Suddenly, flat design is all the rage. From Microsoft to Apple, the “new” flat style is taking over screens everywhere, and our buttons and apps have never looked smoother. Of course, companies are now also in a mad race to make their logos flatter than the next guy’s.
Beyond the trend, there are several legitimate reasons for this. Simplicity removes distraction and communicates quicker — perfect for the online engagement frenzy and especially the mobile world of the smartphone. Things are just more easily decipherable with pared down visuals, and their smaller file sizes also satisfy our ever-increasing need for speed.
But one of the most compelling reasons for the change is that skeuomorphism is out — that is, we no longer feel the need to pretend that new media should somehow copy and replicate the look and feel of the tools and objects that came before. Digital folders on our computer screens no longer need to look like the paper folders in our file cabinets (do we still use those?), and navigation tabs on websites no longer need to look like the things that stick up from those paper folders. Just as we ditched Naugahyde in the ’70s, skeuomorphism was fun while it lasted — it served its purpose but it’s no longer necessary.
It seems like just yesterday that we were all scurrying to make every design look as 3-dimensional, shiny and “real-looking” as possible, with several drop shadows thrown in for good measure. Making things look like real-life objects was a handy style-bridge between yesterday and today, helping us familiarize ourselves with the cold new world of pixels. But we’ve been living in the digital age for a while now, and we don’t need that security blanket anymore. A digital world requires its own visual language, not a second hand copy of things that came before.
I love flat design and am happy that things have progressed to the point where simple forms, beautiful layouts, and typography can once again rule the day in visual communications. Trends are cyclical by nature, but what matters most is not the style — but rather, is it good and does it work?
Flat design can be wonderful but it is very difficult to do well — it takes “real” designers and illustrators to pull it off. Minimalism is deceptively simple and unfortunately, we see a lot of bad flat design because of it. As flat design’s inherent simplicity offers no place to hide, it will now be easier to separate “those who can” from “those who can’t.” All those tacky stylistic renderings and cheap “special effects,” layered upon ugly layer, did a fine job of concealing a lack of real design skill — but Halloween is over and the mask needed to come off eventually.
The key now is to make flat design and the return to minimalism as clever and interesting as anything more elaborate — boring, empty design won’t spark anyone to action and is the risk taken with less capable hands.
So… bring on the flat — no more 3-D buttons that feel like we can push them, no more leatherette backgrounds (why do we call them “wallpapers” anyway?) and no more spherical balls when a plain circle will suffice.
It’s time to move past all the unnecessary adornment and the land of bells and whistles — to embrace our present by looking to the past. Flat design is not a trend, it’s a reawakening.
We’re human. We get tired, sometimes burnt out.
What does that mean for our creativity? Not good. If you’re like me, we do our best and most creative work when we are alert, energized and better yet, passionate about what we are doing.
We all know that vacations and breaks from our usual activities give us renewed vigor when we return to our more ordinary, daily routines. But do you also know that “micro-breaks” can be just as important? And I don’t just mean those little breaks everyone recommends we give ourselves to rest our eyes, bodies, and spirit — I mean really little breaks — going to a different room or stepping outside for a moment, then returning to look at our work in a fresh light.
I often find that when I just give myself the chance to see something different and experience a different environment, even if only for a few minutes, I get the objectivity I need to see possibilities in something I may not have seen before. Sometimes these insights are quite minor but just what the project required; other times, it could mean seeing everything in a completely new light and turning it all upside down — again providing just the answers I need to take something to the next level.In a way, these breaks provide the objectivity and point of view from another person who isn’t actually there — extra beneficial if you’re a solopreneur, like me.Try it. I’ve come to rely on this tactic so much that I always try to build extra time into my projects that will allow the luxury of “time away” so crucial to taking my projects to places they would not have otherwise gone (while staying on deadline, of course!).
There’s been a lot of research in this area as well — this Wall Street Journal article has a lot of studies cited and goes deeper into this phenomenon.
Try it. Your projects will like it!
Featured image courtesy of stock.xchng
The return to the visual was inevitable, really. Modern media demands it.
Communication as pictograms means we have come full circle — a return to a day when images provide the best way to satisfy the insatiable “need to know” while on the fly. We don’t catch our info while fleeing from woolly mammoths anymore. Instead, our big, hairy, audacious stressor is modern culture itself.
Words are important, but pictures say so much more when skimming the social streams and checking in with the myriad of digital devices at our fingertips. Coupled with the need to “tell a story” in order to engage and capture the imagination of our audiences, you can see why the visual has risen to such prominence in today’s business communications, digital platforms and overall marketing efforts.
“90% of information transmitted to the brain is visual, and visuals are processed 60,000X faster in the brain than text.” ~ Source: 3M
More than ever, communications need to be crisp and clear — quickly and effectively repurposing themselves across an almost infinite array of media and digital devices, all with different screen sizes and technical requirements — changing on an almost daily basis. Even getting just a few words working in all these different contexts can be a challenge, but a simple visual or icon will work for them all.
Restroom symbols are what they are because "ya gotta go when ya gotta go” and nothing will get you where you gotta go quicker. Same with modern media.
Yet, with all this simplification of ideas down to visuals, are we compromising depth of understanding for practical convenience? Are we forever stuck in a type of Plato's cave where all we ever see are shadows rather than true meaning? Can we stop for just a second and contemplate this notion? Please?
Thoughts as visuals. Every social media redesign makes the pictures bigger. Every logo redesign seems to bring us closer to the purity of a basic circle, square or triangle. It is part of the natural progression from complexity to simplicity. Our modern culture demands it, our overloaded brains require it, and science proves it.
You can choose to resist this reality or accept it, but you can’t deny that our world has changed and our communications have changed with it. We interact with content differently now. Or is it really just a return to the way things used to be?
If you don’t adapt and move your communications strategy towards the visual, you run the real risk of going unnoticed and unheard. You and your business will basically be rendered invisible.
The choice is yours. Fight or flight.
Photo of cave drawing from the Lascauex Cave, France.
Businesses and solopreneurs sometimes have difficulty justifying the expense of hiring a professional branding and design pro. In other words, “What am I going to get for my money that I can’t get done on the cheap somewhere else?”
These types of questions are often asked by people either new to marketing, or those debating whether other priorities should take precedence in their spending budget. Even if they are the ones proactively seeking out these specific types of services, many still require convincing that a smart branding, design and communications program is worth the dollars they’ll be spending — and that it is an investment with countless dividends.
When prospective clients ask me what they’ll be getting for their investment in professional branding and design, I can answer in many different ways, but sometimes I think it best to tell them what they WON’T be getting:
1. A website that hurts the eyes, the brain and your business
People like to fly when they’re online — they zip from one page to the next, from news to entertainment, from Facebook to Twitter, around the world and back. When they land on your site, they will not be intrigued by a mess reminiscent of what two year olds leave on their bibs. Not only won’t they bother navigating past the home page, which is likely to be a masochistic exercise in search for something that will only leave them frustrated, but your crowded, ugly, chaotic website will convince people to make another one of those split-second clicks — to your competitor’s website.
2. A media kit that bursts at the seams with odd-sized materials that don’t match
Fitting that body into jeans three sizes too small may work in certain parts of town, but not when you are trying to convince somebody to do business with you. My son comes home from school with a book bag that looks like a sack full of dirty laundry, but he’s not going on client meetings with it. Not yet, anyway. And if he does, we’ll have to have a talk.
3. A logo that is a diagram, a mission statement, and ten years of strategy all rolled into one
A logo that tries to “say it all” and put every little thing into that one little graphic is never going to say anything. What it will say is that you have no idea what you’re doing, and no business wants to communicate that. Leave the laundry list of services and detailed illustrations to your brochure — you know, the one that doesn’t look like the one in #4.
4. A brochure that confuses, obscures and begs for the trash bin
People’s offices already have a lot of clutter. Your brochure comprised of all your best Word docs set in eight different fonts with fuzzy screen captures for graphic blandishment may get YOU excited, but everyone else will have a different reaction. Trust me on this.
5. A social media page that screams “DISENGAGE FROM ME” rather than engage with me
You see them everywhere — even from those you think should know better, which baffles me. I’m not even talking about the eggs and empty profile silhouettes — I mean the blurry little portraits, logos that look like they’ve been photocopied twenty times and bios full of hashtags and exclamations that make you cringe. That stuff just sends people for the hills. And those busy, confusing, garish visuals used for backgrounds and header images that would make Times Square laugh at you? Oh my.
6. A web banner that looks like one of those crass supermarket ads
Unfortunately, these tend to be the norm rather than the exception. Yelling “BUY ME NOW!” was supposed to have gone out a few years ago. Too bad so many businesses persist with this worn out tactic of trying to attract eyeballs and clicks. I tend to look the other way, how about you?
7. A newsletter that is tossed as soon as it is seen
This goes for about 95% of the newsletters out there: a flimsy page or two, crammed with small text, blurry photos and tired clip art. You may be enamored with your content and that you figured out how to create it “all by yourself” in Word or PowerPoint, but nobody else gives a rat’s ass what you learned on a rainy Saturday afternoon. You saved a few bucks, but your business will pay the price because the only thing you are influencing is a poor reflection on your business.
8. A business card that never leaves the dark recesses of somebody’s pocket, unless to dispose of a piece of gum
When I’m handed a business card on thin, crappy stock with an irrelevant stock image and ugly type, guess what I think of them and their business? “Oh, this is a person with weak skills, bad taste and not much respect for themselves or their business.” Be honest, you know you do it too.
9. An email campaign that doesn’t make it past my ever-increasingly quick-scrolling preview pane
Most people already sigh a giant “UGH!” at the amount of emails they receive every day. Throw in yet another overly promotional, ugly looking email with lots of big fonts and sparkly, futuristic 3-D images that look like they’re from some low-brow sci-fi movie from the ’70s and… well, good luck with that.
10. A PowerPoint that goes on, and on, and on, and on, and… *snore*
Not sure if you’ve seen many of these because you were probably fast asleep, but… you have certainly suffered through them. Repeating every word you are saying and putting up every piece of data you can for “graphic interest” kind of defeats your reason for being there in the first place, doesn’t it? Redundancy and boring your audience to tears is not an effective marketing strategy.
11. A web landing page that makes you sorry for landing there
Long, tedious forms with lots of asterisks that require you to give a lot of personal information are deal breakers. Your intention to capture prospects just turned into the opposite — they will leave and may never click on one of your links ever again.
12. An e-book that looks like that lame school paper you once whipped out the day it was due
This isn’t school anymore — this is business — and crunching to crank out something mediocre just because you can is supposed to be ancient history now. So why do so many e-books look like they were created under the same duress and lack of enthusiasm you had for that boring sociology class you once had? This is your business we’re talking about and doesn’t it deserve a little more care and professionalism? Of course it does!
Remember what your mother once told you: “You only have one chance to make a good first impression.” Usually all it takes is some clean underwear, brushing your teeth, flashing a winning smile and you’re golden. Sometimes it takes a little more.
And oh yeah, even if you have the skills to create some of these things yourself, you need to be a cut above the rest if you really want to make an impression in this hyper-competitive world. Hiring a pro is well worth the investment, and could very well be the difference between success and failure.
So… what terrible, awful, dreadful things will you not be giving your clients? And if you are the client, I hope you appreciate what you won’t be getting from re:DESIGN.
Getting the most from your investment in good design requires a clear understanding of the roles of both the client and that of the designer or creative agency. Everyone has the same goal of doing what is best for the project at hand, but things can go awry when there is confusion and unclear expectations about each other’s roles.
Contrary to common belief, design is not as subjective as one may think. While everyone may have an opinion and even experts often disagree (don’t they always?), there IS such a thing as good and bad design. There are also rights and wrongs for how to best move the creative process forward.
Good design can be measured against several different benchmarks: how well it solves the marketing problem, how well it communicates the message, how well it functions, clarifies, and sells, not to mention the fundamental aesthetic value of the completed design — and how well the designer uses all the components in their creative toolbox: concept, shape, form, color, texture, scale, and typography all play a part.
Designers don't leave anything to chance. The way the right side of a paragraph looks (rag), the space between lines of text (leading), as well as the spaces between letters (kerning) is deliberated over — always looking for a pleasing look and balance between positive and negative space. Maybe you can see why I cringe when a client says I can just "dump in the text." Designers never just "dump" in anything, even something as basic as body text in a document.
Along with all the other considerations designers make during the creative process, the art of design takes time, resulting in an end result that looks and functions as well as it does. A good designer never leaves anything to chance, and will always be able to explain the rationale behind a particular design decision when necessary or if challenged — both aesthetically and businesswise.
The designer anomaly
True design pros are a mix of many different skill sets — they are smart communicators with a keen understanding of marketing strategy, psychology, client relations, technology, project management and the ability to stay focused on the overall goals without getting sidetracked by the many distractions and inevitable hiccups along the way. Successful outcomes are a testament to how well these factors are juggled — and making it all come out on time and
Designers make order out of chaos. Like chewing gum, rubbing your tummy and walking all at the same time, and still somehow making it all look beautiful, this is no easy feat.
On top of this, good design is often design that goes unnoticed — too much adornment or obtrusive design would get in the way of the communication or functionality. No wonder there is so much confusion about what design is and what designers bring to the table! But let it be known that if something looks simple, fluid and easy, you can be sure it wasn’t easy getting it that way. In the same way that a ballet dancer jumps and moves with incredible beauty and grace on stage, misleading one into thinking it is in someway “easy,” we know it only takes a few seconds of trying it yourself to know that is certainly not the case. Today’s software and endless tools may make it appear that design can be done by anybody, but the results usually speak for themselves
.Is there a design quotient?
Just as people have certain aptitudes for anything — I do think there is such a thing as a DQ, or design quotient — similar to an IQ or an EQ (emotional intelligence). Yet I don’t believe possessing a high DQ is necessary to benefit from good design or to work successfully with designers.
Good designers, through talent, training, practice, experience and instinct, know how to make things communicate better, sell better, work better, conserve better, and yes, look better too. The end result, however, is effective without anyone really needing to know why. The best designers and creative pros have dedicated their lives to mastering visual rhetoric.
While personal tastes will be taken into account when relevant, such as a personal branding project, designers do not need a lot of creative input. Clients do not need to conceive what they want — they don’t need to develop rough sketches and they certainly don’t need to supply the designer with ideas or preconceived notions. In fact, this is where the designer/client relationship can sometimes get strained, because as important as the client role is in successful outcomes, they sometimes unwittingly overstep their bounds during the creative process into areas for which they do not have an "aptitude." My younger son may like a certain meal after it is served but can't stand the sight of it being made — if he had his way and changed six of the eight ingredients, he wouldn't like the end result and neither would anyone else.The critical role of the client
What a designer requires from the client, and indeed, what the project needs
to be successful — is the client focusing on fulfilling their very important role in the client/designer relationship. These things are crucial if the project is going to meet its goals and justify the investment. The most important things a client needs to provide their creative agency in order for them to do their jobs effectively are:
1) Defining what needs to be accomplished from a strategic perspective (marketing/communications goals, audience, objectives, etc.)
2) Outlining any specific project requirements and parameters (including who will be involved, what the timeframe is, the budget, etc.)
3) Supplying timely input and feedback throughout the process in order to keep the project on track.
Please note that a client’s favorite color is not
one of these top priorities. Let the designer you chose to trust with your work do their thing — they will select the colors and other things that best solve the problem at hand. Again, color choice is not purely subjective, and the color you recently used to repaint your kitchen may not necessarily be the best choice for your branding/marketing/communications project. If it is a personal branding project or the like, a client’s personal preferences should always be accounted for. But for most other projects, it is the target market that needs to be appealed to and influenced, not the client.The client/designer partnership
The client/designer relationship is a partnership with clearly defined roles, working together throughout the development process. Both roles are necessary to arrive at a successful solution — and the better this partnership, the better the result for both parties. One without the other won’t get the job done, at least not as effectively as it could be done.
Mutual respect for each other’s roles always leads to the best collaborations. In fact, out of all the creative success I’ve had and awards I have won, I have always seen the client as an integral component of those outcomes:
A) They hired me in the first place
B) They provided me the input I needed to do my job
C) They trusted me and ultimately approved the work, letting good work flourish
I couldn’t have done any of this without a good client.
Yet the basic client responsibilities I outlined are often overlooked while other extraneous things are brought into the equation instead, which can lead to less than desirable results — or at least the project won’t be what it could have been. Everyone wants the same thing — a healthy process that achieves the desired goals, yet a lack of understanding of who is responsible for what so often derails the process, sabotaging the result that everyone is seeking.
Again, clients should not feel pressured to solve the problem for the designer — in fact, that is exactly what is NOT needed. “Make it bigger,” “make the font bolder,” and “make it red” are also examples of clients dictating the solution rather than establishing the communications problem that needs solving. In these examples, the issue is really that something needs to be highlighted in some way — let the designer use their talent, training, experience and intuition to come up with the best answer. Give the professional who was hired the space to create and do their thing. They are the experts.
Client feedback is welcomed and always taken into consideration. Likewise, good ideas can come from anywhere. But preconceived notions and demands are impositions that prevent a healthy creative process.
Designers have their fingers on the pulse and are in the best position to know what will most likely get the reaction you are looking for, and then convert it into that pesky little ROI
everyone is looking to achieve. Pigeonholing your designer and dictating design won’t get you there.It’s a trust thing
The most important thing that clients can do is hire a designer
or agency they trust. Based on their previous work, recommendations and familiarity with the people being hired — designers need to be trusted with delivering the results desired. The work they do may not look like what they have done for other clients — that would be defeating the entire purpose of hiring an agency to deliver a custom solution in the first place. Remember: in today’s competitive business climate, companies need to stand out, not blend in with the rest. So it stands to reason that a successful visual presence should not look like what everybody else is doing.
For this reason, the best creative work can make clients feel uncomfortable, because it may be different from what they have seen before. But trust and good communication will create the climate in which breakout creative can flourish — and there’s a good chance it will do the same for your
business.Looking to maximize your own investment in design?
If you think good design could make a difference in your next project, please contact me
— I’d love to speak with you and see how we may partner together and get the most bang for your
An engaged online community or digital tribe is the path to real business success on social media. Anyone who has been on social media for any length of time recognizes that the old school way of broadcasting messages is beyond passé at this point and that engagement is the key. The way to propel this activity is by either creating or becoming part of a relevant online community that learns to trust you and that will support your activities and interests, hyper-spreading your endeavors globally.
There is strength in numbers. But there is power in numbers that actually know you!
Individuals acting independently of each other will not have nearly the same impact.
It is becoming increasingly important for brands to get on board with this concept of community in the new social order. Indeed, the potential for developing a community of brand advocates that freely shares your content and spreads the word about your company on a consistent basis, perhaps even with passion, is nothing less than the Holy Grail of social media.
Fundamentally, there is really nothing new here — we have always networked and seeked to develop trusted reputations — but we could have only dreamed to do it on the massive, global scale that today’s social networking platforms enable. Over the past few years, I have learned a thing or two about what makes a digital tribe tick. I run a couple of online communities and play a leading role in others. One of these is the re:DESIGN
community on Facebook
, for those who value all that strategic design can do for business and innovation.
I have also gleaned a lot of insight from the global writers’ community I run with Peggy Fitzpatrick
at 12 Most
. What could have easily been a disjointed effort of haphazardly posting guest posts as they come in, has instead grown into a very organized, respected community of professionals — one that produces fresh weekly content with a broad readership — all while enjoying each other’s company and supporting each other every step of the way.
We are a digital tribe that is greater than the sum of its parts, because of what we have been able to foster through social media and a deliberate, strategic effort to build something special. I am sure that our readers respond to this too, as they enjoy the content we provide and feed off the energy of our social interaction and in the comments beneath our posts as well.
Following are some of the things that are critical for building a successful online community:1. Passion with a common purpose
Having a passion for the mission and values of the tribe is vital. It is what inspires others to be passionate too and share in the journey. Defining processes and clarifying expectations facilitates a healthy, vibrant, principle-based community. It is also handy to have these and other community guidelines to point to when necessary — publicizing them demonstrates transparency and shows that these principles go for everybody. We state right upfront what we are looking for in the re:DESIGN
and 12 Most
communities — it is the only way to attract like-minded people who share similar passions.2. Leadership
Any large group that aspires to work together toward common goals requires leadership to establish a focus, keep things properly aligned and get things done. It’s the only way to harness the power of the people, efficiently and effectively. The vision and community values need to be established upfront — and then someone needs to make decisions in the end. It is the only way.3. Establish forums for people to get to know each other
A “safe” haven where people aren’t afraid to share and be themselves is vital. Good news, bad news, anything — it is where strong bonds are developed. Even if your primary presence is a public one, it is important to have a closed group forum as well. It is also where sensitive matters can be handled with discretion. At 12 Most
, we have lots of different places in which to interact, both online and offline: our blog site with blogging and comments, a Twitter account and hashtag, a Facebook public fan page and a closed group for writers, a Google+ page and circle of contributors, a LinkedIn group, emails, Skype calls, phone calls, and even several IRL meetings.4. Nurture a sense of responsibility and commitment
Cultivating a community where people feel compelled to live up to expectations, even if for fear of letting the others down, is a sign of a strong tribe. Over time, it creates the glue with the stickiness that keeps people bound together for the long haul.5. Be the example, be available and provide timely responses
Model the behavior you want to see. Acting as the model community member is a living example of what is expected of all community members. If a mistake is made, admit it and fix it. Simple as that and it establishes trust. This goes for internal interactions as well as the external interactions of your community. A lively, engaged community where the light is always on and people feel heard is where meaningful conversations and deeper engagement happens.6. Establish a strong brand identity
This is often missed, but it is as important to your community members as it is to your public awareness, for it provides something tangible for people to rally behind. We established a strong brand image for 12 Most
that people take pride in and proudly display badges on their websites. It also created a visual cohesion through all our various media touch points, so rather than several fractured, disparate entities we present a family of properties that speak with one voice — and one for which we are recognized.7. Share what others are doing and tirelessly advocate for each other
Whether it is something new you discovered, a post from someone’s blog you enjoyed or a simple retweet, it is said that “sharing is caring.” Put enough people together around a common purpose who care about one another and “viola!” — you have a community.8. Celebrate victories and draw attention to a job well done
Everyone likes a pat on the back or being recognized for an accomplishment that is publicized without provocation. When this becomes the norm rather than the exception, you know you have something special.9. Be positive and have a sense of humor
Nobody likes cranky communities. Groups that gripe a lot don’t last. The best communities I have belonged to also know how to have a good time — we certainly do at 12 Most
. And where there is wit and laughter, there will be more smart, funny people willing to join and share in the fun. Positive people create positive energy where positive things can happen for everybody. That endures. And that is fact.10. Discipline
In any large community, someone will eventually cause a stir, acting outside the bounds of the welfare of the tribe, or spreading rumors or acting trollish in some way — decisive action needs to be taken. Make your wishes clear and perhaps give another chance, but if the behavior is allowed to linger, it can quickly compromise the basic well-being of your tribe. People will exit quickly if they sense friction and drama in an online community — even worse, your community’s good reputation could be tarnished in the process.11. Consistency is key
Repeating these steps day in and day out is no easy task, particularly when people have other responsibilities and are separated by distance. But dedicating yourself consistently to these behaviors is critical for nurturing the kind of culture of which strong digital tribes are made.12. Stay nimble
Communities evolve. Things change all the time in today’s online world. If your community is thriving and growing as you build something great together, it will certainly require flexibility and making adjustments as you go. Keeping the tribe on course through these shifts can take some deft handling, but it is critical for making certain that your community prevails.
I recognize that a lot of these points are basic leadership fundamentals for managing and leading any large group or business. Online is really no different than offline, so some of these basic tenets should not be overlooked. In fact, the virtual nature of online communities in many ways requires even more attention to these things, as they establish the guideposts for what is not always felt to be as “real” as are meetings in conference rooms replete with cozy swivel chairs and bottled waters. But believe me, digital tribes and online collaborations are definitely real, and following these points can result in healthy, vibrant, and productive online communities if done right.
Bringing this all together is no easy trick — it is difficult and takes the right mix of talents and personalities for sure. Self-important, self-serving, egocentric personalities don’t work and they are found out quickly in this environment. Digital tribes are largely self-policing like that — those who don’t fit will find their way out soon enough.
It is incredibly gratifying to build something together with great people and without limitations of geography. The talent and networking pools are endless! I believe we have built something special with both re:DESIGN
and 12 Most
— and it was only possible through the awesome power of amazing online communities. We make each other better which makes our personal endeavors better — and that makes our communities better.
Are you a member of an online community or started one of your own? What’s worked and what hasn’t worked so well? Let me know in the comments — I’d be interested in seeing what you have to say.
We believe a big key to winning in today’s business world is a smart, integrated approach to marketing and communications. In order to make an impression in these busy, distracted times, design can be the differentiator. Sure, your image will be leaps ahead of the others — but your messages will also be fine-tuned and cohesive; your communications will be clear and user-friendly; but most importantly, they will be powerfully integrated together!
re:DESIGN is excited to share a few exciting projects that we believe do just that, as well as earning us three awards in a national design competition, The American Graphic Design Awards sponsored by Graphic Design USA.
What is re:DESIGN?
re:DESIGN is a boutique agency that specializes in strategic design, branding, social media, and communications — bringing standout design to our clients so their businesses rise above the competition.
We excel at helping companies and professionals achieve special things through smart strategies and sharp, award-winning design that gets noticed while delivering a clear, convincing message. From custom logos to comprehensive branding and cohesive communications strategies, re:DESIGN reenergizes businesses by creating integrated programs throughout all of today’s media touchpoints: from digital to print to experiential.
What are the American Graphic Design Awards?
The American Graphic Design Awards is the biggest and broadest of the three national design competitions sponsored by Graphic Design USA for nearly five decades. It honors outstanding creative work of all kinds and across all media, and is open to advertising agencies, graphic design firms, corporations, institutions, publishers and more. There were more than 8,000 entries and of these, only a highly selective 15% are recognized as winners with an Awards Certificate of Excellence.
We are proud to share a little peak into these three unique award-winning projects, representing three completely different types of projects and media: logo/branding design, website/mobile design and an exquisitely designed print brochure.
Logo/Branding — My Book Club
This is a classic example of a logo that is deceptively simple yet complex in its execution. The witty design effectively sums up the brand at a quick glance, conveying its personality — and all through the use of type. It was designed to work as well online as it does offline, and even at the smallest of sizes.
“Your logo symbolizes all that is your company, product, service or event. It is also the ‘handshake’ for when you can’t be there in person, so it is vital for a business to get the logo right from the very beginning.” ~ Paul Biedermann
, 12 Most Essential Ingredients for an Exceptional Logo
Website/Mobile — The Dorsey Group
A comprehensive redesign of a corporate web and mobile presence that was also bound up with a brand refresh that infused energy and new life into this company. With smart, strategic design and focused attention to detail, the site is engaging and easy to navigate while the custom mobile landing pages offer easy access while on-the-go.
QR codes were also utilized, linking print communications to these other digital communications, creating a cohesive, integrated brand experience no matter the touch point: viewing a website at work, checking a mobile device at a conference, or reading a print piece at home.
Print — McGraw-Hill Construction Outlook
This is a flagship publication for this business and the most highly respected economic forecast in the construction industry which includes detailed analysis, market research and industry trends. This exquisitely designed and printed communication is a valued resource that analysts and industry professionals depend on for timely information every year, culminating in an annual conference in Washington D.C.
Distilling complex information down into engaging, user-friendly experiences that communicate clearly and powerfully is something we excel at. re:DESIGN is proud to have consistently won awards for this report’s design and communications excellence, year after year for over a decade.Looking ahead
While it is an honor to receive such accolades, we are not ones to rest on our laurels — it’s literally back to the virtual drawing board as we continue looking forward. These are exciting times, but we believe the key is not to focus only on digital, social media, or any other flavor of the month — but rather to bring them all together in a powerful, integrated way that surrounds your particular market at every touch point, including print.
To our online community as well as our families and friends: thank you for the support — you are appreciated. We are excited for the future and all that it brings for re:DESIGN! What can we do for you?Read the Press Release Like us on Facebook!
Take a look at more of the logos we’ve designed
And here are more of our branding and websites
All images copyright © 2012 Paul Biedermann, re:DESIGN.
What is a personal brand
It is you. Your story. This intimate story is portrayed via an overall message that weaves throughout your communications and social media platforms.
Just as major consumer brands have well-known, universally recognized images, individuals can have them too. But more than just a mere surface image, it is important to have a deeper story
too. This serves as the backbone for all you are about, who you are and why you do what you do. How successful you are in telling your story will determine how deeply it resonates with your audience and will ultimately determine the success of your brand. When you are first learning about social media, you are usually unaware that you are creating an online persona for yourself with each post, status update and tweet. It is all experimental at this point as you learn how to navigate the various mediums.
The essential element in creating your personal brand is to be authentic
. ee cummings said, “it takes courage to grow up and be who you are.” Don’t copy someone else’s style: be yourself! Being an imitation of the most fabulous thing imaginable is still just an imitation, and people catch on to this behavior very quickly. Consider your avatar to be your logo: keep it fresh and real.Be outstanding
Each person has unique qualities and gifts
that make them special. Find yours and amplify them. If you are hesitant about what image you are projecting, find interesting blogs or links to share that fit within your strategy and build up your confidence as you go. Pay attention to what people “like” or retweet; figure out where you are connecting with your followers and build on that. Above all, please be interesting! You may start with a little kindling and end up with a big bonfire if you create the proper base.Consistency is key
If your goal is to be viewed as a professional
, this needs to be seen across the board throughout all of your social media efforts. The language that you use is the currency and relevancy to your message. Make wise choices and remember that the internet is permanent. Linking your social media channels together makes it seamless for a follower to travel from your Twitter bio or other social media page over to your blog. This does not mean that you should show all your tweets on LinkedIn and tweet your Facebook statuses. A separate, similar message is fine — no need to be redundant.
Your personal brand will evolve over time but you start projecting your brand from your very first tweet or post. You might not think you have a personal brand yet, but you do. Consider what this might be and polish it up if necessary. It is not just your avatar but all your interactions woven together to create a personal story: your personal brand
. Make it a good one!
I also discussed this topic on Bruce Sallan’s #DadChat on Twitter > 9:00–10:00 pm EST / Thursday, February 16, 2012, co-hosting the show Sparking Creativity in Our Kids along with my partner, Peggy Fitzpatrick. We also appeared on The Bruce Sallan Show—A Dad’s Point-of-View, broadcast on KZSB AM 1290 in Santa Barbara and via live stream. Listen below…
So many kids these days seem to look elsewhere for fun and excitement. You know what I’m talking about: all those Xbox’s, PlayStations, movies and so many other things, not to mention all the false heroes.
Alone time is considered “boring.” It seems kids just aren’t comfortable in their own skins these days, constantly looking outward for stimulation and gratification. Little time is spent with only themselves, creating the quietness conducive for introspection and true creativity.
When my children were young, I took advantage of the time I had with them before they would be old enough to protest. I knew those days wouldn’t last forever… when they were a lot more open to my way of doing things, instead of everything being “me, me, me.” I thought if I “brainwashed” them young, they’d be good to go when the teen years hit.Well…
The teenage years hit… and I only met that hunch with limited success. But my wife and I did do a few things right and I think our kids are the better for it. One of the things I always made sure of, was that we look at things together — I mean, really LOOK!
I exposed them to beautiful design, wonderful storybooks and “adventure” drives where we would make our fun as we went, being open to serendipity and continuously pointing out everything along the way.
It is also important to nurture dreaming and the imagination — we would make up your own stories together, especially at bedtime beneath the glow-in-the-dark stars covering their bedroom ceilings. Holidays are another great opportunity to dream. For Halloween, we would invent costume ideas and do sketches to plan the pumpkins we would carve later. Everything should be part of the creative/learning process. Even a breakfast with Cheerios was turned into a game. There are so many ways to nurture creativity in kids and a dozen of them are discussed in this other post I contributed to, 12 Most Loving Ways to Spark Creativity in your Child
Once kids truly show an interest in something, I think it’s extremely important to go with their passions. Rather than dictating what they should like, or pushing certain talents we think they possess but they show no interest in, it is much better to nurture what they naturally gravitate towards instead. And then feed those interests by always having the supplies they need at the ready, from simply having enough drawing paper available to buying the right creative software that fulfills their needs. Fight the good fight
Although we can’t determine what it is exactly our kids will show an affinity for, we can still influence them. And while it may be a thankless job many times, I believe our kids are better off in the long run for the encouragement we provide, enabling them to follow their passions. It is the way to a rich, enjoyable life and offers a myriad of alternatives to the ready-made ways of having fun that are always so prevalent. Forming this foundation for creative thinking is important to establish early on, so children grow up with a creative outlook where possibilities are endless. It can even alter the brain itself as the post, Pondering: Brain Overload
, discusses so nicely.
There is plenty of time for the world to try and put its own restrictions on things. Most schools do little to encourage individualism and place limits on it by a one-size-fits-all mentality that does little to foster creativity in our children. Companies do the same, where toting the corporate line and appeasing one’s bosses largely keeps the boat from being rocked and provides the best chance for a good review.
But our leaders of tomorrow will be those who see things differently, for innovation never comes from the status quo. Successful companies will depend on them. So will whole societies and the world at large. Bigger populations fighting for a smaller piece of turf will naturally increase competition substantially — successfully navigating this and coming out on top will require even more crafty ways of doing things a little differently and a notch above everybody else. Likewise, the many challenges we face in the world will increasingly require inspired thinking to get us out of trouble. It all begins by raising creative children.
Why is nurturing the creative spirit important to you
? I’d love to see what you have to say in the comments section below!
Artworks by Wyatt Biedermann with photography by his father, Paul.
I know when I’m spending too much time online. It’s when my eyes bug out and feel like they’re going to fall out of my head. Everything I see past three feet is blurry.
Intense work, nose to monitor, reviewing thousands of photographs looking for the perfect image, kerning the type for a perfect fit, aligning elements to the grid, creating color palettes, sliding a graphic element over so it “kisses” a hairline rule… the hours fly by.
While this happens, and well aware of the dangers of multitasking, I check emails and respond promptly. I may look at the news and see what the market is doing. Now throw in some Facebook updates and a lively Twitter chat or two: those never-ending updates and flickering streams of information. Scanning multiple columns in HootSuite — reading from bottom to top, left to right, up down, right left — Grand Blurry Station! I’m sure many of you can relate.
The antidote? My chair
That’s right, my chair — that beautiful, big leather recliner out there in the family room. That’s where the really great things happen.
It’s where my online self ends and my offline one begins. It’s where I think things through, without the “help” of Google. No alerts vie for my attention when I’m in my chair, telling me I’ve received another email or a new mention on Twitter or Facebook. No links are being pushed at me by well-meaning friends portending to have the answers for this or that (as long as I leave my iPhone behind, that is!). It’s when I get away from those things that the real answers come — the deeper answers to things I may be struggling with.
My best concepts and design ideas always seem to come from the chair. Admittedly, there are distractions there too: someone may switch on the television, a magazine beckons, sometimes I doze off… I know I eat far too many meals there and the mini-fridge is within arm’s reach. But that’s fine — it’s all good. It’s still where great things happen.
Clout vs. Klout
There’s a social media metric called Klout that aims to measure our online influence. It can be a helpful gauge for one’s online activities, as long as it’s taken in context with all of one’s other endeavors. Although flawed at measuring true influence on many levels, it scores one’s online stature with a number. Being flawed beings ourselves, it plays to our weaknesses and egos — even those who acknowledge its various shortcomings get caught up in the gaming aspect and become obsessed with their Klout scores. Mine stands at a respectable 62 (just checked it this morning!).
Now, as I sit in my chair (okay… lie in my chair), the ideas keep coming. The cat strolls by and meows. My youngest child jumps on my lap. I can practically hear my Klout score dropping… but so what? Everything is starting to make sense again. Clarity.
Klout be damned.
Below are links to other wonderful points of view about online vs. offline influence. All bloggers are part of an online Twitter community called #UsGuys. Check it out and if you like what you see, you may also want to follow them on Twitter.