February 17, 2023No Comments

How important is graphic design in marketing?

Our online and offline world is saturated with images, graphics, photographs, animation, and video. We see evidence of the effectiveness of good graphic design all around us – yet it’s something many take for granted. It’s something that the average person barely even notices – yet it’s a vital piece of the puzzle when it comes to brand recognition and marketing.

If you think about it, nearly every aspect of our lives is influenced by graphic design. We make decisions on what we eat, the car we drive, and the magazines we read purely by a brand’s logo and imagery. I have friends who refuse to eat baked beans if the Heinz logo isn’t on the tin!

Yet for businesses, particularly small businesses, brand design is often an afterthought. It’s just not something they’re willing to invest in. I believe that’s at their peril – if you can get your graphic design right and make your branding work well, then every piece of marketing you produce becomes instantly recognisable, and that is where the real magic happens.

What is graphic design?

In simple terms, graphic design is using visual tools to communicate. Subconsciously we are wired to seek out colour, shape and image before we even think about speech or written words. It’s important to remember that no matter what kind of marketing material you’re working with, the very first thing that people will notice is the graphic imagery, not the text – and that’s what’s going to make people stop and look.

Graphic design is vital in grabbing people’s attention – you’ve just got to know how to get it right.

Graphic design does boost business.

If graphic design communicates a message, then using it as a branding tool builds trust in your audience.

In the instance of online content, for example, providing you’re sending out plenty of quality content across mediums like social media, email lists etc., when people are constantly bombarded with stuff, making yours of great quality AND instantly recognisable is key to your success.

When people see your imagery consistently, they get to know you, they start to like you and seek you out – and then guess who they’re going to look for when they’re ready to buy what you have? Clue: it won’t be the person who produces boring content accompanied by generic, inconsistent Canva-style graphics.

Graphic design kills the competition.

Nowadays, everyone is a graphic designer thanks to tools like Canva, and everyone’s a photographer thanks to the phones in their pockets. It’s so easy for people to take a photo or grab an image online to use in their branding and marketing – but actually, very few people put thought into what they’re doing.

Good, professional graphic design is much more than that. As designers, we have vast knowledge about things like colour theory, composition, and even font design. The average person isn’t going to know how graphics will work, on a psychological level, to get their message across and persuade people to look at their products/website/brand.

And that’s exactly why most brands you see on social media are so easy to ignore. They don’t stand out – and they don’t know how to. Their graphics are all over the place, and every single one is different from the last – there’s nothing coherent about the branding they’re using if they’re using it at all.

In truth, graphic design isn’t a cost to your business – it’s an investment. I can’t stress enough how imperative it is to get it right.

Where to begin

If you’ve invested in your website, chances are you’ve already got the beginnings of a brand story. Perhaps you’ve already sorted a logo and have some kind of colour- and font theme. This will give you a strong marketing backbone, and it’s where you look for the tone and voice of the rest of your marketing.

If you haven’t got any of that yet, & something can help. Contact us for advice on creating your branding identity, and we can work with you to bring your vision to fruition.

September 5, 2022No Comments

Using animation as part of your brand marketing

There has been a distinct rise in the use of animation in branding recently, making it more important than ever to think of branding and animation as two vital pieces of the same puzzle. By melting the two, you can create a much richer experience in your marketing that can be adapted for use across many different platforms.

When you think about animation, perhaps things like GIFs come to mind – but there’s much more to it. A while ago, I touched on logo animation in this article, where I mentioned how and why animation can work well for our internet-led world. I wanted to elaborate on that and share some more recent thoughts and experiences on it.

Why animation?

I bet if I ask you to recall something from your childhood, cartoons would be one of the things that come to mind. We all had those favourite characters that made us laugh and stick in our memories, didn’t we? Those of us with kids can’t deny that we secretly still enjoy watching some of them even now!

The thing is, animation tends to stick with us, whether it’s in the form of a humanistic character or a particular style, colour, or shape. It feels kind of familiar yet fantastical at the same time. Animation can be whatever we choose it to be and can create worlds that no other form of media can.

Animation is our imagination untamed. And there are so many places we can use it to share our brand stories.

The moving image

Next time you scroll through your socials, take note of where you pause. I’m willing to bet that in many cases, it’s down to some kind of movement, like a video or some type of moving image. We’re naturally attracted to movement and colour – it helps us to build a picture of the world around us. In the case of animation, it can help us to understand something, whether that’s a brand’s story or an instruction.

Rather than spending valuable time reading long tutorials, isn’t it so much easier to watch a 2-minute animated video showing how something works?

Animation is a great way to grab attention and tell your viewers who you are and what you do.

Different styles of animation

Depending on what you are using it for, you can experiment with lots of different animation styles. Even something like your logo can lend itself to 2D, 3D, or even whiteboard animation to great effect.

Don’t think that you have to overcomplicate, either. Even something as simple as creating a metallic or reflective movement over a logo or image can look amazing and really make your brand stand out. And I’ve seen plenty of wonderful effects with fading in, scrolling text, or an image that seems to ‘pop out’ from the screen.

Here are a few styles you might want to think about.

2D: I suppose this is what most of us think of when we think about animation, isn’t it? Though it’s very traditional, accessible and most commonly used, it is still very relevant due to its cost-effectiveness and adaptability.

Saying that, though, 2D should never be dismissed because its attraction is in its simplicity. People are familiar with it and can easily relate to it. And because of those reasons, these styles of animations are memorable.

3D: I’ve seen some amazing 3D animations around. Having that additional depth to play with can be used to great effect, and for that, they prove to be popular.

If you’re using your animated images to explain a product or tell a story, then 3D can do that very well.

Video animation: If you’re familiar with Instagram Reels, you’ve probably seen those talking head videos where speech bubbles or text boxes pop up as the person is talking. In its basic form, that is a type of video animation. But let’s think about how else that could be used…

Combining video with animation can add deeper insight into your products or services. If you’re demonstrating a product, you could add an interesting dimension by using animated arrows, for example, to point out components, or use animated objects or fun characters to help you to explain things.

In conclusion, animation can work in helping you stand out and add a bit more personality to your brand. It doesn’t have to be complicated – simple is often the most effective. If you’re looking for a design agency to assist with your branding, whether that’s animation, web design, branding or anything else, I’d be happy to help.

April 30, 2022No Comments

What’s in a name – and how does it affect your image?

I have a confession. I'd never really, truly, been happy with my original company name. I’m not saying it was a terrible name, it just didn't fit very well.

I lived with it, but there was always that little niggle in the back of my mind.

I won’t dwell on my personal thought process here – I’m all sorted now. But what I wanted to talk about today was how important it is to get it right – the correlation between your company name and your image.

As a graphic designer, I spend a lot of time thinking about company images and branding. And my plight has made me think a little deeper about the process. Where do I start when faced with a rebrand, or a web design, for a client? I think that actually, the name probably plays a more significant part than I previously thought.

Subconsciously, I’m often led at first by the name. It sets the tone for everything that follows. Colours, fonts, and the tone of voice are all hinged on the business name, even if it’s not that obvious.

A reflection of you and your market

A good business name reflects who you are and who your clients are. It’s usually the first item on the agenda when we create our business, but how much do we really consider the name when we start the design process for our websites and branding?

Perhaps, then, we should start by going back to basics. Who do you want to attract? By getting a clear profile of your perfect client, you can get into their heads and explore what attracts them. If your ideal client base is, for example, the CEO of a high-profile marketing agency, you don’t want to approach them with a name and image that more reflects a small business or e-commerce company.

Different demographics have different needs – by tapping into those needs, we can better design our business branding to attract them.

It’s good to visualise what your business name will look like under your brand. Does the name make you think of something modern and vibrant, or does it lend itself to something traditional or more subdued? We can do this in both our business name and our image – both should fit seamlessly together.

Of course, the type of industry will also come into play. Still, it stands to reason that if your company name includes something soft and feminine, you’ll want to consider soft colours and perhaps a more rounded font. In contrast, if you’re in an industry where your audience and product are universal, you’ll want to appeal by using stronger, bolder themes.

Imagine, for example, a classic motorbike restoration business using a pastel-coloured handwritten script in its logo. It doesn’t quite fit, does it?

On choosing a name

Your name is probably the most recognisable aspect of your business, so it’s actually pretty important to get it right. It should reflect your personality, what your company does, and most of all, be memorable.

It needs to be, first and foremost, a name that you’re comfortable with. Think of this – would you be happy to answer the phone and announce your company name, or would it make you cringe a little? There’s a good test right there.

It’s OK to have a quirky name if that’s your vibe but make sure it’s relatable and tells your customers who you are.

Something else to consider is the spelling. Is your name a play on words? Is it a long name, or does it include numbers or symbols? Replacing letters with numbers can look cute – but make sure it’s evident in your web address! Most of your customers will want to search for you online, so if there’s something a little different in your name, make sure it can easily be searched for online.

Simplicity is key

It can be easy to overcomplicate things in both the name and the design. There’s no real need to – often, the most straightforward ideas are the most memorable.

Make your business name easy to pronounce and communicate (“Severn… with an ‘r’… yes, like the river…”) and easy to translate into your branding, and you won’t go far wrong.

There are plenty of sources of inspiration if you’re stuck for ideas, and there’s nothing wrong with testing out a few ideas with people you know – perhaps set up a few mock-ups and see which your friends, family, and peers prefer. You might get feedback that hadn’t occurred to you, which can be invaluable.

January 22, 2021No Comments

Using graphics in social media in 2021

Compared to 10 years ago, when social media was still in its infancy, how we use it has changed dramatically. Back then, we only knew about Facebook, and as a platform, it was used in a much simpler, more personal way – we didn’t utilise it for business until more recently.

Looking at how things are today, we have a much more diverse landscape. There are several additional players, including Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, and Pinterest – and within those, there are several ways to communicate, with things like Stories being rolled out to almost every major social channel.

Over the years, social media platforms have become much more visual. As we scroll through our various social feeds, we will likely see less text and more images. Marketers have realised that having well-placed images on their social feeds helps to increase engagement – particularly now that most of us are using our phones.

In response to this, many new developments in online tech have allowed the average user to find their own images and even create their own. Apps like Canva are becoming the go-to for creating images and infographics that can be used on all social media platforms. There are plenty of websites where you can purchase stock images for content marketing.

I’ll get back to some of these a bit later. Still, I wanted to touch upon some of the ways we can use graphics in social media, some trends and fresh techniques, and the differences in using online tools versus having custom images created by a designer.

Why are images important for social media posts?

We process images much more quickly than words, so when we’re scrolling through our social channels, we’ll naturally pause when we see something stimulating our senses. Pictures, in particular colours, can convey messages to us on a different level.

In saying that, because there are so many images to process online, we need to plan what we post with care and attention. Finding that key element will not only stand out enough to make the viewer stop scrolling to take a closer look but allow them to instantly recognise you through that imagery. That will help create that ‘know, like, trust factor which is so important on social media.

Planning your social media images

It used to be adequate for us to take a snap and post it to our social media platforms when we felt like it. That’s no longer the case. If we want to get noticed online, we have a lot of competition; therefore, we need to plan out what we share and how we share it.

Social images, and social content as a whole, should fall into common categories, namely;

  • Entertainment
  • Educational
  • Inspirational
  • Thought-provoking

Think about how you want the viewer to react when they see the image. Do you want them to take a particular action, like clicking through to your website or blog post? Does it serve to give them a piece of information or news about your business? Does it help them in some way or encourage them to open a conversation with you?

There’s a huge trend, especially on Instagram, which is all about imagery. There will be some images that you might feel don’t fit into any of those categories – but if you’ve set them up correctly, then at the very least, they will serve as a recognition piece. Having a recognisable ‘pattern’ to the grid, and even a brand overlay, ensures that the brand has its own ‘look’, therefore being recognised by the viewer.

Suppose you can tie the overall look of your social images with other mediums, like your website and printed material. In that case, this will all work together as part of your branding, an important factor for content creation.

Stock Images or Professional Graphic Designer?

I get that many businesses want to have the ability to take ownership of how they post on social media, and part of that is being able to either use stock images or create images of their own. And there’s nothing wrong with that – if you have a clear idea and strategy in place.

The trouble is, many people don’t, and if you’re not careful, you could end up with a scatter-gun approach across your content marketing, which can be off-putting for your audience.

It all comes down to branding – and you must get it right across the board. It’s likely that you’ve paid someone to create your website, and tie all of your branding together, so don’t allow your social media to let it all down.

Yes, perhaps having a graphic designer on-call to create images every time you want to upload to your social media channels is overkill, but if you can get a set of templates, overlays, and brand colours set up and on hand, at least then you’ll have something to work with.

If you decide to use stock images (or take your own photographs), at least have some kind of consistency which will let your viewers know they are your images.

Get in touch if you’d like help or advice about anything you’ve read in this article. We’d be happy to help.

September 5, 2020No Comments

Tech-led logos – 2020 logo animation trends

One of the things that tends to cause to most concern during the branding process is the logo. Businesses recognise that the logo they have designed for their branding is the one thing that will dictate everything else – the colours, the fonts, the style…

Getting that one element right, even if the final design is a simple one, takes a lot of thought and effort on the part of the designer.

In the past, and in fact today, the logo for any type of business needs to become the most recognisable part of the business branding, and should tell the customer what the company is about without relying on the name or taglines.

Some of the most effective logos, from the big corporates, to the small local business, use clever design techniques and images that are instantly recognised with little more that simple shapes, colours, and images.

I suppose that, unlike in the past, today’s logo design needs to work even harder, because not only does it need to tell the customer who you are across your printed material, but even more so, it needs to translate digitally as well, and that can be a whole different task due to the fast-paced nature of the tech we use, and how we use it.

What I’d like to explore in this article is not just the simplicity of the ‘flat’ logo we’ve all been used to, but the way in which the technology we use, and the differences in print-to-screen, which have changed and evolved logo design. I’d like to look a little bit at some of the trends that are emerging right now in order for businesses to stand out, and take full advantage in new technology, and appeal to a new generation of customers, who largely read from a screen or smart device.

The Perfect Logo

A well-designed logo should always be uncomplicated. I find that in having something that looks relatively simple, it becomes almost like a symbol, a single image that the customer remembers and doesn’t have to spend too much time thinking about.

If you consider some of the bigger companies, such as Nike, or Audi, who use just a simple shape, but are know the world over. Designs like that don’t need to have a defining colour, words or slogans in order for us to recognise what they mean. Yet if you were to seek out the designer of those logos, as simple as they seem to us, I’d be willing to bet that hours and hours were spent on getting them to look how they do today.

Unless you’re a well know company, though, I would necessarily suggest using something quite that simple – although it’s not a bad idea to think about having some kind of simple structure or shape by which you can be identified as part of your logo design.

Looking at some of my own designs as examples, I’ve tried hard to use shapes and symbols within the logo images, or as part of the font, in order to tell the story behind the brand. I think that’s important to do, because you have to consider who you will be appealing to, and your logo is a big part of that.

And that is always where you start – with the logo at its most basic. Because in its basic form, it needs to be able to make sense on both printed material and on screen.

Animation is the biggest new trend

Something that I’ve been looking at more and more recently is the use of animation in logo design. I think that’s it’s becoming a necessity to stand out using movement as part of our logo design, particularly where we’re using social media as part of our content creation plan. The eye tends to pause when we see movement in an image, and so where there is such busy traffic such as social platforms where people are scrolling through such a large amount of content, having animation can be a good way to pause them and encourage them to read the post.

Whether or not you already have an existing logo, use of animation can greatly enhance your images and make them more memorable, and are a useful tool in getting your content noticed above the competition.

You could look at something as simple as having a moving gradient, or a light effect over the logo, or something more elaborate like fade-ins, moving characters, rotation/sliding, or video effects. The huge advances in technology means that we are able to add a huge number of animated images – much of what you can imagine can be done on-screen.

During 2020, it’s thought that many businesses will embrace animation as part of their designs, and could fast become mainstream.

By adding detail to the animation, the viewer tends to spend longer watching it, therefore making the experience more memorable, and too your brand.

©2017–2023 Tony Clarkson/&Something Studio