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Let me paint a picture for you. You’ve just started working with a new designer. You sat down with that person, explained all of your dreams for the design, and left the meeting feeling like you were really on the same page. Then the next time you meet with them, they present a design that is completely different than what you expected. It’s not necessarily a bad design, but it is definitely different than what you described.
This is what I like to call a “lost in translation” moment. And it’s exactly what inspired me to create this guide on translating “design talk.”
Why is there a disconnect?
Many designers received their formal education in traditional art. Yes, even the digital artists! For example, my lead designer, Frank Candamil, has degrees in Art and Digital Media. Because of his background, I know that when he says something like “hue” or “tint,” he’s talking about the classic definitions of the words. However, when a client says a term like that, it’s unclear if they are referring to the definition or a colloquialism.
Common design terms and meanings
After talking with our Brand Mangers and Designers at Rise, I compiled a list of terms that we hear our clients say all of the time and can be misinterpreted. Let’s explore the terms and what they mean to each party.
Ah, the mailer. It is a rare business that hasn’t utilized this tried and true form of advertising. I’ve even used it at Rise and we’re a digital agency. For small enterprises looking to reap its benefits at the local level, the United States Postal Service has recently rolled out a new service that may harness the mailer’s return on investment in a powerful way. While that information is excellent, I want to also highlight the importance of effective color choices for mailers. No sense sending out an ineffective mail piece, after all. Even if it’s super easy and cheap to do.
Effective Color Choices for Mailers
When a business is ready to start sending out mailers to the surrounding areas the question then becomes: how to design the mailer? Color plays an important role here, but it’s important to make sure it doesn’t overpower.
Some things to keep in mind when choosing colors for a mailer:
If budget is a concern, good ol’ black type on white paper is practical and legible. A little plain, but not a bad choice all the same. If possible, using at least the minimum of colors (two = minimum to me) is better. It gives you an accent color to work with and can look better than going color-crazy which is both expensive and can look unprofessional.
In branding for small businesses, the importance of color continuity across mediums cannot be overstated. Color is one of the first ways a person identifies a company’s brand. Making sure those colors are seen as often as possible in as many spaces as possible is one of the best ways for an organization to increase brand recognition, build trust, and encourage loyalty in the long-term.
One of the best examples of branding through color is from one of our clients at Rise, Hart & Huntington Orlando Tattoo Company. Rise is my Orlando web design company whose main focus is to engage our client's communities through the digital space.
Who is H&H?
Founded in 2007, Hart & Huntington Orlando Tattoo Company is a division of celebrity motocross and off-road truck racer Carey Hart’s Hart & Huntington Tattoo Company. If that sounds familiar to you, you may have seen Hart & Huntington Vegas featured on A&E’s television series Inked. H&H Orlando delivers a clean, professional tattoo shop staffed with the best artists in the world.
After our initial meetings with H&H Orlando owner Chris Turck, we set about the business of honing in on look and feel that he and his team wanted to project to the world.
One of the ways we work with clients to finalize their overall design, including color choice, is to mock up one or two mood boards. A mood board is a poster that represents what a website may look and feel like. It isn’t an actual homepage design but gives the impression, through color, text, and images, of how one might want their site to look and the emotions or moods they want it to evoke.
For H&H Orlando we created two very different mood boards.
One, a bright, playful take, reminiscent of some of the excellent artwork created by their talented staff.
There is a plethora of information out there from former CEO's and case studies about the many reasons why businesses fail or how to avoid failure of your small business, bad color and design is not usually one of the reasons given, but with more and more businesses existing exclusively online, color, design, and UX/UI is an issue for businesses today. It's no longer enough just to have a website. Your website is directly connected to the success of your business, and it needs to be treated as such with frequent updates, quick reactions to changing markets and, especially, the changing demands of your customers.
Today, we look at the color, design of a few companies that failed last year, and the reasons why. These highlighted companies were featured in the The New York Times article, How Six Companies Failed to Survive 2010. While many of the reasons they failed span beyond design an usability it's always a good idea to keep yourself familiar with all the pitfalls of running a business. You can read the full explanations and find out more about each company in the original article on nytimes.com.
Wesabe.com - Mr. Hedlund acknowledges, Mint had a better name and better design and was easier to use.“We wanted to help people,” he said, “but it was too much work to get that help.” - nytimes.com
Books, besides being nice to look at, offer us a way to keep up with the ever changing industries that we are a part of. In the long format of a book authors have time to fully explain and relate their ideas in a way that allows readers to completely understand concepts, unlike the guessing or fill-in-the-blanks game we often have to play in to understand many message from the short format blog post or tweet. Books give the readers time to think about how their own knowledge and ideas fit or collide with that of the authors, and whether or not the information contained in the book is really worth the cover price or if it is merely a pride piece by some ego. This happens often, especially now with the low cost, no-hassel publishing that we have now-a-days.
When you want your website or business identity's color scheme to be fun, entertaining, or even little outrageous, you need not look any further than those highly addictive mobile games for a little color inspiration. From high flying birds to classic games with new color variations, mobile game's often use color palettes that are bright, funky, primary based and still highly usable. Here are a few games currently on top of the mobile gaming world and their color paletts that add to the fun and keep us all playing over, and over, and over, and...
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Placing importance on simple messages, typography, and color, hand painted signs and advertisements can add a lot to a business identity. Sometimes the signs outlive there businesses, as with the ongoing interest of so-called 'Ghost Signs', hand painted signs leftover from the period of popularity which ended in 70's. Many of these signs still remain in their original locations. Left for nostalgia, appreciation of the artistry or indifference by owners, Ghost Signs are faded reminders of the past, and a source for inspiration for those who see hand painted signs as a important now as the once were.
50 Signs by Colin Dunn
Since society seems to be moving at an ever-increasing speed towards going all digital, the thumb drive is like the file folder of the past, except more compact and much more stylish. Retailers have cashed in on the market for people's desire to have cool gadgets in their pockets, and you can find all manner of interesting flash device out there.
However, when you combine storage space with something like an MP3 player, ask your favorite designers to come in and finish it off with a great look, you may just find you have a product on your hands that really catches people's attention. Such is the case with Mugo, a line created by Aaron Atchison that features big name artists such as Julie West, Shin Tanaka, Jon Burgerman and more.
There is still something to be said (and seen!) when it comes to attracting foot traffic. If you have one of those businesses that requires you to leave your house you know exactly the kind of draw an attractive window display can have: "Oh, I was just walking by your shop and noticed your blank in the window." Without any actual research, i'm going to go ahead and say that product displays were the earliest form of visual promotion –a pile of soft grey furs draped over a conveniently located White Birch stump would have certainly helped me choose which fur trader to do business with, as opposed to the trader who had his furs stuffed into a rucksack or not on display at all!
There is a long history of window displays and the talents of window dressers. Born from visually communicating what products one was selling it has developed into an art; communicating the style and sensibilities of the strore's identity. Famed window displays at department stores in cities all over the world have pushed creativity for decades and today we see businesses connecting with artist and designers to create displays that effectively pull new customers or astray patrons into their shops.
The INDO Projects
Here are some projects that have been grabbing attention by one window display artist team in Chicago, The INDO Projects, and some other colorful examples of window displays found on The Window Shopper, The Window Display Blog & this post on My Modern Met.
Nick Campbell is the founder of an iPhone App company called BananaCameraCo, he runs a motion design education site called Greyscalegorilla, talks about the business of creativity on Nickvegas.tv, and speaks to students and creatives about how to be creative and get paid to do what you love. ...And all this came about AFTER he already had his "dream job" as an animator and a photographer making title sequences and TV commercials.
His business(es), all started as complementing side projects to his work as a motion designer under the the simple ideas to "help creatives and creators make cool sh$@" and “as I learn it, so do you.” From this he has developed a number of products and mobile apps all stemming from his core focuses. Everything from fun apps like ShakeItPhoto and CrossProcess that reach a general audience, to Photoshop for Photographers and Vintage Films for Looks reaching amateur and professional photographers, to even more technical industry focused products like HDRI Light Kit Pro and HDRI Studio made specific for the program Cinema 4D used by motion designers.
I had a chance to ask Nick a few questions about how, out of his client and agency work, he developed his own products, started spreading the know-how through blogs and podcasts, and created an effective business model out of it all.
1) You'll never regret working for yourself but you might hate yourself if you never try.
2) Put yourself and your knowledge out there (blogging, podcasts, educating), if people trust you they'll trust your products.
3) Use those interactions to help fuel new ideas and product development
4) Start by branching out from what you're already doing. A successful idea is one that is already working for you.
5) Offering education and functional products not only expands your business it expands the business community, indirectly creating more opportunities for everyone.
Interview With Nick Campbell
A quick rundown of the progression of your work, please.
I graduated from Illinois Institute or Arts in 2005 with one of those degrees that don't mean anything. "Digital Media" or something like that, I didn't take enough design classes. I worked around town a bit and ended up at my dream job at Digital Kitchen animating title sequences and awesome TV commercials with some of the most talented people in the city (world?). I was clearly the worst designer there, but luckily they were willing to take me under their wing and teach me how to be awesome like them.
Meanwhile, in "internet land", I started a photoblog called Greyscalegorilla where I posted a photo per day for about three years. I also started posting Photoshop tutorials to the site for people asking me how I processed my photos. Of course, word got around that I also knew After Effects and Cinema 4D, so I posted tutorials of that, too. Well, it seemed as if there were PLENTY of Photoshop and After Effects tutorials floating around the web, but when it came to Cinema 4D, I was one of only a few. Especially when it came to showing how to use 3D for Motion Graphics and Logo Design instead of flying spaceships and crap like that. The site took off like crazy.
During all this, I also started dabbling in making iPhone apps. At the time, the iPhone app store was new and I wanted in. I made a Polaroid simulator called ShakeItPhoto and it was starting to do pretty well, that was really exciting.
I had a blog that people liked, an iPhone App people liked and a full time job that I liked. Lucky me! But, there was a problem. I didn't have enough time. I decided to leave the full time job and focus full time on the blog and the iPhone apps. It was hard decision, but I had to try it or I would hate myself later.
It seemed as if there were PLENTY of Photoshop and After Effects tutorials floating around the web, but when it came to Cinema 4D, I was one of only a few. Especially when it came to showing how to use 3D for Motion Graphics and Logo Design instead of flying spaceships and crap like that. The site took off like crazy.
What percentage of your work is for clients and what percentage is for personal business and other non-business or more artistic projects?
After I left Digital Kitchen, I have had no clients. All my income has been from my own projects and products. Sometimes I do work for my friends if they need a quick logo animation or something like that. But it's never for money. Always for favors or beer. It's quite liberating actually. I didn't get into this stuff for clients, I got into it to make cool stuff.
Educating others has become a big part of your business model, and you're not just educating people about your own products but offering useful tutorials, open forums with feedback to others learning, etc... Has this helped your business grow? Does this interaction help you come up with new ideas for teaching topics and new product development?
The speaking and educating part has been an exciting part of this year. I get to talk to students and try to help them though this crazy design stuff. There are so many things that I wish people would have told me when I got started in all this. Now, I get to be that guy. It's weird, but fun. As far as being good for business. I think there is an aspect of that. People get to know me though the live show, podcast and speaking gigs. They trust me or at least like what I am saying. Then, when I have something to sell that people think is useful, like an iPhone app or a plugin, they trust me that it's not a peice of crap. Really though, the education thing is fun enough to do separately from selling a bunch of stuff.
People get to know me though the live show, podcast and speaking gigs. They trust me or at least like what I am saying. Then, when I have something to sell that people think is useful, like an iPhone app or a plugin, they trust me that it's not a peice of crap.
With some of your products in mind... Why can slight color variations make such a huge difference visually and emotively?
Color is hugely important in the work I do. When using most software, lights and colors usually default to 100% black or white and most people tend to leave things there. Even in Photoshop, the defaults are 100% black and 100% white. When people make things "Black" or "White" they tend to use these defaults. It almost always makes for a boring and unrealistic design. One thing I talk a lot about is the idea that nothing in real life is 100% black or white. You should always add color and variation to everything you design. Adding slight variations in blacks and whites go a long way to making things more realistic and interesting. This took me a long time to figure out, but it's one of those things that makes a huge difference.
What's coming next for you?
What's next? I hope to continue posting fun or interesting stuff to my blog and to continue making more Photo based iPhone apps. I am also playing around with the idea of brining some of my iPhone Apps to the new Apple App store for use on desktops and laptops. Our CrossProcess app will probably be first out. It will allow you to take any of your digital photos and turn them into photos that look like they were shot on film and processed in the wrong chemicals. It gives them a really cool color and adds a TON of contrast. I'm really excited about that one.
Normal Colors Are For Babies
Pulled from the tag for his product, CrossProcess, the phrase "Normal Colors are For Babies" sums up quite well Nick's career path, i'd say. While many could never think of leaving a dream job, Nick choose to, and ended up supporting himself and a greater community of creatives in process.
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