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September 22, 2016 - 1 comment.

How to get your first job as a graphic designer

12 tips on how to make a positive first impression.

After a series of frustrating post-graduation job requests, I thought I'd pass on a little insight to any young (or old) designers looking to make contact with a design studio.

> Who to approach

1.
Don’t scattergun your CV to the every studio in a 30 mile radius.
Do pick a small handful of studios to approach that:
A. Excite you.
B. You think you could add value to.
C. Are on your level. If you're a 5, don't try to chat up the 9 at the bar.
If you're plucky, go for a drunk 7.

Del_Boy

2.
Don't Email the first 5 companies you find through Google. We get dozens a month and 90% of them are rubbish.
Do research each studio thoroughly before even thinking about applying. Look through all their projects, check out their blog, stalk them socially.
The more you know the more you’ll impress.

> Making contact 

3.
Don’t start your email Dear Sir / Madam. Firstly, I'm no Sir (no, I'm not a Madam either) I'm just a guy, and my name is Dave. You're not applying for a job at HSBC and in my eyes, unless you wear a top hat, you're not a Sir.
Do ring up first & find out who's best to send an application to. Ask if there's any jobs / placements going. Tell us briefly who you are & why you're interested in our studio. Remember, we may be busy, but we’re not rockstars, we’re just normal people, so pick up the phone!

Stranger Things Lights

4.
Don’t copy & paste the same email to us and another 20 studios (hint: it’s really obvious).

Email Fail
Do put the effort into making it personal, state why you think your style work be a good addition to our studio & note which projects in particular appeal to you.

5.
Don’t jump straight in asking if there’s any jobs going.
Do see your first point of contact as simply an introduction. All you need to do is make a good first impression. Get on the studio's radar, chuck them a compliment or two and let them know you’re interested. Hitch reference – you only ever go 90%.

> What to send 

6.
Don’t send a CV & PDF portfolio and hope that’ll be enough to impress. Again, we get dozens a month. What’s going to make you stand out? We’ve had knitted pigeons, burgers, beer bottles, pig masks, record sleeves and Japanese squeezy toys.
Do see this as your biggest brief yet. You've got to research the studio, think of a great concept & execute it perfectly.

design_jobs_pigeon

7.
Don’t send the same portfolio to everyone.
Do tailor it to suit the studio you're approaching. If they're a small studio, they're going to want to see a wide mix of skills, usually along similar lines (stylistically) to their own portfolio. I can't talk on behalf of big agencies, but I imagine they’d be more open to specific strengths (i.e grid boss, strong illustrator etc).

8. 
Don’t send a portfolio that is purely Uni projects.
Do include self-initiated projects / made up briefs / projects for family and friends. These are usually the most interesting part of a portfolio as they show your design skills and your personality.

9. 
Don’t send anything that isn’t 100% perfect.
Do triple check spellings, grammar, website links, etc. Trust me designers are pernickety fuckers. And whilst we’re on the subject, if you don’t have a website you’d better have a good reason why.

> Selling yourself 

10.
Don’t
 tell them you spent 3 months working at River Island and you like 'socialising with friends'.
Do tell them what music you like, what quirky hobbies you have, what designers inspire you.

BAR CHARTS ARE SHIT

11.
Don't do those bar charts that say you're 94% good at Illustrator. They are shit.
Do show them what you're good at through your portfolio, not your CV.

> Keep in touch

12.
Don’t
be disheartened if they haven't got any openings right now.
Do keep in touch, email them every few months (unless they specifically tell you no). Follow them socially & stay on their radar. Sometimes it only takes one new client & suddenly the studio is the one chasing you.

October 30, 2015 - 2 comments

Small is the new big

Small is the new big
Am I right ladies?  OK...hear me out.
The world of marketing / advertising / branding is heading is one direction; think smaller.

Small Interactions
> A personal tweet from a big brand can turn a person into an advocate overnight.
Small Media
> A six second video can have the impact of a thousand 6 minute videos.
Small Experiences
> Think flash mobs, gratis Coke machines, choirs singing in airports, you’ve seen the stuff.

Small Time Mentality
There’s something incredibly exciting about being small. It means you can react quickly to change and explore avenues that bigger brands would have to jump through dozens of hoops, just to get close to. It also means that customers can connect with their retailers on a much more personal level.
I know the name of the guy in the corner shop I visit once a month, but nobody in the Morrisons I visit every week. As consumers we like to give our money to the little man, the local who’s putting his daughter through Uni, we love to see an underdog succeed.
And when companies like Starbucks are dodging taxes like Neo dodges bullets, it’s not hard to wonder why. I read in Design Week last week that they were trialling their first non-Starbucks branded store. They’re calling it ’The Reserve’. They use terms like ‘undesigning’ the interior by using raw metals and electrical conduit on show. Sound familiar? Yep, we see it in independents across the country. They’ve seen the rise of the quirky little cafes & they want a piece of the pie.

Small Coffee Shops
Let’s stick with coffee shops for a minute as an example. Why does our Fera walk an extra 10 minutes, past 5 national coffee shops, to get to Tamper in Sheffield centre?
Why does she meet with her friends at The Depot in Kelham Island and not Caffe Nero?
Is the coffee any better? Probably not.
Is it any cheaper? Nope.
Fera craves a smaller experience that the big boys just can’t give her. She wants to feel part of an intimate club. The cool coffee shop club.

But just because you’re big, doesn’t mean you can’t profit from a little small-time mentality. 

> BrewDog rather than Carling
Look at these chaps, the owners I guess. They look scruffy & ‘hands-on’. They look like people I might know, not crazy-rich business owners. I like that.

BREW_DOG

> Urban Outfitters, not Next
Here’s a global company, who position themselves like independents. A little rough around the edges. They make their audience feel like they’re discovering a great piece in a little vintage shop, but they aren’t, they turned over $3.1 billion last year. Clever.

Urban_Outfitters

These are big brands that are proactively playing on company small traits. Not trying to appeal to everyone. Pushing their founders to the forefront. Reacting quickly to how consumers change. Making you want to be part of the gang. Look at Google, in the worlds top 3 brands, they’ve still got an incredible ‘start-up’ mentality, which is why they’re still creating amazing products, and have grown to be almost competitor-less.

My advice?
If you’re an established business, don’t forget the excitement of when you started, the unknown, the exploration, the hard times, they all keep you fresh. If you’re a young business, don’t slip into thinking you’ve got to look ‘big time’ to get the big work. Times are changing. Look at us, we’ve just done work for Sainsbury’s latest campaign. Crazy.

Coffee

**Edit** 

Having shown Fera this blog, she argued that actually, she wasn’t a ‘cool coffee snob’, but the experience of being in a more individual place, with people who appreciate your custom and ask you how your day’s been, is a much more rewarding brand experience.

She also argued that the coffee DOES taste better from Tamper compared to Costa. Which got me thinking. Is the coffee better when it’s taken out of context, in a blind taste test? Or, does the brand that Tamper has built actually outweigh the taste of the coffee?

So we put it to the test. 2 Lattes – 1 from Costa, 1 from Tamper. Would Fera’s palette still think the same without all the ‘branding'?

Coffee_Cups

Outcome:
I went out to buy these two coffees, and was overwhelmed by the difference in experience I had. First I went to Tamper, I was greeted by a smiling tattooed chap, who talked to me whilst I was waiting for my coffee. Really nice chap. I wandered around and took in the atmosphere, read some of the quirky little bits on the walls, paid my £2.50 & off I popped. Now bar the similar price point, the Costa experience could not have been more different. I was shocked, it was like they wanted to prove my point. The server was rude, her responses were cold and sharp and 3 kids ran about my feet like I was in a Wacky Warehouse. I left the overly maroon building slightly disappointed – I wanted this to be a fairer fight. I wanted Costa to challenge all the points that I’d made in the blog above. But they didn’t, they just rolled over and served me an angry coffee.

If you ever get chance to do a like-for-like brand test I’d recommend it, It certainly opened my eyes.

Public apology:
We decanted the drinks into plain mugs & Fera set to work sniffing and sipping the coffees. Annoyingly she nailed it straight away. The Tamper coffee was significantly better than the warm milk sold by Costa. Damn, she was right.

October 27, 2014 - No Comments!

Hiring your first designer

How'd the interview process go?

Dave: Not great! The outcome (hiring Luke) was, but I was massively disappointed by the effort put into many of the other applications. We had around 30 people apply via our slightly unconventional hiring process, and bar maybe two others, the response just wasn't up to scratch. The lack of creativity when applying for a creative role astounds me!

Oliver: From the off, we knew we didn’t want to do a usual application process. A CV wasn’t the be all and end all, neither was a generic email. We wanted people to really put some effort in, like we do day in day out. If they would care enough to go the extra mile to get a job, that was a good indication they’d do the same for our clients. The Side vs Side project was something we loved doing, and it made perfect sense for this to form the base of our application process. Still surprising that people tried to apply with just a CV and generic email!

Graft-Daft

 

What were your biggest worries about hiring?

Dave: I was worried about a dip in quality. Or the amount of hand-holding that may be required. We try to keep the standard of work really high, so my worry was that with the current workload bearing down on us, we may not have the time to train Luke to a sufficient standard. There's also the issue of now having someone dependant on us, which is scary, but it's pushing us to produce bigger, better work.

Oliver: That we wouldn’t find someone right for us. It wasn’t just about being a good designer, it was the personality. Dave and I spend a lot of time together, both in and out of work. We work bloody hard, but we’re also quite daft, so finding someone with the right graft/daft balance was a major factor.

 

How have those worries panned out?

Dave: Thankfully the quality of work hasn't been an issue & we've put as much time as possible into showing him the ropes. It's made us really think about our role as employers, and I think this Richard Branson quote says everything:
"Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don't want to.”

Oliver: We clicked with Luke from the off. He seems to get us and what we want to achieve (and also enjoys burgers & beer). 1 month in and the he’s fitting in well. The atmosphere in the studio is good, and there’s plenty of exciting stuff going off.Fresh-outlook

 

What has Luke brought to the team?

Dave: Luke’s greatest input so far has been his enthusiasm to produce great work. Everything else will come in time. All good designers treat their profession as a way of life. He embraces it as a hobby, as well as a job, so I've no doubt he'll be a great designer & a big part of SxS.

Oliver: A fresh outlook. One thing that was apparent when we interviewed Luke was that he had good, interesting ideas, not only from his Uni work but also commercially. Ideas for us are key - if you can use InDesign better than most then great, but if your ideas aren’t very good it’s going to show. Luke’s offered a different view point to what we have, which has resulted in ideas we may never have thought of alone. Our usual process is all about collaboration, so adding Luke has made that more varied and interesting, both for client work and internally.

 

Employee No 4?

Dave: Let’s see how things go! I suppose the goal is to be around 5 people, all working together on some really great brands, but it's important to grow slowly. And finding great people is hard. For now my focus is on pushing Luke to be as good as he can be, then we can see what's next.

Oliver: Never say never. We’ve always said we don’t want a massive team — we’re designers and the bigger the team the less design we’d end up doing! One thing we are keen on is working with people who can do something we can’t. Number 4’s going to have to do a bloody good application!

 

How's the first month gone?

Luke: So the first month ey. When I first wanted to join I knew that I would enjoy the job, I mean who wouldn't!? Graphic designers are lucky in that way. What I didn't realise is how much I'd enjoy it. My first month has been a mad one: we have made hundreds of paper sculptures, spray painted everything moving, ate pizza, KFC and lots of burgers. Drank lots of coffee, tea and plenty of beer. We have shot and edited a video, we have branded things, rearranged the office I think 3 times now and spent hours learning how to be better designers. It's been great.

On a serious note, I'm learning every day and most importantly I'm being challenged. That was a key thing for me – to be challenged rather than doing the fast easy option, and I'm working my mind harder than ever. The thing I find that we do a lot is we think. That's great for clients because we really make sure there is reason behind everything, rather than it just looking good. It's time consuming and challenging but well worth it.

It's been great so far and I can't wait to see what my next month holds, some good shit is happening internally and some projects I have worked are soon to be unleashed into the world.

December 30, 2013 - 4 comments

7 Design trends for 2014

Design, branding & advertising trends for 2014. Things to be aware of and things to avoid in this coming year. Happy New Year & best of luck.

01. Real Life

We'll see the rise of 'real' design in 2014. Less airbrushed models, more warts-n-all closeups.

Real_people(images courtesy of www.istockphoto.com)

The same goes for food & product photography. Instagram style snaps will be preferred to the overly-staged shots we are used to.

This allows the consumer to put themselves in the shoes of your brand, in real-life scenarios.

Common_room(food courtesy of the Common Room, Sheffield)

 

02. Experiences over Advertising

One of the biggest rises in '13 was brands staging surprise events to engage with their customers.

This engagement lead to viral videos, sharable content and a general uplift in the personality of these brands.

2014 is sure to bring more of these stunts, & I'll be interested to see how small businesses encompass this technique to build their brand.

 

03. Logo Soul

Recently we've seen quite a few major Rebrands, Ebay, springs to mind as a perfect example:

EBAY_Before_after

Many of theses companies decided to ultra-simplify their logos, so much so that they lost all originality & character.

I'm hoping that 2014 will see the end of this and a switch back to logos with soul.

ITV rebranded in early '13 and were famously criticised for going over the top with their logo, so balance is key.

 

04. Going Mobile

2014 will see mobile use as a browsing platform to take over desktop browsing. Make sure you are ready with a mobile & tablet optimised website.

Mobile_Site

 

05. Unappealing Design

It's something we touched on quite a lot in 2013 – make your product or service unappealing.

Obviously not to everyone, that would be silly, but it's important that you don't try to be all things to all people.

With a vast plethora of competitors, you need to stand for something, have a style, a USP, a personality, a key reason to use you.

Having a strong style will put a few noses out of joint, but that's good! I guarantee that your true customers will like you more for it.

 

06. Mini Stories

Vine, Instagram videos, GIFs – six seconds to tell the world your story. Any longer than this and your sprightly audience will move on.

The trick with these is to target your vids to one small element of your brand, don't try to say everything at once.

Do less, more often.

Last year Dunkin Donuts became the first company to use a Vine video as their TV advert, expect to see more in 2014.

07. Quality of Design

I think we are starting to see the light at the end of tunnel when it comes to cheap & quick design. '£25 logos' '£5 Business Cards' and '£99 Websites' are finally being seen for what they are: shit. After the last few years of 'buy cheap, buy twice' many customers are now in a better position to invest in marketing that really represents the quality of their company. And long may that continue!

Any more trends you're predicting? Stick 'em in the comments below.

October 24, 2013 - No Comments!

Open your mind, open your business

We meet a lot of people looking to start a business or add energy into their existing company. Often we get asked questions like:

"How can we get more customers?"
"Our customers are going elsewhere, how can we get them back"
Ultimately: "How can my business earn more money?"

Sometimes the answers seem simple. For example every £1 spent on good design returns over £20 in increased revenue. Sorted, design is great. Well, not quite. You see, £1 spent with design agency A, may not gain the same rewards as working with design agency B.

'Design' in today's world is a very fluid word. It's meaning keeps changing, faster than ever before. As a designer, it takes a lot of dedication to keep up. As a business owner, it's easy to fall behind. As a consumer, we've never before been inundated with so much advertising. They litter our newspapers, their products are placed in our beloved soaps and our social network feeds are awash with their 'undercover' peddling. Big Brother is selling. Everywhere. All the time.

Which means I'm now aware of probably 300% more businesses than I was 3 years ago. And what are these businesses doing to stand out to me? Unfortunately, not very much – they are probably using design agency A, rather than B. Yes they are there (which granted, is 50% of the battle) but are they different enough to draw me away from my current supplier? Why isn't their service different to their competitor's?

This is the key point. Businesses aren't thinking hard enough about what they are offering. And a lot of design agencies aren't prompting that thought process.

So here's our big fat prompt to you. Make a brew. Read the bullet points below. Go take over the world.

 

sidebyside_gymbox1

• Think harder about your service.

How could it be different? You don't always have to reinvent the wheel. Gym Box in London took the idea of fitness classes, but added in Lasers, Live DJS, Twerking and Ragga dance-offs.

They made a chore fun. Different: www.gymbox.com

• Do more research on your competition.

Not your immediate competition, your competition on a global scale. Look to the major capitals of the world to see what they are doing. If you don't think you're a trend setter, take inspiration from the trend setters, their ideas are just waiting to spark something in yourself.

Have a look at this website for companies that are set to do exciting things in 2014: www.coolbrands.uk.com

• Be nimble and take risks.

Be ready. Keep on the look-out for the next big thing, because if you arrive a week late to the party, you'll be seen as tagging-on, rather than an opportunist. When you find your special new thing, trial it, see how it goes down. Ask for lots of honest feedback, then listen to it. Once your new product is ready, launch it. Big time. You can't hold back, you need all of your competition (and customers) to know that YOU are running the show.

Just look at this company, it was built purely to make a big sign and dance about your company: www.thunderclap.it

• Be self critical.

Don't get comfortable. If your business hasn't changed much in the last few years you should probably have a think why? The world has changed massively. Shouldn't you business have adapted? Your ethos can remain until the day you die, but the way you communicate and the way you sell your products/services need to stay current.

Everything you do, every thought, every idea, every notion needs to be scrutinised. Steve Jobs didn't let anything out of his sight unless he was 100% happy. And he was a hard man to please. Unfortunately he's dead now… and we have iOS7.

– Remember, a shit rolled in glitter is still a glittery shit.

sidebyside_soda

Sodastream (ahhh memories) made a big comeback last year, and look to increase even further through 2014. This is down to it's new eco-credentials, Yves Béhar designed bottles and collaborations with MTV parties, Harrods and Wallpaper magazine.

• Don't Stop.

Design and Marketing are not optional extras. They won't slow down, and just as you think you're starting to get a firm footing, they'll be another shake up. Use everything and everyone at your disposal. When was the last time you sat down with your staff and asked them what they'd do if they were in your shoes? I guarantee they'll be some great ideas just bubbling under the surface.

Have you got competitors you look up to? Why? Why aren't you doing what they are, but better? My advice, act on this blog. Far too many blogs are read and never actioned. So sit down with a piece of paper and write down ten things your company could be doing better. Then, if you need the help, find the right design agency to help you get there.

The right agency is the one who has the ideas and desire to make you rich, because in turn that will make them rich.

That was always our idea anyway.

September 2, 2013 - No Comments!

Brand Tone of Voice

Tone of voice plays a massive part in effectively communicating your message to your customers. You can have the best design in the world, but if the way you communicate is wrong, it will flop. Too relaxed, too corporate, too immature, too boring – the tone of voice is a part often just chucked in at the end. The aim for anyone coming into contact with your brand is that they buy into it, they want to be associated with it. In many cases imagery alone isn't enough, so the tone of voice becomes even more important. And it's not just the header in advertising campaigns, the tone has to be consistent down to the small print.

Take something as common as juice, and 2 of the big boys Innocent and Tropicana. Both brands have good recognition, and are a regular consumer purchase. Visually both share some similarities, but vocally are very different. Innocent has a much more playful edge, whilst Tropicana is more reserved and slightly more stat based. Looking at their website both remain consistent throughout. One example is the menu – Tropicana call their juices 'products' whilst Innocent use 'things we make'. You can see right there which is the more playful. This remains consistent throughout for each. Take their description of apple juice for another example...

"We're extremely proud of our apple juice. Eight of the finest apples we could find, pressed into one of our fine upstanding carafes. Sweet, crisp, refreshing - just a few of the adjectives we could use. Appley as well. That's one we might use next time."

sidebyside_innocent

"Tropicana® 100% freshly pressed Apple Juice with added Vitamin C is more than you would expect. The unfiltered cider-like quality makes this juice taste like you’re biting into a fresh, juicy apple.

Every 250 mL glass of our delicious Tropicana® Juices and Juice Blends gives you a full day’s supply of the antioxidant Vitamin C to help maintain good health.

Plus, all of our 100% Juice and Juice Blends offer 2 full Food Guide servings of fruit in every 250mL glass."

sidebyside_tropicanna

 

Innocents approach is conversational, even daft. Tropicana is descriptive and focuses on the health benefits. Both do their job, but which do you want to buy into? That is very much personal preference as everyone is different. Everyone may drink juice or eat bread or use a bank, but we're all different. And that's a point to note about tone of voice. You aren't going to appeal to everyone, but it's making sure you appeal to those you're targeting. Some may find Innocent's approach too playful and lacking in seriousness, preferring the informative, corporate style of Tropicana. Others though would disagree. Either way, they both effectively communicate their brand through voice. Job done.

I'm a fan of a brand showing personality. Generally I gravitate towards brands who use humour, and from the above example find Innocents approach far more appealing. Old Spice are a brand who use humour religiously. Packaging, advertising, campaigns – the core is always based around raising a smile.

 

sidebyside_oldspice1
sidebyside_oldspice2

Tone of voice is incredibly important to get the connection with the consumer, a key element in one specific sector – pay day loans. Thought by many as legal loan sharks, whilst their morale reputation may take a hit, their bank accounts don't, as more and more people use companies like Wonga and QuickQuid to borrow. The new kid on the block is Sunny. Visually different – bright yellow/orange colour scheme and a warm friendly appearance. Vocally it's quite comforting and conversational – no big headers advertising APR percentages, but friendly copy highlighting that they are there to help. Whilst Sunny want you to buy into their brand, it's less so about a brand for life and repeat business, and more about the one off use. They want you to think they are a friendly loan company who really are there to help, when in actual fact are no different to any of the others with their 1,971% APR. Their tone of voice is purposely friendly and approachable to coax you in.

sidebyside_sunny

Remember the Date and Barber Barber are 2 projects who's tone of voice we a currently creating. RTD is of the innocent mould, playful, fun and in many cases cheeky, whilst Barber Barber is a combination of sophistication and humour. This tone will work with the logo, the identity, the advertising and marketing to create the overall brand. Tone of voice is just one small part of the brand, but is a bigger part than most think.

sidebyside_rtdgary
sidebyside_rtdjack

Agree? Disagree? Is there someone doing it brilliantly or terribly? Let us know below.

May 27, 2013 - No Comments!

The Brilliance of Simplicity in Design

Sometimes the simplest ideas are the best. Actually that should be most of the time. Look at Twitter - 140 characters, no bullshit, straight to the point. There's no over complicating things with poking and liking, or having to write a bio on your past career, just a ridiculously simple idea. The same can be said for simplicity in design.

A few weeks ago I watched a documentary on the history of the London Underground. I don't know why, but the idea of the underground has always interested me. I'm no railway anorak, I don't sit in a field and wait for the 11.46 from Doncaster to go past, but I do appreciate the idea of building an underground transport system in the busiest city in the UK. The main part that has always interested me though is the iconic map.

Everyone recognises the tube map. I knew some brief history on the map, when and who produced it, but what I didn't realise was how it took over Harry Beck's (the creator) life, and how it became adopted as the norm for geographic diagrams.

Quick history lesson - Beck created the map in 1931. He was employed by the Underground as an Engineering Draftsman, and drew the radical new diagram in his sparetime. The map currently in use was a complicated, geographically accurate version where the central areas were so crowded that certain routes were omitted. Beck's concept was the geographical accurate locations were irrelevant, passengers simply wanted to get one from one station to the other. His drawing was similar to a circuit diagram, which due to his position as an Engineering Draftsman he was familiar with. Beck sent it to the Underground, they trialled a few hundred pamphlets to gauge reaction and it was an overnight success. in 1960 Beck fell out with the Underground, and they started using other designers for the maps. Fast forward to today and the current map in use is pretty much an evolution of the original Beck map.

graphicdesignsheffield_harrybeck

graphicdesignsheffield_tubemap

 

So what's so special about Beck's map? Creating a simple solution to a complex problem. What was the function? To direct people through a complicated series of underground tunnels. How did he do this? Make it as simple and as obvious as possible. What a guy.

As proved above, this approach is nothing new. Another perfect example is Otl Aicher's treatment of the 1972 Munich Olympics. Part of his work was to create a series of pictograms to visually represent each sport. The Olympics is the coming together of almost every language, so the icons had to be recognisable world wide. Aicher used a grid system and series of bright colours to create the icons. Aicher's work was directly influential on the day to day pictogram signs we see in Hotels, Stations and Airports.

 

graphicdesignsheffield_1972munich

graphicdesignsheffield_wayfinding1

 

I'm very much an advocate of addressing a design problem in the simplest way. By doing so the core message remains pure and direct. Why over complicate things and risk that message becoming miscommunicated? Use this way of thinking to break down design. A business has a problem, design is used to solve that problem, most commonly in a visual way. It's not rocket science, but the mistake some people make is to incorrectly assume that because a design solution appears simple it's quick. Take logo design. The quickest ideas are hurriedly rushed concepts which are then covered in 'designery extras' - shadows, embossing, lense flares and overused stock images. All this does is mask a weak idea - no one likes a weak idea.

 

graphicdesignsheffield_poordesign

 

The ingenious, gob smackingly simple ideas are the ones that take time. These are the ideas that make you think 'well why didn't I think of that!?' There is nothing harder than stripping an idea back to nothing but it's core message, and it knocking the socks off everything else, but at the same time there's nothing more rewarding.

graphicdesignsheffield_gooddesign2

 

Beck and Aicher both proved this, the tube map and pictograms are a testament to their simple approach. Sometimes the simplest ideas are the best.

May 7, 2013 - 4 comments

Flat design trend to take over Skeuomorphism

So I heaved 3 sighs of relief over the last few weeks. Twitter went flat, Spotify went flat, then Facebook went flat. Thank god for that, long time coming. As with everything in life trends come and go. So here is the newest swing; no more gradients; no more drop shadows; no more bevelled edges. Replaced instead with clean lines, flat colours and a minimalist style - the flat design trend. The three companies below have started with their logos, but this new style looks soon to take over all web design and UI.

Examples_of_flat_design_logos

 

I (occasionally) like to read into other designers thoughts before telling others they're wrong, so here we go:
Arguments against flat design = AA
My opinion on these arguments = MO

AA: We have less tools at our disposal.
MO: Ok, those tools were never good tools. They were 'fake' tools that replaced hard work, thought process and originality.

AA: I started designing in this style, and my customers like it.
MO: Web design in the 2000's was a complete flop. But that's OK. We were learning, we were caught up in this big new exciting thing, and no-one really stepped back and thought 'could this be done differently?'. Now technology and style have started to overtake us. We need to stop thinking about web design as a trend, and think how best to make our customers the most money!

AA: It will look like we have put less effort in.
MO: Possibly yes. Unfortunately your client is usually uneducated in design related things, so you need to teach them. I have had clients question the length of time I have spent on a job, purely because it looked 'simple'. Talk to them, explain to them why it worked better being simple. Too many designers use these 'extras' to mask a poor idea. Remember, simplicity is an art, and takes alot longer than throwing on some Photoshop effects.

AA: Flat design is not memorable.
MO: Well that really comes down to the designer, if they are any good they will make it memorable. I have a collection of design posters on my walls, not one of them has a gradient.

AA: How will we grab the user's attention?
MO: Adding a glossy curve, and a drop shadow to your 'buy now' button will soon become a thing of the past. As with all trend changes the user will become smarter to the tricks we designers play on them. And as with advertising as a whole, people no longer want to be sold to, they want – to want – to buy. So if the product and the design is good enough they will hang around that extra half second to find your 'buy now' button. Who knows maybe they might even read some of the content before clicking on things!

AA: Where will the heirarchy come from?
MO: Adding a load of styling bumf on top of your menus and buttons was a form of hierarchy, however the same result can be achieved through colour, size, spacing and type. Through HTML5 and CSS3 we have never been as able to create beautiful, interesting websites. The technology will get better, therefore the design must too.

AA: Everything is going to end up looking the same.
MO: Probably - thats what a trend is, the majority of designers are lemmings. Sadly, until once again everything does start looking identical most designers wont actually think about what else they could be doing.

AA: Simple design is actually more time consuming than what I am used to.
MO: Correct. Stop being lazy. Put more effort in. Do something great.

 

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Final thoughts
Embrace the trend, play with it, don't follow it to the line, do be aware that it's happening. It can be a good thing! Try not to do it so much that it becomes a bad thing.

Flat design, bevelled design, skeuomorphism, leather effects, fake stitching, textured backgrounds, nearly flat design, none of these things matter. Clients are sheep, they will see what is selling, see what is popular and want it. Now Microsoft and Apple have gone flat they will want to follow suit. What matters is that you produce the best visual outcome for your client.

 

February 22, 2013 - No Comments!

How much does a logo cost?

How much does a logo cost?

Will you just knock me up a logo for free and I'll see if I like it? A phrase I've heard more than once. It makes me cry inside. So if it's not free, how much does a logo cost?

Unfortunately, some people have an inaccurate concept that designers will work for nothing. They see it as just a few clicks of a mouse and 'ta da!' – if only.

This isn't me having a moan. I get that people can sometimes struggle to see where the value lies in a logo, and why it costs money. It's not tangible, you can't sniff it for that real leather smell, and you can't give it a reassuring tap (the international test when buying something made of wood). This misconception of free design isn't helped by the plethora of 'unlimited logo revisions for £4.99' websites. Why would you pay hundreds/thousands for a logo when you can get as many revisions as you want for a fiver?!

First off, a logo is a logo. Not an identity. Not a brand.

A logo is an icon, a wordmark or a mixture of the two that symbolises your company. Logos don't necessarily explain what the company does - think of them like a persons name, it's used to identify a company by the customer.

An identity is how this logo is used and furthered to create a visual style for your company. Think stationery, packaging, signage and marketing. On each piece the identity should be strong for consistency, which breeds confidence in the customer. If your signage and marketing look like they belong to 2 different companies, you're going to confuse and lose the customer.

A brand is a your companies' personality, its message, its tone of voice and everything else in between – best summarised by the phrase 'It's what people say about your business when you aren't in the room'. The brand is largely not physical, but more based on emotions. The way in which you work, the language you use, the emotional connection between you and the customer all come together to create your brand.

I'll use our own logo as an example of the process we go about when creating a logo...

Research

Always the start. Research is arguably the most important part of the entire process. Fully understanding the company makes the direction obvious - its position in the market, its competitors, its people, its aims all need to be understood. Research not only helps us to narrow down the right direction the logo should take, it also saves time down the line – if we know what will and won't be acceptable from our research we don't have to waste time (that you are paying for) exploring unnecessary ideas.

Sketching

My favourite bit, who doesn't like doodling? Once we have a good idea on the background of the company, anything and everything is scribbled onto paper. A pencil and paper is the quickest way to get thoughts and ideas visualised, not a computer. There's no set amount of time until we hit on the right idea. Sometimes we instantly jot something down that's just darn brilliant. Other times inspiration can take a little longer.

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Development

We know when we've hit on solid ideas. It's usually followed by a smirk, a sigh of relief and a high five. Then the pub.

Next step is to turn those sketches into professional computerised logos. We like to keep things simple. If a logo doesn't work in black and white then it's not right. Even if in the back of our mind we have an inkling for the palette we'll use, we always begin in black and white. This gives great flexibility when using your new logo, it will always be used as originally intended. It would be pretty pants if it didn't.

 

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Finishing tweaks

There will always be tweaks and finishing touches. This isn't just about creating a logo for you, this is a small piece of us - we're only as good as our last job, so we make sure it looks damn good.

 

It's hard to answer the original question and put a definite price on it – everyone's requirements are different. Typically a cost of between £1000-£2000 should be budgeted for a well crafted, original logo. So, why pay 100x more than you have to? I suppose it comes down to how much you value your business? Sure you could go for the cheap option, but all of the important parts above will be missed. You'll be left with a rushed piece of type with a stock image (if you're lucky). Isn't that a bit sad and depressing? Think of it as digging the foundations for your new house. That cheap £4.99 jobby will inevitable come apart, the house will crumble, and you'll be right back at the beginning. We dig good foundations.

The process that we work to will take the best part of a few weeks to a month, but will result in something special that you will love. The journey starts with an email.

January 14, 2013 - No Comments!

What your customers want vs What you are actually giving them

Customers are more in control than ever before. It's time to start listening to what they want.

Client and Consumer expectations are at an all time high. They are more tuned in, switched on, and have access to more routes to market and touchpoints than ever before. And don't you believe that they aren't sassier than a girl named Latisha – if you don't provide the right experience they will find it elsewhere. Understanding what your customers want Vs what you are actually giving them is half the battle. Creativity and innovation are no longer a choice. Get good or get going.

 

Customers want high quality
vs You want to keep costs down.

As the saying goes, you have to spend money to make money. You do, I'm afraid the saying is still true. However if your budget won't stretch to a piece of high quality print, or all singing website, be clever in how you spend your money. Instead of going for a 24 page brochure on bible paper in black and white, go for a 8 page brochure with time, effort and love spent on it – it will work much better.

 

Appealing to ME
vs Capturing the biggest market.

Don't try to be all things to all people. Don't worry about toning down your personality or reigning in your style. All this will do is make you appear bland. Appeal to people of a similar nature, and sod everyone else. Lady GaGa has 9 Trillion Twitter followers – and she's nutty as squirrel shit. STAND. OUT.

 

Genuine engagement
vs Engaging to tick a box.

My girlfriend says I never listen, I just blankly nod and say things like 'mmhmm, interesting...' And I know she's right, I should pay more attention to what colour wardrobe we should have in our spare room. This is all your customer wants too, REAL interaction, with authentic responses. Get engaged sharpish. (Note to self: get engaged sharpish – it may stop her moaning!)

 

Going the extra mile
vs Just being their supplier.

I get it, you're a busy business, which is good. But don't take your customers for granted, they are probably a fickle bunch. One example of sealing that relationship could be sending out a personalised email upon purchase, thanking them for their sale, and as a thank you 'here is our favourite joke this week'. Or 'here is our favourite viral video this week'. Fun, quirky, and a whole lot more engaging than a simple receipt. Whatever your audience, they will like to smile – I promise.

 

An integrated, fluid brand
vs Bad brand management.

I was at a Football match a few weeks ago: Sheffield United vs Crewe. Whilst watching a unexpectedly good game of football I took notice of the branding around me. In a 5 minute spell I saw 8 different 'house-fonts' pop up on the Big Screen. 'Buy our away kit', 'Venue hire available' all in completely contradicting fonts, styles and colours. There was no strategy in type size, placement of text of even choices of font. One heading for the new SUFC away kit was set in the Iron Maiden logo font – surreal!

 

The World
vs Just your product.

Everyone loves a sweetener to a deal, or as Peter Kay said - some BSE (bito'somethin'extra). Firebox.com send me a mini packet of Haribo when I order a gadget from them – I love that, and it keeps me buying loads of unneeded crap from them. What can you do to sweeten the deal? Obviously profit margins will be encroached on, but what is 10p when they now have my loyalty for life?

 

The best possible experience
vs Falling at the first hurdle.

You can have the best branding and advertising in the world, put if your product is crap nobody will re-buy it. I go to Meadowhall, Sheffield when I need clothes. I walk into Zara, walk to the mens section, buy a load of clothes and leave. I go straight there because I know I will find something I like, at a reasonable price, and it's good quality. I also like that not many people seem to know Zara even do mens clothing, that makes it a bit special. What I am trying to say is that you don't have to be the loudest, or the brashest, or the biggest. You just have to be the best.

 

As you must be agile, forward thinking and brave, so must your design agency.

They are there to inspire, excite and ultimately put the framework together to make you lots of money. If your current agency isn't doing this, maybe its time to look elsewhere...

 

Side By Side Creative.