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Jagella
01-30-2009, 03:46 PM
If you're anything like I am, you've worked with some clients that just don't seem to realize that there's a right way to design and a wrong way. What are some of the most common mistakes people are making when considering what graphic designs their organizations and businesses might need? I've come up with ten.


Doing it Themselves
Not Researching the Target Audience
Ignoring Cultural Differences in Geographical Areas the Designs Will be Used
Not Considering Technical Matters
Not Brainstorming
Failing to Ask for Feedback
Ignoring Trends
Failing to Consider the Business Objectives of the Design
Not Making the Design Distinctive
Failing to Set and Adhere to Brand Identity Standards


Number 1 should come as no surprise considering the relative low cost of graphics software and computers to run that software on. As we know, though, people who try to create effective logos, websites and other graphics with little knowledge of the basic principles of effective design are not likely to succeed. If you want a house, will you buy a hammer, nails, a saw, and lumber and try to build it yourself? If you're not a qualified designer, then your house will probably never stand and neither will your designs.

Numbers 2 and 3 are closely related. People emotionally react to designs, and different people will react differently. To ensure a design that fulfills its purpose, you need to know who it's intended for. You also need to consider where your target audience lives. People in different parts of the world live in different cultures, and these cultural differences may impact the effectiveness of any design they see.

Number 4 tells us that technical matters are important considerations, and many clients may end up with designs that are technically unsuitable for their purpose(s) if they don't know the technical requirements for the way those designs will be published. Printed documents may not have adequately high resolutions or proper color spaces, and web images may have file sizes that are too large or technically unfeasible for the Internet.

To achieve an optimal design, number 5 suggests considering many ideas by brainstorming. The more ideas a client comes up with, the more likely she is to find what may be the best choice. Many clients come up with perhaps one idea that might be good, but why settle for good when a better design can be achieved through generating a lot of alternatives?

Once clients settle on an idea and begin to develop it, they often fail to ask for feedback on how effective the design is as noted in 6. They'll get feedback all right, but it's foolhardy to wait until the target audience sees the design only to trash it.

Unlike a fine wine, designs may degenerate with age. Clients often ignore where the trends of today may be heading, and good designs should be timeless to avoid going out of fashion in a relatively short period of time as noted in Number 7.

Number 8 often spells disaster. If a design is meant for business purposes, then know those purposes and make the design appropriate for achieving its objectives.

Unless you're closely related to another business, you can get into a lot of trouble if your design isn't distinctive as noted in 9. For instance, a logo that looks too much like that of another business may cause confusion in your target audience who might think you're a subsidiary of the other business. If the design is too similar, you may even encounter legal trouble by violating a copyright.

Finally, many clients might wrongly assume that the designs they use for their brand identity will be used properly by their employees. Number 10 notes that if a business's internal culture is not aware of standards by which the designs are to be used, then they may misuse those designs. A corporate design standards manual is essential for many businesses especially the larger ones.

Agree? Disagree?

Jagella

rezzy
01-30-2009, 03:55 PM
I think this list is fitting for other businesses out side of graphic design. Websites and other items which people think they can DIY, can cut costs but overall hurt their professionalism. Another common misconception which I come across is people who believe purchasing the most expensive software, Photoshop for images, Dreamweaver for site coding, will give them all they need to pop out a product.

This idea could be further from the truth. Although the software is great and used by the majority of people, it does not guarantee a pleasant end product. It requires the skill and careful eye of a person who understands their trade.

Research, and other aspects help to create a image which compliments a businesses logo, and feel. A person can create several logo rough drafts, each one giving a different aura about a business. The logo is the viewing publics first contact with your business and its needs to be good.

The internet is full of sources to help people improve their skill, but it takes time and energy. Would that time be better spent hiring a more knowledgeable person and focusing on your business?

vangogh
01-30-2009, 06:41 PM
Good list Joe. I've seen most of those mistakes at one time or another and sadly I've seen some people make all 10 at once.

I do agree with Bryan that some of the things on your list would apply beyond graphic design. People see DIY as less expensive and so it becomes an option. Sometimes DIY is less expensive, but other times it isn't. Depends a lot on the Y in DIY.

One thing I'll add to the list which is maybe a sub item of #2 on your list.

2a. Assuming your market responds to the same thing you do.

I think many times someone will chose a color (purple say) for their design, because they like it and always respond to purple. Their market might hate purple. Same thing with different imagery. We have to remember that we aren't our target market. We aren't designing things for ourselves. We're designing them to generate specific responses in specific groups of people.

Jagella
01-30-2009, 07:04 PM
I think this list is fitting for other businesses out side of graphic design.

Sure, Bryan. I realized that when I was compiling the list. Graphic design is very closely associated with business, of course.


Websites and other items which people think they can DIY, can cut costs but overall hurt their professionalism.

DIY is fine for cases when professionalism is not crucial or for educational purposes.


The internet is full of sources to help people improve their skill, but it takes time and energy.

No, it takes LOTS of time and energy.


Would that time be better spent hiring a more knowledgeable person and focusing on your business?

Yes. Even designers might benefit from hiring other designers to create logos and other brand-identity components for them. Professionals outside the business have an outsider's view which is what you want. After all, clients don't see your business the way you do—they see it the way they do.

Jagella

Jagella
01-30-2009, 11:38 PM
...sadly I've seen some people make all 10 at once.

Sure. In one fell swoop you can make all those mistakes at some sites that offer “free” template logo design. Sure, the design may cost nothing now, but it might cost you your business later.


We have to remember that we aren't our target market. We aren't designing things for ourselves.

True, but I suppose if we don't have anything else to go on, then we may need to rely on our own preferences. But if we don't have anything else to go on, then we're not researching the market!

Thanks for the input.

Jagella

seolman
01-31-2009, 12:00 AM
I'm not sure if you cover this in item 4 when you mention "not considering technical matters", but many clients fail to take into consideration how their graphics will be used under varying circumstances. Some examples I like to throw at our clients include questions similar to:

a) How will this look printed on a vinyl banner hanging off the side of a building?
b) Can this be embroidered on a baseball cap or piece of luggage as a giveaway?
c) Will people recognize your logo from a distance pf 500 meters driving on a highway?
d) Can this be stamped on to leather and still be recognizable?

We often put our customers through a battery of questions to be sure their graphics fit all possible marketing scenarios.

Very nice list Joe.

vangogh
01-31-2009, 12:17 AM
True, but I suppose if we don't have anything else to go on, then we may need to rely on our own preferences. But if we don't have anything else to go on, then we're not researching the market!

I think it's ok to use yourself as a persona if you are part of your target market. If you're not then you'd be better off finding someone who is. Of course it's ok to use your own judgment, but it shouldn't be about your own likes and dislikes again unless you happen to be part of the target market.

For example I'm a huge baseball fan. I'm probably a part of any market targeted to baseball related information. If I were building a site about baseball, I wouldn't hesitate to use myself as the basis for one persona for that site.

seolman
01-31-2009, 12:57 AM
For example I'm a huge baseball fan. I'm probably a part of any market targeted to baseball related information. If I were building a site about baseball, I wouldn't hesitate to use myself as the basis for one persona for that site.

Not if the client is the Red Sox...:D

vangogh
01-31-2009, 01:48 AM
Then I'd be the anti-market.

As we type I'm watching Joe Torre on Larry King.

Jagella
02-01-2009, 12:04 AM
...but many clients fail to take into consideration how their graphics will be used under varying circumstances.

I believe the term is “usability.” Scale is a very important factor in the usability of graphics like logos. You mentioned large scales on large banners and billboards. The ideal is for a logo to work well at very tiny scales as well as very large scales. Images and illustrations with a lot of detail don't usually work at very small scales because the detail may be lost. Keep it simple.


Can this be embroidered on a baseball cap or piece of luggage as a giveaway?...Can this be stamped on to leather and still be recognizable?

How would we solve this problem? If we're designing a logo, I think it's best to use flat colors. Shadows, gradients, and other effects may not be well suited for cloth or leather surfaces.


We often put our customers through a battery of questions to be sure their graphics fit all possible marketing scenarios.

That's a great idea. Do you use a standard questionnaire, or do you ask different clients different questions depending on their unique circumstances?

Jagella

Jagella
02-01-2009, 12:13 AM
I think it's ok to use yourself as a persona if you are part of your target market. If you're not then you'd be better off finding someone who is.

As you know, Steve, I really like this forum, but sometimes I think there's too many graphic and web designers in it. Dialogging with other designers is great to get good advice and share knowledge, but designers aren't in my target market. I have trouble finding the people I really want to reach who happen to be any kind of entrepreneur except designers! Is graphic design a very common kind of small business?

Jagella

rezzy
02-01-2009, 12:43 AM
I think it is. Because the start up costs are low, and as long as you have the know how you will try it on your own.

In somes cases people proclaim they have skill that they truly dont have. But their client was apparently happy. But that is neither here nor there.

Patrysha
02-01-2009, 12:47 AM
You're going to be awfully hardpressed to find the average small business owner (if that is your target market) online and checking out forums though. The vast majority just don't have the time or interest and tend to be more traditional in the way they seek information like this forum has. This is changing with younger entrepeneurs, but they still stick to rather mainstream online sources.

vangogh
02-01-2009, 01:10 AM
Joe I'm not really following the connection to my comment that you quoted and your response to it. Are you saying it's hard to build a persona other than yourself because you mostly encounter other designers here?

Who are the people you want to reach? If they aren't here where might they be? If you're not sure where they might be describe who you see as your market and maybe we can help you figure out where they might spend their time.

When I look around this forum I see lots of different kinds of entrepreneurs. It may be true that there are more designers here than any one group of business owners, but we're still a very small % of the total membership. Most people here are not designers of any kind.

Just H
02-01-2009, 03:13 PM
Great thoughts and responses posted so far. I'd like to add that I find these Top Ten (or 3 or 5, etc) lists are great tools to offer current or prospective clients to help really guide them through a process and see where they need the help of a professional.




10 Most Common Mistakes People Make When Considering Graphic Design (http://www.small-business-forum.net/design-development/952-10-most-common-mistakes-people-make-when-considering-graphic-design.html)


Doing it Themselves
Not Researching the Target Audience
Ignoring Cultural Differences in Geographical Areas the Designs Will be Used
Not Considering Technical Matters
Not Brainstorming
Failing to Ask for Feedback
Ignoring Trends
Failing to Consider the Business Objectives of the Design
Not Making the Design Distinctive
Failing to Set and Adhere to Brand Identity Standards

So for this, I'd try to flip this to the positive to still move the readers to the same place and hopefully take the action to constructively work through all these:


Top Ten Design Questions to Consider for Small Business Marketing


Do I have the level of design skills I want to represent my business?
Have I researched the needs of my target audience? Do I know who my target audience is?
Are there any regional, cultural, age-related or other issues that I need to take into account?
What kinds of technical issues do I need to consider? What kind of printing will these require? What are the requirements for the final product that I need to be aware of before I start?
What's the best brainstorming path to arrive at the best product? What lists can I make to best analyze all the pertinent information for my goal?
Who can I ask for feedback that can be very objective, how will I best not take it personally and use it refine what I have from the responses?
Have I considered the current trends in this field and what does it mean for me?
What is my final goal for this project? How does it apply to the short-term and how will I use it to measure its effectiveness in future marketing strategies?
How will I make my product/service stand out for quality, price, efficiency, convenience, etc?
How will I use this piece to keep my marketing brand continuous, repetitious and up to the market standards in my field of competitors?

vangogh
02-01-2009, 04:48 PM
H, I like rephrasing things to the positive. Joe's list was something we could think about and maybe vent about as designers, but your list gives constructive questions we can ask clients to help gather the information we need and help clients understand more about what we do and why we do it. It also helps us ask questions of ourselves to make us better designers.

Two different lists with different attitudes, both with their purpose. Always good to see both sides of the same question.


1. Have I researched the needs of my target audience? Do I know who my target audience is?

An essential step that's often missed by both clients and designers. Your site is never for you. It's for your visitors.


What is my final goal for this project? How does it apply to the short-term and how will I use it to measure its effectiveness in future marketing strategies?

Similar to the above. Every page on your site should have a goal. If the page has no goal then it probably doesn't need to be on the site. Your entire design should be working to help every page achieve its goal.

Jagella
02-02-2009, 12:00 AM
Joe I'm not really following the connection to my comment that you quoted and your response to it.

Steve, your comment made me think about the need to be careful to reach the intended target market. I believe that I'm not reaching the people I wish I could reach.


Are you saying it's hard to build a persona other than yourself because you mostly encounter other designers here?

I'm not sure what you mean by “build a persona other than (myself).”


Who are the people you want to reach?

My target market consists of budding entrepreneurs who can identify with and work with other budding entrepreneurs such as myself. They're small business people who want to take a fresh approach to their business ventures and who are interested in design work that reflects that adventuresome approach. I tend to be an independent thinker, and I believe that I can discover some new approaches to design that other people may not have thought of.


If they aren't here where might they be?

That's the 64K question Steve. I was thinking about subscribing the Entrepreneur Magazine to get more information about entrepreneurs. That way I can get a better idea of who they are, what they want, and how to convince them that I'm the guy to give it to them.


When I look around this forum I see lots of different kinds of entrepreneurs. It may be true that there are more designers here than any one group of business owners, but we're still a very small % of the total membership. Most people here are not designers of any kind.

Well, recently I did get into an argument with a tax attorney here. :DSeriously, I guess since I hang out in the design and marketing subsections, that's why I meet a lot of designers. It's good for advice but not the best way to meet my prospects.

And more advice from a designer would be appreciated.

Jagella

Jagella
02-02-2009, 12:02 AM
You're going to be awfully hardpressed to find the average small business owner (if that is your target market) online and checking out forums though. The vast majority just don't have the time or interest and tend to be more traditional in the way they seek information like this forum has. This is changing with younger entrepeneurs, but they still stick to rather mainstream online sources.

That's interesting. What kind of “traditional” means of online information do they normally make use of?

Jagella

Jagella
02-02-2009, 12:07 AM
So for this, I'd try to flip this to the positive to still move the readers to the same place and hopefully take the action to constructively work through all these:

Thanks for the alternate perspective. I should come up with answers so they know I'm competent

Jagella

vangogh
02-02-2009, 02:00 AM
Joe I think some of the confusion we're passing back and forth revolves around the word persona. I'm thinking you're not familiar with the concept, but if you are I apologize in advance for explaining what they are.

The idea behind a persona is you create a fictional character based on demographic data you've collected about your customers and clients. Say you know that 30% of your customers are professional women between the ages of 35 and 50. Maybe those women are single as well.

So you create a character names Mary that matches the demographics and describe how she'll use your site and what kind of tasks she wants to accomplish while there. The idea is that by putting a real (or fictional) face on your demographics you can better develop a site for different groups of people defined by your demographic research.

I think the way you're describing your market is too general, which is causing the problems in figuring out how to reach them. I know there are specifics in your description, but it doesn't really define a market.

What kind of businesses will they be running? What kind of industry will they be in? How old are they? What will their graphic needs be?

Jagella
02-02-2009, 11:58 PM
Joe I think some of the confusion we're passing back and forth revolves around the word persona. I'm thinking you're not familiar with the concept, but if you are I apologize in advance for explaining what they are.

No need to apologize. The most insulting explanation is the one you don't post. :D


The idea behind a persona is you create a fictional character based on demographic data you've collected about your customers and clients. Say you know that 30% of your customers are professional women between the ages of 35 and 50. Maybe those women are single as well.

So you create a character names Mary that matches the demographics and describe how she'll use your site and what kind of tasks she wants to accomplish while there. The idea is that by putting a real (or fictional) face on your demographics you can better develop a site for different groups of people defined by your demographic research.

OK, this concept is new to me, and it sounds like a good idea. I may be able to improve on this technique by finding a real “Mary.” That way I can ask her questions, get a good idea about what her business needs are, and maybe get some real business from her.


What kind of businesses will they be running? What kind of industry will they be in? How old are they? What will their graphic needs be?

I'd say small sole-proprietor businesses with 0 to 5 employees. It could be any kind of business that needs graphic-design services like logos, business cards, ads, and maybe simple websites. These companies would be very new; maybe having been in operation a year or less. Finally, these businesses are unorthodox in some ways marketing products that seem unconventional or even weird (think Spencer's (http://www.spencersonline.com/?gclid=CNnFsey5v5gCFRKIxwodBHWzcQ)).

So that's what I'm aiming at, Steve. Your advice as always is greatly appreciated.

Jagella

vangogh
02-03-2009, 02:22 AM
Now you're describing your market with a little more detail. We know:

0-5 employees
unorthodox
year or less in operation

However "any kind of business that needs graphic-design services" is still on the vague side. See if you can refine that a little.

Some more questions:

Why 0-5 employees and why a year or less in business? Is there something that makes that kind of business special to you? Do you think you'd work better with a small and new business? Do you think your skills match up better with business just getting started. Also as a follow up to each of the above, why do you think that?

By the way small and in business a short amount of time does describe many people who flow through this forum.

Unorthodox in what way?

Jagella
02-10-2009, 12:17 AM
Hi Steve:

I took a little hiatus. May we resume the discussion?


However "any kind of business that needs graphic-design services" is still on the vague side. See if you can refine that a little.

What I'm saying is that I'll do graphics work for almost any business that wants it. I have a target market in mind, but I won't restrict myself to it.


Why 0-5 employees and why a year or less in business? Is there something that makes that kind of business special to you?

Very small, new businesses can often use a lot of help in a lot of ways and may have little capital. I'm hoping to run a friendly, empathetic design service that such businesses can feel comfortable with.


Do you think your skills match up better with business just getting started.

Generally, I'd say that yes, my skills may be better suited to small, start-up businesses. I think it's safe to assume that larger, well established businesses may look to better established advertising and design services than what I offer.


Also as a follow up to each of the above, why do you think that?

At this point it's just a hunch based on the needs of the clients I've already served. I think there may be some camaraderie among businesses that are similar to each other.


Unorthodox in what way?

I'd say that the businesses I may target are a bit iconoclastic. They may not show much respect for institutions and may be a bit irreverent regarding religion and tradition. I've thought that I might create comics for National Lampoon or a similar magazine, for instance.

Jagella

vangogh
02-10-2009, 11:12 AM
I'll do graphics work for almost any business that wants it. I have a target market in mind, but I won't restrict myself to it.

It's not about restricting yourself, but rather doing what you can to appeal to a smaller group. There's no way you or anyone can please everyone out there. The idea of having a target market isn't to limit who becomes your client. By focusing on a smaller group you can stand out to them and be more likely to have that group become paying clients.


I'd say that the businesses I may target are a bit iconoclastic.

So where would these people be? What do they want in a graphic designer? How can you convince them you're the designer they're looking for?

Jagella
02-10-2009, 03:45 PM
So where would these people be? What do they want in a graphic designer?

Well, one place to start looking might be the 2008 Artist's and Graphic Designer's Market. It includes contact information for magazines, book publishers, greeting card companies, advertising agencies, stock illustration and clip art firms, and more. National Lampoon is listed on page 197.

What might they be looking for in a designer or illustrator? I'd need to contact them, of course, but aside from making use of books, I might try the social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace. I have accounts at both sites.


How can you convince them you're the designer they're looking for?

A portfolio geared toward their culture might be a good start. I also try to put a premium on good customer service and show off my knowledge.

Here's a sample (http://freeforalldesigns.com/little-miss-meany.pdf) that might appeal to such a market.

Jagella

Just H
02-10-2009, 04:22 PM
Wow, Joe that's really good! I would think there's a definite market that wants the hand-drawn approach and likes this style. It will be much better for some types of products than others and if you can narrow down which industries do best by representing themselves with this style, it seems you could start to develop a niche market.

I don't know much about the comic books in general but I know many different kinds of marketing are employing it. What first comes to mind are the E-surance commercials but I also think of marketing for local bands and that scene. I would think you'd be good at creating posters also - for instance, offering a 2 for 1 deal for local school events or daycare centers or music stores?? Just trying find some options for a good fit with what you like to do and are good at. You seem like you're starting to narrow down and get more focused on your target audience - that's great!

Jagella
02-10-2009, 11:55 PM
Wow, Joe that's really good!

Thanks. I'm making progress. I've gone from “that's a complete piece of trash” to “that's really good!” Hard work does pay off.


...it seems you could start to develop a niche market.

I tend to see myself as kind of an oddball. I suppose that's not bad if I can find people who may appreciate it.


You seem like you're starting to narrow down and get more focused on your target audience - that's great!

Until recently, I haven't worked much on marketing. I'm busy learning my trade. As you say, though, I'll need to work on defining my market and then reaching it.

Thanks a lot for the response.

Jagella

vangogh
02-11-2009, 12:25 PM
2008 Artist's and Graphic Designer's Market. It includes contact information for magazines, book publishers, greeting card companies, advertising agencies, stock illustration and clip art firms, and more. National Lampoon is listed on page 197

Except none of those mentioned are really your target market as you've been describing. These aren't new small businesses that are unorthodox. The businesses listed in the book are likely the opposite.

If you say you'll work better with unorthodox small businesses and you're services are tailored to those kind of businesses why approach a different group of business owners?

By the way the PDF looks good.

Just H
02-11-2009, 01:02 PM
Yeah, I agree that you still seem a bit unclear on which group would best benefit and appreciate your style and services. The niche market I mentioned could very well be that "oddball" group you responded with . . . and that still needs more definition.

For instance, my design is more clean lines and tends toward the classic style. I've gotten quite a bit of work in the real estate field and had some other areas where I was doing fix and flips and doing some reporting work for a mortgage broker - so this wasn't like I just said I'm going to focus on real estate but used what knowledge and previous experience I had. I don't do solely real estate but at this point, I've got a decent portfolio to show in that area and can target agents for marketing their properties.

Jagella
02-13-2009, 12:16 AM
Except none of those mentioned are really your target market as you've been describing. These aren't new small businesses that are unorthodox. The businesses listed in the book are likely the opposite.

I understand, but I may try them anyway. I might need to redefine my target audience and likely will redefine it.


If you say you'll work better with unorthodox small businesses and you're services are tailored to those kind of businesses why approach a different group of business owners?

I suppose for the same reason that Chevy may occasionally try to entice an upscale customer who normally buys a Mercedes.


By the way the PDF looks good.

I'll try to send it to National Lampoon. Wouldn't it be great if I could land a comic-strip contract with them?

Jagella

vangogh
02-13-2009, 12:19 PM
Nothing wrong with refining or even redefining your market. No reason you can't contact the people in the handbook either. Just remember that if you've tailored your business to attract one type of person it's going to be harder to land clients among other groups of people.


I suppose for the same reason that Chevy may occasionally try to entice an upscale customer who normally buys a Mercedes.

There's a big difference between Chevy and where you currently are in business. Chevy has a market they've been selling to for years. If they go after another market it's so they can expand their customer base. The car they intend to sell to the Mercedes buyer has been designed to appeal to that person.

In your case you still don't have that initial customer base. Your goal isn't to expand, but to build that base. Once you have a steady clientele then you can expand into new markets. You have to be in the one market first before you can expand though.

You've been saying in this thread you think you'll appeal more to people off the beaten path, people that are a bit on the different side or at least like others who might be classified as odd. Great. That's a market. Go after it. But don't go looking for new markets until you've tried the one you think most aligned with your services.

Jagella
02-14-2009, 12:05 PM
Yeah, I agree that you still seem a bit unclear on which group would best benefit and appreciate your style and services. The niche market I mentioned could very well be that "oddball" group you responded with . . . and that still needs more definition.

Hi “H”:

You're right. My marketing needs a lot of work. So far I've done most of my work honing my craft because I feel it makes sense to get my skills in place before I spend a lot of time and effort marketing them. I'm busy with my formal schooling and learning Flash. My plan is to graduate in June and launch a marketing program soon after. I want to make my business profitable by the end of 2009. That's a topic for the planning section, though.

Thanks for the advice.

Jagella

vangogh
02-14-2009, 12:15 PM
I feel it makes sense to get my skills in place before I spend a lot of time and effort marketing them.

Joe you can do both at the same time. Your skills will never really be in place, because there will always be something new to learn. There's no reason why you can't be marketing yourself now in preparation for June too. Marketing won't happen overnight.