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Thinking about Stock Photography Choices

Tampa Bay marketing firmIf you’ve spent any time perusing ads or websites of SMBs (or larger companies that don’t do much consumer advertising), you’ve probably seen identical photographs pop up occasionally.  Those are stock photography images — and for a reasonable fee, they are available for just about anyone’s use.

Overexposure of popular images is the most obvious danger of using stock photography. There have been cases of different companies with the same stock photo seeing their ads placed side-by-side ads in a publication. (Whomever did the layout deserved a good spanking!) By and large, however, the relatively miniscule cost of stock photos versus a professional photoshoot can make the risk worthwhile when budget is a factor.

And actually, the embarrassment of seeing a photo of “your” smiling customer service representative apparently moonlighting for an unseemly industry, isn’t really the worst thing that can happen when it comes to using stock photography.

No, the biggest stock photography danger is having an image that doesn’t work with the message that it’s supposed to convey. This could be due to pictures which are so generic that they carry the visual impact of plain beige walls at the local DMV. Or they could be quite interesting images that are, nevertheless, badly mismatched to the message. Unfortunately, this problem comes from the “off-the-rack” nature of stock photography, so to mitigate such inherent deficiencies, here are a five helpful strategies:

  • Be mindful of your brand image – The message in any marketing communication is more than just the words to be read or heard. It should also express your brand’s most important value proposition—e.g. what makes your company special and most inspires people to do business with you. So when you flesh out the theme for your particular marketing piece with imagery, keep in mind that you’ll want to reinforce a specific, clear message and also complement your brand identity

 

  • Let the message drive the process – Before you start looking for images, you’ll need a concept or theme for your ad, brochure, website, etc.  Basically, this means copy first—or at least you should have some headlines and subheads in hand to substantially narrow the image possibilities. This may seem limiting—mostly because it is—and that’s a good thing. The narrower your imagery focus, the less likely you’ll use the same picture as a thousand other companies; and the better the picture reinforces the copy, the more effective your message will be. And if you can’t find a picture that works with your copy, you can alter the wording or look for a new concept … but don’t force it.

 

  • Use search filters – Assuming you’re getting your stock images from one of many online services (Deposit Photos, Shutterstock,  iStockphoto, etc.), how you set your search parameters will greatly affect your ability to find a good image. For example, with or without people, a specific color scheme to match the piece (or your company/logo colors). You can also filter by orientation (horizontal, vertical, square) so that any necessary cropping will be less likely to damage the picture’s visual impact.

 

  • Choose your search key words thoughtfully – Your online search will also require some key words. As a starting point, try to think of a noun to match your target audience. Now throw in a couple of important words from your proposed headline. Next think of a word that could convey a specific benefit or activity associated with the message you’re hoping to convey. Finally throw in a word associated with your brand. Once you do this, you’ll probably get nothing … or nothing useful. But this exercise is still worthwhile in making you cognizant of the parameters you should honor with your key word search. Even as you tweak the word choices, you probably won’t be able to find an image that checks every box. Just make sure not to choose any picture that works in direct opposition to any of the qualities you were originally seeking.

 

  • Get feedback – You’ve looked at the images and headlines together and think you’ve achieved perfect symbiosis for uniformly conveying your message. Now get the opinions of a few people whose marketing judgement you trust. If you ask five people for their opinions, you’ll probably find that two enthusiastically like it, one will say it’s “okay,” another will offer a different concept idea completely, and one won’t get it at all. If so, congratulations, you did alright! Any reaction worse than this, though, you might want to rethink things. Of course, you should take any valid criticisms to heart and make adjustments accordingly.

Unless you have a very robust marketing budget, stock photography will probably be an important element in your marketing materials and online presence. That’s fine. Just as a suit off the rack may not fit as perfectly as a tailored garment, with a little forethought and a critical eye, there’s still no reason you can’t still look very, very good.

Logo Design and Corporate Identity Manuals

Tampa Bay advertising agency, graphic design, web design, brochure design, newsletter design, logo designThe history of graphic design is extensive and can be traced back hundreds of years. For the sake of this article, we are going to focus on graphic design as it was forming during the industrial era, and how the appearance and growth of corporations affected one aspect of graphic design in particular – logos.

Once upon a time, graphic designers were more likely to work full-time for a company for many years, unlike today, where there is an entire workforce of talented freelance designers that complete projects on a contractual basis. At the onset of corporate graphic design, the designer who created a logo, tagline or slogan for his or her company knew how the logo was to be used on all materials. However, it soon became clear that it would be necessary to communicate the proper usage to other people both inside and outside the company. After all, the designer couldn’t work at the company forever, and graphic designers also began to work outside companies as consultants. Thus, the corporate identity manual was born.

The practice of creating the corporate identity manual developed after WWII, as it was around this time that graphic designers began working more frequently as consultants on a contractual basis. The corporate identity manual is often a work of art in and of itself, as the designers showcase the many uses of a company’s logo, its color palette, typography, and proper orientations of the logo and other text. The purpose is to communicate to other designers how to apply the corporate identity, including logo, slogan and tagline, in a variety of formats and also how not to use the pieces in a design. Today, a corporate identity manual will describe both digital and print applications to maintain consistent design across all platforms.

A well-known designer (in the graphic design world at least), Lester Beall, can be credited with some of the earliest corporate identity manuals. He designed the manuals with care, and the books themselves are creations of beauty. Examples of his work for insurance company, Connecticut General, are seen below. The pieces are so appealing that they could be framed and hung on a wall rather than simply be used for their practical purpose. It is in this practicality and simplicity that the beauty of these manuals resides.

logo design corporate identity program

logo corporate identity program

Corporate identity manuals can be quite fascinating and beautiful, existing in the unique space of being both practical guides for other designs, as well as works of design artistry themselves. Check out this list of 50 stunning corporate identity manuals for ideas.

Pinstripe Marketing’s logo design program is built around helping you discover your company’s character, and we can help you create a logo and corporate identity manual that will set the tone for your company’s success. Our creative team consists of listeners and discoverers that have an innate ability to help you achieve your vision. Contact us to tell us more about your company and the logo you envision.

 

 

Copy vs. Graphics: Bickering Spouses of Advertising?

copyvgraphics_newsIn this age of social media, viral videos and search engine optimization (SEO), the role of imagery and copy in marketing is like ever-present background noise. And yet from billboards to websites, the healthy marriage of copy and graphics is almost always a critical component in the successful execution of promotional efforts.

The relationship between copy and graphics is practically as close as conjoined twins. Think about it. How often to you do you see promotional copy without some kind of image? Or when was the last time you saw an ad that had no words?

As with any couple, there can be tension between words and picture—often thanks to the “in-laws.” People who bring copy into the world are fond of saying that “Copy drives creative.” Meanwhile the graphics artists point out that nobody actually reads Playboy for the articles. Wisdom comes from understanding that whatever is done must be for the sake of the concept.

How this conception takes place varies quite a bit. It can be a lovely process, or sort of messy (intimate collaboration vs. a brainstorming free-for-all). But once a marketing concept is born, skill and patience are needed to help it achieve its destiny of carrying an important message into the world. Good marketing agencies work this out for their clients. But what if you’re a smaller business with only ad hoc marketing assistance? Where do you begin?

  • Understand how the concept will carry the message. It’s easy to get carried away with a possible concept; they can be very cute and lot of fun. But if the connection between a creative concept and its intended message isn’t readily apparent, start over. Also, remember to keep your branding in mind—especially how the concept supports your overall value proposition.
  • First, focus on the concept and come up with a visual OR First, focus on the concept and come up with a headline. Sorry, but sometimes the graphics needs to lead, and sometimes the copy has to do the trick. If one person is doing this alone, it’s relatively easy because they can go with the best idea that pops up. If you have people splitting duties, you can have them collaborate; let them work independently and present dueling treatments; or make the executive decision to have one of them take the lead.
  • Creative elements must support and complement each other … completely. A lot of really great headlines have been killed by stock photography or limited graphics resources that don’t quite meet the needs. This is why images often end up being in control when all is said and done. (It’s usually easier to change a few words than come up with the perfect picture.) The key takeaway is that they have to work together!
  • Maintain consistency throughout the promotional piece. Typically, this is more of an issue for copywriters than graphics artists as there are often headlines, body copy, a call-to-action, etc. supporting just one concept. (Avoid the copywriting equivalents of mixed metaphors!) However, where multiple images are used (such as a brochure) they too should be in keeping with specific copy elements and honor the creative idea throughout the piece.
  • Let the people involved in the creative process take a final look before publishing (or ‘going live’). Just because people work together, they don’t necessarily work side-by-side. Sometimes an artist may find that the image that delighted her isn’t available for commercial usage. Or perhaps the writer (who convinced everyone he’d written the all-time greatest headline) wakes up in the middle of the night realizing it’s actually stupid. One creative person may frantically issue changes that the other knows nothing about … or maybe they never had a meeting of the minds to begin with. It’s critically important that they all have the opportunity to serve as creative quality checks before it’s too late.

While it will never be set in stone as to whether copy or imagery is more important to rearing a successful promotional concept, they each have their important specific roles. Imagery catches the attention of an audience, and copy justifies that interest. As long as they’re doing this, you know you have a creative union that works.

Other online articles you may want to peruse:

The 10 Commandments of Great Copywriting

25 Epic Design Tips for Non Designers

11 Best ways to Brainstorm Creative Ideas

Tampa Bay public relations

Cool Business Card Design

cool business card design header
Have you ever received a business card that felt more like a gift than an exchange of contact information? Business cards like this may seem like a distant goal, something to yearn for but perhaps never to achieve. We are here to tell you that this is not the case – with the right designer and a solid goal in mind, you too can have the business card that everyone envies and admires.

What is it About This Card?

Cards like this are special because they look and feel great, but they also represent the company or person in just the right way. Think of the cards that left the biggest impression on you. We certainly can. There was the artist who gave us a choice of a couple different cards that featured her artwork on the back – we now have them hanging on our bulletin board as tiny pieces of art; people see them and want to know about them – they are talking pieces. Someone saw the card once and immediately wanted to find out about prints. They visited her site and ordered three. She knew that having her art displayed in miniature form would lead to people wanting more.

There’s also the intelligence and security expert whose cards are thick, smooth and shades of royal blue. The thickness of the card brings to mind something solid and secure, assets we want our security professionals to possess. The smooth face screams confidence and intelligence. And blue is soothing, calming. If you have a security problem, you can be at ease knowing that he will do everything he can to solve that problem. All of these implications are contained in one beautiful business card.

How Do I Get One Like It?

Before you toss out your white card stock and Times New Roman font, think about what you want to say with your card. Cool business cards are not cool just because you chose great paper and used a funky font and graphics – they should speak volumes about you. If you just apply the cool parts without a goal, your card may end up seeming jumbled, busy, or worse – it may send the wrong message. If you are a  family law firm and your card is metal, this is confusing. Why is it metal? Just because metal is unique? Is this a law firm for rock bands? What’s the metal all about? You can see why that is the wrong approach. Depending on the type of law your firm practices, you want to convey the intellect, tenacity, and sophistication of your attorneys. Color, font, logo, paper, and orientation will be affected by the goals and mission of your company.

New business cards are a big deal, and this is perhaps the perfect time to revisit your logo, mission statement, and goals. Like many busy professionals, it may have been some time since you’ve looked at your business and marketing plans. Now that you are on the precipice of choosing a brand new design for your business cards, take the opportunity to look at your current marketing materials – this is a good time to reevaluate everything. It may be best to work with your marketing department or an outside marketing agency to see if a fresh look is in order. A marketing agency that specializes in helping businesses in your sector solve problems can help revamp your marketing plan and give advice on what areas you could improve to keep current. Once you have an overall strategy you can revisit design to fit that strategy.

Designing the Card for You

Once you determine what your card should say about your company, find a great designer or agency to conceptualize and execute your design. We understand that budget constraints affect this decision. Know this: a great designer will help define your business and seek the answer to your problem; a mediocre designer will use the tools that they have to put together the pieces that you give them in an acceptable way. Great design demands critical thinking, passion, and creativity. Mediocre design requires knowledge of the software used to piece together your design. Hire a great designer to achieve that cool business card. This designer will not only create the graphics for your card, they will suggest different papers, colors, textures, and other elements to complement your design and further convey your message. Don’t bother trying for a cool business card if you are going to skimp on the designer – that is half the battle.

For ideas or even just for fun, check out this list of super creative business cards.