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The relevance of design

Clients come to us with problems that require visually creative solutions. Whether they know it or not, they need their brands to speak and they do not know how to bring them to life. They have a vision of functionality and purpose but no idea how the tool to help them perform said tasks needs to look like, and so they come to us to build it for them from scratch, to hear out their dream and visualize how to bring it to life.

Structuring the creative process is paramount. Scope and project parameters are integral aspects of the creative brief. The combination of them all guides our thinking and serve as the map (deadlines, audiences, desired results) to move us into the research and ideation process.

Defining “creative” depends on what you are trying to communicate and to whom. Describe the ultimate goal of the visuals? How can they better communicate to the intended audience? Here, we transition into the exploration phase. To make something better, you have to first make it different. Here are some infinite numbers of ways to make something different:

  1. Aesthetics

Getting your idea right is only half the work: the point of impact is purely dependent on execution. Many projects have great ideas but fail to make an impact because of poor execution and implementation. As a subject, design is very subjective and as such, we use a plethora of components to develop objective concepts:

  • Size: Use of size and scale to really create some visual drama—and tell a whole different story. When changing the size of one element in contrast to another element.
  • Color: Color has a powerful ability to tell a story. As one of the strongest assets in the designer’s toolbox, it can serve as a base to establish the type of mood and energy conveyed by the visual.
    our natural perception of color is dependent on light, color is especially helpful when defining time of day and location
  • Shape: making shapes work to better communicate the message. A more drastic change, such as simplifying the geometry, can completely alter energy.
  • Pattern: Developing and underlying grid that forms the pattern composition through which flow can be altered ever so slightly.
  • Texture: portraying texture on images in order to suggest to the eye based on memories of previous encounters – elude texture to surfaces.
  • Form: Use of 2d, 3d or 4d on whole objects or very subtly on edges, slivers of the whole object to change the form of the image.
  • Lighting: use of high or low contrast.
  • Style: use of classic, traditional, modern or contemporary styles to appeal to the intended market and to meet the desired goal.

2. Consistency
this is the ultimate marker of ‘getting it right’ for brands. Consistency in tone, look, application and visual is the ‘true north’ for brands. It marks the fact that proper assessments and analysis of the same were conducted from the very beginning of brand development and this map is what is in use to guide brand direction. Consistency is integral for brand relatability and identification with audiences.

3. Flexibility
A brand needs to constantly realign itself to changing market needs as well as to the Company’s changing goals and objectives. It needs to be able to listen to what its customers are saying and not saying to formulate a more effective way to communicate and listen and meet needs.

Designers are tasked with creating high impact visual experiences, over and over. Good ideas must be executed in a uniquely memorable way to truly leave a mark. Getting there, though, is a journey. And it requires constantly making things better, bringing something new and engaging into the world. Clients approach us with problems that require visually creative solutions: start-ups need a branded visual voice; established companies need new websites that align more with their current needs and goals; organizations launch campaigns that must excite the viewer at every point of interaction—the design challenge grows!

The Brand Consistency discussion – a case for brand guidelines

Brand guidelines are put in place by brand creators in order to make the representation of the brand in almost every instant as accurate and consistent as possible.

However, as trends emerge and technology induces some subtle and some not – changes in the way communication is handled, the question of whether the brand guidelines are safe guarding the brand or simply making it dreary begins to surface – a lot.

The purpose of brand guidelines is to ensure:

  1. Brand visibility
  • Increased brand visibility needs to go hand in hand with a standards measure stick that prevents the erosion of said brand.
  1. Brand awareness
  • Unfortunately, many Companies do not view their brand as an asset. If they did, they would invest time and money in its development and maintenance as they do on the physical assets.
  • As a result, of Companies not taking their brands seriously, there is a deficit in public awareness that would otherwise not be there if it was structured into their marketing planning.
  1. Brand preference
  • With a high level of brand awareness, trust and top level information is generated in the mind of a customer and this affects choice and preference levels.
  • This is dependent on the product/ service meeting the needs of the customer or meeting its quality and value balance as per the brand promise.
  1. Brand advocacy
  • This is the ideal goal. The point at which the brand sells itself with minimum effort from your marketing and sales campaigns.
  • This is the point at which your brand is so well known, people automatically pick it off the shelves.

Takeaway:

Target audiences are drawn to consistency, so though using the same elements time and time again may seem dull to directors and internal stakeholders, it will ultimately help identify your brand more quickly and hopefully start building an emotional attachment to your company.

Small changes to the brand look and feel must be made deliberately and not on a whim with considerations that these changes will need to be factored into the brand on the long term.

How to have a more productive 2016 – understanding the workforce part I

If you have a stake in any business, your focus is always on how to grow the business. You spend time and money examining and re-examining your business model, trying to maximize on its strengths while mitigating its weaknesses at all times.

So you recruit a team to work with you in building the business because – its success means that everyone is gaining. Because you have hired skilled personnel, you imagine that it will be easy to work out the profit dynamics vs. timelines and beat the money making obstacles. You therefore hold meetings with your staff, discuss these details and come up with strategies that everyone feels that they can commit to working towards.

At the end of the month, the hours worked don’t correspond with the expected outputs and the to-do’s appear to be piling up with a client in vs. client not out ratio that is alarming. This in turn affects cash flow and everyone is unhappy especially the business owners.

This is every small business owner’s dilemma:

  1. High staff turnover – because the work is ‘too much’ , ‘too hard’, or the team is unable to self-motivate and requires a lot of supervision and micro management
  2. Unmet deadlines – poor planning and prioritizing of tasks,
  3. No team spirit – The individual staff have a ME FIRST approach to work thus there is no synergy within team to maximize efficiency and productivity by complementing one another’s efforts.
  4. Social media addiction – perpetual socializing on all social media platforms at the expense of productivity at work
  5. Lack of discipline – the list of incomplete tasks is perpetually growing

We spent time trying to understand why the items in the list were so consistent for many businesses and discovered why. You see, today’s workforce falls into four distinct categories:

  1. The Baby boomers
  2. Generation X
  3. Generation Y/ The Millennials
  4. Generation Z

Four (4) reasons big brands jumped on the Royal baby congratulations band wagon

Comparing the creative ways in which many Companies in the UK chose to jump on the welcoming of the royal baby and comparing it to the sad and characteristically similar manner in which Kenyan Companies chose to welcome President Obama during his visit to Nairobi, it was disappointing to see how little creative effort went into the Kenyan version of adverts most plainly stating their welcome as if the entire creative community was completely bi-passed in a bid to ‘save costs’ on such a ‘simple design matter’. I truly hope the same mistake will not be made by Companies hoping to make public ANY message to the Pope when he makes his visit. Engage the creatives and you will never go wrong, also, any publicity intent should be thoroughly analysed and taken full advantage of, always!

  1. To flaunt creative ideas aside of the brand guidelines

For Companies tightly bound by their brand standards dictating minute details of advert design and limiting creativity of design of various collateral, this is an opportunity to go all out and do something that even the brand guidelines could not anticipate – the birth of royalty, Obama comes to town.

British Airways

 

  1. For increased brand visibility

Trending topics are good for SEO and visibility because they have a high number of clicks. Audiences will normally click through as many different links to a trending topic in order to receive perspectives of as many news sources as possible. Because of this, users will “see right through” insincere attempts by brands to take advantage of a trending topic, if your brand is considering this type of marketing it must turn the “authentic and genuine gauge up a notch”

Some identified fails sound like this:

estate agents Gavelsmotors

  1. To be part of the unspoken competition between brands with consumers as the unwitting judges

This kind of creative publicity provides a platform for brands to put on their creative hats and step out and “strut their stuff” alongside each other in an unplanned competitive atmosphere that gets them judged by a larger audience than their target market. Brands that don’t have the natural affinity to the topic need to be more strategic and clever in their marketing. For instance, the birth of a second royal baby is in line with Pampers UK brand language and core product, not so much for COCA COLA.

Coca Cola Pampers

  1. A chance to be gauged outside of their core business

A larger audience due to the nature and level of appeal of the trending topic, genuine creative output has the ability to effectively create an emotional connection to your brand with a new psychographic. The ones who admire the brand for its creative innovation, they may not consume the product or service but may be quick to recommend the brand to users of similar products because they are drawn to the brand style. This creative output must of course be sustained beyond the trending hot bag.

royal toastNissanJPG

Creating a captivating about us page

Compelling content on your website is integral to the success of your visitor conversion and ranking on Google. It makes your online presence relevant to your clients and is your best marketing tool.

  1. Show some emotion for your Industry/market

    Stiff, boring and overly corporate speak may be good for proposals but your website needs more than that to truly engage with your visitors. Ask yourselves some questions to help you ‘loosen up’:

  • If your company were a person, who would it be?
  • What are your proudest moments as a Company? Can you capture those in well written copy?
  • What words relating to your business keep popping up with clients, suppliers and/or sales people?

2. Who are you really?

Like Humans, every brand is unique and has its own special traits and quirks – tell these in a differentiating manner that helps visitors decide to go with your brand as opposed to your competitors. Information from demographic surveys will help you speak in the language of your clientele.

  1. Your brand must tell a story

Have stories about your brand that humanize your brand and make it easier for people to relate to. Identify your key unique strengths and collect stories about your brand that bring out those strengths. Providing context and meaning to your Brand story improves your visitor’s ability to connect with it and share it with others in their networks.

Helpful tip:
Conduct the following exercise: Discuss “15 Interesting Things About Our Company.” Circulate an online questionnaire for everyone to fill and incentivize it with something interesting.

Use the interesting feedback you receive and insert them into your about us page. Or use the entire list as a link or tab from your about us page.

5 design terms everyone needs to know

Learning the design lingo is important for everyone because it helps everyone appreciate the design process. It is crucial to know what you are dealing with same way it’s important to know what you are buying when in a supermarket. Knowing the rules of the shop also helps make the design process smoother and you are able to appreciate each step during the progression of the design process. In the same way we carry our visa cards to the supermarket and don’t expect discounts for purchases, it is crucial to understand the perimeters within which design operates.

  1. Design brief

A creative brief is the core of the client service process and may lead to the success or failure of the creative output. The creative brief is a descriptive document that containing information about the client, what they do, how they do it and explains their requirements for the project. Our briefing process is aimed at collecting comprehensive information from the client in order to eliminate any ambiguities in the design process. We always urge our clients to take this step very seriously and not address it hurriedly in a bid to ‘get to the fun part’ because it is the basis of the entire project. It tells the story of the project – why it is to be undertaken and provides a strategic foundation on how it is to be undertaken and for whom it is intended.

It is this strategic input that enables us to provide an effective design solution to the clients business and not merely a decorative art piece.

  1. Design scope

The scope outlines the general aims and goals of the project design and lists the major deliverables and milestones.  Project scope management plan is a planning tool that documents how the project team will go about defining project scope, how the work breakdown structure will be developed, how changes to scope will be controlled, and how the work of the project will be verified and accepted. This document is important because it keeps everyone on their proverbial ‘side of the fence’. It contains the following crucial elements:

  • The project scope statement contains a detailed description of the project deliverables.
  • A process for creating the work breakdown structure (WBS). The WBS further defines the work of the project (as defined in the scope statement) by breaking down the deliverables into smaller pieces of work.
  • A definition of how the deliverables will be verified for accuracy and the process used for accepting deliverables.
  • A description of the process for controlling scope change requests, including the procedure for requesting changes and how to obtain a change request form.

 

  1. Logo vs. Brand

According to creative bloq, a great logo works as a reminder of a company or product, for designers they represent the challenge of encapsulating a client’s essence into a single graphic.

What a logo design isn’t, though, is branding. While the logo is usually the stand-out part of a brand, there’s much more to branding than a logo. A good brand identity is carefully built out of a number of elements, and the logo will reflect these elements and work within the brand system.

But creating or refreshing a brand can be a massive undertaking, involving a deep understanding of the brand’s personality, how it’s perceived, its history and function and much more.

  1. Resolution: DPI vs. PPI

Resolution is a measure of dots per inch (DPI) for printed works and pixels per inch (PPI) for digital work. If the resolution of an image is too low, your final product will come out looking grainy or pixelated. Even if you’re smart phone shoots 41 megapixels, trust your designer if he or she says the image won’t work (Rebecca Swift).

  1. Typography

This is the art of using typefaces to communicate. This skill encompasses both the typefaces and the negative space surrounding them. Typeface research is a process that takes up a lot of time during the design especially of logos and brands because the font selected sets the ‘mood’ and ‘feel’ for your brand.

You will want to know something about fonts because the two convey different feelings. Serif fonts have a line crossing the ending of a stroke and are sometimes described as having “wings” and “tips.” Serif fonts like Times New Roman make printed materials easier to read but can be difficult to read in online body copy.

 

Corporate gift giving in Kenya, a seasonal trend

In order to remain competitive in the marketplace and recognize employees, clients and vendors, gift giving is a great way to build strong and lasting business relationships, foster trust and loyalty and for staying ‘top-of-mind’ with your clients. It’s your company’s way of showing its clients and partners that you truly appreciate them in a genuinely thoughtful way.

Nairobi end of year corporate gift giving has always had a typical aspect to it. Anyone who has worked in a large office has likely experienced the influx of calendars and diaries and pens and all manner of branded items from The Company’s suppliers. We have established that all these items have their place despite their generic nature – any manner of token that expresses appreciation and gratitude and that is put to daily use by employees goes a long way in making an impression. So feel free to create calendars, diaries, notepads, t-shirts, caps, pens, umbrellas, flash disks and mugs. Keeping your brand top-of-the mind is a brand awareness tool that still works.

This year, set yourself apart from the pack and keep yourself top of mind by giving your 2015 gift in 2016. Check out our four tips to keep you differentiated this season:

  1. Timing: Find out when your client will be coming back from their end year holiday whether January or February and have their gift waiting on their desk on the day they report.
  2. Stay subscribed: Different clients appreciate (or resent) different greetings, and these preferences can be hard to keep straight, but a three-month lunch subscription to the specific team you are working with is likely safe and it’ll serve as a reminder of you for the entire first quarter.
  3. Customize: If your company has a small number of clients, try to customize their gifts as much as possible. Pay attention to each client’s habits or get some information from the sales people who have dealt with them. Listen closely to cues they give in meetings and send something you’re sure they’ll like, or play it safe with standard corporate gifts that can be easily shared among a team.For instance, if a client orders wine during dinner meetings, wine is a safe choice. If you’ve met with the client over golf, then a small token from their favorite course could be more appropriate. These personalized gifts can make your clients feel like they’re special and really important to your business.

    If your business has too many clients for you to manage individual purchases, smaller more general items will do such as a picture frame or a desk clock or a personalized card.

  1. Gift your employees
    Employee appreciation in form of a small token like a restaurant gift card or a shopping voucher can make them feel appreciated.For employees, stick to the same type of gift or at least gifts of similar value; however, if you have one or two employees or colleagues who you work with more closely, like an assistant or partner, larger gifts are more appropriate.

    The most important aspect of giving employee gifts is to remember every single person including the day and night guard. Internal exchange of information will lead to people feeling under-appreciated or forgotten if you choose whom to gift.

  1. Gift your suppliers
    A gift basket for your service provider makes for a good selection since you can choose the style, size and the budget that fits each of their tastes. Keep in mind that a very expensive gift can backfire because it can make the recipient feel uncomfortably obligated and sometimes even get them into trouble at the office.

 

How to website design

At AKSENT, we believe that every item of collateral must have a purpose and in order to achieve this purpose, we have developed processes that enable a client to come up with a plan for the web design process from start to finish.

Because of its structured nature, our process is not always received well by clients despite the fact that it is designed to ensure the client gets the website they require within the specified time frame. Some find it tedious and unlike the off-the-cuff nature they expect of design projects.

  • Client contacts us mainly asking for a costing
  • AKSENT responds with a request for a list of requirements or a general brief, we go over this and if it is clear, we prepare a draft costing. If it is not clear we ask for specific clarifications or for the client to come in for a meeting. Based on the meeting we send the client an initial estimate. Here, we are very clear that it’s subject to change.
  • The client pays a commitment fee and we initiate the process by sending them our brief structure to fill in. Once they send it back, we review it and conduct a needs analysis with the client to narrow down the specifics of what they need and why.
  • We then draw up a scope and deliverables document and the client’s signs off on it.
  • We are now ready to commence. Finalize on the website structure phase and move onto the design phase.
  • All these various phases developed for the design and development of the website are crucial in establishing grounds for the project, planning for the undertaking, implementation and maintenance of the project. Without them, there is no project, it is reduced to a whimsical activity bound to waste resources of the client and the developer.

Why you require professional book design

Are you thinking of publishing a book? If you are, and want to be successful at it, keep book design in mind. Many authors in Kenya try to cut the costs of publishing their books by eliminating graphic designers and laying out the book themselves and make a remarkable mess of their otherwise good books.

The goal of a professional designer in book design is to make the book appealing and comfortable for the reader. Because design covers all the parts of the book, from the cover to details like spacing, it can make or break a book, hence the need to pay careful attention to the otherwise easy to ignore details.

The following are 10 reasons why you need to hire a designer to layout your book for you:

  1. They will have the right tools

A professional and experienced designer will have the appropriate software suite to ensure professional results. While Microsoft office may do the job, it will not be the same at any level, when compared to a book designed on the relevant design software.

  1. The Cover design is your selling point

Professional designers understand how crucial the book cover is and the role that it plays in the marketing & sales process. They will know to make it simple but catchy, take into account essentials like readability, typography selection and size as well as the image to use in order to invoke interest and curiosity in a reader.

  1. Margins and spacing

Professional designers know all about spacing and its relevance in making a book an easy read or a messy collection of words. Tight margins will make your margins intimidating and cramped. In some cases, part of the text can be lost in the inside edge or “gutter”, which gives the reader a hard time reading. Your book will appear more inviting with roomy and nice margins around the text. The reader can hold such a book comfortably, and even have space for marks or notes. The inside margin should be larger to ensure words do not fall into the inside edge.

  1. The right typeface

A readable font is a typeface that is easy on a reader’s eyes, one that is not only attractive, but also comfortable, no squint and appropriate for the larger age bracket. Livelier fonts can be used for book covers, chapter titles and the title page.

  1. Use of appropriate font size and leading

Selecting the right font size is imperative, If you make it too big, you risk having a large print edition. If you make it too small, you might as well provide your readers with magnifying glasses. While there is no rule to this, the 11-point type is used in many modern books. Some fonts may look larger or smaller with different letter shapes. A professional designer will know to count the number of words or letters that can fit on one line.

Leading is the space between lines, or the distance from the bottom of one line to the bottom of the next line. Using an experienced designer means they are likely using professional tools like Adobe® InDesign® which ensures they will keep this consistent.

  1. Text justification

Text justification, as used in typography, means setting it so your text runs right up both the left and right-hand margin, making an even rectangle. All layout platforms and word processors have this feature. The idea is that straight margins make long chunks of readable. The uneven edge will not distract readers’ eye, allowing them to focus on word flow.

  1. Indenting the first lines of paragraphs

The beginning of a new paragraph should be easy to notice on a book page. If not, your text will look like a run on of a block of words. For book design, it is better to indent the first line of the paragraph.

  1. Use of running heads or footers

While running heads are optional, they are the details that make the design of the book appear complete. These are little headings appearing above the text block on each page. The heads anchor text and assist readers to navigate books. They typically contain mainly the author’s name and book title. There are times when chapter titles might be used instead. Headers are different on left-hand and right-hand pages.

  1. Marking scene breaks with blank lines

Changes of scene are common in chapters. The designer will show this using a single blank line between the paragraphs. This will assist readers to understand change in perspective. Alternatively, small ornaments may be created & placed at the center, widening the break. They will know to keep the breaks simple and fun to reinforce the theme and mood of the book.

With these steps, you can appreciate the need to have an experienced graphic designer lay out your book in a clear and consistent manner that will make your book a ‘grab and read’.

 

 

 

4 Web Design Trends That Need to GO

Something I experienced on good websites is bad design. You should make your marketing design efforts work for you. Most visitors will form an opinion of your site in less than a second. Your design should assist the user into the areas where he or she needs to go.

Here are 5 design trends marketers should just let go.

Separate Mobile Versions of a Website
Gone are the days of a site having duplicate content, different URLs and duplicate edits just to satisfy the different devices that are now available. More trendy web designers are now turning to responsive web design for mobile sites. This enables one site to respond to the width of the device the visitor is using. This is better for SEO, and it is more inexpensive than building and maintaining two different sites.

Stock Images
In the past, marketers have heavily relied on stock images for website design. As a result, companies are now using the same ones which makes it more difficult for your company to showcase its branding, team and overall personality. A better idea would be to have a professional photo shoot that can better communicate your company’s story. The sites I have done that have used this option definitely have more appeal and trust deriving from the real images that are displayed on their website.

Pop-Ups
They have been annoying ever since they came to fruition. No one likes having what they are looking at interrupted by a pop-up asking them to sign up for something. It’s more important to be aware of the message your website is sending and focus on the users experience.

Home Page Slideshow Banners
These have been a marketer’s friend for a few years now, but I am now in agreement that these need to go. Depending on people to stick around on the home page to view slide three to see a service is simply not the way to go. Most viewers are impatient by nature and to expect them to stay around to view your “story” is just not realistic.
So whatever web design marketing techniques you decide to go with, always put yourself in the eyes of your end user. The variety of websites out there is what makes this exciting. Just make sure your website keeps your viewer’s attention, or someone else will.
Article by Tom Jelneck
Owner of On Target Digital Marketing, an Orlando SEO & Digital marketing agency

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