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.

 

Avoid Milk Toast Marketing for the Masses

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

Why be boring when you can be exciting?  Effective design should be a means to creatively stand out from the crowd.

Do you often wonder why everyone has to drive basically the same mass-produced car and wear the same mass-produced clothes?  Cars, for instance, have become so blazae, with everyone driving basically the same milk-toast 4-door sedan. Even luxury vehicle manufacturers copy each other and offer little variation from the competition.  Milk Bottle,Glass, Egg and Bread on white BackgroundIt’s too bad that we don’t have more stylish models like the big finned cars of the 1950s or the sleek muscle cars of the 1960s.  Let’s face it, there are fewer and fewer choices today. Indeed, it seems that nearly every time I discover a unique product it is not there when I return to the store. Unusual and slow-moving products end up in the marketing graveyard. In short, there is little room for anomalies and variety. Continue reading

The Benefits of Press-Checking a Printed Publication

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

Today, press checks are often overlooked due to the better software and printing equipment which pretty much make the process “What You See Is What You Get” (WYSIWYG). There are fewer surprises on press than 20 years ago and proofs are much better. Yet, any surprise, unless it has an uncharacteristically positive impact, is usually something to avoid. I especially recommend press checking those jobs that are not the Fotolia_14739158_XS“run-of-the-mill” type of print project. Annual reports, press kits, automobile brochures, magazines, corporate reports and sales kits should be press-checked.  Generally the more expensive and the more complicated the job, the more important it is to do a press check.

Why it is important to attend a press check:
1) A press check provides for quality assurance. It’s the designer and the project manager’s last chance to check for color density, trapping and registration issues, as well as color consistency. During the press check, it is also a good opportunity to check crossovers, the application of tinted varnishes and the legibility of type against colored backgrounds.  Sometimes just a small shift on press can make a world of difference in terms of legibility of the type or how “plugged-up” a photo may appear.

2) A press check allows one to verify proper PMS color matching, bleeds, smooth gradients, and to check for paper “see-through.”  PMS matching is critical especially where a specific corporate color is required.  This is essential for corporate branding. Don’t be afraid to have the pressman make several “moves” on press to ensure that the color is “spot-on.” It is also the time to check the bleeds. While standing at the press, ask the printer to trim down a sample of a press sheet.  Make sure that the inks are fully saturated to the end of the sheet.  Make sure that gradients are not banding.  Finally, you will want to check for see through of image from one side of the sheet to the other.  Obviously it is too late to change the paper stock once the job is on press.  But you could have the pressman hold back or run lighter on the ink to help minimize this issue. Continue reading

A Well-Designed Interview About Design—Part II

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

This is part two of an interview with a California State University at Fullerton graduate student. The second part dealt with my personal perception on logos.

microphone against purple disco background1.  What is the most important aspect of a logo?
HW:
The most important characteristic of a logo is memorability.  You want people to go away with a positive lasting impression. It’s all about retention.

2. Are there any considerations taken when creating a logo? (Who is the client, what is it used for, why is there a need for a logo, when is the logo created)

HW: Yes, there are many considerations.  Here’s some questions to ask:

  • What is the company’s mission?
  • What is the company’s primary product or service?
  • How long has the company been in business?
  • What is the company’s reputation and image?
  • Has the company won any awards?
  • Who is the competition and how do they market themselves?
  • What differentiates the company from its competitors? What does it offer that is different?
  • Does the company have a strategic marketing plan?
  • Have there been recent  changes/developments in the industry that will impact the company’s strategic marketing plan?

HW: Avoid logos that are cluttered or which try to say too much.  A logo symbol and type treatment need to be a cohesive unit that work well together.  A simple clean memorable symbol is best. Take a look at the CBS camera lens logo, Time Warner Cables’s eye logo, Apple’s apple symbol , the NBC peacock, the Facebook “F” and the Tesla “T.”  Elegance and simplicity if design says it all.  Less is more. Keep in mind that a logo just needs to communicate strength.  Resilience and quality. Avoid elements which get in the way of this simple concept.

3.  What do you think would be a reason for a company to change its logo design?

HW: In other words, I’d like to rephrase this question.  I recommend a corporate rebranding when:

  • A logo is dated and looks stale.
  • The logo colors are no longer contemporary.
  • The marketplace has changed and the industry has evolved.
  • A large competitor has eaten away at sales.
  • The company has taken on a new product line or service that is outside its current industry.
  • The company’s reputation or corporate image have changed.
  • New design standards are warranted. This may be a great opportunity for an update and refresh.

HW: But keep in mind that it may best to just “update” a design rather than to completely create a new logo. Years of building awareness and advertising could fall away quickly if a logo were completely “shucked.”  Customers need something that they can hang on to and they can continue to connect with. Often a new typestyle and simple “modernization” of an existing symbol is the best approach.

4.  What is your personal perception about the importance of logos in brand identity?

HW: A logo defines the company. It is a simple yet powerful means of creating a corporate image and identity.  A poorly designed logo can make a company look inexperienced and unsuccessful. A well-designed logo can make a company look strong and prosperous. The logo is the most important element in brand identity.  When it is paired with strict corporate colors, fonts, photo treatments and publication templates, it can result in a very effective branding for the company.  In other words, the logo is the defining element in the corporate branding,

5.  Do design trends (past or present) influence the design of company logos?

HW: Yes, but do not place too much stock in trends. The logo or rebranding needs to be contemporary and up with the times. Stay away from trends that quickly make a logo look dated.  A logo must withstand the test of time.

HW: I recommend designing a logo with a shelf life of at least 10 years.  A resilient logo helps to build brand retention, awareness and customer loyalty. You need to “marry your logo for a substantial period of time. In short a logo  in order to be effective must be  able to withstand the test of time.

HW: Here’s some of the many logos that we have created for our clients during the past 23 years.

HWDSlogsheetforwebpromotion

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If your company needs an elegantly designed publication, logo or e-publication, 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.