AXIS - Notes From The Point

ISSUE NO. 19

 

Design in Context

 

Initial Positioning

 

So,

why is this in your inbox? We believe that at some point (if we're not working on something together already) that you will need creative thinking in the design and development of some marketing materials. We love building long-term relationships and understand that this only happens with repeated success. AXIS visual has been supporting the business community for 15 years and has many valued long-term relationships. If you have any thoughts or questions about how we work or how we might approach an upcoming marketing challenge, give us a call (610-527-0332), drop us a note, send a carrier pigeon, whatever you prefer.

 

Here the shortlist of what we do:

  • Branding / Logo Development
  • Corporate Communication
  • Publication Design
  • Website Design
  • Print Design (All Kinds)
  • Package Design
  • Exhibit Design
  • Signage
  • Email Marketing
  • Product and Service Literature
  • Advertising
  • Consulting
  • You Name it

 

 

Copyright © 2011 AXIS visual, All rights reserved.

 

Our contact information is:

 

AXIS visual

1600 Lower State Rd.

Doylestown, PA 18901

215.491.0332

Contact Us

Design in context

It's been number years that I've been working in this industry and about 16 years or so that I've been running AXIS visual. I entered this profession in time when big agencies were the place to go. Soon after smaller studios began to grow largely with what was termed "collateral material" at that point in time. Initially, collateral work (brochures, pamphlets, etc.) was considered "beneath" what agencies wanted to do. But they began to see the profit in doing this type of work and began to open smaller studios of their own. Then the Apple Macintosh landed on many designers' desks. It allowed an individual to function as a much larger company by accomplishing many tasks that previously were sent out to many different resources. And then the Internet... It was clumsy. It was primitive. But it allowed the reader to travel through information in a much different way than through printed material. The Internet has largely grown up, although 20 years from now we will probably look back on this time and refer to it as clumsy as well. Then social media, crowdsourcing, and more active use of video content, and many other aspects that help deliver a message to a target audience.

Each change did not necessarily replace the previous way of doing things but rather it was an added skill set, an added tool, and an added avenue to market and promote a company or product. Through those years one constant has been that we work in relationship to what's around us. An advertising campaign exists in the timeframe that it's delivered. A logo is developed in the environment of the Target audience, the industry, and the company's personality. A website is created with things in mind like the competition, computer screen size, technology available, budget, etc. Even within a layout elements work because a designer considered the relationships between them such as text size and color, image backgrounds, color intensity and/or brightness, the hierarchy of one piece of information versus another and the balances of many other components. This is designing in context. It's what a skilled designer does every moment of every day. Even when driving down the road I find myself analyzing colors and fonts, type spacing, symbolism and virtually everything that is visually trying to deliver a marketing message to me.

My initial thought was to write an article about design in context. But the more I thought about the topic the more it grew into something much greater than single article. Design in context is more than simple approach to design and graphic marketing. It's more than philosophy; it's an overriding belief system that designers use to perfect a skill. So, like in so many aspects of our lives, when confronted with something large to do or think about, the best approach is to break it up into smaller pieces. As a result I will be writing a series of articles about design in context and discussing how that concept applies to the many areas that a designer or graphic marketer works with.

 

Design in context - 1

Initial positioning

When a new client contacts me about a potential project there's usually some dialogue or interview that takes place. It could be either face-to-face or over the phone. But it's a time when I begin to see and understand the business from their perspective. I listen to their goals, their plans, their challenges and their expectations of my company. I ask questions about their competition, how they would like to be perceived by their customer base and generally to describe their company "personality." Fairly quickly I find myself thinking in terms of visuals, not terribly specific ones, but I begin to build a visual look in my mind that might be appropriate for their company.

Soon after, there is the process of "putting the meat on the bones" and exploring the visual approach more deeply. This may start out with doing some research on their product or their competition. At some point, there's usually a simple process with a pad and a pencil where different ideas can be quickly explored and evaluated. Like any creative process, there are always the rejected ideas that end up "on the cutting room floor". A logo for example might have a good 90% of the initial concepts rejected before the client sees anything. The remaining approaches are then tightened up and worked into a presentation that the client can review.

But where is the context that I spoke of? What "relationships" are being brought into this equation? In the initial interview, that discussion builds a picture that determines the context. I know, that sounds a little too ethereal, or analytical. It appears to take the emotional aspect out of the design process… and throw it under the bus. Not so. There will be plenty of time in the future for the emotional exploration and pure creative fun. But this is the phase where the designer learns the context needed to evaluate their own work. It's a time when the boundaries and parameters of success are discovered. To be more literal, a client may describe their target market. This group of people might be young, they might be old, they might be in the financial industry, they might be an entertainment industry, or have any number of other qualities. Each of these qualities creates a context for a successful design approach. And the company "personality," this is how company thinks about itself. This too comes into play when marketing and branding a company. However, greater success is usually achieved if a little more weight is given to the target audience than the company personality. After all, it's that target audience that we are trying to effect.

In addition, there is the context of a company's competition, their industry area, their size in the market, how aggressive they want to be... or can be. All these answers begin to build a picture of what is appropriate for that specific client. Sometimes "what is appropriate" or ultimately successful and productive is easily understood by the client. They trust the designer's experience and see how a particular creative solution can benefit the company. Other times, the client may feel less comfortable with a creative solution. This doesn't necessarily mean that solution is wrong. It may only mean that it's a little outside comfort zone of the person reviewing work. This is where a designer will talk about the benefits of a particular approach or why one direction is better than another. But in the end, we are performing service for our clients and they are the ultimate decision-makers. I've seen cases where I know that an approach would be very productive for a client but if they don't feel comfortable with it they won't support it and they won’t get behind it, and it won’t be successful for that reason.

So that initial discussion, the education about a company or product, the intonation of a voice and all the subtleties of simple human interaction create the context that designers and marketers use to begin to explore creative solutions.

 

Bill Milnazik

Problem Solver No. 1

AXIS visual

Thank you for taking the time to read this. If we can help with your design and marketing needs feel free to contact us.