How To Be Creative: A Designer’s Guide

Local Pages` creative designer explores the issue

Are we born with a creative mind, as opposed to a mathematical mind? Some say we are, and that we can’t be both. We are either governed by the right side (the creative side), or left side (the logical side). This is only a theory – that our characteristics come through according to which side is more dominant. But new research says otherwise.

Creativity can be nurtured in someone who perhaps thinks they are not creative. We all have to be creative to solve problems in life in one way or another. Obviously creativity is very subjective. If you asked 10 different people for feedback on your creative ideas, you’d get 10 different answers! Do not let criticism strangle your creative process. It’s good to listen to others and their constructive criticism, and by taking the positive out of this, you can use some of what they say to play around with other ideas.

Nothing is perfect, so don’t feel you have to come up with the perfect solution. Don’t rule out working on ideas that perhaps you are not so keen on because following these paths may make you come up with another solution that fits. Of course someone who is trained in creativeness will be able to initiate ideas quicker than someone with no experience.

Some creative designers prefer to work on their own but for ideas to flow, it’s always good to share. This is called “brainstorming”, where a few creative minds get together and thrash out an idea or concept by drawing on bits of paper with doodles or writing them down or sharing them verbally. People can bounce ideas off of each other then and perhaps take their ideas one step further in a way they hadn’t thought of. The initial brief needs to be clear and concise though. You cannot say everything in one design, so good communication is the key.

Inspiration is always a good starting point. Collect pictures, patterns or colours that you like in the form of magazine articles, photos or illustrations and make a book of them. Anything that catches your eye. Some small thing, like a colour, may spark off a flurry of creativeness and lead you in all sorts of directions. The internet is obviously a good place to explore for ideas too. Save the pages and images you like into a file on your Mac or PC and use them to get the creative juices flowing.

Think of children and how unselfconcious they generally are. Try and think like a child and your imagination may take you on a very creative journey. Try not to be too analytical. Perhaps use  a list of single words to describe the possible answers to your brief. Each word may spark an idea which may encapsulate the personality or essence of the message you want to put across. Look up key words in a thesaurus or dictionary, which in turn may spark a visual metaphor.

Let’s make up an example: Let’s say we need to design a poster for a dog’s home – they want something positive to advertise what they do. Write down key words when you think of dogs or animal sanctuaries. My thoughts are: unconditional / beautiful / refuge / safety / cuddles / fur  – the list could go on and on. Look up some of these words in a dictionary or thesaurus. I looked up “refuge”. The dictionary says “a place or situation providing safety or shelter”. Or “safety” – “the condition of being protected from or unlikely to cause danger, risk, or injury”.

Working on the word “safety”, I came up with an idea. “Safety” sparked a visual of cotton wool – you probably know the phrase – “wrap someone up in cotton wool” which suggests keeping that person safe from harm as cotton wool is so soft and inviting. This was my very first thought (write down all thoughts) and it came to me in a matter of seconds: So how about a picture of a dog surrounded by cotton wool or bouncing around a field of cotton wool?! So in a few minutes I already have one positive idea. I have roughly illustrated my idea it below.

 

Creative

So, now you have seen a brief outline of the creative process, go and play away! Do you have any tips of how to be creative? We’d love it if you share your own creative process below.

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How To Make Your Business Cards Stand Out

A Guide From Graphic Designer Tania Taber

Business cards are a great marketing opportunity. If you haven’t got one to give out to prospective clients, you will be missing out on potential business.

To save money, a lot of companies go to one of those online print companies and get a card churned out – you know the sort of thing – perhaps a bit of that infamous typeface “comic sans” and a cheeky cartoon or a bland clip art image – these are usually a disappointment in terms of the look and feel of the card and the general design, creating a not-so-professional image. And of course, others may use the same image as is on your card so it’s not unique to you. There are several business cards I have come across supplied by an online printers using the very same stylised illustration of animals for their business – one was for an animal acupuncturist and the other for a dog walking business. This is very confusing!

So, it’s important to get it right. It needs to stand out against the many competitors in your marketplace. You will be handing these cards out to people you meet and they will take a very quick look and then put it in their purse or wallet. So you have to grab their attention in a few seconds and this will ensure they remember you and your business.

The first thing worth mentioning is to make sure everything is spelt correctly and the information is spot-on. It may seem silly to mention this, but you’d be surprised what gets through. If there are any spelling errors, it will give the impression that your business is unprofessional and not up to the job.

You need to make sure that nothing wanders off the edge of the card so make sure you keep all written information 5mm from the edge. Any images used need to be of high quality – the higher the resolution, the better. Typography also needs to be legible – 7.5pt is the minimum size – but not too big though, as there is limited space on the card.

Be careful not to overcrowd it with information too. A typical business card size is: 85mm x 55mm. Even though the space is limited, you can still get creative! The only things that need to be on the card are: Name, job title, address, telephone numbers, email address and website, and of course THE LOGO! There is no need for company registration numbers. There might be some room for a strap line though (think “Every Little Helps” by Tesco or “I’m lovin’ it” by McDonald’s). A strap line should be as succinct as possible, five words or less if possible, and should convey the essence of your brand.

 

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To really make the business cards stand out you can use special finishes on it to make it more tactile and memorable. Things like a spot UV (a shiny bit!) or a metallic ink or perhaps a die-cut (a funny shape cut out of the card). Of course, this makes the printing more expensive but can more than make up for that by reaping the rewards in terms of new business afterwards. Or sometimes companies go one step further and have their cards made out of materials other than card. Be as creative as your imagination or your designer’s flair allows!

 

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Choose fonts to match your logo – either a sans serif (like Helvetica) or a serif face (like Times Roman which have flourishes at the end of the strokes). Colours must also reflect your logo with black as a good colour choice for the type information so it’s as readable as possible.

 

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So in summary, the business cards must reflect your business and what you are trying to convey – perhaps your business was established by a family member in centuries past – you may wish to convey this with a classic design indicating a company that can be relied on, that’s classic, that is traditional, that has stood the test of time, or a new company wanting to convey structure, modernity, simplicity or freshness. Let your imagination take you to the recesses of your mind and go create!

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8 Essential Branding Tips For Small Businesses

If you think that branding is just something for big businesses with big budgets, think again. Branding is just as important for small businesses, maybe even more so. If you don’t have the budget to hire a big branding agency (and not many small businesses do) here are 8 simple steps you can take to keep your brand in check.

 

  1. Remember – It’s not all about your logo

Your logo is important, but branding is about far more than just that. Your logo is a badge that will represent you to the world, it’ll help distinguish your business from your competitors and it may even help customers to understand what you do. But it’s just one small part of a much bigger picture and even the best logo won’t build a successful brand on its own.

 

  1. Know what you stand for

What values and ideals are at the core of your business? What motivated you to start and what keeps you going? If you’re unsure of where you’re going and why your customers will be even less sure. Keep a list of at least three core values and make sure that any new products, services and marketing campaigns are true to them.

 

  1. Know what value your business provides

Whatever type of business you run, one thing is guaranteed your customers are not interested in just buying your products or your services. What they’re interested in is results. It’s the real life benefits that your products can offer them that will really get them engaged. A lot of businesses make the mistake of focusing on the features of their products and wonder why they’re not getting results. By taking a step back and communicating the benefits they offer you can give customers a really compelling reason to part with their money.

 

  1. Get inside your customers heads

Knowing your customers inside out is crucial. Forget about your taste and your preferences and focus on the people you’re trying to serve. Who are they? What are they looking for? What gets them excited? Keep your focus very narrow to start with; just think about your ideal customer.

Keep this profile in mind whenever you’re planning a new piece of marketing and build it just for them. This will really help to keep your message focused and effective.

 

  1. Keep a close eye on the competition

Identify your closest competitors and make sure you check up on them regularly. Who are they targeting? How are they doing it? What messages are they putting out? Where are they falling short? By doing this you can stay ahead of the game and fill gaps that they’re leaving. Remember, they’re probably watching your every move too.

 

  1. Find something unique to offer

Every business has something unique to offer, but many don’t take the time to identify it and use it to their advantage. Strong brands clearly stand out even in a crowded market. You might sell the same products as everyone else but that doesn’t mean you have to offer exactly the same service. If you’re struggling to find something that makes you stand out, go back to your customers, think about what they need and where your competitors might be falling short.

 

  1. Be consistent

Whatever direction you choose to take your brand in, make sure you’re consistent about it. That means keeping an eye on every tiny detail from how your logo looks, to the colours and fonts you use right through to your website and the kind of language you use when you talk to your customers. All this will build up to give the impression of professional, credible and trustworthy business.

 

  1. Keep it simple

We all lead busy lives and few people have the time to unravel complex messages. Simple, well thought out communication is more likely to get through and be remembered. This applies to your logo, your marketing material, your customer communications – even your business processes.

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