design Archives - d.trio marketing group

Analyzing art

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I recently painted a self-portrait and posted it to social media with the question, “Am I done?” I did this because, with the subject matter so close, I wasn’t sure I could see it objectively. There were an interesting array of responses but the one that intrigued me was from my friend and fellow artist, Jerome. He asked, “Do you think you’re done?” Which begs the question, in creative pursuits, why do you have to live with what is done in order to improve the results? And how do you know when to stop?

In creative development it’s important to have the time and the space to take a step back in the process and let objectivity settle in. This will make good creative great by revealing things that are not immediately obvious, things that it takes our brains some time to process. The reasons for this are based in the way we perceive and process information, as well as our interactions with the world – stored as past experiences. And the more experience you have with something, the more your gut instincts come into play.

There were times in my process where I thought I’d gotten something perfect, and the next time I saw my painting I’d see the proportions were off or the color was slightly wrong. What I was in love with yesterday (the masterpiece syndrome, my Carleton professor called it) today was sub-par. With time, small iterations, feedback and a little objectivity I finished my self-portrait, and I’m pleased with the results. If I had rushed through it, it may have been fine, but not the best it could be.

Designers have it harder than ever because the perception is, if the tools are easier to use, design must be easier than it used to be. The tools may help the technician be more accurate but they don’t drive the creative process, they facilitate it. We still need the talent, the gut instinct, objectivity and time to do our best work. Next time you have a creative project, give it a little extra time to develop and see for yourself.

Please let us know what you think, here or on Facebook and for more information on how the brain processes visual information click here:


Management Perspective: Elvis has left the building

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This is to serve as a quick tip on presenting or receiving creative, especially when it pertains to something as sensitive and personal to people as branding and identity.

Agency folks should build in some time after presenting initial visuals and creative rationale to leave the room, allowing the client team to candidly discuss amongst themselves what they’ve just been shown. This provides a forum for a free flow of thought and critique without the worry of harming the pride of the “authors”.

Clearly, this can also happen after the fact when the agency leaves. There is, however, critical value to be gleaned from initial reactions and as they say, you only get one chance to make a first impression. It’s important not to waste the opportunity to gauge these reactions as quickly and transparently as possible.

Assessing branding and identity creative is a tricky task. Allowing clients to live with it alone initially for a bit gives them some room to breathe and judge the assets more impartially.


2014 Global Design Trends

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As a creative agency, we like to keep pulse on design trends.  Shutterstock, a technology company providing photos, illustrations and videos to creative professionals worldwide, has identified the following trends for the 2014.

1) Authentic and candid photography. Photos will feature a filtered look and subjects in real-life settings.

2) Simplistic, clean patterns with bright pops of color. Design and imagery will be tailored to local trends and preferences.

3) Flat design elements will dominate on websites and mobile platforms.  Flat design is guided by the principles of simplicity and readability. It features flat shapes and icons and with the absence of other design elements like shadows, strokes and gradients.

4) Image searches continue to be driven by topical events. For example, international events like the Winter Olympics and the Football World Cup will provide opportunities for topical images in 2014. Popular searches from 2013 include the following key words: Gatsby, 3D Printing, Make-up Set, International Women’s Day, Responsive Design, Adorable, BYOD (Bring Your Own Device), and Appetizing.

5) Motion graphics will focus on environmental issues. The following video clip categories experienced explosive growth last year:  Education, Transportation, Cityscapes, and 3D Renderings.

6) Fonts that appear to be handwritten or sketched will be very popular. Rising style favorites include Geometric, Signage-Inspired, and Analog.

Overall, images shared on social media channels represent what is popular in the world of business and visual communication.  Here’s the infographic:

Infographic: Shutterstock’s Global Design Trends 2014


Trends in Logo Redesign

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The logo is the primary expression of a company’s brand. There is more equity in this single visual asset than any other part of the brand identity. Voice, photographic style, typography, customer service philosophy? All important, but the logo stands as the most visible, most often encountered, and arguably most important of all brand assets. A change to a company’s logo, no matter how small brings with it more discussion, more opinions and more, well, angst, than any other branding, design or communication initiative. And yet, every year, a lot of major corporations and organizations undertake to transform this most sacred of graphics. Some do it well and some stumble but we are not here to pick on the Gap or J.C. Penney, they’ve been abused enough. There is something to be learned, however, about the basic trends in graphic design from taking a look at a small set of logos that received an update or overhaul during 2013.

Logos don’t exist in a vacuum, they are meant to go out into the world and evangelize on behalf of their companies. And these days going out into the world means looking good on everything from a 57×57 pixel iPhone icon to a billboard. This is fueling a trend toward simpler logo designs built with cleaner, often sans serif or slab serif type which is, in general, tracked out farther than usually necessary (the spacing between the letters is wider to prevent run-together at smaller sizes). American Airlines has gone so far as to create a shape only logo. Easily recognizable without all, um, both, those fussy letters to deal with.


Large corporations can be hesitant to make major changes to their logos, often opting for a ‘refresh’ rather than a redesign. Even when the change is major, many companies wisely choose to reference their own history when designing the new logo. Both the new Dow Jones logo and the new Farmers Insurance logo are good examples of this trend. In the case of ING US which underwent a major name change to Voya Financial, the decision was made to keep the orange signature color in order to retain the recognition equity it carries with it from the old brand.


Four of the major internet brands redesigned their logos in 2013 and all provide great examples of the primary design trend for this year. After a decade of random gradients, bevels, dropshadows, and gel highlights, it appears that the design community has regained it’s sanity and flat design is making a comeback. Probably best illustrated by Apple’s interface design for the iOS 7 operating system, flat design techniques are also clearly demonstrated in the logo redesigns for Yahoo!, bing, Google and especially YouTube.


Expression on demand recharge.

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Beth is the art director at d.trio.

Art Director. That’s the title on my business card. To people who don’t know better I’ll bet it summons up images of daily creative breakthroughs, someone who does magic with things called pixels and PMS colors. A person obsessed with light and print and what kind of shape certain blocks of type make on a page. Some of that is true but mostly what I do is make sure the communications my agency produces are up to Standards. Corporate Brand Standards, my Agency’s Standards, the Client’s Standards, and, whenever possible, My Standards. There is far more compromise and management of detail in my job than most people would expect. The popular, romantic image of the graphic designer is that of the artist who designs engagingly simple, perfectly complicated logos and beautiful websites all day. Lost in that image is the fact that most clients also need statement stuffers and whitepapers and tiny animated gifs for the Google ad network. There is less magic in this job than most people would like to know. But there is some. There is a way of thinking about space and light and color that has to be second nature. You need to be a little clairvoyant in this job, to be able to show people that thing that lives inside their own heads, but a better version of it, a more polished version of it, a more useful version of it. You need the perfect expression of the project goal. You need inspiration on demand, on schedule, on budget. And, oh yeah, everyone in the room has an opinion, from the client to the AE to the client’s wife’s cousin. All this can take it’s toll on a working designer who deals with multiple clients with myriad needs every single day, and who, like everyone else, never has enough time.

How to replenish that stock of inspiration? Look around. Find people who love what they do, who do it well, who look at things differently. Don’t copy, never copy, but seek out those people and places and works that let your mind breathe. Because it’s in that intake of breath that inspiration grows.

Here are few of my go to websites when I need to take a deep breath:

AlexandraFranzen.com – Alex spends her time being really good at helping other people be better. And sometimes the way she looks at the world and her willingness to speak truth is exactly the kind of mind bend I need.

DeviantArt.com – art takes many forms, and most of them can be found here.

ilovetypography.com – because I’m a little obsessed with typography and I feel at home here.

Curve from Getty Images – solid information plus beautiful images. Win.

Pinterest Design Boards – Duh.

TheOatmeal.com – because funny is good, but funny and smart is perfect.

Put on your best Christmas expressions kids.

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by Melinda Moore – senior designer at d.trio

Well it’s that time of year again, the designing of the annual Christmas card. Ever since my husband and I have been married (almost 18 years) we have sent out a photo Christmas card. Our family and friends are always commenting to me how much they look forward to our card, can’t wait to see how we’ve changed, and what we will do next. I’m not saying our cards are spectacular or anything, but I guess being a designer I started putting extra effort into picking out our clothes, paper, or shape of our card thinking it was a personal reflection of my design skills… and I didn’t want people to think I sucked. As my family has grown from just my husband and I, to our four daughters, our Christmas Card has evolved into a family affair; an expression of our family. The girls talk about “what should we do this year?” and help assemble outfits, and think of ideas, while my husband only asks “what do I have to wear?”. Here are a few samples of Christmas cards past… of course no one gets a glimpse of this years card until December… that’s the rule.



5 Trends in Financial Services Design

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The economic recession that began in 2008 has changed the way that financial services companies represent their brand. In an effort to re-establish trust and confidence with their customers, providers have dramatically reduced the use of imagery and messaging depicting aspiration and conspicuous wealth.  Here are five of the main design trends.


1. Focus on Women

Since women are now frequently the primary money-makers and financial decision makers in the their households, it makes sense to focus on women.  However, the stereotypical images of shopping bags and pink items have been replaced by images featuring contemporary females shown looking empowered who balance many different roles.


2.  Surprising Shots

Financial imagery has become less literal with the use of unexpected, bold and artful images to illustrate classic concepts and help campaigns stand out. The pictures might be unusual, but they help change the perception that financial conversations have to be dull.


3. The New Wealth

People are reassessing what wealth really means to them.  The accumulation of possessions is being replaced by the idea of having new experiences. Messaging is focused around living life with meaning and appreciating the basics: security, health, relationships, and personal achievements. Images emphasize the simple things in life and reflect what we love and value – moments and people.


4. Small Business

Over the past years, there has been an increased interest in small business imagery, especially in financial services marketing. Small businesses are incredibly important to the economy as they hire the bulk of the workforce, account for a key part of production and are the source of innovation and creativity. Entrepreneurship is becoming a much admired character trait and many people aspire to own their own business one day.  Small business photography emphasizes the strong concepts of honesty, passion and determination.


5. Corporate Responsibility

As an industry, financial services lost consumer trust over recent years. According to the Edelman 2012 Trust Barometer, ‘listening to customers needs’, ‘treating employees well’, as well as ‘having ethical business practices’ are considered more important in rebuilding trust than ‘delivering consistent financial returns’. Many financial service brands are starting or supporting projects, which go beyond campaigns and are set-up for the long term to demonstrate their responsibility for local businesses, communities and the environment.



Curve by Getty Images, 2013