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10 ways your SME can get the most out of social media

by: Neil Potter on

Are you getting the results you want?
 
1. Create an editorial calendar. Make a plan of events to write about. Could you relate your SME to Euro 2016 or the Olympics to create extra buzz?
 
2. Try the 80/20 principle. Twitter says 80% of company posts should drive interaction like retweeting and shares. Only 20% of output should directly promote.

3. Use eye-catching images. According to Stone Temple, images can increase the number of retweets you get fourfold.

4. Choose the best times. Peak time to tweet is 12-1pm worldwide. Avoid, as your message will get bumped from feeds quicker.

5. Have a designated social media expert. Ensures a consistent tone of voice. Putting someone in charge of your online brand persona needs careful consideration.
 
6. Hold Q&As with followers. Have some answers prepared in advance and use a specific Q&A hashtag.

7. Test what’s working. Software like Google Analytics shows how text, images or links affect traffic.

8. Geo-locate new customers. Social networks enable you to physically locate existing and potential new customers.

9. Launch a competition. Buffer says 35% of people ‘like’ Facebook pages just to enter competitions.

10. Tell a story. A series of messages leading up to a big event is great drama – creating a beginning, middle and end to a campaign.

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9 Generic Logotypes You Should Avoid When Designing A Logo

by: Neil Potter on

One of the most crucial aspects of designing a logo is making elements reflect what the company really is.

But there are times when we as designers get influenced with current design trends. It may be caused by false inspiration, unintentional plagiarism, or just a plain result of the changing design times.

Graphic designer Giovanni Todini curated a list of logo cliches most run-of-the-mill designers use.  Logos using Trajan font cut by an arc or the use of graph icons for finance-type firms are all too familiar to us by now that we would probably mistake one for the other.

Building up on this, redditor /u/still_thinking_, moderator of the subreddit /r/logodesign, compiled logo clones reflecting popular design choices by designers.

1. Warm, multitone triangles family

2. Three lines on blue circles family

3. Flipped letter “C” family

 

4. Red circles logo family

5. Southeast open teardrop family

  

6. Orange doughnuts with triangle holes family


7. Hands and leaves family


8. Black letters with a touch of red family

 

9. Incorporated number “1″ logo family

 

 

5 ways to tackle creative block

by: Neil Potter on

Stuck in a creative rut? The answer lies in mockups, explains Jerry Cao of UXPin.  

Designer's block is a downward spiral. It's a lot like quicksand – the more your struggle, the deeper you go. But what are you supposed to do, just sit there and sink?

We know what it's like, so we want to throw you a rope. Here are 8 strategies that we've found useful in unblocking ourselves, all of which can be executed specifically with mockups.  

 

01. Redraw existing sites

If this sounds like mindless busy work, it's because it is – but that's exactly what you need. Shifting your focus out of the problem at hand and onto something still design-related will reveal new options, whether on the screen or in your head.

Why redraw existing sites, though? As you (re)build multiple sites, you'll start to notice repetitions in structure and recognize similars skeletons behind the design. You'll see UI patterns implemented in various ways, but learn which elements are always the same, or should be. It's a practice that's always helpful in general for sharpening your skill as a designer, but when you're blocked, it could be a life-saver.

As recommended in Web UI Best Practices, first begin with skeletal wireframes, then move into detail. Each new phase reveals different elements you hadn't thought of before, and challenge your creative thinking in how to recreate them.

02. Zoom out

both literally and figuratively. Perhaps the reason you're stuck is that you can't see the forest for the trees. Try shifting your viewpoint away from the details and onto the big picture – and the best way to do that is to physically change your viewpoint.

Working in a zoomed out view of a mockup creates the proper context you need to reevaluate the problem. You'll see how each element relates to the whole, and notice layout choices you hadn't seen before.

New methods of rearranging paragraphs, columns, sidebars, menus, navigation bars – anything, really – will come to light just by changing your perspective. 

03. The Blur Test 

The blur test is a personal method of Lee Munroe, which he describes on his blog. It's used to test visual hierarchy, but can also help in designer's block by giving you a fresh outlook on a mockup.

The idea is that you view a blurry version of a screen so that, with the details obscured, you won't be distracted when analysing how the overall format fits together. Yes, visual details are the most important part of a mockup, however, these details won't matter unless your visual hierarchy is on point.
Image courtesy of UXPin via Lee Munroe

Munroe recommends taking a screenshot at blurring it with a Gaussian Blur filter in Photoshop by 5-10 pixels. Your screenshot will be reduced to colourful blobs, text will be unreadable, and you'll be able to see which blobs stand out (and which ones don't, but should).

04. Try new software

It's a poor craftsman who blames his tools… but a clever one who experiments. Trying out new design tools gives you an immediate change, or at the very least a distraction.

The excitement of a new “toy” might be enough on its own to inspire some new ideas. If not, exploring the new features and relearning your old techniques might spark something inside you previously forgotten. Equally possible, you might realise how much you miss your old software's features, and the reason why might be the inspiration you were needing. 

05. Design badly on purpose

This may seem like one of the more “alternative” strategies, but it's also one a lot of respectable designers use successfully. Often designer's block is less about not having any ideas, and more about not having any good ideas. This puts a lot of pressure on you to stop thinking up bad ideas, and designing badly on purpose alleviates that pressure.

As graphic designer Alexander Charchar suggests, try creating or recreating your mockup with a few ugly design elements. Use that creative but illegible font. Clash the colors of the icon against the background. Make the logo tiny. Indulge in any fun or goofy instincts, then still try to structure the overall layout so the design makes sense. What happens is you're still thinking critically about the design, but with a new calmness in the absence of pressure.

At the very least, you'll get those bad ideas out of your system, and have a bit of fun before a more serious fresh start.

Even the best of us are susceptible to designer's block from time to time, so it's helpful to know which ways work best for unblocking yourself.

In addition to these mockup strategies, there's the tried-and-true methods: get plenty of sleep, exercise, eat healthy, and try to distract yourself a little bit. And remember to relax – battling designer's block is a battle against yourself, and the best ideas sometimes surface in passing.

 

 

Glenn Tutssel – “never underestimate the power of a drawing”

by: Steve Lowe on

 

When did you realise you wanted to be a designer?

My brother’s friend Philip Davies was at Cardiff Art College studying Graphic Design and I loved all the work he was doing with type and image. It coincided with my art teacher Douglas Sutton, in Wales, who was previously a commercial artist, believing in me. I had practised Judo (we were both Black Belts) with him not realising I would one day be mentored by him. You only need one person to believe in you to succeed. 

What was your first job? 

David Lock of Lock Pettersen taught me at the London College of Printing. I freelanced for them in the last year of my BA course and joined them when I graduated. They were great typographers so I learnt a lot. I designed corporate brochures and annual reports for clients like Esso.  

How would you describe what you currently do?

Having set up Brand Inspiration in January I want to concentrate on two things. One is to do great work on my own projects unshackled from shareholders and bonus pools. Great work brings financial success rather than thinking about money before creativity. The second is to leave a legacy of creativity both in my own work and with those I believe in. I am very proud to have worked with people like Garrick Hamm, Bruce Duckworth and Mark Girvan and now I want to mentor Taxi Studio to be masters of excellence. I am in the business of the big idea beautifully crafted.

What has been the biggest change in design since you started?

The Apple Mac. Technology has made design a commodity if driven by the wrong hands. In the right hands it can achieve greatness quicker. But never underestimate the power of a drawing. I show my clients drawings where I have concentrated on solving the problem with ideas not by superficial slick Mac printouts. 

What is your favourite project, that you’ve worked on?

Sorry, typical designer answer, but there are three projects. First: the work I did for Guiness’s sponsorship of the rugby World Cup. The idea of the rugby ball instead of the traditional shamrock in the top of the pint was a simple idea. Second: the design of Peroni, as it has become a classic. I crafted every element of the label and sales are still strong. Third: the creation of the Penderyn Welsh Whisky brand. As a Welshman it’s an honour to do work for a home-grown business that has become an international success. 

What is your favourite project, that you haven’t worked on?

I always wanted to redesign Gordon’s Gin and Martini. In fact I did some exploratory work on Gordon’s many years ago but it never came to fruition. Martini has lost its heart and I want to put it back! 

What was your biggest mistake?

Not going to work in New York for Michael Peters Group. It would have given me more perspective. And not setting up my own business sooner to call the shots. 

What is your greatest ambition?

To leave a creative legacy amongst my peers and be respected for my work. 

Who is the most inspirational person you have worked with?

Michael Peters got the very best out of me by driving me very hard. He could see potential in every project as a creative opportunity. Michael Wolff has been a massive influence on me recently as he sees the solution to problems so clearly. 

What piece of advice would you give to people starting out in design?

Read Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers. It’s all about the experience and time you put in and the reward you get out. Concentrate on doing great work, this business is not a job but a vocation.

Prepare Your Imagination: Think Critically & Creatively

by: Steve Lowe on

Employers and clients want to hire nimble thinkers: People who are not only content experts, but who also are agile in adapting to new technology and new directions in their fields. With rapid technological changes and globalization, the ability to think creatively and strategically is crucial. How does a creative professional flourish in the digital age?


 Prepare Your Imagination:
    •    Consider everything you see, hear and learn as content. Listen. Observe. Connect.
    •    Problem find: Do things (make, draw, paint, write) for their own sake, as opposed to doing things that are merely a means to achieve a design solution.
    •    Go old school. Pick up a pencil and draw. Go pre-school. Play.
Think Critically:
    •    What are the parameters? Would it be advantageous to reinvent the boundaries?• What are you trying to make happen? What results do you want?
    •    What are possible alternatives and their respective advantages or disadvantages?
    •    Look at the problem from the audience’s point of view. Seek an insight.
Think Creatively:
    •    Work backwards: Make stuff and then deconstruct the content for meaning.
    •    Would changing the context or reframing it change the outcome?
    •    Pose any or all of the following: What if…? If only… Suppose you could… If you combine x and y, then you might get…
    •    Can you create content that is entertaining, informative, useful or beneficial?

Colour Inspiration: May – Warm Hues

by: Steve Lowe on

 

Our May Palette contains warm hues and light greys as Summer starts to appear. Warm colours include red, orange and yellow as well as the hues and variations in between. These are the colors of sunsets and sunrises. They are generally energizing, passionate and positive.

Light grays can be used in place of white in some designs and dark grays can be used in place of black. They often serve as the backdrop in design and commonly combined with stronger colors.

We’ve included the colour make up on each swatch of our May palette, speak to your local printing.com about incorporating these colours in your next marketing campaign.