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 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.
This year, our family has fallen in love with the kids cartoon Bluey. I personally adore it because it’s relatable. And that’s the gem we can take from this to improve any communication design we do.
In design, even with the best intentions, clients often fall into the style taking precedence over the purpose. While it’s important how any graphic design or website design looks, the purpose of why we’re designing in the first place comes first. Who are you trying to communicate to? Who are you trying to get the attention of?
And to get the attention of someone, if you make it something they can relate to, you will have all eyes on you. Your customers can feel familiar before even connecting with you, if how you are communicating to them relates to their emotions, needs/wants, age, life experience.
This is something that the producers of Bluey have mastered. It’s a simple show: the life of a family of dogs, centered around their 6-year-old. But it gathered a huge following almost overnight. How?
It’s a relatable show.
It’s not just a family, it’s a family in Australia, in a typical Queenslander home, doing typical family “stuff”. Episodes include visiting a friend’s swimming pool (and trying not to get sunburnt because they forgot sunscreen!), getting Chinese take-away for dinner (waiting for ages, then needing to go back to fix up what was forgotten in the order), kids playing a game of keepy-uppy with a balloon (and then the very last balloon popping).
The way it relates to other families (including ours), has people addicted to watching. They feel connected, because they can see themselves in those situations. And this is hugely important in communication design too. If you want to capture someone’s attention, relate to them. Use the words that they are familiar with. Use images that they can relate to, that they can picture themselves in. Make the personality of your business as someone your customers would want to be friends with.
Being relatable is underrated. While everyone else is trying so hard to be clever, strip back your ideas and plans, and think about how you can relate first. That will be the golden foundation to everything you build in your business. And all of your communication design will shine because of it.
You’ve set up an online store, everything seems to be working…but you’re not getting sales. What’s happened?
We’ve all got stories of being had by a salesperson at some point. We then read the horror stories of shoppers buying online and not receiving what they ordered. As shoppers, we all have a little bit of fear that we’ll be giving our money away for nothing online – and this can be a huge stopping point for some stores.
How can you avoid this fear in your shoppers? Build trust.
Sure. Easy, maybe not. How?
There’s a lot of small things that you can do which build trust online:
- Make sure to include a physical address, a contact number, an email address, social media links. The more contact details you have available for a customer, the safer they will feel knowing that they can contact you.
- Make your pricing clear. Don’t say “starting from” and then have the customer find the price is far, far higher. You will lose their trust straight away. Try to keep pricing specific as much as possible.
- Include photos of you and your workspace. Make it human and personalised. Customers want to know who is behind the business, and who is making the products.
- Make sure that you are using a registered domain name, eg. businessname.com.au instead of businessname.weebly.com – you can see which one looks more professional and trustworthy.
- Use social media. Include photos of your process, of orders you are working on, of products you are making. Use social media to interact with potential customers. You may even start to receive reviews online and that will help build trust with customers too. If they can see that others are happy with their purchases, that will build their confidence in purchasing from you too.
Every business has a story behind it. What’s yours?
And why am I asking? It’s actually really important.
You might hear marketing consultants talk about USP’s (unique selling propositions). It’s what makes your business unique to your competition. But I find that clients sometimes get stuck in a rut trying to come up with a clever USP, rather than just looking at what they already have.
Why do we need to know? What makes your business unique shapes your brand, your business strategies, and nearly every aspect of design we are involved in with a business.
So I take a different approach. If you have been able to come up with a USP, that’s fantastic. But if you haven’t, that’s okay. You still started your business for a reason. You and your business have still been on a journey to get to where you are. And that journey is your story. Your uniqueness is probably lurking in that story. And that little gem we find is what will make your brand special.
We love listening to client’s stories about the how and why of their businesses, and turning them into something visual. So don’t be shy, tell your story. Don’t be scared by marketing talk. Your story might have all the answers we are looking for.
Let’s get something straight: design isn’t the final product, it’s the process in making it.
We have had parents of kids who are keen on graphic design ask us, “what should my child be doing? Is there a class, should they do an art class? What will improve their chances of eventually getting a job in design?”.
To us, formal education isn’t everything. You learn to use design thinking from a very young age; if you’re reading this as a parent, your kids are probably already using design thinking and you haven’t even realised. Your kids may not have realised either, as they are likely just having fun “creating”.
Design is not about being a master of Photoshop or Illustrator. They are tools. Image editing programs are great fun to play with for kids, but they aren’t expected to learn it or go to a class about it. Experimenting in childhood is the best education – they learn during play. And there is a lot of design in play that is underrated.
A couple of great projects for kids to use design thinking while having fun:
- Create a board game. It might be redesigning an old game (maybe a new snakes and ladders board), or it could be developing a whole new game. Planning the game, writing the rules, creating the board/cards/pieces – every aspect pushes their thinking into new bounds.
- Write and illustrate a kids book. This can be made age appropriate – it doesn’t have to be complicated. After writing a story, planning out how many pages, where the drawings will go, and where the text will go all require design thinking. Is it the right amount of pages for the book to be bound? How will it be bound? It will sharpen their problem-solving skills too.
- Create an activity book. This could include contacting friends and family to find out what sort of activities their “customers” would like to do. Whether they are colouring pages, crosswords, puzzles, jokes, “find the object” pages – they all require their own planning and design. Most pages also can require a lot of manual drawing, which is good for honing their drawing skills.
The list is endless. The goal is for your kids to have fun. And whether they eventually go into design or not, learning how to use design thinking will set them up with an amazing skill for any job.
When it comes to redesigning a brand, we have found many clients have big ideas to completely reinvent their businesses. However, simple changes can have as big of an effect.
When you plan a brand redesign for your business, consider what aspects need to stay. “Starting over” isn’t always a smart move. If you’re planning on keeping your existing customer base, make sure there’s a link to your history so your customers aren’t alienated. In the same way we assume a person’s personality based on what they wear, a business’ personality is assumed in the same way by the look of their logo and brand.
Sometimes, not much needs to change. The logo might still be meaningful, but the colours might need a refresh. This is exactly the situation that happened for Views Cape Schanck. They first thought they had to reinvent the wheel with their brand. After revisiting their business plans, they realised that it wasn’t a full logo that needed to be changed – but it was mainly the colours that needed to change.
Below are the before (pink and black) and after (blue and gold). The V was so memorable we didn’t need to adjust it. But changing the colours completely changed the look and feel of the business. Sometimes simple changes are all your business needs.
An old article I found has proven for some good laughter – WTF posters!
Awkward situations, simple designs. Here are our three favourites, and you can see the rest here at Creative Overflow.
We enjoy the unexpected design briefs we receive – such as the summer camp t-shirts for Ace-Hi Mornington Peninsula.
They required t-shirts to be printed for their summer camp kids, and wanted something fun. The request was to depict the activities that are available at the camp. And if those activities could be involved with the letters, even better. The only constraint? We only had one colour to work with!
Silhouettes came in handy. Creating the kids doing their activities around the letters was tricky, but it balanced out well. It gave the kids something special to keep from their time at camp!
Digital art has come so far, but I personally miss the simplicity of pixel art.
Maybe it comes from the nostalgia of playing early video games, and having that connection to the past. I always enjoyed the mosaic feeling of creating art, pixel by pixel. It was fun because our screens only had a resolution of 800 x 600 pixels at that time. Pixel sprites now look like ants on newer screens!
Sprites, oh how I loved these. Here’s a terrible but very timely example of a website full of animated sprites. They were SO cute. I learned how to do basic animation because of them. There is a lot of power in a little pixel.
I also remember when pixel fonts were a thing, and created many websites with them. I’d create layouts with intricate pixel designs, making sure all the shading was correct, but still using very limited colours. It was a challenge I forever enjoyed.
Years later (and now over 10 years ago!), I got to revisit my love for pixel art at uni. I created the artwork as a large fold-out poster, visually depicting the song “O Superman” by Laurie Anderson (read the lyrics here and the image will make more sense). I stumbled across this recently, and reminisced of my time creating pixel art. I’m not sure if it will ever make a resurgence, but it would be lovely to see it in the future, if it does.
We get quite a few unique requests for projects, that aren’t quite our usual corporate/business type. The pronoun pins for A Gender Agenda fall into this realm.
They had a major event coming up that they wanted to create the pins for. The brief included:
- to make the pins no more than 3cm wide;
- use colours from their new branding;
- ensure there was no gender stereotyping, ie. no blue for “he”.
We had free reign on the shape, and tried a number of designs. The parallelogram came out as the winner.
The pins became so popular that we were requested to build an online order form for them. The first batch sold out within a few weeks!