Thursday, November 26, 2009

Take a cue from the master!

This interview by Tom Geismar is very eye-opening. He is a master graphic designer and has known for many years what we as artists may just be finding out: graphic design isn't just about making things pretty or functional; rather, it's a problem-solving discipline that provides a solution for a company's identity, report, training manual; for a writer's book cover; for the new business owner's stationary. The process has not changed drastically over the years - just enhanced (and sometimes held back) by technology advancements. Our perception of what the process is has changed but is slowly coming back to the realm of problem-solving.

In this interview Mr. Geismar spoke briefly about design concepts his clients chose over concepts he thought were much stronger. I think back on my short career as a graphic designer, both working in a position and in my own business, and remember clients also choosing representations I thought were not as strong as my primary choice. How do we really know what the client is looking for, what's in their head when they see a design? We can get close and usually hit the mark in most cases after a couple of meetings and comps, but there are always those clients who aren't sure what they're looking for - even if they have identified the core of their business. Even after a thorough investigation into all the solution possibilities, we may come up slightly short on the client's vision.

The only way to continually overcome this consequence is to continue practicing our work and take note of what didn't work well, where we might have missed communicating, make sure we investigated every option, and move on to the next project. In the end, the client is always right about their choice - even if we don't always agree with it.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

When Is Shock And Awe Too Much?

I recently had a coffee meeting with a colleague of mine this past Friday. He told me about a new commercial in Germany aimed at AIDS awareness. The group, Rainbow, centered their advertisement around near-soft-core nudity and finished with a likeness of Hitler making love to the woman on screen. The juxtaposition of AIDS and Hitler is that both are mass murderers. The makers of the advertisement are hoping to deter people in Germany from having unprotected sex, but really, does a message like its meaning across?

Advertisements that contain "shock and awe" have been around a long time, but it seems only recently that their presence is becoming known. This group, Rainbow, may not care how it is represented or remembered for its advertising. Bad marketing is as good a tool as good marketing: the product is remembered, the name is remembered, and usually the advertisement (or commercial, in this case) is remembered. But will its message be taken seriously, or will the German population turn off their television the moment the ad is aired? Was "shock and awe" necessary in this case?

Personally, I feel this commercial comes across that invisible line. An ad does not have to be sterile or safe to get its message across; however, to honestly compare the AIDS virus (which has been around since the very late 1970's, first gaining notoriety in early 1980's) to Adolf Hitler in Germany, of all countries, crosses that line. Most Germans would rather not remember those atrocities, much less be paired yet again with them. AIDS is a monstrous virus, but it stands a better chance of being cured than Evil.

I do think "shock and awe" has a place in marketing, but in most cases I feel it is an unnecessary action. It seems as though people who make commercial advertisements feel they have to be as shocking as some of the television programs or movies have become. This is a dangerous move; television and movies that subscribe to the theory that "the more shocking, the larger the audience" may be deluding itself into thinking people are paying attention to the message and not the violence or distate of the show/movie/ad. The more this type of advertisement becomes popular, the less likely its message will get across because viewers will become desensitized to it. Don't believe me? Remember the height of the Iraqui war, remember the people they were beheading on TV? A teacher in California actually aired the beheadings, and the majority of his class was not bothered by it. That's sad.

And the German AIDS commercial? Definitely something needs to be done to cure this horrible disease. It has been around far too long, claiming too many victims with little to no progress made towards its extinction. Is it enough for people to be mortified by a personified comparison of Hitler to the AIDS virus? Will this commercial teach abstinence? Or is it time for people, single or not, to have their partners tested for the virus before consummating their relationship?

As for the "shock and awe" value, tread carefully and leave most of it to the movies. Choose to be remembered for your product and not the violence of your ads.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Fast-Track to Improved Networking, Referrals, Visitors

I am reading Dr. Misner's transcription of his latest podcast, "Episode 121: Fast Track With Networking Secrets". This is truly AMAZING! This chapter in Beaumont, Texas applied a new training called "Fast Track" and managed to increase the amount of referrals passed by 70%! Before Fast Track, about half the members were responsible for passing 65% of the referrals; after Fast Track, 96% of the members were responsible for passing a minimum of one referral a week! I'm very impressed with those stats! This is a curriculum that, in my opinion, all BNI chapters should embrace. This curriculum also teaches members how to keep track of their own individual success, a type of report card if you will. Read the excerpt for more!

WOM Advertising: Fad or Future?

I just read Dr. Ivan Misner's short article on word of mouth (WOM) advertising. For those who don't know, Dr. Misner is the founder of BNI (Business Networking International), and has coached and taught members worldwide on this concept. In 2008, BNI celebrated approximately 115,000 members, 5300 chapters, 5.6 million referrals and $2.3 billion in business. Given that's when the recession began, that's a staggering fact! Members give referrals and live by "Givers Gain", the driving philosophy behind BNI's success.

The article reported that WOM is becoming the preferred marketing strategy among professionals. This is not new information to BNI members. My questions tonight are:

1. Do you have a preferred method of marketing that is working for you?
2. Do you believe in WOM?
3. Do you belong to any networking groups for your business?
4. What do you see as the future for marketing a business into success?

OK. time to get back to work.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

This article I've linked to is a very touching, revealing, inside look at the complicated side of schooling and working with a child with high-functioning autism. How many readers out there have worked with children with autism? How many know a person with high-functioning autism? Please read this article - all monies paid for this article have been donated to the National Autism Association.

Monday, June 8, 2009


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Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Great customer service!!

OK, Phoenix Arizona: When you need your vehicle serviced, go see Chrissy at Peoria Kia! THEY ROCK! I had the best customer service I've ever experienced from a car dealership - no joke, they have my future business (and, since I have two teens ready to drive, guess where I'll be helping them get there cars from!). Chrissy made sure they took good care of my van, and got it done in one-half day. TOTALLY great experience!

The DEC wants to know: What was the best customer experience you ever had? Details, please - we really want to know!

What graphic design ISN'T

This was a great article picked up on my Twitter page from a member of the graphic design industry. I'm reposting his link here because it really does hit home as to what exactly graphic designers do, and more importantly, what they don't do. After reading Grady's blog, share with me your comments and perceptions on what a graphic designer does or should do.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Don't Fear Networking!

This is a good A/V presentation by Dr. Ivan Misner, giving tips on how to overcome the fear of networking:

How many people really are afraid to walk up to someone and start a conversation? I know there are times I still get butterflies in my stomach, but I think it's more from excitement of meeting someone new rather than a fear of meeting someone new. When we meet someone, we present our 30-second elevator speech, stop, and listen. The elevator speech should never be about a sale; that can make someone feel defensive or put-off. Instead, the elevator speech should be an ice-breaker, as a chance to get to know someone better. If viewed this way, this should take away most of the fear of networking.

Special thanks to both Dr. Ivan Misner for making his presentation, and to Dave Sherman, The Networking Guy, for his tips and insights.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Website Marketing Turnoffs

Here's an interesting article about what not to do when contemplating website marketing techiques — straight from and Mr. Guy Kawasaki:

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Your Website, Your Brand

I just read this great article about web design. I agree, there is so much more that goes into putting together your web site besides just the outside skin. Keep in mind that your web site is the first "person" that people meet when they google your name or your company name. No more than you would want a rude, sassy receptionist answering your phone, you don't want a web site that is difficult to navigate, hard to read or understand, and has no focus. Would you agree?

Saturday, May 23, 2009

What's a recession?

Dr. Ivan Misner wrote a great article on why he's not participating in this recession (what's a recession, anyway?), and why we, as business owners, should not participate either. Follow his article here:

Monday, May 11, 2009

What the font?

In the past couple of weeks I have seen font choices for print that were less than desirable and even harder to read. Here are my thoughts:

1. Be careful using serif fonts in reverse. A serif font is a typeface used either bolded in a headline or within the body of text, such as a textbook. The typeface has little marks on the baseline of the letter called serifs. Some popular serif fonts are Times New Roman, Georgia, and New Baskerville. These fonts have a thick-thin style to the lettering, which is why using these typefaces in reverse is not always a good idea. If you have to use a serif in reverse, make sure it has a bold member of the family and use that in reverse; if you don't, the surrounding color will "dissolve" what's left of the letters, making them more difficult to read.

2. If a font is cute, should I use it? This is not an easy question to answer because it depends on what the cute font is and its application. For example, if you are using Curlz as part of a headline in an ad for a salon, then by all means go for it! However, if you are using Edwardian Script ITC in reverse on a business card for a realtor, then it's a bad idea. Why? Script fonts are very cute and pretty (yes, they are) but their uses should be limited. In this case I saw a business card with this particular font on a realtor's business card. The problem came in when the realtor decided her contact information should be put in her cute font. Take out your own business card for a moment, and think about the size of your contact information. Got it? Good. Now, take that same size and apply it to this cute font. See the picture? It's too small to be effective, too small to read. Bad move.

3. Why can't I use my script font in reverse? Answer: Most script fonts do not have a bold member of the family, and because of this a designer may decide to add an outline or stroke to this particular font. The catch becomes when the text moves into a lighter area on the card and suddenly may disappear, simply putting an outline around it won't make it suddenly re-appear. Indeed, in the example above, it not only made the text appear rather muddy (her print shop overprinted the black), but because the outline was rather thick in proportion to the actual size of stroke of the lettering of her cute font, it was very difficult to read her contact information. Remember, she's a realtor, selling real estate. If you can't read her contact information, chances are you're not going to call her home office and ask for her. That blows a potential sale, making her business card ineffective as a marketing tool.

4. Using all caps on serif or san-serif text is a no-no! Well, let me back up just a sec. If you need to use it for emphasis in the headline of an ad, great! I use Impact for such effects on my flyers and ads, especially in reverse! Gloucester MT Extra is also great for this effect and in reverse. What I'm talking about is using all caps all throughout the ad, business card, etc. Bo-ring, very hard to read, and thanks to our IM lingo, you may come across as yelling your services rather than introducing them.

Keeping these simple rules in mind when using type will make the difference between a nice-looking piece of marketing material versus an amateurish piece. If you have any questions about font usage, or if you would rather not stress over your marketing material, please e-mail us at and we'll put it together for you.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

New look

First, I apologize for my recent absence. I have been very involved in several projects and was unable to post until now. I have decided my current blog theme is rather dull and boring, so I am working on a new design as well as a new design for my web site. Any thoughts or suggestions (constructive and nice, please) as to what I could try to design? My thoughts are a tad tapped out so I am turning to the audience as my creative think-tank. I do like my green and will stay with that coloring.

On DEC will have a new Weekly Graphic Design Tip in the next couple of days, please stay tuned! I am also adding a new section for Networking Tips, but this section will encourage participation from others as folks may have had better experiences with their methods than I may have had with mine, and I would like to post those for all of us to consider. The more things I have to post, the more I may turn this into a weekly or even daily rather than 2x/month or less.

Question: What has been your WORST experience with networking, and how would you have improved that situation?