Bungalow.

One of the really lovely things about running your own business is the fact that, to an extent, you can make your own hours and spend some quality time* with your family when others who work for THE MAN can’t.

So, with this in mind, I’d like to share with you an experience I had last week when I took my 4 year old daughter, Thalia, to her play school:

IMG_1628Picture the scene: A bright sunny morning, a little nip in the air, but the sort of day that makes you glad to be alive. From the moment Thalia left the house, she started to do her usual routine of looking everywhere, running about and asking questions. So. Many. Questions.

“Daddy, why is that leaf on the floor?” (Because it fell there).

“Daddy, what is that man doing?” (He’s sitting in the cab of his digger).

“Daddy, is that a car?” (Yes, Thalia. Yes, so is that one. No, that’s a bus).

“Daddy, can we get a doggy?” (No.)

“Daddy, why can’t we get a doggy?” (Your mummy is allergic, and I don’t want to clear up after one. I have enough of that with you and your sister. And your mummy, come to that.)

“Daddy, why do we have to look both ways when we cross a road?” (So we don’t get hit by a car.)

“Daddy, I really want a doggy. Pleeeeeassssse can we get a doggy?” (No.)

And so on. Anyway, at a certain part of the walk to school, we go down a road that has both houses and those dwellings that are only one storey tall. Thalia finds these inexplicably fascinating.

“Daddy, why are those houses so, um, small?”

“They’re not small, sweetie, they just only have one floor.”

“Oh. Why?”

“Well, because some people like houses that only have one floor. They are called Bungalows.”

“Bungas?”

“No, bungalows. It’s a funny word isn’t it?”

“Do those bungas have any stairs, Daddy?”

“No, sweetie. They only have one floor.”

“Why?”

“Well, as I said, some people like to have everything in their house on the same floor…”

“What, like their toilet and bed and TV and everything?”

“Well, yes. Sometimes older people and people who can’t get up and down stairs live in them.”

“Do those people have legs, Daddy?”

“Um, yeah, most of them I think.”

“Oh. I like bungas. Are those bluebells, Daddy?”

“Looks like it, sweetie. Aren’t they pretty?”

“Yes, daddy. Daddy?”

“Yes, sweetie?”

“Can we get a bunga? And a doggy?”

“No, sweetie.”

“Oh. Is that a bunga, Daddy?”

“Yes, sweetie.”

“Does it only have one floor?”

“Yes, sweetie.”

“Does a doggy live there, Daddy?”

“I have no idea, Thalia…”

“Can we get a doggy, Daddy? And some bluebells?”

And so on ad infinitum. I love these moments.

 

*I’m sorry for using this horrible phrase.

An interesting encounter

waves_smallA little while back, I was at a Friday lunchtime business networking event (which just happened to be in a ‘licensed establishment’). At the end of the event, a slightly surreal thing happened that relates nicely to my thoughts on how reputation and branding are not just about a logo.

There were just two of us left finishing our coffees, when a man who had been sitting at a table for about an hour and a half approached us. He asked if we were part of the business group, which we said we were. He then proceeded to ask us for some advice on how to promote his business. Now, as you can imagine, we regularly get asked ‘what we think’ of a website, design, logo, or other marketing collateral, but his was slightly unusual and it was quite difficult to know what to say…

This chap produced a tiny piece of photocopier paper, maybe half the size of a business card, on which he had typed his name and mobile number; he had cut it out roughly with a pair of scissors. There was no email address or web address for his ‘Man and Van Removal Service’. It’s probably now time to mention too that we had seen him and his friend steadily consume several beers and whiskys during the previous hour or so. Even though he was slurring his words, he seemed genuinely baffled as to why business was slow.

So, what can you do or say? The best answer we could come up with was to make a few general suggestions and wish him luck with his venture. We were in a much bigger dilemma though when we saw him outside getting his keys from his pocket to drive off…

The moral of the story: A good brand is not solely about ‘a nice business card’. People buy from people they can trust and brand reputation flows through everything you do.

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.

New Year(ish)

It’s been a little while since we posted in our blog—apologies for that, but somehow at least two posts never got published before they were out of date… We’ll try harder this year, we promise!

There are a few good reasons for the distractions though, some work related, some health related. Since our last post, we’ve had one appendicitis (child), one severe bout of IBS, one Christmas (two mothers staying), one (quiet but happy) New Year, one website built, one website nearly built, several print jobs completed, quite a few new networking events, one funeral (grandparent), one sort of funeral (hamster), one leaking boiler and a health wake up call! It sounds like something out of ‘the very hungry caterpillar’. Without the pickle (yay!) and chocolate cake (boo!).

So, what have we been working on exactly? Well, after a quiet spell, we’ve built a lovely new website for the chaps at Finance Box, we’ve nearly finished one for High Grade Consultants and our print work covers a few different organisations. We’ve also fixed a couple of broken websites for non-clients…

After a busy couple of weeks then, things have quietened down again for long enough for us to take stock of some health news that means a (hopefully) short-ish term change to some of our habits – but it’s all for good and we’re on our way with it all.

As we’re in a lull before we start our next project, we’ve been working on a new simple one-page website package that we think might be of interest to a few people. It’s especially suited to cafes and restaurants, guest houses and B&Bs who would like a web presence but don’t need a full website – a step up from only being on Trip Advisor or Facebook. Please give us a call if you would like to find out more about it and whether it’ll work for you. We’ll gladly meet you for a coffee to chat it through.

What’s the best way of folding my leaflet?

So you’ve asked us to create a new leaflet for you and you want it folded for maximum impact. Luckily, there are a few different ways of folding a leaflet and if you get it right, you can really get your message across.

Your content will be the principal guide, but it’s useful to know a few of the more familiar fold types. They generally fall into the following types: simple; short; accordion (sometimes known as ‘Z’ folds), roll (or barrel), gate, French and parallel. Pop ups and other more creative folds allow for a bit more fun. You can see some of them below.

This shows the most common types of folds for leaflets
The most common types of Folds

How does this affect me?

Each fold has different uses and the fold we choose depends on the purpose of the publication. For example, we would advise using a roll fold if you want to reveal information in a linear, storytelling-type way, or a gate fold if you have information that would benefit from a large, cinema-screen type presentation in the centre.

What can I do in future?

Before starting any project of this type, we would need to see the content first, to assess what would be the best type of fold to use. The placement of the content can then be planned accordingly before the design is created. As with most things, the more complex the materials, the more they are likely to cost, but careful planning can sometimes bring these costs back into the realms of possibility, so it’s always worth chatting it through.

Why we work the way we do, Part 4: Spec work

Firstly, it’s important to answer the question “what is spec work?”

Spec work, also known as free pitching, is where, to create ‘goodwill’ and for no upfront remuneration, designers produce ideas and mock up projects to show a client, or potential clients what their logo, brochure etc might look like if they went with that designer.

no spec logo
You can find out more about spec work by going to http://www.nospec.com/

We don’t do spec work.

You may wonder why? Well, we’re a business based on our ideas. As an example, some years ago when we were just starting out in West London, and against our better judgement, we came up with some ideas on spec for a potential new wine merchant client who seemed very keen to engage our services. We duly produced the designs according to his wishes, at which point, he stopped returning our calls and emails. Imagine our (lack of) surprise, when several months later, we were leafleted by that very same company—and their logo was exactly the same as the one we had designed. It had the same typeface, colours and even logomark. Exactly the same.

Basically, this chap had taken our designs (the ideas are our business—they are our intellectual property and the basis on which we trade) and asked another designer to artwork them (the easy bit). Now, some of you will be thinking ‘but that’s intellectual property theft, you should be able to sue’. Well, in theory, yes we can. If we can spare the time and legal fees, that is. So we, like so many, let it drop. He won. He got his designs for free – although by not listening to our advice, he also wasted lots of money by leafleting a predominantly non-alcohol drinking area.

So, we don’t do spec work. Oh, we’ve been asked a lot, usually along the lines of ‘how will I know if I like what you’ve done until I see it?’

Our answer to that is that we kind of expect you to have done your due diligence in choosing a designer. You wouldn’t choose a builder by randomly picking a name out of a telephone directory, and choosing a designer should have at least as much care and attention paid to it. Look at the work on our website, talk to people who know us and our work, and give us a call and chat to us. If you decide to proceed in using us, then you can be confident that we will do our utmost to provide you with the best solution to your particular design problem. We’re not selling high print run postcards that you can choose on impulse; we’re presenting your business brand. You have to pay an architect to draw up plans for you and that is a cost people accept up front. It’s no different with a designer. When you employ a designer, you’re not only paying for their time in working on your project, you’re also paying for their expertise and years of experience. It’s only partly about what we actually do or the time it takes, it’s much more about what we know. After all, that’s what allows us to ‘just design’ a solution that works for our clients in a much shorter time than they could manage themselves.

Besides, if you’ve seen a variety of our work and like it, or someone has recommended us, why wouldn’t we equally be able to produce something that you love for you? By negotiating a contract (clients are entitled to query contracts/ask for amendments if they so wish), signing it off and agreeing to pay us for our ideas, you’re valuing what we do and entering into a viable and hopefully long-term working relationship with us. The people who work with us most happily are the ones who appreciate the value of ideas. With a good brief and clear communication, everyone should be able to reach a happy conclusion in sensible timescales.

Of course, some people don’t like to engage a designer this way, but that is their choice. And ours.

There’s a very good talk to a group of designers by Mike Monteiro that you can watch here if you don’t mind some strong language and a bit of talk about legal stuff.

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.

Brand New: New Logo for Facebook done In-house with Eric Olson

So Facebook have changed their logo. I’m withholding judgment until I see it actually in place. What do you think?

Please note that the red in the logo is simply there to show the differences between the old and the new logos. Please click through to the linked article below to see more.

Source: Brand New: New Logo for Facebook done In-house with Eric Olson