Dont stick with what youve been taught

I recently contributed an article to Fuel Your Creativity titled “Don’t stick with what you’ve been taught, you’re a creative so get creative!” I enjoyed writing the article and was honored by the comments left over at FyC.

fuel-your-creativity-article

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Too many people look at other work and are again directly influenced by what they see. I say look at other mediums that are not directly linked to your own, look out for works of art that you could indeed work with for colour palettes. Look at beautiful brochures that could be linked to a new blog design, the world is your oyster.

Check out the post at Fuel Your Creativity and let me know your thoughts on the subject.

Logo Design process for Stratega Group Ltd

The logo design project was completed as part of a full branding project. Stratega Group Ltd is a new financial company based in the United Kingdom dealing with large clients in various financial fields.

With no previous brand, I was given free reign to develop something new. With some guidelines and wishes from the client I started the process;

Brainstorming and Sketching…

logo brainstorming

logo design process

Logo Design Sketches

logo sketching

logo sketches

I presented ideas based on the meanings of the core subjects and in this case Stratega, Strategies, Strategy expanding into Achieving, Tactics, Goals and Planning.

The core meaning of a strategy is;

To achieve an action through use of tactical dynamic planning and skill.

The ideas were expanded and I looked at how strategies are enabled specifically looking at battle strategies and more so the most prominent and effective strategies or formations in recent and past history.

This led me on to thinking about the “Art of War” by Sun Tzu and his conception of the “3 Pronged Attack” where a centre force would go straight for the enemy and the left and right forces would move left and right to flank the enemy force and crush them in their centre disabling the enemy in one fell swoop.

The visualisation in my sketches show how financial planning and strategies can achieve goals, i.e. cutting costs or expenditure.

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During the design phase I considered various colors;

Primary Colours:

  • Black – Wealth and Sophistication
  • Soft Grey – Respect & Wisdom
  • Strong Purple – Efficient and Intelligent

Secondary Colours:

  • Blue – Trustworthy
  • Red – Strength and Passion

For the initial designs I chose “Bree Bold” which I wasn’t particularly happy with..

I had been sketching various versions of the three prongs and had to progress from my initial drawings as it looked slightly wrong, something I was obviously keen to stay away from.

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The client was perfect every step of the way, providing feedback when needed. Some of the feedback on the ideas above came back like this;

Reminded us of opening sequence of Dad’s Army

The other logos gave us the impression that the word had almost been miss spelt, if you see what I mean, through the highlighting and the arrows on the “E”.

The feedback requested that I also look in to the Power option. I wanted to steer away from the ‘Money’ side of things as it would be far to tacky and ‘normal’ for my liking.

So I spun the whole strategy and power on it’s head. The most powerful formation within an armed force, especially in a cavalry troop is the Wedge or ‘Flying V’ as it is sometimes called, this formation can pierce the hardest infantry line and is extremely powerful.

I mixed the flying V into a few different version and came up with No.3 (purple background), the individual triangles are broken down to represent the units within the ‘Wedge’, the three separate ‘Wedges’ on top of each other represent the 3 pronged attack and powers in numbers. It’s all just an abstract view which works very well together. I changed the typeface, moved it away from “Bree” which it was originally to “Often” and believe it suites very well.

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2-1

3-1

Options 1 and 2 were brought out of doing No.3.

The client chose Option 3, which was my preferred choice.

The Stratega Group Ltd branding process was an awesome job to work on, the clients were an absolute dream to work with.

What’s your budget?

budget1

Every year businesses set out their budgets for the financial year. Whilst a lot of areas are covered an important part is the Marketing budget which a lot of people forget about. Even when your first setting up as a business start-up you should budget for your marketing, this can include a wide variety of things like Advertising (radio, print or online), business cards, leaflets, networking groups and YOUR website if you don’t have one. If you do have a website, have you put money aside to have it updated or changed over the coming year?

The point of a budget is?

Forecasting your spend for the coming year is important. It allows you to know what you’re spending on which area of your business and you can account for everything going out. By tracking the amount of money you’re spending on your marketing and when you do it, you can then see what kind of Return on Investment (ROI) you are getting for it.

90% of the time businesses have a website. Most people see the advantages of having a website even if it is a simple brochure site.

Sarah Parmenter can’t build a website for £500

Sarah Parmenter posted on her personal blog about why she couldn’t build a website for £500. In a nutshell Sarah had received an enquiry from a potential client who wanted a large dynamic website building. They had filled in Sarah’s website worksheet form with some in depth detail of what they were looking for, brand awareness, structure and colour palettes usually something us designers never see as most clients need guiding rather than them knowing what they want. Everything seemed fine to Sarah until she hit the “budget” part of the worksheet where her potential client had budgeted a lowly £500 for the work they were requiring.  Sarah did a fantastic job of handling this by not only replying where most would bin the emails, she also educated her potential client on what £500 would get them and why £500 was such a low estimation from them on what they could get.

Shortly after she blogged about the issue she updated everyone with the news that the client had indeed acknowledged what Sarah said and that they were able to increase their budget.

Whilst at first I thought Sarah’s post was going to be a rant, it turned out to be a valuable piece of information for anyone in the same position. The problem with potential clients or even current clients at times is something I see quite often. Design in my opinion is somewhat undervalued by most professions even though the most wealthy people in the world rely on designers and developers day in day out to enhance their brand or increase their sales.

How much does design cost?

It depends on who you want to work with and how long they think it will take to put the best piece of design out there for you. You have to remind yourself that a good designer is not going to do something below-par just because he’s getting paid for it. We’re a strange breed where being pedantic is something in our blood and we know if something doesn’t sit right. It maybe more beneficial for a client to book a whole day or longer with a designer rather than pay an hourly rate but this is something to talk over with your designer.

When it comes to web design, think of the size of the application you’re wanting to build. Ask advice before hand with regards to budget from someone who has been there and done it. Organisations like Business Link can guide you. And remember one thing, “Pay Peanuts and get Monkeys.”

What is your budget?

I’d love to see more realistic budgets being given to designers/developers, agencies and freelancers. A designer doesn’t ask for a new kitchen and then say they’ve budgeted £500 when the total cost is around £4500. A designer doesn’t ask for a new £10k car and then tell the salesmen they have £750 to spend. We’d get laughed out of the park.

Think about your budgets, think about what you want to achieve and don’t be surprised over cost. It takes time to build a website just like it takes time to build a car or fit a kitchen.

Thoughts anyone?

Technorati Profile

Web Apps and Ecommerce, a busy time…

We’re on the web app wagon

It’s been a couple of months in the making and a considerable amount of planning but we’re going to be creating a couple of web apps in house at carrotmedia. We’ve been thinking about a varied amount of apps which we could develop which are unique and provide a service which is needed. We believe we’ve ear marked two potential apps which could do just that. At the start of our web app idea journey we were finding it extremely difficult to pick out ideas which hadn’t been done already and ones which other people would find useful.

muddledup

They’re currently in alpha development, one will be entering beta testing in the next couple of weeks and the other named muddledup is currently requiring sign-ups so we can let you all know when we’re entering the next stage.

The two apps are directed towards businesses or individuals within our own line of work so they fit well with the design/development agencies and freelancers. If you want to enquire about beta testing the apps get in touch directly if you wish and I’ll hook you up.

I’ll be talking more about the apps as they get closer to the testing phases.

Pulling the ecommerce train – the long haul

Adii Rockstar recently wrote a new blog posts called “Ecommerce: 4 reasons why it’s failing”, and I thought it was about time to let a few people know what we’re doing over at carrotmedia. We work with awesome clients every day on their ecommerce sites and wanted to see if we could do it ourselves. More as a learning curve than anything, to see how and in what ways we can change things to bring more sales and then passing these benefits onto our clients.

We?re going to be blogging the whole thing from scratch and producing updates of progress/sales/traffic etc. Hopefully with setting up our own ecommerce store we can lead from example and help everyone else out by blogging about it.

Don’t hold back, surprise yourself

Are you good at what you do?

It’s a big question to ask yourself. Have you sat at your desk and said “I’m the best designer/developer there is…” or “I’m better than that guy…” ?

It’s very hard to be the best at something when you never stop learning, the minute you hold back or stop you’re in trouble. If you don’t embrace change you’re hindering the production of something you could be fantastic at. My daily routine is full of thinking, designing, coding, sketching and proofing. All of those things I know I could be better at. I started out when I was a small boy drawing pictures by copying them, knowing how to draw curves in the right place on a piece of paper. This was way before I was sat in front of a computer. Even before the computer I was used to sit and read magazine after magazine after magazine I have a slight OCD with magazine and newspaper designs and because I used to love them so much when I managed to get my hands on my first computer I used to print off various typefaces and draw my own newspaper front pages by hand and tracing text to make headlines.

As I progressed the time came to switch fully to a computer and the web took over my life. There is so much you can learn. Apart from design in photoshop, I knew I had to code. I was never going to be a programmer so XHTML and CSS was going to be my thing. I learned the basics of both in around 6 hours putting together my first website. I surprised myself, it was something I knew I had to do so I went and did it.

I still read magazines, blogs and watch videos of design related content because I want to learn more. Don’t hold back, surprise yourself. Keep doing this and you’ll be better than you ever imagined.

a .net pro magazine?

I subscribe to .net (@netmag)and Computer Arts, two very good magazines which I love reading. Computer Arts for the Arts and .net mostly for interviews and the like. I the first half of .net most than the second as the latter is made up mostly of how-to’s. I don’t take much notice of these as they are directed to the beginner web design as opposed to the professional designers and developers in the industry.

A little while ago someone wrote in to .net asking whether there would be a .net pro magazine, Dan Oliver (@danoliver), editor of .net responded positively and I thought it was a fantastic idea. There is a Photoshop Creative and Photoshop Pro magazine, so why not a pro .net?

net_mag

Two weeks ago*ish* I tweeted about the possibility of a .net pro magazine and a few hours later, Oliver Lindberg (@oliverlindberg) replied to me asking my thoughts on what could be included in a .net pro magazine. After my horrific chest infection I replied with the following thoughts;

Subscribing to .net I look forward to it dropping through the door every month and always know the content will be great, however an area where it is lacking is the Pro side. A lot of it is still targeted towards beginner/novice and the likes of myself and other designer/developers mostly skip the tutorials section at the back due to them being common knowledge for someone working on the web day in day out.

  • Personally I would like to see more difficult, larger tutorials with more programming languages. These could be anything from Jquery, javascript, Ruby, more in depth advanced CSS techniques.
  • Reviews of software i.e. email marketing systems, project management systems, new web apps, font management software.
  • Reviews of frameworks and how they fair up against each other.
  • More book reviews.
  • Maybe more on the graphic side of things, whilst this is not web, .net is still picked up by a lot of designers including myself.
  • More interviews with high profile personalities or group interviews with a few big name personalities.

I believe, like Photoshop Pro, there could be a lot more content produced for a pro .net. The downside to this is a money issue, could .net sell enough copies to cover their costs as a lot of how to’s and interviews are already online? I still like sitting down and reading a magazine and getting away from the computer screen for just a few hours.

Others thoughts on whether this is a good/bad idea are welcome.

Logo Design and Stationery for Aspire Hypnotherapy

Aspire Clinicial Hypnotherapy

The logo design project was completed as part of a full branding and web project. Aspire Clinical Hypnotherapy is the trading name for Judi Butler, a clinical hypnotherapy from Newcastle upon Tyne, UK.

From setting up in business, Judi had originally ran her business under the name ‘Gosforth Hypnotherapy’ which restricted growth and defined her to a certain area within Newcastle.

As part of the project we went through a name generation phase to accompany the new logo and stationery. Like Photographers, Hypnotherapists tend to use their name for their businesses whilst this is perfectly fine Judi wanted something different but in keeping with the work she does. Four name ideas were presented to Judi;

  • Believe Clinical Hypnotherapy
  • ‘Utopia’ – Meaning an ideal place or ideal life.
  • ‘Elysium’ – Meaning Paradise
  • ‘Aspire’ – Meaning to have a fervent hope or aspiration (Dream).

Judi chose Aspire after a little thought as this best suited her business.

Out with the old, in with the new…

Judi had never used a logo as part of her business, she requested that the new logo to be clean, clear and tasteful.

Brainstorming, doodling and sketching…

Brainstorming at the start of the design process

A few sketches to work with, I'd already chosen a favourite from here.

Logo Options

I presented two logo options.

Logo Option 1

Logo Option 1

Using just the word ‘aspire’ in lowercase to produce a calmer and fresher approach to the logo. The the two bands crossing were to emphasise a hope of getting from where you are now to where you want to be, an accomplishment of sorts.

The typeface used was Y2K Neophyte.

Logo Option 2

Logo option 2 uses the full company name. The icon is an abstract view on looking down a long road. The perspective shows you at a starting point on a journey to where you want to be. The soft gradient produces depth and a clear indication of length.

The typeface used was ITC Slimbach Regular.

Final Logo

I had a ‘favourite’ right from the sketch and brainstorming session. Logo Option 2 worked for me the best. Judi chose option 2 straight away and asked for a few changes to be made. Below is the finally logo.

Fincal Aspire Clinicial Hynotherapy Logo

Stationery…

The stationery is still being finalised and will be posted up later.

A joy to work with…

Judi was an absolute joy to work with and I thoroughly enjoyed myself working on the project. Your thoughts are welcome on this project.