Archive: Jul 2013

  1. How To Use Instagram To Showcase Your Designs

    Leave a Comment 4 min read

    Freelancers know how challenging it can be to get paid work and clients in this economy. In order to stand out from the sea of people looking for work, you have to use all available platforms that allow you to showcase your skills and work.

    Other than creating a website, graphic designers have a number of online portfolio options available to them; however, even though most of these sites allow for social sharing, none of them have the same audience as an actual social media site, like Instagram.

    An image sharing app and social networking tool, Instagram allows you to take or upload photos or videos, do a little quick photo editing with filters, and then share the results to your followers and the entire Instagram network. You can also easily share the edited image or video on other social sites like Facebook, Flickr and Tumblr (and less easily to Twitter).

    While Instagram is usually associated with photos, it can be a great platform to display and promote your design work as well. Not only does Instagram have a sizeable audience (as of mid-2012, there were over 80 million registered users), but also its incorporation of hashtags makes finding amazing graphic design very easy.

    More than a static online portfolio, Instagram can generate a lot of attention and interest in your work if used wisely. Here’s how to create a successful Instagram showcase for your designs:

    Keep it interesting

    This seems pretty obvious, but can be challenging when you’re putting it into action. Try to find an angle or particular niche that suits your work—you want your passion, ability and personality to show through in your Instagram “portfolio.” People become invested followers and fans when you post images, photos and videos of things that resonate with them. Try telling a story on a piece you’re working on through photos and images, so that others will be compelled to follow up. It’s interesting to many to see the inspiration, the process (as well as the mistakes) and the final result.

    However, avoid being overly promotional by adding the occasional personal post. People loathe posts and profiles created for the sole purpose of boosting sales or SEO—and these are generally pretty easy to spot. Make sure the posts are organic and reflect genuine passion in your work.

    Publish often

    As in all social media outlets, frequent publishing will ensure that you stay at the top of a person’s feed (and therefore, top of their mind as well). Start with one photo a day and work up to two to three a day—which should be pretty easy once you get used to documenting various aspects of your professional and personal life. Don’t forget to add important hashtags so that non-followers with similar interests will be able to find you through a search.
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    Interact with other Instagrammers in and outside your network. “Like” other people’s images and photos that you admire. It’s a good idea to periodically like posts on the feeds of the people you follow as it alerts them to the fact that you’re following them—and often liking someone else’s image leads to receiving a like in return.

    Share your posts on other social media outlets.

    No social networking site is an island (as much as they might try to be). Share your Instagram posts on other social media outlets, like Facebook and Twitter. This maximizes the reach of the image (post once, reach all friends and followers on various sites) and can lead to new followers on Instagram.

    If your Instagram account is primarily focused on professional achievements and development, or is created as an alternative portfolio, you may want to share your photos and images to a hosted website or blog as more fresh, new content for those sites.

    A quick way to establish your brand and style, while showcasing your design work, Instagram can be a great supplemental portfolio to gain more work. Additionally, Instagram is also a great place to get design inspiration and network with like-minded people—making it a great social platform to add to your arsenal of professional tools.


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  2. 5 Free Useful Tools for Web Developers

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    As a web developer/designer it’s important to work with as little overheads as possible, especially if you are a freelancer. Saving money on software and tools is a great place to start since the internet is full of useful tools and resources for just about anything! There’s only one problem: many online tools only offer a free basic package which are often limited, without stumping up the cash, the tools are rendered useless.

    For the budding freelance web developer who is not entirely sure if this is the correct career path, or for experienced web professionals, who might be looking to economize their budgets, we have found 5 underrated great online tools and resources to help you perform tasks in a cost effective manner.

    Web authoring and design tools

    For those that require a full featured HTML editor, we recommend HTML-kit. This is a proprietary HTML editor for Microsoft Windows. It is designed to format, edit, preview, validate and publish your web pages in in HTML, XHTML and XML -languages. HTML-Kit is freeware, but extra features can be brought if required.
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    Web hosting and domain tools

    The web master tool, Whoishostingthis.com allows you to discover the hosting company of any website. Most web developers struggle with who hosts a website, because some companies rent space in other hosts data centers. Knowing the right web host is invaluable when issuing a DMCA complaint or a DDos attack (which could be a matter of urgency)

    This service is completely free to use, as well as letting you find the right hosts, whoishostingthis also have a hosting comparison tool and a DMCA takedown service.
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    Wire framing and mock-ups

    We recommend Moqups, this is a HTML5 app that can be used to create UI concepts, mockups and wireframes. This free tool allows you experiment with the information architecture of your website, moqups is a great tool as it allows you to test the functionality of your web design, ironing out any bugs before the design goes in to development.
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    Image Editing

    Gimp.org is free, image editing and retouching tool. There are different versions available tailored for most operating systems. The developers of Gimp, strive to create high end, free software applications for creating and editing original images, icons, web pages and more for user interface elements.
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    Web Servers

    It’s important for web developers to have a live testing environment; this is why we highly recommend XAMPP – a great open source, configurable web server. It contains MySQL, PHP, Apache, OPenSSL and more. All are put together for a smooth and simple configuration.
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    For Mac users we recommend MAMP, this works the same way as XAMPP.

    If you know of anymore great free tools that could benefit web developers, please feel free to share them with us using the comment box below.

    Photo credit to Dedalo progetti

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  3. Graphic Design for a Start-up Businesses

    14 Comments 7 min read

    The one time a business needs a good graphic designer the most is when they’re first starting out. I’ve said many times before that you can have the best businesses in the world, but unless it looks professional you’re going to have a hard time convincing clients to trust you.

    I was speaking to a friend of mine who works as a driving instructor today actually, and I asked him how he got into his line of work.  He told me he started out working for a company called BSM (British School of Motoring) which at the time was the largest franchised driving school in the UK. They gave him a car, business cards and teaching materials covered in their branding and supplied him with his first few students. After a time, he eventually stopped needing BSM to send him students as he was inundated by referrals from students that had passed their driving test with him. He took what money he had earned and bought his own lesson car and set himself up as his own school. Needless to say he’s been very successful.

    So why didn’t he set out on his own to begin with?

    The reason is that until you have proven yourself, people have nothing to judge you on other than how professional you look. A 17 year old looking for an instructor probably wouldn’t hire a random guy with his own car and no past experience. But they probably would hire an instructor from the BSM (even if they had never actually taught before) simple because they look the part.

    As graphic designers, what we can do for Start-ups is basically leapfrog that entire first part by making a brand new business look super professional from day one. To a Start-up, that is really worth something.

    IDENTITY

    The first thing on your plate needs to be nailing an identity for your client. This can be as simple as designing a logo, but often it’s not. The idea here isn’t just to create something cool and eye catching, it’s to look at the industry your client is looking to work in and make them look like they belong there. Sometimes it’s worth taking a leap of faith and stepping out from what the competitors are doing, but this can be really risky and can backfire in a big way. If a bank were to have branding that looked similar to a fast food joint, then they would definitely stand out, but I’m not sure they’d get many customers trusting them. Unless your clients USP is built around being unique you should always look at what others are doing in your field and try to emulate the best parts of their branding.

    If a bank were to have branding that looked similar to a fast food joint, then they would definitely stand out, but I’m not sure they’d get many customers trusting them.

    This can be anything from logo design and typography to advert layout and shop floor design. I’m not saying copy them. But look at what works and what doesn’t and make sure you’re clients new brand fits snugly into the very best of everything.  You want to push to create a full branding package for your client so that no matter what they do in the future you can always ensure that they’ll keep the level of professionalism you laid out for them.

    STATIONERY

    Stationery can be a bit of a red herring in my experience. Back when I first started out, I’ll admit that I considered “branding” a company to be giving them a logo and business card, but the years have taught me that really isn’t the case.

    Branding a company is very much what I described in that first section, it’s creating a set of rules that can be applied to literally anything from compliment slips to hot air balloons and back again. Until a company has a set of brand guidelines, you can’t successfully create a set of stationery for them.

    It’s a difficult concept to convey to a client that comes to you just looking for a letter head and personally it took me a long time to get over the topic feeling like a shady up-sell, or like I was trying to extort more money from the client. But the truth is this: your clients are not coming to you because you have Photoshop, they are coming to you because you know what you’re doing. You have a level of expertise that they do not possess and that is what they are paying for. If you don’t talk to them about this stuff, then you’re simply not doing your job and taking money you haven’t earned.

    So nut up and tell them exactly that.

    Now – with all that being said, stationery is something that new companies will be looking for, and it’s important for you too as it actually provides your client with something physical rather than just a set of rules, which although very valuable, can sometimes seem a bit immaterial. It gives a greater sense of value for money.

    The staples are business card, letter head and compliments slip, but depending on the business you may want to include other things. For example, a restaurant may need a menu template, or a wedding band may need a CD cover. Generally in my stationery packages I cover the basics plus one or two ‘miscellaneous items’ to cover things like this. I found this really works as a show of good faith and helps limit the impression that your just adding things to the bill. I know that’s vague, so you’ll need to use your better judgement here – obviously there is a difference between designing a invoice and a twenty page brochure so give yourself limits to time your willing to put into the extras, and make those limits clear to the client.

    WEBSITE

    Man websites are tough aren’t they? I mean let’s be realistic here, they are something we can all agree that a Start-up absolutely needs. They are pretty much vital. But damn – they can cost dollar dollar bills y’all and new business especially often don’t have the capital to get what they want when they’re first starting out.

    There are ways around this though.

    The most obvious is to build the website in stages, so they just pay as they’re able to. For example, you could start by just putting together a home page with their details and address on, and then later maybe add a menu bar with links to an about page, booking form, contact page ect… The downside to this is it’s all a bit sporadic and messy and although you’re making things easier for the client, you’re making things tougher for yourself.

    You could always just pitch them a cheaper, simpler website to begin with and then have the aim of a redesign down the line when they have some money coming in. Even complex things like responsive design have cheaper alternatives and there are places where you can design a free website preview to help give your client something to look at without costing you too much time.

    To be honest – you just need to be up front with your clients. It can be rough to burst their bubble when they’re so enthusiastic, but it’s better than promising them stuff they can’t afford or worse yet; that will end up costing you time and money. In the end they’ll thank you for it.

    DISCOUNTS

    Oooooo – discounts. I don’t like giving discounts (with the exception of charities) and I’ll tell you why. It gives the impression that you’re time can be worth less, or that your charging more than you need to begin with. You need to be rock solid with your prices in my book. By all means, offer to do things in a cheaper way, but always make it clear that your time is worth a finite amount.

    Oooooo – discounts. I don’t like giving discounts

    So what can you do for the struggling Start-up that’s clawing together the pennies down the back of the sofa in order to pay you? Well, I like to offer bundles. Basically I have a cost for branding. A cost for Stationery. A cost for Websites. But – if you agree to take all three from me then it’ll cost you less. This isn’t me dropping my price. This is me being honest. If I’m working on everything for you all at once, then I’m spending less time getting your files in order and remembering all the guidelines I’ve set up in the past for your business. I’m not stopping and starting, I’m flowing. Basically I’m saving time, and because of that it will cost you less.

    So in conclusion, you need to be up front, clear and honest with your client. Make sure you explain everything in this article to them and make sure they understand it. Once they have a firm grasp of why you’re working like you are you’ll find things run a lot smoother and that your clients will be a lot more open to your ideas and advice.

    If you have any tips about working with start up’s let me know in the comments below, and remember to follow the Design Range on Facebook and Twitter for more articles and advice like this one.

    Photo credit to Dave Makes
  4. YouTube as a Marketing Tool for Creative Professionals

    1 Comment 3 min read

    Are you a graphic designer or other creative professional interested in marketing yourself on YouTube? Congratulations! You have picked an ideal venue to kick-start your creative juices and present your work in a dynamic environment that is sure to match you with the right clients. Here are some ideas to help you design a YouTube video and give a big boost to your marketing goals.

    Just as a great novel shows rather than tells a story, YouTube (now 8 years old) allows you to present your background history, show your process and express your design philosophy. This is essential to a creative professional.

    One of the challenges most creative folks face is explaining how they do what they do and the importance of the creative process in developing a focused concept. Showing your work and educating your prospective clients will provide them with information up front before they make the decision to go with your services.

    WHY YOUTUBE?

    As of now, the competition for video marketing is very low. Not a lot of businesses are using YouTube as a marketing strategy. You can optimize your Google results by carefully crafting great titles that will draw your clients to you. In the search results, a thumbnail of your video will catch the eye faster than a hyperlinked article.

    UTILIZE YOUR PROFESSIONAL AND SOCIAL NETWORK

    Once you post your video, you should link it to your website, LinkedIn account, and any other Facebook, Pinterest, professional network profiles, etc. Once you are live, send out an email to your contacts, fellow designers and prospective clients.

    VIDEO IDEAS

    Create an interesting background on your process and who you are.

    Get inside your client’s head and answer some of the questions they ask such as, Why hire a graphic designer?

    If you are a photographer, show your clients how you choose certain angles and your philosophy behind it. Show a video of a photo shoot!

    Match your aesthetics with the work you wish to do and target that audience.

    Ask a past client if they have any questions about your process. This will help you come up with more video ideas.

    OTHER SUGGESTIONS

    Always create brief, interesting, relevant and well-focused videos.
    If you need some help with filming, contact your local University and create an internship for a film student to assist you.
    Before you go live on YouTube, have a few colleagues critique your video and get feedback.

    YouTube videos can streamline the introductory process of prospective clients by providing answers to their questions. Creating a video will give you an opportunity to intimately analyze your work process. The more you can describe what it is you do, the more professional you will present yourself online or in the boardroom. Regardless of how general or narrow your niche, any professional in the visual arts should use YouTube as a marketing tool.

    Sources
    Marketing yourself on YouTube – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FX8z5KXSUuY
    8 years old – http://www.tubefilter.com/2013/05/20/youtube-eight-years-old-gregory-brothers/
    Optimize your Google results – http://blog.kissmetrics.com/2013-youtube-marketing-guide/
    Why Hire a Graphic Designer? – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2IegVAFffTM
    Photo credit to jm3

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