Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Getting the Best from your Graphic Designer - Pt 1

So this month we are talking about branding. Whilst hosting the Cheeky Chats and Blogs (chats and blogs about and for small businesses)I have found that not many people actually have a concrete understanding about what branding means. It’s really difficult to put your finger on and sometimes when you think that you understand it, someone comes along, throws another idea into the mix and you have to re think the whole branding issue all over again. It certainly is rather complex. 

So while you are struggling to understand what branding means, some of you, at the same time, are wanting to push your business forward and looking seriously at having your logo or your business cards designed. That’s all well and good, but you have to realise that branding goes much deeper than these items and products 

Now I am no graphic designer and I wouldn’t dare ever say that I knew as much as one. But I HAVE been a nervous customer, putting my business in the hands of a graphic designer and I know just how scary that feels. In all honesty, I think that I am the perfect person to write this blog, as I have made too many mistakes with regards my brand and putting across my ideas to a graphic designer. Ask anyone who has been through the process. It’s really tricky and extremely stressful 

To start off with, I have had three different logos. The first one was cheap and nasty, the second one was great, but my business grew out of it very quickly and now I am left with number three....let’s hope this is the real deal! I have made many a branding mistake along the way, so this is why I have put these posts together for you. I really hope that after reading them, you will hopefully not make the same, dreadful mistakes that I have 

I have interviewed two graphic designers that I personally admire and that have very good reputations. Greta from Colour and Spice and Tanya from Tanya Collier Design. I have asked them the questions that I myself wish I had had the courage to ask when I was first thinking of having my brand designed. Mmmm....can you design a brand or is it more of an overall feeling.....?? See what I mean, I even confuse myself over the whole subject!  

I really hope that the answers to these questions will help you to sit down and question yourself, your business and how you want your business to look and feel to the outside world. Don’t rush it, take your time. Find the right designer for you, and I personally feel that the most important thing is to communicate with your designer and to make sure you know exactly what to expect.  

Ask all your questions before the job starts and if you don’t get the right answers, move on and find someone else who will be better matched to you and what you are looking for. It doesn’t necessarily mean they are a bad designer, it just means they are not quite right for you. Go with your gut feeling and e mail the designers past customers. Ask them what the designer was like to work with, how did they communicate, how long did the design take.....Write all your questions down and make sure you get as much information on the designer as you possibly can before you action the job. Good Luck! 

Interview with Tanya from Tanya Collier Design aka Tanya, the wonderful editor of tickle the imagination magazine. 

1In your own words, describe the word BRAND 
Your brand is the way your business is perceived and encompasses every aspect of your business. Yes, your logo and business cards are important but a brand is so much more than that. I guess you could kind of think of it your brand is like your businesses personality and particularly for small businesses; your brand is almost an extension of your own personality. The tone used and content of your facebook posts, the way you dress and present yourself in public, if you have your logo on your car, the way you drive and the type of car you drive influences your branding. Trying to be something you are not will feel forced. A great brand will attract and speak to your target audience 

2What are your top 5 tips for getting the absolute best from your designer...? 
  1. Find a designer that matches your needs in terms of knowledge, time frame & budget. Every graphic designer has a different skill set.  Some are more creative.  Some are more technical. Some are more organised. Some will be able to offer marketing/advertising advice. Some shouldn't!  If possible chat with previous clients to get an idea of what your graphic designer is like to work with. 
  2. Prepare a basic design brief - jot down a few notes on the who, what, when, where, why and how of the project. 
  3. Be honest - if you don't like where a design is heading let your designer know as soon as possible.
  4. Have examples of design that have the look and feel you are trying to achieve.
  5. Don't leave it until the last minute! 

3. When a customer comes to you wanting a logo/brand designed, what do you do, where do you start and how do you help the customer who has no idea what they want? 
I like to approach branding and logo design in much the same way for all clients, the client doesn't necessarily need to have an idea in mind or know where to start. The time available to spend on each of the following steps will be dependent on the budget the client has available: 

I start with an initial consultation in person or by phone. I do this for the following reasons:
  • To get a better understanding of their product or service. 
  • If they have a business or marketing plan, I like to take a look at that. 
  • I want to know about their target audience i.e. who do they sell to, or sometimes, who do they want to sell to? How old are they, are they mostly male or female, where do they live, how much do they earn, what is an average sale worth, do they have repeat customers, that kind of thing.
  • I also like to know who their competitors are and how they feel their product or business compares 
  • We will discuss their current branding/logo and their previous experience with designers 
  • It helps if they can give examples of brands/logos they like, and we discuss what it is that they like about those brands/logos and why they feel they work. If they don't have any in mind, I will show them some examples. This isn't so that they can have a duplicate of another business, but rather to ascertain the look and feel, or style they are hoping to achieve. 
  • We discuss where and how they will be using their branding or logo. 
I would then do independent research on their industry and direct/indirect competitors.

Once I feel I have a good understanding of their industry and what they are hoping to achieve then I will start sketching up initial concepts, maybe 15 or 20 little sketches, which I will then develop into 3 concepts to show the client. We will discuss the concepts and develop a final proposal. And finally a branding overview and style guide would be developed to ensure a consistent look be achieved in all future design work. 

I personally enjoy the challenge of start-up businesses, and so do offer packages to suit their budget and needs. This will require more research and involvement on behalf of the client, but a great brand can still be achieved on a smaller budget.  

4As a customer, what should you expect from your designer? 

You should expect your designer to be honest about what they are offering, to stick to timeframes promised and to offer a clear line of communication. 
Every graphic designer will work to different timeframes, and they each have a different skill set to offer clients. It's a good idea to do a little background research or discuss this in your initial contact.  What is their background, what type of clients do they usually work with, what is their usual lead time. 
Time required will vary from job to job, based on a number of variables such as time and budget restrictions and the creative process. For example I allow approx 8 hours for logo design, but would expect it to be a three to four week process, certainly never in one sitting. 
I know many graphic designers don't feel it is their place to offer an opinion, that their job is simply to provide the client with what they have asked for.  But  I like to offer my opinion.  I try to be honest with clients, if I think they are making bad choice or should consider an alternative I try to let them know as diplomatically as I can. Something that many small businesses have trouble understanding is that they need to design for their target audience rather than for themselves, that is something I often feel the need to discuss throughout the process.  
5What happens if you follow the customers brief and then they really don't like the finished result? 

Luckily I am yet to have this happen. Like all design, graphic design is basically problem solving. The client needs to solve the problem of presenting her product or service to their target market.  Our job as a graphic designer is to offer the best solution to that problem using our design skills and previous experience. Design is a process, so if the client is involved at every stage (and provides honest feedback) they should be happy with the end result.  If they are really unhappy with the end result, then they need to discuss it with their graphic designer to come up with a solution.  I would be horrified if a client wasn't happy and didn't let me know. 

6. Who has the copyright to the finished design? (If in the future, you see a part of your logo elsewhere, what can you do? How can you make sure your logo is not just copy and pasted clip art?) 

To be honest, I wasn't sure about this one. I have always assumed the client would hold the copyright but after a little research I discovered that as an artistic work, the copyright remains with the designer unless they have signed a written document passing the copyright over to you. 
I recommend visiting the Australian Copyright Council . Search the words 'logo' and 'graphic designer' for two great documents on the subject. 
It is a good idea to discuss this issue with your designer before you start a project. 
7How much communication is involved when working with a client? 

It's great to be able to meet with a client face-to-face, but not always possible. Some clients like to give a brief and be presented with final artwork, others like to be involved in every step. I think it's important to try to match with a designer that you feel comfortable with and that will suit your needs.     

Thank you so much Tanya for the interview, we really appreciate you taking the time out to write this for us.  

I hope that has helped a few of you out there. 

Next time we will be talking to Greta, graphic designer from Colour and Spice, to hear her answers to similar questions about branding and how to get the best from your graphic designer.  

About the Contributor: 
Owner of Cheeky Pickle, Ali is a Textile Designer, originally from the U.K. She comes with a BA (hons) in Mixed Media Textile Design and has an established background in the Textile industry. She loves mixing simple, bold designs with an eclectic mix of mediums, creating unique and texturally exciting Art pieces. Ali finds her inspiration from simple, natural and organic shapes and textures, that can be seen in nature. To find out more about Ali go to her blog or follow her on Facebook.