Tag Archives: design agency
If you’re in the market for a design agency, you may be wondering how to choose the one that’s right for your business. In this article, we’ll help you by comparing what you can expect from an agency vs. a freelancer:
A freelance designer doesn’t offer you the variety of work and design expertise that a design agency can…
While a freelance designer may be able to deliver a high-quality final product, the expertise of an agency can offer you so much more. A team of designers working together on your project will not only give you great design work but also a variety of options and ideas that wouldn’t otherwise be possible with just one person doing all of the work.
A design agency can provide you with a team of designers specialised in different areas…
This may be more cost-effective and allow the project to be completed more quickly. For example, while one designer might be better at writing copy and another is great at producing graphics, having both frees up your time to focus on what you do best: developing your brand’s message through strategy!
When you work with a design agency, you’re working with a team that has years of experience and deep expertise in their area of specialisation…
This can be especially important when it comes to building custom websites or creating marketing campaigns.
Project managers are responsible for ensuring that every project runs smoothly throughout its lifecycle, keeping everyone informed at every stage. They also make sure everyone is working on tasks according to the overall plan—which means they’ll ensure everything from design mock ups to code deployment goes according to schedule.
Account managers manage clients’ expectations by providing clear communication about what’s happening with your project at any given time, as well as answering questions about why certain decisions were made during its development process. This helps you feel more confident about where things stand and what’s coming next so there are fewer surprises along the way!
Marketing specialists understand how best practices in marketing relate specifically to your industry; this means they can tailor campaigns specifically designed around your goals and target audience so they’re effective as possible!
A design agency is more likely to meet your timeline than a freelancer…
Why? Because a design agency has access to many designers and an entire team of people who can work on your project, whereas freelance designers rarely have as much time or resources at their disposal. It’s also easier for a design agency to deliver quality work because they have access to better software and resources than freelancers do.
Agencies understand the importance of being on time, on budget and meeting client expectations—a lesson that many freelancers haven’t learned yet.
Design agencies have more experience working with big brands, which means they understand how important it is to be on time, on budget, and deliver what the client wants.
They also tend to have a more in-depth understanding of their clients’ businesses than most freelancers do, so they’re able to provide valuable insight and feedback during the design process.
Plus, since design agencies work with many different types of clients—not just other designers—they often have access to useful resources like stock photography libraries or databases containing designs that can be easily customised for use in your project.
Working with a design agency can give you lots of advantages if you have a project that requires specific design expertise and quick turnaround time…
You might be interested in working with an agency because:
- You need help with your overall branding strategy, or perhaps you’ve already created some designs and now you’re looking to build on them by adding additional pages to your website.
- You want someone who can handle the entire process—from idea to execution—for several pieces of content (like an e-book or landing page) at once.
- You need marketing material that is visually stunning but also simple enough for non-designers to use (such as infographics).
A design agency can provide you with a team of designers specialised in different areas. They have years of experience, which means they will be able to answer any questions you might have about the design process and help you get results quickly. This is especially important if your project requires specific design expertise or quick turnaround time.
We might be a little bit biased, but we think an agency would win every time!
Hiring a graphic designer will bring you so many benefits, especially if you choose the right designer or design agency. As a business, it is important to bear in mind that a logo alone won’t be enough to elevate your business to the next step. You need to think about the bigger picture and how you can deliver your brand message in other creative ways, which is where a long-term relationship with a graphic designer can be invaluable.
Below, let’s explore some of the advantages to hiring a graphic designer in the long-term.
1. They want to understand your needs
If you outsource to a design agency, then they will want to understand your needs and what makes your business tick, as that’s vital to the design process. A good designer will dive deep into understanding your brand & what you want, but most importantly, what you need.
2. They know how to set the right first impression for your brand
First impressions are so important. In business, a first impression is a lasting impression, so you really need to make it a positive one on potential prospects. This is what good graphic design can do for you and a great designer will ensure that the first impression you make is the right one. Often, the first business graphic a prospect sees will be your business card, a page on your website or an online ad, so getting an expert graphic designer on board to help with this would benefit any business wanting to succeed.
3. They will save you time
If you’re running a business, then your time is very valuable. Can you really afford to spend your valuable time trying to come up with a style for your marketing materials? You can’t just throw together a good design, it takes a combination of skills and a lot of experience. Delegating to a professional will allow you to continue your work whilst the professionals take on the design. Good design firms work fast. They are highly efficient businesses that leverage experiences on past projects to quickly arrive at solutions.
4. Their flexibility makes brand communications much more cost effective to you
Employees are expensive and if you hire an in-house design team, you’ll need to keep them busy, which 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. You can eliminate the burden of employment costs by hiring a graphic design agency that won’t require benefits like healthcare, unemployment insurance and retirement. 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.
5. They enable you to focus more on what you’re best at
Outsourcing to experts allows you to return to doing the work that helps your business to grow and focus on what you’re best at. Design is time consuming and if you aren’t a trained professional, trying your hand at logos and branding will take valuable time away from your other tasks.
6. They help build credibility
Credibility is hugely important. There is a clear link between good design and perceived credibility. You need your visuals to be on point along with a fully functioning website where everything works. If you want to build good credibility, then you need to problem solve for your audience, ensure they trust your advice and that you’re seen as an expert in your industry.
7. They will provide you with a whole team of creative talent
An external design team will have far more experience than one, in-house hire. Instead of working with one employee in-house you will essentially have an entire staff at your disposal. A good 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. The result is something that could never be achieved by a single person’s point of view.
8. They will provide you with a fresh perspective on your current brand communications
Sometimes, a fresh perspective can be invaluable. Whether you are rebranding, or starting from scratch, engaging a design agency and its experts can help you to see things in a way you may not have considered. An outside perspective has the potential to show you what you may have been missing and need to bring to life.
9. They have the creativity to keep you ahead of your competitors
If you want to stay ahead of your competitors, then you need great graphic design. Your brand voice will flow through everything you do, and a graphic designer can help you to achieve this, after all, great businesses come with great showcasing. A graphic designer can ensure that not only you have stand out branding but that, on an ongoing basis, you are reviewing the competition and constantly finding ways to improve.
10. They appreciate trends to give you that cutting edge appeal
Graphic designers are not only trained and experienced, but on a daily basis, they are immersed in the worlds of design and marketing. It is their job and lifeblood to keep up with the latest trends that are shaping the industry. So, if you want cutting edge and up to the minute advice, you can rest assured the work will have a fresh and modern appeal.
11. They crave accountability
Good graphic designers will thrive on accountability. When you outsource to a design agency, they want a return on investment as much as you do. An agency will be passionate about the project and deeply invested in it to ensure you get the results you desire and working to the highest standard. Not every employee thrives on accountability, so outsourcing can have huge benefits here.
12. They know how to inject emotion into your messaging
Every business has a story and it’s so important that this is communicated well to your audience. All types of designs need to evoke some emotion in their viewer. Therefore, a design without a purpose is a human without emotions. Each and every single element in your design matters and signifies any emotion or feeling that supports your message. A good graphic designer will be able to convey a brand, a message, a story, and meaning.
13. They understand how to design with efficiency
Visuals are vital when it comes to design, but so is efficiency. Your designs need to look great, but they also need to be functional. If the graphics are badly designed, it can have a negative impact. Your business website should be perfectly designed and give no headaches to your customers, a good graphic designer will be able to create practical designs with easy navigation, legible fonts, and attractive colours.
At Creative Fire, we want to work with you to make sure your design is the best it can be. We believe that if you constantly nurture your brand, the results will be truly impressive. That’s why we see our client relationships as long term, we want to build a relationship with you for the long-haul. With each new client relationship, we take the time to get to know you and what really makes you tick. By partnering for the long term we can really immerse ourselves in your brand and work together to strategize, ensuring you’re ahead of the curve and your competitors.
Branding can make or break your business. That said, start-ups and smaller businesses are often so caught up in the technicalities of the business that branding is often put on the back burner. So, whether you’re just starting out or have been in business for decades, here are some crucial branding mistakes you should avoid:
1. Not grasping the meaning of branding
Branding is a blueprint for how you want the world to see your business. An easy mistake to make is not actually understanding what branding really is. So, take some time to really understand the concept and find an explanation that suits you. You need to really grasp it to apply it to your business – more on this in the next point!
2. Getting your marketing mixed up with your branding
Make sure you don’t confuse marketing with branding. Let’s separate this out quickly. Branding is defining who, or what, your brand is. Marketing is making other people aware of it. Whilst they are closely related and there’s a lot of crossover, being unclear on the differences means you can’t do either effectively. Here’s a tip: take care of branding first, then tackle marketing second.
3. Seeing branding as just a logo
Branding is much bigger than one or two brand assets, like business cards or a logo. Branding is in fact the conceptual act of defining your business, not just making some pretty designs in the company colours.
4. Trying too hard to stand out
Unfortunately, trying too hard looks desperate. Instead, aim to let your brand develop naturally and organically, avoiding try to shoehorn it into a trend. The public can smell inauthenticity a mile away, and it never turns out well.
5. Thinking you know best
Let’s be realistic, you’re no doubt excellent at what you do, but not every entrepreneur has a solid understanding of psychology, graphic design and copywriting. This is why we think you should always hire a professional.
6. Playing it too safe
By the same token, there are business that play it too safe when it comes to branding. If there’s nothing unusual or unique about your brand, it’s going to be tough to carve out market share. You can combat this with lots of research into you competitors – it will help you find a niche and root out gaps in your competitor’s offering that perhaps you can fill.
7. Being too edgy
Some businesses try very hard to differentiate themselves from the competition. This is a good thing, but more than one company has crossed a line in their quest for uniqueness and it’s ended badly. Interesting is good but keep it in the realms of respectable.
8. Forgetting brand guidelines
Don’t forget about brand guidelines. These are vital for success, because as well as helping ensure consistency and authenticity in-house, they’ll be a huge help to any 3rd party professionals you employ to help with marketing, content, graphic design, product design.
9. Lacking consistency across channels
Once you’ve got branding in place, you must ensure it’s represented similarly across all the channels your business is present on. Being inconsistent sends a mixed message to the public. Keeping your brand guidelines at the forefront will help with this.
10. Lacking consistency across collateral
It can be easy to ensure consistency in the obvious places and forget about areas that don’t spring to top of mind. Make sure anything that is issued by your business, from letters to compliment slips to invoices, is as on-brand as your Instagram account.
11. Refusing to admit mistakes
Even the most experienced brands make mistakes sometimes and everyone makes mistakes. If this happens, the only way to recover is by owning up to the error. Admit your mistake early and you’ll hopefully be in with a chance to remedy it.
12. Attaching your brand to the wrong things
By the same token, there are business that play it too safe when it comes to branding. If there’s nothing unusual or unique about your brand, it’s going to be tough to carve out market share. You can combat this with lots of research into you competitors – it will help you find a niche and root out gaps in your competitor’s offering that perhaps you can fill.
Be really careful about what you allow your brand name to be attached too. For every association that brings in new business and extra revenue, there are 10 more that just leave customers scratching their heads, which is never a good sign for business.
13. Neglecting the update
If you’ve already got your branding done and dusted, set a reminder to look at it on an annual or bi-annual basis. Whilst you don’t want your brand to be moulded by every passing trend, you want to avoid it looking tired and irrelevant. You just need to work on getting the balance right.
14. Attempting to appeal to everyone
You can’t be all things to all people. Instead, embrace your brand and walk the walk – this clarity will help your people find you.
15. Being too trend driven
Every year brings in new design trends and while it’s ok to use them for inspiration, copying them can look desperate. Jumping from trend to trend is also not advisable, as it’s a type of inconsistency.
16. Forgetting about written content
Don’t make the mistake of forgetting about the text when you concentrate on graphic design. Copywriting may play a lesser role in your branding, but it’s hugely important and worth examining professionally. Great copywriting not only increases sales and conversions, but it also has a major impact on how people view your brand in terms of authenticity. Core messages, mission statement and tag lines are all essential brand elements and they all rest on the written word.
17. Thinking too small
Don’t think too small. Whilst some online businesses are very local, an increasing number have a global reach, even without trying. Make sure your branding doesn’t offend any of your international clients.
18. Stripping all personality
Consistency is key but never varying from the strictest confines of your brand guidelines can make for a very boring brand. Don’t be afraid to inject a little personality and character into your brand actions.
19. Overlooking the brand deadline
Solid branding takes effort and isn’t something you can finish in a couple of days. That said, always set yourself an end goal and a deadline to wrap everything up. Some companies are never happy and continue poking their brand to “get it just right”. A brand that’s always in motion can never grow roots, and it’s those roots that are key to your brand being the foundation your business is built on.
20. Alienating your origins
It can often be hard to get the balance between old and new right, but if your brand has been around for a while, it’s worth remembering that you may have fans and customers who love you for your traditional brand. Updates that stray too far from origins like this can sometimes fall flat, so tread carefully and do lots of research before you refresh your classic brand.
The above are 20 common, but avoidable, ways that businesses make mistakes with their branding. That said, the biggest branding mistake of all is doing nothing! So, if you’re trying hard, then hopefully these tips will help you to avoid the various branding pitfalls.
Luckily, when you employ a branding professional, the person or agency will be the ones looking out for these possible pitfalls. At Creative Fire, we’ll work together on your branding, taking the task off your hands whilst you focus on other areas of your business and helping you to avoid these common mistakes. For consistency, professional designs and high-level expertise, contact the Creative Fire team today.
15 Steps to Futureproofing Your Brand
The way we market ourselves in business is now more volatile than ever. We’ve seen monumental shifts in behaviours during the Covid pandemic and it’s created more pressure on businesses to ensure their brand remains in an optimum position as these changes occur.
One of the biggest causes of failure in business is brand negligence. Far too often, brand development is seen as a one-stop shop; a single visit process which can simply be ticked off, never to be reviewed again. The stark reality is that there are many contributing factors which prove it requires constant nurturing. The best advice we can give is to plan ahead. Think about where you want your business to be in 6, 12, 24 months and ensure that you position your brand to match your goals.
So, how do you go about doing this to meet these expectations? Here are 15 steps to ensure your brand is watertight for the future:
1. Review your goals and values
It’s important to regularly review your goals and values, to take stock of where you are. So, take some time to do some introspection on your brand journey to date. Are you clear about your brand values? What are your core values? Are your goals are aligned with the progress the business is making?
2. Identify your USP
What makes your business better than any other? Identifying your USP is vital for understanding the unique value that only you have to offer to your ideal audience, through your experience and expertise. What problem does your business solve differently or better than other businesses in your field? Focusing on what you do really well will help you to focus on your strategy.
3. Understand your audience
It’s important to get very specific with who needs your product or service and more importantly, where they live online. If you don’t know your audience, you won’t know what strategies or media to choose, let alone what messages to give them or how to treat them once they become full-fledged customers. Find out what platforms your audience use, get into their mindsets and really tap into what’s going to make them tick.
4. Create a headline with impact
Create an impactful headline statement that includes who you are, what you do, how you do it and for whom. This shouldn’t be more than a sentence, it can then be used in your online profiles and as an introduction when meeting new people. This headline should clearly communicate your brand, so it’s worth putting your thinking cap on for this one.
5. Stay true to your brand story
A clear and distinctive brand is one that is tells a story that sticks in your mind and gives a company an advantage in the marketplace. What does your brand really mean to your organisation? Does it represent tangible assets with your logo on them? Is it your tone-of-voice? A brand must be the expression of the ‘authentic story’ behind your organisation.
6. Ensure your online profiles are up to date
Keeping all your profiles up to date online is important to ensure you and your brand are seen as current and professional. These channels are a form of branding, so invest in things like a professional headshot. Ensure that your profiles have up-to-date and accurate information about you and your brand, to represent yourself the way you want to be addressed.
7. Monitor your website search ranking
Start with a simple Google search with your name, then your brand name, then the keywords that would be associated with your name or brand. Make a note of where you rank on Google and what links show up for you first. This will help you to become aware of what others are seeing when they are trying to find you so that you can make the necessary changes or updates.
8. Be the master in a particular field
Have a think about what you want to be known for in your industry. What keywords would you want someone to use to find you online? If you had an opportunity to speak at an event, what would your ideal topic be? Figure out your niche and then get more specific with your offering, this will make it easier for the right people to find you. Become a master in your chosen field and excel in it.
9. Demonstrate your compassion
Brands today are no longer just about representing a transaction. Brands must demonstrate that they make a contribution, beyond mere product benefits. They need to be a force for good in our world. For example: improving communities, providing useful career paths for employees, supporting charities and worthy causes to give back to the community. You need to demonstrate this to your audience and make sure they know you care.
10. Create and share content
Content is key! Sharing useful, interesting and innovative content is a sure way to keep your brand top of mind. To make a start, write down the top 10 questions you get asked by your customers or clients. Use this as the starting point to creating content for your audience. Break down each question and decide on the best format, images, video and audio for your content.
11. Comment and collaborate
It’s key to be present and engaged on your social media channels. Comment, like, share and connect with people. Real connection can lead to real opportunities for collaboration that can quickly expand your reach and audience and grow your online community.
12. Focus on the platforms right for you
If you’re wondering what platforms are right for you, then the answer is wherever your ideal audience lives online. Find out where your people are hanging out and engaging online and meet them there. Get familiar with the platforms and start creating content that adds value to your community.
13. Keep it fresh and relevant
Regular content, well written and distributed, continually reinforces your brand voice while delivering value to your customers. Thought leadership is also important, the ideas, concepts and vision your company can own and act upon to influence your industry. This showcases your strengths, your capabilities and your authority and keeps content fresh and relevant.
14. Never stand still
A brand does not stand still. People are continually looking to improve their lives in some way and brands that light the way forward through new ideas, resonate with a hungry public. The market will always change, and your brand will always have to adapt. To future-proof your brand, you must constantly evaluate your environment and think several steps ahead. How quickly and flexibly can you adapt to industry changes and shifting customer needs? Managing your brand is a continuous process, with the aim of continuing to optimise brand experiences and brand values.
15. Get the right expertise
To ensure that your brand is always future proof, you need the right expertise on hand. You can develop this expertise within your own talent pool, but it’s also wise to use external help, especially when your brand planning changes. You might work on the brand with a lot of people within your organisation, but think about who is responsible for your brand when it comes to strategy and design? Experts can provide unique points of view and innovative ideas, to compliment and synergise with your own in-house teams.
Agencies are often hired when it comes to brand strategy and design. 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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
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!
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”.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
A serif is a typeface with a small projection at the end of the letter strikes
A sans serif is a typeface without any stroke embellishments or detail.
A slab serif is a typeface that’s identified by its thick, clock-like serifs.
A script typeface links together letter-to-letter, they are best saved for headings and display.
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.
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