It’s that time of year again!

Yep! Sorry everyone, but if you’re thinking of having personalised Christmas cards, Christmas gifts or brochures etc for early 2017, you really need to be putting orders in in the next few weeks… November and December are very busy for printers and so normal turn-around times get stretched by demand.

So, if you’ve had an idea, but not done anything with it, please don’t leave it too much longer… and if it’s anything we can help with, please just give us a call.

Brief vs. expectations

waves_smallI’ve written on the subject of briefing a designer before, but the recent extreme example below that I’ve come across shows that it’s probably worth mentioning again…

“So, what exactly is a brief?” I hear some of you ask. Well, the simplest explanation is this: it’s the description that you give to a designer of what you want them to do for you.

If it’s a branding job, it’ll be an explanation of what you were imagining for your company image – even if it’s no more than the ‘feel’ – what you like, what you don’t want and what you hope your business to reflect through it. If it’s a print job, it’ll contain information about the number of pages, size/shape and intended audience, number of colours and content etc. For a website, you would expect to share your branding guidelines if you have them and any existing materials so that your website can reflect you and your business. You’ll also need to have thought of a list of the pages and their likely content and whether you want an online shop, booking form or other elements… That’s an outline brief and it will go on to form the basis of the contract that both parties (should) sign.

Beyond this list of specifications, there are lots of subjective opinions, expectations and other factors that require absolute clarity at the outset – for the protection of both the client and the designer. Most of us have been in positions where we have realised too late that what we thought we had asked someone to do for us is not actually what they thought we were asking. Usually, after a brief exchange, these things can be adjusted and everyone is back on the same wavelength.

Occasionally, people encounter customer service brick walls, leaving clients with a bad taste in their mouth and a reticence to go ‘through that again’. Even more disappointing is the fact that graphic and web designers seem to be embroiled in their fair share of these types of disputes.

In terms of the look and feel, we know that many people come to a designer and have no real idea what they want something to look like and they are expecting inspiration from a designer’s eye. After all, it’s a designer’s job to interpret the brief, right? That’s absolutely correct and a perfectly reasonable expectation. We love to be given that freedom and trust. After some discussion it’s usually easy to pin down what a client wants as long as they are honest in what they say they want and expect.

So, with this in mind, the website example I came across recently had me a little open-mouthed. The site was built but didn’t reflect the wishes of the client. A half-hearted attempt to put it right didn’t go any way to achieving that. The site was made live with ‘lorem ipsum’ (placeholder) text still visible; worse still, the actual text contained typos, grammatical errors and the like. The client had expected this to be corrected as part of the contract, although in fairness, it wasn’t specified. That said, it’s rare to come across a designer who resolutely won’t fix a typo that they can plainly see because they weren’t contracted to.

What’s (thankfully) even rarer is one who says that they won’t fix it without being paid a substantial premium and uses their contract as their only defence. The client believed that although it hadn’t been included in the contract, it was part of the overall service being offered as it had been discussed at meetings and the client was prepared to pay for the help. It sounds like client attempts to reconcile seemingly failed and in the end the designer started suing the client for breach of contract! The site was no longer live at this point.

Two questions spring to mind:

  • Why on earth did the designer think it ok to make a site go live knowing there were so many errors that would damage the client’s reputation? We would expect someone to go back to the client and at least explain that there was need for work, but that it wasn’t included in the contract so there would be an additional charge of X.
  • Who in their right mind would spend money on unnecessary legal fees to pursue a claim for such a smaller amount than the likely fees, especially when their own reputation is at stake? People talk to each other – and upset people can harm any business…

So, the morals of the story are:

Read your contract thoroughly and don’t expect something to be included if it’s not mentioned, even if you have had a discussion about it and thought you had been understood. Ask for anything missing to be quoted for/included before work starts

  • Don’t be afraid to ask ALL the things that come to your mind at the time, however silly they may sound. We love questions before a contract is signed. It shows a client has read it and wants to have a two-way partnership with us, with no nasty surprises. If your designer belittles you for asking those questions, you need to consider whether you should quit while you’re ahead and look for someone else. If they’re defensive now, what will they be like if you don’t like what they’ve done?
  • It’s ok not to like something (but also helpful to a designer if you explain what isn’t working for you)
  • Only sign off on a job and pay the final instalment when you are completely happy with everything about it. Final payment and/or signature constitutes acceptance of the work

If you have a situation that you’d like a new perspective on, please feel free to give us a call for our (free) evaluation and guidance on what you could do about it.

Are mailshots dead?

This morning, the postman came. Which is not unusual.

What was unusual was that instead of only bills, unsolicited credit card application forms and catalogues we’ve never signed up for (Mail Preference Service?), it contained 3 things I was actually pleased to receive: a wristband for a conference I’ve been looking forward to for a year, free tickets for a balloted event and a mystery blue box that I’d had an email about. Plus another credit card application form–you can’t win ’em all!

The first two were things I had instigated. The third and fourth I hadn’t, although I had arranged some print from the third company last year. They regularly send me pens, post-its and notebooks, so I haven’t unsubscribed. This blue box was bigger than normal and contained a sports water bottle, insulated lunch bag, key ring beer bottle opener, a pen and a coaster. All were branded with their web address and had their item number printed on them, with a flyer telling you exactly how much each of the five items cost in various quantities. This is useful to designers who like to show samples to their clients—and printers know it.

Blue box from 4 Imprint
The box of goodies

The reason I’m telling you about this is simple: the stuff in the blue box is not going straight in the bin. The items were good enough quality and useful enough for school, for me to find them a home. The timing was right too—just as the temperature rises and we start to think ‘outdoorsy thoughts’. They also knew that—the enclosed letter said ‘Summer is approaching’.

So, useful, clever or targeted mailshots CAN still work—even if they don’t have a freebie enclosed! They just need to stand out and be appropriate to the target audience.

Of course, everyone likes something for nothing, but that’s really isn’t the whole story.
Nicely printed, lower print-run catalogues, leaflets and flyers on paper that feels and smells nice still get looked at and admired.

The recipient standing next to their recycling bin will say ‘no, actually, I’ll hold onto that one—you never know when we might need them’. That’s when mailshots work.

So, as we enter a new tax year, what ideas and/or messages could you share with your existing and potential clients and customers? If you need some help with forming your ideas and getting an idea of the cost, you know where we are.

Work experience

At Grafica, we’re keen to encourage the next generation of designers and so we were pleased to welcome Shola Kanmi-Jones for a week to show her what we do and how we do it. We asked her to explain here why she wants to be a graphic designer. During the week, we also set her a project based on a mock design brief. We love what she’s done and think you’ll agree that her design is pretty cool. Please click on the link below to see the end result, presented in the way we show our clients real projects.

Dolphin_Plumbing_Services_ID_presentation

Why I want to be a graphic designer:

I want to be a graphic designer because I enjoy graphic design as a subject which is why I am doing it for my GCSE. I am doing it because I enjoy designing things because it’s free spirited – you just put pen to a piece of paper and pouf! we have a master piece! Well, I have one, I don’t know if you like it! And graphic design needs so much thinking – once you’ve done all the writing bit you need to remember the important bits, like the target markets, why you’re doing it and what the purpose of it is. Then you can run with your ideas.

A new logo case study

Case study: Why a new logo is unlikely to be ready by tomorrow

Untapped Life logo
Final logotype and mark for The Untapped Life

 

There are a few people out there who wonder what we do to ‘just’ come up with a logo—and why it sometimes takes a while. Often, the first idea a designer comes up with will be the best, but there is more to it than drawing a symbol or worrying about the spacing between the letters on a logotype. It’s also important to make sure that the logo and brand will work in every place it is needed (think of those funny images you’ve seen on social media of inappropriate breaks and folds in posters, vehicle wraps and signage).

Late last year, we created a brand for Emma Leach’s new business, Live the Untapped Life, and have Emma’s permission to share the story of how her new identity came into being here. Thank you Emma! It was a true partnership between Emma and Grafica that produced a result we are all proud of. We hope you enjoy the story and find the insight into the process helpful.

Emma has set up her own consultancy business which helps her clients to realise the potential that is buried under their everyday busy lives. She works with them to reach for their dreams – and come up with some new ones!

During our initial conversations, Emma conveyed that she really liked an emerald green colour and that she wanted her logo mark to convey the energy of water as it bubbles up through the ground for the very first time at a spring.

Now, there are two main challenges for this, the first being that emerald green tends to signify vegetation and water is most often symbolised by the colour blue. The second is that a one colour flat image has to be carefully drawn to show the energy of a 3D moving liquid.

That said, it’s not impossible and we do love a good challenge!

unused Logo concept for Untapped Life
Initial (and unused) logo concept sketch for The Untapped Life

So, we came up with a couple of initial ideas that we liked and a third that we liked a bit less and sent them over.

Untapped Life logo concepts
Iterations of logo design concepts for The Untapped Life

Emma loved two of them, but it was clear that they didn’t make her shout “Yes!!!” and grin – which is the reaction we always hope for. If we’re really honest, our pride was a teeny bit dented for about 10 minutes. Any designer who tells you otherwise might be fibbing a bit…

What we liked though, is that Emma didn’t accept what she would have considered second best but felt able to come to us and say what she was really thinking. That’s indicative of a healthy partnership.

Against our better judgment, we worked on one of the ideas to try to get it to scream “Wow!”, and thought we might have got there, when we realised two things: it couldn’t always be applied as needed, and, more importantly, that it had evolved so much that it was now too similar to existing images for our liking.

It was back to the drawing board! Emma’s thinking had evolved a bit too, so she explained what wasn’t working for her. Some more ideas came, this time more along the lines of ‘hidden jewels’ – like geodes. We worked up another couple of ideas, but if anything, we liked them less… Our thoughts mirrored Emma’s, so we put those to one side.

The creative process gets nearly everyone thinking and as a client, letting your mind wander is part of the partnership. Even though she’d said she was not creative, Emma was clearly enjoying doing lots of her own research and asked if we would mind holding off a bit while she absorbed it all and honed her ideas. This made perfect sense to us.

A couple of weeks later, Emma called us again and emailed us a sketch she had drawn. Having had space to sift ideas and let them breathe meant that she had been able to pinpoint what it was that wasn’t working for her: Her preferred green colour was just not marrying well enough with the water idea – our biggest initial concern.

The rough drawing now portrayed flowers evolving from buds to blooms. This suddenly brought all the conversations together and we were able to quickly come up with an idea that said it all – and that we all loved!

Untapped Life Flowers iterations
Untapped Life Flowers iterations

So, a design partnership works at its best when everyone says what they think – which can take time. We also find that clients who profess to not being creative can end up enjoying getting in touch with their creative sides.

If you’re interested in seeing how you can release buried potential in your life, Emma Leach can be contacted on 07883 072501.

 

Looking ahead

Well, we’re nearly half way through the Autumn term and Christmas is looming… (Sorry for the reminder, but if you’re thinking of digital or corporate Christmas cards, now is the time to be working on them…).

printing_press
A printing press!

This post is not just about thinking about Christmas cards though! When we meet clients about an upcoming project, we like to try to help plan ahead. It’s not because we want to ‘get more business’; it’s because a little bit of planning can save clients a lot of money and frustration…

If a marketing push is something you’re thinking of for next year, please read this example below of how a bit of joined up thinking and planning managed to save a client thousands of pounds. I should point out, that this principle applies to litho printing which is what we use for higher quality projects, print runs over 1000 and special finishes. Digital printing prices are more consistent and best for smaller print runs.

We had a briefing meeting for a large retail client’s 56 page in-store training manual. As employment law changes twice yearly, we recommended that instead of a booklet that could need to be binned every six months, it would be a good idea to have an A4 ring binder printed and laminated, with 8 sections containing the information needed on loose sheets. These could then be updated when necessary, but the bulk of the content could be kept.

When in a different part of the office for a staff newsletter editorial meeting, we just happened to be having a conversation with another representative of that company who was also looking to produce a manual, a couple of months down the line. With a bit of digging, we worked out that what they really needed was a similar folder with inserts. So, we all got together and hatched a plan!

To get the best prices on these folders there are order thresholds. We asked very nicely and a binder printer agreed to print 100 of 2 kinds of folder outer, but class them as one 200 run job on the binder-assembly bit. A threshold was reached, so unit price fell dramatically and our client was able to save thousands of pounds. As a larger business with annual budgets, they didn’t have the small business concern of having the money in the bank. But the principles are the same and perhaps the impact (and relief) is greater when it’s a sole trader who wants to print a series of leaflets.

Is this sort of planning something that could help you save money or raise the spec of your next print job?

What was that paper size again?

An illustration of the A series of paper sizes
The most common sizes of paper in Europe

Most of the time, when we do a print job, we work out the specifications based on the size of the finished job (A4, A3, A6 etc.). The reason for this is that paper is measured in standard sizes so everyone in the production process will know what they are working towards. When using, say an A5 reference, the printer knows to order the exact amount of paper to run a job without creating too much waste. Of course, you can have any sized job you like, but you may end up paying more for it.

How does this affect me?

Well, the vast majority of all printed materials are produced in one of the sizes above. The sheets of paper that run through the presses are in these proportions, so using a standard size minimises waste and makes it easier for a printer to plan the jobs on the press. This keeps the cost down and is much better for the environment too.

What can I do in future?

If you ask us to work on a print job for you, we can chat through your options and help you plan the job most effectively. We’ll also take into account things you may not have thought of, such as whether you want to keep your materials smaller than the ‘large letter’ format to save on postage, and best types of paper stock for the particular project you want to do.

An illustration of common envelope sizes
Common envelope sizes

What’s the difference between vector and raster images?

There are two ways of creating images on a computer, vector and raster, and there’s a knack to knowing the difference.

A Raster image of a butterfly
A raster image of the butterfly. In the zoom circle, you can see that the image is made up of square ‘dots’ called pixels

Continuous tone images like photographs are usually raster. Images with large areas of ‘flat’ colour or those created using mathematical equations to define the image are more likely to be vector. Fonts on a computer are also made from vectors.

A vector image of a butterfly
This is a vector image of a butterfly. You can see how the image is made in the zoom circle underneath. The red line is called the path, and the control handles—which control the curve of the path—are also visible.

How does this affect me?

Most of the time, you won’t need to know if an image is vector or raster, but occasionally it can be helpful to know. If you have an image like a logo that needs to be used at a range of different sizes, from say small on a business card, to enormous on a building’s signage, vector formats are best. This is because they can be scaled up or down without losing any definition. Photographic images really don’t look great as vector images though.

What can I do in future?

If we’re creating or sourcing the images for you, you shouldn’t need to worry. If however, you need to supply us with an image, say your logo or a photo for an ad, you will need to know what to send us. We’re always happy to help, so if you’re unsure, please feel free to give us a call and chat it through.

Bleed! Urgh! What’s that all about then?

A image with crop marks
A diagram showing how artwork that is to go to bleed is prepared for the printing press.

OK, so you’d like an A4 leaflet with a picture that goes right to the edge of the paper. To make that happen, the picture needs to go beyond where the paper will be trimmed (ie, a bit larger than A4). This means that when the paper is cut to size, the ink will go right to the edge. Content (image, text or simply colour) can be ‘bled’ off one or more edges.

How does this affect me?

If you were to ask us to create some artwork for you, and we are not organising the print on your behalf, we may ask you what the bleed and trim sizes are.

The trim size is the actual finished size (eg 210 x 297mm for an A4 job). The bleed size is the trim size plus the recommended bleed amount. If your printer has asked for a 5mm bleed, then the artwork will need to be 220 x 307mm to allow an extra 5mm on each edge.

What can I do in future?

If you are supplying images to us that you would like to bleed off the edge, please bear in mind that a few millimetres of that picture will be trimmed away. If you are sourcing your own print, we’ll need to know what bleed and trim size your printer requires.

If you’re asking us to provide you with artwork that you will print in your office or at home, please be aware that only specialist printers, or printers for home computers that are sold with ‘print to bleed’ capabilities are able to print to the edge of the page. If you don’t have one of these printers, it means that you will have an unprinted margin at the edge of every page, so we would need to make sure that the artwork was created with this in mind. We’re always happy to show you examples or chat it through over the phone if it’s something you’d like a better idea about.

How do I get my colours to stay the same?

Pantone swatches
This is a page from a Pantone swatch book. Designers and printers live by these books.

Traditional printing presses normally mix percentages of colours on 4 separate plates called CMYK (we’ve previously written a blog post about these) to arrive at the final colour. For most jobs, they are sufficient to produce enough accuracy in the final materials. However, where specific colours are a necessity, we suggest using a spot (or match) colour.

A spot colour is simply a specific ink that is premixed to a recipe, and that can be used either alone or in conjunction with other spot colours or CMYK inks. The print industry standard for pre-mixed inks is the Pantone Matching System (PMS) and there are over 1100 colours to choose from, including metallics like gold and bronze. Another use for spot inks is for adding special effects like UV varnishes or fluorescents.

How does this affect me?

Spot colours give you greater accuracy if specific colours are a must. Please bear in mind, however, that the addition of each spot colour may increase the overall cost of your job. Most clients limit spots to 2 or 3 colours, which are usually enough to accurately portray their company’s identity.

What can I do in future?

If you want to use spot inks for any reason, or have specific Pantone numbers from a previous job, it’s always a good idea to chat through how it will look and how other factors such as paper stock, matt or gloss lamination etc will affect it. We’re always happy to give our thoughts if you’d like to get in touch.