Self Promotion & Designing Tips, Ideas, & Resources for Graphic Designers & Web Designers

Self Promotion & Marketing Tips, Ideas, & Resources for Graphic Designers
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Amanda Vlahakis kindly wrote and sent in this article to share with everyone who visits All Graphic Design. She worked very hard to put together a collection of design information that she thought would be useful for all web designers and graphic designers. Some of the information that you will find below are ways to inspire yourself when you have designers’ block, marketing your design business, lists of design competitions for 2009, and many more topics. We would love to receive your articles too…Send them to allfreelance (at) comcast (dot) net.

Self Promotion, Marketing & Designing Tips, Ideas, & Resources for Graphic Designers & Web Designers

CONTENTS OF THIS ARTICLES

(1) Web 2.0 for Brand Marketing

(2) Using Your Website as a Brand Marketing Tool

(3) Inspire Yourself to Design Better

(4) An Interview with Me About Graphic Design

(5) Best 2009 Design & Illustration Competitions

1. Web 2.0 for Brand Marketing

Web 2.0 is a phrase coined just after the .com bubble crash of 2001 to describe the changing trends in the www – World Wide Web. Most notably web 2.0 is often used to describe the newer functionality of web communications, information sharing, communities, and collaboration. The newest breed of what we would describe as ‘web 2.0’ websites would include those websites such as; Social networking, video sharing, Blogs, and Social Bookmarking. Some examples of these include YouTube, MySpace, Facebook, Youmeo, Twitter and Flickr; The increase in web 2.0 technology and culture has led to many companies reinventing the way in which they market their businesses and adopting web 2.0 as a significant portion of their marketing strategy.

Web 2.0 Marketing Strategy

Web 2.0 tools are used much in the same way as traditional marketing (i.e. directing mailing, cold calling, offline business networking); and that is to convince your customers to invest in your products and/or services by effectively spreading your brand message to the world. With web 2.0 however, rather than simply spreading your message, you encourage your customers and potential customers to actually engage and participate with your company and whilst this is an extremely powerful brand marketing technique, it also allows the company to garner feedback that can lead to better product/services development and customer services.

An example of the growing use of web 2.0 for marketing is the 2006 introduction of prolific blogger Hugh MacLeod as the new marketing strategist for a small South African winery called Stormhoek. Hugh has been utilising Web 2.0 tools such as blogging and Facebook to get the word out about Stormhoek, resulting in a fivefold increase in sales. Who says social networking and blogging doesn’t work for business? No one with any ounce of sense I hope. These days Hugh also concentrates one of the newer web 2.0 tools – Twitter. In addition to these successes driven by Hugh, in November 2007 Stormhoek won the Best Small Budget Brand Marketing Campaign of the Year, awarded by a Council of judges for South Africa’s Marketing Excellence awards.

Hugh’s most interesting project of recent times is creating the Blue Monster wine label and poster in collaboration with Stormhoek and Microsoft. The wine and associated branding is intended to be used for employees and friends of Microsoft and I personally feel is the start of an exercise in re-branding Microsoft; for a long time now the brand has been negatively affected by bad publicity. It seems to me that the idea is for Microsoft to stop the rot from the inside first and spread that out to the public. I.e. first get the employees to love Microsoft and then work on the rest of the world after that. I agree that really you can’t project the right brand image if you haven’t got your employees on board first. When you visit the Stormhoek website you can see that essentially the entire website is quite simply one big blog, obviously part of the Web 2.0 marketing strategy that is working so well for them.

Marketing Tools

A useful list of web 2.0 websites and tools useful for brand/business marketing;

www.socialmarker.com

www.ecademy.com

www.wordpress.com

www.twitter.com

www.youtube.com

www.skype.com

2. Websites As Brand Marketing Tools

When designing a website for your company it’s important to ensure that it is in keeping with your company image, brand identity, and provides brand image consistency. Also bear in mind that no matter how well branded and designed your website is, if it’s for instance slow to load, cluttered, hard to navigate or flashy with no substance then it does no favors for your company. Design is important, but equally so is substance and content that relates to your offering and your identity and attempts to offer it’s visitor a little bit more than just a bit of info and a contact form.

Effective Visuals

The web design should make effective use of corporate images; this includes the consistent use of your logo design/s, company colours, and company style of address. For instance if your ‘brand style’ of copywriting in your marketing literature is informal and conversational, your website should match.The ideal method of designing a website should be to design the imagery and layout from scratch to perfectly match your brand, and to ensure the most practical layout for the content available to your visitors. If you have a limited budget you may feel that using a template is a good solution, but doing this does not help you to differentiate your brand as being unique and in most cases becomes a stop-gap solution, meaning you end up paying for your website twice. The majority of firms who opt for a cheap template build at some point in the future are driven to a fully custom design and layout anyway because that’s going to be the most effective website for any company that takes its online identity seriously. At some point most firms, if operating for any decent length of time, will be forced to take their identity seriously.

Using Your Website As A Marketing Tool

Marketing strategy should follow through to your website and a website could, and indeed should be a major part of your marketing mix. If a large portion of your marketing is conducted through the distribution of company brochures for instance, there is no reason why these cannot be ordered through your website, or indeed in today’s age, customers are more than used to downloading a PDF brochure online. One major plus being that a PDF is virtually free for you to distribute by comparison to a printed brochure, and friendlier to the environment to boot.

But don’t stop there, the Internet offers the business owner a huge range of possibilities when it comes to their website … use the Internet to offer your customers real interaction with your brand and what it stands for; blogs, podcasts, forums, live online support, networks and more. Get involved with all the marketing tools that web 2.0 offers a business.

Here are just a few things that your website could be offering your customers:

- Products (shopping)

- Support forums

- Podcasting

- Blogs

- Downloadable guides and brochures

- Tools and resources (such as calculators depending on your industry)

- Video

All of this and more should be updated week in, week out if you want Google to like you, but that’s a whole other article!

3. Many Ways To Inspire Yourself

Thomas Edison once said that genius is 1% inspiration, and 99% perspiration, but where exactly (and how) should one find it? Thomas Edison invented the light bulb amongst other influential inventions, for those of us that are academically challenged such as myself.

Here are some tips to find inspiration:

(Also - This is a Must Read Article for Those Graphic Designers Needed Inspiration and Trying to Avoid Designer’s Block)

1. Your eyes need food to send to your brain, so feed them with images.

- Design blogs; graphic design, logo design, interior design, general art blogs (Top Graphic Design Blogs and Web Design Blogs)

- Go shopping, retail land is a riot of creativity. Take your camera.

- Photo/image stock libraries (Stock Illustration Sites, Rights-Protected Stock Photography Sites, Royalty-Free Stock Photography Sites)

- Illustrators agent’s websites

- Put search terms into Google images

2. Play music

Play it loud, play it soft, vary the styles….dance, rnb, rocknroll, easy listening, swing, classical, rock, indie ….you get the drift.

3. Hit the streets and photograph interesting architecture; there are many shapes and patterns to be found in architecture.

Even better visit a National Trust property and get snapping away at the wallpaper, tapestries, paintings, and carvings to be found within. I did that recently but lost the blinkin image files! Grrr… Likewise you can visit your local museum.

4. Look to the past:

- Visit retro shopping websites.

- Google for retro advertisement images (check out all of these retro / vintage ads Groups in Flickr)

- Ask your Gran if you can riffle through her old jewellery/clothes of yesteryear

- Check out these Retro / Vintage Design Tutorials

4. Review Other Designers:

Have a look at what other designers are doing, good links to visit for this include;

List of Top Essential Graphic Design Books

List of Top Essential Graphic Design Magazines

Design Inspiration Gallery

180+ Sites for Graphic Design Inspiration

24 Great Design Portfolios

What to do with it all?:

Finally all that you collect from your various inspirational sources - shove them all together on your creative project Mood Board. What is a Mood Board? A mood board is a useful tool used by designers to help them get a better idea of what their customers are looking for. Mood boards are sort of like collages of items such as layouts, sketches, clippings, and color samples. A mood board can be actual or virtual. A mood board is used by many different types of graphic designers and web designers. Flickr has a great collection of Designer Mood Boards so check them out.

Good luck!

4. A Design Student Interviews Me

Recently a design student came to me with a questionnaire to assist them in a college project relating to their graphic design course and I was of course happy to oblige. You may find their design project questions and my subsequent answers interesting:

Design Brief

• To design and make a suite of promotional items to help promote a new mobile phone network

• To create a unique, vibrant corporate identity which will appeal to and satisfy my target audience

• To successfully advertise a mobile phone network so it can become a trustworthy, esablished comapny that will attract potential customers

1. Are there any particular mobile phone networks you like promotional material from?

AMANDA: I haven’t seen much in the way of promo material from phone networks, in terms of paper based marketing materials so I can only really go on their websites. In which case I’d cite Three (www.three.co.uk) as having the most attractive and compelling website and brand identity. It’s my opinion that they are the first mobile phone network to make any sort of attempt to be ‘different’ from the others in the way their image is presented to the world. Second runner up would be Orange, they make a sincere effort with their branding and attempt to differentiate also from their competitors: www.orange.co.uk. If you look at Three it’s almost like they’ve tried to be opposite to Orange. Orange branding is centered around a colour. With Three they deliberately don’t have a specific brand colour; they only have a brand icon … but it’s colourless or shows up in many different colours.

2. What do you think my main considerations should be when designing a logo/corporate identity?

AMANDA:

-Ensure it is practical; not too tall compared to it’s width or too wide compared to it’s height, not unreadable when small, that it can work well in grayscale as well as colour, and that it can be printed onto nearly any item …paper, metal, fabric without it again becoming unreadable or hard to make out the graphic.

-Remember when designing the actual graphic and accompanying text that make up the logo design, they need to be exceptionally neat/tidy/flawless … imagine any errors that might show up on the logo if printed as large as a billboard sized. You never know…

- Ensure that it appeals to the intended customer base and is created with them in mind rather than your own (or the clients) personal preferences.

- Consider longevity and try to avoid being too ‘fashion or trend’ influenced with your design style. What looks good now, also needs to look pretty good ten years from now with ideally only minimal tweaking required to update the design.

- Try to be original and avoid cliches for the industry type you are designing for. For instance if a building firm; an illustrated building as part of the design is a cliche ….. unless of course you think of an original/unique way of presenting that building within the design that you haven’t seen elsewhere. Being as original in your ideas as possible also helps protect you against the chances of infringing on other companies designs.

- Before you start designing ask many questions of the client about their business as it stands, where it may be going in the future and who they will be selling to - you need to find out who the ‘target market’ are and a bit more about that market and their habits to ensure that the design is appealing to them.

3. What do you think makes a successful corporate identity?

AMANDA:

- Those which stand the test of time, are original/unique, are memorable and striking.

- Those that make it easy to remember the company name and ideally give some sort of hint at what the business offers also: this is perhaps less important for large corporations with huge marketing budgets who can use advertising to make themselves memorable, but for the small business owner it’s fairly important that the logo image spells out what is on offer from that business to at least some degree. Or at least hints at it.

4. When designing promotional materials for a mobile network, do you think either stock photography or illustrations would be more succesful?

AMANDA: I think either, or a combination of both are fine. Illustrations work just as well for a corporate business as they would for a smaller business or family/child targeted business. If you look at Hed Kandi music albums for instance they heavily use illustrations within their marketing, which targets adults and not children. So as mentioned, corporate brands can use them even when targeting adults. In fact if you visit Jason Brooks portfolio web site you will see that nearly everything he does (all illustrations) are targeting adults. Illustrations are perfectly appropriate in this instance. Photos can be used instead to great effect also, as I said, either are fine. Or they can be combined, as in the case of Brand Nu - who uses a relatively new (and yet heavily saturated now unfortunately) design style of merging photos with illustrations.

5. How do you think I could appear different from existing mobile networks?

AMANDA: By thinking of a mobile phone target market that has not yet been exploited fully, creating a ‘niche business’, targeting this market only and then your branding would directly appeal to this market and hence be different from the others. I suggest you target ‘Tweens’ who more and more of now have mobile phones of their own. Tweens: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Preadolescence

6. What are your first steps when designing anything?

AMANDA: If it’s a logo design for some reason I always have to pick out the font first before I do anything else. Then usually it’s colours next before I start even thinking about the graphic. Not to say that the font or colours won’t then change later on as it evolves. No particular reason for this order of work that I can give a logical answer for, perhaps just a habit I’ve got into. For other design projects my first step is usually to gather together a mood board of sorts - I put this all together on the art board within my design software. Which usually involves the logo to be used, images relating to the style I want to convey, and photos and images I’m thinking of using within the project.

7. Where do you get inspiration from?

AMANDA: From everywhere really, but these sorts of places mainly I’d say:

- Advertising (Some adverts in magazines really inspire me and I sometimes stare at them for some time deciding what about them is so good)

- Fashion (Fashion often influences my colour palettes and patterns)

- Other Illustrators inspire me (I learn from their style, from their techniques and so on)

- Movies (opening credits often feature very interesting designs, look at the amazing start of Casino Royale, I was blown away, if you haven’t seen it you must)

5. 20 Graphic Design & Illustration Competitions 2009

Aspiring or established graphic designer or brand designer? Aspiring or established illustrator even?

A list of 20 design competitions for 2009:

.PSD Magazine Cover Art Competition

Creative Review Annual 2009 Competition

Titan International Illustration Competition

How Design Competition

Snowboard Design Competition

Communication Arts Design Competition

Adobe Graphic Design Competition For Students

Urbis Best of Manchester Design Awards 2009

D and AD Graphic Design Awards 2009

The European Design Awards

Good Worldwide Design Awards 2009

Logo Design Competition for the Bulgarian Entry of the Eurovision Song Contest

Hugo Boss Design Competition

The IAC Internet Advertising Design Competition

Communication Arts Illustration Competition 2009

Tate Publishing National Illustration Awards 2009

The American Design Awards 2009

DG Design Network Student Design Competition

Scottish Design Awards 2009

Check out More Design Competitions and Events Here

Even More Graphic Design Awards and Competitions

AUTHOR BIO

Amanda Vlahakis – Truly Ace Graphic Design - Logo Designer, Web Designer, and Print Designer

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5 Comments

  1. Posted March 16, 2009 at 2:40 am | Permalink

    Might be a little off from your blog post but project management tools are really helpful for designers!
    I use DeskAway, it has a free plan with no a trial period, i can use it for as long as i like.
    http://www.deskaway.com

  2. Posted April 14, 2009 at 11:51 am | Permalink

    Hi, I have a question. I am wanting to do some sort of self promotion. I was thinking of creating packaging and then putting my mom’s famous choc chip cookies in it. Of course I will bake them and then taking them up to the company I would like to work for. Is this a totally dumb idea? I mean of course I will make it kick a** but I didn’t know if this was unprofessional. Ok thank you so much for the advice if any is given :)

  3. Posted April 22, 2009 at 4:37 am | Permalink

    great resource…thanks

  4. Posted April 29, 2009 at 2:34 am | Permalink

    Nice post!

    Ovi Dogar
    AbsoluteCovers.com

  5. Posted September 17, 2009 at 1:23 am | Permalink

    Very interesting read. There were lots of points that were dead on. Some of these tips I have just used myself and it’s working. Everything you listed is something all designers should know about. Thanks for the reminder!

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