Saturday, 25 September 2010

The importance of being Gooseberry Bush

Most of the time when we are asked to design a corporate image or logo, the client has a vague idea of the sort of thing he or she wants and usually has already decided upon a name.

Sometimes, however, we get the chance to work on a completely blank canvas.

This was the case recently when we were commissioned to design a corporate identity for a startup business run by a group of registered midwives offering antenatal, postnatal and breastfeeding classes in South Wales.

The first thing we had to do was decide upon a name.

We had a brainstorming session and came up with several possible suggestions.

The words "Bun" and "Oven" came readily to mind of course! The Stork and The Delivery Service were other names that were bandied about, but the name that was ultimately decided upon was Gooseberry Bush - the answer that parents sometimes give small children in response to the perennial question: "where do babies come from?".

It was felt that this name would portray the business in a lighthearted and memorable way.

Research was carried out to discover if anyone else was using this name and although there were several shops selling baby clothes called Gooseberry Bush, there were no anti-natal clinics or similar businesses using it.

We also looked into the availability of a domain name, and although, not surprisingly, had been taken, we managed to secure

The first design idea we submitted for the logo hit the nail pretty much on the head and after a few small tweaks the final design was agreed upon. We then applied to the Intellectual Property Office to have the the logo and name registered as a trademark.

With this key element in place the identity was implemented on to a range of stationery and work started on a website.

The business was finally launched with an advertising campaign using the headline: "we wish you a happy birth day"

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Have you heard the one about the 2 businessmen in the jungle?

I heard this joke a few years ago but it seems very relevant in today's economic climate.

There were two businessmen walking through the jungle when they heard the roar of a ferocious beast in the distance. They turned to see that a hungry lion was running quickly towards them.

One businessman calmly opened his briefcase, took out a pair of running shoes and bent down to put them on.

The other businessman said: "Are you mad you'll never outrun that lion"

The other businessman replied: "No I don't have to run faster than the lion - I just have to run faster than you!"

In this economy many of your competitors will be cutting back on their on marketing, advertising and promotion but this is precisely the time when you should be INCREASING your budget for these things.

This recession will claim many businesses - make sure you have your running shoes on.

Best wishes

Jon Hurley

Saturday, 24 July 2010

CMYK vs. Pantone

Quite often I get asked by my clients to explain about the different printing processes that are available today.

I have provided below a brief, and not too technical, explanation of a few of these that I hope you will find of use.

Offset Litho Printing

The most common form of printing that most people will be familiar with is litho printing (sometimes referred to as offset litho printing) this comes in two varieties: 4 colour offset and spot colour.

4 colour offset

As the name suggests, 4 colour offset (or 4 colour process) is printing using four colours: cyan, magenta, yellow and black (CMYK). Because the inks are transparent, by overlaying different combinations and tints of these inks, a wide spectrum of colours can be reproduced.

This process is ideally suited to printing documents that contain full colour photographs, illustrations, text and graphics like brochures, leaflets etc.
Spot colour printing (Pantone printing)

This printing process is exactly the same as above but instead of using the process colours (CMYK), the inks used are "Pantone" colours sometimes called "specials".

The Pantone range is an extensive range of colours including Day-Glo fluorescent colours and metallics like gold and silver. Some of these special colours are impossible to reproduce out of the 4 colour process. 

They are ideally suited to the printing of letterheads and business cards that contain just a logo using one or two colours and maybe black for the text.

If you wanted, you could have a combination of both 4-colour process and spot colours, but of course the more colours - the more expensive the print bill. For instance you may have a brochure that contains full colour images but elsewhere on the page you may want something printed in gold or silver. Or you may have a logo that uses a very specific colour that is hard to reproduce out of the CMYK inks.

Batch printing or ganged up printing

This is a fairly recent development in the printing industry that has come of age with the internet. It is ideal for smaller items like business cards when the cost of producing one business card is prohibitive.

The idea is that you book your job in and it is printed alongside a number of other jobs on the same print run, thus sharing the cost.

The downside to this printing method is that you cannot specify pantone colours so your logo will be made up out of the 4-colour printing process (described above) and if examined closely will reveal tiny dots, whereas spot colour business cards are printed solid in most cases.
However, provided your logo doesn't contain any special colours like gold or silver, you would be hard pressed to notice the difference.

Digital Printing

Another recent development is digital print. This is a completely different process in that digital presses print directly from the computer and so there are no expensive plate changes or set up charges. This allows for very fast and economically priced short prints runs of anything from 10 to 200. For longer print runs digital printing becomes less cost effective compared with litho.

Another benefit of digital printing is that each print can be customised. So, for instance, each printed piece could be personalised with a different name and address.

With the new digital presses available today the quality of the print is equal if not better to that of conventional litho printing.

So as you can see, it's horses for courses. If you need any more advice with you printing requirements, please contact me and I will try to help you as much as I can.

You can ring on 01656 782956.
or email me on

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

How to Get a Job as a Graphic Designer

Author: Gareth Coxon - Dot Design

Just the other day I received a question on Twitter from Adam at Design4Love:

"Hi.. how are you? Do you have any tips for me how to get into the UK design industry (Other than sending applications to agencies). Thanks!"

Which got me thinking about how difficult it was for me and some of the fellow graphic design students I studied with to get a job in the design industry back in 1999 (yes that long ago!) straight out of design college. I snapped up a job with a Central London design agency in Soho within 2 weeks of leaving college but looking back it wasn't really the right job for me then. Though just 13 months later I changed positions and worked for a great design agency based in London Bridge and learned a huge amount as well as working on lots of different types of projects as a designer.

Anyway competition was fierce then BUT the amount of graphic design and other design courses available in art colleges and universities up and down the college has grown hugely since then.

So here are a few tips on (like Adam asked) "how to get into the UK Design industry"

The Portfolio:
Having a great design portfolio is a must. To be honest your design portfolio is the most important thing on this list, its what you'll mainly be judged on. It must be well presented and include at least 6 or more design projects. Think about the kind of work the agency your applying to does and try to tailor your portfolio towards that. For example if they specialise in corporate identity and branding work try to include work of this kind.

Be ready to talk about your design work, what inspired you, why you approached the project in the way you did, even choice of typeface, colours, imagery etc. Show them some of your sketchs and development work, some agencies what to see your scribbles more than the finished work as it shows your design process and how you think!

Before taking your portfolio along to job interviews, make sure you show it to a people (tutors, other design students) talk them through it, get them to ask you questions about your design work and respond with suitable answers. This will get you used to talking people through your portfolio, making you a more prepared for the interview.

Work Experience:
Offer to do some work experience with a design company who's work you really admire (for free if you have to!), even if its just a week then spend that week wowing them, making the tea, producing great work, take an interest in everything relating to that design company. It is a good way to get your foot in the door but also don't be too pushy or cocky, you might think your a great designer but remember there is a big difference between design college and the real world!

If the company really like you during your work experience they might offer you a full time job!

Finding Work:
Send your portfolio as a PDF etc to as many design companies (that your interested in) as possible, then after a few days give them a quick call to check they have received it.

Another alternative and one that worked for me is to approach a design recruitment agency. I contacted Major Players (there are many others!) when looking for a new graphic design position. They interviewed me and I took them through my portfolio and skills set, based on this they then contacted me when suitable jobs became available. This worked very well as they got me a new job within 2 weeks.

Dress code:
There isn't one as such. Wear what your comfortable in but also look like you have made some sort of effort! That said I wouldn't recommend turning up in a suit! Remember what you wear can be seen as a reflection of yourself and your design style or preferences.

Be yourself, be calm and open to discussing your work and the work of the design agency. Remember to ask questions about what work they produce and what your role would be. One thing I found useful was to ask if someone could take you around the studio, afterall that is where you'll be working if you get the job and you need to see what sort of environment you'll be working in. It also easier to ask questions as you move around and see how they work.

Remember to do some research on the company that is interviewing you, as they are likely to ask you what made you apply for a job with them, what sort of work do they produce, what awards have they won (if any), why do you want to work for them in particular?

Keep trying:
Above all keep trying and keep looking at ways to improve your portfolio. If you go for an interview and they don't give you a job, don't worry, your work just might not be suitable for that particular design agency.

So hope this has helped, good luck!

Article Source:

About the Author

Dot Design is a small freelance graphic design agency based in Devon. Established in 2006 Dot Design provides an effective, professional (and friendly) graphic design service. By using other freelance designers when needed we cut back on the costs of a traditional design agency, meaning we are able to greatly reduce costs to our clients.

Dot Design is owned and run by Gareth Coxon who has 8 years professional design experience - 5 years working for two different design agencies in London and now 3 years working in the South West.

We work with businesses all over the UK and Internationally - from small start-ups through to medium sized and larger companies. We don’t use pretentious designer talk and we keep all aspects as simple and straight forward as possible. We will work with you and we understand that no one knows your business like you do.

Dot Design provide you with high quality, well thought through design and tackle each project with fresh enthusiasm and professionalism. We really enjoy what we do as do our clients, just see our testimonials!

We believe successful design should have a strong idea, be distinctive, memorable, simple and communicate the clients requirements. Any project large or small has the same opportunity for great design!

We believe successful design should have a strong idea, be distinctive, memorable, simple and communicate the clients requirements. Any project large or small has the same opportunity for great design!

Thursday, 1 July 2010

Behind the BP logo

Greenpeace are running a competition to design a new logo for BP that's more suitable for their dirty business - especially in regard to their intention of exploiting the tar sands oil deposits in Canada - one of the dirtiest forms of oil extraction there is.

After submitting my logo (above) I went on to Flikr to view the other entries. It was interesting to see, maybe not surprisingly, that most of the other logos were very similar.

Politics aside, and speaking from a purely design point of view, I do quite like BP's logo. It is reminiscent of the sun or the structure of a sunflower and points the way towards alternative forms of energy that all oil companies will eventually have to diversify into at some point before the oil runs out.

It's a shame that such a great iconic brand has become tarnished by the corporate irresponsibility that has led to the environmental disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

Thursday, 3 June 2010

10 secrets to writing a design brief

When you are commissioning a designer or inviting quotations for the production of a brochure, mail shot, website or exhibition system, one of the first and most important things you should do is write a design brief.

Here are 10 points to bear in mind when writing a design brief

1. State clearly what your organisation is all about. What are its aims and aspirations? What does it do or what does it hope to do in the future. Maybe you could include a mission statement if you have one.

2. Explain what the project should achieve, the sort of audience it is aimed at and how it is to be delivered.

3. Describe fully the physical characteristics of the proposed item.
For print media: the finished size, the number of pages etc. A copy of the draft document, if available, could be also be sent at this stage to give an idea of how many pages the publication is likely to run to. (Note: the number of pages in a printed publication are normally divisible by 4) please specify if this includes the cover or not.
The same considerations apply for exhibition panels, ie: the size and type of exhibition stand. etc.

The important point here is that by giving as much detail as you can, it will enable you to make an "apples for apples" price comparison later.

4. Describe what content you will be supplying and what you expect the designer to provide. Will you be supplying finished copy or will you supply a rough outline and expect the designer to do the copywriting? If you are producing a bilingual document, how is the other language to be supplied? Will you be supplying the translation or is this to be included in the quote? How many photographs or illustrations, graphs etc. etc.

5. State the quantity required. Also it is a good idea at this stage to ask for a run-on cost. For instance 1,000 off and a run-on per 1,000. This is for an extra 1,000 to be printed at the same time, not to be confused with a reprint cost, which is the cost of reprinting the same job at a later date.
Also include the delivery address.

6. Put down any ideas that you have in mind. Have you seen anything else, maybe from one of your competitors, that you like the look of? Not so that the design can be copied, but in order that the designer has an idea of the sort of thing you like and dislike.

7. State your budget.

8. Specify a deadline for the quote and a deadline for the delivery. If it is needed for a specific event ie: an exhibition or annual general meeting, give the date of the event and allow yourself a safety margin for unseen contingencies. Timetable when you will be supplying your content and when you expect to receive back proofs.

9. Give the project a name that can be used as a working title.

10. Include any corporate identity guidelines that need to be followed.  For instance, if certain fonts or colours have to be used. How the logo should be reproduced etc.

A well-written brief will help establish the aims and expectations of both parties, set the ground rules and avoid misunderstandings and the need for a lot of unnecessary to-ing and fro-ing between yourself and your designer.

If you have any design and print projects in mind that you would like some help writing the brief for, please give me a ring on 01656 782956.
or email me on

Happy briefing