About the Author
Sarah is co-director of Malvolio. She brings her creative skills to the business, and loves concept development in commercial projects, illustration, and working on various self-initiated paper craft projects in her spare time.
We have preschoolers in our house, so The Wiggles are huge around here. I probably know more song lyrics than I should…but I digress.
Wiggles and branding…what’s the connection? We all see how polished their marketing is today, but this article isn’t about that. It’s about where they started.
We see a lot of start-up businesses get disheartened that their first go isn’t an overnight success. We generally look at the success stories, at what is currently working well – but not at the journey that got a business to that spot. The Wiggles is a good example to look at. Their “brand” we all recognise came later – they simply started by doing mini-concerts, playing kids songs in kindergartens.
Turn back to 1991. The Wiggles released their first album, and it looked like this:
Can you see the branded shirts? Can you see the colour coding? Nope. Look at those PATTERNS!!! (And the extra Wiggle, but you can Google the backstory of that). If you find old Wiggles videos on YouTube, you will see a variety of styles of tops – including other 90s cringe-worthy patterns, and Anthony wearing a green t-shirt.
So they didn’t start with a perfect brand, and from all I’ve seen (thanks to our kids wanting to watch every version of The Wiggles, 1991–today), they didn’t have their “brand” really set in concrete until around 1997-1998. That’s at least 5 years in.
But what did they do? They jumped into honing their skills and their product – in their situation, their product is their music. The brand evolved slowly as their reputation started to grow, and eventually evolved into The Wiggles we know today:
So if you’re a start-up and find a business that you aspire to be like, go back and research how they started. See what their brand and products first looked like. See how long it took them to reach their current success. In some cases, they may have tried out multiple businesses before running the successful one that you connect with today. And most of all: keep working at it. Don’t be ashamed of where you are, we all start somewhere and you have a really exciting journey ahead of you.
If you ever need a pep-up, just look at the first Wiggles CD cover again to remind you that no business starts with a perfect brand.
The Book of Bunny Suicides (illustrated by Andy Riley) is full of dark humour, but we love it here for more than that: it shows how far you can push a simple idea.
Andy has managed to stretch these bunnies and their lack of brains out across THREE books. That’s showing a lot of ways of demise for a furry friend. The illustrations are simple black and white ink sketches, using no words on the pages. The stories are implied through the drawings – letting the reader come to the conclusion of what’s going to happen next.
For design thinking, this book is the epitome of a great idea. And how to expand upon a great idea is relevant for any business or brand. Yes – bunnies killing themselves has merit in your business.
But it’s not the bunnies. It’s the way that something simple has so many applications. In this case, quite concerning and awkward situations for the bunnies – but you can apply the same in your business. What’s something unique about your business, that you could present in more than one way? Once you have two ways – duplicate it, think of more. This can build a really strong brand for your business, one that is memorable but also one that can reach different people in various ways.
And most of all, it keeps your business thinking fun. Not all ideas will work, and that’s okay. Some ideas will be hilarious and completely not appropriate, but don’t forget that we all need to step back and have a giggle from time to time. And you might just think of some new ways of presenting your business (maybe without a bunny!).
The ladies at Innerspirit Property Styling originally wanted to do black and white business cards, but felt there was something lacking.
We went through all of our available card stocks and finishes, and came up with the following! Super thick black card (not printed, actual black card) with rose gold foil detail on both sides.
The reason we did this is because printing black onto white card still leaves a white edge on standard cards. They also liked the glitzy finish that foil gives. Premium cards like this can really make you stand out – and make you want to give out your cards to people. They might cost more than standard business cards, but if they are something you are proud of (and that you use), then we consider that’s worth every cent.
When converting traditional paper forms to online, it seems logical to create the forms like-for-like. But there’s a lot of hidden power in online forms that’s worth embracing.
One of the situations we occasionally come across is a business who is using multiple forms for their clients. These forms are handed out, based on questions asked, or a particular type of enquiry. But we find that most of those forms ask the same questions, apart from a select few about the topic of the form.
Online, you don’t have to have each of them as separate forms. There’s this clever little thing called “conditional logic”, which we love here at Malvolio. Conditional logic allows you to have one form with many questions – a bit like a “choose your own adventure” book – but without it looking or feeling complicated.
So how does that work?
We basically break up a form into a number of pages, each with a few related questions on each page. Based on what options are selected, the next lot of relevant questions appear. For example: the questions could be based on the location or activity selected.
Conditional logic can also make a very detailed form look simple, which is not always possible on paper. If you have some questions that require more information, the “additional information” fields can appear once your customer has completed the first part of the question – and only show them the fields they need to complete. They won’t need to try to figure out what parts of the form they need to complete.
From a business perspective, conditional logic forms are also easier to maintain. Instead needing to update multiple forms with the same changes or new questions, you only need to update one form – minimising the chance for errors or forgotten updates.
If you have forms you are wanting to get online, and move away from printed forms – contact us and find out what we can do to simplify yours.
Most businesses do some in-house design – usually basic office documents and forms. Sometimes this can extend to presentations, or even brochures. The types of programs used to create the artwork we have seen, have been quite creative, but not always ideal.
The tricky part is that nearly every office has Microsoft Office in their software. This comes with a range of handy programs, each with their own features. Publisher is really the “design” program of Microsoft Office, but we rarely see it used. It even handles CMYK colours (print ink colours!), but we feel it’s probably not utilised because it’s the lesser-known of the programs. And lesser-used = lesser-familiar, etc.
So we have artwork sent to us from Microsoft Word, Excel and Powerpoint. We even had one client build a webpage and get it online in Excel (you know who you are)!!!
The trend we see is clients get frustrated by the limitations of Word, and create what they want in Powerpoint instead. Word has print margins that, by default, won’t let you place anything outside them – leaving a big white border. Word also generally won’t let you position text “anywhere”, unless you get creative with text boxes. So the next best program for flexibility that we have all used in our life? Powerpoint!
The issue is that Powerpoint is not set up for print – it’s set up for screen presentations. It does have a lot more flexibility with positioning images and text, as print areas don’t matter on screen. It also allows you to shuffle pages around, which Word doesn’t. The flexibility makes it a much more friendly program to create artwork in, even though it’s not traditionally for print. The files from Powerpoint don’t save too well for printing either.
If you’re creating your own artwork in your office, try to stick to this guide:
Microsoft Word: forms, single-page flyers
Powerpoint: presentations on a computer/projector
Publisher: posters, brochures
Choosing a domain name can sometimes be just as tricky as choosing a business name. Your website is an important place for customers to find out more about you, so the domain name you choose needs to be considered.
Here’s a couple of tips:
1. Your domain name doesn’t need to be your full business name.
A great example of this is one of our clients with a long business name, Somerville Myotherapy & Pilates Studio. If they were to do the typical “full name as the domain name”, it would look like this: somervillemyotherapyandpilatesstudio.com.au. As you can see, that isn’t very easy to read or use. Instead, they opted for smaps.com.au – short, catchy, easy to remember.
2. Your domain name doesn’t need to include your services (or keywords) in it.
In the early days of search engines, using keywords in your domain name was a sure-fire way to push up your website’s ranking. But not anymore – it is now the detail, relevance and regularity of content updates. Your domain name has no weighting on your search engine rankings, so just focus on coming up with one that is relevant to your customers.
3. Does the domain name look okay as part of an email address?
With any domain name you want to register, type it out as an email address too, eg. firstname.lastname@example.org. Is it too long, is it easy enough to read?
4. Can you easily spell it out over the phone?
The previous point follows into this one. Try reading your domain name out loud as a phrase, and as letter-by-letter, if you were to spell it out to someone. This is strangely important because you will be surprised by the amount of times you will need to read it out over the phone, or in person if handing out your email address. Make it easy for yourself, and for others.
5. Can you get matching usernames for other online services, such as social media profiles?
It is always a good idea to check this out before registering a domain name. If you can create a consistent domain name that can also be the same on social media (and any other online services), you have struck gold. This is not always possible, but worth a try. It looks very neat if you can!
6. Do I need a .com.au or .com domain name?
Domain names that end in .com.au are only available to Australian businesses, as you need to provide your ABN to register the domain name. There is a level of superiority and security in that, which is not a bad thing. It also positions you within Australia for search engines, which can be handy if you plan on being a part of local location-based searches. Domain names that end in .com are global, and can be registered anywhere in the world. If your business is located in countries other than Australia, this may be the better option.
I hope some of these tips help you in selecting a domain name! If you are still stuck, you can always get in touch with us for more guidance specific to your business.
In both our work and in volunteering, we have seen both the most giving and the most greedy of people.
Watching The Kindness Diaries on Netflix reminded me that thankfully, there is more good in the world than not – and it starts with us to keep kindness going. We honestly get so down when we go out of our way for people, and they take it for granted – or expect more and more. But Leon Logothetis, the creator of The Kindness Diaries, reminded us that if you keep putting kindness first, it becomes contagious and others want to help too. Instead of stepping back or ignoring our surroundings, we just have to be present and open.0
Leon travels the world with no money, relying on the kindness of others, and the stories of those he meets along the way. And the stories is the other part: we are humans, we are made of stories. Stories make us who we are. This is nothing to be ashamed of – our stories are our experience, our being. And I am so inspired by Leon’s quest in listening to others and their stories. In design, it is the stories behind each person and each business that make them unique – but they often get hidden away in this need to appear “corporate” or “professional”. But we are human, we connect to stories.
The Kindness Diaries is nothing without the stories of the people in the series. It would be meaningless without the stories behind the kind gestures, understanding where the kindness came from. And that’s the gem – businesses with stories have more meaning. They have more reason for people to connect with them, because there’s something to relate to, or feel something for.
We just need to encourage more kindness in businesses. Put kindness first, whether you’re on your own or a part of a large corporate structure. Kindness starts with us. Kindness starts with you.
There are thousands of fonts out there to choose from. But did you know as a business, you need to have a commercial license to use a font?
If you are creating anything for your business – whether your logo, a business card, packaging, social media images and so many more examples – you need to use fonts with a commercial license. A lot of free font websites offer personal licenses only, which many unsuspecting people don’t realise. Of course it’s always hidden in the fine print!
So how can you be sure you are using fonts with a commercial license? If you can afford to use a graphic designer or a design studio, they should help you select fonts that have the correct licensing. If you’re choosing on your own, there’s a few websites that are great resources:
Google Fonts is primarily for website design, but the fonts can be used both in print and online. All fonts are open-source, which means they all come with a commercial license. All fonts on Google Fonts are free to use, which can also be handy.
The joy of Google Fonts is really for websites. We used to be limited in website design to only about 5-10 fonts that were available on all computers, while now we have close to 1000 fonts to choose from. And for brand consistency, we can either choose a similar print font, or use the web fonts in print (where appropriate).
Adobe Typekit is available with a Creative Cloud license, and all fonts come with commercial licenses. However, Creative Cloud is a paid subscription service. Most designers and studios use Creative Cloud (it’s an industry standard), so if you have a designer working on your project, you should be able to help select fonts from Typekit.
Typekit is primarily made up of fonts suitable for printing, but many also come with web licenses. This can be handy when you want your brand to look consistent both in print and online. Typekit fonts are generally a little more sophisticated than Google Fonts, and come with more weights/styles (eg. thin, light, regular, medium, semi-bold, bold, extra bold).
They are both very handy font services – and you can browse both for free to find what fonts you need for your business.
Some rebranding projects we do are from scratch. Others, like Innerspirit, we joined in halfway.
The ladies at Innerspirit Property Styling had tried their hand at an online logo service, but were stuck. They weren’t 100% happy with what they could create in the limitations of the program. They sent us what they had so far – their biggest concern was the fonts. They couldn’t find a combination of fonts that worked, and started trying things such as spacing out the letters, which also wasn’t working out.
Our changes, as you can see above, are minimal. The client was happy with the layout and icon already, it was only the wording that needed improvements. With a few considered font choices, we fixed the balance of the words, as well as giving the logo a more polished feel.
Often with rebranding, it’s not about recreating the wheel – it’s improving what you already have. And sometimes, it can be the smallest of changes that can make the biggest impact.
We look at every detail. We love every detail – and that’s what creates strong brands for businesses. It’s in those little details you might not notice. The trick is that the consumer doesn’t notice them, that they feel positive and confident when they see your business. And that’s where we come in and work our magic.
We draw a lot of inspiration from publications – there’s something really lovely about browsing a book.
We have a bookshelf full of books that we love in the studio. While some are design related, some are completely unrelated – but have beautiful design traits that we draw inspiration from.
Paper Rad is in the middle. It’s part artist book, part graphic novel. When I saw it in Greville St Books some 14 years ago, it just stood out. I kept going back to it – and I knew I had to buy it. It’s almost offensive to your senses – clashing colours, mixed paper, strange narrative – but these are what makes the book special. Even now, each time I pick it up, I see something different I haven’t noticed before. I especially like the use of different paper stocks to separate the sections within the book, as this is not normally a suitable option in commercial design. There is freedom in art, and it helps stretch our brains for design.