graphic design Archives - d.trio marketing group

Typography matters.

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Typography is a core feature of all information design, from small space ads to annual reports, even of internal memos and emails. Good typography raises the level of presentation, makes information more readable, ideas easier to follow and gives layouts flow and a sense of space. Good typography makes your messages clear and tells the reader something about the professionalism of you and your company, the kind of products you sell, and can guide them to take the action you want them to take. Bad or careless typography can make your company seem small or unprofessional, can make your product feel cheap, or can make your ideas hard to follow. You can spend all the time in the world crafting your message, and if you present it in a way that is hard to follow or badly organized, your audience will miss out on what you’re trying to tell them.

Most people don’t see the details of typography until the details are absent. They may not notice that a particular typeface has extremely thin strokes until they see it printed quite small and realize it looks broken. They may not recognize the importance of type hierarchy until they can’t tell which paragraphs in a long document relate to each other.

How can you tell the difference between good typography and bad typography? The basics are pretty easy and you likely do it unconsciously already. If you’ve ever thought to yourself “this page looks too busy, there’s too much copy”, that was likely your brain telling you that the copy didn’t have the proper leading (space between lines) or wasn’t organized with a consistent type hierarchy. If you’ve felt that a company was too small or unprofessional to give your credit card to based solely on how an ad looked, it may have had a lot to do with their using six different type styles and that everything on the page was bolded.

So, how can you use typography to make sure your documents say what you intend them to? Following a few basic rules is a good start:

  1. Use a maximum of two typefaces. Use different weights (thin, bold, black) of the same typeface if you need to break up information. Be consistent. If one subhead is bold, all subheads of that same level should be bold.
  2. All fonts have a personality, use one that is appropriate for your content and brand. You wouldn’t use the same type style on a six year old’s birthday invitation as you would on your wedding invitation or a business event invitation.
  3. If you’re using multiple typefaces (remember, only 2), don’t use two that are very similar. For example, consider using a serif for the headline and a sans serif for body copy.
  4. Don’t use Comic Sans for anything other than a six year old’s birthday invitation. For a good explanation of why, click here.

These typography basics should keep you from being the target of your company typography snob. For more typography rules see Designmantic’s infographic on the 10 Commandments of Typography below.

[INFOGRAPHIC]: The 10 Commandments of Typography
Courtesy of: Designmantic.com

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.

Management Perspective: Choosing A Dance Partner

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One seemingly complex issue often facing marketers is how to go about picking the right agency with which to work.  True to my obsessive drive to simplify, I’ve attempted to break the process down to something easy – ergo, the “Three C’s.”

Cost, Capability and Chemistry are my “Three C’s”.  Each should be factored into any decision involving agency choice.  I would submit that Chemistry is the most important.

Cost is typically straightforward, essentially boiling down to low, medium and high (it’s really value one should focus on here).   Capability?  Well, if quality agencies are invited to the party they are all going to be solidly capable.  That leaves Chemistry, which is a far more difficult attribute to demonstrate and assess – especially in a managed, objective RFP process.

To ensure the best outcome, you should get at the true essence of your potential agency partner.  What are the people you’ll work with like?  What defines the agency’s culture and values?  What are they most proud of and passionate about?  How do references describe the agency’s personality?  Are they collaborative or directive?

Good chemistry is the core of any successful team or lasting relationship.  I believe it’s a big reason why d.trio has maintained many client relationships three to five times the industry average.

Above the objective nuts and bolts of cost and capability, your gut feelings regarding the answers to the above chemistry questions will likely be the best determinant as to who should be your date for the dance. (Just make sure you get them home by midnight).


What’s Make a Campaign Fresh?

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We’ve all heard the adage “there are no new ideas; there are only new ways of making them felt.”  Whether it’s true or not, we all face the daily challenge of finding unique and compelling ways of getting our message, and our clients’ message, noticed.

What makes an idea or advertising campaign fresh? What distinct elements are essential to create a unique and effective campaign? Below are a few questions that we ask ourselves as a group when thinking about campaigns:

  1. Does the customer easily connect the campaign to the brand? Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should.  If the campaign or marketing effort seems to be disjointed from the brand personality, it could cause some major confusion among prospective customers. RedBull’s Stratos is an excellent example of a brand relevant campaign: sponsorship of a high-flying event by a brand that gives you wings.
  2. Can competitors say the same thing? Connecting back to item #1, is the campaign distinct enough from competitors?  Even if competitors have similar product attributes and benefits, you have to find a way to illustrate a unique brand promise.
  3. Does the core campaign idea approach a problem or need in a unique way? It’s very easy and simple to rattle off product attributes in communications. The challenge is illustrating a solution without overtly mentioning it. Google’s Chrome campaign from 2012 illustrates the product benefits through emotional stories. As a viewer, you’re noticing the browser’s benefits without being told to.
  4. Does the customer need to make a leap to understand the core product benefits? If yes, then you may have lost whatever power you tried to wield with a flashy message. Sure, the customer has taken notice, but there won’t a clear understanding of what you’re actually selling.
  5. Does the campaign have stopping power? On the flipside, great campaigns stop people in their tracks and make them give a second thought. Clear and easily understood messages need to also be rooted in creativity.

Please remember that even if a campaign fits these criteria, there is always the chance that a campaign can royally miss the mark, ehem…Burger King.






Fresh month, fresh theme.

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As you may have gathered by now, we choose a new word for each month to focus our content around. Our monthly newsletter features, blog post, and other social media chatter relate back to that word in some way and we change out assorted graphics in our websphere to compliment (email header, web page banner, Facebook profile image). This monthly switch presents an interesting design opportunity for me and to start our new month, I thought I’d walk you through the thought process.

So, this month’s word is FRESH. We chose these words a few months ago when we came up with the idea of using a particular word to focus content. Had I been able to I would have designed the year’s worth of assets already and had them ready to deploy. However, I have actual client work to do so I usually end up putting these together as we go. Of course, the first thing that came to mind when faced with the word Fresh was something green and botanical in nature. Our brand guidelines require that the images we use to represent ourselves be striking, colorful and somewhat unexpected and I just couldn’t find a sprouting plant image that spoke to me on those levels. I turned to water next, playing with the idea of fresh, clean, sparkling, sometimes overwhelming, all encompassing. The image I settled on has movement, great color and visual interest, fits well with our color palette and accommodates having large text set over it, which is another feature of our brand images. It will also lend itself to use in multiple configurations.

We have an extensive color palette, primarily made up of what I call ‘candy’ colors, bright, vibrant, often somewhat loud. The yellow-green is one of my favorites and I decided to use it because it compliments the blue of the water and doesn’t get lost in it. Our bright cyan blue would have been another reasonable choice, but I used it last month on the Attention graphics and didn’t want to repeat it so soon.

Those are the variables that generally go into creating a graphic: visual association with the content, framing, color, flexibility, and brand ideals. Then there is client (in this case boss) buy in. Hint: it’s easier to get sign-off if they are going on vacation the next day. 🙂

See you next month!

RED. Got your attention?

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We all know that red is one of the most attention grabbing colors in the spectrum, used for centuries (ok, decades) in eye catching bursts and to highlight text that has been designated as needing to POP! It is also the primary or main accent brand color for many companies, including 39 of the Forbes Top 100.

Red is commonly used to give warning (STOP), to incite emotion (Valentine’s Day anyone?) or to highlight important information (New! FREE!). While in darker shades red can be elegant rather than brash, it is the cherry, candy, fire-engine versions that get the most cultural love.

So why? Why does red stand out so much from the sea of available color options? It’s really simple biology. Red light has the longest wavelength in the visible spectrum, therefore it appears the farthest forward in any given scene where it is present. The long wavelength creates a stronger physiological arousal, physiological response triggers psychological response, psychological response must be interpreted as either attraction or repulsion, and viola, Red as the poster child for attention getting color boils down to the simplest of science.

One other note about red and why you may need to cut him some slack on the color of his stereotypical middle-age crisis red Corvette. Men don’t see shades of red like women do. The gene for seeing red sits on the X chromosome and women have two copies of this gene while men have only one. Women’s perception of the variety in the red-orange color spectrum is aided by the double team.

Source: http://channels.isp.netscape.com/whatsnew/package.jsp?name=fte/popularcolor/popularcolor

Concept Graveyard – when great concepts aren’t

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I’ve been a designer for 14 years now (yikes!). During that time I’ve come up with some really good designs, some designs that weren’t my favorite but got the job done, and some concepts that I really, truly, loved. We typically show two to three concepts for each project (way more if it’s for logo design) and only one is usually chosen to move on to completion (unless there’s some Frankensteining of concepts). Which means that roughly 2/3 of all the work I do, good or not, amazing or not, perfect or not, goes… well, to the Concept Graveyard. It’s impossible to say how many concepts are in my personal Concept Graveyard but even with simplified math, it looks something like this:

14 years
2 new projects requiring concepts per month
2 concepts not chosen per project
672 concepts Graveyarded

And then let’s just assume that I’ve had two logo development projects a year, for which I likely show 12-15 concepts, the population of my Concept Graveyard is something more like 1,024.

Most of the time it’s just par for the course, I like all the concepts I show or I wouldn’t show them, so I’m usually pretty happy to have one of them chosen. But then there are those projects that really speak to me, where the creative brief is fun and inspiring and I have really, really good ideas. Sometimes these work out great, and sometimes the client decides to go another direction, or the budget dries up, or somebody’s boss kills the idea by insisting the dominant color be purple. Whatever happens, every once in a while really great work gets left behind where no one will ever see it. Sad? Yes. Frustrating? Yes. Optimistically to be looked at as inspiration to do really fantastic work every time? … Ok, fine.

Here’s an example
The creative brief was something like this:
“We’re launching a new software tool and want to announce it with posters around the office. We want these to be cool and edgy and like movie posters, go ahead and really push the brand standards. Couple of themes you have to explore – a crystal ball and the idea of coming soon.”

Awesome (despite the crystal ball theme). I still had to keep in mind that this was for a major financial services company and they tend to be a bit conservative, but the gloves were off. I loved everything I came up with, and so did my direct client. But somebody’s boss’s boss wanted something else. And they got it. I got to see the finished project and it was nice. But I liked mine better. Which is what got me thinking about the idea of the Concept Graveyard and doing the math above in my head. Then I thought, well, why not let them see the light of day, even if it is only on the blog? So here they are, and I’ve started a Pinterest board called Concept Graveyard, feel free to contribute. I’ve removed logos and names to protect the innocent, do the same if you want to share.