August 2014

This week, in honor of “back to school” season, I thought I’d share some of my favorite business and graphic design books.  For those who don’t know me, I read.  A lot.  I particularly like reading about entrepreneurs and designers, and how they got started in their industry.  Below are a few favorites that you might want to add to your reading list.

Delivering Happiness – Tony Hsieh

Delivering Happiness is a great read about how Tony Hsieh founded Zappos.  Lots of interesting insights into their company culture, and their dedication to customer service.  From offering money to employees to quit, to the yearly culture book, this true story will make you a loyal Zappos customer.

Shark Tales: How I Turned $1,000 into a Billion Dollar Business – Barbara Corcoran

As a former Jersey girl, I couldn’t resist Barbara Corcoran’s autobiography about rising up to become a powerhouse entrepreneur. She shows how being intuitive and thinking differently can bring success to your career.

Start Something That Matters – Blake Mycoskie

Start Something That Matters is by the founder of Toms, and is a great read on alternative business models and giving back.  As many of you know, Toms is based on the “buy one, give one” model. This book will inspire you to find a way to bring charity to your own work.

The Art of Looking Sideways – Alan Fletcher

If you buy one design book for inspiration, buy this one.  Alan Fletcher is one of the great graphic designers of our times, and his books are full of hand drawn sketches, typography, etc.  His designs are clever and will give you plenty to think about.  I guarantee you will open this book again and again.

How to Be a Graphic Designer Without Losing Your Soul – Adrian Shaughnessy

From inspiration, we now move on to practical advice.  How to Be a Graphic Designer Without Losing Your Soul is about how to have a graphic design business. So many design schools gloss over the business side of design, and yet so many designers end up being freelance business owners.  This book is full of information you need for contracts, writing briefs, etc.

Elegantissima – Louise Fili

Another inspiration book – lately, it seems like hand drawn typography is all the rage. Since 1989, Louise Fili has been delighting us with her typographically driven design solutions for restaurants, packaging and more.  Many of her designs are inspired by signage that she has photographed on her many trips to Italy. This book showcases her work, and is sure to make you want to try your hand at some new typographic ideas.

Now that you know my favorite books, what are some of yours?

At Stacy Kleber Design, LLC, we love working with start-ups and small businesses to help get their dreams off the ground.  Not only do we get to help them grow, but we get to help them establish their brand personality.  For entrepreneurs, choosing what materials they need can be overwhelming. To get you thinking about what your business needs, this week we’re listing some of our most common requests and recommendations.

Logo

If you are just starting out, the first thing you will need is a logo. Your logo is going to be one of the most used and visible pieces of your brand, so you should definitely invest in something that really embodies your business. For some, this will mean just text. For others, this will mean text and imagery. Think about how you want it to feel – fun, casual, formal, etc. This will help your designer create something that is a good fit for your brand.

Business Cards

Once you have a logo, you will likely want to invest in business cards. Business cards are important because you will be telling people about your business and networking. You will want to make it easy to give them something so they can contact you.  Though people often recommend oddly shaped business cards to help yourself stand out, I recommend going with the standard size and shape. This will make it easier for people to carry them in their wallets or save them in a rolodex.

Website

Another thing you will likely need up front is a website. You don’t need to go for the full nine-yards right away, but at the very least you want to have something online that explains the basics of your business and allows people to contact you. You will be able to put the web address on your business cards, and therefore can drive traffic to your site while networking as well.

Once you have your logo, business cards and website, what we recommend would be based more on your individual needs.  Some other common collateral are as follows:

Rack Card or Brochure

A rack card or brochure is a good way to hand out more information about your business. A rack card is is generally 2-sided, while a brochure is generally a trifold. Both should include succinct text and dynamic photos that help sell your business to the customer.

Letterhead

Letterhead format usually depends on your intended use.  You can have it preprinted or have a digital letterhead set up in Microsoft Word. Most businesses like to have both. Preprinted letterhead allows for full-bleed printing and high quality paper. Digital letterhead allows for your business to send branded Word documents or pdfs through email.

Custom Social Media Banners

Facebook, Twitter and other social media outlets allow you to brand your marketing channels to reinforce your business with the general public. Having a professional branded social media channel helps build continuity and trust with your customers.

Powerpoint Template

If you will be giving a lot of presentations, a branded Powerpoint template might also be useful. If done correctly, you can reinforce your brand on each slide. This will help customers to remember your brand, and gives them an opportunity to write down your contact information.

We hope our top 7 design recommendations for starting your business will help you get your business off to a great start. Please contact us if we can be of any assistance as you begin your journey!

 

There is a lot of discussion in the design community about where design is headed, and staying ahead of the curve. It seems that lately, everyone is looking to hire what I dub “The Unicorn” – the designer that can do UX and code and prep files for print and do video editing and … you get the idea.

While I fully believe that a good designer can design most anything well, I think it is dangerous to head down this path of doing absolutely every aspect of it. With so much diversity, you end up with a designer that is ok at everything, but not great at any one thing.

Yes, I believe you should have an understanding of all aspects of design.  If you are going to design the look and feel for a website, you absolutely need to understand the constraints of code.  If you are designing for print, you need to understand the constraints of that medium as well. But that doesn’t mean you have to be able to create something 100% polished, without assistance, in every medium.

Look at some of the greats – Louise Fili, Alan Fletcher, Saul Bass… All these designers have a style and a specialty that they honed through years of working in their craft, in their way. This kind of design takes dedication and focus – a kind of dedication and focus that is hard to come by today when young designers are spread so thin.

We’re seeing an influx of design without concept – design to make things look pretty – and I truly believe this is part of the problem. It is time to go back to teaching designers to think – to be creative – and to allow themselves to truly excel at their own specialty.

So next time you go to hire, I urge you to think about that job description you’re writing. Do you really need a jack of all trades? A unicorn? Or do you want a master?

 

Like many of you out there, I struggle to keep up with the day to day of blogging.  I don’t have a huge staff to share the task with, but I do know there are a few tips and tricks to get some additional mileage out of your blog posts.

Tip 1:  Promote multiple times a week

Not everyone can write a blog post a day, but what you can do is promote the same posts multiple times a week.  Take twitter as an excellent example.  Try promoting the same post with a different hook once a day at different times for a week – not only will you see when you get the most traction, but you will also give a wide audience a chance to see your post.  With the wide amount of information available, there is a good chance that people may miss it the first time.

Tip 2:  Promote on multiple channels

Not only can you promote more than once a week on the same social media channel – you can also promote across multiple channels.  This might be best done by optimizing for the individual channels themselves.  On Facebook, create an image to help promote your post.  On twitter, use assorted hashtags to help gain traction.  Each social media channel has a different audience, and by promoting cross channel at different times, you can keep traffic flowing to you blog post long after you post it.

Tip 3:  Get a guest blogger

If you really are at a loss as to what to blog about, see if you can get someone to guest blog.  This should be someone in a similar or complementary field, as you want to ensure the blog post is still of interest to your regular audience.  Not only can this allow you a break for a week or so, it will also keep your information fresh, and may bring additional readers who are fans of the featured blogger to your page.

Those are my top three tips to get more mileage out of your blog.  Have anything that I missed?  Feel free to leave a comment!

With so much great information, it was impossible to put it all in one post.  So here are more insights on the up and coming web trends from An Event Apart day 2.

Responsive Design is Still Hard/Easy!  Be Afraid/Don’t Worry! – Daniel Mall (@danielmall)

Daniel Mall was a dynamic speaker. He primarily talked about HOW we work – our process and how it should change and adapt as much as web design does.

“Why do we model our agencies or teams around the outdated idea of the assembly line? We are turning web into a commodity.”

He says we should be working in a framework, not a process.  A process involves predictability, with the same result every time.  A framework has structure, but still allows for surprise and innovation.

Mall pointed out that so many of us are working in a way that we work alone until the next person takes over.

“When we all work in our own “lanes” we race to the finish and leave the others to do their part alone.”

Our process should be less about passing the baton, and more about agile framework which allows for working on all aspects of a product at the same time. This allows everyone to contribute ideas.

“The Superfriend Model: No one is the boss, just get whoever you need for your project at the time.”

Another interesting insight is that of a performance budget – structure how fast a page on the site should load by giving it a budget.

“To appear faster than your competitor’s website, yours needs to load atleast 20% faster.”

A third great idea is a visual inventory. In my eyes, this is like a mood board taken to the next level.  It is a way to show the client what they want, without spending weeks creating a comp they may hate.  For example, Mall used CNN.  Imagine they want their site to be “fun.”  Put their logo on an already existing “fun” site and see if that is what they have in mind before you move too far in that direction.  Design is about having the right conversations with the client.

“Ask – are you sure your brand wants to wear those clothes?”

“If you listen hard enough, clients will tell you about their brand.”

The Art of Anticipation – Derek Featherstone (@feather)

Derek Featherstone started off by putting us in a state of mind about context.  So often we view context as device, but this is not true.

“Context is time, location, proximity, device, state of mind, capabilities, activity, interest and interaction.”

He spoke about how to use the knowledge you have of these things to your advantage, to give the consumer a better end product.  His example was a conference – why not make the schedule appear first the day of the conference, when that is what everyone is looking for.

“Since the schedule is the most important thing the day of the event, it should be easy to find.”

Another interesting term Featherstone brought up was Minimum Viable Interaction.  What is the least amount of interaction someone can have with your site to still understand it.

“Can someone interact with your site by only reading the headings?”

He also brought up HOW we work – that we should track modes of interaction to schedule our difficult projects at the time when we are at peak productivity.

“Content in context is actually king.”

Designing Engagement – Jaimee Newberry (@jaimeejaimee)

Jaimee Newberry introduced us to brand personality.  She encourages us to bring brand personality to everything that people touch within our design.

“Humanize your products. Who is my product? If my product were a celebrity…”

She encouraged us to be an ambassador of empathy – how does the user feel?  Your ultimate goal is to get your user to feel like you understand them.  Build a relationship of trust with them.

“Create an escape for the never ending swipe-through screen. It shows empathy.”

“Be an ambassador for the value and substance of empathy. Your product needs this.”

Newberry taught us that a simple text change can make a huge difference.

“Twitter changed from “What are you doing?” to “What’s happening?” to better engage users.”

“The simplest change of words can change everything for your brand.”

“”What are you doing?” makes you feel like, who cares? “What’s happening?” makes it about passions.”

She showed how putting a good spin on a bad situation can mean everything for your brand.

“Advertising. “Come in and try the worst meatball sandwich that one guy on Yelp ever had. IN HIS LIFE.” Put a positive spin on it.”

Everyone wants to try that sandwich now…

SVG is for Everybody – Chris Coyier (@chriscoyier)

“In the nerd calendar, it is the year of the SVG!” – enough said.

Chris Coyier packed an incredible amount of information into his presentation of svg. It might be best for me to post this in sound bites, as he was really engaging…

“SVG: You can use it, you can use it now. And it is easy to use.”

“But it’s just for logos and “flat design,” right? NO!”

“Illustrator just SPEAKS svg. Illustrator can be yours for $19.99/month.”

“This is an eps. I don’t even remember what this is anymore, but I can open it in illustrator (and save as an svg).”

So essentially, what I got was that an svg is an eps turned to code.  The number of vector points determines the size of the svg.

“You can link an svg as an image or you can put the code right into your html.”

Svgs mean worry free resizing, because there are no pixels.  They also mean that you will have a constantly editable image, because it isn’t dependent on going back to the source file.

By far, my favorite example of a use for svg from the presentation are the responsive icons.  You can see them here – http://responsiveicons.co.uk

Designing Using Data – Sarah Parmenter (@sazzy)

Sarah Parmenter taught us the importance of data in design.  She warned us against being designers who are part of the culture who design just to make things pretty.

“Being a good designer is not enough. We need to be able to tell WHY.”

Data helps us to justify decisions without bringing personal opinion to the table.

“How can we get everyone on the same page without bringing personal preference to the table?”

“Nobody has an excuse to make an uninformed decision anymore.”

Parmenter also introduced us to personas – she suggested hanging images of your customer personas in the office to remind you of who your clients are and what you are aiming for.

She talked about social media metrics.  For a salon she worked on, there was a 98% drop in bookings when you advertised openings but left the booking link off the Facebook post.  People don’t want to have to make an effort – you need to make it easy for them to interact.

“In order to maximize Facebook, you have to have a call to action in every post.”

“Instead of hiding struggles, allow them to humanize you with your customer.”

Parmenter gave us another great example of thinking like the customer – keeping umbrellas by the door for customers, so that if it rains and they just got their hair straightened, they can take one.

Overall, I thought AEADC was fantastic this year.  Last year, I felt like it focused more on responsive design (which was also great).  This year, I felt it was more about the customer – user experience, connecting with the user, etc.

If you get the opportunity to attend, I highly recommend it.