Graphics

A Little Light Outdoor Reading

I saw the most beautiful delivery truck today. Gorgeous, current colors, striking photography all over, eye-catching layout.

Probably for a local business. I can’t tell you.

At fifty feet, I couldn’t read a thing on it, or this might be a whole different post.

What Is Being in Business For? This truck failed utterly. Beautiful, striking, money out the window. I hate that. I want your business to grow and thrive!

Outdoor legibility* rules for trucks, billboards, and other signage:

1. Clear and readable at 100–500 feet: large, bold type (not this kind of bold—bold in the sense of “prominent, standing out”)

2. Short copy (including contact info for trucks!)

3. High contrast colors

4. Simplify, simplify, simplify (must be easily understood and remembered, at a distance, in under 5–10 seconds for motorists)

5. Well-lit (if applicable… not your truck, please!)

Go ahead and be beautiful! Market your business! Just make sure I can read it, okay?

Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson

 

*Legibility vs. Readability: There is some debate as to precise definitions, but to rudely gloss over the subject: Legibility concerns letterforms of a typeface (“font”), and how easily recognized they are, which is generally the critical factor in a near-instant read such as outdoor signage; readability concerns the ease of reading a typeface through a longer passage. There are many excellent resources on- and off-line that walk through historic and current preferences, and understanding of legible and readable type. It’s my article and I’m not going to go there with you right now.

Or, What’s Out Is Out, Part 4

Want a look that says you never left the 60s, or even the 50s? Try these trends with a grilled cheese sandwich on Wonder bread:

  • Trippy, psychedelic anything
  • Crazy squashed “hand” lettering filling a page
  •  

  • Vinyl
  •  

  • Fluorescent colors, esp. hot pink
  •  

  • Plastics
  •  

  • Turquoise
  • Bubble-gum pink
  •  

  • Cheap flatware
  • Napkin dispensers on tables
  • Plastic “glassware”
  •  

  • Farm equipment as décor
  • Fishing equipment as décor
  • Hunting equipment as décor
  •  

  • Neon signage

And, unless you’re a bowling-alley proprietor:

  • All things bowling

That’s the Little List of 50s–60s Don’ts. Can your company make tasteful or tongue-in-cheek use of an element from this list? Maybe, if done with skill. Maybe, if you know your Ideal Customer very, very well.

Whether starting up or considering a redesign, be cautious. These tired color, fashion, and furnishing trends have been done, and mark your business as uninformed. Using interior design, graphic design, and staff uniforms/grooming standards from another era can limit your customer base to people who have positive associations with the decade in question.

Negative associations are starting to fade from 1950s and 1960s design. What’s left on this list are elements that may just never be cool again. As we leave the Baby Boom and the Summer of Love behind in our memories, taking inspiration from these decades can be done, especially with a younger market that didn’t live through it the first time. If intentional, it can even be kitschy or campy, in a good way—but be warned: There’s a fine line between inspired and tacky. There’s a lot of “retro” design out there right now, and retro is in danger of developing its own negative associations—or has it already? If you’re guilty, take charge today and start planning a revamped Customer Experience!

Moderation in all things, and if you’ve got to wear that bowling shirt to work (oh, please don’t!), find a way to renew, revitalize, and take the concept into this millennium. Time warps are only funny to a very limited market!

That’s all, folks. ‘Cause everyone knows the forties are hot right now, for one thing, and because it’s time to do a big list of what’s in. If you want to keep your business up on how to reel in customers with great Experience Design, take a moment to subscribe now, at the top left of this page. It’s easy and it’s free!

Care to agree, disagree, or add to the list of dated 1950s and 60s design trends? Leave a comment below!

Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson

 

What got me started? If You Lived Through It Once…

Which 70s motifs should burn, baby, burn? Read Part 3!

Or, What’s Out Is Out, Part 3

Want a look that says you never left the 70s? Try these trends with Donna Summer blaring from your 8-track player:

  • Avocado
  • Harvest gold
  • All-black
  • Olive
  •  

  • Mirrored surfaces
  • Multiple-colored silkscreen portraits à la Andy Warhol
  •  

  • Long tresses, ponytails (male staff)
  • Unkempt facial hair (ditto!!!)
  •  

  • Eco-preaching (in now: Do it, don’t blab about it)
  •  

  • Smoking
  •  

  • Helvetica
  •  

  • Benches
  • Step-down seating areas
  • Furniture shaped like human forms
  • Shag carpeting

And, though I believe it’s illegal in 38 states and several Canadian provinces:

  • Disco balls

That’s the Little List of 70s Don’ts. Can your company make tasteful or tongue-in-cheek use of an element from this list? Maybe, if done with skill. Maybe, if you know your Ideal Customer very, very well.

Whether starting up or considering a redesign, be cautious. These tired color, fashion, and furnishing trends have been done, and mark your business as uninformed. Using interior design, graphic design, and staff uniforms/grooming standards from another era can limit your customer base to people who have positive associations with the decade in question.

This list is a bit shorter than the previous two, because negative associations are starting to fade from 1970s design. What’s left on this list are elements that may just never be cool again. As we leave the 70s behind in our memories, taking inspiration from the decade can be done, especially with a younger market that didn’t live through it the first time. Watch out! Overkill is just that, to any customer. If you’re guilty, take charge today and start planning a revamped Customer Experience!

Moderation in all things, and if you’ve got to have that conversation pit in your store or restaurant (oh, please don’t!), find a way to renew, revitalize, and take the concept into this millennium. Time warps are only funny to a very limited market!

Care to agree, disagree, or add to the list of dated 70s design trends? Leave a comment below!

Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson

 

‹‹ Part 2  What else is out?  Part 4 ››

Or, What’s Out Is Out, Part 2

Want a look that says you never left the 90s? Get a bowl of half-decaf caramel latte and try these trends:

  • Minimalism
  • Asian influence
  • African influence
  • Other faux ethnicity
  •  

  • Pastels
  • Grungy white
  • Orange
  •  

  • Plaid
  • Shabby anything
  • Medical-inspired
  • Techno, digital
  •  

  • Casual Fridays
  • Long flowery skirts
  • Slouchy comfort
  •  

  • Papyrus (the typeface)
  • Grunge fonts
  • “Pixel” fonts
  • Swooshes
  • Ovals, esp. around a logo
  •  

  • Faux woodcuts
  • Sponge painted walls
  • Faux painting
  • (Faux=90s?)
  •  

  • Mass-produced “home” cooking

And though you weren’t going to come in to work this way (I hope):

  • The unwashed look

That’s the Little List of 90s Don’ts. Can your company make tasteful or tongue-in-cheek use of an element from this list? Maybe, if done with skill. Maybe, if you know your Ideal Customer very, very well.

Whether starting up or considering a redesign, be cautious. These tired color, fashion, and furnishing trends have been done, and mark your business as uninformed. Using interior design, graphic design, and staff uniforms/grooming standards from another era can limit your customer base to people who have positive associations with the decade in question.

I could have linked to all sorts of examples, but I don’t want to be in the business of calling people out. I see unwittingly out-of-touch design all over as I travel, both in the real world and the Internet, and so do you. If the 1990s were all about faux, the new millennium is all about authenticity. Keep the African masks on the wall, if you are serving African food. Not if you think it might attract African Americans. It’s just not enough. If you’re guilty, take charge today and start planning a revamped Customer Experience!

Moderation in all things, and if you’ve got to have that “Tuscan” mural on the wall (oh, please don’t!), find a way to renew, revitalize, and take the concept into this millennium. Time warps are only funny to a very limited market!

Care to agree, disagree, or add to the list of dated 90s design trends? Leave a comment below!

Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson

 

‹‹ Part 1  What else is out?  Part 3 ››

Or, What’s Out Is Out, Part 1

Want a look that says you never left the 80s? Try these trends whose trains left the station when Madonna met Prince and Harry Met Sally:

  • Purple
  • Black
  • Grey
  • Teal
  • Mint green
  • Dusty blue
  • Mauve
  • All white
  •  

  • Fake kids’ writing, brush lettering, bubble lettering typefaces
  • Prep-school/university-style type and insignias
  •  

  • Grossly overpriced wine lists
  •  

  • Overt sexiness
  • Overt masculinity
  • Skinny black ties
  • Scruffiness
  •  

  • Postmodernism
  • High gloss
  • Memphis (Italian) furniture

And, though these are hopefully nobody’s business design choices:

  • Fishnet stockings
  • Dog collars

That’s the Little List of 80s Don’ts. Can your company make tasteful or tongue-in-cheek use of an element from this list? Maybe, if done with skill. Maybe, if you know your Ideal Customer very, very well.

Whether starting up or considering a redesign, be cautious. These tired color, fashion, and furnishing trends have been done, and mark your business as uninformed. Using interior design, graphic design, and staff uniforms/grooming standards from another era can limit your customer base to people who have positive associations with the decade in question.

I could have linked to all sorts of examples, but I don’t want to be in the business of calling people out. I see unwittingly out-of-touch design all over as I travel, both in the real world and the Internet, and so do you. Because the 80s are not so very far away (to some), you may have been so busy that you didn’t notice your design strategy was in crisis. If you’re guilty, take charge today and start planning a revamped Customer Experience!

Moderation in all things, and if you’ve got to have that purple and black color scheme (oh, please don’t!), find a way to renew, revitalize, and take the concept into this millennium. Time warps are only funny to a very limited market!

Care to agree, disagree, or add to the list of dated 80s design trends? Leave a comment below!

Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson

 

What got me started? If You Lived Through It Once…

Say buh-bye, 90s. Click to read Part 2.

“Mustard”

I’m seeing it everywhere, and I’m telling you if you’re too young to know, it’s been done to death already.

Watch the MCE Blog starting next week for a short series on trends that are so out, they’re… still out. Companies that want to be in it for the long haul can use an element of retro inspiration here and there, but some things need to be left alone unless you’re going for that clueless and dated look.

Can you say “Harvest Gold”?

What old trends do you hope stay buried? Seen anything in stores or on the Internet lately that gives you bad flashbacks?

Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson

Some Women Go Crazy for a Sharp Bottle of Perfume

Friends know I am very, very into scent. I remember smells, and notice smells. Professionally, it’s probably the first thing I consciously examine when I am in a new place.

Personally, I never go without fragrance. If I were a zillionaire I’d certainly own twice as many as I do now, and now it’s probably too many. I’m selective, though: a connoisseur, not a compulsive collector.

Clients and readers know I am very, very into visual design. Combine a signature product package with iconic art and I’m drooling.

Today I ran into my Happy-Mothers’-Day-to-Me budget-buster, calling to me to throw monetary caution to the wind. (Thanks, Dallas Morning News.) Andy Warhol. Bond No. 9. Spicy green floral. Meet me in mid-March at Saks. Can I possibly wait until Mothers’ Day to wear it?

They targeted me, hooked me, and have me anticipating its release. If the scent is as good as the hype, I’ll be paying twice what I’d like to for it very soon.

It feels exclusive, it makes me feel part of the cognoscenti, it strokes my ego. It combines my love of art, of package design, of successful niche business stories, and my love of smelling absolutely fabulous. Then I have to wait, and pay too much, and be fawned over by some overly-made-up lady at Saks, where I normally only go for inspiration. (Yes, I could get it at Bond’s website, but remember the connoisseur part? I’m not buying if it stinks, and that requires a store visit. D’ya think I could get a review copy?)

Psst… if you think only women do this, think about the mad dash for team clothing right before the Super Bowl. [Or insert favorite national-insanity sporting event here.] The prices on the stuff kill me.

If you know your Ideal Customer well, you can create this desire. Combine their loves, go a bit over-the-top, and set a date. Make ‘em wait. While they’re waiting, get some good press out there. Buzz, buzz…

What do you think about their blatant attempt to hook me and my easy fall? Got any other ideas for creating exclusivity with your latest release?

Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson

Welcome to Our World

1. The Internet Is a Great Big Yellow Pages, and We’re Looking For

Your hours

How to contact you

Why you are the Solution to our problem

2. We don’t know what a blog is

Many people who consider themselves fairly tech-savvy have never visited a blog. (Or think they haven’t, because they read them without knowing that’s what they are.) Questions I hear include: “How do you find one? Can I ‘Google’ it? How do other people find out about them? Isn’t that a porn thing?” I am not making this up—these were within the last two weeks. It’s easy to get so involved that you forget the rest of the world doesn’t know what you know.

3. …Or care

“Why would I want to spend time reading someone else’s Internet thoughts?” Read a newspaper lately? Pick up a magazine on any personal or professional topic? Looking for tips, stories, and advice? There’s a blog out there for you. As a business blogger, you’ve got to convince this reader that your blog is that one. Tell them what expertise, insider info, or point of view they’ll get from you and nowhere else!

4. Wasting time on the web is the new “guilty pleasure”

So the fact that we don’t understand blogs doesn’t mean we wouldn’t be willing to get lost reading one, if it had value to us in some way. To us, a blog is just another website.

5. On the web, we’re all penny-pinching misers

Didn’t I mention that in Truth #1? Recent research suggests that while customers are reluctant to pull out a coupon in public and be thought a cheapskate, on the Internet where nobody’s looking, there are no such qualms. Coupons or not, the first reason we come to your website is to find out, “How much?” If you don’t give us at least a clue about pricing, you’ve lost us to a competitor who will. The Internet is a pricing research tool for the undecided and commitment-phobic.

6. …Until you convince us otherwise

We may look first for your pricing, but if we discover true value along the way we will bookmark you, refer you to others, and keep you in mind when the commitment-phobia morphs into a real need. Bookmarks are rarely deleted, (and never lost like a brochure can be) so give your site irresistible value—help with the decisions, encourage the commitment, inform, and provide a sense of anticipation.

 

Website or blog, it doesn’t matter. Your Internet Presence must be there. It must be available, engaging, and informative. Dusting off the Yellow Pages is becoming rare in real life, for one simple reason: It’s quicker and easier to dust off the computer.

We know we’ll probably get more out of the Internet than the Yellow Pages, but that’s just a bonus.

Have you learned a surprising Tech Truth about your customers (or juicier yet, have a confession of your own)? Share it here!

Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson

I Do Not Need a Logo…

What’s a Logo?

A logo is a graphic (illustration, usually) that is designed to represent your company. Designing one is one of the most crucial elements as you launch or realign your firm. Your logo can be your visual “bookmark” in a customer’s mind, and should suggest all of your firm’s Purpose whether your name is beside it or not. the best logos are timeless, clean, evocative reminders which instantly bring the desired associations to mind: Nike’s swoosh, Apple’s… apple, Playboy’s bunny. Even the flag of your country is often used in this way. They need no words, yet in the best of all worlds, you know what they represent and why.

Why Don’t I Need One?

Even with oodles of money for research and development, logo design debacles litter the corporate world (Xerox and the London Olympics have recently caused plenty of controversy). With piles of cash, logo designs and redesigns can fail spectacularly. You, my smaller-business reader, do not want to throw piles of cash out your window. So you don’t need a logo.

How Will Anyone Remember Me?

Oh, you do need a memorable visual marker, but it does not have to be a logo. A well-executed wordmark is far more important than a meaningless or missed-the-mark logo.

What’s a Wordmark?

Glad you asked. A wordmark is your company’s name, in its unique, standalone type treatment, which you will always use in the same standardized way. You will not tweak it, stretch it, color it differently in different media, or wrap the words differently to suit the size of the space you’re working with. You won’t do that, right?

Your wordmark will be filled with your Vision; it will be exceptional and intriguing. It will make me think only of you. Still don’t get it? How about FedEx, Yahoo!, and Coca-Cola. Can you picture the colors, style, and typeface of each wordmark?

When you use your wordmark, everywhere, in the exact same way, it will become that visual hook you need.

Can’t I Please Have a Logo?

Yes, you may. Be warned, it is much harder than it looks to get a good one, and much easier than you’d think to get something that doesn’t make you any money. I want your business to grow! If your name is the most important ad you’ll ever write, then your choice of logo, wordmark, or the combination of logo and company name (called a logotype) has a lot to do with how many eyeballs will recall seeing that most important ad.

Last word: Skip the Swooshes, the Ovals, the Mascots—Please!

Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson

It’s Not All About the Web (but You’d Better Get on the Bandwagon)

This is part seven of 13 in the Experience Design 101 series. For links to all the articles in this series, click here.

Dust Off the Telephone Book, They’re Not on the Web

A friend called to have me look up a local phone number the other day, and I realized just how much times have changed. First, I had to dig my phone book out of a drawer. While flipping through I asked why the need for the number?

They have no website, so I can’t find out if they have what I need. I can’t even get their number off the Internet to call them, so I’m calling you.

This potential customer was pretty darned devoted. Tried an Internet search several ways, thinking maybe there was a misspelling or another web name or at least a directory listing, then finally called a friend. (Why not 411? I dunno, maybe he wanted to talk, too.) Most of your potential customers (and you have many, local and not) gave up before resorting to a friend’s phone book. The Internet has opened a world of choices to everyone and you will lose out to your more-connected competition if you don’t get on this bandwagon.

Simple Sites Are Best

Does your site have to resemble amazon’s? No. Your site has to do only three things:

1. Be an ambassador, completely tied in with your firm’s Vision. This will be the most devoted employee you have. Your site will be your only 24-hour, 365-day employee, for the cost of one- to three-months’ salary for any usual employee. Don’t just let this employee sit there—make him work hard!

The number one job of this staffer is to woo your potential customers into wanting to purchase from you. (For this you must know your customer!) Pour your Vision into this employee. Your site should convey, as simply as possible, the best reasons why you and your potential customer are made for each other. In one word, benefits. Saves time—makes money—gives prestige—entices the love of your life—relieves stress—provides delight. Whatever the benefits, the look, feel, and wording should all drive precisely toward this Purpose, in harmony with your office or store, and your other graphic materials.

2. Give your full contact information. Many, many customers just want to talk. To you. Right now. Never make a customer or prospect hunt for your contact information. Display it prominently in all sections of your site, so no matter where or when they drop in (to the site), they know how to contact a human.

3. Encourage the next step. Do you need product pages for every item you carry if you do not and will not ship? No. My out-of-town friend might be distressed to hear that because his first desire was to know if the product was in stock. See above: Convey information as simply as possible, which might mean only a list of lines you carry or photos and descriptions of representative products or services, and provide contact information, so my friend can call you about specifics.

Encouraging the next step means if you are bricks-and-mortar, provide your hours and directions to your shop. If you are a service, offer to start the process online. If you are an online provider of products, then yes, your site does have to resemble amazon’s: clear, complete, compelling, simple to order from, and trustworthy.

Use the Internet as the Tool That Smoothes the Way to Growth

I still write every one of these posts out on real paper. The English major in me, I suppose. Maybe it’s just that sometimes a tool can get in the way of a thought process. Maybe I’m tech-leery. But the web comes to all of us, and as consumers or as producers, we all benefit. Being late to the Internet is better by far than being unavailable, and the smaller your firm, the more you have to gain.

It may take one page or a hundred to convey all the needed details of your product or service. Be brief, be informative, be all about the customer’s needs.

Most important, be there, or they’ll move on to someone who is. Well over half of your customers today are beginning their research on the web, and they won’t be calling me for your number.

Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson

 

Next up in the series: Part Eight: ROI—Can you really measure the power of Experience Design?

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