Writing content for your website is often looked at as a daunting task.  For those of you who have done it, you know that professionalism, accuracy and proofreading are clear essentials to writing quality web content.  But how often do you consider how your specific word selection and sentence structure can either make or break your website’s effectiveness when it comes to visits, click-through and conversion rates?

In today’s hyper-competitive online marketplace, web browsers are constantly bombarded with in-your-face marketing and sales tactics telling them what they want and when they want it. Hard selling has become so common online that you no longer know whether you’re at a sleazy car dealership or in the comfort of your own home surfing the web.  Because these tactics have been used over and over while shopping online, readers have now developed a canny ability to simply ignore what they perceive to be marketeering.

This is why your shrewd attention to how you write you web copy can be a difference maker.  Tim Ash, from Website Magazine, states that the primary goal for writing your web copy is to “reduce the visitor’s cognitive load.”  By starting your sentences and paragraphs with your core points – not your lead-ins – you will increase your chance of capturing their attention.  He called this the “inverted triangle approach.”  These days, web readers have honed the art of skimming content until something catches their interest while screening out the unnecessary fluff.  So this is why making your point early is a vital technique.  Allow for brief introductory paragraphs that then lead to a link where more can be read if so desired.  If you force a reader through all your content at once, they’ll most likely not find reward in having to dig out pertinent content and move off your site before you’ve made your impact.  Be direct, be prompt and be on point.

With that said, your voice – your tone – can also dictate whether or not someone will stay with you and your site for any length of time or not.  Time on site is an important measure of content effectiveness.  The longer the stay, the better your chances of increasing your conversion rate. Don’t use marketese. Speak to them like they’re your fiend or neighbor.  Be polite, but not overly formal. This tends to turn people off. Natural defense mechanisms respond quickly to the hard sell or a overly formalized structure.  Provide immediate information up front (without a sales voice) pertaining to your product or service, then follow it with supportive material. If they feel like reading on, they will.  But if they don’t, they will have at least received your message.

Keep your thoughts and sentence structures short.  They are easier to follow.  Don’t use superlative adjectives and try to focus on providing objective information.  Keeping things short, to the point and inline with your readers attention span in this competitive web market is essential.  A secondary side-effect of brevity is that retention is often bolstered.  Your readers will walk away with a better understanding of your products and services.

SCM Designs

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processing design

02/01/2010

Designers across different creative fields truly only have one thing in common – creativity.  Funky graphic artists to chique apparel designers, to web gurus all create with a personal process of getting from concept to reality.  Some begin with a sketch, others take a walk in hopes of striking sudden inspiration from their immediate environment – or maybe a good thump to the head to rattle something loose inside.

Where do you find curious sources of inspiration?  Do you strike creative gold when walking through the local art museum, or from that tattooed mongrel you tried to not make eye contact with in the metro?  Do you seek out novel ideas through others work, or do you purposely steer away from them to maintain your clear sense of self-identity in your ideas?  What’s the strangest thing you’ve drawn new ideas from?

Next comes the process of taking your idea and turning it into reality.  How do you do it? Do you jump right into CS, or do you start by sketching, stretching or building?  Let’s find out who has the most unique process of turning thought to final product.  Tell us anonymously, or proudly proclaim you curious process.  Either way, this could be a fun exercise in discovery.

Steve Muth
SCM Designs

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What constitutes a good logo design?  Here’s a question that has been asked over and over again throughout the world of “creatives” and designers alike.  Frankly, there is no one right answer here.  Designers and creatives all develop their sense of construction and style via their own eye’s perspective.  When you combine this with the fact that the same applies to the clients each designer works for on each individual design, you end up with a subjective juggernaut of opinions and conflicting interpretations of what a particular logo should look like, represent and invoke.

With that said, there are a core set of principles to live by when taking a logo from conception to delivery for a prospecting client.  These core elements drive the basic themes and ideas that should essentially be embedded in the process behind every logo design.

(1) A thorough inception
First and foremost, a designer needs to spend time meeting with the client to get a feel for the client themselves, the product or service they are providing and the general culture of the company or individuals seeking the design.  This is vital for one simple reason.  If one does not take the time to familiarize themselves with their clients, there is no way that they can then build a design that would represent them best.  Without an ample understanding of their vision, culture and background of your client, you simply can’t put a design together that will best represent their brand in an effective or responsible way.

(2) Research comparable marketplaces
Once you have developed a strong understanding of the client themselves and their internal ambitions, then it’s time to turn to the market they will be competing in.  Study their competitors, market-specific trends, tendencies and data on what to avoid.  Identify how to differentiate your clients logo from the crowd, while still providing a direct or indirect association with their respective marketplace.  Their design should not result in an imagery that might inadvertently place them in another marketplace via color, form or imagery associations.

(3) Creative Development
If both step 1 and step 2 are fullfilled, then a designer can then move forward into conceptualization.  This is the time to put marker to dry-erase board, pencil to paper, or whatever intitial medium one choses to literally start throwing ideas around and see what sticks.  Some may create 4-5 initial thoughts, others more.  Honestly, I think a designer needs to apply a bare minimum of ten initial concepts (but only rough ones) – not to the client, but to themselves.  I say this beacuse every time I have stopped short of that, I later come up with a design idea that ultimately becomes the final draft.  Don’t settle!  If you’re not excited about a design, neither will the client be. The key here is to take brakes when the creative juices stop flowing.  Go back to it later if need be.  Take a walk around your neighborhood and you’ll be surprised by what might give you a sudden idea or burst of inspiration.

(4) Invoke an an emotional response
This is a step in the design process many designers skip right over.  This is a crucial element of a well designed logo. Once an initial concept is developed through the designer’s conceptualization, it is then time to step back and absorb the visual message it/they translate.  Does it tell an internal or evident story?  It should.  Does it appeal to some human sense?  It should.  What innate associations arise from it?  These natural, human tendencies to see something visual and immediately associate it with something else is very common and must be taken into consideration.  It is part of how a human brain functions – sectioning off certain stimuli and categorizing them with other similar connotations. Be aware of this… be very aware and address it accordingly.

(5) Presentation and feedback
Once a designer has addressed the above steps, it is now time to present your work.  Designers should not approach this too proudly.  If they do, it will present to the client that the designer feels they know better than them.  Not a good start. Only present your strongest design concepts is a common theme among  logo designers.  I personally think this up to the designer.  If only a few final designs are presented, then yes, just present the strongest ones.  But if a designer wants to approach the presentation by offering numerous solutions to the design, so be it. Maybe the client might choices before the process can be focused better. But be sure to have some very strong ones within the mix.  If you have good ones mixed in with the really powerful ones, they can sometimes help accentuate the ones the designer wants the focus to fall upon.  Be careful though, offering too many options can render confusion and indecisiveness with the client.  Part of a designers job is to bring focus and solutions to a visual identity, not create more questions to ponder over.  The presentation is also crucial, in that this is the time to listen, not defend your designs.  Take the feedback and work it into the design.  This is time when you need to follow your mother’s advice and “be a good listener!”

(6) Refine and Solve
Now it is time for a designer to take the feedback back to the studio, address it within the design that solves both the client’s and the designer’s internal dilemmas.   There is no place for ego here.  This is where the designer needs to ask themselves whether they’re in the business to build a portfolio or address their client’s needs.  Decision time. I have been stuck between these two rocks before, but stepped aside, then reengaged and found that I could address their needs while satisfying my desire to render in a particular way.  If designers do this, they will succeed in the final piece.

By utilizing these basic principals throughout the design process, a successful logo will demonstrate to the client that a great deal of time, effort and critical thinking went into the final rendering – which adds a great deal of value and appreciation for the work performed.

SCM Designs

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A colleague came to me today and asked me provide any input I might have on a summary she was presenting on Baby Boomers and marketing strategies to a group of co-workers.  I’ll be the first to admit I am certainly no statistician or marketing guru regarding Baby Boomers, but after combining some pre-gathered info with a brief web search I was surprised at the insight I found.

As a graphic designer, I came across certain aspects of my brief digging worth sharing.

“…some companies may have to reinvent their images because boomers don’t want anything that smacks of being stuffy or stodgy. More youthful models should be selected because boomers relate better to younger images” —

“…baby boomers seek immediate gratification, but seek it out in products and services that are well packaged, reflecting sophistication, a green slant and simplified”  —

“Boomers will always try to act much younger than their chronological age.” —

“They also want products designed to fit their individual needs, so customization, or the illusion of it, is important” —

“Environmental and social awareness will strike a responsive note in some boomers, so they should be highlighted” —

I particularly took note of the second quote as this is directly related to how a company, big or small, decides to promote themselves and their products and services in an era when Boomers will become a significant spending gear in the marketplace.

Business as usual is no longer the norm as this generation will be changing the competitive marketplace in how they choose to spend their money.  Boomers do not like to look at themselves as aging, and they will emphasize this by how they chose to identify with brands and products.  They see themselves as special, unique and are driven by instant gratification (as are the Gen Y’ers). The more youthful, green and value-added a brand image is, the better off you’ll be, according to many sources.

So, companies may want to rethink their brand images, logo designs and even print and online promotional materials to meet the needs and wants of this new significant spending power.

A refreshed logo is the first place to start as it is your brand “stamp” in your competitive marketplace.  It will differentiate you from you competition.  Creating an “ageless” image through your logo, Boomers will better identify with your company and product/service as they are a very selective demographic.  Small companies and start ups can really benefit from this as they are inherently more flexible with branding ideas and how they choose to brand themselves.

The more a company can create an image as a “specialty-niche” and not a “do-everything” identity, the better off you’ll be at reaching out to the Boomers.  A clear, sharp and unique brand image is a vital key in absorbing valuable market share.

Steve Muth
SCM Designs

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logo stories

08/03/2009

Henry Ford once said,

Every object tells a story. You just need to know how to read it.”

When designing logos, the same should apply. Not for the sake of the designer, but the the benefit of the client and their customers.

We all know the reasons behind our designs, but does a story emerge when discussion arises about it?  It should.   Logos don’t only serve their purpose in the few split seconds that they’re seen by the average viewer, but add real value and identity to those we design them for.   If a logo can be developed with a tangible meaning to the client, the inherent value of that design jumps ten-fold.

For a lack of a more decorative manner of expressing it, the logo should take on a personality similar to the culture of the company it represents.   To use the poor analogy that dogs always seem to resemble their owners, logos should also reflect the key elements of a company’s personality and culture to the point that when they’re not seen together a viewer would still interpret the similarities in tone, character and mood.

Granted, the inherent challenges of making a typelogo or graphical image to all this is significant. Each concept, each company name, can either help or hinder this effort depending on it’s relation to it’s parent company.

Conceptually, a logo really appeals more to your client’s ego then their intented customers and this needs to be kept in consideration throughout the design process.

In most cases, designers should only present their strongest concepts, but this lucky company in the video had a handful to chose from.

Steve Muth
SCM Designs

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