Can your business succeed on looks alone? How professional writers give your brand a voice.

The Power Of Communication

You hired a graphic designer to create some cool artwork for your upcoming tradeshow. You now have some interesting infographics that support why people should trust in your products and services and become your next big client or consumer. Smart move. The quality of a professionally designed ad, brochure and website will enhance the reputation of your business and even make it stand out from the competition if done strategically with the interests of your customers. Now you can dream about success. But can you achieve it on looks alone?

Let’s compare your marketing material to visual attraction among humans. You see someone from a distance — for the purpose of this message, let’s name that attractive guy or girl Jordan. You get closer to Jordan and oh la la…you still like what you see. Jordan flashes a smile your way and wow — what gorgeous eyes and well-polished teeth. This is clearly someone who is into self-care. Well dressed. Check. Perfectly imperfect wavy locks. Check. You must to get to know Jordan.

After a few quiet encounters like this, you find comfort in the familiarity of this god-like ideal. Based on visual familiarity, you begin to trust that this just might be the one. To cut to the chase and keep this post professional…let’s skip on some of the details but boil it down to this. You quickly discover that the beautiful soul who captured your eyes just didn’t have the voice or intelligence or heart (or whatever it is you’re looking for) to match. This is not an uncommon story of heartbreak and disappointment, and we’ve seen it unfold when companies put all their marketing dollars into pretty glossy professionally designed catalogues, websites and promotional materials, without the support of a professional promotional writer.

The important question to consider is why are business owners willing to spend money on an artist to apply lipstick and rouge, yet they skip out on a professional writing process? Here are some answers from our view as professional designers and strategic marketers.

Business Owner: I know my business better than anyone. I am the founder, creator, and nobody is as passionate about my products and services as I am. I know my work and who better to write about it than myself?

Graphic a la Design: The truth is, you, the business owner, as the creator of your product, know your stuff. Like most entrepreneurs and highly successful CEOs, you probably eat, sleep, dream and breathe your business. You own your content. So why would you need an external resource to develop marketing content for your website or other nifty tools that a graphic designer is capable of designing for you? Consider this.

Business Owner: As the owner of my business, I am the voice of my brand. My content is intended to sell.

Create a voice that customers want to hear. At Graphic a la Design, our professional writers are not close to you or your product. This distance is an advantage, as they will enter each job as though they are potential customers. They write with the customer in mind — and like your customers — they have questions about your products and services. A professional copywriter’s goal is to answer those questions in a voice that will speak to prospective clients.

Business Owner: But my content is really good; it’s accurate, easy to read and free of errors.

Consistent messaging and style guidelines. The role of a professional is to keep your messaging on task. That means every message has a job to do while organized in simple, easy to understand terms. Whether working with existing content, or starting from scratch, our team will write and rewrite until the content is accurate, organized and polished in a way that connects with your audience. We also work with high standards and guidelines to ensure that spelling, grammar and tone are consistent. While business owners may also be skilled in spelling and grammar, there is often more to writing strategic marketing copy that a professional can apply. You may request a sample and you will see the difference.

Business Owner: My business is like my baby. I don’t know if I can trust an external writer to develop marketing content that will turn prospects into customers.

Collaboration. Our writers know that you are the best source for content and will work with you rather than for you. You, the business owner, still have the opportunity to share your passion and knowledge; but in walks the professional who can help assess the needs of your audience and determine the most appropriate tone by asking questions like — is this a market where we can be playful and have a little fun with readers? Or shall we challenge the content to be more creative or serious or corporate? Next steps… we work together as a team of writers, designers and our clients, to deliver a fresh flavour to your marketing copy from a customer’s perspective that is consistent and professional and adds depth to the design work you are investing in. In other words, you aren’t leaving your baby with a stranger — you are simply getting assistance to ensure the best for your pride and joy.

These are just a few tips of the trade to expand your options for creating great content to match your brand’s visual identity. When working with designers, we want you to experience the most profitable outcomes with material that offers more power than meets the eye. So think about your next business opportunity and ask if your attractive marketing material is equally creative, strategic and polished in content. Now you can dream about what success looks like when your graphic design material offers a professional voice through consistent messaging, standardization and collaboration.

Jenna Bower, Senior Copywriter
Graphic a la Design
graphicaladesign.com

#graphicaladesign #copywriting #graphicdesign

 

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17 years into the 21st century. Does your business marketing need to catch up?

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Long ago, Peter Drucker, the father of business consulting, made a profound statement: “The two most important functions of a business are innovation and marketing.” Innovation is introducing new ideas, original and creative. Marketing is the action of promoting or selling. Both of these functions speak to adding value and I believe both are timeless.

What do you suppose Drucker’s statement means for innovation or marketing, or for your brand or business, here at this moment, 17 years into the 21st century? I believe his words have stood the test of time. However, the tools and methods have changed and at this point, if you aren’t all aboard, you are at least shifting the sails so you can catch up and take control of the direction in which you want your business to grow.

Let’s keep it simple and start with the basics. Here are three key areas you can focus on right now to gain momentum in your marketing plan:

#1. Your brand. Word of mouth marketing is best — without a doubt. But, effective branding is a compelling factor for success. If consistent and strong, it can build your reputation, assuring you stand out from your competition.

#2. Web presence. Having an effective website is the single most inexpensive way to add credibility and reach customers and prospective leads. It’s a fact that 87% of millennials have a smartphone at their side day and night and over 80% of people use mobile devices to search information regularly. A website assists in building brand awareness, acts as a learning tool for your audience (and for you if you follow the analytics). Mobile friendly websites optimize the user experience by being quick to load and have options for concentrated content and informative calls to action.

#3. Social media. Today we are confident when buying into a stranger’s 1, 2 or 5-star rating, assuring us their experience on where to eat or shop is accurate and concrete. It doesn’t matter how much advertising you do, the review – positive or negative – holds merit.

With that said, I encourage all business owners to take advantage of social media networks. It helps you gain visibility on Google and other search engines and credibility with your customers or potential clients. It’s also a way of bringing like-minded people — your customers and you — together, sometimes into a conversation. There are so many ways to do this which I will explore further in a future post — but to keep it simple, you can start by posting announcements or contests, and get ready for content marketing, to achieve great results.

There are no quick tricks or gimmicks to grow a business. There is no such thing as social media magic or the ultimate campaign that is guaranteed to go viral. The true magic lies in the vision (innovation) and the actions you take to follow through to the sale (marketing).

Let’s think about Graphic a la Design’s mission for a moment, “Improve customer success by delivering creative (innovative) solutions for branding and promotion (marketing).” With our creative team of professionals, we have captured all of the above to help our clients grow their business, meet and even exceed their goals.

Now ask yourself, is your marketing strategy leading your business to succeed in the 21st century?

For more business inspiration or help in building your marketing plan, contact Graphic a la Design at graphic.services4u@gmail.com or 905-441-4235.

Lori Thompson, Creative Director
Graphic a la Design
graphicaladesign.com

 

 

BRING IT ON, 2017!

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Welcome, 2017! It hardly feels like two years since we decided to expand.

It is said that 96% of businesses fail within 10 years. Not us! — the hunger was real and our expansion was a success. Through staying true to the company mission and maintaining our high standards, Graphic a la Design has continued to be, now more than ever, a trusted business that adds value to our clients.

So, what’s next for Graphic a la Design in 2017?

Business has been perpetual; in fact on some days it feels like we are putting in more hours than there are in a day! We’re not complaining — we love it!  We have had a loyal client base and a steady flow of referrals. So, you guessed it; 2017 brought in, another expansion — there is no other way but upward and onward!

We’re ready for you. We recently launched our updated website and social media networks to better serve our clients and to reflect our brand and to highlight our work.

Graphic a la Design’s team brings qualified professionals with decades of expertise to the table — all who share the same philosophy: to create affordable, creative and responsive concepts that drive successful businesses and help clients stand out; all in the right places. And, just as we believe it is important for us to get to know you, we believe it’s important for you to get to know us. Here’s a peek at who is making the magic happen for Graphic a la Design.

Lori, (that’s me). As the owner and creative director, I’ve been working for over 22 years to make clients and their businesses and/or brands look great. My passion and eye for design means that I work hard to help brands put their best foot forward.

Joline’s approach to illustration and design is sophisticated and clever. She combines arts, design and creative skills to develop ideas and produce original visual images.

Jenna adores copy — researching, thinking, writing and tweaking — and it’s evident in all that she produces. Writing with an agenda in mind she uses her craft to push a product or service.

Diana is a lover of the written word and a social media addict. She loves combining the two to help clients create an online presence that stands out and rings true to their mission.

Jasmine is the master of translation – there’s no room for error with her on your project! She will ensure your message is accurately translated from English to French and/or Spanish, completely error free.

Gina loves numbers and “the books”! She stays on top of the accounts, ensuring everything behind the scenes is running smoothly.

As you can see, we are serious about delivering great outcomes for your business and brand. For us, it is important for our existing — and potential! — clients to know we are now fully capable to help move your business forward, adding value and growth. Just like we did!

Promoting a business can bring up more questions than answers. Whether starting out or making a few changes to your brand, at Graphic a la Design, we have the experience to help — and, we’re ready for you!

Lori Thompson, Creative Director
Graphic a la Design
graphicaladesign.com

Graphic Design — The Secret Recipe Revealed

So: You need graphic design work. You may find yourself thinking, “Can I do the work myself? Or can my secretary or computer savvy friend help me out? What does a graphic designer do that I can’t do?

What does a graphic designer do anyway?

According to Wikipedia, a graphic designer is a professional within the graphic design and graphic arts industry who assembles together images, typography, or motion graphics to create a piece of design.

But Wikipedia’s definition misses crucial characteristics that are required of a graphic designer. They understand how to piece together elements to create something that not only catches the eye, but conveys a message.

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Trained, experienced and professional graphic designers are visual communicators. We understand the application that makes design more successful, we understand human behaviour — psychology is the science of behaviour and the mind. Understanding cognitive behaviour can affect design tremendously. Simply put, we are given a problem, then collect information and analyze the best solution possible. We understand how to take that solution and translate it to a visual that represents the client’s wants and desires — and going beyond that to take into consideration with how it will relate to consumers.

Many customers, apprentices and designers who have worked with me before have heard me speak about “The Recipe.” My students have heard me talk about it a time or two (or a hundred) as well, because I believe it is an important lesson that can be used long after they leave the classroom.

Just like grandma’s famous chocolate chip recipe, this is one you will want to pass onto generations. In graphic design, like baking, everything needs to be balanced and measurements need to be exact or else you get a sloppy, unappealing mess. “The Recipe” includes the proper measures of a text — a strong, well written message —, colour, typography, shape, line, space, value, texture, golden ratio, the rule of thirds and perspective (to name a few).

Yes, perspective; especially if it’s one-dimensional.

Like homebakers that can look into their pantry and make a delicious dessert using whatever is inside, graphic designers can literally take any idea or concept and communicate it into a full out campaign or simple branded message. We often take notes at a meeting or text from a MS Word document and transform it into an original design.

Yet, still, you ask: what makes us different from you or your savvy computer friend?

I understand, it’s tempting: Do-It-Yourself design solutions have exploded on the scene, but without the expert know-how and the eye of a graphic designer, they just don’t work. Hiring a professional graphic designer ensures up to date, consolidated work practices, including: legal requirements, accessible design, consumer trends, research methodologies and production processes. Chances are, that DIY program is going to use a lot of unheard jargon and not worry about the differing legal requirements in any given province. They also rely heavily on stock tools, from brushes to textures to images, which can result in your company having very similar branding to another entity.

Professional graphic designers know how to produce that informative impression and avoid misunderstandings — after all, every brand can only make that first impression once. Poorly designed graphics, hard to navigate websites, or inconsistent text can negatively impact potential customers and leave both customers and employees with a headache.

Once more you ask, what does a graphic designer do? They help you create something that will represent your company, represent your brand, but most of all, attract customers — and it will look more than just look good.

Lori Thompson, Creative Director
Graphic a la Design
graphicaladesign.com

Understanding colour is imperative for business.

Anyone who has worked with me before knows that I have always appreciated psychology of, well, anything in the world of design. Fonts, images, graphics, photography, colour and everything between — you name it and I’m into understanding it! Human behaviour has always fascinated and inspired me and this definitely translates over to my designs. If you look at my work while keeping human behaviour in mind, you will soon notice everything on the page has purpose. Everything lines up with something; fonts are readable and legible according to their purpose, graphics are involved, etc.

Colour, and all of its meanings, play a very, very important part as well.

So, let’s try an exercise together!

Quick: What’s the first colour that comes to mind when you read the following words? Tiffany’s. Home Depot. Canadian Tire. Facebook. What colours did you think? My best guess would be: Teal. Orange. Red. Blue.

Each brand is strongly associated with a specific colour that ties in directly to their identity. Other great examples are seen in the infographic below (image retrieved from twmg.com.au)

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Each year, business spends billions of dollars on branding and re-branding and colour plays an important role in the decision making process. While you wouldn’t think it, the colour a company uses to brand itself conveys many messages to their customers. Colours can convey how trustworthy, reliable, and dependable a company wishes to be. They can even convey the quality of their products!

I know what you’re thinking; this couldn’t possibly be true. But there is truth to it! A Canadian study conducted by Satydndra Singh, Department of Administrative Studies University of Winnipeg, called the Impact of Colour in Marketing demonstrates just how important colour in marketing and how it affects us as consumers. The study surveyed individuals by having them make a decision about a product or person with 90 seconds if the initial interaction. 90% of individuals surveyed made a snap judgment about a product based on colour alone.

With these facts in mind, businesses work hard to ensure that their branding correctly conveys the message they want to get across and in a way that will make consumers pick them every time. They do this by firstly understanding their brand personality and selecting a complimentary colour from there.

Brand personality can be divided into five core areas: sincerity; excitement; competence; sophistication; and ruggedness. Within those core areas, brands are known to have personalities.

From there, the colour must fit in with the brand’s personality as there is also a connection with colours and brand retention. Specific colours connect with people’s personality or gender. It’s not hard to understand why yellow is psychologically the happiest and most stimulating colour in the spectrum, but what about the rest of the colours?

Let’s look a little closer to the meanings behind colour in marketing:

Yellow is a warm and happy colour. In business, yellow stimulates the logical side of the brain for mental clarity. Consumers feel: joyous, alive, energetic, and fresh. However, yellow also has negative meanings: overly analytical, impatient, impulsive, egotistical, pessimistic, spiteful, cowardly, deceitful, non-emotional and lacking compassion.

Orange is a physical colour. In business, you must use it cautiously as it is considered the most disliked colour worldwide. Consumers feel: enthusiastic, creative, determined and stimulated. It also has the following negative meanings: superficial, insincere, dependent, pessimistic, cheap, overly confident and unsociable. Orange is a great colour for impulsive shoppers, buy-sell-subscribe users, friendly, confident and cheerful users.

Red is a physical colour. In business it will always elicit a passionate response. Consumers feel: loving, sweet, warm, sensual and nurtured. Also consider these negative meanings: violent, resentful, rebellious, overbearing, aggressive, angry, tiring, fearful and quick-tempered. Red is a great for increasing the heart rate, restaurants that want to stimulate appetite, clearance sales and impulsive shoppers.

Purple suggests wealth, extravagance, fantasy and dreams. In business it heightens consumers sense of beauty and their reactions to creative ideas. Consumers feel: glamorous, powerful, nostalgic, romantic and introspective. Like all colours, it comes with it’s negative meanings: impractical, cynical, aloof, and arrogant. Purple is a great colour for anti-aging products, to soothe or calm, or for representing creative and imaginative wise brands.

Blue suggests confidence, reliably and responsibility. In business blue is calming and reduces tension or fear. Consumers feel: comforted, faithful, conservative, understanding, clarity, confident, calm and trusting. Blue is best used for corporate companies where trust and dependability is a must. Hi-tech computer technology businesses can benefit from blue the most.

Green suggests balance and harmony. Consumers feel: calm, relaxed, trusting and hopeful. In business green demonstrates growth, visibility, renewal, restoration, self-reliance, reliability, dependability, nature lovers and family orientated; practical and down to earth; generous, kind and loyal, compassionate, adaptable and flexible. Also consider these negative meanings: possessive, materialistic, indifferent, overcautious, envious, selfish, greedy, devious with money; inconsiderate and a do-gooder.

Black suggests authority, power and control. Consumers feel: bold, serious and luxurious. It conveys protection, comfort, sophistication, formality, seduction, mystery, endings and beginnings. Negative meanings include being depressive, withholding, conservative, serious, sad and, well, negative. Black is beneficial for businesses selling luxury or supplication. Black packaging can make an item appear more expensive or have a higher price point. It creates a classy and formal impression.

Of course, there are exceptions to every rule. As with everything, these associations are not absolute ‘do-or-die’ rules, but they are definitely worth keeping in mind during your business life.

Before I let you go, I’m going to give you a few things to think about when choosing colour for your brand identity — food for thought if you will!

The first, what if your business functions on a global scale or speaks to a culturally diverse population? I would recommend you think about cultural similarities to draw customers in, or differences that may hurt reputation or sales.

The second thing I would suggest you consider is being accessible. I would recommend that you consider colour blindness and or other visual impairments. Never assume your customers see a colour like you do: one in twelve suffer from colour blindness.

The third is to consider the final output or purpose of the graphic or document. Perhaps it will be more cost efficient to print in black and white or in grey scale such as for a newspaper ad. It is also possible the final will not see a printed format, conceivably the final could be a multi-media presentation where reds, blues and greens are known to oversaturate. Then there’s always the probability of it going to press one day, where the specific colour or tone does not separate properly into cyan, magenta, yellow and black (CMYK) therefore the Pantone Matching System (PMS) colours need to be used, resulting in higher printing price tag.

In the end, working with a professional, experienced graphic designer can help create colourful promotional designs and documents that are powerful, balanced, compatible, clear and concrete to your audience.

Lori Thompson, Creative Director
Graphic a la Design
graphicaladesign.com

Typography: Design’s Secret Ingredient

During my second year in the Graphic Design program at Durham College, I fell in love with fonts and typography. Our life long love affair had its start in my typography class, where ironically enough, my professor’s name was Ab, the first two letters of the English alphabet. His passion for the artform and for type’s anatomy really drew me in (no pun intended!) and before I knew it, I was a goner for typography.

For weeks, Ab had us illustrate fonts by hand; needless to say, by the course’s end, we understood typography on a different level. We knew the difference between a serif and san serif font, understood each letter’s antimony and learned to appreciate the brilliance of Staedtler pigment markers — sizes 0.1 through to 0.8. Any designer reading this who has ever hand-rendered an alphabet will understand the importance of a good marker.

In the past decade, font awareness and typography have become a larger part of mainstream culture than it once was. Documentaries such as ‘Helvetica’ by Gary Hustwit and news coverage about people who dislike Comic Sans or Times New Roman demonstrate just how important typography is.

Yet despite this surge of interest in typography and how it shapes our world, I’ve had to explain or even sometimes defend why anybody should care about typography numerous times over my 20 years in the creative sector. It has become something I’m simply used to and I’m well prepared to stand up for typography and its benefits.

So why do I love typography? What makes it important?

And what exactly is typography anyway?

When I recently asked my 13 year-old daughter the same question, she responded with: “You mean the alphabet thing?”

Well, I had to give her credit; she had the most basic understanding down! There is, however, so much more beyond that, so much more than it just being letters that make up the alphabet.

Typography is defined the style or appearance of fonts in an arrangement of any given space. Simple, yes? Many people view it as just that. But for me, I see it differently; typography is the key ingredient to good design — it makes the recipe a huge success…or a huge disaster.

​Typography can make or break a design and it can add an element that makes said designs stand out among the crowd. Fashion and interior design have similar attributes to a good typeface. Typefaces are visually attractive, comfortable, entertaining and pleasant to the eye and serve a purpose. A well-laid document always includes strong typography that sings a special melody and contributes to a document’s orchestra stage grid. The right typography can convey a brand’s entire identity with just one glance.

It’s an incredibly powerful tool.

So, how exactly do you go about choosing a type that does all of these things when there are so many choices? What’s are the pros and cons for one font over the other?

​I know; it sounds complicated. Fortunately, that’s where us professionals come in.

Graphic designers understand their purpose and objective is to influence a visitor’s psychological state of mind and recognition of their customers business. The more designers know about human behaviour, the better they can implement a persuasive strategy. Although it is globally known typing in all capitals is challenging to read, especially with a visual impairment or from a distance, graphic designers know how to manipulate the rules. In some cases, adding tracking or kerning can make those capital letters legible. What graphic designers can’t help with are rules such as using only one space after any form of punctuation or the differences between a hyphen, en dash and em dash.

Experienced graphic designers understand what people want and need and how to convey it. We listen to the customer, assess these wants and needs, and then know exactly what type to use to convey their unique message. Then, carefully, we place the type on to the document, taking into consideration how the type best represents the emotional energy of the time, event or promotion.

Accomplished and skillful graphic designers capture and hold the interest of an audience. We understand page format and grids; typographic hierarchy; how and when to use white space; entry point of the audience’s attention; how to place type and other page elements; design elements; and psychology of colour…all while being captivating and developing the ‘Wow!’  factor — we do so while being creative and unique.

I love designing with typography standards and style guidelines in mind. To me, these enable and support readability and legibility. The very basics tell us that the difference between good typography and bad typography is how readable and legible a typeface is or is not. The reality is readability and legibility are the basic foundation of good typography. Readability pertains to how text is deciphered — how it flows from the page to the reader. Legibility is the clarity of the font and its qualities make it easy to read.

In addition to readability and legibility, graphic designers need to keep Accessibility Standards for Information and Communication in mind. Understanding and knowing how to apply the standards for communication goes a long way!

In addition, it is always important to stay in line with your customer’s best practices type stylebooks or guidelines when creating a layout. At Graphic a la Design, we are well versed on Canadian Press Stylebook, Chicago Manual of Style, Business Communication Style Guide as well as MLA and ALP Handbook Guidelines.

The next time you go to pick a typeface, choose carefully! It is as big of a decision as choosing a colour, graphic or picture.

Take the same care when you choose a graphic designer. Be sure to choose one who understands typography. Graphic designers should use a typeface as a tool, keep up to date with copy style guidelines and standards, and be open to the psychology surrounding typography; ensuring consistency with your brand or business.

Lori Thompson, Creative Director
Graphic a la Design
graphicaladesign.com

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The expansion of Graphic a la Design and re-launch of graphicaladesign.com

After 20 years of creative services in the Durham Region and Greater Toronto Area, the time had come for Graphic a la Design to expand. Sounds easy, right? After all, change is good. Why not make like Nike and ‘Just Do It’?

Unfortunately, it was easier said than done. Great things don’t happen overnight and this was no exception. It took time to pull together the right team, all of whom I have had the pleasure of working with closely for the past three to 24 years. Next came branding: the Graphic a la Design logo, slogan, and symbols are all established and familiar; so our main task was to re-design graphicaladesign.com.

The process was just as rewarding as the end result.

There was much to consider throughout our re-design. Today, if you want your business or brand to be successful, you need to demonstrate your value. For most people, the roadblock comes down to the means of production—not being confident with their own creativity or computer skills, or simply not having the resources to bring great ideas to fruition.

Experienced graphic designers can produce creative content as well as establish an impressionable and appealing identity for their client’s brand or business. They can help a client stand out from the competition. Whether the graphic designer is building or reviving a brand or a business, they can create materials to best showcase the client’s brand or business values, approach, or style.

But, what happens when a graphic designer needs to demonstrate their value, approach, or style? When the tables are turned, how do they do it?

My roadblock was staying neutral; Graphic a la Design needed to speak to a broad audience, while demonstrating our value to multi-sectors. I needed to do more than solely build a presence on the Internet or social media. We needed to tell my story without giving away the recipe for 20 years of success—some ingredients are meant to be kept a secret! After several brainstorming sessions, a great deal of research, and many edits, the Graphic a la Design website went live and several social media outlets were launched.

In the end, the overall process of expanding Graphic a la Design and re-launching the website took a little longer than originally anticipated, but it was well worth the wait. I wouldn’t have changed a thing. I now have an amazing team working along side me, the launch was successful, and graphicaladesign.com has been extremely effective in its outreach and has attracted new work for the Graphic a la Design team.

Lori Thompson, Creative Director
Graphic a la Design
graphicaladesign.com