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You Don’t Have to Be Psychic to Understand Your Client’s Vision

Whether you are a freelance designer or working for a company, it can be difficult to understand exactly what your client is looking for. After all, you’re not a mind-reader! But you can understand your client’s vision better by keeping the following tips in mind. And you won’t need any psychic powers!

client's vision

Explain yourself.

Before you do anything, talk to your client about the processes you go through to create your designs. Whether it’s logos, print or website design, give your client a good understanding of what you do so that you aren’t stuck with unreasonable deadlines or misunderstandings. Once you both established an idea of what the client wants, tell them how you are going to achieve it. Explaining yourself will start you off on the same page.

Listen up.

Listening is the most important way to know your client and what they expect from you. If they have a specific idea in mind, take careful and detailed notes. This helps you further assess your client’s needs so that you can better plan the design. Be careful not to interrupt their thoughts. Be an active listener.

Ask Questions.

Asking questions can alleviate confusion. Think about obstacles you’ve faced in the past. Did you encounter problems that could have been avoided? Did you receive a design brief and jump right in without proper clarification? Make sure the design idea is clear, and be prepared to answer any questions yourself.

Keep them in the loop.

Don’t bombard them with updates, but let them know any time you make significant progress. This way, things that need to be changed can be addressed early on. This builds trust between you and the client and also keeps them involved in the process so that their goals can be achieved.

Prepare for change.

Prevent misunderstandings by thinking in your client’s shoes. Remember that they came to you to make their vision a reality.  You may think that your ideas work better than your client’s ideas because you are a trained designer. Learn to respect your client’s ideas without overriding them with yours. Make room for change in the way you design. You’re welcome to show them your ideas through mock-ups but don’t lose sight of the goal; you’re designing for them, not you.  And even if your client wants you to tweak your work in the end, don’t be too rigid about revision.

Targeting Ideas for Mardi Gras

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Mardi Gras, on February 17th, is a perfect opportunity for small businesses to shine a light on themselves by joining in on the festivities. While New Orleans may be the most famous American city for Mardi Gras celebrations, college students throughout the United States have picked up on this party-centric holiday. Here are some targeting ideas for Mardi Gras:

Decorations

Feature the traditional green, gold and purple Mardi Gras colors. People who go by the same place every day will notice when things change, so having new and colorful decorations that are visible will  be sure to attract attention towards your establishment.

Contests

Costume contests and eating competitions are good in-person ideas, but don’t forget about online contests. These could include photo contest and caption contests that could be promoted through social media. Textivia has a great article on how to run caption contests.

Giveaways

Masks, hats and beads are popular Mardi Gras giveaways. Consider putting your logo on these items and handing them out at your establishment as well as other places in the community such as parades, parks, or bars (with permission.) This is also a great opportunity to form local partnerships by asking other businesses to hand out your giveaways and handing out theirs.

Block Party

Local businesses can work together to host a block party for college students. This is a great way to generate word-of-mouth advertising.
Search for Mardi Gras on Creative Outlet!

5 Outstanding Newspaper Designs

The Internet is providing some healthy competition to our print newspapers but many people still prefer a “paper-in-hand” because it offers unique eye-catching benefits. Newspapers from all over the world have upped their game in tasteful design work so that their papers are aesthetically pleasing, easy to read and eye-catching. For your daily dose of design inspiration, here are five outstanding newspaper designs (big and small) that excel in layout, typography and advertisements.

Daily News (Robinson, IL)

The Daily News in Robinson, IL (and Creative Outlet client) gave their usual publication a spin during March of 2014. The newspaper invited local elementary school classes to design the advertisements and front page of their paper, with each class getting their own article.

Newspaper

Daily News, Robinson, IL – March 4, 2014

Le Monde (Paris, France)

Colorful infographics capture the reader without overpowering the content in Le Monde, while the text remains clean and professional. Advertisements are incorporated in the publication without being too distracting to the reader. The layout includes a lot of content, but the structure makes it easier to read.

Le Monde

Image Source: Le Monde Newspaper- visualoop.com

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (Frankfurt, Germany)

A structured layout and clear textual hierarchy allows for easy reading, despite lengthy articles. Imagery in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung is clear and original, with some photos tastefully incorporated into the text. This style creates a more three-dimensional look to the paper.

Frankfurter magazine

Image Source: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung – snd.org

Politiken (Copenhagen, Denmark)

Politiken is among the 2012 Best of News Design award winners by the Society for News Design, and it shows. Their use of bold, striking typography and powerful imagery is noted for having excellent visual consistency. After their paper re-design in 2011, Politiken created their illustrated copy (first image) to show readers their new changes. It was risky, but this paper is now considered one of the world’s best in print media.

Politiken

Image Source: Politiken – snd.org

Politiken

Image Source: Politiken – voxeurop.eu

National Post (Toronto, Ontario)

With its unique layout and style, it’s no surprise that the National Post has been crowned World’s Best-Designed Newspaper three times during the short 15 years it’s been issued. The design in each issue is crafted carefully to fit the tone of its featured articles.

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Image Source: National Post – mediamanagersclub.org

 

 

 

 

5 Common Design Blunders and Easy Solutions

Even the most experienced professionals make mistakes. In this article, we highlight 5 common design blunders that designers make and how these blunders can be easily avoided.

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Mistake: not using rulers.

It’s true. Designers have a keen eye for detail. However, you should never assume your project is perfectly lined up, straight, or parallel without using a ruler.

Solution: Always use rulers and guides, especially if you are doing print design or logo design. There are a couple of different rulers and guides you can make; luckily, Adobe shows you how.

Mistake: not using shortcuts.

There are tons of Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign shortcuts that many designers fail to use. Not using shortcuts can significantly expand the length of time the project takes to complete.

Solution: Memorize keyboard  shortcuts to make your life a little easier when designing. Read this blog for common Illustrator shortcuts or check out Adobe’s website for a more extensive list of keyboard shortcuts for Mac and PC.

Mistake: not staying up with current design news and trends.

Design trends are always changing. You must always keep up with the latest graphic design trends, software, etc.

Solution: Whether it means being subscribed to newsletters, magazines or frequently visiting graphic design news sites, it’s important to stay up-to-date with what’s new and popular. Many professional designers have reference material to gain new ideas and stay current. 

Mistake: tunnel vision.

It’s easy to get tunnel vision when you are engulfed in a project. You try to make a singular part of a project look so perfect that you start missing other details. This happens when the balance of a project is not evenly distributed.

Solution: Designers commonly try to take the biggest piece of the design and do it first. Then they approach the deadline and have lots of small things to do that don’t get the proper attention they need. To avoid doing this, write up a list of steps to take for the project to be completed. Once identified, try to knock out all the small things first and then have someone else look at it if possible. Then move on to the larger components. Once there is nothing to be sacrificed at the expense of the largest component, it’s more likely that you’ll have no mistakes in the final piece.

Mistake: not keeping it simple.

Some graphic designers believe the more effects and colors, the better. But the reality is far from that. Adding too many elements to a design makes it complicated and stressful for the eye to look at. Often designers neglect the idea of simplicity.

Solution: Instead of making intricate and difficult-to-comprehend designs, designers must instill in their minds that simple concepts are ones that the target audience will remember. No matter what it is you’re designing or who you’re designing for, having more than 4 fonts and colors are excessive.

4 Valentine’s Day Marketing Ideas to Sweeten Your Campaign

Valentine’s Day is a sweet time for retail sales. Here are four Valentine’s Day marketing ideas for businesses to show customers they care, and develop customer love and loyalty:

Thanking clients and customers.

Thanking clients and customers is a good way to show a little love on this day. Businesses could create a gift suggestion list that includes anything but chocolate and flowers. They could also offer a free gift, like a mixed CD of love songs or a scratch-off coupon, with a Valentine’s Day purchase.

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Businesses looking to target teens could offer free gift delivery to local schools on Valentine’s Day. If your  business typically doesn’t deliver, make sure to heavily promote that you’re delivering for Valentine’s Day only. They could deliver gifts to students, teachers and staff. Consider donating a portion of the profits to the school to get the school administrators on board. The school might even be willing to use their email list to promote the offer to parents.

Partner up.

Partner with other companies to develop a Valentine’s Day package that benefits everyone. A restaurant could partner with a theater or a florist to sell flowers, dinner or a movie for example. Each partner would offer a discount to make the package less expensive than buying everything separately.

Don’t forget about the singles.

Not everyone loves Valentine’s Day. Some people even frown upon the day of love. Singles represent a potential market on this day too. Marketing to a growing anti-Valentine crowd could prove to be a hit if it’s done right! Cater to them by creating a fun anti-Valentine’s Day marketing campaign and romance-free shopping event. Promote it in print, email and social media. This is a particularly good strategy for any company that sells products and services that don’t fit well with Valentine’s Day. 

 

5 Tips to Overcoming Designer’s Block

designer's block

As a creative, there will be days when your ideas pour out of you, moving from one great idea to an even more magnificent one. But there are days that every designer dreads, when you’re hopelessly lacking inspiration. Like writer’s block, designer’s block shrouds your mind and brings your creativity flow to a complete halt. This can lead to frustration with your work, especially if you’re running out of time to complete it. When lacking inspiration, keep these tips in your arsenal next time you find yourself fighting off the fearsome designer’s block.

1. Look at blogs.

Sometimes, observing how other artists or designers create can give you some interesting and innovative ideas. Try checking a design blog daily for some creative inspiration. Look at anything creative, even if the blog is for painting. Save images that you find interesting or write down designers who’s work you enjoy for future reference. If you don’t already have a few saved to your bookmarks, here are some great art and design blogs to peruse:

2. Get out of the routine.

If you’re someone who is used to doing things a certain way, now is the perfect time to try something different. Your designer’s block may be linked to your dependence on habit. You could be killing your creativity by being too consumed by a standard way of working, and not just design-related habits. For example, if you have a morning routine before you get to work, change it up. Get ready before you eat breakfast, instead of after. Take a different road to work. Break out of your routine and do something different every day to help keep your mind stimulated.

3. Sketch it out.

This answer may have been anticipated, but it works. Keeping a sketchbook on hand can help you think outside of the computer screen. Sketching and mindlessly doodling takes the stress out of creativity and keeps your mind active. It’s okay if you draw something completely unrelated to your work. When you finish, you can go back to your work with a clear mind and a different perspective.

4. Get up and do something else.

If sketching at your desk doesn’t do the trick, consider Plan B. Getting up and out of your office will take you out of your workplace mindset all together. Go on a walk, enjoy nature, or even walk to your nearest coffee shop for a break (the added caffeine will even help keep your mind sharp and alert). If you’re home, take a shower. The quiet will clear your mind and help you focus. Jogging, yoga, and other forms of exercise help release endorphins that improve your mood and clear your mind. Taking yourself away from your work is another way to clear your head and start fresh.

 5. Talk with other creatives.

Even if you’re working on this project alone, there’s nothing wrong with asking for another professional’s opinion. Create a network with other designers you’ve met or already worked with to get feedback.  Explaining your dilemma with another designer can help you both come to a solution together. Knowing that someone else has faced this problem can decrease any negativity you may feel towards your work. Just remember to keep an open mind when creativity comes to a complete halt. Trust me, we’ve all been there.