July 22, 2022No Comments

Collaboration and Community

Firstly, I don’t know about you, but this summer feels like the first one in a long time where people – both creators and businesses – have begun to emerge from the fog of lockdown and are thinking more positively about moving forward. I think we’re all pretty exhausted by the isolation that covid brought and are beginning to seek out new connections. To me, the idea of fresh collaborations and community events feels pretty exciting.

And on that note, I and some others who I completed my recent MA with have come together to exhibit at the London Design Festival, which is taking place in September. Our group, in itself, has become a ‘hub’ where we have spent time bringing ideas and experiences together. They are one of the reasons why I have come to recognise the importance and huge benefits that having like-minded people around you can have.

I’ve always maintained that outside of cities, the opportunities to attend design events are very few and far between. In my area of Shrewsbury, there are many creative businesses – not just designers, but photographers, writers, filmmakers, and so on – but very little in the way of community. If you walk around my town, you can find several design agencies, but none of us knows much about the other. We never seek each other out, which is a real shame. Rather than see how we can collaborate or help each other out, we tend to close our doors for fear of ‘the competition’ getting in and finding out our secrets.

Perhaps that’s what sets big agencies in big cities like London or Manchester apart – they don’t think of each other as competition, in that sense. Instead, they are willing to not only come together to celebrate great design but invite other people in to celebrate with them, too.

It’s prominent on the web page for the London Design Festival: “(London Design Festival serves) to create an annual event that would promote the city’s creativity, drawing in the country’s greatest thinkers, practitioners, retailers and educators to deliver an unmissable celebration of design.”

I think these events shouldn’t just be left to the cities; there is no reason why small towns can’t create their own, smaller-scale hubs and events all around the country. Why shouldn’t designers in smaller communities celebrate their talent and dedication?

An idea that I’ve begun to resurrect, The Shrewsbury Design Festival, is a project I had been working on before covid stopped us all in our tracks. It started as a way to bring together creativity in and around Shrewsbury so that we can be found more easily within the community, form collaborations, share ideas, and bring local networks into the spotlight.

I don’t want this to sound too much like a promotional piece – it would be nice if what I’m doing here might inspire other design agencies to consider creating their own hubs and communities. Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could have small pockets of designers who felt comfortable collaborating on work projects, meeting with each other to share ideas and experiences, building each other up and offering support? Imagine that…

July 7, 2022No Comments

How little or how much?

A little story: My son is at art school here in Shrewsbury, where they’ve recently had their end-of-year exhibition. During the event, he managed to get a commission and a sale. When asked for a price, he froze for a few seconds and then blurted, wide-eyed and breathless, “I don’t know!”. 

Should art schools at least touch on how to charge for work? Would an early introduction to the value of work help avoid those ‘oh sh*t’ moments?

So how should you set your fees?

For most of us right now, the subject of money is at the forefront of our minds. The cost of living, particularly things like food and fuel, has increased dramatically and continues to do so, and I’m sure, like me, this has brought up the subject of how much we earn as designers and whether or not we’re setting it right!

You might be just starting your career or be years into it – in my experience, it makes no difference. I sometimes still feel awkward whenever I’m asked about my fees. We’re not really taught this stuff, are we? There are no set-in-stone guidelines, no magic formula to tell us what to charge for X or Y. We’re left to work all that out for ourselves.

These days though, I have found a way to work out the rate that suits me. It took a while, in the beginning, to settle into a rate that I was both comfortable telling people and happy that it was enough for me to live on.

In case you are still in panic mode about what fees you should be charging for your work, I thought it might be useful to share some of my insights and thoughts around it.

The great money taboo

We’ve been conditioned not to talk about some subjects, and money is one of the big ones. The trouble is, by keeping hush-hush about what we earn, how we earn it, and how we treat it, we’ve created a world where we’re afraid of it – it’s something we feel that is out of our control. But it really shouldn’t be like that.

Even now, I’m sometimes guilty of brushing the subject of money aside when I’m asked about costs for projects when I’m talking to clients – it’s so easy to brush it aside when you’re asked ‘how much?’, by saying something like, ‘we’ll work that out later’. It feels shameful, embarrassing, to talk about money – especially when someone is sitting right in front of you.

Money, and how we earn it, is something that we can all relate to – it’s not something we should be embarrassed about. But perhaps if we can get over that and become more confident around our handling of money, we can change that. To do that, we need to start communicating. And that starts with knowing your rate and having the confidence to stick to it.

What’s the ‘going rate’?

Out of interest, I searched around the internet for advice on what a graphic designer should charge. The thing that stood out was how much the advice varied – if someone just starting out was to search for information on what to charge, they’d surely come away more confused than ever. It was pretty eye-opening.

My advice would be to talk to other established designers doing similar work to you. Most of them are more than willing to help with their advice and experience and won’t mind sharing their knowledge. Ask them if they think you’re undercharging and what they believe would be a decent rate for the type of work you want to offer or the amount of experience you have.

If you can get a ballpoint figure, you can use this to work out what YOU feel comfortable charging.

What do you want to earn?

Notice I didn’t say ‘need’. There’s a difference between what a person needs to earn and what he wants to earn. Let me give you an example.

Perhaps you have a mortgage of, say, £1,200 per month. And your bills/expenses equate to £1,500. So you could say that what you NEED to earn is £2,700. Yeah, that’ll cover your bills – but what about the other stuff? You didn’t start this career to just manage, did you? You want to have the ability to afford a holiday, a decent car, and perhaps indulge in your hobbies.

Again, research what other designers in your demographic and area are charging and work out if that meets your desired annual salary.

There’s a formula out there that has popped up in a few places that may be useful as a starting point, and that is roughly as follows:

  1. Work out what your ideal yearly salary should be.
  2. Add 30% to account for sick days and holidays.
  3. Divide it by the number of days you’ll work in a year.
  4. The number you get equates to your ideal day rate (you can work out your hourly rate from that).

End note

I suppose my main point through this article is that getting the foundations of your fees right and being confident in telling people what they are, is one of the most important decisions you will make for your business.

Setting fees is never easy, but it’s definitely worth getting it right early on.

June 22, 2022No Comments

Make your marketing stand out on Social

Using visuals in social media marketing

Whatever the type or size of your business, you can’t ignore the huge importance social media holds as part of your overall marketing campaign.

Social media marketing has quickly become top of the list for businesses looking to grow and reach new customers. This is because it gives access to such large and diverse audiences (most people have access to the internet these days, and most of them will be on one or more social platforms daily), it’s pretty simple to set up and use, and most of all, it’s free.

In a previous article, I mentioned that social media marketing has become more visual over the past few years. You only have to look at your social feeds to see that there are a huge number of photographs, graphic images, videos and animated GIFs dominating them.

Now that most of us have access to smartphones, it’s so simple for us to take a snap and have it out there in mere seconds.

With so many images to scroll through, it can be tough to have your post stand out in all the noise. Most people scroll through their feeds pretty mindlessly, so creating something to make them stop and want to read your content is pretty tricky.

I wanted to write this post to talk a little bit about each type of visual that we commonly see on social media feeds and share a few tips on how to make them the best they can be.

As ever, if you need me to help you with your online branding or want to chat about how to get your overall imagery up to scratch, I’m always happy to offer my advice. [link to contact/email]

Graphics

Having a bunch of well-designed graphics up your sleeve can really elevate your social posts. They can be used to get your brand recognised by using uniform colours and styles, and help the reader understand your message with clever images and text.

Never be afraid to re-use your graphics now and again – it all helps with brand recognition, and there will always be a chunk of people who didn’t see it the first time around anyway.

Photos and video

Platforms like Instagram and TikTok have brought photography and video to the forefront. In fact, pretty much every social platform now makes it easy to upload these kinds of images – and if you can master it, then you’ll likely find that your post views are massively favoured, both by the platforms and your followers.

People buy from people, and showing your mug, whether that’s a quick snap of you showing off a new product, a video giving your audience tips and advice or hot news, can really make your brand feel personable and stand out.

Animations

A good, simple animation added to your social post makes it so much more memorable. It instantly grabs the viewers’ attention and sets you apart from other static posts.

Our eye is drawn to movement and colour – and animation is a fun way of taking advantage of that.

You can also use it to illustrate your message, making what you’re saying in your post easier to understand and digest.

"Let’s say you want your post to advertise your blog, for example. I’m willing to bet you’ve got at least 5 or 6 quotable sentences in that blog post you can quite easily use as a quote in a graphic. Do it!"

&Something

Quotes

I know what you’re thinking – everyone uses quotes on social media. It’s so boring, right?

But actually, there’s a reason why they’re so popular, and they can really speak to your followers on a personal level. BUT – you have to get it right!

It’s easy to cop out and use one of those really well-known motivational quotes that we see everywhere. But if you want to really stand out, they’re not going to do it for you. It takes a bit more thought…

Sure, you can quote famous people like Steve Jobs or Albert Einstein, but there’s absolutely nothing wrong with looking closer to home. Yeah, you can even quote yourself.

Let’s say you want your post to advertise your blog, for example. I’m willing to bet you’ve got at least 5 or 6 quotable sentences in that blog post you can quite easily use as a quote in a graphic. Do it!

The great thing about using quotes, wherever you source them from, is that they are really, really shareable. If you can hit on a few that resonate with your audience, they’ll happily share it with their audience, too.

How to design for social media posts

Branding

Good branding is key to success with your marketing efforts, and your social media posts should be no different. Make sure that everything you post uses the same themes and brand voice throughout.

When creating visuals for your social posts, be mindful of what your overall branding looks like. Do you have specific colours? Use those. The fonts on your website should tie in, too.

The more you can make your branding uniform across all of your channels, the more recognisable you’ll be online.

Templates

Creating regular visuals for your social media can cost a lot of time, so anything to speed things up is always a good idea.

For things like graphics and quotes, it’s a good idea to keep hold of a few templates so that you can easily overtype. This makes the whole process simple, and takes much less time.

If consistency in social media is key, then visuals and graphics are the glue that holds it all together. Post often, but also post the most valuable content that you can.

If you need a graphic designer to work with you on any aspect of your branding or visual marketing, feel free to call me for a chat.

June 6, 2022No Comments

The Studio Name Game

Why I changed my name

Here's that niggle I mentioned back in April. It might not have escaped your attention that there have been some changes over here. You see, quite some time ago, I decided to move away from my old business name (Severn Agency) and am now working under my new studio name &Something.

I wanted to take this opportunity to talk about the process, the reasons why, and how I went about it.

Perhaps you are thinking about changing or rebranding your own business, in which case, I hope that my story inspires you and gives you confidence. Maybe, like me, you’ve been stuck for a while, wondering about all the ‘what ifs’ and the implications it might have on your image or your bottom line. If that rings true, I’m here to tell you that sometimes, you just have to trust your gut. Change is scary but, in some circumstances, necessary.

The Backstory

A while ago, I wrote an article telling the story of my first 3 years in business. Although I had a vision of what I wanted it to look like back in the beginning, I struggled to find the right name. I made lists of ideas, shortlisted some, and then decided that none of them fit in with my ethos. In the end, it took me months of thinking up names and concepts for my brand. The name ‘Severn’ came up because it kind of fitted in with my location (I’m based in Shrewsbury, which has the River Severn running through it), which I thought gave a certain familiarity locally. Still, it felt a bit lame, and although it was on the list, I’d already rejected it.

I felt stalled. How could I move on with my business ideas if I couldn’t even think of a decent name? In the end, I’d got myself so tangled up in it that I became fed up – perhaps I was overthinking this? Had I made it more complicated than it should be? I went back to that original list, and ‘Severn’ came up again. Maybe that was the best of a bad lot – it would have to do. So I went with it.

I wanted to use the word ‘Severn’ alone as the name of my brand, but soon after I started working on client projects, some of my clients began referring to me as ‘The Severn Agency’. I had mixed feelings about that – on the one hand, did being branded as an agency give me a kind of ‘kudos’, making me look like a bigger entity than just myself? Would that matter? On the other hand, it felt a bit flat – I always felt a bit embarrassed at announcing myself as ‘Severn Agency’, and because of that, I never used it when I answered the phone.

For almost 4 years, I grew my business under that name while never feeling completely at ease with it. I knew it wasn’t right; it always seemed like a temporary option. I kept thinking, “It’ll do…for now”, but in the back of my mind, I was always thinking about the next evolution.

Making a change

Over that past year, following the pandemic and national shutdown and a few personal events, I again began to wonder if this might be a good time to rebrand.

While there were some elements that I was happy to keep, the main driver was, as I mentioned, the name. I just wasn’t comfortable with it – I might have said that I’d outgrown it, but in truth, it never felt like mine to begin with.

But changing was a cause for stress too. Had I left it too long? Would I lose recognition by changing the name? Should I simply have the two brands run alongside each other? In my mind, it was both risky and an urgent requirement – a chance to step away from the old into something that was more ‘me’.

In the end, that was more important. So I took the chance and went back to the drawing board – quite literally!

The idea for the &Something name came about because I wanted a name with some reason behind it, and this one came about purely by accident. As part of my MA, we were going through a bit of a debate on names. The tutor’s opinion was that it didn’t have to matter that much. Just pick two surnames and call it’ Something and Something’. I liked the sound of that as well as the ‘&’ being part of it because that’s my favourite character.

I think the name creates a sense of intrigue, and having the symbol there is somehow jarring enough to make the eye stop and look without being nonsensical.

In my web address and across my marketing, I have described myself as a studio rather than an agency. I like that it gives more of an intimacy, an impression that you’re not dealing with a faceless, big agency but rather a specialised creative studio, which fits better with what I’m trying to achieve.

Am I glad I did this now? Yes, I am. I think it was the right time – and although it took a while to overcome the fear of going for it, I’m pleased to say that making that change has helped me realign the business and given me some direction on how I want to move things forward.

May 5, 2022No Comments

Not London? Not here…

Here’s a question – have you ever come across situations where you’ve lost out on a project simply because of your location? Here’s another – does location matter?

Something happened to me recently that I questioned how important location is when searching for work. I sent off an application, and here’s a summary of the response I got back.

Firstly, a concern about how I would ‘fit’, being from somewhere that wasn’t London.

Then, while they liked my work, there was a ‘lack of names’ to relate to.

OK, so there are really two separate issues there, and I have to say that while I was perhaps a little surprised that he’d highlighted those specific issues, it isn’t anything new to me – in fact, I’ve come across this problem a few times over the years.

You see, when you’re based outside of a city location, like I am, it can be very hard to be taken seriously beyond the locality of where you are. Sure, a lot of the projects I take on tend to be from businesses within the confines of Shrewsbury, Shropshire, and the Midlands. It’s no coincidence – I’m willing to bet that a large proportion of people who hire me are searching for local designers. Those types of businesses prioritise designers who know the local market and can deal with their projects on a personal level.

While some familiar brands are in Shropshire and the Midlands, many are headed up by corporate offices in London or European cities. This means that when (and if) they hire design agencies, they source them from those areas – they’re not going to consider us here in rural Shropshire. That does mean that there are naturally a limited number of ‘big brands’ that I could work for.

Is that fair, though? How is it affecting our bottom line? Are designers like us missing out on the big fish because of where we live?

Again, does location matter?

There’s a tendency to assume that graphic designers only work for local businesses and that they’re well placed to do that because they know the local market, they’re familiar with the area and the people who live and work there.

Of course, there are definite benefits of hiring a local designer – it’s always nice to meet up face-to-face, speak on a personal level, blah, blah… but hang on. We live in a digital world, where (as the whole covid situation showed us) we can use online tools like zoom to speak to each other very easily.

We can share files and documents at the click of a mouse, and we can even go ‘old school’ and pick up the telephone.

So what’s up with all this ‘hire local’ stuff? Is it really so important?

In my view, no. The work I do for my clients is not really affected by where they are in the world. Sure, there are some differences, but none of them is detrimental to the project’s outcome. Yes, it’s nice to meet clients in person, but there are ways around it, as I mentioned above. And in the end, as long as I am able and willing to communicate well with my clients, then any kind of problem can be worked through very easily.

Working remotely – pros and cons

Many designers are happy to stay within their communities when they’re looking for work – and that’s not a bad thing. As a designer, it’s great to connect with local businesses and work on branding and website design projects – it’s where the majority of my bread-and-butter work comes from.

There’s a big world out there, so many unique brands and organisations that could be a match made in heaven for the type of design you offer. But sometimes, you might crave more than that. So, what are the benefits of seeking out projects from further afield? And how can you approach those businesses who doubt your ability to deliver because of your location?

Benefits of being a local designer

  • Meeting in person develops a mutual working relationship more quickly
  • Knowledge of the local market can help understand the required outcomes of the project
  • Ability to work with smaller, bespoke businesses and see the benefits of your work personally

Benefits of designing for larger companies further afield

  • Less opportunity for scope creep, as there are not so many personal contact points
  • More lucrative projects from companies who have bigger budgets
  • Chances to be involved in more engaging, long-term projects in different industries
  • Additional opportunities to get the kind of projects to enhance your portfolio

Over to you

What are your thoughts on this subject? Are you a designer who has been rejected for projects based on your location or something else? Or do you work within a city where you outsource to designers in more rural areas? What’s your experience?

April 5, 2022No Comments

Where do you seek inspiration?

Back in September, I wrote about how comparison can be both a blessing and a curse for creatives. I talked about my own experience with ‘imposter syndrome’, and how we need to strike a balance between allowing other design professionals to inspire us and becoming intimidated by what others are creating.

The Important point here is to strike the right balance and not get into a place where you’re allowing yourself to be overwhelmed by comparing your work to what you see on social media and other places around you. Designers, I think, are often more susceptible than other creative professions to this because design is all around us. We’re tuned in to analyse images that we see in everything – the ads we see on TV, posters and branding on the high street, websites we visit, social media posts, stuff we buy…it all has an impact on us.

And as long as you can keep it in perspective, allowing those influences in can be a positive thing. For example, I really enjoy browsing through image-heavy coffee table books, design magazines, and websites. I love to save images that speak to me in both online and paper-based scrapbooks to search for inspiration when I’m feeling like the ideas just are not flowing.

No matter what kind of designer you are, there is an abundance of inspiration that can really help to get the creative juices flowing. But you have to allow it to inspire and not overwhelm. As a designer, you can do plenty of things to seek out the right kind of inspiration, as long as you remember to filter out those thoughts that lead you down the path of inadequacy.

Professional design goals 

I know from bitter experience – it’s so easy to get lost in the never-ending tide of images and design online. But the one thing that always pulls me back is remembering my own design goals. Thinking about my own style, the kind of projects I want (and love) to work on, and the type of people I most want to work with can often be all it takes to clear my head. 

Using those filters helps me question when I’m comparing myself with other designers – their designs might speak to me, yes, but their goals are completely different from mine. They might be targeting a completely different audience to me. 

If you feel that pang of envy on seeing someone else’s designs, think – would that style really appeal to your audience? How does it fit in with your own goals, realistically?

Test it out

In a previous post, I talked about how I created my own’ portfolio book’, or coffee table book, “Ten Yrs later”. As I mentioned, I enjoy looking through books created by other designers, so I decided that it might be good to see if I could create my own version of that. This is a great example of me testing out something that had long inspired me.

Making time to create your own personal projects, in my experience, is always a positive thing. It allows you to explore things you ordinarily wouldn’t when working on client projects. It lets you stretch yourself creatively and try out new techniques, technologies, and materials that your day job simply doesn’t allow.

So if you find that you’re drawn to a particular style or designer whilst you’re browsing, explore that. Test out the techniques they used, and see if that inspires something new. Try creating your own version of it.

 Social media…in moderation

I use my Instagram page to share my ideas and follow other designers I like and admire. Instagram is a fabulous place for visual creatives because it’s predominantly image-led (although video is also a big part of it now). 

By following people who are perhaps within your own design realms, you can use Instagram as a place of inspiration when you’re stuck for ideas – it’s a useful way to get you back on track.

Like everything, it’s easy to fall down the rabbit hole here, so if you find yourself feeling those pangs of envy or losing confidence, then pull yourself back (remember your own goals, as I mentioned above). Design is subjective – every one of us has a different style and approach, so don’t allow yourself to fall into that comparison trap.

Take it offline

Even if most of your work is online, don’t dismiss design in the real world. Sure, print is a different animal, but many elements and ideas are the same. Use that to spur fresh ideas and techniques.

Ideas can be found in the most unexpected places, from print media, books and magazines, store-front styling, the fashion people wear, and the colours of nature in our local parks and countryside. Seek it out, and use it.

Who will you inspire?

As with all of us, there will be days when you might feel as though you’ll never live up to your competitors. But remember, someone out there is looking at your work right now and thinking, ‘I wish I could create stuff like that’ (hopefully)… 

February 17, 2022No Comments

Errrmmmm…

Are you talking to your clients?

Being a designer, having a regular stream of paying clients is a big deal. Without them, we’re nothing more than hobbyists. But here’s the thing; we have to know how to talk to them to have people hire us. It’s essential that we speak their language and not bamboozle them with our jargon.

If people don’t understand what we do, and more importantly, what we can do for them, why should they ever want to pay for our services?

Talking to your clients is a skill that is hard to master for some, yet it’s so important that we learn it. For what it’s worth, here are my thoughts on the subject.

You’re not selling to designers.

Picture this: You’re at a party, and you get chatting to a friend of a friend. They ask, “So, what do you do?”

If you’re anything like me, it’s a question that strikes a blade of fear into your very soul. I’ll admit that every time I’m asked that question, my brain freezes up for a moment while I stumble to find something that sounds remotely intelligent before I utter, “I’m a designer.”

Usually, that’s followed by a string of incoherent babble as I try to express to them what, exactly, that means, before I excuse myself, half-embarrassed while their eyes glaze over…

Back when I was in college, one of my tutors said to me, “Remember, you’re not designing for designers.” We forget that, sometimes, don’t we? We are creators by nature, and perhaps we’re a bit apt to show off what we can do – but it doesn’t help us when it comes to marketing ourselves. Because we’re also not selling to designers. People don’t much care about the technicalities of design – they just want to know how we can make their websites and branding speak for them.

If we can learn to adapt our language to speak to them on their level, rather than using design jargon, they’re much more likely to see how our vision can work for them – and hire us to do that. Put yourself in their shoes, and think about what it is that they need and the outcome of your design projects for them.

Use positive (and simple) language, always.

We tend to over-complicate things that really should be simple. Maybe it’s through a lack of confidence in ourselves, or maybe it’s to do with ego. But there really is a lot to be said for keeping things simple, including how we describe the design process.

Again, we need to look at each new project from the client’s point of view – they usually have some clear ideas on what they need (but not always), and it’s up to us to coach them to understand the scope of what can be done.

There might be times when what they think they want isn’t in alignment with their brand, or they’re just asking for the impossible. Rather than saying, “No, I can’t do that.”, try to use positive, straightforward language to help them to visualise how things should work. Perhaps, “I understand what you’re saying, although I think if we try it this way instead, we’ll get better results”, or “In my experience, that can appear confusing to your customers – can I suggest we try and do this instead?”

Help them see that you know what you’re talking about clearly and simply. Don’t assume that they will know design terms just because you do.

Who are you talking to?

What about you? Does the way you speak to your clients impress or confuse them? Does your marketing appeal to your ideal customer, or is it geared towards other designers? If it is, perhaps you could look at simplifying your messaging in a way that will grab the attention of future clients.

Need help or advice with your branding or design? Give me a call – I’d be happy to help.

February 2, 2022No Comments

Step outside the obvious

Go local for your next design project

I feel this. I live in a small market town in the centre of the country, where design agencies and studios are very much ‘hidden away’, despite there being a real hub of creative talent here.

Local designers with hidden talents

As a small design agency, it’s so easy for businesses to overlook us, when we’re competing with large, often well-known agencies who have the budgets to make themselves heard. It’s a shame, really, because the little guys like us have so much to offer. Not to blow my own trumpet here, but in talking to other small designers both locally and in other towns, we truly believe that we can offer something unique that city-agencies can’t. That personal service, care and attention to detail, which big agencies simply don’t have the time for.

In truth, local designers know the local market inside out – because we work with our own communities every day. We know the type of people that live around us, and we get to talk with local business owners, who tell us what works and what doesn’t. And more importantly, we have the time to listen.

Small agencies and freelancers

In my experience, businesses are often wary of micro-agencies and freelancers, there’s an underlying negativity around them that they are less qualified, less experienced, and won’t have the proper resources to complete complex projects. That’s simply not the case. Though they might not have the financial clout, they are often more specialist in what they do, and so rather than being ‘all-rounders’ (though some are, and are great), they are able to focus on their specialism without all of the other stuff. For example, there are agencies within your town who will just do web design, print design, or branding, and excel at doing that and that alone.

Look at what your community can offer first

There’s definitely something to be said about ‘shopping local’ when it comes to hiring creative talent. You’d be surprised at the hidden gems that can be found right on your doorstep – and can offer a bespoke, personal service that big agencies can’t.

Perhaps you think that going the local, small agency route isn’t right for you – but then again, in hiring out locally, you could find that avenues are opened that you hadn’t even thought of. It could be the opportunity to completely freshen up your branding, or look at the design of your online presence with fresh eyes.

Take a look at some of your local designers for your next project, and see what they can offer.

December 13, 2021No Comments

Is social media worth it for graphic designers?

Social media marketing is a notoriously difficult beast to master, not least for graphic designers. Gone are the days when everyone was on Facebook, and there were no other platforms to entertain, let alone tricky algorithms to worry about. Today, we’re faced with a whole boatload of different options to choose from – but even if we know where to focus, do we really know what we’re doing, and how to actually get people to see us? Most of us can feel so overwhelmed by it all to the point that we end up just stalling and getting nowhere (please say that’s not just me!). Are we just overthinking this – is social media even worth it for us as graphic designers?

I think by now, we’re all conditioned to embrace social media, not just as part of our marketing, but in our everyday lives. Everyone seems to be on it constantly, so when people urge businesses to get on board with it, and that social media is the one major place where we can make an impact, it’s hard not to believe them, isn’t it?

Perhaps a hard thing to admit, but nowadays, business is done online – traditional marketing, though it has its place, has taken a reluctant back seat. Online content is where it’s at, and where it’s likely to be for the foreseeable future.

So yes, being present on social media is a necessity for businesses. But you can’t be everywhere. How do you decide which platforms to be visible on? And what do you post, anyway?

The fear of comparison

Have you ever experienced this? You scroll through Instagram and see breath-taking posts from other designers, amazing images backed up by a perfectly matched piece of text that you know hits the sweet spot for SEO and is adorned with hashtags that are going to appeal to just the right people?

Yeah, me too. All the time. And it’s paralysing. I can’t possibly match up, right? So I won’t bother. I won’t put myself out there, and let people see how thoroughly mediocre I am. 

But hang on – isn’t that just your impostor syndrome getting the better of you? What if we flip it, and let those posts inspire us instead?

Comparison can be a dangerous thing. It can also give us a marvellous insight into what works for other designers online. Instead of falling prey to jealousy, could you analyse what’s happening? Look into the post – why does it appeal? How are people responding to it? And most importantly, how can you emulate that through your own work?*

(*Note – I’m not suggesting imitation or copy here, but letting the ideas and concepts inspire you.)

What’s your objective?

When I’ve researched the best social media platforms for graphic designers, one of the answers that seems to come up a lot is ‘go where your ideal client is.’

OK, I get that. It makes sense – if you are trying to purely use social media to get leads (never a bad tactic) – but another way to look at it is ‘what do I want from my social media?’

I don’t necessarily want my posts to be all about getting people to buy from me. I want to show my work to the best audience possible. I want to raise opinions and conversations around what I do. I want to connect with an audience and share my story a little bit. Thinking about it – when I look at social media posts, I’m most inspired by those posts that speak to me on a creative level – not those that are trying to get a sale out of me.

This kind of ties in with the question ‘which platform?’, because you’ll want to not only consider where your potential buyers hang out, but more so where your audience hang out. They’re not always the same thing.

I suppose the key is not to just connect with people who might buy from you, but also with the kind of people who are in your own industry. I’m talking about other designers, creative agencies, and the types of people who might enjoy sharing your content and talking about you, and with you. If people can relate to you and engage with you, then those who are looking to buy will learn to trust you through recommendations.

A numbers game?

Like all types of marketing, it’s largely a numbers game – the more times people see your brand, they’ll become familiar with it and are more likely to buy from you. Unlike traditional marketing though, you have other factors to consider. Because social media posts have such a short life span, it’s important that you create posts that grab people’s attention enough to stop them from scrolling and to read what you have to say. And you have to do that often – which (sorry) means posting a lot of content, regularly.

People see your social media posts first, so that’s the place to focus on getting noticed by new audiences – and the place to build trust with them.

So, is it worth it?

I think yes, it’s absolutely worth getting it right. Something else I’ll mention too is that any social media platforms you use should ideally lead people back to your website – people will still want to see concrete proof of what you stand for before they buy from you, and they will do that from first seeing your posts, and then looking at your website.

I hope this article was useful. I’m off to see what I can find to post on my Instagram now…

November 24, 2021No Comments

Rebranding – when should you do it?

There have been a couple of quite significant rebrands in the news recently – you’ve probably seen the arguments going on around the BBC one, and then there’s the one in which the Facebook brand has been encapsulated under the new ‘Meta’ umbrella.

I’ve worked on a lot of rebrand projects over my career. And yes, a lot of the time, the businesses I’ve done them for have had good reasons for doing so. Sometimes, they’ve grown to a point where they can afford something a bit nicer and a bit more appropriate for the direction they’re going in. Sometimes, they want to attract a different type of clientele. Sometimes they change direction and want to express who they’re becoming.

But how do you know when it’s time for a rebrand? When is it right to do it, and when should you leave it? What does it mean to rebrand, anyway?

I thought today that I’d share my insight on it from a graphic designer’s experience. Maybe it’ll help you decide what the best thing for your business brand is, and how far you should go in updating your branding.

What is branding, anyway?

More than just your logo, your brand includes everything that identifies you. Things like the colours you use, the style of your images, the fonts you use, even the tone and voice you use across your marketing.

Often, I’m asked by businesses to sort out their website – and while I believe that having a decent website for your business is a crucial part, it’s just as important to consider how the elements you select on your website will translate to other places. The colours and fonts used on your logo should be a big part of your web pages, your social media, and your print marketing, so that when people see your content, they instantly know it’s you. That’s what good branding does.

A bit about your brand name

Of course, your business name is also a big part of your branding – and one that often gets overlooked. I won’t dwell too much on it here, but it is worth a mention – as part of your branding, the name you choose should ideally give at least a hint of what you’re about.

When is it time to rebrand?

Following on from what I just said, if any element of your current branding fails to convey who you are, what you do, and the kind of person you’re trying to attract, then that’s a pretty good hint that you need to rethink your branding.

Some questions to ask might be:

  • Is my current branding old-fashioned, outdated, or failing to attract new customers?
  • Does my current branding hold a certain ‘reputation’ that no longer fits with what the business is about?
  • Has my business evolved and grown in such a way that my current branding looks a bit off/amateur?

You might be in a position where the core of your branding works ok, but some elements of it need updating. Don’t feel that you have to have a total overhaul in order to get what you need. Sometimes you just need a refresh of your style, but the colours and tone you use could be fine. Consider what works, and what doesn’t.

7 steps to rebranding

  1. Look carefully at your current branding, and make a list of what you love, and what you don’t. Be critical, and think about how things look to an outsider – perhaps even ask some people to give their opinions (but not so many that you get tied in knots!).
  2. Look at your competitors. Write down some elements that you like, and how it compares to your own branding. Think about who their customers are – are they similar to yours? What do you think attracts those people to your competitors?
  3. Approach a designer – if possible, set up a meeting to talk about your vision for your rebrand. This is an important step, because designers are well versed in branding, and can give you great advice on what works, what’s contemporary, and how things could work within your particular business.
  4. Set a realistic budget and timeline with your designer so that you can meet your objectives.
  5. Plan your launch – use the opportunity to remarket your business so that as many new people as possible see what you’re about. Don’t be shy about it – celebrate your new branding for maximum impact.
  6. Measure and monitor – identify any glitches where further improvements might be needed.
  7. Remember; change is never easy, but sometimes it’s an essential part of your business growth and evolution.

Are you thinking about rebranding, or do you have questions about your current branding? Give me a call – I’d be happy to help.

©2017–2022 Tony Clarkson/&Something Limited