design makes it easy
Design makes the complex easy to understand. As a graphic designer, it’s my job to help make you easily understood by your clients and customers.
A well-designed logo and branding that reflects your passion and purpose helps you to be easily recognised, it is your signature in the business world. It attracts and brings together the people who work for you, and who want to work with you.
Your branding applied to a well written and easily navigated website, and any of your other touch points – brochures, product guides, PowerPoint and Word documents will resonate with your passion and purpose – building your brand.
I have worked equally with start-ups, blue-chip companies, and academia. I have designed for biotech, hi-fi, law and oil companies. This is because most of my work comes from recommendation, and all my clients have required different things to be designed.
However, the process of design remains the same for any project – it is a problem to be solved and there is always information to be communicated – whether that is telling people what you do by the design of a logo, brochure, exhibition stand, or a website.
The areas of expertise that I have as a graphic designer are varied, here are my four key areas: logo design, website design, design for print and illustration.
first impressions count
We understand and process symbols and images much more quickly than words, so your logo has to work in an instant to be a visual representation of you, your business, product or service. Its purpose is of identification, communication and attraction.
is a logo a brand?
Well, it used to be interchangeable – logo/brand/logo, but now a brand has a much deeper meaning.
A logo is the visual identifier of a brand. Your brand is the vocalisation (I also like to think of it as kind of an avatar) of your purpose – the heart and soul of your business, the ‘why’ you are in business – your zone of genius. That brand purpose shapes your logo, because you know where, and what you stand for in your world and your customers will resonate with that. Knowing your passion and purpose means that you can give a great brief to a graphic designer, who will work with you to visualise your brand, beginning with a logo.
The client/designer relationship is very important for a successful result, particularly for entrepreneurs and start-ups creating their first logo, you need to ‘get’ each other, because at this stage the designer is acting as your right brain, to articulate visually, your business in the world.
brand and branding
I like to think of a brand as the core essence or soul of a company, the branding is how it looks, communicates and is expressed.
Branding is made up of your logo, your ‘look and feel’ – colour palette, fonts, image style, tone of voice. Your branding is then strategised via your communication routes – print, ads, digital, use of social media etc.
Of course you can also apply branding to a product or service, that is part of your brand, and that can have its own identifier (logo), strapline and ‘look and feel’ – colour palette and image style.
There are now two distinct sides to website design, the user interface – or UI the way it looks, and user experience – or UX, the way you interact with it. UX defines the way a site is structured to make user journeys as smooth as possible (purchasing, finding information, getting in touch etc), and the way a button or a form, for instance reacts on being activated. A combination of the two is sometimes called interaction design – which is essentially a bit of both.
If we are being specific, and following these definitions, I guess you would call me an Interaction Designer, as I am both a UI and UX designer. Over the years I have designed many sites, and I also build WordPress sites myself (like this one), or specialist sites with a web developer.
Even though sites are now often born of WordPress or similar platforms, where pretty much anything can look good with very little effort, it’s really important to consider the site structure – the user journeys, before you dive in. Your site is here for them after all.
The way I work, is pretty much the same iterative approach I have to all areas of design.
- Define the goal – what is aim of the site (to inform, to sell etc.)
- Defining the audience(s) – customers, clients, investors …
- Define the structure/functionality – what content needs to go in, and will there be any special requirements (shopping carts etc)
- Define the navigation – working out what goes where, how your different audiences get from A to their B
- Design the look and feel of the site (my favourite bit!)
- Build! – depending on your need this can be a WordPress site (using a theme like this one that I built) or a bespoke build using the additional skills of a developer
When comes the creative stage I usually design visuals of two or three home page variants. This will show the look and feel, or UI and how the UX will roll-out. These are usually ‘flat’, or static, although it is also an option to use InVision to create prototypes. It is possible to jump straight into WordPress, but that it can eat up time and you can be looking to the finish-line too early!
A good site structure combined with an effective visual design enables users to construct a mental map of the site, this information design, or user interface (UI) design of your site guided by user experience (UX) makes a visit to your site an enjoyable one.
Think of your audience – are they in a hurry – if they are buying something they probably are, if they are coming for information, they will allow you more time for your site to load if they think it’s worth it.
I cut my teeth on print design. I am a professional graphic designer and have professional indemnity insurance because print is a whole different animal to website design and build. Thankfully I’ve never had to make a claim, but if I ever had to, I’d be glad that I have it, because a big print run on a great brochure can add up to a chunk of change!
A website can be continually fiddled with, colours tweaked, images changed, text added, deleted, changed. When a ‘job’ (ie brochure, book etc) is printed and it goes to press, you have a full stop – after which there are no more changes, so the artwork has to be spot on, spelling and grammar checked, legalities OK’d, images at the correct resolution and colour breakdown (usually CMYK or Pantone – definitely NOT RGB), fonts not too small that they become illegible, nor made up of too many ink colours (CMYK breaks colours down into a mix of 4 ink colours that are printed as small dots).
printing: digital vs offset litho
There are basically two main routes to printing, Digital (industrial versions of your inkjet printer) and Offset Litho (referring the 4+ Lithographic colour plates that carried each separate ink colour to make up the colours, or specialist Pantone ink colours).
It used to be the case that Digital printing was only cost effective for short runs and you couldn’t add a fifth colour, or a varnish and were limited to certain paper stocks. That’s not the case anymore. Digital printing is becoming the norm, particularly as it is great for personalised marketing, is ‘on-demand’, doesn’t require the making of plates, and has a much shorter turn-around. The danger with digital is that there is a tendency to skip steps, like only checking online PDF proofs, rather than physical printed proofs.
anatomy of a printed project
As with most things, you have to start with the end in mind and a budget – that end might be a target date for a conference or launch. You need to define the skills required, build the team: designer, writer, photographer, illustrator, editor, printer, identify the client-side owner (s) for approve and sign-off (main client, plus brand/legal). The project will follow a create> tweak > tweak > approve process.
- CONCEPT: work out the story, high level messaging, the look and feel – taking the current brand guidelines into consideration to create and present the visuals: tweak > tweak > approve
- WRITING: the writer will work with the client gathering content to complete the copy, weaving in brand values to the messaging and content: tweak > tweak > approve
- DESIGN: the designer will create the artwork to the approved visual style, including tasks such as: art directing photography and illustrations; retouch, customise and resize images; create graphs, source stock images. The creative team of designer and writer (sometimes the writer is the client) work together to make any adjustments to the copy and layout to finesse the design. The final artwork is then checked by the team – designer, writer, editor, client/legal: tweak > tweak > approve
- PROOFING: create press-ready PDFs for the printer, who will provide a printed proof for final checking by the designer, writer, editor and client: tweak > tweak > approve > print!
Photo retouching is a skill I’ve developed over the years as quite often, products aren’t quite ready, or the graphics change on a label, or, as in this case for Baker Hughes, for promotional literature, hard hats needed to be shown as white and badged.