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.
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. email@example.com. 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.
Kochie released an article earlier this year about design trends in 2019. Now we’re halfway through the year, are those trends mentioned actually a thing?
3D text and images
We’ve seen a bit of interest in dynamic text over the past year, mostly for trendy/youth-targeted events. The suggestion in the article that 3D text can give a futuristic look can be misleading – it *can*, but if a retro font is chosen, you can be taking yourself back to the 1980s(!) – suitable in the right context, but it has to be thought out.
Flat images still seem to be preferred or more common, especially when it comes to icons. While there’s a place for design that jumps out from the page, we are still seeing clients prefer minimalist design.
Serif fonts are definitely starting to reappear again. There has been a long time of sans serif fonts being the “one and only” – they look neat but can be bland. However, we always recommend to clients not to look at what the trend is in serif vs sans serif, but instead, what fonts match their business best.
We find it interesting that Kochie suggests that Art Deco is making a comeback, to replace the handstyled/rustic imagery that’s very popular at the moment. Why interesting? It was back around 2011-2014 that Art Deco was making a noticeable comeback (which coincided with the movie The Great Gatsby). We do believe that the rustic styling will slowly change to different styling, but don’t think it will be as stark of a change as rustic to Art Deco!
Mid Century modern
This is one trend that is definitely around. Think 1950s and 1960s patterns and minimal (yet bold) colours. We often see it but not shouting the era it comes from – but more of a nod to the style in a modern way. The use of large, bold shapes and block colours is a great way of making marketing material stand out.
Isometric images come and go – icons look fantastic in isometric, but they have a very unique feel to them, so are not always appropriate. For example, isometric images compete for attention against detailed photography. Isometric images can stand out on their own, in the right space. We have seen a few businesses use isometric images this year (similar to the 3D trend), but not in huge numbers. Not yet, anyway.
Maybe all of this will change by the end of the year? We will have to watch, wait and see!
I was reading this article, and Carol worded something perfectly that I have to share with you:
Words are important. Design is important. One is not better than the other; both should be recognised as integral to clear communication.
Carol and we have run into the same issue with clients: sometimes, they want us to come up with a design first, and put in the words later. While that sounds great in theory, the words to be used are just as important as the design.
When we design something – whether an ad with five words on it, or a publication of 20,000 words – both have every part of the design of the text considered. The layout of those five words can completely change the rest of the design, depending on the words chosen. Or in the situation of paragraphs of text: each page is typeset to make sure the text is easy to follow from page to page. For example, we never leave half a sentence to follow after turning over a page – the sentence will always start on the new page.
The design of the text makes it readable, eye-catching, relevant. It’s not just about “fitting it in” – for us, that’s ignoring the sole purpose of why we use words: communication. If it looks “nice”, but nobody can absorb what is being said, there’s no point.
Similar to Carol, we have learned to write as part of design. Sometimes, there’s a simpler word that more people will relate to. Or a sentence structure that is quicker to the point. Or perhaps, an industry-relevant word that will reach the specific customers you are after.
Design is powerful. So are words. Both put together well are a powerhouse like no other – and we live for these moments in design. Never underestimate their power, separate and together.
To get the most out of social media, it’s well known that you need to be updating your profiles regularly. For some businesses, that can be as often as every day.
But how on earth do you keep up *that* much content and still keep a consistent brand look? You might not be in a position to outsource your social media management to someone who specialises in it (or you simply may not want to). However, there are some ways of making your social media profiles memorable and look good.
Templates, my friend. And I’m not talking “choose a template that everyone uses and stick to that” – I mean to make your own, unique to your business, and use those (or get a studio like us to make the templates for you to use). Use them freely. Use them often. Readily accessible design programs such as Canva are good for this purpose, as you can set up a range of templates and edit them as needed – and then export the files ready for your social media updates.
What features are important in a social media image template?
Have a look at other social media profiles, and you will begin to get a feel for the different types of posts businesses do: some may be action photos, some may be product shots, others may be images solely of text (such as a quote).
The consistent feel should include a set colour scheme and a small collection of fonts. If you already have marketing material or stationery, look at the fonts and colours on those as your starting point. Social media is an extension of your brand – so treat it as if a potential customer sees your brochure first, and then goes onto your social media profile – does it look like the same business?
If you are keen to use illustrations or icons in your social media updates, make sure they have a consistent style too. Think of it this way: if a follower was to grab any three images from your social media profile, would they match? Or would they look like three different businesses?
One template sounds boring?
When it comes to templates, one template would not cut it. You will likely need to set up a number of templates. A list of examples:
- Image with a quote/saying
- Image with a paragraph
- Image with an important notification
- Image with your website address included
- Photo with a caption
Also consider the colours and lighting used in your photos – do they look and feel consistent? This can be tricky if you’re not confident with a camera, but do try your best – it all counts.
We have a collection of favourite books that inspire our work. I need to get into a habit of sharing these with you guys!
This is a particular favourite. It looks old and boring, both inside and outside, but it’s actually the most amazing guide.
Maybe it’s my obsession with origami that drives this, but the opportunities with packaging design are endless. The amount of ideas (along with the dielines) in this book are so handy. Whether it’s for retail presence, or for posting something to look fancy while being secure, there’s an option for every situation.
Packages don’t just need to be square. This book forced us to literally think outside the box…pun fully intended.