Archive for "Graphic Design"

The #1 Reason You Should Hire a Professional Graphic Designer

Advertising, Creativity, Graphic Design Mar 17, 2017 No Comments

Professional Creatives Need Love Too

The concept of “creativity” is an elusive one. It’s often ill-defined, poorly explained and generally misunderstood by those not working in the field.

So, it’s no surprise that in the smoke-filled room behind that elusive curtain of creativity (where, dare we say, most “suits” fear tread…), professional graphic designers and creative marketing teams gather to discuss the state the industry. It’s in these “secret sessions,” with Pantone chips, bits of discarded web code, and iPhones littering the tables, where we wrangle with what it means to be “a creative.”

Over pints of amber ale and bottles of pinot the question of why creativity is misunderstood, and maybe even undervalued, is frequently a hot topic.

Creativity Need Not be Undervalued

Why is it that graphic design and creative marketing strategy seem under-appreciated by business owners, account managers, department heads and others? While not trying to turn this into an “oh, woe be unto us” conversation about creatives-relegated-to-the-shadows, we think it’s important to pull back the curtain and shine some light on what we actually do as creative professionals.

The 5-Second History of Graphic Design

While the activity of graphically designing things has been going on for a long time, the term “graphic design” was only coined early in the last century — 1922 to be exact. But humans have been creating things for as long as humans have been around. There’s been fire. Weapons. Tools. Clothing. All requiring some level of design to work properly.

Once these necessities of life were taken care of, we began to express ourselves “graphically.” Evidence is all over prehistoric cave walls, in the cuneiform script and hieroglyphics of ancient societies, and in the manuscripts of the Renaissance. Since graphic design has been prevalent throughout time, we wonder if the current misconceptions about creativity also plagued our ancient ancestors.

C’mon, Picking Colors Isn’t That Hard, Is It?

Now in the digital age, the graphic design profession consists of a whole range of disciplines, including print, illustration, interactive, and perhaps even graffiti art. And the list goes on.

Graphic design isn’t just about putting pen to paper (or, mouse to pad…) and making things look pretty. Heck, there are countless toddler artists who do just that with crayon and cardboard, fingerpaint and wall, and even permanent marker and sibling forehead, all in the name of creativity.

Graphic Design Misconceptions

With the explosion of do-it-yourself online design tools, interactive design solutions and powerful software applications available to assist every would-be creative, it seems that many believe an award-winning marketing design concept is a mere click, print or upload away. Slick print ads and broadcast spots say that. So, it must be true. This common misconception isn’t helping the graphic design and creative marketing industry one bit.

The ‘Powerful Design Tools’ of Word and Powerpoint

We can’t begin to count the number of times we’ve quoted a job and then failed to get the assignment because the client decided that they’d be just as capable of handling the project themselves. Perhaps it’s the influence of our own advertising industry, the fact that a computer has landed on every desk, or the age-old desire for self expression, but there are still professionals who feel they’re 100% capable of developing their own creative while saving some dough. To be fair, lots of people can put together a decent color palette and comply with corporate brand guidelines. Everyone has a copy of Word and Powerpoint after all…


Creatives Don’t Do REAL Work

We’re asked all the time “What exactly is it that you do?”

The question comes from friends. From colleagues. From parents. And even from the cashier at the corner store.

“Oh, so you take pictures.” No, that’s the photographer. “Oh, then you must draw.” No, that’d be the illustrator. “You do that stuff on the Internet then.” No, that’s the programmer.

Sometimes it’s easier to stop trying, and walk away leaving them with the knowledge that we make things “look good,” when it’s actually much more involved.

A Wise Man Named ‘Jobs’ Once Said…

Apple CEO Steve Jobs is reported to have once said, “Design is a funny word. Some people think design means how it ‘looks,’ but of course if you dig deeper, it’s really how it ‘works.’”

Mr. Jobs is a very wise man. We should all listen to him.

Designer is a Misnomer

As the old cliché goes, a picture tells a thousand words. But when you look closer, beyond the “pretty,” you’ll see the real work of a graphic designer. Actually, Graphic Designer may be a bit of a misnomer — we’re more like Graphic Strategists.

A Graphic Strategist understands how the human eye works — how and where it will first rest on a printed page. A Graphic Strategist can pinpoint the first pixels you see on the screen the moment your favorite web page loads. We know why one photo is better than another, and that’s not just based on DPI. We’re aware of the emotions created by imagery and color. We understand why blue is better for a bottle of packaged water, than is black or brown. As professional Graphic Strategists, we’re capable of scientifically designing a concept and delivering on the promise of the brand.

Scientist, Strategist, Artist

Graphic designers are actually scientist, strategist, and artist — a three-part cocktail of creativity. And as such, in order to be successful at our chosen trade, we should be vastly more concerned with how our pieces “work” than with how they “look,” like Mr. Jobs says. Obviously both elements play vital roles in the success of our work. But to be considered professional Graphic Strategists, the success of the piece is the bar against which it should be measured.

Your Brand Deserves Proper Treatment

As a creative agency full of Graphic Strategists, we make things pretty every single day. And each piece we make “works” on many deeper levels, far beyond the surface of what is generally seen. To do this right, it takes the combined senses of science, strategy and aesthetics. If for this reason alone, when you’re planning your next visual project, it’s probably wise to take a look at hiring a professional graphic designer, or Graphic Strategist.

However, you can always hire that neighbor kid. He dresses cool — always in black. Has a skateboard. An iPad and an X-Box. And likely knows a little something about computers. Don’t all teenagers? He’s probably even got a torrented copy of Word loaded on one of them too. So you shouldn’t have any problems sharing your design documents.

Is this who you want to trust with the fate of your brand?


“Design is a funny word. Some people think design means how it “looks”. But of course if you dig deeper , its really how it “works”. The design of the Mac wasn’t what it looked like, although that was part of it. To design something really well, you have to “get it”. You have to really “grok ” what it’s all about. It takes a passionate commitment to really thoroughly understand something, chew it , not just quickly swallow it. Most people don’t take the time to do that.” – Steve Jobs

Developing Innovative Creative is Like BASE Jumping

Advertising, Branding, Creativity, Graphic Design, Things That Inspire Us Feb 25, 2017 2 Comments

Is Creativity Counterintuitive to the Business Community?

On a basic instinctual level, our whole purpose for life as human beings is to survive and thrive. What that means has been different throughout time. In the modern world, survival is living happily; enjoying the company of friends and family; finding a job–any job these days–hopefully one that challenges us professionally without causing too much stress; and being able to put enough food on the table to feed our kids. So, if our instinct is to survive and hopefully thrive, then it’s completely counterintuitive to human behavior to voluntarily jump off a cliff.

The pursuit of truly creative ideas is just like hurdling oneself over the edge of a cliff and free falling. And, it’s as counterintuitive to self-preservation, professionally speaking, as is BASE Jumping from a 10,000 foot mountain peak.

Creativity Is Not for the Weak-Willed

Not for the squeamish, the task of developing innovative and inspired marketing concepts can be considered dangerous. It instills downright terror in the hearts of many a brand manager or marketing pro. Some don’t even attempt it, preferring to maintain the status quo. Others would rather someone else first take the risk; choosing later to read about competitor successes in industry pubs like AdAge, HOW or Communication Arts.

Like BASE Jumping, the pursuit of creative innovation can be dangerous, costly, and challenging, but also entertaining, exhilarating and supremely rewarding when properly executed.

1. It’s Inherently Risky

It’s common, among the unadventurous, to avoid taking their lives into their own hands and leaping from a mountaintop. Developing innovative creative can be a risky undertaking, especially for less-enterprising marketers. Pushing the envelope on creativity crosses the line of comfort for many. Doing so entails potentially risking your professional career, often giving even the most seasoned brand manager night sweats. When considering stepping off the creative ledge, it’s important to have a professional creative team that understands your business and is invested in your brand. To develop truly innovative ideas, it’s crucial to have partners who have the ability to lead you safely through the process and appropriately deliver on your brand promise.

2. It Can Be an Expensive Undertaking

BASE jumping is by no means cheap. Those awesome looking wingsuits that make you look like Rocky the Flying Squirrel can set you back several thousand dollars alone. Then there’s parachutes. Head gear. Travel costs and more. Developing inspired creative, executing graphic design, building web apps, and securing media placements has the potential of busting your budget.

Creative development is considered a luxury for many businesses, primarily the smaller ones. Others question the inherent value of forking over money to pay for it. But in order for a brand to remain relevant in a world where we’re bombarded by innovative creative, it’s more necessity than luxury. You must invest the appropriate amount of dollars and time into developing creative for your brand. Otherwise your message is likely to be drowned out by the media cacophony.

Budgeting for creative development is frequently low on the priority list for small businesses. It’s just the opposite for the big brands. If nothing else, that should tell you if you seek to control the message, you first need to be heard.

3. It’s a Challenge Getting There

You don’t just wake up, get out of bed and leap from El Capitan. Unless you spent the prior night on the face of a rock wall, which is another challenge altogether. And you don’t get outstanding creative “Click, Bang, Zoom.” The process takes time. There’s planning. Collection of consumer insight. Strategy sessions. Creative brainstorms. Establishment of goals. Definition of measurement criteria. And more. The creative process is like preparing for a long climb up a shear rock wall. It requires planning. You need the right tools. You need to plan a careful and thoughtful path. Work your way to the jump point. Psych yourself up. And then run toward the precipice and let fly. It’s the “fly” part of the process that everyone is most excited about, but it can’t be rushed.

4. Don’t Chicken out at Last Minute

Even the most experienced BASE Jumpers still experience a twinge of fear, no matter how fleeting, just before letting go. It’s normal to question whether actually jumping into the chasm facing them is a good idea after all. Once you’re there, the prospect of decidedly sprinting toward the edge and off, beyond the comfort zone is something most creative teams struggle with. The secret is not to question a decision already made. Remember, your gut once told you this path was a great idea. And, you’ve done your due diligence in planning. But now, your gut is telling you the opposite. That ain’t your gut talking. That’s fear. Don’t listen, or it’ll take you back to the comfort of your cushy sofa of mediocrity.

5. The Final Results are Exhilarating

Then there’s the payoff. The rush of free fall. The satisfaction of landing on both feet with your head held high. Your goals are realized. Customers are storming your website. The telephone rings off the hook with qualified leads. Your products are flying off the shelves. You get that nod from your boss. Or even better, your competitors. You took the risk, and your efforts paid off. Truly relevant, innovative creative generates measurable results. And, a job well done is truly an exhilarating experience.

Giving Credit for Inspiring This Post

Giving credit where it’s due, inspiration for this post came from Camp 4 Collective and Jimmy Chin whose innovative talents have resulted in this amazing video shot in Yosemite National Park while on assignment for National Geographic. And also to our friend Thomas Marzano for originally sharing the video link with us on Twitter. You can follow Thomas yourself @ThomasMarzano.

Artspiration: Wonder Brother Mike Esparza and His Impressionist World of Superhero Mayhem and Madness

Creativity, Graphic Design, Things That Inspire Us Oct 14, 2016 No Comments

There’s No Need to Fear. Wonder Bro’ is Here!

Self-proclaimed ‘ninja, underwear model and Navy Seal,’ Mike Esparza — member of the Wonder Brothers trio — claims to have decided on a new calling, that of painter. Now, we don’t know how much truth there is to Esparza’s claim of bopping around for photogs in the near-nude; but it does say that on on his website, so it must be true. And if it’s any consolation, we’re happy he put his clothes back on, decided to embrace his love of pigment and set brush to canvas, or the world would never have seen what may be some of the most awesometastic superhero art ever created.

No Indiana Jones Here, Just Artwork to ‘Melt Your Face Off’

Noting pop icon Andy Warhol, comics genius Alex Ross, talented sister Rachel Esparza and Spanish expat Pablo Picasso among his many influences, it’s very apparent where Esparza’s inspiration for the following series comes. The website says his Picasso-ized portraits of famous superheroes (and a few famous super villains) are said to have the capability to “melt your face off.” Just take a look for yourself, if you dare.

The Brotherhood of Art

Mike, along with siblings Matt and Eric, together make up the Wonder Brothers of artistic endeavors and maintain a website chocked full of fantastic dreams, screams and new art memes. Their unique collection of pieces are drawn from Hollywood celluloid, popular culture and perhaps even the flash-dimmed and demented mind of a modeling industry escapee. Included are works of fine art, graphic design, illustration and photography, that make the Wonder Brothers a ‘can’t miss’ the next time they come to a gallery near you. But if you can’t wait that long, visit them at Etsy and buy something from them. Art is a sometimes thankless industry, and Mike and his brothers deserve a round of applause for adding so much to our lives. In the meantime, have fun looking at the images below.

All images Copyright © Mike Esparza, Wonder Brothers.


Mike Esparza, Wonder Brother - Spiderman

The Flash

Mike Esparza, Wonder Brother - The Flash

Iron Man

Mike Esparza, Wonder Brother - Iron Man


Mike Esparza, Wonder Brother - Venom

Artspiration: Stunning and Spooky, Massive Miniatures Built from Lego Blocks

Creativity, Graphic Design, Things That Inspire Us Oct 05, 2016 No Comments

Lego Brand Building Block Models by Artist Mike Doyle

Mike Doyle is an accomplished artist whose chosen medium of Lego brand building blocks provides an interesting application for miniature modeling. Doyle’s models are not exactly ‘miniature’ in the proper sense of the word, but instead stand several feet tall. And while not created specifically for Halloween, we thought these images of Doyle’s sometimes spooky, always awesome work would be a perfect kick-off to the month of October.

Doyle, who has devoted his creative pursuits to building things out of Lego blocks, humbly talks about his talents:

“Some ask if Lego brick building is Art. To me, that is like asking is sculpting with clay, Art. Well… it could potentially be. Anything, absolutely anything can be made into Art in the right hands, even the ‘child’s toy’ Lego. In the end, bricks are a medium, like oil paint or clay or pixels on a screen. It’s what you do with them that matters.”

More than 130,000 individual plastic blocks went into the construction of “Victorian on Mud Heap.” This model alone took more than 600 hours to complete. “Victorian on a Mud Heap” is an intensely intricate replica of a once-beautiful, but now decaying home left unattended. Also included are two other models — “Three Story Victorian with Tree” and “Two Story Victorian with Basement.”

Learn more about Doyle’s process and detailed explanations of his methodology at Snap blog or follow the individual “The Making Of…” links included below. You can see more images of Doyle’s work on Flickr.

All images copyright Mike Doyle.

Victorian on Mud HeapThe Making Of…

Mike Doyle's Victorian on Mud Heap, Snap Blog

Three Story Victorian with TreeThe Making Of…

Mike Doyle's Three Story Victorian with Tree - Snap Blog

Two Story with BasementThe Making Of…

Mike Doyle's Two Story with Basement - Snap Blog

Ten Commandments for Effective Client Service for Business

Agency Initiatives, Best Practices, Client Service, Graphic Design Sep 15, 2016 2 Comments

Where Has Customer Service Gone?

More than ever we question where in the world has the concept of good customer service has gone? Whether you’ve got an issue with your phone bill or you’re trying to fix a broken appliance, there seems to be a general lack of customer-first service. This is often written off as a result of outsourcing. But it’s not that simple.

Maybe because we’re in the client service industry we notice this more than the average bear. But either way, we think every group that works with people — which would be every business — should follow our Ten Commandments to ensure appropriate client service.

1. Always Maintain Your Ethics

Being ethical is probably the most important concept to running any successful business. Maintaining high ethical standards, both internally and externally, is the foundation for everything else your company does. If you operate within the most fundamental concepts of what’s right and what’s wrong, and you’re on the “what’s right side,” it’s going to show in all your professional interactions. Just do what’s right. And do it consistently. It’s easy. And it feels good.

2. Never Misrepresent Yourself

In other words, don’t lie. This may seem obvious and should go without saying. If you’re operating ethically, the chance you’ll misrepresent yourself is probably small. It’s common practice for agencies in our industry to “fudge” the truth. Especially during the new business phase. It’s only after receiving the project that they scramble to situate themselves in a way to deliver on promises previously made. If you’re part of an international network of offices, it’s likely your agency is going to provide all the capabilities you claim. But if you’re a small agency, you’ll probably have a network of partners who routinely fill some gaps here and there. Either approach is fine. Just don’t say you can do something you can’t.

3. Always Deliver on Your Promise

This is a biggie. When you don’t deliver on your promises to your clients you lose credibility — something that can damage your reputation forever. Simply put, do what you say you’re going to do. Meet your deadlines. And deliver the project as you said you would. It’s inevitable that one day — or maybe every day — you’ll find things not going as planned. Problems happen. Deal with them. They’re usually not career-enders. Simply do what needs to be done to make sure you’re delivering what you promised. And if for some reason you can’t, it’s easy to explain the situation by keeping the customer in the loop. Believe us, they’ll understand.

4. The Customer is Always Right

An old cliche, but one that is probably something you should still live by. Even in 2011. If you’re in a client service industry, which is most of us are, the customer is still always right. However they aren’t often treated that way. Your customers chose you from a long list of competitors. You thought they were right when they did that. And they’re paying your bills, which you also think is right. So when they seem over-demanding, send too many emails, want to talk about their cats (we don’t much like cats). This is all right too. Agencies need to step it up when it comes to treating their clients properly. If it weren’t for them, you might not have a job. And that, of course, would be something you’d think wasn’t right.

5. But When They’re Wrong, Tell Them

This might seem opposed to Commandment #4. But it’s not. Sometimes even the rightest client comes up with wrongest idea. And if the idea is wrong, it’s your job to explain why you’d do things differently. One of our favorite bloggers, Gini Dietrich at Spin Sucks explained this very well in a recent post about a chocolate company seeking to teach children about portion control and healthy eating habits. Sometimes your client will propose what they think is a great concept. And who knows their business better than they do, right? But they hired you for your expertise. And if the concept they’re proposing is truly not in their best interest, it’s your job to explain why. Not the most enjoyable of conversations, but your investment in doing right by their business will be appreciated.

6. Treat the Client with Respect

Your customers are just human beings. Even if they don’t seem like it. They’ve got their own professional egos, their own emotions and their own specific concerns — some of which you won’t fully understand. We like to think of our new clients as strangers who we’ll eventually turn into friends. We approach all business relationships as equals, members of a unified team working together for a desired outcome. As such, everyone on the team brings their own value to the project. All opinions are valid. Everyone deserves and gets the same respect.

7. Spend Your Client’s Money Like it’s Your Own

Another Commandment often considered cliche. But it’s also true. Agencies like ours say they do this all the time. But then they turn around and bill the client for every ridiculous item imaginable. It’s important to remember that it’s your job to get the best deal possible for anything you’re buying on their behalf. For example, we make a lot of media buys and purchase a huge quantity of print. Due to our extensive network of partnerships we’re able to negotiate the costs for these items as if the money were coming out of our own wallets. It’s only proper. If we can’t utilize our resources to save our clients money, we aren’t much of an agency.

8. Say Goodbye to Problem Clients

No matter how lucky you are, it’s inevitable that one day you’re going to work with a difficult customer. When faced with this issue, it’s important not to throw your hands up in the air and resign yourself to tolerate the loveless marriage you find yourself in. While challenging, it’s your responsibility to do all you can to manage a bad relationship. But with the worst of situations, no matter what you do you may not be able to resolve the problem(s). But that’s okay. It’s far from the end of the world. It’s best to say your goodbyes and move on. It will get better. It always does.

9. Walk in Your Client’s Shoes

Sometimes agency folks have very big egos. And there’s no room for this big-headed approach when working with clients. It’s important to stay grounded and humble. Throwing around a perceived sense of entitlement isn’t going to get you very far. Perhaps kicked off the business. There are likely many things about your client and their business that you’ll never fully understand, even if you walk in their shoes. It’s important you remain open to new knowledge. If you know everything already, the game is over. Fold up your tent and go home. Remain open, approachable and inquisitive, and sincerely show your interest in trying to understand your client’s concerns.

10. It’s a Small World After All, Treat it Like One

Overall, the marketing industry is a small, sometimes “incestuous” world, with agency personnel and client contacts switching jobs like they change their socks. In no time, your intern can become your client. Or your client can become your boss. Building respectful, professional relationships no matter which side of the desk you’re currently sitting on are crucial to developing successful partnerships.

It’s All About Doing What’s Right

To ensure you’re providing effective customer-oriented customer service, you just need to do one thing — do what’s right. Disregard that old adage that states “Good Guys Finish Last.” This isn’t true. It’s just something the bad guys say to make themselves feel better about what they do.