James Wynne is Director of User Experience for Sandstorm and has been in digital product development since 1996. He has worked as a UX designer for a myriad of clients including large eCommerce brands, mobile device manufacturers and integrated marketing agencies.
Local design firm owner, Sandy Marsico, has been selected to judge upcoming Web Awards in Chicago.
As the number of nominations continue to grow for the 2005 North American Marine Industry Web Awards, today, boats.com and the National Marine Manufacturers Association announced the judging panel for this prestigious new industry initiative. Judges include: Sandy Marsico, Stephen Meade, James Nolan, Fernando Regueiro, and Dana VanDen Heuvel.
The Awards are designed to recognize companies that lead the North American marine industry's drive towards higher standards of excellence in website design and content. Closing date for nominations is Tuesday, November 30, 2004. Five award categories have been created to honor different segments of the North American marine industry and the companies in those segments whose websites demonstrate creativity in design, ease of navigation and up-to-date, relevant content.
Winning companies will hold one of the prestigious titles for a year and will also receive a trophy exclusively designed by world renowned yacht designer, Tony Castro to be presented at a special awards ceremony during the 2005 Miami International Boat Show, being held February 17-21 at the Miami Beach Convention Center.
Enthusiam. Make sure the web designer (or web design company) is enthusiastic about your project and wants to do it. This may seem odd now, but you'll know when you speak with a few designers, who is truly interested in your company and who is interested in your sale.
Design Experience. Confirm that the web designer has the experience that you are looking for by asking for URLS of previous work. A good web designer should have about 6 solid examples that he/she is proud of in multiple industries demonstrating a variety of design styles to suit each industry. Just because a web designer has 30+ websites doesn't mean they must be good, it may simply mean the web designer works a lot and produces template-type sites.
Understand that there is no right answer when designing a website. The web designer you choose will create a website and base recommendations off of their experience. If you do not like their past work, they most likely are not a good fit for your company.
Questions. Be ready to discuss your website objectives and company goals. The most professional web designer will do more than make your site look good. The designer will need to be briefed on your current marketing strategy, how you are going to incorporate your new or newly designed website into that strategy, and how they can incorporate their design strategy into the big picture. If a web designer doesn't ask many questions, how will they be able to understand your company enough to visually differenciate your company from the marketplace?
Personality. The key to a successful relationship is mutual respect and good chemistry. Not egos, attitudes, nor technology jargon. If you like one another, you will work well together, be able to effectively communicate ideas, and have fun!
Marketing Savvy. Once the website is up and running, you have finished phase 1. Just because you have a website doesn't mean people will know how to find it. Depending on your need, there are plenty of marketing options for you to choose from. Having a savvy web designer will help make this a smooth process and the site will be already designed with marketing in mind.
1. Visualize Your Dream and Write it Down!
Putting your dream in writing is the first step to achieving it. The act of writing creates a commitment on your part, and helps you paint an even clearer picture of your future.
2. Invest in Your Identity
If you are looking to start up a new venture, don't skimp on the logo. Your logo is the first impression of your business (especially when all you have are business cards to hand out). If there is one thing to spend some money on, it's building your identity. And don't forget to choose a great company name!
3. Two Words: Royalty Free
Royalty free photography is a designer's dream come true. The images can be purchased quickly, at a reasonable rate, and can be used an unlimited number of times. This is an excellent way to build a beautiful, cohesive look to your brand.
4. Breaking Up is Hard to Do
Developing the ability to fire the "bad" clients can make the difference between a profitable year and a year with too many headaches. Sometimes the chemistry just isn't there, or you have grown apart. Either way, the relationship needs to come to an end - it's better for both parties involved.
5. Find Mentors Outside of your Industry
Some of the best mentors are those outside of your industry, with similar business philosophies and ethics as yourself. If you find someone who inspires and guides you, you've found a new mentor!
6. When All Else is Equal, Go with your Gut
Not sure what to do about a current situation? Listen for that voice inside that I call my gut. This natural instinct can help you make significant creative, business and hiring decisions.
7. Don't Underestimate the Power of Color
Color has the power to persuade, influence and engage a reader. Don't be afraid of color when working on your marketing materials. Thanks to digital printing, full color pieces have become more affordable than ever.
8. When Spec Work, Works
I personally hate spec work. But it worked once when we needed to show a client that we were capable of handling a project and we didn't have the specific experience in our existing client portfolio. If your company decides to hire a design firm based on spec work, make sure there is open communication with the design firms involved to increase their chances of pulling together a creative solution that works.
9. Creativity Takes Time
Designers have a saying...You can get creative work done cheap, quick or good -pick two. Be patient as the best creative ideas generally don't happen the first hour or two of brainstorming.
10. How to Get the Most Out of Your Design Firm
The best way to get the creative results you are looking for from your design team is to outline your marketing goals from the beginning so your designers can create a visual solution to your problem, not just a pretty picture.
One of the leading textbook publishers, McGraw-Hill, has invested $5 million in several companies that provide the software and applications to create e-books (Wired News, Aug 2000). From the success of e-books in the education industry, a completely new marketing tool has emerged. The e-book for business is not quite a brochure, nor a sell sheet or advertisement, but an informative, sales-driven resource.
Publishing an e-book allows a company to educate their clientele in a noninvasive way, to form strategic alliances with industry partners, and to open a dialogue with potential clients. Like a regular book, an e-book has chapters and pages of valuable information. As a marketing tool, an e-book reflects a corporate image, is distributed to educate prospects, and promotes an organization as the leader in their market for their product or service.
Because an e-book can be posted to a web site as a downloadable file, sell sheets and pricing can be updated frequently, technological advances in a specific industry can be addressed quickly, and new products and services can be launched in detail without the cost of shipping or printing the publication.
The trend of e-books in business is becoming a valuable, new marketing tool. Professionally designed and written, e-books can be integrated within a company’s marketing strategy and can reinforce a company’s corporate image. A prospect reading an e-book on a computer screen will do more than just read. Audio and video plug-ins can allow for video clips of product demonstrations and interviews with a CEO. Additional functions of a .pdf file enable prospects to highlight areas of interest, type notes in the margin of the text, and directly contact a company.
E-books can be a powerful sales and marketing tool to generate leads and increase brand awareness. E-books can be sold on-line or given away as a promotional tool. Don't wait for your biggest competitors to discover the value of e-books.
Not all graphic designers follow the same procedures in completing a project. But this cursory overview will help you become familiar with the ins-and-outs of the creative and production stages of the graphic design process.
Before any work begins, we suggest the following: a communication strategy; assigning one company staff person as the decision maker and key contact for graphic design; a written contract covering project parameters and responsibilities; money matters such as estimates and billing; and a project timetable. Since the communication strategy is the single-most important element guiding a project from its initial stages through final refinements, make sure that you and the graphic designer understand what it says.
Initial research should include an audit of your competitors' and your company's current communications. In trying to establish a distinct position for your company or one of its products or services, you don't want to mimic a competitor's work or contradict a message your company just sent out.
The first stage of creative work includes concept development. This is an exciting process, exploring various options and weighing their merits against the communication strategy. Once the concept has been established, the refinement stage begins. Along the way, you see the project evolve, each time becoming more refined. Other creative work such as writing, illustration, or photography usually occurs simultaneously with refinement process.
At the end of the concept refinement stage, the graphic designer will usually present a final comprehensive layout or mock-up to the person at your company who has final approval authority. He or she should be satisfied with everything that will go into the final product, including typography, photography, copywriting, paper and colors.
Copywriting takes on particular importance because proofreading responsibility rests with the client unless other arrangements have been made. In today's electronic world, desktop publishing allows copy to go directly from word processing to set type. Correcting copy during the word processing stage, rather than later, saves time, money and headaches.
Since the approval process may involve more than one client representative, expect changes at each decision-making point. It is important, however, that the client's key contact person keeps track of and agrees to all changes before the designer makes them. Then, the production stage begins.
During production, you will be asked to review and approve preliminary proofs at each stage of the project. This proofing process ensures accuracy at every step in the process and keeps things on budget and on schedule. During the production stage, the designer ensures the technical accuracy and overall quality of the final product.
A design project can span weeks or months. What you end up with will be the result of a joint effort. Talented designers and savvy clients produce effective graphic design by making the most of their common interests and their individual preferences. If you decide to work together on future projects, take the time to assess your experiences and look for ways to improve. A union forged by success can generate profits and growth for both of your companies.
Text excerpted from "The Graphic Design Handbook for Business"
© 1995 American Institute of Graphic Arts/Chicago Chapter