Wednesday, May 26, 2010

being honest

in a world becoming quickly and obsessively a do-it-yourself-everything, someone will inevitably one day come and ask you the painful question.

the most difficult time for being honest is when someone designed something on their own and asks a professional designer for their opinion on the final result. i say, be diplomatic and start with the positive. be gentle when you get to the negative.

as for the doers of such doings, if you can help it, please don’t ask. we love you and we just don’t want to hurt your feelings.

Friday, May 21, 2010

flipping a portrait : an absolute no-no

i was recently on a client’s server looking for employee images to use in a corporate piece, and while i browsed through the long lists of portraits from various offices, i noticed several had an annotation "flipped" in the title. i opened them up just to make sure i was indeed looking at the worst mistake a designer can possibly make — okay, one of the worst — flipping a portrait.

i always assumed this is the sort of thing everyone learns in life, if not for sure in our design education, however it is obvious that we do not all travel the same road in that respect.

so for those who might have missed that boat, here it is: you should never, ever, ever — not under any circumstances — flip someone’s portrait. no one, not even the most beautiful people in the world, has a perfectly symmetrical face. traits that make up a person’s unique look are often those little imperfections on one side of our face, the way we part our hair, have a beauty mark, a broken nose maybe or a crooked smile (such as i have). those things cannot ever be flipped. and believe me, people will notice when you do, not the least of which being the actual person in the photo. to put it simply: it is terribly disrespectful to do so.

here are some examples of the obvious. can you tell which is the right one?

focus on one picture and then on the other; it will be easier to see the distinctions.


i picked celebrities because we all know them. try flipping one of your own pictures and then show it to the people you know — most likely, at the very least, they’ll say you look different. btw, the correct images are on the left side.

and if you are wondering, yes, this rule also applies to all pictures of any kind. here however i will add with great caution, there might be some exceptions that can be made in very rare and special circumstances, and only when the subject itself will allow, such as a flower for example. the bottom line, and the rule of thumb: never flip a picture.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

client tips : how to choose a designer

one of the most difficult tasks in life is to hire an expert in something you know little or nothing about. how do you know if your accountant is really efficient? if your financial advisor is the best he can be? how about your doctor? many professional fields require client confidentiality, hence how do you really know how well they perform? there are ways of course, like referrals and word-of-mouths. but here is the really good news about designers, and artists in general: they wear their work with pride for all to see ~> their portfolio.



a portfolio is the culmination of a designer’s accomplishments. it is specifically tailored to showcase one’s capacity for doing great work, their style of design, and the various projects and accounts they have worked on. nothing hidden. it is the best possible way for potential clients to assess the talent of a designer and whether they are a perfect fit for their needs.

hiring the right designer
• first, you must look at their portfolio; every designer has one. (if they don’t, move on)
• assess if you like the quality of the work that you see; not just one particular piece or project, but their work overall. that is crucially important. you are looking for consistency.
• is the style of design one that you appreciate? although most designers have a specific style, many can create versatility in their work, and that can be seen in their portfolio. however if their style is hyundai and you’re looking for bmw, keep looking. if it’s the other way around, then you needn’t be worried, you’ll be well served.
• for the rest, it is a question of personal interaction assessment.

a word about budgets
although you might be a small or start-up business, or in this economy a struggling one, you do not need to put your budget in the driver’s seat when choosing a designer — not ever. a talented designer will always be able to create an excellent product with the budget you present them. it is most crucial to hire someone that is experienced and that can produce quality work when your dollars are most precious. a good designer will always give you much better options on how to spend your budget than a cheap one. and yes, it might not quite be the brand new bmw you were aiming at, but rather a brand new vw instead. is that really a bad compromise?

i for one am a strong believer that good quality and effective design can be created with any budget. that is why i also believe that it is always best to choose a designer based on their talent and commitment, not on their hourly rate. then give them the budget you had planned for your project and work together in figuring out how your needs can best be served. i can guarantee that you will be much further ahead without ever compromising or jeopardizing your brand.


a hypothetical scenario : you need a logo
a. you don’t see any logos that you like in the portfolio in front of you. then it is most likely that the designer will not produce a logo for you that you will like. that’s a no-brainer.

b. there are no logos in the portfolio. then you must assess if you really like the other stuff in there. if you are dealing with a designer who’s work is excellent in your eyes, but the exact type of work you need is not featured, it is extremely likely that he/she will do some excellent work for you as well. besides, you can always ask the designer if they have samples of something close to what you need: remember, the portfolio only holds the best and most relevant pieces, so not everything the designer has ever done is included in there!

a word to the wise
lastly, please do not ever ask a designer to create some layouts for you, for free, to see if they are a right fit. it is extremely unethical and disrespectful (formally trained designers have the same level of education as lawyers), and besides, that is exactly what their portfolio is there for. after all, the portfolio showcases the designer’s absolute best; if you like what you see, you are definitely in good hands.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

designer tips : to pitch or not to pitch

pitching is also referred to as spec work


it all boils down to one thing: what is the value of your artistic talent?
recently i was in conversation with someone who needed a logo design and some branding for their company. after having reviewed my portfolio the potential client contacted me with complements, and then explained that they wanted to approach this project by asking designers to present one or two concepts for free so they could evaluate which designer best got the gist of what they were looking for. following that, a conversation about money would take place with a promise for more projects to come.

so what is wrong with this approach?
• well for one, nobody likes to work for free. if ten designers decide to pitch a concept on a project, then the odds are that you are not going to get paid for your work. the higher the number of designers, the lower the odds of you getting hired. simple math.

• secondly, the most important creative aspect of a project being its conceptual process, you are essentially giving your most potent and valuable asset for free. not to mention, if you are really interested in getting the gig, you have to give it your best efforts. otherwise why bother?

• then there’s the legal aspect of intellectual property. should the client pick another designer, there is no way for you to know for sure that they won’t make use of any part of your concept. even if you think you know the client, most likely you don’t know their level of integrity. people having been burned in the past by those they trusted can attest to that.

what should you do if you are faced with such a request?
• first of all, don’t react with offense if you are offended. if you need, take 24-hours before responding so the heat may cool off.

• give the client the benefit of the doubt and explain that the purpose of your portfolio is to help them appraise your talent, your style and your capacity for doing good work.

• then politely decline the request. that is what i did in the situation above, and i was thanked for my well presented response. at the end of the day many people don’t understand the ethics of our industry and there’s no point in burning bridges with them. your reputation lives in many places, and your interaction with clients, potential or not, is one such avenue.

personally, i come from the old school of design. there are many things i have had to adjust to with the changes in time, but pitching design concepts for free is not one of them. i remain adamant to the unethical nature of such requests. there are negative impacts on both you the designer, and the client (but that’s for another post).

here is the most important reason of all why you should decline such requests:
you are undervaluing your work, and undervaluing our industry as a whole. it is hard enough to educate certain people in understanding the importance of our work and its impact in the communication and marketing industry. please don’t make that job any harder by selling yourself short. the impact is far-reaching. any successful designer can attest to that.

as a designer, your talent and its value is something i greatly stand for. i believe we make a huge difference in the success of our clients’ businesses and i stand for us being acknowledged for that and well remunerated for our contribution. i can only hope that you, designer peers, share this commitment.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

if you want to read more about the ethics of pitching, definitions and exceptions:
how to handle spec work .(blogger’s article)
AIGA .(professional organization for design)

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

little trick : big results

how to deal with ink transfers
in probably 80 percent of the business cards i design, i put something on the back. it is a good use of the space for either leaving the branding unobstructed on its own side, or for including extra information the client has requested. and for dramatic effect, in all of those cases, i use a contrasting colour from the other side of the card. now i am clearly not the only designer doing so, hence the reason i am broaching the subject today.



although by all account this design approach creates fantastic results, there is one inherent nasty little problem to it: ink transfer.

when you put your cards in your business card holder, there is always a natural friction that occurs between the cards. over time this will result in a slight transfer of ink, and you will then notice some discoloration on the front of your cards, sometimes more obvious around the edges. this problem is much more visible with dark and strong colours, but is common to all. simply put, the front of your card will just seem dirty, specially if it is white. it doesn’t take long either for that to happen, and the fresher the ink, the faster the transfer.

here is an example of ink transfer. notice how clean the bottom card looks in comparison to the top one. those cards are about two-weeks off the press. you can clearly see in the white area of the card that the brown from the back has transfered onto the front.

here is my recommendation
when putting your cards in your holder, simply put them back to back. it will take you seconds, but never again will you hand out a card that looks dirty. a card is like a suit: people will judge you on it. so keeps them impeccable!


all business card designs by GR:D