Archive for ‘Review: originality’

November 2, 2010

Free Isn’t Free: the case against give-away graphic design

overview

Obtaining creative design is crtitical to an organization’s growth and success. As the world becomes more visual, design grows as a strategic investment. Generally an initial project sets up a graphic foundation that gains momentum and keeps implementation costs to budget. However, initial costs are paid for before ideas are fully developed and benefits reaped. This can make many clients nervous, especially those without experience. They are concerned both about choosing the right designer and also about selecting the best concepts. Some think these risks can be avoided by asking for initial ideas as part of the proposal and awarding the project to the group with the best. Or, they may take up offers for free work from a designer who isn’t busy or one that is willing to donate. There are forms of obtaining professional-level design without paying for it:

SPECULATIVE DESIGN is when creative concepts are required with a proposal without compensation. The assumption is that when comparing concepts from several sources, you reward a winner. The other contributors are dismissed, possibly with a presentation fee. You hope to end up with the assurance via example that you made the right decision.

FREE SERVICE is when the designer doesn’t charge for creative services. Motivations to give away work, however, aren’t usually in your best interests. A designer willing to give away work:
• wishes to get a foot in the door—wanting to grow the business into paid projects
• wants to build experience and expand into a new area, thus learning on your project
• needs work, is hungry, and doesn’t know any better (see my blog about why this is such a bad idea for designers to undertake)
• is willling to donate services but doesn’t understand pro bono contributions—trading for a non-monetary exchange (see my blog that gives more description).

Asking for speculative or free design is counter to your goals and undermines creative efforts:

spiral bullet1. Project parameters are not completely formulated when starting a project, especially when deadline is an issue. When you aren’t paying for the designer’s time, it is easy to be too casual in gaining initial consensus, identifying expectations, and defining the decision-making process. Rather, speculative work falls lower on the priority list for busy executives. To impress decision-makers into attentiveness, put money on the table. To begin a project without an agreed upon plan is to conduct a time-consuming experiment that falls apart through disorganization.

spiral bullet2. It is difficult to thoroughly brief more than one designer—solutions after one meeting will be superficial. Effective design results from a relationship that builds as solutions are explored. To place a speculative competition on completely equal footing means a serious investment in setting up the project with each—time that can be better spent in other ways after choosing the designer with the best rapport and portfolio.

spiral bullet3. It is a major challenge to compare concepts. Different designers don’t develop approaches from equal resources. Design approaches are based on very different capabilities, talent, and knowledge. Concepts may be presented like apples and oranges and ultimately not scaled enough to the unique assignment. It usually ends up that any presented concepts need a lot more work because new parameters surface.

spiral bullet4. Results are insufficient—there are very few documented cases where spec design turns out favorably without the in-depth commitment of a collaboration. The designer who wins generally has to begin again with additional specifications. In the end, it is a case of being penny wise but ends up being pound foolish.

spiral bullet5. Best efforts can’t be applied. The designer is unable to spend as much time as he or she could if getting compensated. Paying work must take priority. Few clients wish to have their needs be less important! And the most talented designers are too busy to undertake unpaid work. So the best talent for the project is not used. Also, while working on unpaid projects, a designer is forced, by limitations of time, to go with first ideas instead of exploring possibilities that results in ideas worth the most.

spiral bullet6. Designers don’t gain an in-depth understanding of the project. They can’t afford to build a background or gain the administrative support for worthwhile collaboration. There is no such thing as a good design without a good client—which means working together towards the same goals.

spiral bullet7. The competition arrangement is inappropriate for developing creative solutions. If there is a contest between several creative sources, then one or more groups will not get paid for their work. The purpose of portfolio reviews, proposals, and interviews is to differentiate one designer from another. Choosing rapport, trust in insight, and strong project approach is a better way to apply efforts than to gloss superficially over the important nature of informational communication.

Those who embark optimistically on finding such donations must beware that the results are not beneficial to their organizations. Design may seem easy to give away because ideas are tough to put price tags on. However, design—especially in its initial phases—is the most valuable of visual equity. Because this is the least tangible of the publishing phases, because it requires the greatest amount of market understanding, because it uses the greatest talents, and because it is the basis for all other initiatives, the design is the spark that sets the other processes in motion. It is a mistake to undervalue this service. Fortunes have been made through strong and communicative design approaches.

Perhaps Milton Glaser is one of the most famous graphic designers in the U.S. He said:
“In our society, we express our respect for work by paying for it. When we refuse to do so, we are expressing contempt for the work and the worker. In difficult times, the fundamental rules of human conduct are under attack in and out of business. The only appropriate response is not to allow our own sense of values and self-respect to erode in the face of it.”

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June 28, 2010

Chicago Zoological Society

overview
Attendance-appeal depends on bold graphics. The Chicago Zoological Society promotes zoo visits and support through a fun graphic personality. But they do much more: dedicated to conservation and education, their graphics blend mission and expression. At their best, the character and personality of the animals themselves are captured in high quality photography and video.

Five Criteria for Graphics that Work:
Evaluating Chicago Zoological Society

spiral bullet Use of logo: An organization’s logo has a story to tell—encapsulating the personality, philosophy, and tone of an entire organization.
Although the Chicago Zoological Society’s logo isn’t very strong by itself, it sets up a visual style of silhouetted animals and plants. Better in the website banner when combined with other images, the logo is serviceable.

spiral bullet Theme: The visual first impression is dominated by the total gestalt—look, feel, purpose, and benefit. Further contact is consistent and supports personality and philosophy.
The expectation of zoo graphics is to be friendly, fun, inviting, and enriching. It is easy to illustrate animals, but not to present them in a comprehensive way. The Chicago Zoological Society uses photography to highlight every aspect of conservation and preservation.

spiral bullet Content composition: Building from a recognizable theme, the presentation is easy to grasp, clear, and engaging.
The Chicago Zoological Society excels in their homepage presentation: above the fold is a fabulous use of video combined with directional attractions. Below the fold proffers choices that are organized and inviting. The writing isn’t too much to absorb; segments are accessible. It would be a shame if they did not take advantage of photographic opportunity. Fortunately they do, and their site inspires the viewer to learn more. However, there are no obvious publications beyond the Exhibit and Animal Guide—if they offer a newsletter or magazine, these are not easy to find.

spiral bullet Consistent style: A series presents a visual language and an ambient atmosphere, promoting a positive experience and relationship with the audience.
Although the Chicago Zoological Society’s website banner stays the same on every page, the content is varied through photographic placement. Space could be better utilized to increase both variety and appeal. Pleasing colors in muted greens are visually arresting. The quality of the photographs is exceptional and presented in unique ways—although adding more portraits (like the second-level leopard) on the third-level pages would enhance their character.

spiral bullet Distinctive: The most successful presentations have a memorable twist—something extra that is unique.
The colors, graphic consistency, presentation of topics all make the Chicago Zoological Society’s graphics worth examining. Online, the template allows visual variation in the handling of photos to unify a range of programs, exhibits, research projects, and the base-line of zoo visitors.

See the Overview of the best Midwest organizations to present strong and compelling graphics.

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June 25, 2010

Intl. Association of Lighting Designers

overview
Simple is generally best. The International Association of Lighting Designers exemplifies elegant simplicity in their graphics. They have placed emphasis where it belongs—in the overall look and feel of their presentation. As a foundation to build upon, IALD’s personality is distinctive because as a rare case of starkness that is active.

Five Criteria for Graphics that Work:
Evaluating International Association of Lighting Designers

spiral bullet Use of logo: An organization’s logo has a story to tell—encapsulating the personality, philosophy, and tone of an entire organization.
Usually a logo that is a typeface and a line will not be very exciting. IALD’s logo is unusual in its expressive use of such simple elements. The imagery of light, symbolized by the yellow vertically fading line, is supported by the white light of the type. Crisp, the only limitation is the dependence on the black background, making it ink-consuming in print applications. If reversed, using black lettering, while maintaining the yellow beam, it is still unusual but not as dramatic.

spiral bullet Theme: The visual first impression is dominated by the total gestalt—look, feel, purpose, and benefit. Further contact is consistent and supports personality and philosophy.
Black and yellow are thematic colors that express the concept of light. As IALD is an association of lighting designers, the colors are the most appropriate. The logo beams like a ray of light out of the large black background. The association has a wealth of photos to show off the gorgeous interiors, yet they could be larger or have the option to click for larger. Since their mission is to raise visibility of their members’ work, highlighting the lighting could be stronger.

spiral bullet Content composition: Building from a recognizable theme, the presentation is easy to grasp, clear, and engaging.
Beginning with the splash page on the website, even though simple and elegant, IALD’s graphic personality is crisp and upbeat. Usually such a heavy use of black is not uplifting but serious and bold. Here, black is welcoming when paired with yellow, the photograph, and the literal use of negative space in the banner. In the templates, the strict grid of the left column is barely noticeable. The dominant color treatment, photo variation, and clear navigation make this site easy on the eyes and invokes a fluid visit.

spiral bullet Consistent style: A series presents a visual language and an ambient atmosphere, promoting a positive experience and relationship with the audience.
Though there is a good thematic foundation, IALD’s graphics stop there. Beyond the template and the photographs, all information is treated the same way. The typography is well delineated and there are occasional snapshot-sized images to break up the page, but these features and portfolios could be better accented. For example, their newsletter could have a graphic banner and structure to enhance visual samples of members’ work. Also their publications are difficult to find.

spiral bullet Distinctive: The most successful presentations have a memorable twist—something extra that is unique.
It takes a lot of ability to maximize minimal elements. IALD gains distinction through effective and unusual simplicity. They illuminate the influence of lighting and exemplify its aesthetics. With such rich graphic potential, they could take more advantage of their photographic library, member experiences, and further push their mission of visibility.

See the Overview of the best Midwest organizations to present strong and compelling graphics.

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June 14, 2010

Churchill Centre

overview
In a market where a niche focus is strong, The Churchill Centre has an advantage. Conveying mission and purpose clearly can be an organization’s greatest communication challenge. But with such a focused dedication on the study of Winston Churchill, transforming past wisdom to current relevance is an inspirational journey.

Five Criteria for Graphics that Work:
Evaluating The Churchill Centre
spiral bullet Use of logo: An organization’s logo has a story to tell—encapsulating the personality, philosophy, and tone of an entire organization.
Although obvious, The Churchill Centre logo gives the Churchill portrait a graphic distinction. Crisp, memorable, and communicating without words, this logo offers flexibility and reflects the greatness it represents.

spiral bullet Theme: The visual first impression is dominated by the total gestalt—look, feel, purpose, and benefit. Further contact is consistent and supports personality and philosophy.
Strong and succinct design makes the reader feel that Churchill’s example and wisdom is as current today and when he lived. There is a blend of education and entertainment—even a timeline of his daily activities. The range of offerings invokes an adventure into “one of the longest and most interesting lives of any person who has ever lived.”

spiral bullet Content composition: Building from a recognizable theme, the presentation is easy to grasp, clear, and engaging.
A great example of editing and organization, The Churchill Centre’s website has an accessible amount of choices—offering a range of interests—but is not overwhelming. The presentation, although conservative, supports its content, which is engaging and even fun. The site alone invokes a comprehensive educational journey. Redundancy, however, on many internal web pages between narrative and side links seem to not take advantage of the page space.

spiral bullet Consistent style: A series presents a visual language and an ambient atmosphere, promoting a positive experience and relationship with the audience.
Supporting a terrific logo, The Churchill Centre’s overall graphic approach is simple, yet provides a sophisticated geometry. The logo, which can appeal small, inspires icons as part of its visual vocabulary.

spiral bullet Distinctive: The most successful presentations have a memorable twist—something extra that is unique.
From exploring The Churchill Centre’s website, the visitor is led to comprehensive resources for information on Churchill—even including “books of dubious merit.” Using web media to perfection, the casual visitor receives a quick overview and the dedicated historian finds a complete resource. Both discover the relevance of Churchill as a visionary.

See the Overview of the best Midwest organizations to present strong and compelling graphics.

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