Design Community / Education / Experience / Graduates / Graphic Design

What can designers do to help graduates?

Something happened recently that brought back a few memories for me and altered my perspective a little bit. It wasn’t anything that seemed ground-breaking, but it did really help someone, and gave me a little insight into the relationship between us as designers and those who are just at the start of their careers.

Every now and then, as I suppose many graphic design professionals do, I get emails from graduates or those wanting to pursue a career in design. What they’re looking for is often guidance by way of an internship or advice on where they can go for help in starting their chosen career.

I got one of those emails last week. This particular graduate was looking for someone to mentor her; an internship – which as a small agency, isn’t something I can offer, but I can remember those early days when all you needed was someone to give you that one small chance to get you on the right path. It can be tough. You don’t yet know what it’s like to work as a designer in the real world. You haven’t got the experience to know which direction you should, or want to take.

This young aspiring graphic designer was looking for her path. She didn’t have a lot of experience out of the classroom. She had a modest portfolio online, with which she was beginning to market her skills to gain an internship, where she was hoping to continue her learning and get a foot in the door. The work she’d done was well executed. She’d developed her own style which shone through in the pieces she presented. She obviously had a real passion and flair for design – she just needed an opportunity to use what she’d learned in the real world.

I responded to her email, although I wasn’t sure I could help her – I let her know that although I wasn’t in a position to offer her an internship, I liked her portfolio, and I urged her not to give up. I sent her a few links which I thought might help her in her search. It was a short message. But what surprised me was her reaction to it.

You see, despite sending emails to several design agencies, I was the only one who replied. She was elated that I’d taken the time, not only to let her know I couldn’t help with her request but had also offered her even a few little nuggets of encouragement and advice.

Our short email correspondence made me realise that my response was rare. But why should this be? Have we forgotten what it’s like to be there? Are we really so busy that we can’t take a moment out of our day to help those at the start of their design career? Or is it that we feel that because we had to work through it and find our own way, unsupported, that all graduates should do the same?

Whatever the reason, I strongly disagree. We need exceptional designers. We need a diverse pool of talent to feed the ever-evolving landscape and changes in technology. Design changes so rapidly, and we need to keep standards high, and that means we need a constant supply of fresh blood in our industry.

And that starts with giving what we can by way of help and advice to those who are beginning the journey. How can we do that?

Be approachable

Next time you get an email or a call from a young designer, respond. Even if it’s a ‘Sorry, I can’t help, but good luck in your journey’. Encourage them to look at your portfolio, and other admired designers’ websites for inspiration. Send them a couple of links to places they could go for information.

It takes less than 5 minutes to put together a quick message – and you’ll feel better for it.

Use your contacts

I’ve said before that the creative circle tends to be a pretty closed one – particularly the smaller, localised agencies. But that said, we all have a list of resources and other designers that we follow as a source of inspiration.

Perhaps you are signed up to their newsletters or are part of an online community together. If you can’t help out when a grad student approaches you, I bet you know of someone else who might. Be generous with your contacts, and don’t be afraid to share names and details of people you trust who might be able to offer guidance.

Tell them your story

Give them some insight into what you did when you were in their position. Where did you go for information? Who helped you along the way? Who inspired you? How did you decide which path you wanted to take? All of these little personal insights could help in their decision making.

A sense of community

I think that we all have a certain responsibility in shaping the way design evolves in the future. And maybe it starts with this – offering that little bit of encouragement and inspiration to those who follow. Let’s not be remembered for ‘that agency who didn’t respond’, but instead, ‘the agency who helped me see that I could make it.’ We all need a bit of that sometimes, don’t we?

Experience / Graduates / Graphic Design / Portfolio / Side Projects

How should you curate your design portfolio?

If you want to get work as a graphic designer, one of the first things you’ll want to consider is how to present your portfolio to show it in its best light and to attract the right kind of clients. When you’re first starting out, it can be pretty hard to decide which pieces of work to include, especially if you haven’t got very much to show.

But even after years of experience and many projects, it doesn’t really get any easier – you just end up with a different set of difficulties in deciding which projects are the right ones to include.

Head over heart

Most of us came to this profession because we have a love of design. More than that – it’s something that always been part of us. Maybe you’ve always seen things in a slightly different way to most people. Your eye naturally picks up on the beauty of objects that others see as mundane. The colours and composition of the things around you seem to stand out and make you feel…something.

So how on earth do you decide which pieces to omit from your portfolio? After all, when you look at some of your best pieces, you remember how you felt when you were creating them. You know every detail of it, the work you put in, the thought process, and the sense of pride you felt when you sent it to the client.

OK, so maybe I’m being a bit melodramatic with this – but I think most of you will see some truth in it.

And the question remains – how do you choose?

Start by thinking about your past projects and your past clients. Which ones stand out as being the most enjoyable? Which clients did you find easy to work with? Which ones shared your ethos and saw your designs in the same way that you did? Those are likely the kind of clients you want to look for again, right?

You’ll also want to consider other factors, like your skills and abilities.

This is particularly important if you want to focus on a specific type of design. For example, you might be looking to gain more work in web design, if that’s the type of work you enjoy most. In this case, you don’t want to fill your portfolio with logo and branding stuff. And likewise, if you want to be known as a brand designer, by all means, put some website design in your portfolio, but make sure you add a variety of logo and branding projects as well, so they can see a breadth of skills. The aim is to tell a story of what you can do in order to give your ideal client whatever it is they’re looking for.

Have the confidence to only show your best work and not everything for everyone.

Thoughts about presentation and what information to include

Every designer has their own unique process and their own story. When you create your portfolio, you mustn’t neglect this – your images alone won’t sell. Your potential clients don’t just want to see what you do; they want to know how you do it.

So if you’ve worked on a great logo, rather than placing an image with a caption something like, “I was asked to do a logo, here’s what I did”, tell them the whole story. What was the client looking to achieve? What did you talk about to get the ideas flowing? Talk about their background/where they were starting from and the processes and techniques you used to get them the desired results.

People love stories – tell them yours. Give them an insight into your mind, how you work, and let them imagine what it will be like for them to work with you. What can they expect if they need something similar from you?

Side projects

There are some situations where you can use personal projects in your portfolio – and if you can, I’d encourage you to do it because it can really work in your favour.

You might be in a place where you have recently started out on your own, and you don’t have a whole lot of stuff to put into a portfolio. So what are your options?

Completing side projects can work well in demonstrating your will to take the initiative and allows you to experiment in ways you might not be able to under the constraints of a client project. Having the freedom to create projects of your own can be a great jumping-off point because you get to choose the kind of projects you do, and you can absolutely design the type of things you want to be doing through client projects in the future.

Article / Collaboration / Design Community / Graphic Design

Working with or working for?

Do designers need other designers?

I live in a relatively small town – there’s a lot of history here, and there’s also a large-ish college, which means that there’s a good mix of people, and a growing creative community. I think I’ve talked a bit about his before, but where I live and work is, from a designer’s point of view, a bit odd.

There are a number of graphic design and marketing agencies in and around my town, but they’re all quite hidden from view. You really have to seek some of them out – if you don’t know about them, you probably wouldn’t stumble across them.

I think that designers as a collective can be a pretty guarded bunch. When you work outside of the big cities there seems to be an air of suspicion, whereby other designers are seen as competition rather than part of a more extensive network.

But in thinking this, are we losing out on opportunities to foster growth and create a helpful, creative network? Rather than having that fear that other creatives are lying in wait to poach our clients, maybe we should think instead of teaming up and collaborating to offer something more significant than we can currently provide; a way to stretch our creativity and learn from each other.

Creating as a collective

If you ask a bunch of designers – or creatives for that matter – what they do, you will get a different answer from every single one of them. No two designers are the same; we all have our own style, specialism, and niche.
Of those tucked away agencies around my town alone, I bet they all have something very different to offer.

Having more than one style or skill come together can make for a much richer result, and open fresh avenues for designers. It’s not about stealing work from each other – it’s about working together to create something completely different.

There’s always going to be one person who takes ownership for a project – perhaps because they came up with the concept or something that is for their client – but collaboration is the difference between working with and working for. You can sub-contract out elements of the project, or you can choose to work together in a partnership where everyone is on an equal footing to get the job done – I know which I’d prefer.

Can collaboration make us better designers?

I think that no matter what type of creative work you do, there’s always something new to learn. There are so many different ideas, techniques, tools… having the opportunity to share some of that with other creatives can make you see things differently and get you out of a design rut.

It’s easy to trap ourselves into certain thought-patterns, whereby we get caught up doing the same things over and over, becoming too comfortable to break out of our comfort zones. If that happens, we tend to lose confidence, and then spend our time convinced that our designs have to be perfect before we can let anyone else see it.

But design isn’t about perfectionism – it’s about creativity. If we get stuck in a loop of getting everything perfect, doesn’t that mean that creativity is shoved to one side?

Being with other designers is a good way to break that cycle – rather than being there to criticise your work, they can lend a fresh eye to it, and having those conversations can spark new ideas, and get you moving forward again.

Work culture

Aside from actually collaborating, keeping in touch with other designers be valuable. We make connections with who we can lean on for advice and have other like-minded people on hand to talk things through.

This is particularly true if you are a small agency or work alone – as you can feel quite isolated, especially in these times where many of us are unable to work in our usual settings.

Having that extra ‘back up’ can go a long way in giving you that feeling of being part of something bigger than yourself.

Article / Experience / Graduates / Graphic Design / Self Publishing / Side Projects

Favours for favours?

As part of the design community, the question of working for free often comes up. I think in most genres of the creative industry, there’s almost an expectation that we should be expected to take on projects for free, or under the guise of ‘exposure’, with varying opinions.

For designers who are right at the start of their careers, or who have a limited portfolio to show to prospects, it can be a difficult hurdle to overcome – after all, how can you get people to hire you if they can’t see what you’re capable of?

I feel there are 2 parts to this discussion – the first in being asked by prospects to ‘work for free’ (sometimes cleverly disguised as ‘exposure work’), the second is creating your own projects in order to showcase your work. The second one can be beneficial, the first one almost never is, so we’ll talk about this one first.

Asking for work

It’s likely that even if you’ve been in the game a while, there will be times as a designer when you have a need to prospect for new projects. It’s these ‘cold contacts’ that are most likely to be the businesses who; a) have little knowledge about how outsourcing works, and b) think that by asking for ‘freebies’ as a way of gauging your talent is the proper way to do things.

An inexperienced designer might be tempted to oblige. After all, it might lead to more paid work and it adds valuable content to your portfolio, right?

But hang on – let’s put this in perspective.

Let’s pretend for a minute that you’ve had 2 prospect responses. They both want to hire you, but one of them asks for a quote, while the other one asks if you can do the first element of the project for free ‘to see how it goes’.

Here’s where the ‘what if’ scenarios start to come into your mind. What if the guy who asked for the quote thinks you’re too expensive and decides not to hire you? What if the ‘free’ project is the one that will ultimately lead to the most lucrative work?

I can reassure you here that the first scenario is always the least dangerous. Because if your quote gets returned with concerns over the budget, there are always things you can do – like offer to complete elements of the work in order to meet their budget or payment instalment plans for example.

But the ‘freebie’ guy? Sure, he might hire you down the line for your usual rate – but I’m willing to bet that he’ll haggle and argue at every turn. And if you take on that project for free, which might take you several hours, then you are making yourself unavailable for proper, paid work.

How to respond if you’re asked to work for free

This can be tricky, particularly if you’re desperate for work. That temptation to grab every opportunity for fear of missing out can be strong. But in order to avoid devaluing your abilities, it’s important that you learn to stand your ground – and I’m saying that from a place of experience. By accepting free work, you’re not only doing a disservice to yourself, but you’re also giving the message that design as a profession holds no value.

So what can you say when a prospect utters those words, ‘can you do the first project for free/for exposure/as a test-run?’.

There are a few ways you could choose to handle it – as long as you remember that the answer should always be ‘No’.

The first thing you should do is to take a step back. Don’t rush in with your response from a place of emotion. The prospect isn’t doing this out of spite or malice – they are simply unaware of how the design process works. It’s your job to educate them.

Perhaps this is a prospect that you really DO want to work with. It could be that you’ve followed them for a while, and they’re just the kind of business you want to design for. If that’s the case, then consider responding with a polite note, advising them that although you are not in a position to offer free work, you can point them in the direction of other work you’ve done for similar industries. If you don’t have any examples, then perhaps you can seek out other projects you can do (for pay, of course!) so that you can approach them again in a few months’ time.

Or you can politely decline. Again, let them know that as a creative professional, you are not able to complete the project for free, but perhaps they can consider you again when they are in a position to hire you for your usual fee.

When it’s ok to work for free

What I am a great advocate for is self-initiated projects. I believe these types of projects can be a brilliant way of creating your own portfolio pieces, on your own terms. Whether you are an experienced designer or not, periodically taking time to work on your own projects allows you to explore different techniques and design methods which you might not get the opportunity for with client work.

The benefits are two-fold; you get that extra bit of creative freedom, and you get to escape that rut of always taking on the same type of client project. It gives you the chance to push the boundaries a little bit and inspires you to take different avenues.

I’ve done this myself a few times – with my self-published book ‘Ten Yrs Later’, and for some localised projects such as the creative festival I began working on during 2020. Both of these have worked for me in both a professional and personal scope because it gives me something else to showcase what I can do, and lets me ‘play’ and explore outside of my usual workload.

If you are at the start of your career or feel the need to change your niche, taking a bit of time out to create different pieces for your portfolio is the best way to do it. It can be as simple as choosing an existing or imaginary brand and redesigning it using your own style and techniques.

I hope this article gives you the confidence to realise your own value in what you do. Design, in whatever form it takes, is a valuable asset to your clients and should be treated as such.

Article / Design Community / Graphic Design / Inspiration / Press Release

Creativepool: Best Graphic Designers of 2020

Written by Antonino Lupo
Published 17/12/2020

10 of the most exciting and talented graphic designers to keep an eye on in 2021

Good graphic design is easy to spot. But excellent graphic design? You need to have a specific kind of eye, taste and interest to understand what that is all about. The best graphic designers of this year all embody that spirit – a quirky, creative will to do things differently, to excel in simplicity and amaze with the pure power of shape, colour and text.

Read the full article at creativepool.com

Article / Branding / Graphic Design / Inspiration / Project Highlight

Three years of design

Unbelievably, Severn is three years old already. We’ve come a long way over that time; there have been a lot of highlights, and a few near-misses to learn from.

So I’d like to talk a little bit about what got us here, and share some of the most noteworthy projects that we’ve had the pleasure of being involved in over the past few years.

The reason why a made the decision to start an agency, rather than to freelance, was because of the way I wanted my business to grow. I wanted to be seen as part of something bigger, and having an agency felt a bit more substantial, and had a certain stamp of trust about it.

I feel fortunate that I made that decision, because it’s opened the doors to so many great design projects, and given me the freedom to experiment with plenty of techniques and processes, and allowed me to work alongside many different industries.

I’d like to share a few of my favourite projects and highlights, and some of the projects that are happening right now.

My highlight project

Perhaps it’s unfair to say this is my favourite project over the last three years; there have been many that I still look back on with a sense of achievement. But saying that, the work that I did for the local business, Glouglou, is one that sticks in my mind. Possibly because I had involvement in the branding of the business from its infancy, and the owners were so great to work with.

You can read more about what I did for them in an earlier post, but in summary, their approach to the brand was unique, and I think we managed to come up with something that completely encapsulates what they are all about. I can’t think of another brand that looks like they do in their branding, and everything they do, both online and offline, ties in with their image perfectly.

Personal highlights

From setting up the business, and then working towards my MA, I’ve been able to explore so many opportunities I might not have thought possible before. Like creating my own book, Ten Yrs Later, which showcases my design thinking and tells my story through my work.

I also won the Creative Conscience Award, which was fantastic to work on and a huge confidence boost. Designing the app allowed me to try out new techniques and be involved in subjects I hadn’t previously had too much experience in – Mental Health, and the Emergency Services.

It’s not something that many people think about, but there is huge pressure on people who work on the front line, and taking care of their mental health is often overlooked, and frequently stigmatised. So being able to look at ways I could help them, as a designer, was an eye-opening and valuable experience.

And an upcoming highlight – I’ve recently been asked to get involved in the Coventry Design Festival (although that one isn’t happening until 2022).

What’s happening right now?

There are a couple of local projects going on that I’m part of, and both are centred around Shrewsbury.

The first one – Market Hall: A Day in the Life – is focussed on Shrewsbury Market Hall, and tells the story of the building’s history, and the people who work there. The building has always been a big influence within the town, and it’s great to keep it alive by telling the stories of the current stall-holders, and giving a history of its architecture and use over the years, in relation to the town. 

Another ongoing project – Public Opinion – where we created an online survey, did face-to-face interviews and asked on social media, where the local public could share, anonymously, their opinions on the town of Shrewsbury.

We used this information to share some of the comments, using stickers around the town, sharing a booklet, and projecting them on slides from the studio.

Did lockdown affect us?

I was affected very personally by Covid – my family and I caught it about 2 weeks before Lockdown 1.0. What hit me most was how utterly exhausted it made us feel. And then of course businesses began to shut down, and I was left in a situation where for the first time in a long time, I had to seek out work, because everyone was putting their marketing on pause, meaning my workload reduced significantly.

The second lockdown has felt different – in general, more businesses are staying open where they can, and those who are working from home are more confident in booking meetings vis Zoom, so even if budgets are reduced, they are thinking about how they can remain in front of their customers, which means keeping ahead with web design and graphics.

The future

I think for all businesses, the future looks different to how we thought it would back at the beginning of the year. We’ve all had to adjust, and I’m no exception.

Views have changed, and for me, it’s forced me to focus on things in a different way.

I’m keen to continue to evolve in a professional capacity and challenge myself a bit more. I’m really enjoying working with local causes, and I count myself lucky to be in this part of the world.

Graphic Design / Print

Print is definitely not dead

Promoting your business offline

Pre-internet, promotion looked very different. We relied on using print to show off our best work. We used to send out portfolios so that prospects could see our work in print-form. It’s all very well having a beautifully designed online portfolio, but you can’t hold it in your hands. You can’t smell the brand-new paper and ink. You can’t touch it.

That’s where the idea for my book, Ten Yrs Ltr came from – I wanted to get back to that, by creating a showcase of my best work. It’s a bit different, and it gives people a sense of nostalgia, making it a memorable experience.

There are other agencies who do this particularly well – the ones that stand out for me are both by DixonBaxi; Be Brave, which includes case studies of their work, and Monograph, a beautifully illustrated showcase of their most recent work highlighting the processes and thought behind each one.

Be Brave, DixonBaxi. The book captures the spirit of how [they] partner with clients to solve significant brand challenges through creativity.
Monograph, DixonBaxi. The self-published 300-page monograph is a snapshot in time of one of London’s leading brand agencies.

It doesn’t have to be as complicated as a book. Something I like to do is present my prospects with a selection of my work as printed material – it helps me to stand out, because rather than turning up to a meeting with a slideshow on a laptop, I’m letting them see what my work looks and feels like as a real document.

I think people appreciate it when you’ve gone to the effort of presenting yourself in this way, and also making it personal to them. It shows that you understand their requirements, and that you’re knowledgeable about how design can work for them specifically. It makes them remember you.

In today’s world, we are so focussed on the online way of doing things, we’ve lost sight of the enormous possibilities that print promotion holds. Sure, we rely on online marketing, but perhaps having print promotion to accompany that should be something we consider more.

Keep it simple

How many of us have business cards anymore? You might believe they’re irrelevant in today’s world, but I’d disagree.

Far from just a piece of card with your number on it, a business card can be used to really show people your design capabilities. By playing with the design of your business card, you can make it something different and memorable – there are so many options here, from the kind of material you use, the shape (it really doesn’t have to be a rectangle), use of embossing or metallics, and making good use of both sides of the card.

It’s in the Mail

People love getting stuff in the mail. It’s something we’ve lost in the digital age, but I think it still has relevance. A while ago, I came across a little stack of letters I’d written to try and get an agency job. They were in envelopes, along with my (20-year-old) CV. I decided to make something of them, so I sent them out with a covering letter to the original recipients. It was a bit of a gimmick, but I got a nice response from it – including this reply from one of the partners at Pentagram:

“Your 1998 CV ended up on my desk. Really liked the paper and feel – you just don’t get these sort of CVs anymore – funny though what might have been.

“I looked at your site – would love to see your book – I couldn’t see how to buy a copy?”

By sending that letter, I prompted a written response, but also moved the recipient to go and look at my website, and gave him the desire to purchase a copy of my book. Would I have got the same response if I’d sent an email? Almost certainly not. (and it’s since available to buy…)

Creative bubble

I think perhaps it’s easy to get lost in the sheer vastness of the online world. And yes, I agree that most of us need to have a strong online presence, because that’s where our customers are. But it is increasingly an overcrowded place. So perhaps we can get the edge by looking at creating more offline content, too.

Feel free to contact us for a no-obligation chat, if you’re looking at new ways to promote your business. We can bounce some ideas around, and see what we can come up with…

Detail: My 20-year-old Ozalid-printed CV. You can still, just about, smell the presence of ammonia.
Animation / Branding / Graphic Design / Logo Design

Tech-led logos – 2020 logo animation trends

One of the things that tends to cause to most concern during the branding process is the logo. Businesses recognise that the logo they have designed for their branding is the one thing that will dictate everything else – the colours, the fonts, the style…

Getting that one element right, even if the final design is a simple one, takes a lot of thought and effort on the part of the designer.

In the past, and in fact today, the logo for any type of business needs to become the most recognisable part of the business branding, and should tell the customer what the company is about without relying on the name or taglines.

Some of the most effective logos, from the big corporates, to the small local business, use clever design techniques and images that are instantly recognised with little more that simple shapes, colours, and images.

I suppose that, unlike in the past, today’s logo design needs to work even harder, because not only does it need to tell the customer who you are across your printed material, but even more so, it needs to translate digitally as well, and that can be a whole different task due to the fast-paced nature of the tech we use, and how we use it.

What I’d like to explore in this article is not just the simplicity of the ‘flat’ logo we’ve all been used to, but the way in which the technology we use, and the differences in print-to-screen, which have changed and evolved logo design. I’d like to look a little bit at some of the trends that are emerging right now in order for businesses to stand out, and take full advantage in new technology, and appeal to a new generation of customers, who largely read from a screen or smart device.

The Perfect Logo

A well-designed logo should always be uncomplicated. I find that in having something that looks relatively simple, it becomes almost like a symbol, a single image that the customer remembers and doesn’t have to spend too much time thinking about.

If you consider some of the bigger companies, such as Nike, or Audi, who use just a simple shape, but are know the world over. Designs like that don’t need to have a defining colour, words or slogans in order for us to recognise what they mean. Yet if you were to seek out the designer of those logos, as simple as they seem to us, I’d be willing to bet that hours and hours were spent on getting them to look how they do today.

Unless you’re a well know company, though, I would necessarily suggest using something quite that simple – although it’s not a bad idea to think about having some kind of simple structure or shape by which you can be identified as part of your logo design.

Looking at some of my own designs as examples, I’ve tried hard to use shapes and symbols within the logo images, or as part of the font, in order to tell the story behind the brand. I think that’s important to do, because you have to consider who you will be appealing to, and your logo is a big part of that.

And that is always where you start – with the logo at its most basic. Because in its basic form, it needs to be able to make sense on both printed material and on screen.

Animation is the biggest new trend

Something that I’ve been looking at more and more recently is the use of animation in logo design. I think that’s it’s becoming a necessity to stand out using movement as part of our logo design, particularly where we’re using social media as part of our content creation plan. The eye tends to pause when we see movement in an image, and so where there is such busy traffic such as social platforms where people are scrolling through such a large amount of content, having animation can be a good way to pause them and encourage them to read the post.

Whether or not you already have an existing logo, use of animation can greatly enhance your images and make them more memorable, and are a useful tool in getting your content noticed above the competition.

You could look at something as simple as having a moving gradient, or a light effect over the logo, or something more elaborate like fade-ins, moving characters, rotation/sliding, or video effects. The huge advances in technology means that we are able to add a huge number of animated images – much of what you can imagine can be done on-screen.

During 2020, it’s thought that many businesses will embrace animation as part of their designs, and could fast become mainstream.

By adding detail to the animation, the viewer tends to spend longer watching it, therefore making the experience more memorable, and too your brand.

Article / Design Strategy / Graphic Design / Photography

How the right image can get your content noticed

There is a vast amount of information on the internet. At the beginning of 2020, there were 1.74 billion websites and rising, and that’s not considering blog pages and social media accounts.

That’s a lot of pages to compete with, and the chances of getting your website found without having a marketing plan in place are, to say the least, extremely slim.

You might feel disheartened by that. But I think that it just highlights how important it is to do everything you possibly can to get your online content noticed. And a huge part of that is creating the right look – including branding and images – to make sure that when you are found, people will be interested enough to want to read what you have to say.

I spend a lot of my time thinking about how to use images online. I look at different types of image; photography, artwork, gifs/animated images…. I spend a lot of time testing things out, seeing how they work on the screen, gauging audience response. And I’ve spent a lot of years working out what works and what doesn’t.

Why images are important

You might ask why you need images as part of your online content at all. What if you’re a car mechanic, or a manufacturer? Surely these kinds of industries don’t require images on their websites, right?

OK, well think about this; if you’re online, looking for a specific type of company, where does your brain stop you scrolling – on the page filled with text, or the one with the high-quality images?

We have it hardwired in us to respond to visual prompts. So we automatically want to see images – it’s what our brains seek out first, in order to make sense of the page, and learn what it is about.

Then, if we’re pleased with what we see, we start reading.

Statistics say that online content with images get 94% more views than those without – that’s almost double. For that reason alone, I think it’s worth putting some thought into.

What type of images?

The main thing to remember is that all images need to compliment the content they appear alongside. The purpose should be to draw the person in and compel them to read your content.

Bear in mind that nowadays, most people will have access to smartphones, and so for many of them, this is how they will see your web content. Make sure that the images you choose look good on both monitors and phone screens.

You’ll also want to think about your overall branding – every image you use, whether that’s in the form of photographs or graphics, need to tie in with the rest of your branding. Consider colours, composition, and style, and make sure that everything follows the same theme.

The images you use should be the correct resolution – people can see poor quality a mile off, and if your images look shoddy, then so will the rest of your site.

The personal touch

There’s an old cliché that people buy from people – and it’s true. The most clickable images are always those which show a personal element to your business. That might be candid images of the work that you do, a sneak peek of your office or workspace, or even a short video of you giving some insight into a process that you could share with people.

Tell a story; show people who you are, and what they can expect if they hire you or buy from you. Let them see how you work, and some of the behind the scenes stuff you do in order to provide the service that you do.

How website images feed social media

The images you use on your website also dictate largely how you use your social media platforms. As well as building an audience via social, your social media platforms should also encourage people onto your website.

Changes in algorithms over the past couple of years means that reach has dropped significantly, so anything you can do to encourage “meaningful interactions” (their words, not mine) will increase the number of people who see your posts.

Using well thought out images can be a way to get people to read your posts, and comment on them, giving you more reach, and therefore lead more people to your website.

Article / Awards / Graphic Design / Project Highlight

The Severn Agency Win Creative Conscience Award 2020!

We’re really chuffed to be able to announce that we’ve won an award!

The Creative Conscience Award is an annual competition with a bit of a difference – it focusses on design projects which have a social impact. The main starting points provided for the brief are Mental Health, Equality, Conscious Consumption, Climate Crisis, as well as an open brief.

Oppo Line Up
Oppo main screen examples

In view of what’s going on right now in the world, it was perhaps pre-determined that I should focus my design on the category of Mental Health, and looking at a group of people who are particularly often ‘missed out’ of the equation – our Emergency Services.

This is a section of our community who are often called upon when we ourselves are facing trauma, mental instability, and the emotional fallout of injury and illness, but we neglect to consider that they too are on the frontline dealing with often unimaginable pressures every day.

Like no other, this is a section of the workforce who are expected to be able to deal with all kinds of emergency situations, and in many cases feel that they have to cope with those situation on their own, or relying only on the team around them who are going through the same things.

“It’s when you’re on your own afterwards you have time to process, and think about it and everything hits you at once”

As I began to look further into it, I uncovered some worrying facts and stories. I heard reports of police officers who were suffering from varying degrees of stress and anxiety, who continued to work under the same pressure, being forced to try to manage their issues alone without support.

I learned about more and more instances of physical abuse from the very people they were trying to help, resulting in injury, and even death.

I read worrying statistics of members of the emergency services and military who, due to immense pressures, had attempted to take their own lives.

So I set about researching things that could help raise awareness of the issue, and offer advice, help, and support to those who needed it.

“Now, ‘lone-wolf’ or ‘active shooter’ situations, the policy is that the first to arrive on-scene go straight in”

The concept of a self-help/self-awareness app appealed to me, because I felt that from speaking to those who were affected, mainly focussing on the police force, it could be used as a tool which was discreet – many of the officers I spoke to felt there was a stigma in the force around mental health, and the possibility of simply ‘raising awareness’ with the general public had the danger of undermining their authority, and in some cases making them a target for abuse.

Ways to input your data: stylus, voice recording, text or from a keyword menu

By giving them the option of being able to log on to an app, I could then offer them a way of recording their mental state, and give them a space to ‘talk out’ their feelings in private, without judgement. In this, the app could offer them practical advice based on their individual circumstances, helping them to gain control over their feelings, and take action.

Oppo's AI Chatroom Screens

This was a very different project for me – it meant that I had to delve into a subject that I previously had only a basic understanding of, and forced me to thin about ways of designing something for a very specific set of people. From the styles and colours I used, to the language and tone, every element had to come together in a way which could be clearly understood, was visually impactful, yet made the user feel that the space within it was peaceful, personal, and friendly – even the name ‘OPPO’, meaning ‘Friend’, gives a sense of support with no judgement.

All in all, it was a fantastic project to work on. And clearly one which appealed to the judges too.

Take a look at our case study for more project details.

© SEVERN AGENCY LTD