Tuesday, May 31, 2005

"It looks really great."

I love hearing that.

I work hard and with joy for every job. Some of my clients like being in joy with the projects, too. I'll hear "I love how you made it with not quite the standard colors, it looks really sophisticated," or "Wow, I had no idea it could look so great."

This is juicy for me.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

It's okay to kill a bad project.

I've recently had a few clients who wouldn't do their homework.

They wouldn't tell me their preferences. Getting them to talk about what they like and dislike made me wish for Sisyphus' stone. They signed their contracts and gave me money, but didn't seem to understand that design happens within a full ecology, not a vaccuum. Being a helpful person, I tried to do their job for them. I've been down this road, so I know it's often futile. I came up with, and presented, a "catalog" of ideas. And surprise surprise, none of it looks good to these clients. How can it? Birthed in isolation, the ideas have no connection to them.

When I reach this point in a one-way relationship, I know I've already earned my deposit fee. I've put in hours to try to get the clients on their own side and to help them understand the design process. My next step is to risk "losing" the job. I'll send a message that says, as politely as possible, "I can tell you're not ready to take this seriously. Perhaps we should stop now, before you spend any more money."

It's important to be unattached to the response to that message. It's nothing more than a statement about where the project currently sits, and a query about whether to move forward or to abandon it.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Blogger + Google

I have a hunch that Google is rewarding people for Blogging. Why? I check what sorts of search terms people use to get to my website. Some are pretty obvious; "Graphic Design Alameda" has me on page two. But "Sustainability Blog" has me on page one, in the fourth position. "Pixel Graphic Design Alameda" is a search set that puts me in the #1 spot! "Fish Experiments" is another high-ranking set of terms for me.

What gives? I'd be very surprised if these terms are unique, and optimized. I do know a little bit about SEO and I've applied what I know, but... are a legion of people linking to my sites? If you are, then thank you thank you! And if you want a link back, just write me and tell me so!

It's just strange to me that a search on "Fastest Canard" comes up with one of my pages in the first set of results.

Using my powers for Good

Local citizens discovered that one of the big advertising shelter companies was wooing our elected officials into allowing streetscape advertising, through one of those lucrative back-scratching deals that these sorts of companies put together. Well!

Jeannie Graham-Gilliat spearheaded an effort to get local sponsorship of non-advertising shelters. The group she formed called themselves "ARTS, Alamedans for Responsible Transit Shelters." My involvement? I designed a logo and then converted a messy PowerPoint document into a 4-page glossy brochure. Painful work, but PowerPoint is one of those almost-design programs that some people can use to put text and images together. I had to keep it in PowerPoint, so Jeannie could make later changes as she wished.

People seeing the brochure got an instant education about streetscap advertising, as well as sponsorship opportunities, as well as talking points for communicating with our municipal leaders.

The campaign was successful. On a recent rainy morning, I took this picture of one of the first shelters to go up. Do we really need shelters? Maybe on only a few mornings a year. But I'm really sure we didn't need an ad for Sin City, or Popeye's Chicken, right in front of these people's home. By installing a non-advertising shelter, we provided a bit of relief from the constant advertising barrage, and preserved a bit of Alameda's charm.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Iterative Design

My agreements with my clients often include an hourly charge for Iterative Design. What the heck is that? It's the time during which I respond to their feedback, generating more interpretations of the design. Many "artists" get frustrated by this part of a project. The issue is that many designers get invested in a particular design, and forget that the goal is to create a communication piece between the client and their clients.

Truth be told, many clients don't understand this, either, and think that a logo or other communication piece is for themselves. They feel that if they like it, it must be good. These clients are the ones who would benefit from an arrangement with a market research firm.

The main reason I love the iterative process is that language is so subjective. When a client uses the words "flowing lines, shows that we provide personal service, high-tech but old-fashioned" what does that really mean? When I show a couple of samples of a design built from my understanding of those words, I get feedback which guides the next round.

I'm very good and fast at this. It's never "20 questions." Usually by the third or fourth round, the design is very close to what the client needs, and after seeing it, they realize it's what they would have described if they'd known exactly what they were after.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Making Businesses Look Bigger

Janet Savage brought her banner and shocard to a recent networking breakfast. These two pieces, along with her business card, really show how the same elements are used to build up her identity. I often find myself struggling to explain how a theme is different from a logo. I can say the words "We take your logo and expand on it, developing a set of components which, used together, tell the rest of the story," but I'm very aware that seeing it in action is far more powerful.

Wonderful ladies show how branding works on a banner and shocard