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Paul Rand, the man with the brand

Paul Rand was a pioneer when it came to capturing an entire business in one simple, elegant symbol

One of the major draws at this year’s Offset creative conference, which took place in March, was Paula Scher from design powerhouse Pentagram.

During her highly entertaining delivery, she gave attendees a brief glimpse at one of her projects, and one of the most high-profile design jobs in the business – the new logo for Microsoft Windows 8, which no doubt has been battering your eyes from all manner of advertising hoardings and formats in recent weeks.

According to Pentagram, the “logo re-imagines the familiar four-colour symbol as a modern geometric shape that introduces a new perspective on the Microsoft brand”.

At the time, Scher was more succinct. After giving a blink and you’d have missed it look at the already-familiar four-pane logo, she said: “I know what you’re thinking. You don’t like it. But you will.”

This confidence speaks volumes about her prodigious graphic-design ability, and on the Windows front at least, she’s right. This ability to encapsulate a company in a single, relatively simple symbol seems almost utterly innate. And perhaps the best person in this business was American graphic designer Paul Rand.

Rand is responsible for a series of corporate symbols that pop into your head almost unbidden. His clients have included IBM, Enron, UPS, ABC, and NeXT, the company founded by Steve Jobs when he quit Apple in 1985. Jobs, perhaps one of the most exacting clients a designer could have, was unstinting in his praise, calling Rand “the greatest living graphic designer”.

Perhaps the strongest testament to Rand’s work is the fact that many of his designs survive, some decades after their creation, albeit with some minor modifications and evolutions to their look and feel (Rand died in 1996).

Paul Rand was educated at the Pratt Institute, the Parsons School of Design, and the Art Students League, although he regarded himself as largely self-taught, having begun his foray into commercial design by painting signs for his father’s grocery shop and for school events.

No part of his life went uncritiqued – he was born Peretz Rosenbaum, but pared even this back, figuring that “four letters here, four letters there, would create a nice symbol”.

He was one of the originators of the Swiss style of graphic design, but more than anything he created graphic design as an industry. In the words of fellow graphic designer Louis Danziger: “He almost single-handedly convinced business that design was an effective tool . . . He more than anyone else made the profession reputable. We went from being commercial artists to being graphic designers largely on his merits.”

Rand may have had a genius for industrial design married with a gift for salesmanship, but he was much more than a company man. He revered modernism, as is evident by his spare, clean logos, and in later life earned the ire of younger colleagues by railing against postmodernist theory and its influence on design. In A Designer’s Art, Rand said, “Ideas do not need to be esoteric to be original or exciting.” Another of his books, Thoughts on Design, remains a core text for graphic designers.

His logos could not live in a limbo. His American Broadcasting Company trademark, which he made in 1962, is a beautiful exercise in restraint, and he insisted that it was its association and what it represented that gave it meaning, rather than the symbol in and of itself: “It derives its meaning and usefulness from the quality of that which it symbolises. If a company is second rate, the logo will eventually be perceived as second rate. It is foolhardy to believe that a logo will do its job immediately, before an audience has been properly conditioned.”

Much of his work was built around the precept that a logo “cannot survive unless it is designed with the utmost simplicity and restraint”, something elegantly illustrated by the current exhibition of his work at the Ebow gallery at 1 Castle Street, Dublin 2. The show is part of Design Week 2012, and features around 30 original pieces by Paul Rand, an animation of some of his work by New York studio Imaginary Forces, and specially commissioned prints from Irish artists Johnny Kelly and James Earley.

Source: The Irish Times

Marketing Strategy

You might have heard that I don’t spend a lot of time reading blogs.

But one thing I do spend quite a lot of time doing is visiting the best blogs and websites in different niches in order to “borrow” ideas from them.

You see, one thing that bloggers often do is get stuck in their own niche. If they write about the moon landing then they only read other blogs about the moon landing or related space travel geekery.

I think this is a mistake.

Quite a lot of my ideas for content or different future projects have come from looking at sites in niches I have absolutely zero interest in. In this post I’m going to show you a few things I’ve learned from my travels about what the best blogs do on their sites. Hopefully you’ll discover something you can apply to your own.

1. A darn good content plan
One of my main passions here on Blog Tyrant is helping my readers learn more about how to develop a content plan. In fact, this special announcement that I’ve been talking about for a while now will be focused quite a lot on this very topic.

Just take a look at guys like Chris Ducker who recently ran a 10-part series (yes 10 parts!) on how to work with a virtual assistant. This type of thing takes planning and it reeks of high quality, useful information.

The professionals like TIME, the Guardian and National Geographic would all have very strict ideas about where they want their content to go over time. The random posting of bloggers really worries me.

2. Long term goals
Closely linked with the last one is the idea of long term goals. This doesn’t just refer to content goals, of course, but things you want to achieve with your blog and then thing you want your blog to help you achieve.

For example, one of my personal goals of 2013 is to make Blog Tyrant my primary focus and stop working so much on my other online businesses. This means a big re-focus for the work that I do on a day to day basis.

Think about some long term goals that you’d like to achieve and then work your blog into that plan. It’s very important to make sure you’ve got the short and medium term goals sorted out as well.

3. A killer About Us page
If you read my post last week on how to get traffic you’ll know I probably don’t want to link to my post on the best about us pages. But, I guess it’s kind of relevant.

A good About Us page is vital for any blogs success. It is usually the second page that people visit and can go a long way to making a random visitor a little more interested in your content or even your mailing list.

My blogging friends Caz and Craig have a really nice example of this. It’s personal, it has photos and it gets you deeper into their content. This is how you should use a page like this to help people get to know you.

When writing a good About Us page consider including:

    • Your story
      Make it a personal story, not just the story of the blog. Talk about who you are and why you’re doing what you’re doing.
    • Some good photographs
      More on this later but for now let me just say that a good photograph is really important to help people connect with you personally as well as taking your blog seriously.

Testimonials

  • Get some feedback from readers and consider showing that on this page down the bottom. Helps people feel part of a group.
  • Old content
    Remember, new visitors don’t know about your classic posts. Why not show them a few of your pillar posts to help them get a feel for your blog?
  • Your mailing list
    Of course – make sure there is an option for them to become a subscriber.

Put all of this together and you’ll have a nice little section for people to get to know you.

4. An orderly and very sexy mailing list
I put a lot of emphasis on growing an engaged and very sexy mailing list. It allows you to promote content, affiliates, new products, new websites and so on.

My preference is to use AWeber because they have a lot of great stats, opt-in form creators, and they allow you to segment your lists in a very simple and orderly way. You can also redirect your new subscribers to get a free eBook.

However, the focus of this point is that you need to keep your email subscribers orderly and on a specific funnel. Make sure they know what they are getting when they sign up. If they asked for a weekly roundup of your posts don’t send them every single update.

5. Their own domain name
If you’re new to blogging (and a lot of my readers are) you’re probably going to be a little bit scared by this one.

The fact of the matter remains that it is very hard to grow a professional blog on a free domain like Blogger or Tumblr. Sure, it happens. But it’s not ideal.

In my video on blog hosting I talk about why I think you need to move away from the idea of a free domain name and get one that represents your brand – something that you own completely. I just really hate the idea of people building up their blogging assets on a domain name that they don’t own.

6. Some reliable blog hosting with a WordPress backend
This is something I mention quite a lot but need to keep mentioning because it is so important. Your hosting is really important – as is the content management system that you use.

For beginners looking to host their own blog I have made some recommendations here and instructions on getting set up here. This is so important because, again, you don’t want to be building up an asset on a platform that you don’t fully own and control.

Some of the main reasons I recommend getting your own host with a WordPress backend include:

  • Thousands of plugins
    There are thousands of free plugins that you can use to change the way your site functions. These features can cost a lot of money if you were to custom build them on a different platform.
  • A crap load of themes
    As with the plugins, there are thousands of free and paid themes that you can use and tweak and change.
  • Ease of use
    WordPress really is one of the easiest CMS to use and beginners can pick it up quite quickly while experts will easily delve deeper and make it work a lot harder for them.
  • Infinite customisations
    I am always blown away at how much you can do with WordPress using plugins, custom coding or a combination of the two. You can turn a page on your blog into an online store, take bookings for events, run a download site… the list really is endless. If you have a good coder like Crazy XHTML you will find that almost any feature you want is a possibility.
  • Complete control
    When you own the server you have complete control over your emails, server space and all the things that go along with that. It’s a bit more work but totally worth it.

The best blogs and websites, however, have super fast dedicated hosting and use things like Content Delivery Networks to deliver images and graphics at a faster rate. This will be the topic of a future post as I suspect there are a lot of Tyrant Troops outgrowing their shared hosting environment.

7. Multiple content battlegrounds
A few months ago I wrote a three million word post on how to choose your social media platform. I tried to detail the main sites in a way that would help you get a grasp on what each one offered and how you could use it for your business.

And that is a really important point – you need to choose carefully but not give one so much weight that you neglect others. As Pat Flynn always says, be everywhere. But as I always try to clarify, not at the expense of your main asset – your blog.

If you can use Pinterest, Google+, Facebook and Twitter to drive sales and subscribers then do it. But if you are just finding that it is a time waste that doesn’t convert then give it up.

The most important point about having multiple content battlegrounds, however, is that you really need to try to move away from just using text and get into video, photos, images, eBooks, webinars, podcasts and all the other varieties of media that are out there. This diversity really helps to protect your blog from the Google ups and downs.

8. A bit of an advertising splash
A long time ago I wrote a post on ProBlogger about how you can use advertising to help grow your blog into something bigger. I think this is something a lot of bloggers needs to re-visit.

For some reason we bloggers think that blogging should be free and it should grow organically without any help from a cash-injection. Unfortunately it doesn’t always work like that.

All businesses advertise. We should to. Even if you just do a little bit of a Facebook spend like Neil Patel does when he is pushing a new service it will help you get in front of new people and hopefully drive some targeted traffic.

Be warned, however, this stuff is really addictive and it’s easy to get wrong. Make sure you do a lot of testing and tracking so you’re not just throwing money out there.

9. Some professional photos
A few weeks ago I jumped on a Skype chat with the very intelligent Chris Ducker and one of the first things he mentioned was the photo I use of me sitting on the couch in a forest with my laptop. Initially I had some doubts about the concept (I don’t work in a forest!) but after hearing one of my internet heroes talk about the fact that he noticed it I was really glad we went along with the concept.

Professional photos are so important for taking your brand to the next level. Not only do they help your readers connect to your face and personality, they undo all the negative effects that a cheap photo does to your blog. I instantly feel a little less interested in some blogs when the photos (especially the About Us) are just stock images or done with an iPhone.

Do a search for photographers in your area and see if you can set aside $200 to get some quick photos done. Make sure they express who you are and what you do and aren’t just traditional headshots. You don’t want to end up with a photo on Awkward Family Portraits.

10. A well developed and consistent brand and logo
Something that you instantly notice when you visit great sites like Nerd Fitness is how consistent the branding is. The logo is well incorporated into everything that they do and the colours and vibe are the same everywhere.

This is really important for blogs to do because it is part of standing out from the crowd. If you can come up with something distinctive and apply it to your voice and all that you do you’ll find people are more interested in you content.

I’ve been a bit naughty on this front as I’m moving away from the Blog Tyrant sceptre with the upcoming changes in favour of the more military style text logo. I know some of you won’t be happy with that.

To read the rest of this article: Blog Tyrant

Creative & Strategic

Everyone wants to be taken seriously, valued for their contributions, and have a real voice for how to best solve problems or achieve business goals. However, gaining this type of respect has proved difficult for in-house creative services teams. In fact, nearly 45 percent of in-house creative teams report that gaining respect from internal clients is one of their greatest challenges.

It’s all about perception. The internal clients of in-house creative teams often tend to view them as merely, “service providers,” rather than strategic partners, based on several incorrect perceptions that in-house teams lack the talent and skills that an external agency can provide. This perception is one of the largest roadblocks creative professionals face in altering client attitudes and gaining respect. As Bob Calvano, director of Merck’s Global Creative Studios notes, “A lot of the juicy, high-profile projects go out to agencies because folks think that the agencies have better talent.…In many cases, the in-house team is the best agency for the project, but a huge shift needs to take place in order for this to happen.”

This white paper offers the following six tips creative teams can use to position themselves as valued, strategic partners and receive more respect from the rest of the company:

  • 1 Act like an agency
  • 2 Use numbers and data to prove your worth
  • 3 Guarantee on-time delivery
  • 4 Be strategic about how you manage your work
  • 5 Establish the creative team as your company’s brand authority
  • 6 Focus on improving the client experience

 

Full PDF from workfront

Finding the ideal Client

Are They Worth It? 26 Qualifying Questions to Ask Prospects

How many times have you pitched a potential client, or sent a proposal, only to get a “Thanks, we’ll think about it and get back to you” email or phone call?

If you’re like most agencies, you pitch way more often than you close. And after awhile, you can become so discouraged you want to throw in the towel. Many agencies struggle with cash flow and thus leap at the chance to pitch anyone, hoping to get some business, any business, to keep the cash coming. And while we all need to put food on the table, is that really the best way to use what limited resources (time, energy, and money) you’ve got?

Of course getting work is important. But we’ve seen time and time again that getting the right kind of work from the right kind of customer is more important. Otherwise you’ll wind up selling your soul and that wonderful agency you started and love becomes nothing more than a job you hate.

There is a better way. The most successful agencies have a disciplined sales process they follow religiously. So if you haven’t mastered the fine art of sales or don’t have a clue about where to start when qualifying a prospect, there’s no time like the present to get started.

What Is Qualifying?

Qualifying is determining whether or not that guy who called to find out about your services is worthy of the time and effort it will take for you to convert him into a customer. That’s right — worthy of your time and effort. Because your time is valuable. Time is a non-renewable resource. Once gone, you can’t get it back. So it makes sense to use it as wisely as possible.

Just because some guy has raised his hand (filled out a form online, dropped a business card into your booth’s fish tank, or called to ask about your services, etc.), that doesn’t make him a lead. It just makes him kinda, sorta interested. It’s still too early in the process to know whether or not it’s a genuine opportunity. The courtship hasn’t even begun.

Provocative Qualifying Questions

Here are some great questions we’ve heard asked at various stages of qualification. Use these as a jumping off point to create your own list so you can quickly disqualify non-opportunities and engage with the golden ones:

  • 1] For what reasons are you looking to hire a new agency now? What triggered your decision to hire an agency? What’s made this so urgent or important?
  • 2] What experiences, good and bad, have you had with other agencies? What do you want to be different this time around?
  • 3] What results do you expect to see from the work we do together?
  • 4] What are your company’s goals?
  • 5] What’s your most important priority? What’s your most urgent priority? If they’re not the same, ask: What will it take to focus on the most important priority? How can the urgent priority get downgraded? What’s your company’s biggest marketing challenge?
  • 6] What’s keeping you from overcoming or meeting that challenge?
  • 7] What internal resources do you have to apply to this challenge?
  • 8] How well are your competitors doing?
  • 9] What are your competitors doing that you’re not and wish you were?
  • 10] What do you want to be the best at? What do you want your company or department to be renowned for?
  • 11] What are you willing to stake your reputation on?
  • 12] What’s the average lifetime value of a customer?
  • 13] What’s your customer acquisition cost?
  • 14] What’s your current marketing return on investment?
  • 15] Out of all your company’s departments, which one does your team most struggle working with?
  • 16] What’s your department’s relationship like with your sales team?
  • 17] How could you improve your relationship with (internal department named in No. 16)?
  • 18] What’s your process for choosing an agency? Have you used this process before? What worked or didn’t work? What will you do to get a different result?
  • 19] Who’s involved in making the decision? Who signs the contract?
  • 20] If you don’t hire an agency, how will you meet this challenge? What will you do?
  • 21] How will you know we’ve been successful?
  • 22] If marketing doesn’t improve, what will it cost your company?
  • 23] If we deliver on agreed upon goals, what’s that worth to your company?
  • 24] What problems do you see down the road that could obstruct or constrain our working together?
  • 25] What makes you lose sleep at night? Or what do you need so you can sleep at night?

You won’t get it right the first time, the second, or even the third time. You have to keep tweaking it until you get your process and questions to work for you. With persistence, you’ll get there. The sooner you do it, the better clients you’ll get, the more fun you’ll start having, and the more successful your business will be.

Source: Hubspot

What & Why Usability

Summary: “User experience” encompasses all aspects of the end-user’s interaction with the company, its services, and its products.

The first requirement for an exemplary user experience is to meet the exact needs of the customer, without fuss or bother. Next comes simplicity and elegance that produce products that are a joy to own, a joy to use. True user experience goes far beyond giving customers what they say they want, or providing checklist features. In order to achieve high-quality user experience in a company’s offerings there must be a seamless merging of the services of multiple disciplines, including engineering, marketing, graphical and industrial design, and interface design.

It’s important to distinguish the total user experience from the user interface (UI), even though the UI is obviously an extremely important part of the design. As an example, consider a website with movie reviews. Even if the UI for finding a film is perfect, the UX will be poor for a user who wants information about a small independent release if the underlying database only contains movies from the major studios.

We should also distinguish UX and usability: According to the definition of usability, it is a quality attribute of the UI, covering whether the system is easy to learn, efficient to use, pleasant, and so forth. Again, this is very important, and again total UX is an even broader concept.

For more depth: Full-day UX Basic Training course
Source: www.nngroup.com  See also: UX Certification

Understanding What & Why of Usability

Methods of Usability

@usabilitygov

The 5 Levels of the UX Process

ux_principles

UX metrics can be a powerful tool for evaluating the performance of virtually any type of product and is best used when combined with marketing metrics. Sound simple enough? Well, in the end it really is simple. You just need to be on the lookout for the right signs and measure the right metrics. Before diving straight into the list, let’s take a quick look into some mistakes people usually make. (You don’t want to be guilty of these).

Full Story: ConversionXL

Why A Brand Matters

Band-Aid1

In one sense, perhaps the most important sense, a brand is a promise. Think of some top brands and you immediately know what they promise: McDonald’s, Coca Cola, Budweiser, Ford, Apple AAPL -2.49%, MetLife MET -0.21%.

You know what you’re going to get with a well-branded product or service.

In another sense, a brand is a specific combination of logo, words, type font, design, colors, personality, price, service, etc.

It’s also a bundle of attributes. Think of Volvo, for instance, and your first thoughts are probably going to be something like “well built, comfortable, Swedish” and, most of all, “safety.”

The promise, look, personality and attributes can eventually acquire a special patina of what I call “me” appeal. Buying a certain brand says something about the person who buys it. Apple has that patina. So does Prius. The booze and clothing businesses are filled with patina products: Cristal, Guinness, Ralph Lauren, Manolo Blahnik.

All of this can lead to sub-brands, like iPhone and iPad which acquire the aura of the parent brand.

It takes a lot of time, money and very hard work to build and maintain great brands like that, brands that can speak volumes in just a few syllables.

Source: Forbes

Simple, Creative, Direct

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Less is More!

Leonardo da Vinci once said: “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”, and architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe adopted the motto “Less is more” to describe his extreme simplicity, by enlisting every element and detail to serve multiple visual and functional purposes (such as designing a floor to also serve as the radiator, or a massive fireplace to also house the bathroom).

Even after 500 years Leonardo’s words are true and this rule is still widely used in design and advertising. It may sound  a bit contradictory, but simple things often require much more brain power to create than the most complicated stuff. And it always strikes you when something completely simple is capable of conveying so much more than you expect.

Without further ado, let’s take a look at 26 most creative examples of minimalist advertising, and afterwards you can always leave a comment telling how much you liked our post!

Source: BoredPanda

Are you being creative?

Vodka-Surrealism

Creativity is one of the most commonly used terms in marketing communication as those who develop marketing communication messages are often referred to as “creative types” and agencies develop reputations for their creativity. So much attention is focused on the concept of creativity because the major challenge given to those who develop marketing communication messages is to be creative. Creativity has been defined as “a quality possessed by persons that enables them to generate novel approaches in situations, generally reflected in new and improved solutions to problems.”

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