Monthly Archives

August 2009

To buy design or not to buy design

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Before we get down to business I want to bring your attention to a fun new thing on our website – our survey. This month’s survey is about Social Media. It’s short – 5 questions. Take it and see if others share your feelings about Social Media. http://www.dtrio.com/poll1/

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Creative. Art. Design. These are words that mean something different to everyone who hears them. If you are on the agency side you probably interpret the idea of and principles of design one way – it’s a way to represent a concept in a tangible, artsy, funny or formal way. It presents a structure that’s easy to read and understand. It’s the personality of a Brand. An element that helps brings a Brand and the structure of Brand guidelines to life – art, together with words to create the perfect concept.  Design done well does a job. It entices you to take a closer look; it intrigues and draws your eye through the copy to make you want to read through it. Design is the conduit that words rely on to bring home the point.

To those of you not on the agency side things may be murkier. Maybe there isn’t a full understanding of the value of hiring a designer. Maybe you have a feeling that you are paying too much for someone to put design to a page because anyone with a computer can buy the software and use it to put a flyer together. With limited budgets and pressure to find ways to cut costs there is a temptation to “do it yourself” to add value to your job. Maybe you were an art major, like me, and you have an aptitude for art but no training in graphic design – it can’t be that hard, right? The temptation is to believe that. But alas, I’ve tried my hand at design and while I know good design when I see it, I can’t do it.

It’s clearly a complicated subject. So, I thought it would be interesting to bring in an expert, an art director here at d.trio, to give you a view from her chair. She’s a talented, experienced, professional designer who can perhaps give us some insights.

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Thoughts from an Art Director:

I have a hammer and some nails at my house.
(I have Photoshop on my computer)
I bet I can fix this loose piece of baseboard trim myself. No need to hire a carpenter for this.
(I can make a flyer for the garage sale to hang up at the grocery store.)
Well, that looks pretty good, not too hard either.
(Wow, nice sign. And I just love that little flower clip art I found in Word.)
That wasn’t so hard, I bet I can put up that wall in the basement we’ve been wanting. I mean, seriously it’s just nailing some boards together.
(We need a new brochure at work. I can totally put something together for that. I mean, seriously it’s just throwing some pictures on a page and typing some words.)
Hey, this scrap lumber was a real bargain! So, top piece, bottom piece, and I’ve got enough to put a stud every 23”. That sounds good, it should be sturdy enough to hold all the shelves I have planned. Now, what was that guy saying about a floating wall? I must have heard him wrong, all walls go up to the ceiling don’t they?
(Ok, I like it. The copy looks too long on this panel though, I’ll just make it a smaller font size. And I’m really tired of that blue we always use. I like this blue better. A little change is good, right? This big swirly font is great, who’d have thought it was just on my computer all along. I’ll have to move the logo against the edge of the page though, there’s not enough room. The pictures I took with my phone look really good on screen. I wonder why they look kinda fuzzy when I print them. Must be the office printer.)
Nice. Look at that. I kinda like the way one side is higher than the other. And I just know the paint will hide that crack in the drywall. Must have been something sticking out there. Now I just need to hang the new TV and see how it looks. Tomorrow I paint.
(Great, now I’ll just send this file off to the printer and wait for the pieces to come back. Who needs a designer anyway?)
What was that crash from downstairs?
(What do you mean you can’t print from my file? What’s high resolution? Spot what color? I have to have those for a meeting tomorrow!)

Yeah, I know it might be a somewhat ridiculous comparison, but lets look at it a little closer. Everybody knows what a wall looks like and most of have probably seen a wall without drywall on it, at least on television. (Thank you, HGTV.) We understand the basic principles of hammering boards together in a particular shape and we may be able to approximate a wall-like structure. But will we have built it to properly accommodate wiring and plumbing? Will we have used finishing materials with the correct fire rating for the wall’s location? Will it look like the professionally built walls around it, or will it be a little crooked here and there?

So, we are all surrounded by graphic design everyday. And yes, you can put together basic brochures and sell sheets using the software on your computer. But will it live up to the brand standards for your company? Will the pages be balanced and easy to read? Will the information be arranged in a way that best gets your message across? Will the piece make people want to read your information in the first place? Do you understand that white space can help add emphasis to certain text even better than increasing the font size? Will your documents look the best they can when printed? Can they be printed at all?

You will notice that I’ve not mentioned artistic flair to this point. Some designers are indeed talented artists. So are some plumbers and teachers and sales people and shepherds. The idea of how the principles of fine art get translated into corporate or graphic design deserves its own blog. Most people can tell you what colors don’t work together and which one of a set of images is pretty. The real skill of graphic design, is the ability to display information in a manner which is relevant to the audience, speaks in the appropriate voice of the brand, is visually consistent and is as captivating as possible while staying within budget and on deadline. And then, you have to be able to turn around and do it again. It is not to create a piece that one person (even the designer themselves) thinks is perfect. Good design does not speak to the audience of one, it speaks to everyone it is intended to speak to and it tells them exactly what they need to hear in the voice they need to hear it in. And it seems effortless, although it takes a lot of work to get it there.

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Interesting thoughts from someone who is at the mouse and monitor designing every day. So what do you think? Let us know your thoughts and experiences with this. Do you agree or disagree? I know that there are times when it’s appropriate to do your own design. By all means design your own party invitations and garage sale or school sales flyers. Maybe even cards for your mom and the kids. But if you value your Brand, if you want to wow your customers and get them to understand your (sometimes complicated) products, services and Brand promise; if you want credibility and you want your business cards and collateral to be easy to read – then it’s time to hire a graphic designer.  And, hire a carpenter to build that wall you need while you’re at it too.