The recipe for a perfect logo 4/6

13 September 2010 by Lisa Hughes  
Filed under News and views

utensils_girl_bigPart 4 – Using the correct utensils

When using both type and symbols, we must consider how our choice of font will work positioned near the symbol.

Typography

These days there is an endless selection of fonts available. It’s possible to categorise them into genres such a script, serif, sans serif, slab serif, gothic etc.

The old faith-full’s:  Helvetica, Arial, Gill Sans, Times New Roman and Garamond are timeless and are always a good place to start. More modern typeface such as: Frutiger, Futura, Myriad Sans, Calibri and Trebuchet also have qualities that would lend themselves very well to logo legibility as they are clean and un-fussy.

However, you need to choose a typeface that is reflective of your business and matches the style of your design. It’s very easy to go down the wrong path and choose a typeface that you like, rather than a typeface that works best for your brand.

Unless suited to your type of business, for instance – a nursery; a family holiday company; a sandwich bar etc., try to avoid fonts that are too playful or elaborate as they can impair the legibility of your logo.
You can find examples of typefaces from a selection of genres here at dafont.com – but remain mindful of your own business genre, whilst you explore!

Iconography

For us mere mortals our use of iconography dates as far back as the Greeks and Etruscans, not forgetting the Egyptian script.

These visual elements were the prologue to the story of the alphabet and consequently the written language. In brief, an icon is a symbolism for something instantly recognisable that replaces the necessity for a lengthy explanation.

These days, following in the footsteps the modern masters of the last century, such as Picasso and Matisse, our icons can be more abstract, and don’t necessarily have to have a cognitive connection to a particular object. We attempt at symbolising an action or movement, like a swoosh or swirl. We use graphical elements that suggest textures and emotions. We use light-casting to emphasis shadows and highlights to give our designs a sense of dimension and depth.

I strongly advise checking out what’s out there in today’s market with regards to logo design as there are some fairly common trends. There’s an abundance of logo design books on the market today, you only have to surf through Amazon to peruse at your leisure (check out ‘Logo design – volume 2′ by Taschen [pg.249], we’re in it !). However, I did discover an interesting blog article recently by logolounge. They have reviewed thousands upon thousands of logos over the year thus far and identified some quite common trends. Worth a look if you’re after some inspiration!

Once a brand has gained high level recognition, (nationally or globally) it may be possible to remove the text and use the icon as a stand-alone logotype. Using examples such as the Nike tick and the golden arches of McDonalds, this kind of manoeuvre really does seem to work for the big players who have a need for a logo refresh in order to remain ‘current’ in these ever-changing times.

Confidently dropping the text from their logos allows their companies to develop and evolve without losing the intrinsic essence of the brand that they have previously invested an enormous amount of time, effort and dedication to.

Don’t forget, the combination of text and icon is generally the preferred option for new businesses start-ups as it helps to build brand recognition.

Missed Part 1 , Part 2 or Part 3 ?

Next time – Part 5 – Setting the timer

The recipe for a perfect logo design 2/6

8 July 2010 by Lisa Hughes  
Filed under News and views

measuring_girl_big

Part 2 – Weighing and measuring

If you want to go one step further with your design brief, why not consider using a mind-map to help your designer process all the information you’ve set out for them? It’s always great to introduce such a tool as an aid to avoiding creative mind-blocks. Every designer has, at one point or another, stared mindlessly at a blank sheet of paper in the hope that an idea will fly in though the window and present itself. Sometimes this actually happens, although this is usually when the designer has been provided first-hand with a clear cut design brief. Most of the time, a designer will more than likely look to the web or a selection of design journals for their inspiration, however, when perusing such a broad-sweep of the market, this could potentially cloud their judgement and start them off on the wrong path.

Using a diagram to represent words, ideas, tasks, or other items linked to and arranged around a central key word or idea can generate ‘out of the box’ inspiration and help visualise, structure, and classify ideas. This method can be adopted as an aid in study, organisation, decision making, creative writing, etc., in this case – problem solving.

Rather than producing your own drafted mind map, this tool may be more productive used during the initial briefing process, involving the designer in a collaborative ‘blue-sky thinking’ session.  After all, two heads are better than one!

Missed Part 1 – Gathering key ingredients ?  Read it here.

Next time – Part 3 – Applying the method

Making ideas happen

24 May 2010 by Anna Mieczakowski  
Filed under News and views

The Smashing Magazine has recently published an article that includes 5 tips on how to make any ideas happen. The author of this article, Scott Belsky, has spent over 5 years studying exceptionally productive people and teams in the creative world and has published a book titled “Making Ideas Happen: Overcoming The Obstacles Between Vision & Reality” that makes suggestions for taking your ideas and making them reality.

Apart from proposing that anyone can strengthen their ideas through being organised, nurturing connections with one’s community and developing leadership capabilities; Belsky also gives the following suggestions:

  1. Avoid a Reactionary Workflow
    Instead of spending most of your working hours each day on email, text messages, tweets, Facebook posts, phone calls, instant messages etc., try for a few hours per day to avoid any incoming communication and focus on your list of long-term projects that require research and deep thought.
  2. Strip Projects to Three Primary Elements
    The three primary elements include: action steps, backburner items and reference items. Actions steps are tasks that begin with verbs and can be implemented in life almost immediately.  Backburner items are essentially ideas that are the result of brainstorming or some other creative activity and although they are not actionable in the time of their invention, they have a potential of being acted upon in the future if recorded appropriately. Reference items include articles, notes and other stuff around you. In order to make the best use of them try to organise them chronologically in one big file.
  3. Measure Meetings with Action Steps
    To get more out of your meetings with clients and colleagues, conduct at the end of each meeting a quick review of the items discussed and capture the action steps.
  4. Reduce Your Insecurity Work
    We are often insecure about the different things in our lives such as website’s traffic or bank account and we often loose a lot of time using the existing technologies to check the current status of these things. Therefore, to be more productive in your working day try to reduce your insecurity work by becoming self-aware and introduce some discipline in your daily life.
  5. The Creative Process is about Surviving the ‘Project Plateau’
    In general, we are all good at creating new ideas, but most of us are not so good at sticking with our ideas and making them reality. Most ideas get abandoned at what is called the “project plateau”, that is the point when creative excitement evaporates and the pain of deadlines and project management becomes kicks in. To prevent your ideas from disappearing from the daylight show them some respect and spend some energy executing them.

Hopefully, Belsky’s tips will help many creatives convert their exciting and innovative ideas into reality.

Fast keyboard-free writing with Dasher

19 June 2009 by Anna Mieczakowski  
Filed under News and views

The researchers from the Cavendish Laboratory at the University of Cambridge developed a usable system called Dasher that allows the the insertion of text in situations wherever a full-size keyboard cannot be used . For example, Dasher can be used:

  • when operating a computer one-handed, by joystick, touchscreen, trackball, or mouse;
  • when operating a computer with zero hands (i.e., by head-mouse or by eyetracker);
  • on a palmtop computer;
  • on a wearable computer.

Dasher is a zooming interface and it contains a vertical line of letters from A to Z. To start typing, you simply point towards the letter you want to start your sentence with and the display zooms in wherever you point. The more you zoom in, the longer the piece of text you have written.

Dasher runs on Microsoft Windows and UNIX systems, it has text predicting functionality and is available in many languages. In addition, just by typing away you can easily train Dasher on using your preferred writing style. So, keep tightly onto your seat and test the usefulness of Dasher in your browser here.

An expert user of Dasher with a mouse as the input device has a writing speed of about 34 words per minute, whereas a novice user writes over 20 words per minute. Furthermore, users of Dasher make fewer errors than people using a conventional keyboard.

Dasher is highly appropriate for computer users with lower ranges of physical capability. It can be driven using a mouse, a trackpad, a touchscreen, a rollerball, or a joystick – any two-dimensional pointing device that can take over the role of a mouse. A foot mouse and a head mouse are additional options. Apparently, the functionality of Dasher has been discussed with Stephen Hawking’s assistant, however, it is yet not known how Stephen Hawking rates the usability and usefulness of this system.

The Kent House Design and Technology Seminar

Throughout the year Kent House run a series of events on various topics including SEO, Design, Website Development and Internet Marketing. On 22 June we will be holding a free seminar on Design and Technology and how getting the balance right can improve your online presence. The event will take place at Keele Hall, Staffordshire.

Download the PDF Invitation for more information.

For this upcoming event we have secured the services of Julius Wiedemann – author of Guidelines for Online Success and one of the World’s leading experts on design and marketing. Julius will be giving the keynote presentation and plans to focus on the evolution of design online and take a look at how design has changed how we do business from branding to emails to mobile marketing.

Our very own Kevin Holdridge, will discuss ways in which design, technology, and marketing can work harmoniously together online. He will show examples of how many companies get this badly wrong, thus wasting their money and damaging their market position.

The seminar aims to help local businesses and organisations understand how to get the best return from investment in online channels such as the Web and email. It will do this by focusing on how to get the relationship right between the technology, design and marketing of a site.

The event would be suited to anyone with an interest in marketing, design and websites and more critically people interested in making their website work harder for them by achieving better results in the Search Engines. I have included the event program below.

If you are interested in attending, please register online or alternatively send me an email with all of your details.

Event Program

Session 1
How we got here – A brief on the evolution of media, communication and design.

Session 2
Your site – Design and Usability – How to integrate great design into your site without compromising on usability.

Session 3
Return on Investment – How to maximise your investment in the online world.

Session 4
Design, usability and Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) – How to design an effective, easily navigated site yet still do well in Google.

Guidelines for Online Success

3 February 2009 by Anna Mieczakowski  
Filed under News and views

One of the best, if not the best, surfer of the web is back with yet another inspiring book on website technologies. Julius Wiedemann from Taschen has recently published “Guidelines for Online Success” (co-written with Rob Ford).

This book brings together the expertise and experience of the most highly acclaimed designers and developers from every corner of the world and in a step-by-step approach gives you advice on how to get a competitive edge over the websites of your competitors. I have read this book and really recommend it to everyone who wants to match up the success of their websites to the success of websites created by the world class designers.

The book is divided into 6 sections that discuss the dos and don’ts on the following topics:

1. Interface & Design, examples including:

  • Do: “Use colours that add something to your work and give the design the right balance” (p. 24)
  • Don’t: “Copy others – your work is much more valuable as the original” (p. 24)

2. Marketing & Communication, examples including:

  • Do: “Clearly display a Contact link at all times” (p. 78)
  • Don’t: “Fail to explain what makes your company special” (p. 82)

3. Technology & Programming, examples including:

  • Do: “Test! Test! Test! Nothing is really done until it’s tested online in as many variations as possible” (p. 152)
  • Don’t: “Make your flash navigation file size so large that it takes too long to download” (p. 168)

4. Technical Advice, examples including:

  • Do: “Make smart design to display photographs to fit different screen resolutions” (p. 210)
  • Don’t: “Make the interface too complex – simplicity is the key for users to access integrated content” (p. 202)

5. Content/Content Management, examples including:

  • Do: “Keep the animated sequences short and sweet” (p. 240)
  • Don’t: “Overload the layout” (p. 252)

6. E-Commerce, examples including:

  • Do: “Keep it simple. Customers need to feel comfortable with a cart as soon as possible, or they will be discouraged from browsing through the products on offer” (p. 290)
  • Don’t: “Use long questionnaires or surveys to gain information from the user” (p. 286)

If you want to have a quick look at what this book is all about, and you don’t really feel like rushing to the bookshop or filling up the mail order forms on Amazon, then you have the option of looking up the first 50 pages of the book at Taschen online.

Some of the other inspiring books created by Julius Wiedemann can be viewed here.

Designing more inclusive websites

30 January 2009 by Anna Mieczakowski  
Filed under News and views

About 10 years ago Professor John Clarkson from the Engineering Design Centre at the University of Cambridge and Professor Roger Coleman from the Helen Hamlyn Centre at the Royal College of Art realised the importance of designing more accessible, usable and desirable products and the value such products bring to the market, and as a result they collaboratively set up 2 Inclusive Design research groups in the UK: one in Cambridge and one in London. Since then, a lot of other UK-based academic and business institutions, including Kent House, recognised the benefit of inclusively-designed products and started they own inclusive design ventures. All these institutions operate from the belief that inclusively-designed products not only minimise the exclusion of less capable users, but they are also easier for everyone else to use.

Inclusive Design Background

Inclusive design is a general approach to designing in which designers ensure that their products and services address the needs of the widest possible audience, irrespective of age or ability. The concept of inclusive design is similar to Universal Design, which is popular in the United States and Japan. However, it is widely accepted in the inclusive design discourse that designing ‘one product for all’ is implausible because people of different ages, capabilities and social and cultural backgrounds prefer different products.

Kent House and Inclusive Design Websites

Kent House believes in the power of inclusive products and services and we have always been stressing the importance of accessible and easy-to-use websites to our clients. In 2006, we conducted an extensive usability study on 303 Primary Care Trust (PCT) websites in the UK and found them to be of poor quality in terms of design, content and effectiveness of communication. As a solution to the problem with PCT websites, we developed the 3C Compliance Model. The results of the study were published in the British Journal of Healthcare Computing & Information Management in February 2007.

Kent House and the University of Cambridge

In the pursuit of even more understanding on inclusive design and the need to further develop guidance on how to design more  accessible and usable products and services, I joined the Inclusive Design research group at the University of Cambridge as a PhD student in October 2007. My work focuses on modelling interaction between product features and human capabilities. I am particularly interested in finding out whether product designers really consider heterogeneous users during their designs, and if so, whether they use any models or frameworks to ensure that their products meet the needs and wants of  users with varied capability. I am also interested in finding out more about the goals and actions of heterogenous users when they interact with daily living products.

Since I have been working with the Inclusive Design group, I have introduced the vision impairment simulator to the Kent House team in order to help our graphic designers understand how declined vision affects the ability to interact with our websites and as way of testing if our websites can be seen by people with reduced capability.

Branding

30 January 2009 by Rob Mckechnie  
Filed under News and views

brandBranding is not just about your company logo but it’s also about your business values and every interaction you have with your customers and suppliers. Branding can become an essential part of your business, create and maintain your company reputation and reflect your customers’ experience. It can also help you to maintain employee motivation and increase your sales.

So… do you want your product or service to become a customer’s first choice?

Well… Kent House can help you make this happen by building your brand identity and giving you advice on how to focus on what your customers want and how you can guarantee to deliver it.

If you have any queries regarding our Products and Services, please feel free to contact us at info@kenthouse.com or 0845 638 0700.

Kent House in 48-Hour Design Challenge

28 January 2009 by Anna Mieczakowski  
Filed under News and views

In November 2008, I was asked to take part in the 48-Hour Inclusive Design Challenge in Tokyo. The Challenge was collaboratively organised by the Royal College of Art Helen Hamlyn Centre, Nikkei Design and Tokyo University, and its theme was disaster related. All participants were divided in 3 design team consisting of, among others, in-house designers from leading Japanese companies, engineering graduates from the University of Cambridge and the University of Tokyo, and a member of the Kent House family. Each team worked with one disabled person and one survivor of the Niigata or Kobe earthquakes and was led by an experienced designer from the UK. The aim of the Challenge was to develop innovative mainstream products, services or environments that would be assistance in disaster and would include the needs of disabled people. The results of the competition were then presented to Design Innovation Forum delegates from industry and academia on November 25 and published in “Nikkei Design” and in “Challenge” published by Helen Hamlyn Centre.

I was a member of the third team (Team C) and our main contribution to the Design Innovation Forum 2008 was the proposition of the ‘Know Your Way’ campaign, which stressed the importance of preparing and establishing a mental image of where the exits in a building are and how to get to them before a disaster strikes. My team created a logo for the campaign, which was represented in Japanese kanji characters and in direct translation it meant that ‘knowledge leads your way out’. We used international signage iconography as the basis of the logo’s design, with the additional depth of meaning in the character itself. Moreover, the fact that the kanji character looked like a person allowed the logo to work across languages. Since one of the crucial actions to take during the times of a disaster is to remain calm, our logo was represented in blue, which signifies calmness in Japanese.

The campaign developed by my team was warmly accepted by the panel of 3 disaster experts and over 300 delegates, and as a result awarded for the “Best Solution” project. So, yet another trophy has been added to the Kent House cabinet of fame.

The participation in the Inclusive Design Challenge was a truly insightful and mind-broadening experience as Kent House has always been in favour of the Inclusive Design philosophy and adopted the user centric approach to the creation of our products and services. It was also a very valuable experience to work directly with Japanese designers and engineers and observe their views, work ethics and decision-making processes.