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DESIGN DESIGN TIPS TIPS FOR SMALL BUSINESSES

The Categories of Logos

Why Talk About the Categories of Logos?

I love to design logos. As a graphic designer, nothing is more satisfying than learning so much about a client’s business that you’re able to create a trademark that represents it clearly. And when a client is excited to use their logo on every facet of their business you know you’ve done your job well. Being able to deliver the right logo for every situation takes knowledge and skill. Knowing the categories of logos and their applications is a key part of the creative process in logo design.

Everyone has their own ideas surrounding what a logo is and what it should be. But, not many people know about the different categories of logos and how best to apply them. In this post, I explore the categories of logos. I also discuss a few new trends in logo design and what they entail. For my examples, I will be using graphics of my dog-nephew, Finnegan, to illustrate the differences between the types and categories of logos. Isn’t he cute?!

Finnegan the Fox Terrier picture and mascot logo. An example of one of the categories of logos.
Finnegan the Fox Terrier and mascot logo example.

First, What Is a Logo?

A logo (or logotype) is simply a graphic mark that identifies a company’s products or services to the public. It is the trademark under which a company does business. A good logo is unique, concise, memorable, and functional. There are many ways to categorize logos; but, for this blog, I will attempt to break logos down into two main categories with distinctive subcategories.

It is also important to note that a logo represents a brand but is not the brand itself. If you compare a brand to a country the logo is its flag. But a brand is much more than the sum of its tangible and intangible parts. And that is a topic for another blog post.

Two Basic Categories of Logos

A logo can fall into one of two categories by its primary elements: typography-based and pictorial-based. A typography-based logo is any logo that relies on unique letterforms and words to create a unique identifier. A pictorial-based logo uses an illustration, symbol, or stylized picture as its uniquely defining feature. Pictorial-based logos may also include type, but typography-based logos do not include pictures.

Typography-based Logos

There are wordmarks and lettermarks. You can probably guess what the major difference is by the name, but let’s dig a little deeper.

Wordmarks

Wordmark logo and example of one of the categories of logos.

A wordmark is a logo that spells out the name of the company. They can be one word, a combination of words, and even made-up words. A wordmark looks simple at first glance. However, the design of a good wordmark is deliberate and considerate. What makes wordmarks logos is the distinct features of their structure. Features such as letterforms and font treatments help to make a wordmark unique. Furthermore, fonts and letterforms have perceived personalities that have a subconscious effect on the viewer. For example, due to font choice in a wordmark, the viewer may perceive a company to have any number of brand attributes such as modern, expensive, friendly and even trustworthy.

Lettermarks

Lettermark logo with FFT which stands for Finnegan the Fox Terrier. An examples of one of the categories of logos.

A lettermark is a logo that uses an abbreviation or initials of the company name to create a unique identifier. Similar to a wordmark, you need to consider the qualities of letterforms and fonts when designing a lettermark. Good lettermarks are just as expressive as any wordmark. Monograms are lettermarks with highly-expressive attributes.

Pictorial-based Logos

Four subcategories of pictorial-based logos are mascot, symbolic, abstract, and emblem. It is important to note that pictorial-based logos are often inseparable from their names. We all wish we could be Nike or Apple; however, most businesses won’t reach the same level of recognizability from their logo without their names visually connected somehow.

Mascot Logos

Mascot Logo Example

A mascot logo uses a character or stylized depiction of a person as a defining element of the logo. You often think about their associated mascot when you think about Wendy’s, KFC, Pringles, Mailchimp, Green Giant, Mr. Clean, and multiple sports teams. They integrate well into a logo with text. However, when seen on their own, they are instantly recognizable as the identifiers of their respective companies.

Symbolic Logos

Symbolic logo with an icon that resembles Finnegan's head as a cartoon in a circle in front of the words Finnegan the Fox Terrier. An example of one of the categories of logos.

A symbolic logo uses a simplified picture or symbol as the defining element of the logo. You can think of these as modern hieroglyphs. They are sometimes used in place of text to represent a company. However, the company usually needs to have a very established brand before this is recognized independently. Therefore, before you can recognize a symbolic logo on its own, you typically have to see it combined with its written name. Great symbolic logo examples include Apple, Dominoes, Twitter, Batman, Green Lantern, and Hootsuite. (Arguably, one of the best logos globally, Apple, is the best example of this. Apple has made its symbolic apple icon synonymous with its company name. As a result, they no longer have to spell out their name for their audience to know who they are.)

Abstract Logos

An abstract logo makes use of an abstract symbol or icon (that doesn’t necessarily have to represent anything in particular). The simpler the abstract symbol, the better it is for recognition. By making the abstract symbol a specific colour, you can create a distinct look and feel based on colour psychology. Big companies like Pepsi, Spotify, Nike, MasterCard, Adidas, CBC, and Mercedes use abstract logos to help define their brand.

Emblem Logos

Emblem Logo Example

An emblem logo combines text and imagery inside another structure like a badge or patch. These are in the pictorial-based category because emblems require shapes and symbols. They attempt to capture the essence of the company in a kind of coat of arms. These types of logos lend themselves nicely to patches, stickers, social media profiles, stamps etc. Universities and colleges use them to represent more than one side of their institutions in a concise logo. Think Starbucks, Warner Brothers, General Electric, UBC, and UPS, for example.

Are There Any Other Categories of Logos?

There are hybrids of each category of logo discussed in this blog. In addition, however, different categories attempt to explain the multi-faceted nature of logo design. These categories are unique in that they describe design systems rather than categories of logos. Furthermore, they are dynamic by nature which makes them responsive, adaptive and variable.

Responsive Logos

Responsive Logo Example with progressively smaller sizes

You can’t discuss responsive logos without discussing responsive web design. When a website serves information to the screen of a handheld device, its content becomes more streamlined. Information and content on the website pare down to only necessary, easy-to-read chunks. By streamlining information in this way, a responsive website is more accessible to consumers across devices. This is the basis of responsive design–a design that changes for the size of the device. As a result, logos are viewed in smaller sizes as well. However, most logos are hard to read at small sizes, so responsive logos are helpful.

Responsive logos are a series of progressively simpler identifiers designed to be viewed at incrementally smaller sizes. They are the logo design answer to responsive web design. If you reduce a logo to its most basic elements in incremental steps, you create a responsive logo. Joe Harrison illustrates this concept on the Responsive Logos website. However, responsive design works best with big brands because they have brand recognition beyond their name.

Adaptive/Variable Logos

Adaptive/Variable Logo Example
An adaptive/variable logo was created to represent the energy and movement of a dog that is always on the go.

Some logos are experiments in design. They may come in a few standard versions but can warp, mould, and crop to fit the format of the medium. Most of these are typography-based, and a surprising number of them are for art galleries. It is this avant-garde approach to logo construction that makes an adaptive logo so experimental. An adaptive/variable logo can also be seen as a design system tailor-made for a tradename that creatively captures the entity’s personality.

A great example of a new variable logo and identity is that of Serif by Pentagram. To see this in action, check out the article on Creative Review.

Another great example by Pentagram is the Tribeca Festival identity refresh. Again, the dynamic way they’ve played with the existing logo and new typography create a visual representation of a gathering of people coming together for a festival.

Another example of an adaptive/variable logo is the logo for the Reykjavík Art Museum by Karlssonwilker. The logo is in 3D as a representation of one museum in three different locations. A change of vantage point provides the name of a site of the art museum.

Final Thoughts

Knowing a bit about each logo category and subcategory can help in developing logo options. While categorizing logos may be slightly subjective it helps to know these categories before starting a logo design. Specific categories of logos communicate different attributes to an audience. For example, mascot logos make brands seem more playful, approachable and personable. On the other hand, mascot logos are less serious. You likely would not want to use a mascot logo for a bank or traditional institution built on professionalism and trust.

For the example of Finnegan the Fox Terrier, I think the mascot logo works best. It is a close representation of Finnegan and makes a personal connection. However, it is fun to break the rules and play with alternative design choices. For example, Finnegan the Fox Terrier could be represented less obviously with an abstract logo. The most critical part of logo design is matching the logo to the brand.

I personally love to create symbolic and abstract logos. The potential for using the icons in future branding endeavours is an added perk. Their uniqueness also adds value to a brand. It is easy to see why these subcategories of logos are so popular.

Matching the category of the logo to the brand is a topic for another blog article. Be sure to check back for updates.

For insights on the importance of logo design as it pertains to your business be sure to check out my blog series What Does Your Logo Say About You?

Do have a business in need of a new logo? Connect with me by email for a consultation or visit cyanbolddesing.com to check out my work.

Categories
Brand Strategy TIPS FOR SMALL BUSINESSES

10 Reasons You Need a Brand Strategy

So you’ve started a business. You have an idea that works, investment capital and a small customer base. You also know you’ll have to get the word out to acquire more regular customers. However, before you start marketing your business, you need to consider who, how and where to market. This is where a brand strategy is critical and why I have developed 10 reasons you need a brand strategy.

Think of your brand strategy as a road map. Let’s say you need to get from point A to point B. If you only have a general direction to get where you are heading, you could end up aimlessly wandering any number of roads to get to point B. Your trip would be costly and time-consuming. A brand strategy, like a map, provides the bigger picture by showing you the most direct routes, possible obstacles and notable detours you might take.

1) Creates Authenticity

Honest and caring brand graphics

This is the first of the 10 reasons you need a brand strategy. A good brand strategy includes your reasons for starting a business and helps you to communicate that to your audience. It puts emphasis on your mission and values at your brand core. It informs your reason for being in business in the first place, which should always be about your unique selling proposition and how you fit into your customers’ lives. Customer loyalty builds when they understand and trust your business. This can only happen when you can communicate authentically and honestly about your business through a complete brand strategy. Authenticity starts with being truthful about your purpose with your customers.

2) Defines Your Target Audience

Audience of people interested in your brand.

A brand strategy involves research in defining where your business can carve out a niche. This niche should be an audience that would get the most benefit from your business. They are the customers that you want to speak to the most–your ideal target audience. You can’t expect your target audience to understand your business without a fleshed-out brand.

However, once you have a working brand strategy you’ll be able to find those customers that talk about your brand with others. This audience helps to spread the word about your awesome brand defining expectations and sharing experiences. Without knowing who could benefit the most from engaging with your brand it will take considerable time and money to build that audience of loyal fans.

3) Develops Tone and Manner in Messaging

Brand tone and manner graphics for genuine, informative, aspirational and direct

Your brand messaging should follow a unique set of guidelines to create a consistent personality and style. This becomes a differentiating factor when compared to competitors. Even how you use symbols, emojis, and slang can be incorporated into brand messaging. If your customers identify with the tone and manner, you communicate they will be more likely to engage with you. Conversely, if your messaging is inconsistent, it will appear disingenuous and off-putting. A proper brand strategy will account for your brand’s tone and manner in all communications.

4) Helps Define Priorities

prioritizing list organization graphic

We all have strengths and weaknesses; however, that should not limit what we can do with our businesses. Instead, a good brand strategy lays out what should be done to successfully communicate your brand. Whether or not you are good at one thing or another should not dictate whether or not it gets done. Instead, your brand strategy should help you define your priorities, whether you can do them yourself or need to hire someone to do them for you.

Furthermore, a brand strategy will help clarify where you should concentrate your efforts to avoid wasting time communicating with the wrong audience.

5) Guides Visual Consistency

"Brand." typed out over and over again with one "Brand." in a different colour

Most first impressions are made by look and feel. This is why the visual voice of a brand is just as important as the brand messaging. When a brand’s visuals are cohesive and consistent, it provides comfort and trust for the viewer. Once viewers expect something to look a certain way, they usually have the opposite reaction when it isn’t as expected. The brand strategy helps to guide your brand’s visual representation consistently. The brand strategy informs the brand identity document. I believe you should always consider one as a part of the other, so I usually include a brand identity document with any brand strategy I help develop.

With a good brand identity you can create visuals and messaging that is on point and identify the places where your brand in not being represented correctly. However, you can’t develop the brand identity with a solid brand strategy in place.

6) Informs Media Usage

Graphic of a "Brand." on a mobile device and in newsprint.

Your business might be product-based or service-based. Your business might be targeting tech-savvy adults or experienced seniors. It might be local, national or international. Defining these things in your brand strategy informs your media mix for communications. For example, you wouldn’t market to seniors using a new social media platform, nor would you market to people in a national newspaper if you only served your local community. But beyond these examples, you want to know which media will see the most return on investment (ROI), which is informed by the target audiences defined in your brand strategy.

7) Helps to Inform Decisions

Different possibilities for a brand where one choice is obviously correct and the other is not.

Your business will undoubtedly confront difficult decisions. Some decisions may test your brand’s values, personality and style. Only by remaining true to your brand personality will you be able to make informed decisions that stay true to your brand. By having the guidelines laid out in a brand strategy, you are better equipped to respond to crises and make the best decisions for your brand.

8) Goal Setting

Brand reaching for the stars.

A brand strategy is all about setting the stage for action towards a greater goal. For example, if your goal is to go from a local company to a global company in 5 years, your brand strategy should provide insights on how to get there. In addition, it should provide key achievement milestones along the way. It is important to note that a brand strategy is not the same as marketing; it explains and sets the goals but doesn’t provide the incremental tactics in achieving them. A brand strategy informs a marketing strategy, but it does not replace one. A marketing strategy is filled with tactics and time-bound activities to achieve specific goals within a brand strategy. Tactics may be altered or changed over time, but their end goals shouldn’t.

9) Removes Personal Preferences

There's no "i" in Brand.

A brand strategy provides the parameters through which you interact with your customers. It understands the needs and interests of your target audience in a way that makes a lasting connection. You may have strong personal ideas on how to foster a relationship with your audience. Have these ideas properly set into a brand persona and make sure they are pragmatic to your brand goals. By doing this, others can objectively understand how your brand should interact with its audience.

Furthermore, it removes the tendency to react and make decisions based on personal preferences. After all, you may be the brains behind your business, but you are not your business. Remaining objective and basing decisions on the needs and interests of your target audience makes things less about you and more about them. By making this clear distinction, your business becomes less about you and more about your customers.

For another perspective on objectivity versus personal preferences regarding other aspects of branding, check out “Website Objectives vs. Personal Preferences” by Karen Jensen at bopdesign.com.

10) Helps in Succession Planning

Splitting up the Brand amongst shareholders or partners in succession planning.

The last reason of 10 reasons you need a brand strategy is succession planning. Everyone needs to have a contingency plan in case they become unable to continue their business. Further to this, you should have a plan for your business when you hope to retire. Who will carry on this legacy? What will the company look like in the future? A brand strategy helps to maintain focus and provide direction as the business moves on without you. It may sound bleak; however, we all need to know when to move on and just how to formally retire.

What’s Comes Next After Creating a Brand Strategy

Let’s take another look at the analogy from the beginning of my blog. If the brand strategy is the map, marketing is the mode of transportation. Whether you walk, swim, bike, drive or fly to get closer to your goal, you’ll need to use a map to make sure you are getting there efficiently. So you should try to have a brand strategy before any marketing takes place. Or you could spend more time than necessary getting to your destination.

Let your brand strategy be your guide in creating a marketing strategy and developing effective tactics.

There are more than 10 reasons you need a brand strategy. However, these were my top 10. Still not convinced? Check out my blog on how to personalize your brand for the customers you want.

Do you need help with a brand identity project? Reach out by email to schedule a consultation or visit cyanbolddesign.com for more information.

Categories
DESIGN GOOD DESIGN NEWS

Design Day for GOOD

A Day of Graphic Design Volunteerism

Design Day for GOOD is a collaborative initiative composed of volunteers, designers, communicators, marketers, and design thinkers led by Cyan Bold Design and hosted by Staples Studio Kelowna in partnership with the Graphic Designers of Canada (GDC) BC Chapter. It is a day of graphic design volunteerism that draws from the GDC SKN Design Day concept. It follows the same premise – design as many meaningful assets as possible for local nonprofit organizations to help further their causes and boost their visual voice in one day. The overall goal is to use visuals, content and design thinking to build up our community. Furthermore, I believe design can be used as a force for positive change and should be free in certain circumstances. For more on my viewpoint on pro bono work, check out my blog – The Importance of Using Design for GOOD.

Design Day for GOOD and the COVID-19 Hurdle

Bringing this event to Kelowna was no easy feat during a pandemic, but it has been successfully arranged twice. However, when the COVID-19 pandemic first hit, we were forced to postpone indefinitely. Thankfully, Staples Studio Kelowna quickly responded with the most up-to-date workplace safety measures for us to follow. We adapted to a distanced model incorporating remote work options with adjustments to the original event format. We worked together seamlessly with a Slack channel, Zoom, smartboard, Spotlight (event space), workstations, and a reliable WiFi network. Being provided nourishment, beverages, and surprises were the icing on the cake. We owe a tremendous amount of gratitude to the generosity of Staples Studio as a community partner on this event.

Moreover, no co-working space would be complete without an engaging and encouraging Community Manager. Matt Stewart, Community Manager of Staples Studio Kelowna, has been a rock of support during these uncertain times. He was the technician, cleaner, waiter, community connector, public speaker, showrunner, troubleshooter, and problem-solver for each event. Since day one, he was on board with this initiative, and I couldn’t think of a better representative for Staples Studio Kelowna. Thank you, Matt and Staples Studio, for being the hosts with the most!

Show Me the Content from Design Day for GOOD!

So much great work has been done over the years for this initiative. Below is a list of gracious volunteers that lent their expertise, talents and design solutions to local nonprofit organizations. Superstar teams became dedicated design agencies for a day. As a result of their collective talents, experiences, and skills, they were able accomplish a shortlist of tasks for nonprofit organizations in need.

EXECUTIVE ORGANIZER
Chris Bingham, CGD
(Me/Cyan Bold Design)

COMMUNITY MANAGER
Matt Stewart

VOLUNTEER 2020
Christine White

TEAM ETCETERA 2020

Avril Paice – Etcetera Representative
Tory Braun (Clever Girl) – Team Lead
Phred Martin, CGD (Splash Design) – Design
Alex Hennig (Clear Design) – Design
Liz Govier (Liz Go) – Web Design & Social Media
Amy Gopal – Communications/Marketing

Etcetera design assets featuring gradient colour schemes and shapes of the design system, rack card, buttons, shirt, and social media posts examples.

Team Etcetera was tasked with boosting community awareness of Etcetera 2SLGBTQIA+ Youth Group and generating financial support for the program through encouraging community donations. In addition, they were encouraged to think about ways they might be able to engage the participants (who endearingly call themselves the Glitter Critters) in the design process and give them something they could own as well.

As a result, the digital assets that were delivered far exceeded expectations. In addition, team Etcetera developed a unique design system for social media posts and further asset development. They created designs for logo variations, rack cards, shirts, social media posts, and more.

TEAM PLAN OKANAGAN 2020

Denise Martell – PLAN Okanagan Representative
Chris Bingham, CGD (Me/Cyan Bold Design) – Team Lead
Laura Bonin (Work BC) – Communications/Marketing
Eryca Stirling (Eryca Stirling Designs) – Design
Sarah Tucker, CGD (Graphically Hip) – Design
Vanessa Devine (Vanessa the Hobbyist) – Research & Design

PLAN Okanagan design assets featuring mockups of buttons and stickers, shirt, table cloth, banner, tote, coffee cups, reusable cups with straws, and presentation deck

Team PLAN Okanagan was tasked with amplifying PLAN Okanagan’s visual voice within the community amongst their participants and supporters. In addition, PLAN Okanagan also required new approaches to soliciting donors in the community and encouraging community involvement. Therefore, it is imperative to consider PLAN Okanagan’s network of participants and their needs when developing materials and assets.

As a result, the digital assets, strategies, and mock-ups that were delivered surpassed the task goals. Team PLAN Okanagan was very inventive and productive in producing designs. Moreover, there were so many options for PLAN Okanagan to choose from, and not everything is posted here. The final result is a collection of assets including retractable banners, table covers, a presentation deck, a letter of asking, shirts, buttons, stickers, wheelchair bags, totes, reusable cups, pop-sockets, and more.

TEAM PROJECT LITERACY 2021

Paul Zuurbier – Project Literacy Representative
Amy GopalTeam Lead
Liz Govier (Liz Go) – UX Design/Design Lead
Phred Martin, CGD (Splash Design) – Graphic Design
Jordan Simon
– Copywriting

Team Project Literacy was tasked with creating a design system for their One-to-One online programs that helped to distinguish them from other programs.

In addition to achieving their task, this team created an alternative logo for Project Literacy that modernizes the organization. They also created a mock-up of an interface for One-to-One programming using the newly created assets. Evidently, the result is a fresh and friendly collection of graphics that are enticing and easy to read.

TEAM NOW CANADA SOCIETY 2021

Brittani Stober – Now Canada Society Representative
Laura Bonin (Work BC) – Team Lead
Tory Braun (Clever Girl) – Copywriting/Content Creation
Alex Hennig
(Clear Design) – Design
Carrie Mayhew (Ginger Creative) – Design

Now Canada Society approached us for new brochures and rack cards they could use to get their message out to those who need it most. Again, their team presented designs that went above and beyond expectations–a new logo, a streamlined design system, and print files.

As a result of Design Day for GOOD, Now Canada Society has amped up its collateral and created more pieces with consistency and confidence thanks to their new design assets.

TEAM SOUTH OKANAGAN SIMILKAMEEN VOLUNTEER CENTRE 2021

Wendy Weisner – SOS Volunteer Centre Representative
Diana Bartel (GDC Okanagan) – Design Lead/Team Lead
Sean Shepherd (Nucleus Strategies) – Marketing Lead/ Copywriting
Vanessa Devine – Graphic Design/UX Design

SOS Volunteer Centre required new assets for their website and creative ideas for reaching out to their past volunteers to get them excited to return. The pandemic had far-reaching effects on volunteerism, and SOS Volunteer Centre required some support.

In addition to developing new assets, the team produced a multi-faceted approach to getting volunteers with impressive graphics (print and online), actionable ideas and thoughtful content. As a result, SOS Volunteer Centre was provided with executable plan that was over and above what was expected.

Congratulations to everyone involved in making Design Day for GOOD such a success!

Categories
DESIGN TUTORIALS EXPERIMENTS IN DESIGN

How to Create Abstract Colour Blobs

INTRODUCTION: Why even create abstract colour blobs?

When I started my career in graphic design there were a lot of Photoshop tools that I thought I’d never touch. If it didn’t clone, stitch, fill, recolour, warp, stretch, squish, enlarge, shrink, mask, sharpen, blur, merge, or patch I didn’t really see the purpose. However, I knew there were countless ways to design a new aesthetic. Abstract colour blobs were just one more design element to add to a designer’s repertoire. In this post, I explore the easiest way to create abstract colour blobs and take a look at a brush tool that is often overlooked–the Mixer Brush tool.

Getting to know the Mixer Brush tool

For anyone thinking the standard Brush tool is the only way of painting digitally…meet the Mixer Brush tool. Capable of sampling more than one colour at a time this tool is the answer to “What would a professional painting simulation program look like?”. It also simulates real paint mixing and wetness. Needless to say, there is a multitude of settings to explore here. I would encourage anyone who wants to create digital paintings to do a deep dive into the various settings when creating their next masterpiece. In fact, you can discover more about painting with the Mixer Brush in Adobe Photoshop here. However, for this tutorial, we are just concerned about using the Mixer Brush tool with the following settings.

Brush settings to create abstract colour blobs.
Set your Mixer Brush tool to Hard Round Brush Tip Shape with a Dry, Heavy Load set at Wet 0%, Load 100%, Flow 100%, Smoothing 100%, and Spacing at 1%.

These settings will simulate a steady flow of thick paint. When a gradient or mixture of colours is sampled with this brush setting it will create a unique colour combination. This colour combination will then brush in the same orientation but change depending on the direction of your stroke. Try going in any variety of directions for different coloured strokes using the same colour sample.

Example of mixer brush being used in lines going in different directions following a complex path creating abstract colour blobs.
Straight lines were created using the shift key and clicking around the canvas.

TUTORIAL: Now let’s create those blobs!

STEP ONE: Load your brush.

Find or create a nice gradient or mix of colours and sample it using the Mixer Brush tool (using the settings above).

sampling colours with the mixer brush tool
Alt + click to sample using the brush tool.

STEP TWO: Paint

Using the Mixer Brush “paint” a few curvy lines on different layers.

creating curvy lines with the mixer brush tool
Curvy lines using the sampled gradient.

STEP THREE: Add depth

Drop shadows can add depth to 2D shapes.
You can create drop shadows in one of two different ways. The first way is by using the drop shadow function in the Blending Options window. Second, you can create the abstract colour blobs shadows using the outline of their shapes. Below shows the latter.

creating dropshadow blocks

To create drop shadow blocks, Command + click on the image in the layer you wish to make a drop shadow for. This makes a pixel selection. Create a new layer and fill in the selection with a dark colour. Deselect the layer and offset that layer from the original multi-coloured line layer. Apply a Gaussian Blur to the drop shadow block of dark colour and change the Opacity of the layer to 50% or lower and the transparency to Multiply.

Blurred dropshadows with multiplied transparency help create abstract colour blobs with depth.
Drop shadow blocks with a blur and multiply setting.

BONUS STEPS

Use the Liquify filter to make the brush strokes more blob-like before adding drop shadows. Make the brush tip large when working in the filter panel and click and drag very slowly and slightly to get subtle deviations and smooth blobs.

Liquified lines create abstract colour blobs.

Layering your drop shadows to make the depth more realistic. When objects are layered on top of each other in 3D space their shadows are cast differently according to their distance from each other. To create this illusion easily and quickly, we need to apply layers of shadows and remove the objects from each drop shadow layer according to their position in space. The closer the top object is to the object below the smaller the offset from the object casting the shadow.

If you liked this tutorial check out my tutorial on “Creating Seamless Pattern Brushes in Illustrator for Just About Anything” here.

dropshadow block
dropshadow for close objects
blurred and transparent dropshadows
layered dropshadows
text and blobs with multiple dropshadow layers
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Categories
DESIGN TIPS

Add Value to Your Logo Design Process by Creating Options

There are a few schools of thought when it comes to providing logo options to a client as a part of the design process. Some people would argue that providing options makes the design process confusing and leaves your client doubting your expertise–after all, you’re the expert, and your client is looking to you for guidance. Others would say, that by creating a few carefully crafted options, you are showing your creative chops while illustrating how well you’ve listened to their ideas. I’m in the latter school of thought when it comes to logo design. I believe you add value to your logo design process by creating options…with a few important caveats.

1) Not every stage of your logo design process requires options.

By providing options in the early stages of the design process you are involving your client in the decision-making process and gleaning more ideas about their preferences. Your creative brief might not contain all the details about a client’s preferences.

Rebellious Unicorns Production Company Inc. FINAL logo versions

However, once an option has been selected there is no real point in presenting more options unless you’re simply making adjustments to your client’s selection for refinement. Presenting more options at this point might frustrate and confuse your client.

2) Make sure your logo options match the creative brief.

Creative Brief
PLAN Okanagan Logo options
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Creative Brief
PLAN Okanagan Logo options
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Nothing is worse than having to explain why none of your designs incorporate the client’s set of must-sees. If you can’t back up your creative solutions based on previously agreed-upon terms, be prepared for rejection.

However, when each option follows the creative brief and represents a snapshot of possible options, you’re showing that you have considered a multitude of viable solutions. When your client has this concise set of options to choose from they feel included and heard. It is also important to note that a client’s preferences should be closely linked to their audience’s preferences. In order to do this, you will have to diplomatically suggest that every preference should be weighed against an actual goal. Then put those preferences and goals into a cohesive creative brief.

You can include a rationale that provides evidence to support your choices following the creative brief and allows your client some time to make a decision.

3) Make sure your logo options are recognizably different from a distance.

Qusic logo options
QUSIC logo options
Qusic final logo
QUSIC final logo

Simple colour tints and shades don’t make too much difference in the early stages of logo design. If a set of options are simply subtle permutations of another option pick your choice of one for presentation. The time for details comes last.

4) Don’t include logo options you don’t like.

This sounds like a very obvious thing to say. It’s easy to mistakenly include options we don’t like when we are trying to show our creative abilities to create options. Put a limit on the number of options you will present and stick with it. If an option is not working out ditch it.

You should only present the logo options you would be proud to use yourself. A project you like is great for your portfolio. A project you don’t like will only haunt you.

NOTE: There is no image for this section. I do my best to delete the option that I don’t like and erase it from my memory. Why would I hang onto my worst work? A question for another post perhaps.

5) Try to leave colour out of it.

Leave colour OUT of it!
Colour and Black & White Logo options
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Leave colour OUT of it!
Colour and Black & White Logo options
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Logo options should be in black and white in the concept phase unless expressly requested otherwise. A good logo should stand out without including pops of colour. By removing colour you are forcing your client to assess the options based on form and function alone. Colours can be polarizing and everyone has their preferences. I’ve seen some great designs overlooked because the client didn’t like the colour.

If you are going to have colour in the early stages try to show what the logo would look like in black and white as well. There will almost always be a time when a single colour black or white logo can be used.

6) Don’t turn your logo options into a pick your combo lunch special.

This tip is difficult to get some clients to comprehend. When we are given too many options, and we don’t see something we like, we often try to create a new option. There is a desire to take different elements from various options and mash them together. The conversation then becomes similar to a combo lunch special where you choose a drink, a main, and a side dish–the possibilities are endless. The result is the soul-crushing Franken-logo that often leaves someone displeased with the outcome. Especially if you devote your time to creating the logo abomination only to get the same unsatisfied response from the client and you start the process over again.

Too many competing options on a page

To avoid this you need to be confident in what you present. Make sure each option is on a separate page with rank indicators in order according to your favourites. It’s like being the chef that says “no substitutions” and also has a recommendation or special of the day. Try to add a tab at the top of the page that indicates your first choice, and provide a rationale.

TOP CHOICE logo option page.
PLAN Okanagan Second Choice logo
SECOND CHOICE logo option page.

When this approach doesn’t work I still try to keep the Franken-logo away from the villagers. I ask what the client likes and dislikes about each logo option and promise to create a new option that takes those thoughts into consideration.

7) Write a concise rationale.

Not everyone thinks or creates in the same way. If they did the world would be boring. However, it is for this reason that you might want to consider your professional design choices. Evaluate whether they are based on fact rather than your personal preference. A client has the luxury of choosing based on preference and that is a fact. The designer needs to create based on a combination of facts and preferences in order to develop the best-rationalized outcome.

Let me break it down using a couple of examples:
EXAMPLE 1
FACT: Black and white create the highest contrast possible. Colours opposite each other on the colour wheel create the highest contrast colour combos.
PREFERENCE: I like blue.
OUTCOME & RATIONALE: Dark blue on white and Dark blue on bright orange have been used to create the highest possible contrast while using your preference of the colour blue.

EXAMPLE 2
FACT: Bebas Neue Pro is a modern condensed sans serif font family that has been compared to Helvetica, but is more affordable.
PREFERENCE: I want a modern font that’s like Helvetica, but I don’t want Helvetica.
OUTCOME & RATIONALE: Bebas Neue Pro was selected because it is modern and readable like Helvetica, but its uniqueness and affordability make it ideal for your new logo.

By stating things clearly in terms that address both fact and preference you are able to provide a rational and pragmatic reason for your design choices that brings validity to your logo design option.

SO WHY EVEN PROVIDE OPTIONS?!?

In the early stages of the logo design process, you are still getting to know your client and better understand their business. You are also in the process of establishing a business relationship. If your client is going to trust your decisions it is important to include them in the creative process. You are the expert, however, you are going to have to prove it.

Logo options help guide the design process and give insights into the mind of your client. You’ll be able to understand their preferences for future design solutions by the choices they make.

By providing logo options you are showing your dedication to getting the project completed correctly the first time.

Alternatively, by presenting one logo option you are effectively saying that you know everything about your client and there is only one possible solution for them. This is dangerous territory to be in. If you get it wrong your client may think your hubris isn’t worth working with you. You can also expect to have to go through many logo changes and reiterations to make it to the solution. If you get it right kudos, your mindreading skills are on point. JK. This can happen from time to time, however, you can expect to get it wrong more than you get it right.

Finally, these tips are not rigid rules. I try my best to follow them but there are always exceptions. By designing options you add value to your logo design process. The main idea is that options are not a bad thing and by creating options you are giving your creative problem-solving skills a boost while involving your client in the design process.

Are you having designers block when creating options? Check back later to learn about logo categories.

Want some help with your logo designs? Connect with me through my website cyanbolddesign.com.

Categories
DESIGN DESIGN PROJECT

LOVE & ALLY

Great opportunities to truly collaborate don’t come around too often. But when they do, they are extraordinary. The Love & Ally Project is one of those kinds of opportunities.

When I met the You Are Collective for the first time, we knew there were meaningful connections between the LGBTQ2IA+ community, its allies and mental health. Still, it took time to figure out how we could work together to make a positive impact. We knew we wanted to design apparel we would all be proud to wear ourselves. We also knew we wanted to dedicate a portion of proceeds to a cause to better the collective mental health of the LGBTQ2IA+ community. After all, helping create safe spaces and advocating for mental health is a big part of You Are Collective.

The result was a thoughtful collection of T-shirts, stickers, and hats. A portion of the proceeds from this apparel goes towards the local LGBTQ2IA+ and allies youth group. We felt it was essential to support this group, whose primary focus is to create a safe space for individuals to be themselves and support each other.

Love & Ally an LGBTQ2IA+ Design

I love breaking out all the colours of the crayon box for Pride-themed designs. However, this project was about more than trying to be colourful. It was about making apparel that makes a statement. When we break it down, the cornerstone of Pride is equality and acknowledgement that LOVE = LOVE no matter who you are. So I decided to create a graphic that would say that with words, shapes, and colours in its most simplistic forms.

I experimented a lot before reaching a final design. The result was a 3D multi-chromatic heart intertwined within the word LOVE housed within a box. I had always wanted to learn how to do the technique that created the twisting 3D multi-chromatic heart design. Still, I needed a good reason to do it. Fortunately, this technique fits so nicely as an expression of Pride and the spectrum of identities that are part of the LGBT2QIA+ community.

ALLY stickers
LOVE & ALLY t-shirts
ALLY & LOVE hats
ALLY stickers
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LOVE & ALLY t-shirts
ALLY & LOVE hats
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The ALLY design needed to represent allies differently. I wanted to create something that an ally to the LGBT2QIA+ community could wear with pride. Something to include them in the celebration. I often think of an ally as someone standing with you in the rain on the bad days and celebrating with you in the sun on the good days. It is friendship and love in action, providing strength, support, and understanding when we need it most. This is why the word ALLY was set similarly to the LOVE graphic. However, I placed it within a rain of rainbows instead of a heart. It signifies the importance of the strength and support of an ally when the rain starts to fall.

RESULTS

The result is a collection of designs created out of love and respect for the LGBT2QIA+ community and its allies. A collaboration with an exceptional social enterprise donating a portion of proceeds to help support the well-being of LGBT2QIA+ youth, their friends and allies within the community.

For more Pride-related content and design inspiration, be sure to check out my website at cyanbolddesign.com.

Categories
Brand Strategy TIPS FOR SMALL BUSINESSES

Five Steps to Establish Your Brand Online

No brand is complete without a decent online presence. If you want to be easily found by your customers and prospective customers, you’ll need to establish your brand online.

But where should you start?

Paying an expert to help with your online presence is one way to start. There are plenty of credible SEO, web development, and social media experts who can help you attain your goals; however, it isn’t always affordable when you are starting out. Advertising outside of the shop isn’t always in the cards either. So I’ve described five steps to get your start economically that anyone with a little bit of know-how and experience online can do on their own.

You can establish your brand online by following these 5 steps:

  1. Create a website to establish your brand online.
  2. Set up a Business Profile through Google My Business.
  3. Get on social media.
  4. Blog helpful evergreen content.
  5. Establish partnerships with other brands online.

1) Create a website to establish your brand online.

Illustration of a laptop with the components that go into a website being built with a website builder.

Fewer steps are more critical for a business than starting a website. Your website is a 24/7 treasure trove of information about your business and brand. It adds credibility to your brand and gives you a competitive edge over other brands that don’t have a website. Before you even open a shop or start selling to customers, you’ll want to have a URL that is indexed, searchable and full of branded content. Your website is likely the first touchpoint for your customers, so make it count! People often use their mobile devices to search for things before using their own recall for information. If you’re not even on the searchable list, your customers won’t find you.

Website builders

These days you don’t need to know much about web development or web design to start a website. There are plenty of good website builder platforms that take care of backend coding, SEO, security and all that other important stuff that makes your site function. Some of them have free versions as well. Before committing to anything, you might want to check out a few like Wix, Squarespace, WordPress, and Shopify (free trial). Each website builder has its own strengths and merits. It will be up to you to decide which website builder works best for your brand goals. Of course, free versions are never as robust as the paid versions, and you will have less functionality and tools until you upgrade. As well, you likely will not be able to use your own URL until you become a paying subscriber.

Once you have your website up and running, search engines will index your website, and it will become “searchable”. You can improve your “searchability” by having good content and using keywords that your customers would use to describe your brand. Having backlinks and linked pages also enhances your site’s searchability. The greater the number of connections your website has online, the easier it will be to find.

2) Set up a Business Profile through Google My Business

Google is the world’s best-known and most used search engine. It is continually crawling the internet for new URLs and indexing them accordingly. However, to add an extra layer of legitimacy to your online presence, it is best to set up your own Business Profile through Google My Business. It is a free service from Google that allows business owners to add their location, business hours, contact info, images, and valuable attributes that help their customers.

It’s also another way to communicate directly with customers. Which helps make your brand more accessible.

There’s not much more to say about Google My Business that can’t be found on their site. The following link goes to the Candian version.

Google My Business

3) Get on social media.

The most challenging part of social media is getting started. There are so many platforms out there for reaching different audiences that it becomes overwhelming just to pick one. However, social media gives your audience another way of engaging with your brand. It also provides search engines with another way to find your business to establish your brand online.

Social media is a commitment that most businesses neglect. It is essential to select a few social media platforms to join and make an effort to be present on them. Choosing which platforms you want to use is based on where your customers like to spend their time and how your brand is best consumed. The following paragraphs will discuss the most popular social media platforms and their uses.

Sprout Social has an excellent article for demographics and statistics that might help you decide: Social media demographics to inform your brand’s strategy in 2021.

Facebook

Facebook continues to dominate the social media landscape in terms of users. This is probably because of the platform’s versatility in what people share and accomplish through the platform. For example, pictures, articles, videos, music, surveys, quizzes and website links can be shared between connected individuals and the general public.

Youtube

Second to Facebook, Youtube continues to be a popular platform for content creators and vloggers. Youtube offers its users the ability to post long-form video content well over 10+ minutes long. As a result, it has become a wealth of DIY, coaching, entertaining videos and movies. It is also often used as a search engine for finding video content, second even to Google.

You don’t have to be a videographer to be on Youtube, however, good video content takes time, planning and effort to create.

Instagram

Pictures and videos are shared publicly with your followers and individuals that may be interested based on their search habits. Instagram users are still using the platform to share images like a continuous life-documenting photo album and as a video-sharing platform.

Instagram does not allow for link sharing, a curse and a blessing. The idea is to share your own visual content authentically.

Twitter

Twitter started as a platform for in-the-moment quick messages or “tweets”. Tweets are then sent into the Twittersphere for other users to like and “retweet”. Everything on Twitter is intended to be short, digestible nuggets of information. Most companies use it as a broadcasting channel for up-to-the-moment news and updates.

The hashtag was created by Twitter as a way to categorize tweets and follow trends. Hashtags have since been adopted by other major social media platforms. Everything on Twitter is searchable by Google (and other search engines), and anyone on the platform can interact with anyone else on the platform (if they so choose).

LinkedIn

If you make business-to-business sales, need more employees, network for leads or are looking for business partnerships, LinkedIn is the platform for you. In fact, it doesn’t matter what kind of business you have; there is likely a good reason for you to create a professional profile on LinkedIn.

This is where you can talk about business accomplishments, post jobs, talk about charitable work, post valuable articles, learn and discuss important things to your business. If you serve the business community, be here.

Tik Tok

One of the main ideas that makes TikTok so attractive as a social media platform is its digestibility. Nuggets of video fun served up in 15 second to 3 minute time chunks. Most people are using it as a way to express themselves.

TikTok’s algorithm tries to identify viral videos before they become popular. It also personalizes a user’s feed based on what they watch, like and share. As a result, TikTok is better geared towards connecting users with content they might value. This means people tend to experience greater equality of post engagement than on other social media platforms because the content a user is served is not strictly based on who they follow.

Other social media platforms

There are other social media platforms that are worth exploring. For example, a Snapchat or Pinterest account can be fun for customers to explore. We also know there will be new social media platforms to come that no one has experienced yet. The main thing to keep in mind is how your customer will consume your content best and this depends largely on their social media behaviours which may change over time. So don’t be afraid to try new things when it makes the most sense for you.

4) Blog helpful evergreen content.

Laptop with a blog screen on it.

Your blog is an unfiltered look at your brand that also helps make it more “searchable”. It is your opportunity to show your personality without a word count or maximum image size restrictions. Nothing helps a search engine more in establishing your brand online than good content.

Blogs get indexed by search engines and can be shared as links on social media. If people find your blog of value, they may follow you and/or become customers and fans of your brand. Be sure to post long-form and short-form content on your blog regularly for sharing on your social media channels.

Set yourself apart from your competitors by using your unique voice to tell stories and present useful content that is “evergreen”. For example, recipes, DIY, advice, processes, guides, and checklists will always be valuable. They are considered evergreen because they should remain relevant over time. However, current trends, the latest gossip, events, news, fashion and pop culture are all examples of timely content that won’t maintain its relevancy for long.

5) Establish partnerships with other brands online.

Graphic illustrating the partnership between  "Brand." and "Marque." creating "Inspiring results."

Add more legitimacy to your brand through external links to your website, blog and social media channels from other businesses and vice versa. Linking to other brands and having them link to you in return adds legitimacy to your site and increases the likelihood of others finding you in internet searches.

Be sure that the partners you engage with share similar values and make sense for your brand. Good partnerships are mutually beneficial and help to amplify your collective reach and messaging. The results can be something truly inspiring.

Final Thoughts

These 5 ways to establish your brand online are only effective if you follow a good brand strategy and prioritize consistent design.

Most people understand what a brand strategy is but don’t start one. To read more about why you could use a brand strategy check out my blog post – 10 Reasons You Need a Brand Strategy.

There are many more ways to make sure that your brand gets noticed and established within Google rankings and beyond. I’ve simply provided the easiest ones to effectively start your organic rise to the top. Your next steps should involve consistent content creation, good SEO (I recommend working with a specialist for this), and social media participation.

Don’t spread yourself too thin. Scheduling and creating can be time-consuming, so if you plan to do it yourself, be sure to make goals that you are capable of completing. The easier, the better. Consider working with a content creator or social media expert if your day-to-day business takes up a lot of your time.

My final tip is to keep it light and fun. The way you engage your audience should reflect your brand’s best personable qualities. As soon as it becomes a chore to keep up with the brand you’ve built, it will start to show in your interactions. Send out positive vibes, and you will get them in return.

Need help establishing your brand online? Email me to inquire about a business start-up package to help you with the steps I’ve listed in this blog.

Categories
Brand Strategy TIPS FOR SMALL BUSINESSES

Personalize Your Brand for the Customers You Want

Every brand has a relationship with its customers. Great brands make those relationships last. The key to fostering long-lasting relationships with your customers is through a deeper understanding of their motivations to buy from you and engage with your brand. However, there are simple things you can do to make your brand more appealing to prospective customers and your target audience. Those things stem from empathizing with your target audience (customers) to personalize your brand experience for them.

There’s no “you” in brand.

It’s not personal. There’s no “i” in brand either.

Just like there is no “i” in team, a brand is much more than the personal preferences of one individual. Even if your brand comes from the work of one person, it needs to have a life and personality of its own. A brand is more about appealing to your audience than adding your unique flair. Knowing your audience well allows you to objectively cater to their wants and needs and make decisions based on what resonates most with them.

Here are five ways to personalize your brand for the customers you want.

Create Community

Customers want to feel connected to their community

A brand community is made up of customers that have brand experiences and stories to share.

There are social aspects to branding that are often overlooked. Being on social media and creating a blog isn’t enough to foster a connection with your customers. You have to be conscious of how you use your platforms to communicate with your audience. Fostering a social environment for customers to share their experiences with your brand and engage with others can help your brand gain popularity. Using your social media channels and blog to highlight what is remarkable about your brand will make your followers feel like insiders. Giving your audience a reason to care and share will also expand your reach. If your content is valuable, helpful, and something people care about, they are more likely to share it with their followers.

You can create content of value for your audience by tapping into the things they like most about your brand. If you crowdsource opinions, ideas, and thoughts on your brand, you will receive useful qualitative data on improving your brand from the people who are already responding to it. You can also share stories about your brand and encourage others to do the same. If you personalize your brand story to include your customers’ experiences, you’ll form a deeper connection to them.

Above all else, be sure to make your content fun. Most people are tired of seeing advertisements, so if you are strictly using your social media for sales, it’s not likely going to get you very far.

Be Consistent

Customers want consistent brand experiences

An example of a consistent brand experience is as simple as your morning coffee routine. When you purchase from a well-known brand it needs to meet expectations. If it isn’t as expected every time, a customer is not likely to return.

Every customer wants to feel special. Or at least they want to feel like they are getting the same service as everyone else that interacts with your brand. Exceptionally positive experiences equate to positive reviews, which strengthens your brand. A business can tell its audience about its brand value as much as it wants, but it becomes more legitimate with social proof. As soon as your audience tells a consistent brand story, it becomes more convincing.

Consistency also creates reliability. When your customers can rely on your brand to behave according to their expectations, they are more likely to return.

“When we try to please everyone we end up pleasing no one…least of all ourselves.”

Simon Sinek on Twitter

Inversely, if you try to personalize your brand for every single customer, you’ll confuse people and exhaust yourself in the process.

Simplify Processes

Customers want simplicity

Successful companies know this and do it well. From the awareness phase to the point of purchase and every customer touchpoint along the way, your customers expect things to be easy to follow. And let’s not forget the follow-up actions and customer service. Just because your brand has made a monetary transaction with a customer does not mean the relationship is over. One way to stand out from the competition is to personalize your brand’s customer journey in a way that creates a clear path from the point of awareness to the post-transactional relationship. The more straightforward this path is to follow, the more likely a customer will return.

Be HUMAN

Customers want human connection NOT corporate robots.

Automation at the cost of authenticity detracts from a customer’s experience with a brand. Not everything can or should be automated.

Be a human’s human. People connect to people, not robots.

Customers don’t buy from corporate entities and bots. They buy from people. If your brand behaves like an authentically caring person, it is more likely to form a connection with a customer. The reverse is also true. If your brand behaves dishonestly and uncaringly, you won’t keep your customers for long.

Show personality and human qualities like empathy, kindness, and intuition to anticipate the needs of customers before they come up. Solve challenges with creativity and passion to improve your brand. After all, enthusiasm is infectious. Above all, be responsible, bold, and brave. Own your brand mistakes and do your best to set things right.

You can’t personalize your brand with robots. They may come close, but nothing can fully replace human connection on the other end of a conversation.

Be Responsible

Customers want a brand of substance.

“Syrup on shit doesn’t make it a pancake.”

– Aaron Draplin, Things We Say

It’s not enough to have fancy graphics and bright shiny packaging anymore. Having a good diversity and inclusion policy is not enough either. In fact, these things are expected. Customers need to feel good about the brands they invite into their homes. This means they want quality products and services from brands that show social responsibility. Most customers want to know that the products they buy make a difference too. Brands that engage their community, protect the environment or help to affect social change make a great impression.

Be sure to be listening to what your customers expect from your brand with respect to social responsibility. Nothing is more damaging to a brand reputation than a product or service that doesn’t live up to expectations. Especially if a brand isn’t socially responsible. Brands that are all flash no substance usually don’t last long.

Final thoughts

The actual title of this blog should’ve been “You want to personalize your brand for the customers.” You may have an idea about the kind of dream customers you want; however, your current customers are the ones that keep your brand going. But, more importantly, your avid customers and loyal fans really define your brand. By tapping into their needs and wants with respect to your brand, you create a relationship based on positive experiences. The more positive experiences you can deliver to your customers, the more loyal they will be towards your brand.

If you’d like to talk about how to personalize your brand to make it more attractive to your prospective customers, send me an email or visit my site – cyanbolddesign.com.

Check out my blog entry – 10 Reasons You Need a Brand Strategy, for more branding information.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions presented in this blog are my own. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the professionals I have quoted. The included quotes are by professionals that I admire and I encourage you to check out their advice and work online at the links provided.

Categories
TIPS FOR SMALL BUSINESSES

Why You Need an EPS Logo for Your Business

As a business owner, you likely aren’t doing your own graphic design work. Instead, you’ve probably hired someone you trust to create the digital assets you require to make your business look good. No doubt you’re considering a logo too. However, there’s more to creating a logo than just designing something that looks good. First, you need to know where and how you intend to apply your logo. Once you determine this, you will know the file types you need. Yet if you don’t know common file types, you won’t know what to ask for from your designer. Whichever file type you decide to get, I can assure you that getting an EPS logo for your business is necessary. To show that EPS files are necessary, I describe common image file types in the following article.

visual comparison of an EPS vs JPEG when enlarged
EPS vs JPEG enlarged as a visual comparison shows the need for an EPS logo for your business.

Aren’t JPEGs and PNGs enough?

All digital images are either raster or vector. Two of the most common raster image file formats are JPEGs and PNGs. These raster files are collections of tiny squares (pixels) of varying colours that collectively make an image. JPEGs (Joint Photographic Experts Group) and PNGs (Portable Network Graphics) are okay raster file types for print and web applications when they are the correct size and resolution for a specific situation. However, because they are limited by their size and resolution, they can’t be blown up to larger sizes. You can save many sizes of JPEGs and PNGs for several situations, but this just adds to the number of files taking up space on your hard drive. However, there is a better file type for images that keeps its clarity at larger sizes–a vector file.

Close up of an EPS vs JPEG visual.

There are a few different vector file types–EPS and SVG are the most common. Vector files use mathematical formulas that computers read to produce images. This makes vector files essential because they can be blown up to any size without losing their resolution. JPEGs and PNGs are great when you know the specific logo size required for a project; however, they aren’t enough when considering all logo applications.

What about PDFs, are they just as good?

Yes and no. PDFs (Portable Document Format) can be created with editable vector artwork, but not always. For the most part, they are used for creating multi-page small file size documents for sending in emails and saving on portable USB flash drives. Whether or not a PDF is a vector file depends on the program that makes it. Therefore it is best to ask for vector artwork from your designer specifically.

The case for an EPS logo for your business.

EPS stands for Encapsulated PostScript. It is a vector format file that is still one of the best choices for printing graphics and illustrations. Because of its vector attribute, it will print in large sizes at high resolutions. Often you cannot read an EPS file outside of a design program; however, printers and designers can. In addition, they will appreciate their versatility when creating new JPEGs and PNGs for different media. So, despite not always being able to access EPS files in typical programs outside of graphic design applications, EPS files should always be a part of any logo file collection for your business.

Be sure to make a point of asking your graphic designer to create an EPS logo for your business with JPEG and PNG files to create a more helpful logo package for various situations.

Don’t have a designer yet? Check out my blog article “Interviewing Your Graphic Designer” for tips on what to ask your potential designer before you even start the design process.

Curious about branding and logo design? Connect with me for a consultation through my website cyanbolddesign.com.

Categories
DESIGN EXPERIMENTS IN DESIGN

Damask for the Masses: Part III

What Makes Flipping the Bird So Punk

Flipping the bird, the single-digit salute, giving the finger or flipping someone off—no matter how you phrase it, the gesture is the same. Middle finger extended to the sky with the other digits in flexion or converted into a gnarled claw. Flipping the bird is often regarded as a symbolic act of defiance, disdain and rebellion. It has been ingrained into the psyche of punk rock and pop culture for a long time. Ignoring the fact that the ancient meaning of the gesture was slightly more nefarious and offensive, we now see celebrities jumping on the middle finger bandwagon.

It seems as though no one is interested in subtlety or hiding their disdain anymore. Either that or there is some street cred and perceived edginess behind the act. But I digress. It is a way of defining yourself as someone that “doesn’t give a F✱CK!” and that’s not always a bad thing. While we often look up to the people that break from the pack and march the beat of their own drum. There is a certain degree of bravery in going against the norms to forge your own path. This is where the “pretty bird” punk damask patterning makes the most sense—it is a way of saying I forge my own path, haters be damned!

pretty bird punk damask pattern

Punk Damask as a Form of Nonconformity in a Traditional Medium

Damask has deep connections with decadence and the exotic. Before the industrial revolution, people sought unique damask patterns to help define their aesthetic. A modern equivalent to finding these unique fabric patterns would be discovering underground music. It could also equate to seeking out burgeoning fashion designers and creating your aesthetic that refuses to conform to popularity. Nonconformity is a very punk tenet. After all, “variety is the spice of life.” Flipping the bird, even a pretty one, on conformity and banality is living life with a punk rock edge. So be a flipping pretty bird, and let that damask pattern fly.

If you liked this article you might like previous articles in this series like Damask for the Masses Part I and Damask for the Masses Part II.

Interested in having a custom pattern made by me? Connect with me through my Cyan Bold Design website.

Categories
EXPERIMENTS IN DESIGN

Damask for the Masses: Part II

Mixtape damask is the second pattern in the punk damask series because I wanted to pay homage to the mixtape. While audio cassettes have recently had a modest revival with hipsters and record companies for their low cost in production and their difficulty in conversion to digital format, long gone are the days when people would share mixtapes.

Mixtapes Were a Sign of Friendship

I can remember how much it meant to me to get a mixtape from a friend. You could almost measure the depth of a meaningful friendship by the number of mixtapes that were carefully prepared and shared. It was always appreciated the amount of time it would take to fill a 60 or 90-minute tape with carefully curated songs. How close the new music would match your personal preference or challenge your perceptions of music would also indicate how well your friend knew you. Sometimes songs were strategically recorded from the radio when they aired for the first time. Other times it was a collection of new favourites.

Single cassette punk damask unit

Explicit content was all the rage in middle school. It seemed like the parental advisory sticker was less a deterrent than it was a call to action.

Mixtapes Were a Form of Contraband

Sometimes it was a way of sneaking music into the house that otherwise would have been banned from consumption by juvenile ears. Often purposely mislabeled “Tiffany” or “Wilson Phillips,” these tapes would contain the likes of Mudhoney, Soundgarden, Nirvana, Ministry, the Ramones, Public Enemy and Pearl Jam. Explicit content was all the rage in middle school. It seemed like the parental advisory sticker was less a deterrent than it was a call to action. When your favourite band didn’t have the sticker, they were said to have “lost their edge” to appease the PMRC. Looking back, it seems as though it was just another form of rebellion that no one paid much attention to.

Full cassette punk damask wallpaper pattern

Mixtapes Had a Life of Their Own

The mixtapes had a life of their own too. If played in a rogue player, they could be warped, chewed and mangled, forever changing the playback and quality. My mixtapes were no strangers to the Canadian winter neither, often suffering from hypothermia and never fully recovering. Those mixtapes were unique (usually the only ones of their kind in existence). They would still be played through the stretched and garbled sections and parts held together with Scotch tape. It meant I had a special version of a song that no one else had.

Mixtape Damask as a Punk Tribute

As an ode to the mixtape, I have created a damask pattern that is friendly and organic. Its flourishes and leaves integrate into the image of the cassette so well it may go unnoticed. Much like the collection of mixtapes I kept in my youth, this pattern holds meaning beyond its hidden imagery. Like a damask pattern, the more unique a mixtape, the better it was. It is symbolic of the lively collections of tapes that played in car stereos on road trips. The pattern reminds me of pregaming, basement hangout and campfire sessions. It is a reminder of the carefully crafted thematic compilations for every occasion.

However, my mixtape collection is no more. I no longer own a cassette player. Nevertheless, my love for all kinds of music has remained. But lost are the mixtapes of my youth.

If you liked this article you might like other articles in this series like Damask for the Masses Part I and Damask for the Masses Part III.

Do you have a custom pattern idea? Share it with me by email through my Cyan Bold Design website.

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The Importance of Using Design for GOOD

The value of graphic design should never be up for debate. It surrounds us and is a valuable part of communicating in a modern world. I guarantee that if you looked around your office, you would see many subtle, hidden ways in which graphic design has permeated your workspace. It’s in the apps on your screen, logos on your office supplies, the designs on your favourite mug, the colours of your pack of breath mints, and even in the clothes you wear. Products aren’t made on a whim either. They are carefully illustrated and designed on-screen and paper way before prototyping. Design influences every part of our modern life, whether good, bad or even ugly. To discuss why we should use design for GOOD, we must first talk about the practice of design and its ability to motivate people.

Not Everyone is a Designer

Design skills, much like creativity, can be nurtured and developed. I’ve seen students that knew very little of design become excellent designers through perseverance, desire to learn more, and practice. Moreover, it doesn’t rely solely on artistic merit. Some people would even argue that art and design don’t compare because they are separate in their focus and function. Although the goals of art and design can be similar, one would argue that design aims to create pragmatic clarity in the world around you. In contrast, art focuses on creating a profound emotional response. As a result, there’s a fallacy of thought going around that ALL graphic designers can draw (paint, sculpt, photograph etc…) and vice versa. But, I know this is not true. Sure there are a lot of graphic designers that can draw and a lot of traditional illustrators that can design, but these skills are not mutually exclusive.

So, where am I going with this train of thought…Oh yeah… NOT EVERYONE is a graphic designer. Yet, some of the tools that people have at their fingertips can make them think they are. Suppose everyone is using the same tools in the same way. In that case, creativity stagnates, and no one is making anything worth paying attention to. It is this recognition that improves the value of professional graphic design.

The Potential for Using Design for Bad and Good

Graphic design is considered a profession by those that value its power to influence perceptions and change minds. Look no further than a political campaign to see how much emphasis is placed on looking the part. Patriotic, confident, trustworthy, readable, legible, straightforward and in the correct party colours are all characteristics of good political campaign graphics that can help influence opinions and reinforce party values. Some graphics have become synonymous with a specific community or group. For example, just seeing the rainbow flag in a storefront is an indication that the store is LGBT-friendly.

Similarly, some colours have become synonymous with specific political parties, and deviating would confuse their constituents. Heck, even evil regimes know the power of design in adding legitimacy to their twisted causes, commanding attention, and instilling fear of dissent. It is for these reasons that I am careful and deliberate in how I apply my design skills. If you aren’t using your skills for good, what’s the alternative?

Making Impact with Good Design

Of course, every designer has to squeak out a living from their craft. But I don’t think a compromise of values has to occur to make it work. Honesty and authenticity are a mark of good design. Social enterprise is on the rise, and more companies are adopting a more genuine approach to design. Yes, there will always be hyperbole, metaphor, allusion, and humour to help point out comparisons and convey visual messages in relatable terms. However, when the end goal is rooted in truth, this is good design. I would also argue that so long as the design doesn’t seek harm, brings a smile to our faces or makes us think, it is GOOD.

Imagine if every humanitarian nonprofit organization saw enough funding each year to keep staff and do the best work possible for the communities that they serve. We would likely see poverty decrease, health and well-being improve, better education systems, greater equality, cleaner environments, sustainable growth, and the happiness index improve. However, this is not the case. In fact, we see many nonprofits struggle to keep going or settle for something less than ideal to keep doing the valuable work required of them.

Assessing Who Needs the Most Help

Although, of course, many nonprofit organizations do overwhelmingly good for themselves, the costs of their marketing and overhead are often relatively high. Still, the amount of money that gets invested into their projects is also high. These high-earning nonprofit organizations are often the ones that can afford to run national campaigns. They usually work with an agency of record or support an entire marketing department, complete with their dedicated graphic designer. They’re polished, legit and make their donors and contributors feel special. They have a name that people have heard of and know. It’s great to contribute to their causes, but a small contribution doesn’t go very far. Consistently volunteering will go further, but it isn’t always possible to carve out the time (especially if you’re an independent contractor).

For this reason, I will sometimes offer my skills and expertise on a limited basis to projects of importance for nonprofit organizations. This is what I mean by using design for good. Fresh design based on immediate needs can empower nonprofit organizations in many ways. It provides them with confidence, legitimacy, professionalism, and a visual voice they otherwise would not be able to afford. The hope is that, in turn, they will be able to raise the funds necessary to grow their profile, do more for their community, and become successful. In addition, as a result of their success, they can afford to pay for professional services when required.

Design Day for GOOD initiative connecting nonprofit organizations with graphic designers and marketers for one day of free work.

My Criteria for Providing Pro Bono Services

Here is a set of criteria for nonprofits that I follow in assessing whether or not I will do the work pro bono:

  1. Is the nonprofit organization improving lives? Their cause needs to be something that is for the betterment of people within the community. The organization must not be as discriminatory in any way.
  2. Does the nonprofit organization employ other creatives? The organization can’t have an agency of record or currently work with a graphic designer. If an organization has paid for graphic design in the past or can afford to pay, they do not need my help for free.
  3. Are they registered? They must be a registered nonprofit organization or be in the process of becoming one.
  4. Are they a large nonprofit organization? The nonprofit organization must be small. If there are many people on staff or the funds raised each year are such that marketing should be within their budget, I likely won’t work with them. Not to be harsh, but I want to work with nonprofits that really need my help. I want to avoid being taken advantage of or stealing a job from someone else.

My Guidelines in Using Design for GOOD

I also have to consider my approach and the greater value of my services by asking myself a few questions first:

  1. Do I have the capacity to take on the task? I need to have the means to help and make a difference. I am by no means a social enterprise. Making a living with my creative skillset means I need to limit how much work I do for free each year.
  2. Does the nonprofit organization I want to work with know the value of my services? It is important to place value on the services rendered even if no money changes hands. I try to dedicate $5,000 or more in free services to nonprofit organizations each year. I will usually send an invoice even if the invoice is just a statement of costs with a 100% discount.
  3. Is this something I believe in and will it be FUN? Finally, a pro bono project needs to have a fun factor. When the job allows me to be my most creative and experimental, I have fun! If I can add to my portfolio and learn more, that is often payment enough. In addition, when the job helps a good cause I believe in, that’s the icing on the cake.

To conclude my ramblings, I have found that it is vital to realize the power of design. Design can make positive changes in the community. By following specific criteria, we can help to direct focus where it is needed most to make the most significant impact. In addition, if we are always seeking to convey truth, we can feel good about the work we do. This is the importance of using graphic design for GOOD.