Quick ways to make your Microsoft Office documents look better

Microsoft Office is everywhere. There’s hardly a company, from enterprise to small business, that doesn’t use it to create letters, proposals, estimates, promotional emails, even flyers and (gasp!) ads for the Yellow Pages. The “desktop publishing revolution” was supposed to put great-looking documents within reach of Everyman and change the world, feed the poor, end war and usher in a golden age of rainbows and unicorns. Continue reading

Too many cooks spoil the (marketing) message

Some of my recent projects have run into what I call the “too many cooks” problem. Different parts of the client’s branding or collateral were done by different people at different times. The result is that none of the parts — website, identity items like logo and business cards, marketing emails, brochures — look like they belong together. And the result of that is a disjointed and confusing marketing message that doesn’t sell. Continue reading

Great Positioning? — Just Do It!

Nike’s ad agency in Turkey came out with one of the most original and playful example of correct positioning I’ve seen lately. You know Nike — athletics, “Just Do It” and that iconic swoosh — even if you’ve never owned a pair of their athletic shoes.

In this video, the agency combines a strong message about the importance of working together with a cast of nationally famous athletes who drive and are each part of an assembly line. Cyclists pedal, a boxer punches, a soccer player kicks, a skateboarder skates and a basketball player (there had to be a basketball player, right?) dunks to make graphically delightful “Just Do It” posters. Continue reading

What Do You Mean by “Best”?

A client commented to me the other day, “I think I get some of your best work from you,” right after he’d commented that my “best” work was at the back of my portfolio. I was a bit taken aback; a design professional tends not to think in those terms. It got me thinking. What he actually meant was, “I like these best.” But what someone likes is subjective. Design, done well, is far less subjective than it is practical. So what do we mean by “best”?

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Anatomy of a Brand Identity

I’ve mentioned Ultra Essence before. They were the subject of an earlier post because they provided a great example of how a correctly designed advertising display increases sales. The company has a new skin-care product for men, “Ultra Handy Man” or simply “Handy Man,” that gives me the chance to write about a simple case of creating a logo and a brand identity, and nicely illustrates the difference. The rest of their products primarily target women, so this is a departure from the usual line of business. Handy Man is for people who work with their hands: construction workers, carpenters, truckers. The logo and branding their label provider had come up with didn’t meet with management approval, and the job was passed to me. Continue reading

To Upgrade or Not to Upgrade? That is the Question.

I had a fascinating conversation recently with the renowned Danish photographer Thorsten Overgaard. Thorsten shoots almost exclusively with a Leica, the camera that arguably has more claim to the word “classic” than any other, and is one of the most brilliant documentary photographers in the world. Like many in the profession, he uses Adobe Photoshop Lightroom to “develop” his digital images into their final form. Also, like any professional, he knows his tools thoroughly, knows how they work and knows what they can and can’t do. He also has a large body of finished work that he definitely doesn’t want some new version of Lightroom to change (read, “mess up”). The conversation centered around whether or not he should upgrade to the latest version (Lightroom 4). We ended up doing a 30-minute informal video podcast (scroll down a bit on the linked page for the video) about the pros and cons of upgrading, using examples from some of his recent work. By the end of the podcast, he had made his decision to begin working with the new version. Continue reading

Why Did My Designer Say My Picture Is Too Small?

Here’s a common scene that plays out between a designer and a client:

Designer: “We can’t use that image in your [brochure/flier/magazine cover] because it’s too small.”

Client: “But I got it from our website. It looks fine there, and it’s almost three inches square!”

Designer: “Well, do you have the original photograph? I can work from that.”

Client: “We gave it to the guy who did our website two years ago. I don’t think we have it anymore. Can’t you just make this one bigger in Photoshop?” Continue reading

The Right Design is a Good Investment

Ultra Essence is a national distributor of popular skin care products, sold primarily at shows, state fairs and similar venues, where people are looking for things they don’t normally find in stores. Their sales booth advertising was in need of a face lift, though, being just a bit too “down home” and not a good match for the quality of their main product, Ultra Balm. It’s a great example of how the design process works, and what it can do for sales. Continue reading