The story of your business may have begun long before a graphic ever enters the scene, but graphics are the Genesis of advertising. Your logo and brand guide provide structure for every single piece of media created for your brand – from colors to fonts to spacing and even messaging guidelines. This not only provides consistency, but it paints a clear picture of who you are – what you do – and whom you serve. Graphic design then becomes an integral part of all creative processes – creating graphics for video production, web development and the obvious print applications are daily routine.
When a brand utilizes consistent graphic design, you probably notice only that the ad or material you’re seeing is clearly for the brand that created it. When inconsistent graphic design is used, it creates a disconnect between the brand and the materials. Does the TV ad match the brand? The business card? The signage? The product packaging? What about the website? The social artwork? The letterhead? Graphics have a role in every single one of these areas and a million more.
How important is your face? Pretty darn. Your logo is the “face” of your company, but unlike your real face, you get to choose what it looks like. Chances are that your business already has a logo, but it’s still important to periodically audit that logo (which serves as the cornerstone for your “brand”) and make sure that it’s the face that still makes sense for your company. When doing this, think about who your audience is and what you’re trying to say to them. If you’re way off course, consider an update. A logo update is a last resort, but there are times when it’s absolutely necessary.
As we discussed above, you probably have a logo, but do you have a brand guide? The brand guide includes all acceptable logo variations, your color palette, heading, sub-heading and body font names and sizes, layout guidelines and more that provides instructions for consistency. With a brand guide, any designer who needs to provide artwork for your business can ensure that it “fits” with your brand. This is perhaps one of the most overlooked, yet powerful, tools in your marketing arsenal.
Business Card & Letterhead Design
Your business cards and letterhead say a lot about your business too. Particularly in local businesses and service industries where a lot of face-to-face interaction takes place, the business card may be the first piece of “collateral” that a prospect receives from your business. Like everything, it needs to communicate an intentional message. Do you know what that message is? Is your audience receiving that message clearly? If not (to either question), make some changes!
Print ads include newspaper, magazine, inserts, fliers, and pretty much anything else that gets “printed” on some form of paper and inserted in an external source. When you get into paid ads, it’s easy to lose your mind – and your brand – particularly if the media is doing artwork for you (vs. providing the media with “camera ready” artwork prepared internally or by your agency). If the media IS performing the design, make sure you provide them with a brand guide first. That will allow for a MUCH smoother experience for everyone involved. With every type of ad, the message has to be applicable to the audience, but it also has to be delivered in line with your brand (image and voice). The greatest of designers aren’t just masters of graphics – they’re masters of copy writing. Find a designer who can BECOME your business and speak directly to your customers, and you’ll have some killer print ads.
Web Banner Ads
Banner ads, also called “digital display” and “display banners” come in a variety of sizes and can be inserted through various outlets online (from individual websites to partner networks like Google AdWords). Just like print, these ads needs to communicate a specific message to a specific audience and do so with the voice and appearance of your business. Many banners have the ability to include animation, so even the motion within these ads needs to align with your brand. Each ad needs to be created in multiple sizes to accommodate for different placements and devices, and even that sizing will shape the design and messaging within the ad. You can include quite a bit more “stuff” in a 728×90 leaderboard, but you need to be able to communicate just as much in a 468×60 mobile banner. One of the major benefits of digital is the ability to separate your audience into “segments,” but this presents another design challenge – a different message and ad for each segment. You want to speak differently to someone who just abandoned their cart on your website vs. a first-time visitor, right?
Brochures, Booklets, Promotional Collateral and Products
Materials that you develop to educate and persuade your audience have to follow all the same rules that your “ads” do. It might be tempting to have your nephew whip up a brochure in Word real quick, but whatever money you save on the design will be outweighed (heavily) by the business you turn away with an unprofessional appearance. It really does matter. Your brochures, booklets, pitch kits, and proposals need to further the experience for your audience, and they can only do that if they are part of the same experience (consistent) instead of heading off on a little tangent. The promotional products (pens, stress balls, mouse pads, etc.) that you’re handing to a prospect or current customer along with that brochure or pitch kit – yeah they count too. They’re either helping or hurting. Do you know which it is?
Billboard design is a lot trickier than you might think, and that’s because most billboards you see aren’t done correctly. There’s too much copy, no clear message, no directional focus, no clear brand, and there’s likely the entire batch of “must have” address, phone, website, fax, email, and pager number. What does your audience really care about? What do they really need to clearly absorb your message? How long do you have their attention for? Vinyl is expensive, so you had better get it right.
Is your signage important? Obviously, it is, but HOW important? If your audience doesn’t visit your brick and mortar location, the signage there really isn’t important. What do they see? Your vehicle? Your signage can be anywhere and take any form – from a back-lit building sign to a vinyl banner, vehicle wrap or even just a window decal. Think about where it is that you do business, and that’s where your signage should be. Remember though, it has to communicate to your audience within your brand’s aesthetics and voice. What is your signage saying? What do you WANT your signage to say?
Swag (t-shirts and stuff)
Graphic design for apparel (a.k.a. swag) can be a whole lot of fun if you know how to have fun with it. With a great design team, your swag can actually communicate more than just “we’re with XYZ Inc.” Are you fun? Are you buttoned up? Are you colorful? Your t-shirts and other promotional apparel are already behaving as “ad space,” even if you don’t realize it. So then, how boring is your ad?
Graphics for video and website
Yes, we’re still talking about graphic design, and video production and website design are their own animals. HOWEVER, the graphics presented in your videos and website are subject to the same rules that we’ve covered for every other graphics project, and this is where having an agency that can cover EVERYTHING for you becomes so incredibly vital. When your graphic designers, video editors and web designers work together, magic can happen. When a disconnect exists between them, a disconnect exists between your graphics, your videos and your website. The experience is a broken one for your audience. When Storm Cloud Marketing is your comprehensive agency, everything works together, and it does so within the context of your overall marketing plan.