Have ‘Local’ Exhibition Stands Become Monotonous?

Have ‘Local’ Exhibition Stands Become Monotonous?

Business exhibitions have long been a great opportunity to showcase your brand and provide prospective new clients an insight into what you offer and how your services can potentially be of benefit to them.

 

The scope for exhibiting can range from purpose built venues of many thousands of square feet such as London Excel, Olympia and Birmingham’s NEC, right down to your local village hall. Whilst the larger venues are generally aimed at national and international scale businesses, the smaller alternatives give local businesses an opportunity to generate some exposure at a fraction of the price. It’s no surprise that the user experience you get from a top-end trade show is far superior. Afterall, stands are fully bespoke and often cost tens of thousands of pounds to design, hire and install. It can often feel more like you’re walking through an art gallery than a business showcase.

The added cost provides an unfair advantage but does budget restriction excuse the fact that the low-end, local alternatives lack originality and aesthetic appeal? For as long as I can remember, they have always followed the same monotonous format. Each exhibitor with a dirty old fold-down table, laden with merchandise gifts and a static roller banners positioned to one side. Now, I have no problem with roller banners per say, they certainly have their place in business marketing but when you take a step back and observe the whole room, you find that everyone is exhibiting in exactly the same way. Substitute the roller banners for a car and you’ve got yourself a car boot sale. Suddenly that banner that you’ve invested time and money into getting designed and printed has lost its impact amongst a sea of others, fighting for your attention. The regimented layout just causes each stand to blend into the next. There is no originality, and little attempt to make a statement with something different. They all just play it safe with a tried and tested albeit tired method. With all the roller banners standing side by side, it’s more reminiscent of an identity parade.

So what is the answer? Well, customer interaction has room for improvement. Besides, the tangible flyers and brochures that are regularly found on display and the friendly faced, employee poised with a hand shake to explain more and attempt to dig out a lead from you, the stands do not provide a great deal of inspiration. The forward movement of digital technology has improved this as exhibitors sporadically utilise tablets and laptops to display looping videos. But what else can be implemented to set you apart from everyone else in the room?

Firstly, display banners have come a long way since the printed format became a thing. It astounds me that LED displays have seemingly slipped under the radar since their introduction. Purchase is expectedly beyond the budget of a small business owner but rental is a whole different matter and are typically not a great deal more expensive than a couple of the printed alternative. Furthermore, the video content you invest in can be reused, edited or changed altogether to suit the market you are showcasing to. It’s no secret that video is the fastest growing and most effective method of marketing out there so why not go for something that is more likely to get people to stop and take a minute to really absorb themselves into what you offer?

Consider also the floorplan. Naturally, organisers, are looking for the greatest possible profit margin. So it is no surprise that they maximise their return by shoehorning in as many stands as they can. But you don’t often find the car bootsale layout at the top-end expos. How about positioning stands in blocks of four; quadrants that often prove popular for the mid-range pitch? Still conforming to a grid format, it would not require any more floor area than lining them side by side. What one has to consider is the journey visitors take from the moment they set foot in the exhibition hall to the point they leave.

I’ve come away from these smaller scale events many a time hearing exhibitors stating how quiet or slow it has been and deep down, they feel that after all their efforts to prepare and setup, they haven’t got the value for money they were hoping for. Sure, they can’t control the footfall but they are able to influence engagement. I am not expecting a sudden revolution to overhaul the small expo model but whether you are a future exhibitor or exhibition organiser, the next time you’re planning an event, maybe consider thinking outside of the box. You might surprise yourself with the results.

image credits:
marketingdonut.co.uk
caswellpark.co.uk
empireonline.co.uk
The Holy Matrimony of Font Pairing

The Holy Matrimony of Font Pairing

Whether you refer to them as typefaces (the correct term for a family of fonts) or fonts (the individual members of a typeface), everywhere you look, type is around us. Billboards, road signs, car registration plates, restaurant menus, newspapers…. it influences us significantly in our day to day lives. Ever since Johann Guttenberg invented movable type in the 15th century to give the world a cheaper way to obtain the written word, the variations available to us have exploded and today there are at least 60,000 professional font families obtainable for commercial use. Since the birth of the digital age and the internet, the emergence and growth of available free fonts is only increasing the possibilities of use.

So what is the benefit of having so much choice? Well as with colour in branding (see The Psychological Effects of Colour in Design) where colour usage can provoke different emotional responses, typefaces also express a mood and give words personality. They help to create a face for your brand, leading to consumer response and enabling better audience communication. Take a look at the examples below and think about the way each of them make you feel. You can instantly recognise that they are all specifically suited for a certain purpose.

Why Pair Fonts?

Think of a font like a person. Individually it is functional and communicative. But as a pair, just like in marriage, combined correctly they bring chemistry and compliment each other. Their individual personalities can be used to represent an emotion you want to provoke that you relate to your brand. So it is important to choose wisely; if your message isn’t aligned to your target audience, then they’re just no that into you.

The Primary Font Categories

Serif

A serif is a typeface with a small projection at the end of the letter strikes

Sans Serif

A sans serif is a typeface without any stroke embellishments or detail.

Slab Serif

A slab serif is a typeface that’s identified by its thick, clock-like serifs.

Script

A script typeface links together letter-to-letter, they are best saved for headings and display.

Handwritten

A handwritten typeface is one which resembles the freeform of handwriting.

What Makes a Good Font Pairing?

Finding font parings that set each other off, don’t fight each other for attention and harmonise without becoming dull is no small task but it’s what will help to ensure longevity of your brand. Two fonts that can grow old gracefully together, still standing strong whilst the brand they were build upon evolves and grows… is a match made in heaven. But with so many available to choose from, what should you be looking for in the search for the perfect marriage?

Many fonts have distinct personalities so you want to make sure the moods of your font choices match the purpose of your design. Ensure they share the same relationship. If the uniting appears random, it’s going to evoke a feeling of discord.

In the world of typefaces, contrast tends to be homogenous. As can be the case with our own personalities, blending the introverted with the extroverted can generate balance. So finding one with a big personality can actually create chemistry with another that is simple, understated and reserved. It is also important to define a hierarchy with your fonts as a fight over supremacy is only going to have negative consequences. Whilst you may only be looking at a two tier hierarchy, define your alpha font that is complimented by the second font instead of being in competition with it.

What to Avoid

Whilst using the same font in different emphasis, weights and sizes is a recommended approach, this is not the same as using two different fonts from the same style. For example, using Garamond Bold and Garamond Regular works well as they are complimentary to each other but using script fonts from completely different font families is going to break up the harmony. You also needs to carefully consider what it is you are branding to determine what typeface is appropriate. In order to make good font choices for your brand, you must have a clear idea of the message you want to deliver to its audience. For example, a slab serif may not be the best choice for an elegant jewellers and you may have better options than a script for a children’s entertainer. Fonts are not just about the copy you write but the culture, ideas and values that you are directing it at.

10 Examples of Good Font Pairings

A Summary of Things to Consider

• Establish a visual hierarchy

• Consider context

• Create contrast

• Steer clear of conflict

• Limit your number of fonts

• Avoid pairing fonts that are too similar

• Don’t be afraid to use one typeface across your entire brand

The Increasing Accessibility of Font Pairing

Websites such as https://fontjoy.com have helped to make it easier than ever before for us to play matchmaker with typefaces. Featuring pre-loaded libraries of fully editable text, they are paired up for their compatibility, which you could say is a little like Tinder for fonts! The formula devised to make this process automatous is quite simply fantastic. By identifying that good font combinations tend to be ones that share certain characteristics, but contrast in a specific way, they have been able to build a vast 3D font map. That may not get pulses racing quite as much as their human equivalent but will at the very least set you on your way to fusing a partnership of fonts that you are able to love and to cherish for many years to come.

Why Do Businesses Rebrand?

Why Do Businesses Rebrand?

At some point in our lives, it’s highly likely we’ve all experienced brands through engagement or observation that we take one look at and question their credibility. Its an all too common sight witnessing one slowly stagnating that has become a victim of neglect, suffering a spiralling decline; you don’t need to be a creative professional to know what makes for a brand you feel you can trust and connect with. If you’re blessed with an understanding for the importance of effective branding, alarm bells triggered by sub-standard business performance can often signify that the face of your business isn’t connecting with your target audience quite in the way it should. Rebrands typically occur when you’re struggling to create new business leads or you’ve noticed a dip in turnover and want to inject new life to provoke fresh interest. But when a business is established to the point it is one of the most successful and universally identifiable across the globe, why would it feel the need to refresh its image?

A company such as Google is a great example of a business that understood the importance of ‘growing up’. Back in 1998 when founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin were Ph.D students at Stanford University, they would’ve been conscious of their age, considering a rebellious approach to make a statement with, providing the most impact. Parallels can be drawn from the disruptive relationship a teenager can typically have with their parents at some stage during their transition of maturity. But in a different environment with their peers, sharing space with each other, there is a desire to be taken more seriously. The same applies to a brand; there comes a time where its playful nature no longer resonates with its target audience and it needs to mature. By using it to communicate a more serious tone, a business can reinforce its changing approach and extend the longevity of the brand.

Sure, when Larry and Sergey started out at the very beginning of Google’s creation, all they had was a logo. After all, ambitious startups need to say an awful lot through the limited channels they begin with. The logo has to work hard and as the nucleus of the brand, will continue to do so indefinitely. But as a brand grows and matures, its reputation develops and experiences begin to influence a brand’s personality. With continued growth, and increased resources, there become more ways in which this personality can be conveyed which in turn, lightens the burden of responsibility of the logo and so this opportunity to mature becomes apparent. If we expand that context and review the transformation of other pinnacle brands that have a worldwide presence, we can see how apparent a rebrand becomes a necessity. Take a look at the logos below. Through brand recognition on the right, its clear who each of the companies are. But now compare this to the left hand column containing their original identities before they made their mark of domination. Which column of logos do you feel you are more likely to form a connection with in today’s world? Which do you feel you is more trustworthy to deliver its products or services? The simple fact is, they have all understood the power of branding and how changes in society, trends and the growing awareness of their identity. Can you imagine them reaching the same heights of success they have experienced if they had kept faith in their original logos?

Some have even gone a step further and there are now many high profile examples of brands that have recently opted to evolve through the simplification of their image. Whilst there are clear demonstrations of development and no questioning on the advances in maturity, consumer feedback has been sketchy to put it lightly, drawing criticism that this notable over simplicity eradicates the emotional response it should trigger. There is a risk that there is too much reliance on loyalty and brand recognition and not enough investment in future-proofing. Differentiation is what gives a brand its distinct personality and character, so are these examples taking the notion of ‘growing up’ too far? Do we still feel that emotional connection in the same way we did before? Or does simplification mean diversification and enhanced versatility?

The jury is still out on that particular debate but one that can not be argued is that brands naturally evolve. Whether they a borne from a hastily put together scribble or an intricately crafted masterpiece, it is important to understand that sooner or later, change will be a requirement to enhance future success. Sadly, there will always be business owners who struggle to see the value in committing time and financial investment into such a thing but it is up to us, as brand advocates to educate the value in conveying the company’s character and personality through unique brand identity.

The Psychological Effects of Colour in Design

The Psychological Effects of Colour in Design

The human eye can see millions of colours. They are all around us and influence us constantly, playing a pivotal part in triggering our actions and on a daily basis, responsible for various behaviours and decisions we make.

The use of colour, is not just about making something look pretty, it’s about the reaction it evokes. Sir Isaac Newton developed the first circular diagram of colours in 1666. Whilst it has evolved and been adapted over time, the colours within this spectrum have always resonated with us on different levels.

In the world of brand identity, colour psychology is involved in everything. The key to success is not only to understand what each colour means from a psychological perspective but learning how to inspire, invigorate and engage your target market. Colour plays an essential role in creating a strong first impression for your customers. But crucially it’s not a case of one size fits all; colour psychology isn’t an exact science. Individuals will emotionally respond in different ways depending on diversities in culture, taste and association so perception can vary.

Image credit: Huffington Post

RED
Passion, youthfulness, energy, power, strength, excitement, desire, boldness

Red offers diversity and can take on a variety of meanings though the unifying factor is the sense of importance.  It is a colour best used cautiously. Due to its attention-grabbing properties, it’s a priceless tool in the world of promotion but used excessively it will inhibit relaxation.

ORANGE
Courage, confidence, friendliness, success, innovation, cheerfulness, creative, enthusiasm

Orange is a colour that doesn’t hold back. Used correctly, it can stand out in a crowd. It focuses our minds on issues of physical comfort and sensuality. As its intermediate positioning between red and yellow, orange combines the reaction between the physical and the emotional.

YELLOW
Brightness, optimism, friendliness, joyfulness, warmth, energy, clarity, creativity

As the colour of the sun, yellow creates an energetic vibe. It is able to stimulate and revitalise and it’s therefore easy to understand why it evokes feelings of optimism and clarity, lifting our spirts and self-esteem. Whilst lighter shades play on the happiness aspects associated with summer and sun, darker shades add more weight giving a sense of antiquity. Used incorrectly through and it can represent warning and raise levels of anxiety.

GREEN
Freshness, environment, health, healing, peacefulness, growth, renewal, harmony

Being the centre of the spectrum, green is the colour of balance. It is the bridge between the stimulating, warmer colours such as red and orange and the calming, cool colours of blue, offering reassurance and an air of stability. It provides a serene and peaceful tone, conveying the idea of growth but used in the wrong way it can indicate stagnation and blandness.

BLUE
Tranquillity, security, integrity, strength, trust, intelligence, masculinity, dependence

Blue offers much versatility, suggesting trust, evoking calmness and safety as well as being socially friendly and inviting. With its ability to offer more range than other colours, there are contrasts in what it can represent at opposing ends of the scale. Light blues generally have a refreshing and energising personality, calming the mind and aiding concentration. Whereas dark blues are much more sombre, pointing towards security and trust stimulating clear thought.

PURPLE
Spirituality, luxury, creativity, wealth, vision, imagination, truth, wiseful

With its historical association with royalty, purple represents luxury and is an effective way to create the sense of elegance and high-end appeal. It conjures images of grandeur and opulence, activating the imagination to provide an experience beyond the ordinary. It carries with it a sense of wisdom and takes awareness to a higher level of thought. Lighter shades bring to mind a spiritual and sensual essence whilst darker shades can suggest mystery and intrigue.

PINK
Healthy, nurture, happiness, femininity, sweet, compassion, playfulness, sexuality

Pink is stereotypically targeted towards the female market but if its use is over accentuated, it can become emasculating, losing its intended effect. Whilst the neighbouring red stimulates, pink meanwhile offers a sense of soothing and nurturing. It can also link towards innocence and works well both visually and psychologically with red and purple.

BROWN
Earthy, outdoors, longevity, conservative, comfort, stability, seriousness, nature

Under the right circumstances, brown can be an effective branding colour. It is a primarily organic natured colour associated with earth and trees. When utilised in muted tones, it can produce a classier, more human emphasis. In addition, with its hues of red and yellow as well as its inclusion of black, it can offer similar yet more forgiving and less suppressive elements of seriousness. It is a solid, reliable colour that is found to be quietly supportive.

BLACK
Elegance, class, protection, mystery, sophistication, substance, glamour, safety

Black adds an air of sophistication and elegance with a very bold confidence. Creating protective barriers, it absorbs energy, enshrouding personality. It is another example that offers diversity; on one hand can appear menacing and even instilling fear but on the other it provides absolute clarity and uncompromising excellence.

WHITE
Goodness, innocence, purity, freshness, ease, clean, sterility, simplicity

While black is the absence of light, white is the literal opposite and the two polar contrasts often work perfectly in unison together. By reflecting light, psychologically it can create barriers but also provides purity and cleanliness. Visually it creates a heightened perception of space.

GREY
Security, reliability, intelligence, solid, neutrality, balance, calm, stability

Intermediately positioned between black and white, grey exudes neutrality. It therefore lacks sensation and often doesn’t excel as a primary colour in branding. It is the only colour that has no direct psychological properties and unless it is used right it can compromise other colours it is used with. However, alone it can exude traditionalism and professionalism, suggesting intelligence and reliability.

Key considerations with colour usage in branding

Customer preferences

Consider the market you are targeting and understand their preferences. Genders, cultures and ethical diversities can make a considerable difference. Also evaluate your product or service and identify the links between them and your target audience.

Customer expectations

Look at your brand history, it’s positioning and personality. How do you want your customers to perceive you? Look at relevance within your industry and understand what is appropriate and what isn’t.

Brand messaging

Use colour that matches the emotions and characteristics that your brand is trying to portray. Look at your value proposition and see if it resonates with any specific colours. Think about the associations that people are most likely to make.

Competitor colours

Research your competition and see how they position their branding. It can be tempting to roll with the clichés but it is better to stand out than blend in. But instead of just selecting the brightest shade, examine what works best between your customers and your products.

Authenticity

Think about how you can portray yourself in an authentic way using colour in your branding. It is important to remain authentic as customers often act with intuition when they see a brand and if the colours don’t connect effectively, they may go elsewhere.

Consistency

In order to solidify the image of your brand in your customers’ minds, it is crucial that colour usage in your brand remains consistent over time. This can be ensured through development of brand guidelines.

Summary

To summarise, colour usage in branding can have a significant impact on how well you are able to convey your branding message and connect with your target audience. Underestimating the psychology of colour in branding can have a devastating impact. There’s much more to consider than just personal preference so before you launch your brand, take a step back and evaluate the implications of your options. By investing time in the consideration of your options, you’re much more likely to end up with something that resonates with the audience you are aiming it towards and will pay dividends in the long run for your business.

Small Agency vs Large Agency: Why Bigger Doesn’t Necessarily Mean Better

Small Agency vs Large Agency: Why Bigger Doesn’t Necessarily Mean Better

When it comes to deciding on who you’re going to approach to design and produce the branding and marketing material that you inevitably require to help give your business its best chance for growth and success, where do you start?

Nowadays, through the evolution of technology, there is a saturated presence of design agencies all competing with one another and it can often become somewhat overwhelming to know where to begin. They all have their own value proposition, promoting why they think their offering is superior to the competition. But there is one factor in particular that we’d like to highlight in this article; size.

Tall oaks from little acorns grow… it takes a lot of dedication and hard work to grow a business, that goes without saying. Within the creative industry, the larger design agencies will have a workforce possessing just about every relevant job title you can imagine. They will have specialists in each department with intricately honed skills that make them highly proficient in a range of key areas for their role. But does this setup necessarily make it a better proposition than a smaller agency which regularly sees its staff multitasking and stepping outside their standard remit of responsibilities?

With over 35 years of industry experience between them, Creative Fire’s two founding partners have had the fortune of experiencing first hand the operations at both ends of the spectrum. Whilst a studio with 100+ staff can give a design agency status and help to give an indication on its success as a thriving business, with so many links in the chain to take a project from brief through to realisation, communication can suffer breakdowns which can in turn compromise the delivery of the end product. From experience of working at some of the leading branding agencies in the UK, we have identified that information fed through from a client can be interpreted differently and specific key criteria can be neglected depending on the knowledge and understanding that a particular individual has. Whilst we must not ‘tar everyone with the same brush’, a pedigree project manager, being the front of house, face of the company may typically prioritise in ensuring that requested deadlines are met and they may overlook the technical limitations and implications to what a client has requested. Such a drawback can delay and inconvenience proceedings, damaging long standing reputations and in the worse case scenario cost a client financially.  At the same token, a designer may not possess the polished manner that a project manager would have spent years perfecting in how they present themselves to the client which doesn’t cast the company’s image in the best light.

Granted you can’t be a master of all trades; if it were that easy we’d all be sipping Dom Perignon from the top deck of a yacht in Monte Carlo but that’s not to say that we can’t identify and utilise the top line, key skills that are required to ensure that a client always receives their product on time, on brief and with minimal fuss. They’re not interested in the square footage of your office space or how you’re just about to open your fifth office in Europe. The sole fundamental factor to them is simplicity and that you can deliver on your promises in the most straightforward and painless way possible.

Quality

At Creative Fire, we created an agency that focuses on putting our customers first through streamlining the design journey by amalgamating stages and refining processes. In doing so, our designers are on hand to guide them through this journey from the very beginning to the very end. Furthermore, our clients have often stated that by dealing solely with the creative through the duration of their project, it provides clarity and confidence, safe in the knowledge that they know there is no risk of information getting lost in translation as it gets fed through from one department to the next.

Value

We are not defined by departments. Our designers are hybrids, skilled on a multi-disciplinary level. By keeping our overheads tight through streamlining and avoiding these phases that we consider to be obsolete, it also means that we can strip back our costs therefore offering a much more cost effective service to our customers. Larger agencies often use their status to justify inflated fees. We simply do not do that.

Speed

The one remaining aspect that determines the efficiency of an agency is how quickly they can act to deliver. By removing links in the metaphoric chain that is required to ensure your vision to be realised, we are able to deliver our projects to our customers faster. Rather than a brief being passed from one department to the next, there is just one handover; from the customer to the designer. In turn, we have managed to perfect a blend between quality, value and speed.

We’re not just another small time, local provider of design solutions. The market is inundated with young pretenders claiming to have the answer to your branding or marketing needs, often with poorly considered strategies. We may be small but what we lack in size, we make up for with our big agency mentality and have the experience to cover that. It’s a little bit like panning for gold; by sieving out all the stones and dirt, you’re left with (if lucky) a golden nugget – and that’s what we’ve done with Creative Fire.

How Well Can We Remember Brands?

How Well Can We Remember Brands?

The success of business is fundamentally built on the foundations of brand awareness. The ability for us to mentally note a brand and lock that snapshot away in the memory bank to be able to identify it indefinitely is what enables it to thrive; through marketing campaigns we develop a familiarisation with brands and providing we are able to connect with them, we learn to trust them.
But even with the most established of worldwide brands, how accurately are we able to remember them from memory? You would imagine with such high profile, blue-chip examples, there is so much opportunity to see them each day meaning that remembering the simplest of details would be a foregone conclusion. But it is not as straightforward as you may think. Based on the results below, it’s more challenging than you would imagine to memorise these ubiquitous emblems.

Through research undertaken by Signs.com, we take a look at six international brands that can be considered as household names in the UK; Apple, Ikea, Adidas, Burger King, Dominos and Starbucks. These are prime examples of businesses who through growing reputation and success, continue to maintain a solid marketing drive, consistently ensuring that their brand is universally never far from the forefront of our minds.

 

When it comes to the manifestation of a brand, there are many factors to consider; shape, colour, typeface and all the unique little touches that are used to give it personality. It’s unsurprising to see that the brandmarks with the most accurate recreations are the ones with the simpler appearances. But in the more complex examples used,
recalling all of this information is not as straightforward as you would expect. As Sherlock Holmes once said, we “see but do not observe.” In the context of this article, we remember just enough of a brand’s appearance to be aware of its presence but recalling the finest of details is not necessary for us to be brand aware. But why aren’t we able to do this? Despite seeing something many times, we fail to create a lasting memory of it; this is something that has been dubbed “inattentional amnesia”. It is evident that one of the stronger areas we are able to recall is colour. Even with an example like Burger King with its trio colour palette, an added complexity like this doesn’t cloud our memory quite as much as you would expect. In contrast, we are weaker at retaining memory on a brandmark’s shape; in the case of Starbucks, remembering the intricate details of the iconic mermaid are a step to far for many.

Ultimately, the goal with branding is to find the sweet spot between something that can be easily remembered whilst being distinctive enough to ensure that it doesn’t just blend in with the competition. With the experiment that Signs.com conducted, it proves that even with the most established of brands, human biology stands in the way of us having the ability to create a photographic memory of them so limitations will always exist.

Creative Fire: The Meaning Behind Our Brand

Creative Fire: The Meaning Behind Our Brand

After seven years of honourable service, BenBen Design relinquished its position as the brand that has supported us through so many projects; it has been with us on a journey and has largely remained unchanged in it’s lifespan. But with aspiration and growth, we felt a new image was required; one that could grow with us, and so Creative Fire was born. We wanted a brand that could offer diversity, accommodating small startups through to established blue-chip corporations but could demonstrate that we are totally confident in our delivery. Whilst the name Creative Fire reflects the service we offer, we didn’t want to use a meaningless noun just for the sake of having one because it sounds good. By partnering the two elements in this way, we are able express our passion as creatives and the tenacity we have to consistently deliver to our clients.

 

 

If we cast ourselves back to the birth of our brand development, the true origin of the word fire within our brand derives from an experimentation with acronyms. Basing our company name solely on a combination of our surnames (as so many choose to do) felt far too corporate for us. But by incorporating them to form a generically identifiable word, particularly one which serves relevance, it helps to provide an extra dimension to our brand. So whilst F and R represent the names of the two company partners, I and E represent two key areas of our process; ideas and execution.

 

 

We were conscious of steering clear of the clichés. Flames and sparks were deemed too colloquial, diverting attention from the true message we wanted to convey whilst also risking confusion as to what services we were providing. So instead of emphasising graphic symbolism to the visual aspect of the logo, we decided to develop the science behind it.

 

 

As we (should) all know, fire requires three elements in order to manifest; fuel, oxygen and heat. This provided us with a platform to develop our services and value proposition. In devising that our offering focuses on the three key disciplines of brand, print and digital, it was only natural that our tagline would follow suit, communicating three key values that accurately represent us. We Listen. We Create. We Deliver.

 

 

Through experience of working for a number of established, relatively large scale design agencies, our partners have taken the opportunities that a rebrand provides to identify where the flaws in their systems exist, thus what requires refinement in order to make a good agency a great one. By harnessing the near 40 years of  industry experience between us, we came to the conclusion that providing a rigid departmental system that includes multiple points of contact in order to deliver a message throughout a project’s entirety opens up the very real possibility for error. For example, communication can be mis-interpreted as the baton is passed from one department to the next and some disciplines are more technically versed than others. By dealing directly with the creative individual from brief to sign-off, we eradicate any possibility for error. Then there is the small matter of timings; by taking out links in the chain, we effectively streamline the process to aid assurance that projects are always completed on time and never overrun deadlines. Direct communication means quicker, clearer delivery.

 

 

10 Steps To Successful Marketing

10 Steps To Successful Marketing

Marketing material comes in many different forms and with the continuous evolution of digital media platforms, it’s easy to feel bombarded with the options available. Operations Director, Greg Rawles of Colchester based marketing agency Creative Fire helps to explain the fundamental check points when considering your next marketing campaign.

1. Consider Your Audience

It is imperative to think about your audience when it comes to designing your marketing materials. Identifying your target market can help to determine the correct strategy to employ. What you are looking for is an emotional connection. Always design your materials with your audience in mind.

2. Tell Your Story Clearly

First impressions are everything. The information you provide and how you display it is paramount when a customer is first introduced to your business and what you’re offering. It is important to hook them into your visual design. High-quality graphics, appealing headlines and short paragraphs will have much more impact than flooding a page with a comprehensive list of all you can offer. It is no secret that a picture speaks louder than words. So, adding the right balance of graphics and text is more likely to attract a wider audience.

3. Stand out from the Crowd

When marketing your business, consider how it will look alongside your competition. It is important to find ways of giving yourself some space to avoid over-saturating the market with repetitive branding techniques. Think about your niche if you offer one and focus on that. It’s about staying one step ahead.

4. Show Clear Direction

It is important to provide customers with a pleasant user experience. If they find your marketing material to be concise with clear direction, they are more likely to engage with your product or service. Ask yourself what you want it to do for you and your business. It will be much more effective if you provide a call-to-action that encourages customers to proactively engage.

5. Consider the Thought Process

It is important to understand the thought process of how your bespoke marketing materials will be viewed. By conducting research to find out how your content is viewed by readers, it will eliminate any speculation. From the research conducted, you can then develop a clear and meaningful strategy to ensure that your intentions are conveyed correctly.

6. Cover All Bases

Although digital marketing is now seen to supersede many printed equivalents, it is advised that you don’t put all of your eggs in one basket. Every industry will differ depending on the market you are reaching out to but it is recommended that both digital and printed forms are integrated to maximise your exposure.

7. Add Value

So you have a bespoke, attractive design, a catchy headline, and a call to action. Why stop there? Add even more value to your material by providing helpful information for your audience. It will help to engage the reader and is another method of providing them with a positive user experience which in turn will develop trust in your brand.

8. Give Evidence of Success

Utilise positive feedback you have previously received to show to prospective clients that you have a proven track record. By revealing genuine testimonials from previous clients, you are providing highly convincing evidence that your business is one of quality that can deliver with a promise that you’ll meet expectations.

9. Invest in brand guidelines

To give your audience confidence in your brand, consistency is something that cannot be overlooked. A set of guidelines is an intuitive way of guaranteeing this consistency, ensuring that each piece of marketing material coordinates with the next forming one unified company brand. This allows you to dissect all the intricate elements that form the brand, informing users on any limitations that may be in place.

10. Call In The Professionals

A business is financially dependent and particularly in its infancy, funds are tight. So it’s all too easy to put your trust in a discount, off the shelf package or even be tempted into designing the material yourself. But future-proofing your brand is key to ensuring its success and you’re only going to achieve that by using a trusted professional design service with experience and a proven track record. They will ensure your branding is consistent throughout whilst maintaining a clean and professional look.

What Goes Into A Creative Brief?

What Goes Into A Creative Brief?

Whether you are designing a new logo or a fully responsive e-commerce website, it is advised that the creative journey with your client begins with a brief to help establish how the project should be approached. It acts as a blueprint to provide all the intricate details for the creative agency to grow ideas from, helping to shape the overall strategy and goals for the project.
One other significant benefit for the brief is that it contributes towards ensuring there is consistency through collaboration. With a team of strategists, researchers and designers, it’s crucial that everyone is on the same page in terms of the deliverables.

Here are 10 pointers to factor in that’ll give you the information you’ll need to get started:

01. Who they are and what they do

Working from the ground up and establishing the company’s foundations is always going to be the best place to start a creative brief. Find out the size of their company and how long have they been in business. Ask how the business was formed. Establish their product or service offering. What are they most proud of within the company and what aspirations to they have for its future? Obtaining all of this information will enable you to see the business through the customer’s eyes whilst helping to you to visualise a professional solution for their needs.

02. The scope of the project

The next step is to hone in on the requirements of the project. The devil is in the detail here; leave no stone unturned because the customer is going to appreciate you a lot more if you’re able to acquire all the information you need up front rather than querying again later down the line. By knowing the extent of the campaign, you’ll be able to pinpoint the level of collateral needed, how each element is intended to work and will ultimately allow you to calculate the time-frame for the project and how that collates to the customer’s intended deadline.

03. The target market

By getting the customer to describe their typical client, you will be able to form an accurate impression for how your project should be directed. Consider criteria such as age, ethnicity and gender. The best method is to generate profiles of how you interpret this client to be. Identify how this person would live their day to day life, what their habits are, what excites them. With all of this information you’ll be able find the connections between audience and product and ultimately determine how it should be marketed.

04. The competition

Establishing who your customer is up against in their market is critical, for this will give you guidance on how to position their product. Whilst they’ll want to avoid blending in, equally they’ll want to stand out for the right reasons. Consider that although you may sell the same product as someone else, your audiences can be worlds apart. The key is to to find the gaps which are yet to be conquered. Find ways to be unique, yet appealing.

05. The tone and image they need to portray

One thing to avoid is to try being everything to everyone. Find their niche and focus 100% on it. Their audience may be techy, earthy, old or young. The key is to determine what they associate their audience with. Will they be more drawn to a serif font and an organic colour palette or would something more modern and punchy work better? Consider creating mood boards comprising of magazine cuttings, postcards, colour swatches and fabrics…. anything that you find inspiring and relevant to the project. From here you can introduce the various elements of the design to each other and suddenly, you have your first concept.

06. Their ultimate goal and how it will be measured

If you ask this question, it’s more than likely the response will be that your customer wants to generate more business. There are a number of different ways in which this can be done though and the strategy you employ will be partially governed by this.
In addition, measuring the success of the campaign will help to establish how effective the design has been. If results aren’t measurable, find out how the collateral will be used and how it fits in to their new business plan. One way to maximise the potential of a successful campaign is to provide a clear call to action. Inform the customer how they can fully utilise this.

07. The budget

Agreeing a fee for the project prior to its commencement will enable you to gauge the time and complexity you can allow. It’s also worth considering itemising the costs so that they can assess a breakdown of each segment for the project which will allow them to appreciate the length of time factored in. Providing all of this information in advance will serve to protect the relationship with the customer and ensure the whole process runs smoothly and all deadlines are met on time.

08. The handling of approvals

Effective communication throughout the project is essential in order for all deliverables to be met on time and in accordance to the brief. Establish who your main point of contact will be and whether there are any other individuals involved in the approval process. If anyone else is to be included on approvals, make sure to get all points of contact; their name, email address and phone number. It’s also a good idea is to list all deadlines and duplicate these into your calendar.

09. Any previous marketing materials that has been used

This will provide you with a benchmark for where to start. You can ask the customer what they like and what works for them, what they dislike and what is failing to have an impact. Include links to their current website if they have one along with any social media pages they manage.
In addition, if their brand is currently void of guidelines, there may be an opportunity to expand the project by suggesting that a set are built. Alternatively, if they have specific fonts or colourways that are to be used, ensure that these are shared in advance – but do remember to consider licenses for usage rights.

10. Other people responsible for other pieces of this project

Depending on the work entailed, you may find that you need to rely on others for certain information in order for you to deliver to the customer on time. Consider the fact that they may not always to be able to provide everything you need before you begin in which case ensure you agree to dates when this information will be supplied.



The information you require will vary from project to project but the more you ask, the more you get and the more clarity you’ll have about what your client needs. It’s all too easy to file the creative brief away somewhere, thinking you’ll remember everything that was noted so always keep it within view whilst the project is live. Review it again before you begin to design and again before you’re ready to present to the customer to confirm you’ve met the goals.

Is Your Brand Doing Your Business A Dis-Service?

Is Your Brand Doing Your Business A Dis-Service?

Brand management is one of the most important parts of marketing. It can be a time consuming process and require a lot of work to create a brand image that people like and trust, but in an instant, all that work can be completely undone.
Here are our top 10 common oversights which can severely damage your brand

1. Not knowing what your customers think
By conducting market research, you are giving yourselves a head start in directly understanding exactly what it is your customers think of your marketing campaigns and how your business is portrayed as a whole. Find out what it is you’re doing right and what can be improved. In time, when you’ve made sufficient improvements for the general consensus to provide a positive review, you can then reap the rewards by sharing the reflective testimonials on your website and social media.

2. No logo
It sounds obvious but there are people who will avoid paying for a professional logo design so that they can invest in other areas of their business. In making this choice, you are wasting an opportunity to start raising awareness and building your identity. Although we advise against purchasing an off the shelf package which notoriously cost very little, you don’t have to blow your entire marketing budget for the year on a logo. You just need to realise that investing in an agency who take the time to learn and understand your business and your market really is money well spent.

3. Lack of cohesion
By setting simple standards within your business for your staff to follow in terms of a brand guideline, you will ensure the same message is consistently delivered to your clients when describing who you are and what you do as well as avoiding a less than professional looking image in important correspondence with prospects and customers.

4. Inconsistency
Over time, it’s inevitable that you’ll make changes to your brand. As your audience grows, you need to adapt. But don’t be tempted to make changes too often. You’ll undoubtedly have branded material in circulation and constant updates will render inconsistencies, leading to a weakening of recognition. The occasional refresh is okay but ensure when you do make updates, you implement these changes universally throughout your business wherever any of your branding elements appear.

5. Failure to refresh
Tired looking signage that you use at events or display outside your office sends out an unintentional message that your agency is not performing well. First impressions count for a lot so if these suggest that you lack care or attention to detail, you’re going to find it much more challenging convincing others to do business with a business that seems to have stopped caring.

6. Lack of email signature
Email signatures are another opportunity to increase recognition for your agency but are often undervalued as a part of your branding but if anything, they’re one of the most important. It’s highly likely that it will be circulated more than any other aspect of your marketing collateral so naturally, careful consideration should go how it appears. Keep it simple. Rather than listing every phone number or location, a small logo with the most important information will provide much more impact and clarity, ensuring people can quickly find it and connect with you.

7. An outdated website
In the digital age, an effective online presence is the backbone for any business. It therefore must not be overlooked or neglected at any point. You must commit to keeping it up-to-date and fresh. Fail to do so and you risk losing prospects to your competition. Arrange to have your website reviewed on a regular basis, consistently making it part of your regular marketing activities so you won’t miss updating stale or missing information.

8. No social media
Similarly to your website, social media serves a crucial role in the digital marketing success for your business. Even if you have varying usage preferences for certain platforms, it would be foolish to totally ignore any all together. With all the options available, it is important to form a strategy to ensure it doesn’t become a drain on your time. Various tools are available that can help you manage your social media profiles to schedule posts ahead of time.

9. Lacking originality
When starting out in business, it’s only natural to observe your industry and aspire to be like the guys at the top; the benchmark for success. Although you’ll be desperate to make your mark and get noticed from day one, using intimidating tactics by mirroring their strategies is not a good idea. Differentiating yourself on the other hand will accentuate what makes you unique and give you an opportunity to showcase why being different makes you better.

10. Trying to be everything to everybody
It’s understandable that you want to be known as a business who is there to help all; that you are a generalist – because you don’t want to lose out of potential clients. But the truth is this generalist approach means you are ultimately spreading yourselves too thin and will fail to convince potential new customers that you are experts at anything. If you want to hire any professional, you want to know in confidence that you are hiring the best in their profession. Identify a niche for your business and you’re much more likely to bring in more sales.

Design Services You Should Consider Investing In

Design Services You Should Consider Investing In

As we try to simply put to our customers, great design reinforces your brand. But a smart looking logo merely forms its foundations. Beyond that, there are many other areas to consider in order to build one of strength which speaks to you customers with confidence and power. Although not all aspects of marketing will initially appear to be applicable to your business, it is worth considering whether it would be advantageous if you invested in areas which haven’t already.
At Creative Fire, our branding and marketing process is an intricate journey which carefully identifies where we feel your market presence can be improved. From the first design concept, to the final sign-off. Here is an overview of the services you can benefit from investing in to help transform your business into a market leader.

BRAND IDENTITY

Logo Design
An effective, eye catching logo that fits your business model is crucial. It is a brand mark to represent your business and will be used countlessly in its day to day running. We will create a suitable identity for you to accurately and distinctively reflect the services you offer and your position within your industry.

Brand Guidelines
Your brand needs guidelines in order for it to be understood. These guidelines act as your ‘bible’ to ensure consistency of application for everyone who works within it. They can be as brief or a detailed as you wish but will typically include examples of logo types, font application, colour ways, design layouts, tone of voice and image style.

PRINTED DESIGN

Business Stationery
Business stationery is an integral part of a business. When potential clients are introduced to your services, they are among the very first visuals they encounter so it is imperative that what they see sets a good impression and speaks for what you can offer as a business. It is important to not compromise or overlook this element of design when running a successful business.

Printed Literature
Literature such as brochures, leaflets and posters are significant to the marketing your company. They can act as to lure to attract your target audience and when successfully applied, they should speak for you when conveying relevant information about your business including the products and services you offer. These are important assets in brand recognition which should support you in pushing your business in the right direction.

Exhibition Design
As with printed literature, exhibitions act as a means of attracting new custom and the key to a successful pitch is an effective display. Whether it’s a portable pop-up banner or a set of display boards, we will provide you with suitable designs to provide you with the right level of exposure to drive your business forward.

Signage
Whether it’s for a retail outlet, a fleet of company vehicles, a promotional banner or a point of sale stand, we can offer you signage design and application in many forms. As permanent fixtures, it is crucial that your brand is effectively understood in these forms as they help to 
re-enforce its identity.

Packaging
In three dimensional form, a product’s packaging engages not just in a visual sense, but also provides a physical interaction too. The user experience is key and we carefully consider this when applying your brand in this format. From fast moving consumer goods to luxury boutique labels, we cater for all requirements.

DIGITAL DESIGN

Website Design
In the 21st century, a website is the nucleus of any business. In order to maintain and improve your position within your industry, an impressive website is key to competing successfully with your rivals. We design bespoke websites, offering various packages aiming to meet your exact requirements. We ensure full compatibility with desktop computers, laptops, tablets and mobile phones and provide you with a full overview on the navigation and behaviour characteristics of your site.

Web Facilities
Once the design, structure and content your website has been finalised, it’s time to assess the finer details to ensure it is reaching its target market and is well maintained. Search engine optimisation, content management systems and analytical reports are amongst the various added services we offer in relation to your website.

PRINT MANAGEMENT

Pre-press Preparation & File Conversion
When it comes to printed design, the visual appeal of a design is key. But in order for this to be achieve successfully, it must go through an artwork or ‘pre press’ stage to ensure that what you see on a computer screen is accurately reflected when it is printed. Our designs will have this process incorporated into it from the initial creation. However, we also offer a service whereby if you inherited material that is not press ready or requires being converted into a different format, we can work our magic to ensure your needs are met.

Press Passing
In order to avoid any possible issues when your material goes to print, it is advised to request a press pass. We will be on hand to oversee the print process and with access to the files, will adjust if necessary. With this in mind, you can be rest assured that your project will be delivered exactly as it was on your signed off design.

Why It Pays to Leave Your Design To The Professionals

Why It Pays to Leave Your Design To The Professionals

At Creative Fire, we fully understand how important it is for you and your business to make a profit. In order to ensure you keep your finances looking healthy, you will obviously aim to minimise your expenses. Sadly it is all too common for the skimping to start with your branding and marketing.

It’s all too easy to have a go yourself. It’s possible to fashion a ‘logo’ in almost any software. Even MS Word has a WordArt facility which does exactly what it says. Adequate for some primary school coursework (though I would personally avoid it myself) but unsuitable for much more than that. So what’s the alternative if you’re not a designer?

You may have heard of a website called Fiverr; a place where you can get a logo, animation or unbelievably a website for as little as $5 (£3.60).
Seems too good to be true? Well, yes and no. You may get lucky and find someone who knows their way around Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop but they won’t know anything about your brand and all the intricate details that help to formulate it. It’s like meeting a stranger in a bar and asking them to look after your bag whilst you go to the toilet; it’s dangerous territory. Sure, your initial investment is minimal but do you really want to take that risk and lose precious time, ending up with a logo that doesn’t connect to the rest of your company’s identity?

It’s encouraging to see someone wanting to get involved with design. It’s pretty easy to get ahold of cutting edge graphics software these days. Many people are gifted with artistic flare and vision, but on that basis alone, does that mean they should design your logo? Many aspects need consideration during the design process such as your company values, your target market and your competition and without substantial research, you’re brand identity is simply going to come up short.

Along with this, it’s also important to consider that design has its limitations. Graphic designers understand the constraints and pressures that clients are put under to deliver. In the design world we are often asked two questions; “when will it be completed” and “how much is it going to cost me”. The reality is, as you are undoubtedly expected to deliver an outstanding piece of design and therefore add this criteria to the equation, it is impossible to be a combination of all three.

Great design takes time, planning and a reasonable budget. With investment in time and planning, you benefit from the application of the latest techniques and fine tuning. With a reasonable budget, the best ideas can be explored. But if you are really looking for something with brand power to help do the selling for you, you need to bring all of this together.

There are many small details a graphic designer has to know about, which when combined, can help create a strong logo for your brand. But neglect them and you can end up with the very opposite.