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    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.

  • WordPress Plugins: Why Less is More

    Not only do we build websites from scratch, but we also help redesign or improve existing websites, primarily on WordPress. We always focus on setting up suitable plugins for each website.

    WordPress can be great, both from a developer perspective and even a DIY perspective. But it has one ironic downfall: you can add a plugin to do nearly anything. The WordPress plugin library is nothing short of gigantic. Which means we regularly see DIY websites with a large amount of plugins installed.

    There’s a balance to using plugins: choosing ones that work best with your needs, ones that are updated regularly, and not using too many. More plugins = longer loading time = slower website. Incorrectly set up plugins can also slow your website down, or be incompatible with other plugins.

    The other trap we often see people fall into, is using additional plugins to “fix” things that just need some coding done, rather than a whole plugin. As a guide, we generally try to keep an average-sized website to use no more than 5-6 plugins at most (and less where possible).

    Less plugins mean:

    • Less chance of your website breaking
    • Less areas of your website that need updating/monitoring
    • Less items to load on each page (faster website)

    Less plugins also gives you more control, knowing what you have installed – rather than having a whole library of plugins and not understanding why they are all there.

     

     


    Pantone Box of Colour: For Kids!

    This set of books was gifted to my son for his first birthday – from a very special fellow graphic designer friend of ours.

    How could I not post about this?! Pantone are trying to start them early, hey!

    In all seriousness: I actually adore this set of books. They are chunky board books with cut-out shapes, giving them a bit of dimension (and easy to grasp). Each book is themed to a colour, with heaps of simple images for small kids to recognise. And of course, each page has the Pantone number on it – I giggle so much at this, you will always be able to find a Pantone colour, even in a kids book!

    These books sit in our studio for our kids to play with while they’re visiting. They love the books, I get asked for them most times they come in. They don’t know what Pantone means to design yet, but they will learn soon enough!


    Colours and expectations

    Colours play a big role in branding. They create expectation in people’s minds before they process an image, or read a word.

    This expectation is hugely important to consider when designing a logo, and developing a brand. Colours are often used across everything you eventually have made for your business, so it’s worth selecting them carefully.

    Different shades of the same colour apply to this too; some examples are below:

    LIME GREEN
    Environmental, fresh, energetic.

    DARK GREEN
    Historical, classy, professional.

    PASTEL PINK
    Feminine.

    ORANGE
    Energy, positivity, warmth.

    MID BLUE
    Clinical, medical related.

    NAVY BLUE
    Corporate.

    BRIGHTS (MULTI)
    Fun, friendly, child-based.

    This list could go on forever, but you will see how even a different shade can hold different expectations to your customers. Instead of fearing a list like this, embrace it: knowing what colours mean can make your brand more engaging to the right people.


    The Logo Board Game

    I stumble across this game from time to time, and now I’ve got kids, I’m thinking I should add it to the presents list soon enough.

    It’s the ultimate designer’s game. We personally should be banned from playing it as we live and breathe brands, but it’s a great memory game. It’s a simple trivia concept: answer questions, go around the board, get to the end first. But it’s just brand questions!

    My favourite part of this game being worldwide, is that there are different versions for different regions. For instance, we have our own Australian version available at Big W and other local stores! So for the die-hard branding gurus out there can take up a challenge and play the overseas versions.

    Sorry, kids – we’re going to be teaching you everything about brands, and it will likely start with this game! Then again our 2-year-old already knows what a “logo” is and points them out. So it’s definitely begun here…


    “Branding” or “Blanding”?

    The following image was created by Highsnobiety on Instagram, and it highlights a rather boring trend that I’ve seen referred to as blanding. And I hate to say it, but I agree.

     

    All of the above brands started with character. Put them all together, and they stand out from each other. Each logo is unique. Each logo has a different feeling, a different style.

    Then we look across to the second row, showing the logos as of today. They are almost identical. They all feel the same, as if they have all gone to a default font. And yes, while they are all “on trend”, that doesn’t make for a good brand long-term. Why be the same as everyone else?

    What I want you to take away from this: when you are thinking about your own branding, don’t be shy to be unique. Don’t be shy to stand out. You don’t have to follow the crowd. Don’t be bland!

    Start with what your business provides, and build a personality for your business (happy, professional, casual, commercial, clinical, friendly, serious, motivating, etc). Let this guide the look of your business image, not what the current fashion is. Fashion is temporary; make your business (and its logo) permanent.


    A brand used to be a promise…

    “A brand used to be a promise but as we move forward, a brand is a relationship, a living thing.”

    I was trawling through old essays I wrote while I was at university, and stumbled across this. A lot of the essay is a bit naive and misguided, but to be fair, it was written 13 years ago. However, this simple quote stood out to me again. The timing is a bit quirky, as I was only having this same conversation with a client last week.

    The way brands are perceived today influences how businesses promote themselves – and it is vastly different than 30 years ago. For new businesses who come to us wanting their logo and promotional material designed, this is not as much of an issue. The businesses they look to for inspiration generally have that human connection that customers are looking for today. This makes it already familiar to new businesses.

    I find that some well-established businesses struggle with the differences in how potential customers search and interact with a business today. What worked 20 or more years ago doesn’t work the same anymore.  A refresh of an existing business is more than just a logo change. So fundamentally, what on earth has changed?

    A business used to be able to build a reputation on a brand name. The promise that brand name brought to a customer gave enough confidence. You didn’t need to know who ran the business, their process, or anything “behind the scenes” – what was presented as a polished product was ample. So what I find is that well-established businesses like to still hide behind their logo and branding, thinking that’s enough.

    With the rise of social media, as customers we’ve become far more inquisitive. We always want to learn more, know more. A logo and brand is still uber important, yet it’s not everything. Who runs the business, what the processes are, what’s happening day-to-day have importance now. Customers want to feel a personal connection to a business they are planning to use – they want to feel like they know them, that they are approachable and friendly. That a customer can relate to them.

    The ongoing transactions or use of services of a business then become a relationship. It’s not just a brand that is chosen, it’s a connection your customer feels. Not just to the logo, or the product – but the business as a whole, and the people behind it. Customers want to know about you. So don’t be shy to step out of your comfort zone and be proud of your business. Treat your business promotion as a living thing, not just an image. You’ll be surprised by the changes it brings.


    So You Need a Typeface?

    This gem is from Inspiration Lab, and even though it’s from 2010 (8 years ago!), it is as relevant today as any other day or year.

    Yes it’s tongue-in-cheek, but there’s also a lot of truth in this for someone who isn’t familiar with fonts (typefaces). To us, it really highlights how our brains work in an infographic when it comes to narrowing down a font for a project. There are a heck of a lot of options, but not all are suitable for each project, each client or each product. And you might think we’re nuts when we ask a lot of questions about fonts, styles or what you want your text to look like – this is why. Sometimes, the decisions can be as complex as this chart.

    There is a little joke about Comic Sans in there. I’ll leave that for you to discover across a journey of lines 🙂

     


    Brochure design in 2018

    We design brochures every week of the year. But brochures aren’t always the standard “3 fold DL” style that come to mind for most people. There’s a lot more to brochure design than that.

    The standard A4 folded to DL brochure is popular, mostly because it fits most brochure stands and is very easy to get printed (it’s a common print run). But often, the content a client needs to share in a brochure doesn’t always fit to an A4 sheet. So what do you do?

    …you think sideways! Not literally sideways, but think of other options. So is going to A5 a suitable option? Or perhaps, keep it DL but turn it into a stapled booklet? One example we did this year was the DL brochure for Somerville Myotherapy & Pilates Studio. We ran out of space in a standard DL brochure, but it had to be DL. They still wanted it to fold out so it could be put on a wall like a poster. So the other option? Add more panels! The final brochure had 5 panels, instead of the standard 3 panels. This is not common, but completely achievable.

    We have also designed large brochures of up to 24 pages for various clients, in both A5 and A4 formats. Brochures of this size require more planning than most. Is the brochure going to have sections to make it easier for a reader, or is it to read like a book? Is the brochure going to have a contents page, or get straight into the content? Will there be more than just text and images, such as tables, graphs and quotes to make it more engaging?

    All of this is planned before we begin designing. It speeds up the development process, and creates a more engaging final brochure. After all, the whole point is for someone to pick it up and read it. You want to capture people, not just print on paper.


    Website design in 2018

    Website design is a large part of Malvolio, and it’s probably the most changed. Website design feels “new” to us every year – there is always something new to learn, something new to add.

    I remember when I started designing websites back in 2001, and was simply in awe with what is very basic code today. I saw that the possibilities were endless then, and I still look at website design the same way today – with fresh eyes every year.

    So what has 2018 brought us in website design?

    Websites on Mobile Devices

    The move to mobile devices is done, it’s here. If you’re not already accessible on mobile, you’ve missed the boat and need to get onto it ASAP. It’s not even an option anymore (which strangely, was the case only a few short years ago). The expectation is that your full website will be available on mobile, not an abridged version. This includes forms and online stores working the same on desktop as on mobile.

    Ecommerce/Online Stores

    Businesses are taking online stores far more seriously. While they did become accessible budget-wise in recent years – especially with the rise of DIY services such as Shopify – online stores were still being treated as a sideline to a business. There was expectation that “you build it and they will come” in the ecommerce space, which it’s now that people realise this is not the case. Marketing your online store is just as important as marketing every other aspect of your business. We have seen a huge move towards businesses really taking the reigns of their online stores and making them successful.

    AfterPay has become very popular to add into online stores this year, too.

    Security, SSL Certificates and SEO

    Although it was all the way back in 2014 that Google mentioned security on websites was beginning to be used as a ranking signal, it hasn’t been until this year where it’s had a marked affect. When Google announced that they would begin marking all HTTP websites as non-secure in Chrome from July, this seemed to set off a worry for a lot of website owners and the SEO industry.

    For our own clients, we offer a basic SSL certificate automatically on all hosting accounts/websites, which means your website will show as secure on all browsers.

    Multi-section Website Layouts

    Multi-sections on pages has had a steep rise. In previous years, at a very basic level, each page would generally have a header, a block of text and photos, and a footer. Now this “block of text and photos” regularly includes blocks of text, all sectioned and describing different things. Each section often links to another more detailed page. These sections are much more designed than previous, making websites far more aesthetically pleasing from top to bottom. This trend started with single-page websites, but is now across even the largest of websites with clever navigation planning.

    What will 2019 bring in website design? We are looking forward to finding out!

     


    Event Branding Design in 2018

    We have been very fortunate to work with a number of exciting events in 2018.

    Design projects for events are often quite extensive. Every little detail from the initial branding and logos, through to posters, advertising, websites, programs, maps, banners, signage and flags…and that’s by no means a complete list.

    We really enjoy working on graphic design for events. Giving an identity to an event that is carried on for years into the future feels quite special. For each event, getting the communications right for a successful event is pivotal to us. It’s not just about a poster “looking good”. It has to tell people the important information straight away: date, time, place. A program needs to be easy to follow – not just a keepsake book. A map needs to be a useful navigation tool – not just a pretty picture.

    The timelines are tight but we seem to have a knack of working within amazingly short schedules. Events are unique in design, as businesses regularly have flexible timelines. Events have a deadline: the date of the event. And there’s no moving that!

    Many events we have worked on have been in our own backyard this year: Frankston/Mornington Peninsula. However, we’ve had a few further afield: major events include the Melbourne Jewish Book Week and the Perfect Light Film Festival.