print on recycled papers using vegetable-based inks.
I WILL, I CAN AND I PROMISE to create better and more enriching communications.

Make 2016 the best it can be. Art makes life livable.

Deadlines to Keep Clients on Track

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

 

Staying on deadline

More often than not, clients hand a design or marketing firm a super tight deadline for completion of a project. Yet, this is just the nature of the business where everything is due yesterday. You are lateAs creatives, we have grown used to these types of demands. But what happens when the client cannot meet their own deadline???

Too often, as an art director and project manager, I am waiting on the client to provide emails or respond to a request for approval. They are the ones holding up the show.

 

Here’s 9 tips for the design or marketing consultant to follow:

1) Set up milestones at the beginning of the project. Get the client to buy off on these.

2) Be Flexible when you can.  Work with the client to revamp the schedule, if needed, but let them know that the final delivery may also slip (through no fault of your own). Don’t be inflexible, unless there is an event or a hard delivery deadline.

3)  Ask the printer if they may have an extra cushion of time that would allow you to send the files a bit later.

4)  Send friendly, but non-nagging reminders, with deadline dates for a response.  Let the client know that you are helping them to save money for rush charges at the printer. Always add a due date to any correspondence regarding edits or approvals.

5) Provide reminder messages. Kindly let the client know if you don’t get the information by_______(date) that their project may drop down behind other projects you are currently working on. Other clients should not to be impacted due to the lack of promptness of this slow-responding customer.

6) Keep an up-to-the date production calendar at your office.  This not only needs to be easy to maintain but also needs to be fluid. Dates will most likely change due to the shifting demands of clients.

7) Document all client missed deadlines and your requests for a response or action.

8) Stay in constant communication with the client.  Friendly reminder messages sent via email or by phone  are great ways to stay in touch but don’t be a constant nag. Space out messages to every few days.  Do not overstep your bounds.

9) Adopt a sense of humor.  It will get you through the project.  My humorous motto is, “I’m Harlan West, the Best Pest in the West!”  One needs to be a bit of a pest in this industry if they are to be successful.  Indeed, the client can often be their own worst enemy.

Remember, missing a deadline can be deadly to an advertising or marketing firm.  That’s probably why we call them “drop dead” dates.

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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 more than 25 years and has designed and art directed hundred of publications for both print and online purposes.

 

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.

75 banner

 

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.

 

Make Your Marketing Grow Green

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

The Power of Green: Green Can Grow Your Marketing Campaign

It’s time to look at color as an important factor in corporate communications. Since it’s still spring, let’s use the color green to spice up our marketing campaigns.

Green squares2Designing with green

Some words that come to mind when using a bright green color include: freshness, spring, life, St. Patrick’s Day, gardens, plants, thrive, growth, rebirth, health, lime, vegetables, recycling, sustainability, “go”, moving ahead, and environmentally friendly.

Here’s some ideas: Continue reading