5 Big Problems With Your Creative Business Website

I spend a reasonable amount of time looking at creative business websites for all manner of reasons. For example, I do a lot of competitor research. I also get a lot of inspiration from other graphic designers – from every sector of the creative design industry.

It’s fair to say that I also see a lot of the same old problems cropping up. It’s clear that many creative people are unable of getting the business side of things right. And, it’s often incredibly apparent when looking at their websites. With this in mind, I thought I would go through some of the biggest issues I see on design business websites – and how to fix them.

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Image Credit: Pexels
A website that looks like a CV

OK, let’s start with the biggest crime of all. Far too many creative businesses forget who they are selling to – customers. Sure, their websites look awesome, but the idea of a business is not to impress your peers, it’s to delight your customers. You aren’t making a CV, or trying to get a job at your local design firm. You need clients – and your focus should be on appealing to them. Flash, fancy graphics are okay – but only if they work regarding context. If your website is a technological marvel, but customers find it hard to use, they won’t buy from you – it’s as simple as that. Usability is key – design is just a lick of paint.

No nuts and bolts

You might design pretty pictures, lovely clothes, or first-class graphics. But what impact does it have on your customers? That’s what people want to know – the nuts and bolts of your successes. Let’s say you are a graphic designer – how have you helped your clients make money? Can you share some definitive results, rather than just lots of nice-looking images? Reveal the positive outcomes for your past clients, and you should see your sales rise rapidly.

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Image Credit: Pexels
Targeting the wrong market

Let’s say you are a clothing designer. You might have ideas of wowing the crowds at London Fashion Week and joining your luminaries as one of the world’s best. But the chances are that you will have a much more thriving business seeking out a particular market. For example, let’s say you can create hard-wearing and high-quality clothing. A little investment in work wear ERP software will give you entry to the B2B market. Sure, it’s not as thrilling or as high-end as you might like. But the simple fact is that you will have a more robust foundation for the future of your business.

Failure to sell

Creative people have a tendency to forget what’s important – making sales. Time and again, I see websites that are hard to navigate and almost impossible to buy something. It is critical that your online store has a simple user experience that allows people to buy what they want, and quickly.

Lack of portfolio

It can be tough to create a strong design portfolio when you are just starting out. But as a designer, you won’t get customers without one. The answer is simple, however. You should consider working on your design concepts – perhaps for an already-successful business. Share it with your friends and contacts, and who knows who might see it?

Hope this has helped – let me know your thoughts!

From First Shipped to Mega-hit: The Adobe Illustrator Story.

It’s amazing to see how this software was developed by such visionaries that include co-founder, John Warnock. Nearly 27 years later, Adobe Illustrator has completely revolusionised the creative and publishing industries.

Enjoy and appreciate the history lesson. It’s 20 minutes well spent.

12 Tips to Successfully Design a Restaurant Menu

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So my first restaurant menu design project just happened to be with one of my favourite restaurants in Jamaica called Jack Sprat Restaurant. It’s an ultra cool space to hangout with great food and a great atmosphere sitting right next to the ocean; very picturesque. It also just happens to be world famous too.

When I was asked to take on this design assignment, I was extremely ecstatic because it was an opportunity for work, but more importantly it was for a place I’ve spent many hours making memories and having experiences.

Here was my approach to the project and perhaps there are a few tips in here that might be useful to you in case you too ever land a similar design job:

  1. Always remember, its a collaborative effort with your client even if they’ve given you free rein.
  2. Research as much as possible. Google is your best friend.
  3. Try to understand your client’s needs. Ask pointed questions.
  4. Find inspiration from existing menus.
  5. If the restaurant has an existing menu, look at how you can improve the entire thing.
  6. Layout is important, but (food) categorisation is integral to a well-designed menu!
  7. If a brand and identity exists for your client’s restaurant, try to preserve it in your updated design.
  8. Simplicity continues to be “…the ultimate sophistication.” (Leonardo da Vinci).
  9. Never include the dollar sign ($) or currency equivalent in front of prices; psychologically it affects the customer’s purchasing decisions.
  10. Include all the important details about the restaurant: opening hours, accepted payment methods and a back-story (optional).
  11. Imagery is a plus. Try to get some good photographs of the restaurant, food, drinks, etc.
  12. Proof read! Better yet, get a fresh pair of eyes to help you.

Good luck!

Fun Fact: Jack Sprat Restaurant was named after the famous English language nursery rhyme.

What are your best tips? Leave a comment below and keep the knowledge exchange going.

How to Make a Movie Poster Just as “golden” as an Oscar!

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This iconic poster was designed by American Graphic Designer, Saul Bass.

Hollywood’s biggest night will take place on March 2nd and if you haven’t figured out what I’m referring to then you, my friend have been living under a rock (SPOILER ALERT: Oscars 2014)! The 86th Academy Awards will feature films such as The Wolf of Wall Street, 12 Years a Slave, and Captain Phillips, all nominated for ‘Best Picture’.

The best part of the movie industry outside of the movies themselves, have always been the creative design of the movie posters. Some of them are works of art that are etched in our minds for the rest of our lives and in some instances; they’re also hung from our walls (collector’s item). Some we’d like to forget and others were a guilty pleasure, like those old Kung Fu movie posters from the 1970s and 80s.

Many of my days were spent staring upwards at posters displayed on the sides of an old cinema in the town where I grew up. Some of the most iconic movie posters in my opinion and in no particular order (and some of you will agree with me on this) has been the following:

  • Vertigo (1958)
  • The Godfather (1972)
  • Scarface (1983)
  • Jaws (1975)
  • Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)
  • The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
  • Jurassic Park (1993)
  • The Dark Knight (2008)
  • Inception (2010)

So what makes a great poster? Attention!! No, I wasn’t shouting just then… but attention is a key element to creating a successful poster. Your design must pull the reader/viewer/passer-by in; the rest of what is a famous sales formula (AIDA) includes: interest, desire, and ACTION (in keeping with the spirit of the movies)!!

Next it is important to note that design can communicate a lot by using a little. For this, iconography becomes crucial. Toss in a picture that is worth a thousand words and you literally will only need a few words to add to the overall design. Those “COMING SOON.” posters are perfect examples.

How do you create interest? Simple — create a movie poster that’s visually engaging. At this point you’re beginning to see that the success of earlier Hollywood movies was propelled by their complementary poster or series of posters. Ensure the design of your poster matches the theme and genre of the movie. Sounds obvious enough, but many a designer loses sight of their overall goal during their “creative process”; I know I have many a times.

By now you’re well on your way to creating desire or audience appeal. I’ve come to notice the reason I was also drawn to movie posters was because of the actors and actresses headlined. You’re trying to tell me that if you saw one of your favourite movie stars on a poster that you wouldn’t want to go see the film? For those of you who said “no” then I guess you saw the text “Directed by: M. Night Shyamalan” towards the bottom of the poster too.

In some instances, there have been movie campaigns that introduce a call to action that compels you to make a ticket purchase. I suppose at the end of it all, the best way to gauge the success of your movie poster is the movie’s performance at the box office. Clearly you contributed to winning over the audience.

Before those golden trophies are handed out to the best of the best tomorrow night, make sure you take the time to check out the posters for this year’s nominated films, you may just find a few iconic ones for 2013.

Here’s to the movies and to the designers that make them what they are!!

Fun challenge: Can you name all the directors of the movies with iconic posters listed above?

What’s your favourite movie poster(s)? Leave me a link in your reply; I wouldn’t mind seeing them as well.

The ‘Free’ In Freelance Graphic Designer Doesn’t Mean ‘Voluntary’?

Graphic Designers are often underrated for the value we bring to any venture. The prospective clients some times fail to understand how much work is involved in conceptualisation, design and digitisation.  This results in a devaluing of how much a particular graphic design project may be worth; ergo being asked to “work for FREE”.

I think with any opportunity, you have to evaluate what taking on a specific project is going to mean for you in the short, medium and long-term.

I’ve done work with several non-profits with noteworthy projects that have included outreach to children through sports or creating local economic development within varying communities and each one has been a different experience. Some of these projects have led to other spinoff opportunities such as networking, free publicity and meeting prospective clients and admirers of a specific design you may have done.

Give advice for free, but limit the advice (not unless they’re going to hire you). At the end of the day, you can work for free, but never sell yourself short. Always ask for something in return. Bartering never gets outdated.