The new (or maybe not so new) buzzword that you hear everyone chatting about these days is NETWORKING.
Everyone tells you the VALUE of networking. WHY you should network. HOW to network. The BEST places for networking. And on and on and on. So with everyone meeting everyone and chatting and talking and trading business cards and ideas and excitement and promises; how does this truly benefit the small business owner??
Lets step back a moment.
The online dictionary defines networking in several ways. This one, really seems to illustrate what I want to discuss:
Lately I’ve been quite busy with new projects.
Which is fantastic. However, often a pitfall of too much work for a designer is a depletion of resources, namely creative resources. When I feel that I need a boost of creative juice (as in Dr. Suess juice, if you are catching my wave here……~~~~) I put aside the mouse and computer screen and pick up my sketch book and pencil.
A quick aside here for small business owners: When you are looking to hire a graphic and web designer, ask to see their sketch book. There are plenty of “designers” out there who know how to run Photoshop or build a site using WordPress or Joomla templates, but they cannot draw. Artist, creator, designer; these are all simple words that describe a person who learned to draw, continues to draw and uses these skills in their current title of graphic designer, web designer, artist, illustrator. Sure, your cousin Joe knows how to Photoshop clip art; but can he draw??
Anyway; n’uff said…
Back to my project:
I need to come up with an imaginary world where my clients characters will live and play on the web site that I am building for him. Yep, I’m using Joomla for the framework. Why? Too many great reasons to list here. Mostly, I am offering this CMS to my clients simply because I hear over and over again how they want to have control over their website once it is done. My own web site; www.cahproductionz.com is created purely from code, using div’s and css to control the “modules” of the site. It probably took me more than 100 hours to complete from start to finish. I can offer this type of web site to my clients, but it would be expensive. And when they want to change something, it will be expensive and they need me to do the work. So, after researching many popular CMS systems I decided upon Joomla. Joomla is easy to understand (great for when I train my clients how to make simple changes); its open source which means upgrades and fixes are readily available to me and my clients as needed; there are many great free templates available that can be manipulated to achieve unique results; it works seamlessly with Google Analytics and SEO and I can create multiple “looks” for my clients which they can turn on and off as needed.
Okay, so I wandered off topic again.
The imaginary world of Wally Goggle:
I took the idea of the photograph; added the mountain range and transferred the sketch to a canvas board.
The photo of my photo is actually the photo on my computer screen. I had forgotten about this picture. The sunset is pretty intense. I love the colours and the contrast of the water, rocks and sky.
This is the first stage after drawing the sketch onto the canvas and filling in the sky with paint. The characters of Wally Goggle World were created by artist Andrew Winning. The actual idea of the characters, their names, stories and personalities are the brain-child of Robert Kelly. Andrew’s style is very illustrative; so using paint and styling the background with bright colours and pencil-like gradients seems to fit the style of the characters.
This is stage two: I added the water. When I paint, I usually work from the background forwards. This is the most common method; as it naturally layers the background, middle ground and foreground on top of each other; creating depth. I had to really be conscious of my colour choices. My instinct is always to use naturally occurring colours in my artwork, as my leanings are to natural landscape painting and wildlife drawing. But since this is for a children’s site I needed to use bright colours. So I took a gander at some Dr. Suess work before I started to paint. I love his stuff. If you ever get the chance to see his artwork don’t pass it up. Its is something special.
Stage 4 and 5 added the foreground pink rocks. The next stage is to add some foliage to the foreground. You will have to visit the Wally Goggle World web site later to see the finished product. This project will likely take a few months to unfold completely. I’m hoping to have 80% of the site finished by the end of this month, November.
What is branding and why should you care?
Branding is creating an image for your company, its products or services. The branding of your company is a reflect of you, the company owner. This is especially important for new and small business owners to understand. When you are starting up your business, you want to stand out from the crowd and you want a branding image that is easily recognizable by your customers. Good branding follows the same rules of good design; simple design, be consistent, and make it memorable. All good designers follow these basic elements to help you to create your brand.
Key Elements to Good Branding
Simplicity in branding and logo design entails keeping your logo and brand name clean and simple. Real world examples are Pepsi, Coca-Cola, Apple, Nike, Levi, Tim Hortons and Ford to name a few. All of these brands have these things in common; an incredibly simple brand/logo that is consistent across all their products and services and an image that consumers remember and associate with the company products and services! As a new small business owner, you might think its quaint and homey to use your nephews hand drawn picture of his favourite car for the logo of your new auto service store. But does this reflect how you want your customers to see you? If your aim is to serve only your neighbourhood, family and friends then by all means, use that cute refrigerator artwork. Branding also entails your company name. Fred’s Friendly Auto Service Centre might be a nice tagline but it’s not a name that consumers will remember consistently. Another aspect of your branding to keep in mind is to try to limit the number of colours in your logo to a maximum of three, with two being preferable. The reasons for this are again, maintaining simplicity and reducing your costs when you decide to have signs, shirts, uniforms, hats and many other advertising products printed. Silk-screeners, embroiders and sign-makers will charge you extra for the additional colours you use in your logo.
Consistency in branding is key for global and small businesses. Once you decide on your logo, its two or three colours and your catchy and memorable company name; DON’T CHANGE IT! Use the same branding on everything, your business cards, flyers, web site; everywhere that you want to advertise your business to your customers. Even small changes such as colour can confuse consumers and your business is no longer memorable.
For example: The Ford Oval
The first Ford Oval trademark was introduced in 1907. While there have been a few small changes to the logo, essentially the Ford branding has not changed in more than a century. Ford and its products are recognizable world-wide.
Another great example of branding consistency is Coca-Cola:
Frank Mason Robinson created the Coca–Cola logo in 1885. Today the logo remains virtually unchanged since the inception of the brand. Another great example of a product and brand that is recognizable world-wide.
Make it Memorable
Lastly, your branding should be memorable. This quality is sure to follow if you paid attention to keeping it simple and consistent. An easy to remember company name along with a bold, simple logo that remains consistent in every bit of publication you produce for your company will work towards creating a brand that is memorable by your customers. If you see the name Tim Hortons, immediately you think of coffee and donuts. Levis is jeans. Ford is cars and trucks. There is no confusion and the brand becomes a part of the urban vernacular.
So just how do you achieve all of this? As a new business owner, its hard to give up responsibilities to outside sources. Its your “baby” afterall, and as a proud parent, you want to be central to its development and growth, right? You don’t need to give up the ownership of your ideas, but if you find yourself going round and round, spending sleepless nights and harried days thinking about your company, what to call it and what your logo should look like; why not put your trust into a graphic designer? Present your passionate ideas and ideals for your “baby” to a designer. Then when your designer returns to you with a few ideas they created fueled by your passion, you can then move forward and onwards to more important things; like growing your business.