The recipe for a perfect logo design 3/6

24 August 2010 by Lisa Hughes  
Filed under News and views

method_girlPart 3 – Applying the method

To ensure a successful logo the design must be simple, memorable, timeless, versatile, and appropriate. Be mindful that an elaborate, overworked logo is probably not going to be a pretty sight. The most memorable logos are also the most simple. Here are some things to remember when you are considering a variety of concepts provided by your designer.

1.    Consider differing mediums
You will more than likely want to use your logo on a variety of marketing materials, whether it’s online or in print. Bearing this in mind, your logo will need to be reproduced in varying sizes and to span various mediums. When you are considering creative concepts, try scaling the designs at down to 10-20%. Viewing logos at their smallest is a good indication of whether or not your logo will work across many platforms, whether it be a favicon on your website or a small advert on newspaper print, to a sign on the side of your building or a poster on a hoarding’s board.
Whilst okay in larger formats, designs with too much embellishment: thin lines, small shapes and light and fanciful typography should be avoided as these qualities will be lost and may even disappear when used at a smaller scale. For some great visual comparisons view this useful article written by iStockphoto,  it’s worth bookmarking!

2.    Preparing a logo catalogue

Okay, so you’re already thinking about different mediums where your logos may be used, but sometimes you may come up against technical questions that you’re not quite sure how to answer. For instance, you’re booking a black and white advert space in a newspaper and the sales person is asking you to provide a 1-colour version of your logo for a mono newspaper advert. Your designer only provided you with an all-singing-all-dancing full colour logo that looks great on your website and business cards, but once the colour has been striped to gray-scale by the production team at the newspaper, will look more like someone’s lent on your advert while the ink was still wet  –  just one big, unrecognisable smudge! In cases like this you really need to have several versions of your logo that work in any environment.

  • 1 colour – usually black on white although potentially it could be blue on white or any colour of your choice.
  • Reversed-out – in some instances your logo may work better white on black or on another colour. The term ‘reversed’ just means white.
  • 2 colour – If your logo already looks like its uses just 2 colours, chances are they are made up out of a 4-colour process. This can cause some colours (greens and oranges) to look lack-lustre and may be better off printed as a 2 colour Pantone. Your designer should be able to produce a Pantone swatch book for you to choose an exact colour. As with the 1 colour version, these options may be requested for newspaper printing or screen printing onto a tee-shirt.
  • 4 colour (also referred to as ‘full colour’) In printed materials a full colour range is usually made-up by the following 4 colours: Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black (CMYK), however on screen, these colours are defined by Red, Green, Blue (RGB).

Full colour logos can also be very expensive or difficult to reproduce. To keep costs to a minimum keeping your design to a couple of colours, then use tints of those colours. Reducing your colour palette can also work to keep logos from looking too busy.

When considering your corporate colours, be mindful of obvious references. For instance, a financial advisor should avoid red as this colour can be associated with ‘being in the red’ or red ‘final-demand’ letters. Eco-friendly companies would want to adopt earthy tones as opposed to garish, loud colours that are not naturally found in such environments.

Different horses for different courses. You will need your final logo provided in a variety of formats. Here’s a rough guide to their general usage:

  • AI and EPS – Vector graphics that preserve the quality of lines and curves etc. when resized larger and smaller. Used for print.
  • JPEG, BMP and TIFF (.jpg or .jpeg) — pixel image formats widely used to display photographic images. Resizing is limited. Images are okay when used 100%, but will distort and pixelate if made larger. Used for print and web.
  • GIF and PNG – pixel image formats that have transparency qualities. Images are okay when used 100% or less, but will distort and pixelate if made larger. Used for web.

If your logo is to be used by staff members or work associates for internal documents or for a dual-affinity branded piece, I’d strongly advise creating a ‘standards’ document allowing you to distribute a guideline of do’s and don’ts to relevant individuals. In brief, this should include: corporate colours, rescaling, clearance zones, fonts, etc. This will help to project a consistent ‘tone-of-voice’ in all your correspondence with customers and fellow businesses alike. Not only protecting your brands integrity, but incrementally building and promoting a professional company presence.

Missed Part 1 and Part 2?

Next time – Part 4 – Using the correct utensils

Decision-making models in Web development

20 August 2010 by Anna Mieczakowski  
Filed under News and views

Unlike in the medical and the aerospace sectors, erroneous decisions in the Web development domain do not cost lives. However, poorly made decisions in all these sectors can lead to serious financial consequences. Good decisions can save both time, money and lives but the difference between bad and good decisions is not always clear until the project team gets into the last stages of the development process. In order to avoid making bad decisions in the Web domain, the Smashing Magazine provides an overview of the most efficient decision-making models that can help Web developers structure and ultimately make more informed and better decision during the design of their online systems.

The most useful decision-making models for the Web and other domains include:

  1. SHEL, which stands for Software, Hardware, Environment, Liveware, is used as a brainstorming and planning tool to assess the interactions in various situations. This model is normally drawn out as a cross and it places Liveware (i.e. the end user) in the middle, which reinforces the point that the end user should be the main focus of the planning process. Going clock-wise, the top of the model allows decision-makers to consider Software (e.g. browsers, operating systems, Flash, JavaScript), the right arm of the model focuses on second type of Liveware (e.g. social media, support), the bottom of the model aims to capture Environment (e.g the whereabouts of the users and the context in which they are using the end product), and finally the left arm of the model considers Hardware (e.g. monitor, PC/MAC, mobile device).
  2. DODAR, which is an acronym for Diagnose, Options, Decide, Assign, Review, captures the five key areas of any decision-making process in the form of a circular flow. The Diagnose stage is concerned with using all available resources to find out what the problem is and what causes it. The Options stage helps to assess whether the problem is urgent or can be left for a while. The next stage, Decide, focuses on deciding what course of action is sensible and whether it should be pursued. The Assign stage concentrates on allocating appropriate tasks to people who are capable of performing them. The last stage, Review, is of the highest importance as it helps to assess whether everything is going as planned and if the expected results are achieved. If things are not going according to plan, then it is necessary to find out why and run through the DODAR cycle again until all the problems are rectified.
  3. NITS Brief is a quick communication framework, which can be of assistance when a task needs to be communicated to colleagues or clients. It stands for Nature, Intentions, Time and Specials. Nature is concerned with the nature of the problem or task (e.g. what is it and why did it happen?). Intentions relate to the actions that are hoped to be taken to solve the task. Time refers to the length of time that is needed or expected to carry out the actions. Specials are concerned with anything unusual or unexpected, for example, if a particular colleague would normally be expected to do something else?
  4. Swiss Cheese Model was developed by arguably the biggest expert on human errors, James Reason. This model is widely used in different industries (e.g. medical and aerospace) and it is based on the assumption that if errors in separate system layers are not caught out on time, collectively they can align and lead to more serious problems. Therefore, it is necessary to address errors in individual layers when they do not pose serious problems.

I hope that, on the consideration of the aforementioned models, you will be persuaded to check them out and in general focus more time and resources on ensuring that you make well-informed and correct choices in your designs.

Swiss Cheese Model

Tips on how to create user-friendly content

20 August 2010 by Anna Mieczakowski  
Filed under News and views

It looks like a lot of websites out there have problem with sticking to the main topic of content that they initially started to publish on their sites. For example, websites that initially aim to publish reviews primarily about technological gadgets for some time stick to their core interests, however, a common occurrence is that later they widen the scope of their content to Internet technologies such as Web development, emailing, etc. While there is nothing wrong about including other related topics on the website, it is necessary to do it in such a way so that users interested primarily in main topic of the site (in this case gadgets) do not get overwhelmed by a sheer amount of content about something different (i.e. Internet technologies). So, to help you create user-friendly content that is geared towards your audience throughout your site, we offer the following tips:

  1. Create content that meets your audience’s standards
    Firstly, create a main category of content that mirrors your goals and is fully geared towards the main topic of interest of your audience and create subcategories for other related topics. Secondly, you need to ensure that your site’s content meets the comprehension level and topics of interest of your key audience. So, for example, if your site is aimed at teenagers and young adults, then the site’s content should be written in a causal and relatively simple way. If however your site is aimed at highly educated older adults with high levels of professional responsibility then your website content should be written in a more sophisticated and business-like manner.
  2. Create content that complements your website
    Your content needs to compliment your website, namely, it should be relevant to the topics that you cover.  The homepage should have an introduction that gives users a general idea of what topics are included on the website and how they are structurally organised. This practice will make your site more user-friendly and ultimately will make your users want to come back to the site again.
  3. Create skimmable content
    It is very rare for users to read content word by word. It is a more common practice to skim through content in order to quickly find the interesting and applicable areas that users are looking for. Therefore, it is important that you break down your content into short and understandable sections and/or bullets as it will help users quickly and easily find what they are looking for. Another good practice is to make your content more skimmable by highlighting the most relevant keywords or by creating separate titles for several topics.
  4. Create direct and to the point content
    Your content should be direct, to the point and it should give viewers an impression that it is addressing them personally.
  5. Strengthen your argument
    When you make arguments on your site you need to back them up with authentic and respectable sources or facts. Therefore, it is good practice to occassionally link your content to other reputable sources (websites, books, journals, magazines, etc.). Not only does this strengthen the correctness of arguments in your content but it also assure users that they have chosen the right place to read about certain topics. For example, the content of this article is based on Kent House’s in-house expertise, as well as advice provided in external sources such as W3C and WebCredible.
  6. Make your voice consistent through the website
    You need to ensure that your content is consistent throughout your website and does not include any contradictory statements as conflicting content may make your users think that you are covering topics which you do not fully understand and this may decrease your site’s credibility. To avoid this, always check your current content thoroughly so that it relates to what you want to publish. Also, give users a chance to voice their feedback on your site’s content and structure as this will assure them that their opinion is important to you and that you want to make their browsing experience as user-friendly as possible.

I hope that the advice in this article will make you rethink the design of your Web content and help you create more user-friendly sites.