With a seemingly limitless world of information to explore, competition is fierce for a millisecond of attention. Capturing a visitor requires the perfect recipe to pique interest and intrigue your reader. Offer a tempting nugget to intrigue.
For content, that perfect recipe means paring back your words to the essentials. Crafting concise messaging that is compelling, unique and useful – and that resonates with your audience.
For the user experience, it’s about surprising and delighting your visitor with an intuitive experience that they don’t have to think about or figure out. One that’s not just helpful, but actually pleasing.
In visual branding, the message is similar. Less is more. Capture the visitor’s attention with a logo, design and imagery that’s on-message and simple. Draw them in, but don’t tell everything from the get-go.
A picture tells 1000 words
We share our perspective and insights on content and usability fairly often on our blog, but for today’s post, we reached out to graphic designer Shannon Carroll for her insights about the visual design process.
We’ve worked with Shannon on several projects and while our perspectives differ (mine are words, Shannon’s are images), our approaches to cull forth the desired message are quite similar.
Here’s what Shannon had to share with us on the visual design process.
On creating a visual representation of your client’s brand
As a designer, my role is to communicate a client’s message visually. I begin by asking the client to describe their company, service or product and drill down on specific adjectives, colors and imagery which are relevant. I ask if there are competitors or companies that offer similar services or products.
Once I have a basic understanding of the product, I conduct my own research — for competitors, companies with a similar (or the same) name, related or comparable products. My research is very visual; I am inspired by images, photographs and graphical elements.
What are some items clients may not consider?
Copyright infringement issues. There are times when a client will offer very specific ideas for a logo, and my research uncovers a company with the same or very similar branding. I think this happens because we spend so much time online absorbing information and curating ideas, that we don’t always realize the distinction between something we actually saw and something that we think we dreamed up.
I also educate clients on use of online assets like images and fonts. I don’t recommend using somebody else’s seemingly “free for the taking” images. Generally images found through an online search are intellectual property that belong to someone else. Some clients don’t realize that.
Digging in a bit deeper, when purchasing stock photos, clip art or even certain fonts, there are various types of licenses (such as long-term or one-time use, and print or online). The visual assets must be purchased — and the creator compensated — based on the anticipated use.
“Just come up with something”
Often clients either have no idea what they want or no time to really consider it. They literally tell me to “just come up with something.” I get this … it’s a lot easier to critique something than to start with a blank sheet of paper.
I have a set of questions I use to tease some preliminary information from the client. Then typically, I’ll create a template layout with placeholder text, or develop several design concepts for consideration. Offering too many options initially can overwhelm the client and impede progress.
This approach always generates enthusiasm and the specific detailed feedback that I need to redirect and move the design process forward. It’s funny, a client may say they have no preference for specific colors or imagery, but when I share a similar concept with different colors or imagery, clients consistently express a strong affinity for one or the other.
Any other thoughts you’d like to share relating to the design process?
Well, first – about color. There are many variables which affect the final appearance of your end product. Colors vary on every online screen, for starters. And there will be minor and sometimes major color fluctuation when printing large runs of collateral on paper versus smaller runs on copiers. The bottom line is you should never approve anything that is color focused when looking at a computer screen; always get a printed test proof. The proof is in the printing!
Second, match the design to its intended use. If a logo is to be embroidered on employee uniforms or hats, it may need to be stripped down to remove shadows, gradients or complicated detailed fonts. In these situations, I create simpler “sister logos” which translate nicely.
And last – don’t reinvent the wheel every time. Once you have a visual brand in place, future graphics should start with a branded template that includes your colors, font styles, contact information and logo. That jump-starts the design process.