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Justin is a Creativity Cultivator. His work has appeared in national publications, newspapers and he has contributed to best selling author, Matthew E. May’s work. He speaks to and works with organizations on creativity, founded the Iowa Creativity Summit and lives in Des Moines, where he owns Test of Time Design. Engage with him on twitter at @JustinBrady

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Don't Compare Yourself to Your Competition.


Why do you obsess over your competition? Why don't you simply obsess over your customer? To covet your competition or their offerings is a very dangerous angle to take, not only in business but in the marketing of your business. To focus on others in the same industry always leads to mediocrity and of course guarantees you will be one step behind. If you are comfortable simply picking up the crumbs that your competitor discarded, stop reading. If you want that big juicy steak on the table read on...

It is good to point out why you are the best option for your customer, but stay away from mentioning specific competitors. In design, marketing and advertising, when you use your competitor as a spring board to sell your own stuff, three negative scenarios could play out.

1. It makes prospects aware of your competition: Seriously, do you want to give your competition free publicity? If you mention your competition people will most certainly Google them. Sure they aren't as cool as you, but does your prospect know that?

2. Comparisons are for similar products or services: Your prospect or customer will assume you offer a similar product or service. Comparisons in advertising or marketing are the first step to turning what you offer into a commodity.

3. People will assume you are inferior: We are advertised and marketed to every single day. If you have to compare yourself to your competition there is a good chance your audience will assume your competitor is better. After all, you used them as an example, they must be the authority on the subject.

Aren't you the best at what you do? Do you really want to send your competitor business? Is it time to re-write your marketing strategy?

Monday, September 21, 2009

Special Post: Kindness Counts in Iowa!

This is a guest post on behalf of Character Counts! in Iowa

October 18-24, 2009 is National Character Counts! Week and we're celebrating by counting acts of kindness, character and good
deeds throughout the week.

Head to www.KindnessCounts.ning.com during CC! Week and post your good deed in the forum.

For each good deed that you post, you'll be entered to win a fantastic prize from our partners. You'll also be able to see the acts of kindness that other Iowans have been posting.

Mark your calendar - you can only enter your acts of kindness during Character Counts! week - October 18-24, 2009.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Designing with the Human Ear

Most companies we have worked with have previous experience with a designer or design firm. Part of our initial discussion with these companies is to ask about their previous experiences, specifically, what they like or dislike about their current solution. We are firm believers that asking questions like these is key to the future client relationship, and after asking the same questions for years, you would naturally assume we have an exhaustive list of dislikes. How many words on how many pages do you think we could fill with this feedback? Tens? Hundreds? Perhaps Thousands? The truth is, about one sentence: "I don't feel like our current design firm listens to us at all."

Graphic Design is a very peculiar field if you really start to think about it. Not only do companies rely on designers to get a message out in a fresh effective way, but designers are also expected to be industry experts in all the varying fields they represent, not to mention understanding how all people groups may react to the project at hand.
So how do great designers properly accomplish goals set by the company they represent? How can they possibly become an expert in a field they have been dabbling in for a short period? By this point in the post, hopefully the answer is obvious.

To properly accomplish goals set by the client at hand, the designer must be willing to listen. By listening, it is not good enough for a designer to interpret what he/she wants out of the discussion, but rather, see the problem or project at hand from the client's viewpoint. On the client side, you have a responsibility as well. Never put your designer in a position to "just be creative." They need limitations and direction; without your expertise, they cannot possibly achieve the goals you have set.

As a designer or even marketer, not listening is the riskiest game you can play. Without a keen ability to listen to the client, all hope for the project is truly lost. Is your designer, or internal marketing department designing with the Human Ear?

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Wake Up, Good Design Isn't About Decoration!

My jump off point for this post is a genius blog post by Garr Reynolds over at www.PresentationZen.com. He's a spiffy guy, please read his post.

I would say the biggest misconception about the graphic designer is that their job is to make things look pretty. Is this really why you hire them though? In Garr's post he makes a statement that sounds all too familiar:
"Design — even graphic design — is not about beautification. Design is not just about aesthetics, though aesthetics are important. More than anything, design is about solving problems or making the current situation a little better than before. Design is not art, though there is art in design."
A graphic designer's true objective should be to focus on a tangible goal to achieve. In most cases this tangible goal is to grow bottom line revenue, however this goal could also grow membership, publicize a cause, or find your lost dog Snuffy.

Design doesn't come easy, your designer doesn't just go to the computer and create shapes; creating visuals is about 5% of his or her job. The other 95% of his job is problem solving to find visual answers, and better understand what you audience will relate to. There must be some level of attractive display, but this should never be the top priority. I have seen plenty of design projects in my day that were beautiful but failed to accomplish company goals. (Maybe there were no goals to begin with, maybe the project was one of those things "we have always done")

What questions could be asked before the process begins to avoid these problems? How much more could companies achieve by leveraging great design? What good questions should be asked to make sure design focuses on achieving goals?