Fletcher Ward Design - 020 7637 0940

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Thursday, November 28, 2013

Good impression

Picture this. You meet someone new. "What do you do?" she asks.
"I'm an architect," you say.
"Oh, really?" she answers. "Have you designed any buildings I've seen?"
"Possibly," you reply. "We did the new student centre at the university..."
"Oh wow," she says. "That's a beautiful building..."
Without trying -- without blowing your own horn -- you've made a great impression.

Now picture this. You meet someone new. "What do you do?" he asks.
"I'm a passionate, innovative, dynamic provider of architectural services with a collaborative approach to creating and delivering outstanding world-class client and user experiences."
All righty then.
Do you describe yourself differently – on your website, promotional materials, or especially on social media – than you do in person? Do you use cheesy clichés and overblown superlatives and breathless adjectives?
Do you write things about yourself you would never have the nerve to actually say?

Here are some words that are great when other people use them to describe you – but you should never use to describe yourself:
1. "Innovative." Most companies claim to be innovative. Most people claim to be innovative. Most are, however, not. (I'm definitely not.) That's okay, because innovation isn't a requirement for success.
If you are innovative, don't say it. Prove it. Describe the products you've developed. Describe the processes you've modified.
Give us something real so your innovation is unspoken but evident... which is always the best kind of innovative to be.

2. "World-class." Usain Bolt: world-class sprinter, Olympic medals to prove it. Lionel Messi: world-class soccer (I know, football) player, four Ballon d'Or trophies to prove it.
But what is a world-class professional or company? Who defines world-class? In your case, probably just you.

3. "Authority." Like Margaret Thatcher said, "Power is like being a lady; if you have to say you are, you aren't." Show your expertise instead.
"Presented at TEDxEast " or "Predicted 50 out of 50 states in 2012 election" (Hi Nate!) indicates a level of authority. Unless you can prove it, "social media marketing authority" might simply mean you spend way too much time worrying about your Klout score.

4. "Results oriented." Really? Some people actually focus on doing what they are paid to do? We had no idea.

5. "Global provider." The majority of businesses can sell goods or services worldwide; the ones that can't are fairly obvious.
Only use "global provider" if that capability is not assumed or obvious; otherwise you just sound like a small company trying to appear big.
6. "Motivated." Check out Chris Rock's response (not safe for work or the politically correct!) to people who say they take care of their kids. Then substitute words like "motivated."
Never take credit for things you are supposed to do – or supposed to be.

7. "Creative." See particular words often enough and they no longer make an impact. "Creative" is one of them. (Use finding "creative" references in random LinkedIn profiles as a drinking game and everyone will lose -- or win, depending on your perspective.)
"Creative" is just one example. Others include extensive, effective, proven, influential, team player... some of those terms may truly describe you, but since they are also being used to describe everyone they've lost their impact.

8. "Dynamic." If you are "vigorously active and forceful," um, stay away.

9. "Guru." People who try to be clever for the sake of being clever are anything but. (Like in #8.) Don't be a self-proclaimed ninja, sage, connoisseur, guerilla, wonk, egghead... it's awesome when your customers affectionately describe you that way.
Refer to yourself that way and it's obvious you're trying way too hard to impress other people – or yourself.

10. "Curator." Museums have curators. Libraries have curators. Tweeting links to stuff you find interesting doesn't make you a curator... or an authority or a guru.

11. "Passionate." I know many people disagree, but if you say you're incredibly passionate about, oh, incorporating elegant design aesthetics into everyday objects, to me you sound over the top.
The same is true if you're passionate about developing long-term customer solutions. Try the words focus, concentration, or specialisation instead.
Or try "love," as in, "I love incorporating an elegant design aesthetic in everyday objects." For whatever reason, that works for me. Passion doesn't. (But maybe that's just me.)

12. "Unique." Fingerprints are unique. Snowflakes are unique. You are unique – but your business probably isn't. That’s fine, because customers don't care about unique; they care about "better."
Show you're better than the competition and in the minds of your customers you will be unique.

13. "Incredibly..." Check out some random bios and you'll find plenty of further-modified descriptors: "Incredibly passionate," "profoundly insightful," "extremely captivating..." isn't it enough to be insightful or captivating? Do you have to be profoundly insightful?
If you must use over-the-top adjectives, spare us the further modification. Trust that we already get it.

14. "Serial entrepreneur." A few people start multiple, successful, long-term businesses. They are successful serial entrepreneurs.
The rest of us start one business that fails or does okay, try something else, try something else, and keep on rinsing and repeating until we find a formula that works. Those people are entrepreneurs. Be proud if you're "just" an entrepreneur. You should be.

15. "Strategist." I sometimes help manufacturing plants improve productivity and quality. There are strategies I use to identify areas for improvement but I'm in no way a strategist. Strategists look at the present, envision something new, and develop approaches to make their vision a reality.
I don't create something new; I apply my experience and a few proven methodologies to make improvements.
Very few people are strategists. Most "strategists" are actually coaches, specialists, or consultants who use what they know to help others. 99% of the time that's what customers need – they don't need or even want a strategist.

16. "Collaborative." You won't just decide what's right for me and force me to buy it?
If your process is designed to take my input and feedback, tell me how that works. Describe the process. Don't claim we'll work together -- describe how we'll work together.

The above is a list that I found on the internet ages ago.  I don’t know who wrote it originally and I apologise for not crediting them.  It’s clearly subjective and definitely open to criticism.  But I’m sure you get the point.  We’re definitely going to check over our website to see what we can find!

More importantly, what do you think? What would you add or remove from the list?

Monday, October 14, 2013

Logo Design project, what do you think?

Here are a selection of 5 logo concepts we recently presented to a music management company.

The brief required that the identity be easily recognisable and stand out in an already crowded field. The concepts should reflect nurturing and growth and be modern, professional and follow their already existing brand colours. Take a look and let us know which concepts works for you?

OPTION A: Strong typographical logotype using an extended "T-Tree" to show reaching out, exploration, nurturing and growth.

OPTION B: Alternative adaptation of option A using different colour emphasis.

OPTION C: More detailed iconic design reflecting "forest of talent".

OPTION D: This icon uses a style called "long shadow" (this is trending in the graphic design world...watch out, you will see this style everywhere soon).

OPTION E: Variation of option D replacing the "hand" with the "T" of Touchwood.

Would love to hear your thoughts and comments.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013


What makes a good graphic designer, and how can you be sure of getting good graphic design? The graphic design market can be confusing. At first sight, inexpensive graphic design looks readily obtainable, because there are a lot of good people out there eager to get some references. But for the customer, getting the right graphic designer is not easy. In fact it's a problem. Because what is the right graphic designer?

Just because someone can work with Photoshop from their bedroom, has a graphic design qualification, or at the other end, a lush reception area with a lush receptionist and has a black and white website profile picture of themselves, artily shot, looking into the distance in deep contemplation, does not necessarily mean they are a good designer. An able designer needs far more qualities than just a good eye for colour, form and detail. Design is an entity.

Good graphic design tells a visual story. Good graphic design employs succinct psychological tools, such as reactions to and associations with forms and colours. But above all, good graphic design is a visual expression that functions in optimised interaction with communication and strategy. This makes heavy demands on the designer's ability to integrate design into the whole. It also calls for considerable insight into the customer's firm, the purpose of the message and the underlying strategic thinking. Because like communication, design must reflect the customer's profile, appeal to the customer's buyers/partners, and also distance the customer from his competitors.

A good designer must therefore be able to be creative within the framework laid down by the customer. Bubbling creativity is of no use without a sense of context and economic realism. A designer must be capable of focused working within financial and time limitations. This is the challenge, and it is one of the areas a good designer gets paid to master.

It should be clearly understood that a professional graphic designer does not necessarily have his own style. This is because the designer's job is to supply a message that has to fit the company's view of itself, the company's strategy, and the company's desired market position. Another reason is that the design must appeal to the values of the users. Good design must be design that works: design that helps generate revenue and optimise the understanding of the message. Such design can only result from thorough preparation, an analytical appreciation of the company's message and market, and naturally a creative mind.

Visit www.fletcherwarddesign.co.uk for examples of designs we've produced tailored to our client's needs and message.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Sexy Skeuomorphism vs. Functional Flat - fighting the fads

Recently you can't seem to have a random google without bumping into the new fad on the block - 'Flat' design.


First championed by Microsoft's ill fated Windows 8 and adopted by android smart phones and tablets in their droves, the clean, no-nonsense 'Flat' design ethic is spreading like a Pantone marker on tissue paper.  Originally flooding the world wide web world wide it now seems to be leaking into print design. Now Apple have further added to the 'Flat' mix in their recently re-vamped iOS7 design with the inclusion of Parallax and Transparency.

The current arguments pitch Skeuomorphic design (the iOS inspired addition of faux texture, life-like visuals, real world mock material) against Flat design (clean representation, no-frills, simple shades and flat colours) in a battle of the Fads, and at the moment the Flat's on fire!


In the red corner (with bevel edges and lighting textures - sfx: loud boo's interspersed with muffled claps)... Skeuomorphism!
Skeuomorphism developed through the need to direct the user towards the design intention.  Adding style hints to direct and manipulate the viewer.  Making a button look like a button, a notepad look familiar and clichéd. Giving a rich interactive experience that is recognisable.  Sometimes to better effect than others (iPad Game Center is a prime example of tacky Skeu'ing)...

The problems become evident when over use of gaudy textures and fake cosmetic techniques gang together to date and confuse.

And In the blue corner (with flat tone and lack of texture - sfx: loud cheers interspersed with muffled boo's)... Flat design!
Flat design aimed to cut through all of that and transplant an honesty and cleanliness that seems refreshing and structured.  Employing no gradients, bevels or shadows it champions a no dimension approach to layout. But, like our old friend Skeuo', it can be mis-used. Stripping out the user experience from the designers toolkit and creating a clone like repetition.  When badly executed, many a website interface becomes a series of bland blocks and depthless colour.

Where do we stand? As designers we feel the Flat mantra most closely fits in with our design philosophy, a minimalist, stripped back approach that seems to echo the tightrope we tread throughout many a client's 'plan of action' meetings.

But surely throughout these pros and cons, when arguing the opposing pugilists' virtues and vices we are missing the point - it's the client, their aims, their targets, their needs that should drive the designer.  What we as creatives should be asking is "how can I get my client's message out there in the clearest, most effective way?"

Skeuomorphism and Flat design must be elements in a designer's toolkit, used when appropriate, unwrapped for each client in each unique situation, adaptable and fluid.

Maybe we should find a middle ground, a 'Skeuoflatism'.  Taking the best of both worlds, Flat's minimalism and simplicity and Skeuo's user friendliness and descriptiveness.

Good design shouldn't be towed behind 'fads', it should be pushed forward by the desire to reach its individual end destination.

What are you're thoughts on this battle of the Fads?
Who's going to win?
Or is the ultimate winner the Design?

Mark Fletcher
Graphic Designer

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Developing your business


All too often I see so–called strategies that are the result of muddled thinking, so let me try to de-mystify the process of marketing strategies and show why it’s important to get the strategy right before committing time and money on marketing activities.  Marketing strategies should be straightforward, understandable and actionable and, once agreed, should be the touchstone for all marketing and business development activity.  They should also be brief.

The word strategy is frequently waved around and often abused, partly because the same word defines the overall process as well as one particular aspect of it.  There essentially three parts to a strategy – the objectives, the strategy (ie the means) and finally the plan.  If we can keep those three aspects clear we’re a long way towards our goal of marketing effectiveness.  There are always strategic issues at the beginning of any business development process so let’s consider the three aspects that make up a strategy:

1. Where are you now, where do you want to get to and when do you want to do it by
In other words, what are your objectives? Understanding where you are positioned in your chosen market(s) is very important in order that you can exploit gaps or weaknesses in your competitors.  We need to define our objectives, first for the business and secondly for the marketing.  These should be clear, measurable and, importantly, achievable.  Every single piece of marketing should be held up to those objectives to ensure that it will contribute to their achievement.  Those that don’t should be discarded.

2. Setting the strategy
This is how we are going to achieve the goals.  For example, if you are a law firm it may be that one objective for the business is to increase turnover by 25% in three years.  There could be a number of different ways to achieve this, such as increasing fee income from the top five clients; or bringing in lots of new clients; or raising fee levels to achieve the desired increase.  Each option will demand a different marketing approach.
The first needs people who are able to develop the skills of key account management.  The second needs a marketing programme to increase awareness and give people a reason to come to you.  The third needs a mixture of communication and negotiation skills.  In reality, the strategic developments are usually a combination of a number of different aspects for developing the business.

3. Creating the marketing plan
Having defined the objectives and set the strategy, the third element is to choose from the various media (in the widest sense) options open to us and create a plan. You can’t really decide which will be the most effective media to use until you (a) have agreed a sensible strategy and (b) have an understanding of the market in which you’re operating.  But some people try anyway - which is why many firms waste money on activities that don’t deliver more business.
Some of the elements of a marketing plan require larger financial resources and others may need a particular set of marketing skills to deliver.  For example, how important is social media to your market?  How smart is your client database management?  How often do your clients and targets like to be contacted?  What interests them?    Having the skills to ascertain the client’s needs and priorities is an essential element in winning new business in any market.

4. Evaluation
This is where the value for money bit comes in.  The effect of marketing activity should always be measured and viewed against the marketing objectives so that we can see if the activity has been a contributor or a loss maker.  Would it be worth repeating?  When the chairman of Unilever famously said, “I know half my advertising money is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half,” he should have fired his advertising agency and brought in a team who understood the value of measurement in marketing.

5. Being prepared to think differently about marketing
The way in which people absorb marketing communication has changed for ever.  No longer is there a battleground for resources between ‘above the line’ and ‘below the line’ marketing (when did you last hear those tags?)  Today the smart money integrates communication far more successfully using traditional routes like advertising and PR along with new media and database driven campaigns far more sophisticated than anyone could have imagined only a few years ago.  Your existing and potential customers have become media gadflies and they cherrypick the way they acquire information.  And they have high standards set by other companies or entities that interest them so you need to be on your toes to keep up.  If in doubt as to where the cutting edge of new media is, do what I do and consult a young person.

It’s tempting to develop marketing plans based on what has worked well in the past.  But the bravest companies initiate change from their position of success, minimizing the risk using the best evaluation techniques.  And their discipline and diligence ensures they stand out from the rest.

Monday, August 5, 2013


Pause for a moment.  
No really, stop.
Slow down and take in your surroundings.Wherever you are, whatever you're doing, you will see a constant presence that sub-concisely nibbles away at your awareness of the world.

Multi-talented: Big bold. Light airy. Man handling your attention. Subtly steering and manipulating.  Slowly tempting and teasing. Wrestling your free choice into submission.

The designers secret weapon... Typography.

You wake up in the morning to the neon glow of Matrix Bold Condensed on your digital alarm clock.  You consume the morning newspaper's headlines delivered to you in reliable, trustworthy Times New Roman.  You're assaulted by the high street's competing brand logotypes offered up in a wide variety of mouth watering flavours and choices. Then relax at lunch browsing the world wide web occasionally toying with the world weary Webdings font. Typography is all around us.  It drives and motivates us without us even being aware.

Good typography reminds us of the cliché. It reinforces the product and references the already established history of the genre it's trying to represent. Typography in its simplest form is communication, it should be legible and un-noticeable. But pushed forward into a marketing environment it becomes descriptive and visually representative.   
After legibility its job is to remind us through familiarity.

From a designers point of view typography should not call attention to itself unless its job IS TO CALL ATTENTION TO ITSELF. 

The consumer shouldn't be aware of it working, but it should, in conjunction with other brand tricks, reinforce their perception of the product/company/message. Used correctly it adds advantage to your message.  A flourishy French restaurant font wouldn't work on the side of a white van man's industrial sewage disposal service.

Here are a couple of examples. Which do you think is the Harley Street Children's Doctor and which is the Under 4's kindergarten in Tower Hamlets?

Kindergarten or Harley Street logo?

Good typography tells you about the product, works with the brand and reminds and informs.  An essential weapon in a designer's arsenal and, used correctly, firing your message out without the recipient even being aware. Focusing on the target.

Are you still looking around?  
Your wrist watch face, traffic signs, IPad even the label in your suit... It's all around us.

Mark Fletcher
Graphic Designer

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Sick brand? Perk it up!

Branding is not fixed, it's a fluid thing that needs constant maintenance. We're sure you've invested a lot of time in your logo, corporate identity and branding but when did you last look at all the material you've produced? You need to check on a regular basis that everything is lined up with your target market, mission statement and market position.

This needn't be an onerous task but it needs to be done regularly. It's like client contact which you, as a good marketeer of course, allocate a fixed length of time to every day - don't you?

Regular reviewing of your brand is just as important. You almost certainly won't have to invest in a massive re-branding exercise but you will probably spot smaller items that you can tweak and adjust to more accurately reflect the philosophy behind the brand promise.

One of the main things to watch is the reality of what you're saying. Genuine messages speak to your audience and engage them on an emotional level. If you come across as too "businessy" and politically correct your audience won't warm to you as readily as they might otherwise.

You don't have to be overly trendy or edgy but you should be real and authentic. And this comes from liking what you do. If the only point of your brand is to make money then it will become obvious to your audience and sales will inevitably fall. You really have to like what you're doing.

If you can, try being friendlier and sociable. Make special offers for visitors to the web site. Give your customers vouchers and coupons whenever you can see a real reason and they'll respond because, if they're interested, people like to be involved with anything that's genuine and driven by the passion we were talking about a little earlier and driven by the fact that you do actually like what you're doing.

And, sorry to say this but it's necessary, ensure that you have a branding guidelines manual. Your brand profile is a unique presentation of your company and as such becomes part of your roi - return on investment.

There are some things about your brand that are cast in stone but there could well be other rules in the manual that can be broken to achieve good results - because branding is a fluid thing (where have I heard that before?) and the only really important thing is that you communicate the right message to the right audience. If you're not, it doesn't matter at all that your branding is consistent.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Same image, different job. FAQs

During our working week we get many requests from clients as to format requirements for images.

"I've grabbed this picture from our web site is it OK to use for my print job?"

So... Here's a guide, hopefully simply explained, as to how to get your pixels purring.

When preparing graphics for a web or print job there are key requirements that must be considered. 
  • Is the image large enough in pixels - dots per inch (DPI)?
  • What's the colour spec for the image...  Spot PMS, RGB or CMYK?
  • What's the final production size of the image when used (pixels for screen, millimetres/inches for print)?
OK, deep breath, here we go....

RGB. This is a colour gamut made up of three colours, Red, Green and Blue. Web or on-screen graphics are a combination of these three building blocks. This is because you are looking at the finished product through your monitor/tv which is displaying RGB pixels.
CMYK.  This is how litho print is reproduced by printing four colours, Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and blacK.  The arrangement of the litho printers screen 'dots' in these four colours give the impression of almost any specific colour combination.  Next time your at your local bus stop sporting a large display poster (the bus stop, not you!), take a closer look, you'll be able to see the small CMYK dots which make this up (just make sure the other bus travellers don't spot you!).  

Be aware though that certain colours lose integrity when reproduced in CMYK mode as opposed to RGB, blues and oranges are particularly prone to this.  See these examples below...

Sometimes to overcome this the best option is to print a 'fifth' colour - a spot PMS.
SPOT PMS. This is a second colour option that can be used with or without CMYK for print.  It's a prepriority colour system by Pantone (Pantone Matching System) for printing flat pre-defined mixed colours.  Great for specific branding colours and guaranteeing an exact colour match... but use with caution, this adds to your printing price if used with CMYK (4colour printing) adding an extra colour 'plate' for each PMS used.


Image resolution relates to the amount of detail in an image.

Image resolution for digital images is measured using pixels per inch (ppi) or dots per inch (dpi). The more pixels/dots there are in a given square inch, the more detail the image has... the higher its resolution.

If it's a print job you need images at the finished size it appears in the design at 300dpi, CMYK.

For Web/on-screen you don't need such a high resolution, monitors just don't need that amount of detail information, you'll need to dig out images at just 72dpi RGB at the viewers pixel size.

If it's going to be run out internally on the in-house office printer, you rarely need anything over 150dpi (most modern printers can handle CMYK or RGB)

So... What happens if you've only got RGB web graphics for your printed prospectus?
Well, no need to panic just yet, your designer has all the tools to convert the file to CMYK for print, RGB would not give a good colour reproduction when the printer prints out for a CMYK destination.  But you must be aware that it can only be used at the finished size it's required at 300dpi.
So if your image is 100mm at 72dpi when you increase that to 300dpi the actual reproduction size reduces to around 24mm

We always create our graphic elements at the highest resolution possible. Experience has told us that once a client has approved the lower resolution web version they invariably decide that they'd like to produce a leaflet or advertisement utilising the same graphic - it's then an easy job to go back to the high res original and re-save for the new project saving time and money.

The problem comes when you scale your web grabbed 72dpi graphic up to beyond the 300dpi interpolated conversion size for print.  The 'bit map' image will start to degrade and pixelate.  Not a pretty look.

Here' an example of a web-resolution image being scaled up beyond it's limit for print.  Note the 'blurryness' of the enlarged shot.

The vector file format has none of these scalability issues because of it's mathematically calculated colour, rather than pixel based bit map, any size can be enlarged without any degradation in quality.  Great for illustrations, logos and flatter colour formats. Not so good for detailed photography.

We design a logo to work in it's simplest mono form first, vector format is ideal for this.  If it maintains visual impact in black & white it will generally work in any colour situation.

If your not sure...
The ideal scenario would be for the designer to originate your artwork requirements from scratch.  Supplying your logo and graphics in the correct colour and size options in a variety of formats for web, internal use (Word, PPT presentations etc) and print.  They would originate any photography or images to the correct size and resolution.

Final warning.
Printers proofs are always recommend before biting the bullet and going with the final print run.  Variables like paper stock absorbency, brightness and ink coverage could all make a difference to it's final look.

Hopefully all this helps and doesn't confuse too much, but don't worry your designers know what they're doing!

Mark Fletcher
Graphic Designer

Monday, July 15, 2013

Lead with your brand guidelines!

In the past 'Brand' was perceived as your logo, your colour, your 'look'.  The word  'Brand' has now come to mean the manifestation of the company's 'emotive essence'.

Everyone's aware of the importance of getting the 'brand' right, but far to often the easy option is taken. Sure it's quicker (and in the short term, cheaper) but developing your brand on the fly, and not establishing the up-front core brand definitions, will lead in the long term to a dysfunctional and over crowded consumer message.  This is particularly relevant if your business is stretched around the world, many markets mean many local permutations. A solid structured brand is essential to bind these all together and communicate a single message with clarity.

A good, well structured branding guidelines document will define and established your brand position. Enabling your message to rise above the competition.

It should not only define your products logo, colour palette, fonts etc. but extend beyond that into the attitude and ethos of your company. It's philosophy, it's aims, even the way it answers the phone or how it structures emails.  

It should take into account online social profile, and offer up a solid insight into public perceptions and trends, backed up with interviews and research.  

We find, if time and budget allows, it's helpful to carefully dissect your customers views about your existing profile through qualified research. This can be painful for the company but will provide a real world starting point to identify opportunities to create a more successful brand that focuses towards the point of sale.
The answers will develop into options for your brand enabling it to separate and surpass your competition.

It should examine the company internally as we'll as externally - look at your competitors, how you react to competition and how you compete.

Considered answers that enforce the brand definition are a tremendous asset to your creative and marketing team. Your brand profile is a unique presentation of your company and as such becomes part of your company's worth.  A brand definition document will aid execution of your strategies and answer definite problems that arise or will arise in the future.

It will add confidence to your suppliers, create structure for your employees, and add a 'value' asset to your market worth.

"But can't I develop materials without this background work?" 
Yes, of course you can, and we often do... But you must be aware that your team is missing out on a critical outlined structure to define you.  It can make the difference between branding that hits the target and branding that falls short.  

Mark Fletcher
Graphic Designer