Bringing Your Words to Life

Bringing Your Words to Life

When selling products and services, photos, illustrations and bold color palettes naturally bring any design to life. Visual branding provokes much emotion. These promotional moments are in some sense easier. And your readers are feeling all kinds of things (whether they know it or not).

But what about corporation communications broadly? What about your deliverables that are pure content, pure words—white papers, quarterly reporting, research articles, certain PowerPoints—that often rely less on imagery, and more on typography and other types of content organization for maximum effect? In these cases (annual reports are the exception), the document type will often drive your top-level design decisions.

Readers vary

Some of your readers will be happy to hack through dense copy. Some will skim. Some will browse. You can make them happy in different ways. Use typography, varied fonts, and bold headlines to call out key concepts. Or use graphics to snapshot a big idea. Or take that section on “investment process” and make it visual with a process diagram so readers can “see” it.

In a word, these types of documents require thoughtful content organization for different levels of readers. It’s not so much, say, about color in this context. But quotes and body text can take on a design “style” that brings the document to life.

Design the language

Designing words? Really? Yes. The challenge is making a content-driven piece graphically exciting, appealing, and legible, without relying on the intensity of photography, color, or illustrations. We’ve all seen the word-heavy PowerPoint (often abused as a business tool) that asks the human brain to absorb wall-to-wall text. A fix here is simple with not only fewer words, but more typographic flourishes and graphics that balance the visual hierarchy page for page, and hit the eye better. The results can be transformative.

Handsome design strategies pay

Remember: in our info-overloaded age, every extra word is like 100 extra words. So being mindful of presentation and a strong graphic intention can help you deliver the message to great fanfare.

Corporate Gifting with Heart

Corporate Gifting with Heart

Yes it’s that time again. The season to buy things for the clients we love (and who keep us in business).

Consider: if you have the money and time, put something of yourself, of your company’s personality, into what you’re giving. It doesn’t have to be grand. But there are ways you can make your holiday communications unique and special.

Holiday cards: print or digital?

Two schools of thought. Some love to send printed cards. You can touch them and it can be more personal. Others—especially creative agencies—like to show they’re future thinking and embrace digital. The main thing—personalize the effort. Start with your name and logo, and if using the digital space, create artwork that says something about, and captures the essence of, your brand.

The card finesse? You want to send good wishes. But you’re also promoting yourself. Where’s the fine line? It shows extra care if you include a hand-written personal message that’s relevant to your professional relationship.

Gift options

The world needs help. Your big clients at big co’s don’t necessarily need another pen or a 10-pound can of gourmet popcorn. Instead, many are now making charitable donations. They can reinforce your brand, or be relevant to your client’s work. You could even ask clients which causes they support. You could create an educational scholarship. Or give to children’s organizations. Or food pantries in your city. Or medical groups overseas given recent headlines.

Personalizing client gifts is also terrific—your client’s name, say, on candy bards or wine labels. Whatever your passion, find a way to let your personality and heart shine through. When we were kids, at our birthday parties, our mothers used to say “open the card first.” Cause despite the size of the gift or the kind of relationship, It’s always about the message.

Marrying Word and Image

Marrying Word and Image

Product brands have been superstars forever. From Apple to Tiiffany’s to Eddie Bauer, distinctive retail brands link word and image beautifully. Their success and power moves well beyond brand guidelines and logos—the whole being greater than the sum of the parts. Naturally instant brand recognition provokes an emotional response. Words and images are spokes on a wheel. Working together seamlessly to create meaningful impressions and shape buying behaviors. You can probably think of lots of other retail brands whose presentations you trust. But what about the professional-services space? Or institutional firms? What are their challenges?

Cutting corners

You can’t control how someone “reads” your brand. Some like the pictures. Some like the words and get the information there. Time and care has to be invested in both. A brand’s essence may in fact be supported by words on the page. But with weak images there can be a disconnect. Both the words and pictures must be telling the story.

For smaller firms, common mistakes can occur in templated web sites. The writing may be terrific. But if random photos are used, if words and images are not linked, the message is rarely cohesive and lacks clarity. Often, taking these short cuts makes the brand seem less professional and not differentiated.

Taking stock

Today’s stock-photo libraries are treasure chests of gorgeous images. The trick becomes taking the time to investigate these libraries in two ways. One, find powerful photos that support your messaging. Two, make sure the images have a relationship to each other. Original photography gets expensive and is not always needed. If you rely on stock, make sure your images are unified and connected.

Here’s a simple test that can help keep you on track. For a recent web reinvention, we developed three design concepts and pulled 20 images for each. We then spread those photos side by side, to see how connected they were to each other. Ask yourself: why am I using a photo here? Does it support the core story?

Using a particular image without a strong visual strategy is like putting the picture of a stranger in your family album. If you don’t have the time or resources to hire someone, and you’re not sure how to proceed, avoid using images without a good rationale. Or use a single strong image throughout a templated site to keep it simple. Less can be more.