Tag Archives: creative

What does an investment with Creative Fire get you?

What does an investment with Creative Fire get you?

Turning to a design agency for your marketing will yield significant rewards. Not only will you get the benefit of professional designs, but you’ll get the expertise of an experienced team who will help you navigate the marketing and branding elements of your business. At Creative Fire, our ground-breaking Creative Time package will also ensure that you get the most value from your investment. Let’s explore the benefits of working with a design agency.

Get your time back

When it comes to running a business, time is money. Some business owners or managers might like the idea of adding ‘designer’ to their list of jobs, but design is time consuming and if you aren’t a trained professional, ‘having a go’ at logos and branding will take valuable time away from your other tasks. A professional design agency can take the task of design off your hands completely and thus free up your time. Working with a team of experts will allow you to focus more time on your business and the things you’re good at. Not only that, but a team of graphic designers gives you more resources, knowledge, and support than you’d get from going it alone.

Decades of experience

Did you know that an external design team will have far more experience (on average 10+ years) compared to 1-3 years for an in-house hire? Essentially, a design agency provides decades of experience, at a fraction of the cost of a full-time employee. Training up internal staff is commendable, but a design agency will give you access to years of talent and expertise. Creatives from a design agency will be highly skilled and come from a host of different design backgrounds, disciplines, and industries, offering a wide range of design expertise to ensure professional and high-quality work.

Marketing when you need it

If you hire an in-house design team, you’ll need to keep them busy every working day of the year and this often won’t be cost effective. Outsourcing to a design agency means you’ll only need to pay when you have a project to work on. At Creative Fire, Creative Time is our structured design package to provide you with the solution your business needs to drive it forward. It offers all the benefits of having an in-house designer, but with flexibility. This isn’t like a usual ‘retainer’ package, we’ll work to your timetable, not ours. So, if you don’t use all your allocated Creative Time hours, we will roll them over for you and you’ll get the very best value for your money. Traditional retainer packages mean that if you don’t use the time allocated, you lose it.

Our ground breaking monthly subscription

We understand how important the creative input to your branding and communications is. If you constantly nurture your brand, the results will be beyond anything you could ever have imagined. That’s why we see our client relationships as long term, we want to build a relationship with you, immerse ourselves in your brand and partner with you for the long haul so we can strategize. That way, you get the most out of your investment. We believe this works far better than ad hoc projects.

At Creative Fire, we know first-hand the pain points of dealing with big agencies, so we’ve taken out the middleman, meaning you speak directly to your creative partner, from brief through to delivery. This ensures direct, fully transparent communication.

Our fully cloud-based, integrated project planner provides complete transparency, so that you know the status of each project, along with how much time has been allocated and spent. We have super-fast response times, and our client portal facilitates real-time project tracking and efficient response to your requests.

What else does our Creative Time package offer you?

  • On call creative support whenever you need it.
  • Discounted rates compared to our ad-hoc service.
  • Automated payment setup so that you don’t need to worry about payments.
  • A 1 hour review call every 2-3 weeks.
  • Access to our project management interface, where you can review, comment and upload content.
  • Monthly time reports to show your current usage in live time.

By working with us at Creative Fire, you’ll be adding heavy weight skill sets to your
team in marketing, design, communications, printing and digital publishing. To find out more, contact the Creative Fire team today.

Different Ways to Generate Marketing Content for Your Business

Different Ways to Generate Marketing Content for Your Business

Designing marketing material for your business is a hugely important process. However, companies often try to find the cheapest option when it comes to graphic design. So, what will get you the best result? Let’s explore the various options, from DIY design to using an external design agency.

DIY Design

When it comes to designing marketing material, the idea of doing it yourself can be tempting. After all, you know your brand inside out. You wouldn’t have to spend much money doing it yourself, plus you’d have full control and instant approval.

That said, it’s not an easy task to create a logo without any design knowledge. Your marketing material is critical for your brand identity, if you get it wrong, it will have a hugely detrimental effect on your business.

Don’t forget that design also takes time. Professional designers spend countless hours on company logos. Have you got the time to refine a logo properly? There is also a danger of your design looking amateurish, without the tools of a professional designer. Only someone experienced in designing a professional logo can make it look truly professional.

Outsourcing to Freelancers

Sites like Upwork and Fiverr host plenty of freelancers who will be happy to help with producing designs. For small projects at a lower cost, you could achieve some success utilising a freelancer. You’ll also likely receive an overwhelming number of responses to your requests, which is a positive in terms of easily accessible help, but negative in that you’ll have ideas flying round left, right and centre with no clear strategy.

Your freelancer may also have limited resources, as they aren’t coming from a design agency, and a limited skillset if they are still learning the ropes, so a freelancer gives no guarantee in terms of professional design or reliability and remains a bit of a gamble.

Crowdsourcing

Crowdsourcing is sometimes a cost-effective way of getting a particular design for your brand. The process involves getting multiple designers to send in designs for you to review. You then work through these examples and pay for the design closest to what you want. Whilst you could get lucky and receive some good ideas for your spend, a public call for designs involves working through a lot of submissions from inexperienced designers.

Part of the process of design is also collaboration. You might like the font of one design and the colour of another, and a professional designer can weave these two elements together to come up with your ideal design. Crowdsource designers are unlikely to want to collaborate with other designers, they’ll produce the work, take payment, and move on to the next project.

In-house Design Team

An in-house team would bring you in designers who could give their full-time dedication and attention to your brand only. Having all your design needs in one place can be convenient and if you hire correctly, you can create a passionate team.

That said, the cost and practicalities of this may not work for your business in terms of the salary and benefits you’d need to offer, depending on their level of expertise, and the time it takes to assemble a skilled design team.

An external design team will have far more experience, on average 10+ years compared to 1-3 years for an in-house hire. In-house teams can also prove expensive, particularly for periods of down time.

Working With a Design Agency

Companies often turn to some of the options above because they want to cut costs, but if you work with a trustworthy design agency, it can be a lot more cost-effective in the long run. This is because of the relationship you’ll build, the expertise and the unique, polished results you’ll get first time round.

Design agencies are reliable, you won’t have to deal with the rookie errors of freelancers or your own mistakes. An experienced graphic design agency will get to know your business and tailor designs to your target market, putting design at the centre of the ethos, with a clear strategy to drive things. With hugely talented teams, knowledge and design tools at their fingertips, designs will be professional and impressive.

The teams at design agencies will bring with them years of talent and experience. Designers know the common design crutches and specifications, which enable them to create something memorable, yet functional. This expertise won’t be found with a freelancer or by giving it a go yourself.

At Creative Fire, we like get to know you and become familiar with your business, values and goals. We’ll work together to create high quality designs, first time round, taking the task off your hands whilst you focus on other areas of your business. For consistency, professional designs and high level expertise, contact the Creative Fire team today.

Why Canva is not the answer to all your design prayers

Why Canva is not the answer to all your design prayers

The design and branding process takes time, thought and skill, so it’s no surprise that when it comes to getting designs and graphics done quickly, people will look to find an easy, quick fix solution. Cue Canva, a simple, online design program which gives anyone the tools to create professional designs in minutes. Does it sound too good to be true? Well, that’s because it is! Let’s explore why Canva will never be a good substitute for a proper graphic designer.

If it sounds too good to be true then it most certainly is

If you’re a blogger, social media manager or business owner who wants to create marketing collateral quickly, then Canva might present as the answer to all your problems. It’s a web-based design tool which allows people who have no graphic design experience to very quickly create designs, from logos to social media graphics and flyers. It’s packed with trendy fonts and templates, so that all you have to do is to drop your text in and you can have a brand logo ready in half an hour. However, like we said above, if it sounds too good to be true then it most certainly is. Behind the quick fix illusion of Canva, there are actually quite a lot of drawbacks.

Creating the branding and marketing collateral for your business is one of the most important processes you’ll ever go through. You only get one chance to make a great first impression and the branding you choose will be the cornerstone for your whole business image and the foundation for your success. There’s a time for a quick fix solution, and there’s a time for doing things properly. We very much suggest doing design properly, with the help of an experienced graphic designer, for the reasons we’ll take a look at below.

Limited options for a saturated market

Firstly, Canva offers a range of pre-designed templates and asset libraries for users to pull images from. However, Canva has more than 4 million users. That’s over 4 million people using the same selection of templates for their branding, flyers, logos and social media posts! Whilst the templates are stylish, they are being used over and over again. If you use Canva for your designs, then all the other Canva users will know it. If it’s seen by non-Canva users, they might not know where your branding was generated, but they’ll know that they’ve seen a lot of very similar designs before.

Your highly visible marketing collateral needs to be original, unique and well thought through. Your core brand assets, like your logo and business cards, are the first thing customers will see and they are what a customer will remember you by. Do you really want a design that’s eerily similar to lots of other companies branding? At Creative Fire, we take the design process seriously, using it as a valuable opportunity to bring your personality into your branding and creating brand recognition. Trust us, you don’t want Canva recognition.

No substitute for experienced, skilled graphic design professionals

There’s also the more technical side of things to think about. Your highly visible marketing collateral needs to look aesthetically pleasing, but it needs to be crafted with fundamental design knowledge in mind. Graphic designers are trained in how best to prepare a piece of design work for print or digital. Without this knowledge, you could find yourself in hot water. Are the graphics optimised? Are the file types adjusted correctly? Using a graphic that isn’t optimised properly on your website can slow down that page and harm your SEO. Having a flyer printed without properly adjusting the file for CMYK printing can produce unexpected and odd colour results. If you incorrectly configure the margins on an image destined for print, that could cause issues with sizing and stretching, it could even chop off areas of graphics or text. It’s situations like these where an experienced graphic designer’s input is absolutely vital, as a designer will cover all these things off for you!

Another issue with Canva is that it is one hundred percent based online. That’s great if the internet is working as should be, but if your internet goes down, or Canva goes down for maintenance, then you have no access to your images and designs if you haven’t backed them up. So, if you quickly need to edit an image or create something, you won’t be able to.

“Canva makes you a graphic designer in the same way a microwave makes you a chef”

Our firm belief is this at Creative Fire; if you need help creating something that is crucial and central to your brand (such as creating your branding) or logo, then get a designer on board. Jon-Stephen Stansel, a Social Media Strategist, sums things up pretty well – he said, “Canva makes you a graphic designer in the same way a microwave makes you a chef”. On this one, we have to admit that we agree!

Why Design Isn’t Altogether Subjective

Why Design Isn’t Altogether Subjective

Design is often thought to be a subjective process, yet how does this work when it comes to branding for your business? Your target audience is key to your marketing success, so building a brand on your personal tastes and feelings alone won’t necessarily work. So, does there need be a balance of subjective and objective thinking? Let’s explore this concept below.

Balance subjective and objective thinking

Developing your brand is incredibly important and it’s easy to be led by your own preferences, but in fact, one of the biggest mistakes you can make is to create a brand identity that suits only your own tastes. Whilst design should be influenced by your personal values and opinions, you’ve got to keep in mind the audience who you’re trying to target. Their tastes could be the total opposite to yours, so a purely subjective approach won’t suffice.

Always listen to your clients 

Let’s look at some examples of where this might happen. Joe Bloggs is a 45-year-old male who runs a children’s play centre. Sam Space is a 30-year-old female who runs a Stag Do activity service. John Doe is a 52-year-old male who owns a women’s skincare range. Based on gender and age alone, what do you think would happen if they let their own tastes lead the development of their brand’s visual identities? This is where design has to become objective. If these individuals want to develop a brand that resonates with their target audiences, they’re going to have to work on branding that isn’t necessarily influenced by their own feelings or opinions. Your branding and the way you communicate it visually is there to serve the purpose of attracting new business. It’s got to get your audience engaged. So, as the business owner, or as anyone else representing the business, your own tastes become irrelevant because the opinion that truly matters is that of your customers.

Research, research, research

A key part of the process when we work with clients is to research their target audience and explore their competitors, in order to establish how we can transform their brand into a market leader. We often find that it’s helpful if you share your brand identity with a variety of different people, each with their own demographics, and get them to critique it. This is a good way to see how it’s viewed by different individuals and whilst you’ll find the feedback varies, it’s a key part of getting your branding spot on.

Remember that good design and branding is about successfully communicating ideas into real forms to an intended audience. At Creative Fire, we want to try and marry your values and personality with the needs of your target audience so that we can create a brand that will truly resonate with them. We want you to love your brand, but together we can balance the subjectivity of design with a little bit of objectivity too.

If this sounds good, get in touch with us today for an informal chat about your project!

Getting To Know You

Getting To Know You

Client relations is one of the most important aspects of choosing an agency, yet it is often overlooked by both brands and the agencies that work with them. If all goes well, your chosen agency will be a close ally as you work to strengthen your business and pursue creative new avenues, so making the right choice is essential.

At Creative Fire, we help our clients meet their ambitious goals by being:

Friendly and approachable

With each new client relationship, we take the time to get to know you and what really makes you tick. At Creative Fire, we strongly believe thatbreaking down barriers to communication is the only way to really understand your company, so we treat everyone we work with like friends.

Like all good friends, we pride ourselves on remaining trustworthy and approachable, so you can chat to us about whatever may be going wrong. Like the best of friends, we’ll work hard to address your branding or communications issues using our comprehensive skillset.

Honest and open

An honest, open dialogue is necessary so we can get to the core of problems and solve them efficiently. We know how daunting it may be to discuss your company with an outside party, which is why we help make it simple, keeping channels of communication open throughout the time you work with us.

Whenever a problem arises, we strive to be your go-to people to call and have the communications know-how to get things fixed.

Straightforward

We’ve developed a three-stage process, which is comprised of an initial consultancy (during which we identify your strengths and weaknesses, and find out more about the company), before conducting ample research into both your existing design strategy and competitors. Following these stages, we will then develop concept designs which are drawn from your brief and our findings, carefully keeping your objectives in mind throughout the process.

Problem solvers

As may have become evident from our other attributes, at Creative Fire we are big problem-solving people! We are able to see whatever dilemma you are facing from multiple angles and will work closely with you to find the most creative and effective way through. Interested in working with us?

Creative Fire is an award-winning design agency based in Essex. We’re always happy to arrange an informal discussion of your business goals and challenges, helping you forge ahead with a more cohesive brand and a more effective strategy.

Rebrand and Renew

Rebrand and Renew

Right now, you may not feel much like rebranding your business. With the Covid-19 pandemic continuing to rage on and many companies clinging to their existing branding, customers and processes, such a time of crisis could however bring with it some unexpected benefits. In the chaos of 2020, it would be easy to overlook your branding needs, but this is a time when you could almost certainly benefit from taking a closer look and carrying out a thorough assessment.

Your brand is new

Newer brands, with limited baggage holding them down, will certainly place themselves at a competitive advantage by assessing their branding early on. It is never too early to establish a strong brand identity, and current circumstances may have even helped you understand where your strengths and weaknesses lie as a company, which can then be translated into sparkling branding.

Your brand has been restructured

Whether you’ve been part of a major acquisition/merger or are simply undergoing some critical new shifts in the way the business is run, recruiting an award winning design agency will help you say what you need to say through your branding. Companies going through this process will likely want to highlight the new benefits and skills this merger or acquisition offers, and branding is a fantastic route to doing just that.

Your branding is outdated

It is tempting to cling to your existing branding, particularly if it has served you well in the past. However, a new decade and a challenging year may call for a new look, particularly if you find your company is taking a different direction to the way things were prior to the pandemic.

Brands in disruptive industries have to reassess their communications strategy (and their branding) more regularly, to keep on top of the competition. After such a strange few months, you may find it is time to rework some things you previously considered cornerstones of the company. For those unsure about whether their brand and their offering still match, it may be wise to seek outside expertise who will be able to provide an unbiased viewpoint. Ready for a rebrand? Should you decide your branding is looking a little rough around the edges, we’re on hand at Creative Fire to help you make the beneficial changes you need. Get in touch withus today for an informal chat about your project.

What is Branding?

What is Branding?

What is branding? What does ‘having a rebrand’ mean? Why is so hard to define?

These are often quite tricky questions to answer. The term “brand” came from cattle ranchers over 50 years ago and in the late 80’s companies like Coca-cola starting to brand their packaged goods in a way that differentiated them from the bland competition.

As time went on and marketeers got savvy, they realised that there was more to ‘a brand’ than just a company name and a pretty box! Branding has evolved and with time it has become more subjective. Branding has become more about a person’s feelings (or perception) for a product, service or business.

Let’s explain what branding is not.

Branding is not limited to a logo or a colour scheme. It is not simply to make people aware of your business or service. These are critical elements of the brand building process but these only scratch the surface.

It’s also important to acknowledge the difference between branding and marketing.

Marketing is the activity designed to promote your business; it will compliment branding but it doesn’t replace it.

Here is our take on what branding is.

  1. Brands mean different things to different people, it can play a different role depending on who it interacts with and when. Some people will connect meaningfully with an aspect of a brand while others won’t. Quite often a person’s relationship with a brand can develop, increasing trust, loyalty and engagement. Smart and successful brands work hard to reach different audiences who matter to their business to cement the relationship with the brand.
  2. It helps to think of branding as an ever-evolving experience rather than a structured set of rules. It can grow, develop, respond and shift with the times. A brand can be the sum of interactions with infinite possibilities and every touch point makes a difference.
  3. Brands are about feelings. When you ask people why they love certain brands, they might provide a list of logical reasons but in the end it often comes down to a feeling. How does that brand really make them feel? Successful brands hold great emotional meaning for people and that’s what can make a brand loved and respected.
  4. Discussing the impact of a brand is easier than defining what a brand is. When we talk about defining a brand we often talk about what makes a brand impactful for a business. It might be better ROI or an aligned leadership. Impact from a brand refresh or a new positioning, a great campaign or just more brand engagement is where you really see a brand doing it’s job well. E.g. The impact of an engaged workplace can create increased innovation, productivity, creativity and loyalty amongst employees and new recruits.

Establishing an understanding about how you and your business defines your brand and what it means can help guide your brand and business forward. But remember it doesn’t matter if you think your brand has the potential to be the next Apple or Nike—what really matters is what your target audience thinks of your brand.

“Ultimately, your brand is what the marketplace says it is”

Brian Woyt, founder of the branding agency Wolf & Missile.

10 steps to help build a brand:

1. Establish the purpose

2. Identify the target audience

3. Create a unique voice for your brand

4. Tell your brand story

5. Design the brand’s visual elements

6. Establish a differentiation

7. Build out your brand

8. Promote, promote, promote

9. Get advocates for your brand

10. Evolve as you grow

The Pitfalls of Using Automated Logo Design

The Pitfalls of Using Automated Logo Design

As we find ourselves explaining on a fairly regular basis, a logo may only form one element of a brand but it’s the centrepiece that gives it visual identity and sets the first impression to your target audience. It is used throughout your entire marketing campaigns and will be pivotal in deciding whether someone decides to use your products or services. In its lifetime, think about how many times it is seen and then you’ll fully understand why its power should never be under estimated.

Every business requires a bespoke approach

Every business is different. Everything is unique to you; history, values, target client, process… that’s why with every one of our projects, we approach them with a comprehensively structured process that gets right under the skin of the business to determine how all of these things would be visually represented accurately. Branding is personal and sensitive. It should be treated with respect. So it would be fair to say, from our point of view, a logo should at least be bespoke and well researched.

Quick fixes for the ill-educated

Sadly, and it breaks my heart to say it, it’s all too easy nowadays to download logo templates or find automated logo builders online that certainly get the job done quickly and cheaply. But as far as we’re concerned, these quick fixes are for the ill-educated.

One such site we discovered is called Logaster. It offers a series of no-frills price plans that range between £20 for a single web use logo file up to £90 for the full works including stationery and a brand book. There’s no doubting it’s incredibly easy to use. You basically follow these steps for your logo design process:

1) Type in your business name.

2) Click the ‘Create’ button.

That’s it. At this point, I don’t really know what to say. There is no process whatsoever to understand who you are, what you do, the demographic of your ideal client, your business beliefs and company values. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. So we thought we’d have a bit of fun and put it to the test by experimenting with the world’s current top 4 biggest brands to see what Logaster could come up with. Now, I will point out that you are given plenty of options, albeit disturbingly random so we decided to keep it simple and pull out a handful of our favourites to demonstrate just how much thought goes into this automated process. Meanwhile, to give you some context, we’ve placed the genuine logo for the corresponding brand on the same page – it shouldn’t be too challenging to figure out which one that is!

1) Amazon

First up we have Amazon. In reality, the logo was created to represent the message that it sells everything from A to Z and also reflects the smile that customer would experience by shopping through Amazon. No shortage of thought or development has gone into it, I’m sure you’ll agree and to date, it is still one of our favourites. If we compare this to the other five imposters, it begins to hit home just how alarmingly neglectful this process is. They are void of any personality and any hint of creativity is grossly misaligned to what the brand actually is. There is some variety in type style but nothing that comes anywhere near competing with the real version. It feels more like a case of “we don’t know what this business is so we’ll try to cover all bases”.

 

2) Apple

Now we move onto Apple. It symbolises knowledge and the symbol os one of the oldest and most potent in Western Mythology. The name and corresponding icon are synonymous and it has become one of the most powerful brands in the world. You try and find one person who doesn’t recognise that apple symbol. In stark contrast, the auto-generated examples we have pulled out are either nondescript, confusing or just downright nasty. Firstly, why do we have what appears to be a contemporary icon of a rose paired with the apple wording and secondly what in God’s name is going on with the letter spacing on the top right example. We can only assume this is a developmental bug. There are again some questionable typefaces, notably bottom left which wouldn’t look out of place on a halloween poster.

3) Google

The word Google is an adaptation of the word Googol which quite frankly is an unfathomable number. The logo has been coloured in such a way to incorporate the primary colours of blue, red and yellow. However you’ll notice the inclusion of green which is to show that Google don’t always follow the rules. In comparison, the alternatives we’ve had produced have no such meaning. Interestingly, some of the fonts aren’t too dis-similar to the one used for the real logo but the iconography is far from appropriate. On one hand we have some cases where, the line work is far to fine to be legible for print and at the opposite end of the scale we have others that have a severe lack of detail all together. I am somewhat perplexed as to why the letter M is being used in the top left example which features geometry suspiciously familiar to the rose on the Apple logo above.

4) Microsoft

The Microsoft logo stands for innovation and technology that brought the computer to the everyday person by way of its Windows operating system. It’s the perpetual symbol of quality. Unfortunately it’s a familiar story with the automated examples we’ve highlighted. The bizarre exaggeration of constricted letter spacing makes another appearance and in the bottom left example, the typeface is almost unreadable. The iconography just seems to be an afterthought in all cases. They don’t really lend anything to the designs and mean little more than just being the thirteenth letter of the alphabet.

Through further experimentation, one of the most shocking discoveries was that it actually gives you the same result, no matter what name you search for. This just further reinforces the suggestion that the process is completely random and has no consideration for the fine details that make a brand what it is. I’ve no idea what algorithms have been used in the development of this site or how many possible combinations there are but one thing that is clear is this method will fail to provide you with a design solution that will successfully attract and engage with your target market.

A brand should provide an emotive experience and your logo is centric to making that happen. Think about the demographic of who it is being directed at. Look into what you clients want to feel when they see it. Consider how it relates to the services you offer. Do all of these things and you’ll then be able to justify the extra investment because you’ll end up with an identity that has a long shelf life through delivering on its promises. The cost of design isn’t about how cheaply you can get it done, it’s about the return on investment. There’s no doubt that in these cases, Amazon, Apple, Google and Microsoft would have paid up to get the visual identities they now have. A huge amount of time would have been invested into each but when you consider the value they now each hold, was it money well spent? In the bogus examples we’ve generated, can you honestly say that you’d expect the same result?

Your brand deserves respect. Never underestimate the power it holds.

Is Your Brand More <br> Ford or Ferrari?

Is Your Brand More
Ford or Ferrari?

Everything has a price. Imagine you’re on the look out for a new car. You can have a Ford or you can have a Ferrari. The Ferrari is considerably more expensive than a Ford but its build quality, performance and user experience is superior to the Ford. Its design is also timeless and will be worshipped for years to come. The Ford offers practicality and is much more affordable but it’s unlikely to wow you. In reality, out of the two, if we had to buy one with our own money, the majority of us would choose the Ford. But in terms of preference, who isn’t going to want the Ferrari?

Ok, so not everyone is a petrol head but the point is, we’re not going to turn our noses up at quality; meticulous design and built with the customer’s experience as the centric consideration. If you buy a budget car, you know the finished article is going to be sizeably more basic.

Something which has performance and tactile components to gauge instantly is relatively straightforward to value. But when it comes to raw graphic design for business branding and marketing purposes, it is much more challenging to pin down a definitive price. 

Experienced designers undermined by novice pretenders

In today’s world, particularly with rapidly evolving digital communication, there is undeniably no shortage of creatives making themselves available to businesses looking for design solutions. Perform a quick search on Facebook and you will be inundated with offers. Unfortunately, as the creative industry is largely un-regulated, every man and his dog can pose themselves as a designer whilst those of us who have worked tirelessly for decades, find that the skills we have honed and experience we have developed over decades are undermined by novices. But as professionals, we learn to accept that we can’t be all things to all people. A £40 budget for a logo design does not necessarily mean a business owner wants to cut corners, particularly if they are a startup. If that’s all they have available, you simply can’t argue with that. But more often than not, coin is king and cost is the utmost priority. Quality, impact and longevity becomes a mere afterthought.

One of our favourite Venn diagrams illustrates the compromise needed when a product or service is provided to you. 

You want it fast and cheap? It’s not going to be great

You want it fast and great? It’s not going to be cheap

You want it cheap and great? It’s not going to be fast

It’s as simple as that. However, measuring what ‘great’ is, is not so straightforward. Design is subjective. One man’s trash can often be another man’s treasure. So how do you justify charging a premium for design? In the creative industry, you’ll pretty much be able to get hold of anything for any price. We’ve even found people on Facebook offering their services for free. But for a £40 branding exercise, what are you going to get? Well, what you’re not going to get is market research, competitor analysis, asset exploration and multiple bespoke concepts.  At this stage, we would expect a number of people to respond with “I just want a logo”. At which point, we would explain the importance behind all of these added considerations. As a design agency ourselves, we take immense pride in delivering value for money but our primary goal is to provide creative solutions that will perform and operate as a catalyst in generating new custom for your business.

Give you branding a checkup as you would for a car MOT

If we hark back to the car analogy, you’re also going to need a periodic MOT. The same applies to your business brand and the material you use to communicate it. Markets change and develop. Allowing your brand to stand still for too long and you risk being left behind by your competition. Emerging trends can also influence us differently and how your customers perceive your brand now, may not be the same a year later. As you would conduct an oil change in your car to keep it running smoothly, you would do the same with your brand to ensure its ongoing functionality. However, this is about development, not transformation. Make too many sudden changes to your brand and you risk disconnecting yourself from your existing clientele.

Ultimately, when marketing your business, it is crucial to consider not what appeals to you, but what appeals to your target customer. You may love the colour pink but if you are a funeral director, your business will end up going the same way as your clients. You may be a big fan of the Comic Sans font but if you’re trying to make you mark as a financial advisor, it’s not going to set a great first impression. How you determine your market’s needs can only be done with research and detailed exploration. Fail to do so and you are shooting in the dark.

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.

Substitute the roller banners for a car and you’ve got a car boot sale

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 se, 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?

What about digital displays?

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.

Think outside the box

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.

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

font pairs

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. It’s 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 becomes 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.

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