We all love freebies and there are some great websites out there that offer free stuff to help graphic designers with projects and ideas. Below are my favourite places on the web for free resources along with a few notes on using them in your work.
My fave free font site is Dafont: www.dafont.com. It has an incredible number of free fonts. The site also has paid, donationware and demo fonts. If you wish to find a font that you are allowed to use for free on paid client projects ensure you tick the “Public Domain” and “100% Free” boxes when searching. That way you will only be shown totally free fonts with no restrictions (though I always suggest you check the license text file that comes with the font just to be sure). Also note some free fonts will have limited character sets. They may only have one font weight, only have upper case or may have limited characters.
FREE PHOTOSHOP FILES AND ACTIONS
A really good site for your Photoshop freebie needs is www.bestpsdfreebies.com. You will find all sorts of layered PSD files on here for mock ups, actions and effects. As with many freebie sites, there is also paid premium content on there should you want it.
Any graphic designer knows one of the hardest parts of any brief is getting decent images if they’re not being provided by the client. I've found www.pexels.com that's a great with tons of totally free images licensed under the Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license. This means the pictures are completely free to be used for any legal purpose both personal and commercial.
A surprising resource I was recommended to check out was Pinterest (www.pinterest.com). Just search for “Mockups” and you will find a plethora of really well designed PSD mock up files to overlay your logos, business cards, brochures etc onto.
THINGS TO NOTE WHEN USING FREEBIES
There’s some great free stuff on the web uploaded by some very talented and generous designers. Please support them by liking, sharing and linking to their work and never use any restricted license or free for personal use items in commercial projects unless you’ve paid for them.
We need to support those in our industry who are willing to put their work out there for others to use and why not offer something for free that you’ve created? It’s a great way to raise your profile and get recognition of your work.
Finally, a word of caution. Alway have your antivirus up to date when downloading freebies or any files for that matter. Download links can often have annoying popups and while most files are totally safe, there is always a risk some unscrupulous person has hidden spyware or a virus in the file. Always scan any files you download before you open them to ensure they’re safe.
I heard mentioned someone mention the other day that they wished their business was big enough to be able to do a marketing campaign. They seemed to think it was something only large businesses with enormous marketing budgets could do. Well actually, any size businesses can do a marketing campaign, even on a tight budget.
First thing people often don’t understand is what a marketing campaign is. If you ask Google it this is the answer you’ll get:
“A marketing campaign is a coordinated series of steps that can include promotion of a product through different mediums (television, radio, print, online) using a variety of different types of advertisements.”
Don’t worry about all the marketing speak, put simply it means a marketing campaign is advertising your business in a planned, consistent way using various types of media.
A campaign can be something pretty simple. You could send your customers an eshot or printed leaflet that encourages them to visit your website. As part of your campaign you could then have your website designed in the same creative style with the same images and messages as the eshot or leaflet. This helps to continue the customers journey with you giving them familiarity with your brand and encouraging them to buy your product or service.
The above is a campaign stripped back to its most basic form but it still has the same goals at the core as any large, multi-million pound campaign. Those goals are; to get your potential customers to know and feel comfortable with your business and to get them understanding the benefits of choosing you over your competitors.
No matter how small your business, with a bit of planning you can ensure your marketing ideas works together in the most efficient way to form a cohesive marketing campaign. Give it a try, it’s easier than you think. Thanks for reading.
1) KEEP IT CONSISTENT
One of the key factors in creating a strong brand identity is to keep your marketing consistent. Customers are more likely to deal with a brand they recognise and ensuring all your communications retain the same look and feel is important. Keep your colours, fonts and styles consistent whether it be on your website, a flyer or social media.
2) KEEP IT SIMPLE
You need your brand identity to be clear and concise so people recognise it quickly. Complex logos, lots of wording or too much going on in a design can lose the inserts of the viewer before they’ve even taken on board the message you’re trying to convey.
3) KEEP YOUR PROMISES
It’s nice to shout about how great your product or service is but you need to ensure you deliver what your brand represents. If you want your brand to stand for the best in your chosen industry then do your very best to make it happen. Not delivering promises can weaken your brand and give it bad reputation.
4) SHOUT ABOUT IT!
You can have the best brand and business in the world but if no one knows about it then it will struggle to succeed. Use all the communication channels available to you to get your brand out there and create the recognition all great brands have. Use adverts, websites, social media, eshots, networking events and industry exhibitions. Don’t forget to be consistent with your designs and messages.
5) LOVE YOUR BRAND
This one may sound a bit odd but if you love your brand and have a passion for what you do then that enthusiasm will be passed on to your customers and help give that “feel good” factor. Be confident and proud when you talk or write about what you do. A brand you love will become a brand others love too and that’s always good for your business and your soul.
For this blog post I thought I’d cover some of the things you can do when working with a graphic designer to help ensure they produce the best work for you and your money. These will also keep the designer happy and onboard with your projects.
AGREE CLEAR DEADLINES WITH YOUR DESIGNER
This one is really important but often overlooked. Before you even agree the work with the graphic designer, have clear dates in your head for when you expect the first proof or concepts and when you want the final signed off piece of design made available to you. This not only gives you a critical path so you know when to expect something back, it also helps the graphic designer plan his time and projects.
MAKE YOUR BRIEF AS COMPLETE AS POSSIBLE
The starting point of all graphic design work is the client’s brief. It’s your chance to explain to the designer exactly what you want and expect. If done correctly, it can make the whole process much easier for you and the designer, resulting in less proofs, a quicker turn around and a better end piece of artwork. Take a look at my other blog post “What to put in a design brief” for a more detailed post on this. http://www.destinationcreative.co.uk/my-blog/what-to-put-in-a-design-brief
PROVIDE SOME INSPIRATION
You don’t need to tell the designer exactly how to do the design, after all that’s what you pay them for but it can help both of you if you provide a mood board or links to images or websites that have the same look and feel that you’d like used in your own project.
GIVE CONSTRUCTIVE FEEDBACK
If, when you see your first draft from the designer, you really don’t like the look of what has been produced then don’t just tell them you hate it and they need to come up with something else. You need to explain what elements you don’t like, why you think they don’t work and what you were expecting. This helps give the designer some creative direction.
RESPOND TO QUERIES QUICKLY
Sometimes, even when you’ve provided the graphic designer with a great brief and all the content they need, there will still be questions. It can be clarification of which image to use, too much text to fit in a certain space or just something which isn’t clear. Often, a simple one line answer is all that is needed but you need to ensure you get back with an answer as soon as you can to keep things moving.
Once you’ve found the ideal freelance graphic designer to work with on your project you will most likely be asked by them to send through a design brief. Don’t worry, it’s actually pretty straight forward and is just a document giving the graphic designer the information needed to complete the work for you.
Here are the main pieces of information needed in a design brief:
A TITLE FOR THE PROJECT AND VERSION NUMBER
This is so both you and your designer know exactly which project you are talking about when discussing the work. This is especially useful when it’s part of a large, multi piece project. As design briefs often evolve and change, adding a version number also helps ensure everyone is looking at the same brief.
A PROJECT OVERVIEW
This doesn’t need to be a War and Peace. It just needs to be a simple overview of the reason for the project and, most importantly, the goal of the artwork your designer will produce. Is it to drive footfall into your store or to promote a special offer? Giving this kind of information allows the designer to know how to create something that best achieves your aim for doing the project.
ARTWORK SIZE AND PAGE COUNT
Confirm what size the artwork should be and also page count. This stops there being any misunderstanding and your little A5 flyer turning into an A1 poster!
TIMESCALES AND DEADLINES
This can be a really important one to include and is often one people leave out. Set a date you need to receive first proof by, when you will provide amends back to the designer and when the deadline for supplying to the printer is. This not only helps the designer manage their time but also gives you an agreed timescale in writing should there be any issues.
This one depends on the size and complexity of the project. Sometimes you can provide the text content for the project within the brief itself. This works for relatively small, simple briefs but if you’re working on a 100 page catalogue then I’d suggest providing it in a separate text document.
Finally, if you have any icons, images or other elements you want the designer to include, make a note of them in the brief. Whilst you should never provide images, logos or icons by embedding them into your brief (they should all be sent as separate files) it helps the designer if you explain where you’d like them to appear if you already have a preference.
Every now and again I get clients wanting to give their logo a bit of a refresh. Sometimes it’s because their business is changing and sometimes it’s just because they’re bored with it and fancy a change. Below is my guide to what you should consider when refreshing your logo.
DOES IT REALLY NEED A REFRESH?
This may sound an odd one to start with but before you invest time and money in giving your logo a facelift ask yourself, “Why am I doing it?”. Making changes to your established logo isn’t something to be taken lightly. If you’re unsure, ask others what they think of it. Ideally don’t ask friends, family or employees as you want someone who will give you an honest opinion. You never know, the overall feedback may be that there’s actually nothing wrong with your current logo and as the saying goes, “if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it”!
WHERE TO START?
So you’ve decided that you do want to change your logo but where do you start? First thing to do is look at your current logo and decide what isn’t working for you. Is it too bland? Is it too busy? Are the colours not right for you? Try and be honest with yourself as to what’s wrong with it. If in doubt ask the opinion of others. Remember, the point of the logo is to quickly and effectively represent your business.
REVIEW EACH ELEMENT
Most logos are made up of three or four elements. They are the font, colour palette, icon and strap-line. Take each element and decide if that element needs to stay, go or be changed. Sometimes all you need is a subtle change of colour or a new font to make you logo a new lease of life. You don’t always need to start from scratch.
KEEP SOME ELEMENTS FROM YOUR OLD LOGO
As I’ve stated above, you don’t need to change every element in your logo and in most cases, it’s good to keep some echoes of your old logo in there to keep some consistency (See my blog post about brand constancy here). Keeping the colours or maybe the font of your current logo will help existing customers associate the new look with the business.
TAKE YOUR TIME
Lastly, don’t rush the process. Unlike deciding on a new logo, when you’re changing one that’s already there you don’t usually have to rush. Don’t repeat mistakes made with your current logo and once you’ve decided on your new one, live with it for a few weeks before rolling it out in your business. Make sure you’re completely happy with it so it will be a long while before you need to do another refresh.
We often think of customer service as one of those things you look for when going into a shop or dealing with a large company, but even a freelance graphic designer can aim to give their clients a good customer experience.
For this blog post have listed 5 simple things we can do to provide our clients with good customer service, ensuring they want to work with us again and again.
1) RESPOND TO EMAILS AND MESSAGES QUICKLY
The one thing that clients hate most is waiting answers. Whilst most of us freelancers tend to be self employed and not have an army of assistants, we can take advantage of mobile technology to enable us to respond promptly. It doesn’t have to be a complete response, sometimes a quick “thank you for your email, I’ll get back to you later today with an answer” is enough. Which brings me neatly onto to tip number 2…
2) ALWAYS KEEP THE CLIENT UPDATED
This is particularly important when working on large or longterm projects. Give clients updates on the progress and let them know that you’re still on target to meet the deadline. You don’t need to bombard them with detailed emails all the time but just a little progress report now and then helps keep their mind at ease and is good practice.
3) HIGHLIGHT TYPOS AND ERRORS TO THE CLIENT
There is a saying in design, “not just a crayon pusher”! It means don’t just plop in text with errors and typos thinking to yourself, “it’s not my problem, I’m just the designer”. Let the client know of errors and check if they’d like it correcting. Whilst it may not be a graphic designers place to edit someone else's words, it’s good customer service to highlight it to the client so they can be corrected before they are published.
4) ALWAYS BE HONEST
Always tell the client if you can’t achieve a deadline or if a project is more complex than you thought. If you suddenly realise it’s more work than you estimated or will take longer then pick up the phone and talk to the client to let them know. People are often grateful for your honesty and it will help you both review the situation and find the best solution.
5) GO THE EXTRA MILE
Sometimes it’s the small things that make a difference. Try to exceed your clients expectations. Delivering artwork ahead of deadline or providing them with some ideas of your own for a project all help add a bit of value to the service you’re providing.
Being a graphic designer is great. In fact, it’s so great that lots of people want to be one. So, in order to get noticed, you need to make sure you actively let clients know you’re out there and ready to do some top quality work for them.
In this blog post I’m going to list 5 things that you, as a graphic designer, can do to raise your profile and make people aware that you’re here and ready for hire. All 5 of them don’t cost a penny to do, which is especially good if you’re just starting out in the world of freelance and don’t have much of a budget for self promotion.
1) WRITE A BLOG
This just had to be the first one on my list as I’m writing a blog post about it!
Set up a blog on your website and write helpful articles that show your expertise as a graphic designer. Try to write some posts aimed at fellow graphic designers and some posts for clients to show them you know your stuff.
A blog is also a good way to get your site further up in the search engine results. Sites like Google always love fresh, original content and will prioritise those sites over outdated ones or ones using content copied from other places.
I will admit it’s hard making time to write post when you’re busy with projects but I personally think it’s well worth while.
2) BE ACTIVE ON SOCIAL MEDIA
Hopefully you’ve already got yourself set up on LinkIn, Twitter and any other social media sites you decide to use but just setting up a profile and then forgetting about it won’t get you noticed. You need to regularly be active on them and let people know you’re around. You can use tools such as Hootsuite to help manage and automate some of this but I also think you need to get on there and interact with people.
3) GET LISTED ON WEBSITES
The more places on the internet you can get your name the better and a really easy way to do this is get yourself listed on website. Yell.com is a good one to start with. It’s free to get yourself listed for your local area but be aware, they will try to get you to then pay for being listed in other areas. If you don’t have budget for it just tell them that and you’ll still have your free listing.
Local councils often have a local business listings website that is free to get yourself on to. My local one for Worcestershire is finditinworcestershire.com and I have my own business listing, logo and contact details on there.
4) MEET PEOPLE
It sounds obvious but you do need to get out and shake a few hands, put a few faces to names. People always deal with people and no matter how good your branding is or how slick your website looks, clients often choose a person they’ve met and like.
Take advantage of any meeting, planned or otherwise, to promote yourself and your business. Always carry a couple of business cards and always be polite and courteous. Don’t got for a hard sell approach with people, just let them know who you are and what you do.
5) WORD OF MOUTH
I’ve saved the best for last. I think this probably the single best way of getting known as a graphic designer but also the most difficult one to do. Never be afraid to ask clients who you’ve completed a project for to recommend you if they think you’ve done a good job. Even give them a few extra business cards in case they can pass them on to anyone.
People are much more likely to take a recommendation from a friend or colleague than all the above put together. Just make sure you leave a trail of happy clients behind you and you will find word gets out and people will start contacting you.
For this blog post, I thought I’d take you through my home studio workspace (shown in the header above) and explain some of the choices I made when setting it up.
Every graphic designers workspace will be unique to them and is influenced by many things including available space, budget and how they like to work. I have one desk for my digital work on the iMac and another that I can use for paperwork, sketching etc. So lets go through what makes up my workspace:
It’s a pretty compact desk due to space restrictions and most of it is used up by the iMac itself. It’s actually a good thing that it’s small though, as it prevents me from cluttering it up and forces me to keep a clear work area. Try to ensure that your desk gives you a comfortable work height in combination with your chair. Long hours sat at it can cause back problems if it’s not right. I’ve placed the desk so I have a big window to my right giving me plenty of light without getting reflections off the screen.
This is my workhorse that produces most of my final digital artwork. For the tech geeks out there it’s a 21.5-inch, 2.9 GHz Intel Core i5. I doubled the memory to 16GB to help speed up the memory hungry stuff like Photoshopping some of the large, hi-res images I work with. I decided to go with this rather than a Macbook Pro as I don’t think it’s good practice to spend a lot of hours hunched over a laptop and prefer a nice, big screen area.
Apple Wired Keyboard & Cordless Mouse
I chose the wired keyboard with number pad over the standard Apple cordless keyboard as I don’t see the point of going cordless as I’m always sat in front of the screen. I also prefer the number pad as it’s much quicker and more comfortable for me to input numbers with and I like the extra keyboard space. I went with an Apple cordless mouse as I prefer how it feels over a corded one and like the multi-touch surface. I also always use a gel mouse mat with wrist support to help prevent RSI.
Panasonic RP-HTX7 Headphones
These aren’t just for blasting out my music without annoying the neighbours while I work. There’s an important role they play in my home working. My home is also my workspace and there are times when I need to close out distractions around me to concentrate. It’s unfair to expect others who share my home to sit in total silence while I’m working. The headphones are excellent for sealing out ambient noise and enables me to focus while around me other things are going on. My wife has however, pointed out how it never seems to filter out the sound of her offering to make a cuppa!
I always keep a pen and some kind of note paper near me. Even with all the digital technology around us, sometimes scribbling a note or sketch is a great way to record an idea.
As most of my work is in print it’s important to remember that, no matter how well calibrated my monitor is, the colours on screen will rarely look the same as when printed. A quick check of this will show what I thought was a nice subtle green is actually a really punchy lime on paper.
Fun and inspirational “stuff”
If you’ve got a keen eye you may have noticed in the picture of my desk a VW camper 3D puzzle, a knitted slug and a bamboo chopping board. Why? Well, it’s my little piece of the world where I spend a lot of my time and I want to be surrounded by stuff that inspires and amuses me. I love the tactile texture of wood (you’ll see its influence in this website’s design) and dream of owning a VW camper. The slug gets a lot of squishing when I’m stressed (poor thing!). A sterile, minimalist desk does not make a good creative environment in which to work.
So that’s a quick tour of my personal workspace, I hope you enjoyed reading it.
We’ve all seen an advert for a product and immediately recognised which company it’s from before even seeing the logo. How come? Most probably because of a simple but clever thing called brand constancy.
WHAT IS BRAND CONSISTENCY?
At its most basic, brand consistency is using the same colours, fonts and styles for all marketing and media produced by a business. It’s giving each piece of communication produced the same look and feel. Most companies do this by having something called “brand guidelines”. This is a list of rules on how their branding should be used.
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?
Being consistent with brands help build familiarity for customers and in turns helps with something called “the customer journey”. When the customer visits a website, then sees an advert that uses the same branding, they will already know who it is and have a mental connection with that company or product.
When it comes to them making a choice for a purchase, by the time the customer enters the shop or goes to your web store they will already have the confidence knowing who they are dealing with and are much more likely to make a purchase.
Making sure brands are instantly recognised through consistent styles are also great for customer loyalty as they will return to brands they know and have had a good experience with.
IS BRAND CONSISTENCY FOR ME?
Good brand constancy is for anyone with a business where customer confidence is important and that’s pretty much any type of business. It isn’t just for large international corporate giants. No matter what size your business, you can help your customers recognise your brand and build that confidence in them dealing with you.
HOW DO YOU GO ABOUT DOING IT?
Getting some brand consistency isn’y as difficult as some people think and can be as brief as a sheet of A4 paper.
If you are in the process of starting up your business, any good designer or agency should offer you the option of producing brand guidelines to accompany your new logo. If you are already an established business, guidelines based on you existing creative can easily be written.
WHAT SHOULD BE IN BRAND GUIDELINES?
The first thing I usually add in to the brand guidelines for a client is the logo. I specify the colours of the logo as Pantones, CMYK and RGB colours, so not matter where it appears it looks consistent. I also offer a single colour and a white out logo option. Then I set rules for something called “logo clearance”, this just explains how much empty space to leave around your logo so it stands out.
The next thing to specify is the font to be used in all marketing material. This is just as important as the logo for giving a brand familiarity. You can even specify the size and weight of the font to use for headlines and titles etc.
After that it’s up to you how much details you add. For most small businesses that’s enough but you can go on to add more detail if you feel your brand needs it. Everything from style of photography to the tone of voice used in written text.
Malcolm Roberts is a Worcestershire based graphic designer, blogger and lover of all things creative.
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