Top Tools For Any Modern Graphic Designer

To do your best work, you need to have access to the right tools. They say a bad workman blames his tools, but when you’re a designer there is no way you can work as efficiently as possible (and produce the best results) if you can’t use the best tools available to you. We would say that these should include the following.

Step 1: Hardware

Many designers have traditionally used Macs for creative work, but Microsoft has been working hard to catch up and offer a suitable alternative. The end result is that now, it doesn’t really matter which operating system you use. A more important factor is the form of the device that it runs on.

Touchscreens are ideal for drawing and designing, but of course you will normally need the advanced functions and applications that come with a full computer. The answer may be to use a 2-in-1 device, which have rapidly increased in popularity over the past couple of years, since they now offer a great balance of performance, portability and cost.

A Microsoft Surface Book may be an ideal choice, or even the upcoming Surface Studio with an enormous 28-inch touchscreen. Although no Macbooks feature touchscreens, Apple’s current Macbook Pro does come with a dedicated Touch Bar which supports touch input for certain controls, mostly aimed at designers.

Step 2: Software

The most popular creative suite for designers is Adobe’s newest version of Creative Cloud, which covers all their key programs including Photoshop and Illustrator. You do have to pay a monthly subscription to access all of the tools you need from Adobe, which can really add up, but for a professional designer this can be well worth it.

There are also some slightly cheaper options around if you really need to cut down on costs or you prefer to use different tools. Serif’s Affinity suite is also very powerful and each program is available for an affordable, one-off price. There are even a few free alternatives on the market, although these will be more limited.

Step 3: Accessories

A few peripheral tools could really come in handy if you’re a full-time designer. Here are just a few ideas of products you might consider investing in.

  • As an alternative to having a computer with dedicated touch input, you can use an external drawing pad to aid your design work. The best examples come with pressure sensitivity and other features to make drawing much easier.
  • A great external monitor is usually essential, unless you exclusively work on your laptop, which is only really possible with the very best devices. Designers today really need to be working on at least one 4K screen, if not two side-by-side.
  • A healthy and ergonomic desk and chair setup will also be important for you if you spend long periods of time working. The best products don’t come cheap, but they may be worth your investment if they can protect you from future back pain or other problems.
  • A smartphone with a great screen and support for a wide range of apps can actually be extremely handy for a designer. Having access to your past or current work anywhere through cloud storage is invaluable, as is having a great camera in your pocket at all times. You can even use basic versions of some Adobe Creative Suite apps on your phone.

Small Business Branding In 5 Easy Steps

A brand is really essential in today’s marketplace if you want your business or organisation to stand out and get attention. With so much competition in almost every area, nobody can thrive on a name, product or service alone.

A brand supports everything you do, providing a common visual style and message for all of your communications. It tells people something about who you are and what you do every time they interact with it. But how do you create a brand? Here we aim to break the process down into five simple steps.

1) Establish your brand values

To define your brand in words before you move onto the visual style, you need to make sure you have agreed on some basic principles. Decide what you want to achieve as a brand, who your audience is going to be, and what qualities or feelings you want them to associate with your brand. You can then find ways to incorporate these factors into your actual designs.

2) Choose your brand’s colours

Individuals have different preferences, which can be a problem in the design process because people tend to choose a colour they like rather than one that works. The fact is, you should never ignore the power of colour psychology. Colours (and the ways in which they are used) have a powerful effect on the way your brand will be perceived.

3) Create your logo

A good corporate logo will be easy to understand, unique, attention-grabbing and meaningful. This isn’t easy to achieve, but you can approach it step by step to make things easier. Although there is no perfect blueprint, you might include several or all of the following somewhere in your design:

Name – Usually the company name itself will appear in the main logo, especially for new start-ups in the process of launching a brand. The font choice will be crucial here, as it must be both clear and creative.
Symbol – This should be something that signifies and differentiates your brand, and ideally it should be subtly incorporated into the rest of the logo instead of being tacked on.
Strapline – You may choose to include your company slogan in your logo to provide additional context and confirm your message, if it’s short and snappy. Two or three words should be enough.

4) Roll out your branding

Implementing your designs and message across the board may be the most challenging step on the journey to creating a brand. In some ways you will find this easier with a small group of employees, because you can discuss the brand values in a group and make sure everyone is on-message when they communicate on behalf of the brand.

5) Maintain the consistency

As time goes on, you will need to make sure that everyone continues to represent your brand in the way you originally agreed. Specific training may be required for new employees (and existing ones) to ensure they always keep the values of your company in mind. Any necessary design changes later need to be handled smoothly.

How Designers Deal With Difficult Clients

If you work as a designer, whether you are freelance or directly employed by a company, you will most likely have to deal with difficult clients (or bosses) at some stage. In a fast-paced environment, tricky customers may actually become something you handle regularly.

Communication is usually a major problem here, because typically a client will have ideas and requirements for their design, but lack the required skills to bring these to life. That’s why they need your services, after all. The problem is that a non-professional needs to explain what they want from their design, and later, the professional often has to explain to them why they have made certain decisions and why certain things may not be possible. This can lead to a lot of tension, and not all clients will handle this well.

The best solution for communication problems is usually to try and keep all communication channels as open and transparent as possible. As a designer, you need to make sure that you and the client have an agreed method for contacting each other, and a suitable alternative is arranged if this doesn’t work out. Make sure you keep records of everything that has been discussed and agreed so you can refer back to these notes if necessary.

You also need to make sure that you always complete you work to the best of your abilities, and try to fulfil every reasonable request the client has made. You need to maintain your reputation for being a great designer, regardless of the circumstances of one particular job, plus the best way to get the client to trust you is to do a fantastic job.

Of course, a potential drawback to completing your work to a very high standard is that you might make everything look a little too easy. When you deal with the client, make sure they appreciate the work and expertise you have put in. You can explain things to them in enough depth to make sure they understand the complex nature of their demands, although there is no point over-explaining because you are the only one who needs to really know how you work.

Throughout this entire process, one of the most important things to remember is to stay professional. The only way you will be able to salvage the relationship, even if they speak to you in an inappropriate way, is if you avoid doing the same thing. Keep all your communications polite and simply try to remind them of what you are trying to do, and why. Sometimes clients need to be reminded that you are the professional for a reason, and you are only acting in the best interests of the project.

Using Printed Promotional Materials To Your Advantage

It’s a common misconception that due to the growing importance of digital marketing and the success of many businesses using online channels exclusively, all other media must be irrelevant for advertisers. Nothing could be further from the truth, and in fact we would suggest that print advertising could give your business a massive advantage over the competition. If your competitors are putting all their eggs in one digital basket, perhaps it’s the perfect time to seize your opportunity?

Another mistake people often make when it comes to printed advertising is that we’re only referring to one particular channel. In fact, there are many options you could choose to explore. Here are just a few of the main tools you have at your disposal to boost your marketing efforts.

Business Cards

A simple option that requires little investment, but can potentially make a huge difference to sales and help you spread the word locally about your brand. A business card creates a first impression when you meet a potential contact, and provides a potentially long-lasting reminder of how and why they should contact you. Even a basic business card can be much better than nothing, but they’re also perfect for showing some creative flair. Continue reading

Tips For Creating A Great Business Logo

A logo is one of the most basic aspects of a company’s branding. How hard can it be, since everyone does it? It might be worth considering that plenty of people get it very wrong, and the impact of this mistake shouldn’t be underestimated. Your logo could help you make sales, encourage people to put trust in your brand, and ultimately turn your business into a genuinely iconic image. Alternatively, it could create the wrong impression and raise questions about your professionalism. Which route do you want to take? Maybe there pointers will help you avoid some common mistakes.

1) Be as unique as possible

Although there are limitations here, and some people may believe it’s impossible to create a truly unique logo at this point, it’s a vital element of any successful brand’s visual appeal. Your logo doesn’t have to be a literal representation of your product or business – it’s much better to make it different from anything else on the market.

2) Reflect and introduce your brand

While we stand by the above point that you should avoid being too literal, you still need to find some way of translating what matters about your brand into image form. Think about what emotions you want people to feel when looking at your logo, and what you want them to assume about your brand from the second they see it. A tiny detail can be loaded with important meaning. Continue reading

Customised Promotional Screen Printed T-shirts

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Screen printing is an excellent method that’s becoming more and more popular for people and businesses looking to create their own custom printed t-shirt designs, especially in bulk. It keeps costs down thanks to the straightforward process, and whatever the purpose of your t-shirts you’ll be able to get great quality shirts that are more than up to the job. We have seen many businesses get custom printed t-shirts made for promotional events, but ordering in bulk to get a very low cost per unit is also really useful for things like charities, sporting events, freshers, societies, parties and much more. You just need to find a great place to get your shirts made.

Outsourcing from budget printers for cheap t-shirt screen printing is almost always the best choice, as the equipment to do it yourself is likely to be prohibitively expensive. Established t-shirt screen printers have the right tools in place to reproduce your designs in bulk and deliver them quickly and efficiently. The infrastructure in a professional company will be better than any DIY operation you can set up yourself, and save a lot of time and hassle. Continue reading

Canvas Printing Methods Used By Pros

If you’re printing your own personal photos to display in your home, or even printing custom decorative pieces to display in your retail outlet, canvas is a cost effective and popular option. Canvas is a durable material that is less sensitive to light and other damage when compared to paper and other materials used for photo printing. Using a professional service to print photos to canvas allows you to obtain the highest quality prints which will remain sharp and clear for years as you display them in your home or office.

Canvas Printing

A professional canvas printer uses the Giclée printing method to print canvas. The Giclée method is the most reliable way of printing photos to canvas. A printer that uses the Giclée method relies upon the finest inks, which are true to colour, and applies these inks to the canvas with the latest ink jet technology. Professional canvas printing companies which use the Giclée method are accustomed to dealing with fine art prints, so that their trained technicians are careful to maintain proper colour balance when they produce prints on canvas. Continue reading

How Retail Design Can Save Your Business

You should never underestimate the importance of good retail design if you have any kind of physical shop as part of your business. A good understanding of your customers can be translated into excellent design ideas, creating an atmosphere and look that encourages people to engage with your business in the ways you need them to. A smart strategy behind your store design can transform the prospects of your business and turn an idea into a popular and successful venture.

Retail Design

When you think of retail design you might just be thinking about the basic design of your shop, including the layout and the arrangement of the furnishings. However, to successfully revamp your store design it’s essential to consider all the complex factors that influence customer behaviour. Visual merchandising is important across a broad range of elements, and many of the things that influence your potential customers’ decisions are not even consciously noticed. Interior design branding companies can help you form a strategy taking all these complex elements into account, which is highly recommended since professionals can really help you get to grips with the finer details, but we’ve tried to simplify the thought process into a few manageable stages to help you make a start. Continue reading

How to create a customised office sign that catches the eye

custom office signs

Choosing and creating your own custom office signs is vital when advertising your business to your customer. Your signage must represent everything about your business and your aims for when you are showcasing your products and services. So to create a signage that describes your business and at the same time attract your customers, you will need to follow the method and steps that are involved in advertising. Advertising is all about how to advertise yourself to your customers and what they need to know about you and why they should purchase your products and services. One of the most popular methods that are used in advertising is the hierarchy of effects model which tells you the six steps that consumers use before they buy from your business.

Awareness

The first step to the effects model is making your targeted customer aware of your products through your retail signage. If your business doesn’t have a retail signage, then your customers won’t even know that your business exists! A method of gaining a real awareness is finding an area where most of your people will be able to see your signage. For instance, it’s ideal to place your signage in a location where customers can see your sign.

Knowledge

Now that you have caught your customer’s attention with your signage, the next step is to provide them with knowledge about your business. Some signage is intentionally created with icons and colours that match their organisation. Furthermore, adding promotional posters by your signage can also give them an understanding of what you have to offer.

Liking

The signage of your business must have an image or personality that is likeable and represents your company. If your retail signage is likeable, customers are more likely to trust your business, and you can attract new potential customers.

Preference

Plenty of customers compares the product and pricing of an item with different shops. Once you have followed the previous steps of this hierarchy, then you have more chance of gaining a good position in the market where customers prefer your products and services over the other competitors. To increase your chance further, you will need to highlight your unique selling point and add this to your retail signage so that customers can differentiate your brand in the market.       

Conviction

This section is all about giving a good impression of your products and services to customers so that they would want to buy from you. A conviction can be achieved at this point once the previous steps have been applied.

Purchase

The last step is to make your audience want to buy from you through advertising. When it comes to applying this step, you must ensure that everything is simple and accessible for customers. For example, it should be at a location or in a place that’s accessible to everyone and that there aren’t any other issues that can prevent your customer from purchasing.

The methods above can be a big help for creating and advertising your retail signage to fit your company and to target your audience in the right way so that you can have a competitive edge in the industry.

 

Using Lighting To Create An Atmosphere In Retail

lightLighting is an often-underrated aspect of the complete retail experience that retailers would do well to consider more often. It’s all part of the physical factors that influence the look and feel of a shop. These directly feed into the minds of your potential customers, whether you or they realise it or not. Even if you haven’t planned it, and the customer doesn’t know it’s happening, you’re sending a message that’s either encouraging them to make a purchase or putting them off. This is why it’s vital to be in control when it comes to lighting.

neonOne option to consider may be an elaborate bespoke lighting design that really creates an impressive feature in your shop. This could be a large illuminated element of your branding, or even your brand name, or alternatively something more like contemporary art to attract attention. This kind of highly customised design is available from companies such as Technical Signs, specialists in bespoke led lighting, fittings, and led signage in the UK. Many businesses can become much better known and recognised for these kind of statement pieces, so it may be a well worthwhile investment in your situation.

More subtle features might also play to your strengths. Everywhere from your window displays to your fitting rooms, the lighting you choose will almost certainly have an impact on the mood and emotional response of your customers. Much of this strategy comes down to figuring out what design choices will elicit particular responses in your visitors.

For example, Hollister is a brand that’s famous for its very particular choice of lighting. Their fashion outlets are kept in near darkness, complete with nightclub-volume music playing, an unpopular choice for many since it’s so out of the ordinary. For their target market of young adults, however, the logic is that people will feel more relaxed and more willing to part with their cash. Other brands have taken the opposite approach, such as Apple with their almost iconic store designs. Ultra-bright lighting is applied to bring out the best in their gadgets and encourage people to stretch their budgets.

Of course, the reason one approach works for one company while the opposite works for another is down to different markets, different customers, and many more factors. Only thorough research and experience can guide you to optimise your lighting and enhance your retail atmosphere, but it needs to be something you consider carefully if you want to keep building on your profits and making the most of your assets.

Are Promotional Products Still Relevant in 2016?

Technology is always pulling us deeper into the “digital age” that so many businesses are still resistant to. Pressure is increasing and progress is being made, but in some areas there are still many people insisting that the new age success stories don’t apply to them, and they know the traditional methods that work in their market. A great example is the idea of getting promotional materials produced and personalised with company branding. How can this still be a relevant part of marketing in 2016?

It has been suggested that digital marketing has advanced so far that it shouldn’t even be referred to as such any more, instead simply being part of “marketing” for all businesses. For a large number of brands, traditional marketing including creating physical products to help with advertising is completely redundant, and wouldn’t even be on the radar. It’s definitely possible, and usually much cheaper, to create and shape your brand image entirely using online tools like social media. You can use e-commerce channels to make sales and distribute adverts entirely online, so where would you even have an opportunity to use promotional products? Continue reading

Getting Your Branding On Promotional Items

Promotional items created by a printing service are a powerful form of advertising because people often keep useful items longer than printed ads. This makes them an effective tool for building brand recognition and demonstrating customer appreciation. Common promotional items include bags, mugs, pens, notepads, mouse mats, customised USB drives and calendars.

Branding promotional products

Digital printing technology mostly covers the production of promotional products. Images, graphics and text can appear on almost any type of product. Any design you use needs to meet the printer’s standards because this process often transpires on a wide assortment of materials, or substrates. Name badges, for example, can be printed on plastic, paper and even onto metal. Printing companies could also convert your original design into embroidery stitches if you your items are bags, hats and even t-shirts. The wide-assortment of digital techniques and available materials expands the type of promotional materials you can share with customers, but this can complicate artwork preparation and become quite costly. Continue reading