Archive for the ‘ Creative ’ Category

Spec & Crowdsourcing Work Hurts Us All

Mention the word ‘spec’ in a room of design professionals, and you will hear resonating boos and witness faces cringe in discontent. Why you may ask? Well it’s a slap in the face to say the least to the design and advertising community.

What is it?
Spec work is any type of work done by a creative individual (designer, copywriter, illustrator, etc.) for a potential client or future employer with no guarantee of compensation. On rare occasions, if the client likes the work provided, he/she may pay you, but probably not what the work is actually valued at. Crowdsourcing is just as unethical as spec. Basically, a company or a person announces a design job that’s available to everyone. Once they’ve received and reviewed all the free work that was submitted, they pick a winner. The winner would be the only one that gets compensated. Everyone else – suck it up buttercup. This may stump many people outside of the design industry. After all, what person in their right mind would work for free and have it actually be the norm? Exactly my point here. It’s ridiculous, and it should stop.

Where does it happen?
Better question – where DOESN’T it happen? When the US Department of Interior is crowdsourcing , you know the US is in trouble design-wise. Recently, the department announced they were in need of a new logo for their 65,000 plus employee agency. This would be a big job for a design firm or a professional freelancer to add to their portfolio. Instead, they went the cheap route and offered a mere $1,000 to the victor. Due to the fact that this is a government agency, it has stirred quite a bit of outrage within the design and advertising community. The actual value of a logo, which represents a company and is an integral part of their branding is NOT $1,000. According to The Graphic Artists Guild’s (Handbook of Pricing & Ethical Guidelines), the cost for a logo ranges from $20,000 – $50,000 which usually includes buyout of copyright.

Another well-known company that is doing the deed is…Huffington Post. They’re having a HuffPost Politics Icon Competition encouraging anyone to enter and posted this:

“Do you know your way around Photoshop or other design programs?”

So do they get paid? Not monetarily. The winner’s compensation is that they will use the winning logo and credit will go to the designer.

Does it really benefit client?
They seem to think so. They figure what a great deal to have a plethora of diverse logos/artwork to choose from and for cheap or even free in some instances. Here is a small list of reasons it actually hurts the client:
• Unoriginal and poor quality of ideas and designs
• You could be sued for trademark infringement
• “Designer” doesn’t have the time to ask questions about your company or service. They are not    intimate, so chances of them creating a design that reflects you accurately is dim.
• Poor to no communication between the client and designer
• No time for research
• Chances of seeing a version of your design somewhere is VERY likely

How it hurts the designer
The way I see it, any designer who knows the value of their talent, experience, and skill will not and should not participate in these practices. It could possibly leave a scar on your design career because you are devaluing yourself. In today’s economic climate where design is not considered a commodity, it’s even more important to boldly claim your worth. For those young designers who are eager to get their work out there – THIS IS NOT THE WAY TO DO IT. Here are some reasons why:
• One by one, it devalues the entire design and advertising community
• Endless hours of design with no guarantee of compensation
• You as the designer are not protected when it comes to copyright
• Client chooses the design he/she simply likes, with no chance of the designer presenting his work and the rationale for his design
• Little time and usually no opportunity to revise designs

One way to do pro-bono work that is ethical is to check out some non-profit agencies and community groups who are in need of a logo or branding collateral. Another route could be to ask a friend or family member if they have any design needs and in return can offer a trade. This way you make it known that your work has value.

Is there ever a good opportunity to do it?
Spec work has been around for a long time, especially in advertising. Different firms may be offered an opportunity to present some initial concepts to a potential client in the hopes they will win the account. Previously, agencies made their money from media sales, and so creative work was given away as a way to profit from the media. Now this is not always the case, and each agency employs a different structure. An agency that’s starting out may be more inclined to include spec work in their proposals, whereas, a stable one wouldn’t dare. They figure they have paid their dues to be the strong agency they are – and they would be right.

Bottom line
No one is going to push you to do what you don’t want to do. The choice is yours. It’s based on your ethics and principles. I just caution you to be very careful and answer this question:

“When is the last time you went to the doctor, mechanic, attorney or grocery store and told them after services were rendered you will gladly pay for their service/product if and only you were satisfied?”

…Yeah I thought so

Links and Resources

Common Design and Print Terms

The world of design and production is filled with all kinds of fun terms. For those unfamiliar with the industry, the terms may sound imaginary, almost like going to a mechanic who tells you your flux capacitor needs to be fixed. So, how do you know your agency isn’t blowing smoke? Below are some common terms that sound funky, but trust us – they’re real and we know what we’re talking about.

Bleed – Printing an image past where the final print will be trimmed, which allows color to extend all the way to the edges of the final print.

Collect – Gathering the artwork, along with fonts and images, in the final format needed for output.

CMYK – Abbreviation for cyan, magenta, yellow and key (black), the four process colors.

Four-Color Process (4cp) – Any printing method that utilizes CMYK to create the illusion of different colors.

Gang – To combine multiple jobs on one print plate in order to reduce costs and set up charges.

Ghosting – When an image on one side of a document shows through to the other side.

High Res – Files which have a “high resolution” DPI or “dots per square inch” count.

Imposition – A layout of pages on mechanicals or flats so they will appear in proper order after press sheets are folded and bound.

Kerning – Adjusting the lateral space between letters.

Leading – The vertical spacing between lines of text.

Mock Up – A to-scale creation of the original printed material possibly containing instructions or directions.

PANTONE® Matching System (PMS) – Numbering system for identifying 3,000+ colors created through combinations of 14 primary color inks. The Pantone Company produces numerous color-matching systems for standard print and computer applications.

Pixelization – Process of enlarging image pixels to increase image size, resulting in jagged edges and blurry images.

Preflight – Process of checking a graphic file for potential problems before sending it for final output.

Spread – Two pages that face each other and are created as one visual or production unit.

TrueType – The most common format for fonts that work on both Mac OS and Microsoft Windows operating systems.

Vector Image – A computer image that uses geometrical primitives (such as points, lines, polygons and Bezier curves) to produce mathematical descriptions of paths for the graphic, which eliminates pixelization.

Wireframe – Is a visual guide that represents the skeletal framework of a website, like a blueprint.

Anyone who wants to talk like the designers do can pick up a Pocket Pal by International Paper. It’s a great resource for everything graphic arts related and here’s where you can find it: Business/CPIP/PocketPal.html

If you’d like to skip the homework assignment and need some help from evok’s creative team – give us a call at 407.302.4416.

Write or Right?

It seems every time I turn around there’s another article, paper or blog post with a list of tips on ways to improve your SEO or what not to put on your resume or the best shortcuts to use in Photoshop. Maybe it’s just me, but I can’t get over how often these pieces contain sentences that run on forever, grammatical errors, misspellings or are just poorly written. Having recently marked my twentieth year working as a copywriter in advertising, I thought I’d put my own list together. Most of it is advice I’ve picked up from others but I’ve also included a few of my own musings on the subject. By no means is this a complete list or in any particular order of importance. It’s simply a few basic tips on writing I hope will help.

1. Find your own voice. The writing is always stronger when it comes from a true place.

2. Everybody thinks they can write. Truth is most people can’t.

3. Vary the length of your sentences. – A general rule of thumb is to use short sentences to emphasize ideas and longer sentences to explain the idea.

4. Use a dictionary. You can’t trust spell check.

5. The word THAT. – One of my copywriting instructors in ad school used to fine us for using fluff words in our copy. Some words cost a quarter, others fifty cents. THAT was a dollar word. In almost every instance you can remove it from a sentence and you’ll never know it’s gone.

6. Write, rewrite and rewrite. If you want to get it right.

7. Read what you’ve written out loud. – If you stumble over a particular phrase or section rewrite it. By reading your work aloud you can hear if there’s a problem area.

8. Read your copy backwards. – When you’re finished writing scan your copy from the end to the beginning. It’s a quick way to proof for any glaring errors.

9. Being organized is half the battle. – Outline or frame your thoughts before you put them into words. It will make the writing process go much easier.
10. Respect your reader. – If your copy contains misspellings, grammatical errors or is just poorly written, it makes you suspect in the eyes of the reader. If you couldn’t take the time to get the copy right, why should your reader believe the content is credible?

What Type of Designer Are You: Solo, In-house, or Ad Agency?

Where designers work varies as much as the designers themselves. Some work in the corner of their studio in their pj’s while sipping their Starbucks coffee. Others work in the marketing department of a Fortune 500 company. Then there are those who design an array of work for diverse clients in an ad agency.

Being a designer who has worked in all three arenas, I thought I would provide some insight and go over some pros and cons for each. Every creative has his or her own unique preferences and needs. What may work for you, may not work for the next designer. However, rest assured that YOU do have a place in this crazy industry called design.

Solo (Freelance) Designer

Pros: A great majority of designers are their own boss. One reason for that is the freedom that comes from waking up when you want to and scheduling your work as it best suits you. Also you have the privilege to accept as many or as few projects as you want. Another great benefit is that you get to exhibit your true creative potential, which is something very important to keep the excitement of design alive. Usually this will increase as you begin building your reputation and can select the projects you want. Want to go on vacation – just ask yourself when and where and you’re off! Oh, and let’s not forget – set your own rate. Several designers have higher salaries as a freelancer than in-house because they can set the price they feel their services are worth.

Cons: Starting out, you may be overwhelmed. This can be especially difficult for designers who are just beginning their design career. It’s strongly recommended that you work for a company awhile before venturing out on your own. One common issue to deal with as a freelance designer is the absence of a steady paycheck. Your paycheck is really the sum of your projects, how you bill them, and how soon your client will pay you. If you’re not an organizer and saver by heart, this route will teach you by force. Another con is that no one will go and get the clients for you. This may be a positive challenge some look forward to, while for others it will make them cringe. Either way, you are solely responsible for attaining and retaining your clients, so be creative in your marketing.

In-House Designer

Pros: With the recent economy shift, many companies, both large and small have decided to keep their work in-house. The company itself benefits greatly in this arrangement; and so do the designers. One of the largest benefits is the stability. Since these companies want the assurance of having an “on-call” design department, you can be sure designers will be there for a number of years. Another positive is since you are an employee you have the same great benefits as the rest of your co-workers in other departments. They can include health insurance, paid time off including holidays and vacation, disability, 401k, and sometimes even tuition assistance. If you’re concerned about working long hours, then you’ve come to the right place. In-house departments typically have the same 8 hr shift as the rest of the company. So you will be home before it’s dark – lucky you.

Cons: Once you step foot in an in-house design department, remember there are rules to abide by that were put in place long before you came; unless you were one of the pioneers in starting the department. Branding guidelines are very strict and must be adhered to in every executed project. As a result, after time you may feel you’re designing the same old piece. You can attempt to do something fresh and innovative, but don’t take offense if it’s not received positively. Another con may be the manner in which you’re perceived within the company. Many non-designers think you press a magic button and their 20 page brochure will be done within the hour. One way to counteract this is through communication. Educate your manager and co-workers as to why it takes a certain amount of time, so they may be able to forward that key information to other departments and clients. After all, designers are not magicians – ok, maybe a little.

Ad Agency / Design Firm Designer

Pros: Can anyone say CREATE! One major pull ad agencies have over other creative environments is the plethora of great creative. Usually there is more time to focus on one or two campaigns at a time and so you get quite a bit of time to brainstorm and collaborate with your peers. If you’re lucky some of the campaigns you worked on that were executed can add sparkle to your portfolio. This is usually the case since the clients’ budgets are bigger and allow for custom photography, higher-end print finishes, illustration, etc. Another advantage is the people that surround you. In an ad agency, you get to hang out with your “creative peeps.” These may include, but are not limited to other designers, photographers, copywriters and creative directors. Since you feel comfortable collaborating and brainstorming in such a setting, it results in a more uplifting and inspiring attitude. Which leads me to another positive – the space. Ad agency higher-ups know that creatives need a fun place to work to get their juices flowing so many have eliminated the greige cubicles and replaced them with funky open areas so all can interact informally without restrictions because you never know when the greatest idea will arise.

Cons: When you work in-house your employer is your client, so they’re unlikely to go anywhere. However, clients in an ad agency can come and go. If a huge account is lost, you may lose your job along with it, which may explain why you see designers jumping from agency to agency through no fault of their own. If you have children and other commitments outside of work, you may want to think carefully if this is the place for you, as long hours extending into the late nights are the norm. Every account is considered important and every deadline is set, so multiply that by three and you could easily be working 50-70 hrs a week. Of course this leads to another disadvantage; burnout. Working those long hours churning out great work can leave you “juiceless” after a couple of years, remember to set your priorities accordingly and give yourself time to relax and re-energize.

Links and Resources

For Solo (Freelance) Designers:

For In-House Designers:

For Ad Agency / Design Firm Designers:

For All Designers:

So now that you’ve seen a small glimpse into the good and bad of these three creative environments, which one best fits you? Tell us your experiences – we’d love to hear from you.

Should Drawing Be Fundamental For Designers?

On the boob tube there was a local private art school commercial advertising a
graphics degree program. The announcer states…“You don’t know how to draw?
No problem, you don’t have to.”

The school claims that their professors can mold you into a superstar designer without having prior drawing skills or talent for that matter.

So that brings up the question. Should drawing be fundamental for designers?
Um, ABSOLUTELY! Below we have compiled some of the benefits for designers
if they apply drawing to their overall creative process. Stick figures are as far as
you go? No problem! We’ve also listed a couple of links and resources to get your
drawing juices going.

See the big picture.

When you first get a new project, it’s a blank slate. Although that may be exciting
for designers, it can also be quite overwhelming. Many times we don’t know
where or how the ideas will come, and we usually only have an allotted time to
concept and lay it out. Sketching can be used to see how you will lay out the
piece, whether it’s an ad, a website, or a package design. It is the frame upon
which you will build. Once you have the elements you want in place, it’s a matter
of rearranging them around to see what works best. I find it’s easier to see the
big picture by drawing it out on paper first, rather than jumping on the computer.
Remember a computer is a mere tool – nothing more. The ideas will always come
from you.

Become a master problem-solver.

Drawing is the origin of all design. When you draw, you run into and discover
all the obstacles and problems you have to resolve in design down the road.
After all, isn’t it easier to use a pencil than a bulky mouse? So it’s best to start at
the root. For example when you draw, you learn where to apply your shadows
according to where the light is coming from. You also master color theory. It’s one
thing to see how colors relate to each other on the color wheel, but it’s another
when you’re sketching with color. Color excites and inspires, so don’t be afraid of
putting color to paper. I can’t emphasize how much drawing as a child and a teen
helped to understand design on a deeper level.

Save time and avoid headaches.

Countless times designers have attempted to design directly on the computer
without any prior sketching. Sometimes it works, but other times it’s inefficient.
It’s like attempting to put up shelves in a house with no walls. It’s pretty much
useless. I can’t stress enough – foundation, foundation, foundation. Lay a basic
foundation by sketching your idea out, and you are guaranteed to shave off time
towards your final project. There are so many other elements as a designer you
have to stress and spend time on. Don’t let this be one of them unnecessarily.

Incorporate your drawing into the project itself.

Want to become a double-threat designer? Draw and design! Demonstrating
your skills and talents in such a way can add value to the brand you’re designing.
For example, drawing an image that will be part of a logo will ensure that brand’s
individuality. To be able to incorporate your unique art within a project can only
help your client. By drawing it yourself, you’ll definitely stand out in the vast sea
of clip art and stock illustrations.

Links and Resources
With so many benefits to drawing, you are probably anxious to get started. Here’s
a compilation of useful websites and books to assist you.
• Odosketch ( – Think of this as an online
sketchbook. It allows you to save your sketches online by just creating a
simple account. It’s a treat to browse through what others draw as well.
• How to Draw It ( – This is an online step
by step on how to draw different things including animals, cartoons,
and my favorite, people. The people section includes lighting and line
drawings. It’s a beginner’s level.
• Fast Sketching Techniques by David J. Rankin – This book teaches you
to loosen up which is what’s needed when sketching. It shows you how
to capture something using brief and quick strokes.
• The New Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards –
For those who want to delve deeper into drawing, here is the updated
version of a classic (Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, 1979). This
book explains drawing to its core and opens your eyes to view drawing
in a different way.
• Autodesk Sketchbook Pro – This is a paint and drawing software that allows
you to transform your desktop computer, laptop, tablet PC, or iPad into the
ultimate sketchbook. You can download a free trial.
Concepts are raw, and thus should be developed using the rawest of tools –
pencil and paper.
On that note designers, if you want to improve, and create intelligent, well
thought-out design pieces, we suggest you dust off your STAEDTLER graphite
pencil and rubber kneaded eraser and have at it! Draw!

Putting Pencil to Paper – Making The Case For Illustration

Henri Matisse said, “Drawing is putting a line around an idea.” we’ve always liked that quote, but step inside any ad agency, design firm or interactive shop these days and the chance of seeing drawing, illustration, hand work, etc. being used in a project is slim to none. Sure, there’s lots of it to be found on the t-shirts being worn or the posters hanging in cubicles and the skateboards in the corner, but rarely in any of the work. If the key to effective marketing is positioning your products or services so they stand apart from the competition, especially in a world dominated by bad stock photography, illustration is an excellent option.

It seems as if clients and creatives automatically default to photography. It’s familiar, what they understand and what they know. Many people only think of illustration as being humorous or childish and nothing could be further from the truth. Good illustration is conceptual, makes strong connections and often translates an idea faster and more effectively than a photograph. Even stock illustration conveys more character and personality than your average piece of stock photography. And illustration is always a good choice when you need images of something that’s impossible to photograph.

Several years ago, our copywriter worked on a big project for a quasi-governmental agency that administered financial aid programs for college students. By law they were required to produce a booklet, similar to an annual report, that summarized all kinds of financial information and was distributed to everyone who had a loan with them. It also had to be state specific for each of the three states in which they did business. Since they made loans to all types of students, they wanted the images in the booklet to reflect diversity. The booklet from the previous year had used stock photography to achieve this but they felt it was a mess. Sixty pages of copy, graphs, charts and bad mismatched photos.

Their solution was to use illustration. They hired an illustrator to do about 30 simple sketches. The images were very loose drawings but clearly indicated the gender, race, age, etc. of the people pictured. There were also images of books, pencils, coffee cups and other random elements of student life. Since the drawings were loose, they used a single line to connect each image from page to page. The line started on the cover and ran through the entire book to the back cover, implying the loan you borrowed took you through your entire college experience. To differentiate from state to state they simply changed the color of the line from blue to green to red. The end result was a huge success. The client even received positive feedback on the piece – something that had never happened before. Best of all, the cost of the illustration was less expensive than if they’d had to buy a bunch of stock photography and Photoshop the images to try and make them look consistent.

Budgets and timelines are a factor with any project. And illustration doesn’t have to be expensive. There have been times in the past where we’ve contacted local colleges and art schools and met with students to see their portfolios. In several cases, we hired students to do work for an assignment. It’s a win-win situation.

Another option to consider is maybe you don’t need to use imagery at all. Good typography is imagery in its own right, and can make for a strong visual solution. Many illustrators will do some sort of hand-lettered type which serves to not only get your message across in words, but visually, as well.

There’s an old business adage that says, “When everyone else is zigging, why not zag and stand out from the crowd?” Illustration isn’t right for everything and many times the project will dictate when it’s appropriate. If the challenge is to get your clients products and services noticed, put pencil to paper and consider illustration rather than stock photography as a great way to make an impact.

Is “Re-branding” the New Buzz Word?

We hear the term “re-branding” thrown around a lot lately. It seems if everyone is trying desperately, in a fast-moving society, to stay fresh and yet stay true to their history at the same time. Most recently – YMCA to Y; Tropicana logo change; and let’s not forget about the Gap logo debacle.

The Gap change came in early October of this year. The president of Gap Brand North America for the last three years stated, “We chose this (new) design as it’s more contemporary and current. It honors our heritage through the blue box while still taking it forward.” – Sound familiar?

Gap did a soft launch of their new logo and wanted feedback from their loyal customers, so they introduced it through social media. And, did they get feedback! Received so negatively and with such a backslash, it resulted in 1,094 comments from one of their Facebook postings alone.

Creatively, many felt it took a couple steps back and, well…fell flat on its face. The “generic” look that so many companies are trying to achieve didn’t work for Gap. For many, their goal is to make their brand modern and clean, but when executed incorrectly, the result is a generic and drab look. Modern should not equal generic. Gap has now gone back to their old logo.

This got us thinking…when exactly is the right time to re-brand and why? In Gap’s case, they wanted a new logo to reflect the evolution of their clothing line and multiple modern stores. However, what other reasons are there to re-brand? Take our company, evok advertising, for example. We are actually in the process of a re-brand ourselves. So, why the change for us?

Scott Disbennett, creative director and agency partner, said, “Opposed to a national brand that has spent millions focusing on consumer perception, we don’t carry the same iconic weight. We are a mid-size agency that prides ourselves on staying abreast of new technology and new brands, while staying cutting edge, so being current is actually part of the brand. Also, we focus most, if not all, of our marketing efforts B2B so to many, this new logo will be their first experience with our brand. We aren’t facing the challenges that a national consumer brand might face.”

Larry Meador, our agency’s managing partner, addressed evok’s re-brand by stating, “While the old ‘EVOK’ worked well when we were trying to shout our name out there, we have always had a core belief that we should be behind the scenes, behind our clients’ victories, and although just a minor change, going from upper case to lower case with our logo reinforces that belief.”

So, if wondering whether you should re-brand your company, you may want to consider the following criteria. If you can answer yes to most of the items below, maybe it’s time?

Re-brand IF:

  1. New ownership, new partner
  2. A new highly regarded business practice (such as being green, etc.)
  3. Offering new products or services that will move you to a different segment of your market
  4. If your branding was poorly designed when your company was young
  5. New location, if that greatly impacts your business

So, the question remains to re-brand or not re-brand?  Well, the simple answer is, consider the brand! For our agency, yes it made sense. For KFC and the Y (formerly YMCA), yes, maybe? But, maybe not so much for Tropicana and The Gap. If you are responding to consumer input, yes! Remember, the purpose of re-branding is to keep your current clients and customers, but also attract new ones.

Long live the Coppertone baby!