The recipe for a perfect logo design 1/6

24 June 2010 by Lisa Hughes  
Filed under News and views

recipe_bigYou get out exactly what you put in!

One of the single most important visual elements of your business -
is your logo.

I don’t know why, but I’ve always likened the creative process to that of
baking a cake. It may sound odd, but if you read on, the visualisation should all become clear.

You begin by collecting the ingredients, carefully weighing the quantities, then, by applying the method laid out in the recipe and using the correct utensils, before you know it you’re setting the timer – et voila! …a perfect result, created solely to delight and satisfy any appetite.

However – this desired result can only be achieved by properly preparing the ingredients and following the recipe step-by-step. Otherwise, you’re likely to end up with a disastrous result, leaving a bad taste in your mouth and only good enough for the dustbin!

Over the next 6 installments, I’ll be directing you through each stage of the logo development process and enlightening you with some valuable tips, tricks and interesting facts, along with some worthy points of consideration:

  • Part 1 Gathering key ingredients
  • Part 2  Weighing and measuring
  • Part 3  Applying the method
  • Part 4  Using the correct utensils
  • Part 5  Setting the timer
  • Part 6  Proofing the pudding

Now’s the time to pre-heat the oven, tie-up your apron strings and roll up those sleeves…

ingredients_bigPart 1 – Gathering key ingredients

From a designer’s perspective, there are 6 key questions I always ask my clients in preparation of any initial creative briefing meeting. Regardless of whether the briefing is for a logo, a website or a corporate brochure, the questions are always the same:

  1. (If an established business) Can I see what you have produced
    in the past?
  2. Can you provide me with a mission statement or a list of your company’s core values?
  3. Do you have a detailed customer profile or an example of your target market?
  4. Is there anything you like/dislike about your competitors’ brands?
  5. Do you have any preference to: colour, shapes, typeface, iconography, photography, illustration etc.?
  6. Can you provide me with visual examples of things that inspire you?

Valuable time dedicated to research and planning prior to putting pencil to paper will equip any skilled designer with the clarity and understanding to adopt the mindset of a typical customer, therefore understanding the need for your business’s products and/or services and able to produce work perfectly positioned for that market. In my opinion, this is half the battle of arriving at a successful outcome.

Next time… Part 2 – Weighing and measuring

User experience Balanced Scorecard

22 June 2010 by Anna Mieczakowski  
Filed under News and views

In recent years, a lot of organisations started to open their eyes to the notion of user experience and many companies started to treat it as an integral part of their overall business strategy. Previous research in business and other disciplines has shown that providing good user experience in products and services delights customers, increases adoption, retention, loyalty and most importantly revenue. While poor user experience discourages people from using a given product or service and drives them to the competition.

Therefore, to go with the spirit of the current times and to be successful in today’s fierce business world, organisations need to better plan how to manage and measure user experience. The usual way of doing this is to have some sort of system for managing strategy and measuring progress toward achieving goals. One such popular system is the Balanced Scorecard, which first came into attention of the business world in the early 1990s with the publication of the Harvard Business Review article “The Balanced Scorecard – Measures that Drive Performance” by Dr. Robert Kaplan of Harvard Business School and Dr. David Norton, the co-founder of the consulting company Renaissance Solutions.

Kaplan and Norton suggest that the strategic objectives of every company need to be balanced across four perspectives:

  1. The customer perspective—companies need to find out how customers perceive them.
  2. The internal business perspective—companies should ask what it is that they must excel at.
  3. The innovation, learning and growth perspective—companies must ask whether they can continue to improve and create value.
  4. The financial perspective—companies have to decide on their strategic objectives in terms of increasing revenue and reducing cost.

Each perspective of the Balanced Scorecard includes:

  1. Objectives—the major objectives companies must achieve.
  2. Measures—the observable parameters companies use to measure their progress toward reaching their objectives.
  3. Targets—the specific target values for the measures.
  4. Initiatives—action programs companies initiate to meet their objectives.

For each perspective there might be many objectives. Objectives for user experience may include user research, design reviews and usability evaluation, etc. With the Balanced Scorecard system, organisationa can align and manage their key corporate objectives in terms of user experience and become driven by their mission rather than by short-term financial performance.

According to David Norton, the Balanced Scorecard “puts strategy at the centre of the management system instead of finance”. However, this desirable switch doesn’t provide instant results. Norton says that organisations have to allow up to two years for the process and cites the example of Mobil Oil, which in 1993 ranked seventh among the major oil companies in comparative profitability and within three years of using the balanced scorecard system, it led the industry and its share price had doubled.

The Balances Scorecard system is definitely worth trying.

The debate about optimising for the user experience

22 June 2010 by Anna Mieczakowski  
Filed under Search Engine Optimisation

Currently there is a debate as to whether Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) should be guided by User Experience Optimisation (UXO). One of the leading supporters of the personalisation of search engine experience, Goggle’s Matt Cutts, believes that “instead of chasing after the search engines, chase after the user experience because the search engines are chasing after the user experience. By chasing after a good user experience, you help ensure that you and the search engines are both working in the same direction. That’s much better than you chasing the search engines, which are in turn chasing what we think is best for users“. Although Cutts’ quote sounds more like philosophy than implementation, there is some value to it. The ultimate goal of most search engines is to provide better results for users but often the reality is that competitive and time and money pressured web marketing consultants sacrifice user experience for short term gains in visibility. Cutts believes that by treating user experience as the main priority, most web marketing consultants will be able to align their  incentives with those of the search engines and get better long term ROI results.

However, the opposing camp, which has only one goal in mind and that is to earn higher rankings, argues that SEO is not and should not be UXO because the job of an SEO professional is to build and target ranking authority off-site and use that authority on-site and there is just no space in that job for prioritising user experience. The foremost priority of the ‘against camp’ is to know the search ranking factors and to effectively use that knowledge to boost rankings. For example, these people believe that ranking authority comes from other websites in the form of external links and it doesn’t matter how good, relevant or usable a website’s content is as long as it is link-worthy and a link to this website is included on other websites. Furthermore, the ‘against camp’ argues that SEO and UXO are not the same and sometimes it is necessary to chose between the two.

I support the ideas proposed by the “for camp” and believe that optimising for the user experience is definitely a way forward. As a search engine user I am always more satisfied with sites which manage to achieve the best of both worlds – be number one in Google and be number one in terms of usability, accessibility and desirability. A site optimised for the user experience also gives credence to the professionalism and forward thinking of the web marketing consultant.

Google University at E-commerce Expo North

2 June 2010 by James Shields  
Filed under Search Engine Optimisation

After reading through the show preview for the E-commerce Expo North 2010 (27th May 2010), I had decided that the two talks by Google speakers were going to be my top priority to attend that day. Not only was this a chance to be one of the lucky few to attend a lecture by ‘celebrities’ of the SEO world, but the things I learnt would benefit me in my work placement and help me to understand the importance in what Kent House does.

At E-commerce Expo North, Google University were holding two sessions;

Google University AdWords – This session’s aim was to layout the groundwork for a successful AdWords campaign. It was aimed at people who wanted to get started with AdWords, or just simply wanted a refresher in the basics of online advertising.

The session aims to teach you;

  • How the AdWords system works
  • How campaigns should be structured
  • How keyword lists and ads are developed
  • How to optimise campaign for maximum performance
  • Q&A with Google AdWords experts

Google University Analytics – This session’s aims are to give you an overview of how Google Analytics can help your business. As well as learning where your site visitors come from and how they interact with your site, Analytics will also give you information to write better ads and strengthen your marketing initiatives.

The session aims to teach you;

  • How to set up an Analytics account
  • The various different report types
  • How the data shown can influence your business decisions
  • Q&A with Google Analytics experts

Due to the nature of my work placement and having already being involved with using Google AdWords, I had initially planned to attend both of the talks during the E-commerce expo – with the talk on AdWords being slightly higher in my priority list. However, after the successful 1st talk on AdWords proving to be very popular, I was unable to attend the 2nd talk on Analytics due to the large amount of people queuing.

Regardless of not being able to see the session about Analytics, I thoroughly enjoyed the talk on AdWords and found it extremely useful. I met people who had only just heard about this type of marketing campaign, and like myself, were there to simply learn the basics. It was explained very well and useful examples were given to help the audience relate AdWords to their business.