Problems

Starting from scratch

Updating our branding required that all promotional material be updated as well. This included collateral for conferences, magazine flyers, print and digital advertising, business cards, etc.

The old designs, much like the old branding, felt bland and disjointed. I wanted to add a sense of professionalism, consistency, and uniqueness. Everything we had used up to this point was discarded and rebuilt from scratch.

  • No reusable materials to start with

  • Lots of different digital and print formats needed

Requirements

Build a foundation of reusable materials

I wanted to quickly create a foundation of simple materials that we could start sharing with customers immediately, but I also didn’t want to waste the opportunity to establish a consistent, long-term style to everything we would create in the future. All new collateral needed to look like they belonged to a set and were created by one designer.

I also wanted to incorporate enough flexibility in the formats and content layout so we could adjust the language for different use cases and audiences. The content team could switch out text without too much adjustment in design.

  • Design print collateral for conferences and sales team (banners, table cloths, business cards, swag, brochures, and flyers)

  • Use new print and digital advertisements to increase engagement, awareness, and sales

  • Find a good balance of branding, features, benefits, etc.

  • Establish an authentic and consistent illustration style

  • Develop materials for different audiences, including international variants

solutions

Steps of the process

Collateral package for conferences

Because of timelines, color-correcting, printing errors, and working with third party printers, designing for print is much more complex than digital. Our conference presenters needed print materials the most so we focused on this first. This included banners, table cloths, business cards, swag, and flyers.

After deciding on what types of materials they needed, we researched different print companies to compare prices and product options. Each design has to be triple checked before printing to make sure formatting is correct for color, sizing, bleeds, and cropping so it helps to prepare for this at the beginning. I did not want to be caught off guard near the end and have to rework a design because the dimensions were wrong.

Target audiences

Customers get enough promotional “stuff” thrown at them, so I knew that each piece had to be targeted and focused. We wanted to make only what was necessary to inform people before it became noise. This means knowing exactly what each piece is intended to do. Banners attract visitors and flyers pique just enough interest enough to drive action. Everything else needed to be left out.

Sketching and planning

With my background in fine art, I’m comfortable enough to admit that visuals are usually the icing on the cake—not the cake. Before any sketching, I always prioritize my content with outlined text, then wireframes. Once the large areas of content are mapped out, copywriting comes next. Only after this is roughed out do I start any visual design or polishing using design tools like Adobe XD or InDesign.

Copywriting

For each new piece of collateral, I worked with our marketing team to come up with text that felt welcoming. I simplified the jargon and focused on problem-solving benefits (instead of features) whenever I could. Each piece of copy could get progressively more complex if need be, but it always had to start with an introductory tagline or headline.

In the past, we had started with technical wording, and customers wouldn’t read it. I wrote and edited the copy to make sure it was attracting customers to our product instead of presenting everything we offered at once. Longer brochures and documents could be presented later after a visitor showed interest.

Design and settling on illustration style

This is the most natural part for me because of my experience, so I spend this time in my flow state moving things around and making adjustments until everything feels right.

Most of the branding elements had been established during the redesign, but I put off a spot illustration style because of the unique complexity of it. At the time it wasn’t required, and I focused on other projects instead.

Our Editage partner (manuscript editing services) started working with us on their updated marketing site so we had a chance to replace their hero illustration, which was being used on our site, for our own. This would establish a product illustration template for our marketing and work well next to our flat geometric style that was used elsewhere. I wanted it to be reminiscent of a classic mid-century modern cartoon style to fit our brand. I chose backpack and hiking imagery to fit in with our mountain theme and because the author services felt like a tool set that could be used along the publishing journey.

Final prep

The final stage is proofreading and file preparation. I’m a measure twice, cut once kind of guy, so at this stage I usually “measure” three times to be safe. Color accuracy is notoriously difficult to match with digital screens, so extra care had to be taken to ensure legibility and accuracy. I always sweat a little bit when I send my files off to the printers because I know from first-hand experience the pain of seeing a typo printed hundreds of times. Any errors reflect badly on our company, so I take this part seriously.

Insights

  • Difficult to convince team that less is more

  • Ads are usually highest priority for teams, but I think it’s a last resort and a time suck

  • Customers can see through inauthentic advertising schemes

  • Better to move away from push marketing to pull marketing later

Challenges

Again, we had to choose between speed and quality. Between brainstorming, creating, formatting, copywriting, prepping, and printing—it was too much to juggle in addition to the other projects.

Like with the website design, there was not a lot of time for exploration and iteration. Lots of tiny design decisions affect the overall look of a creative piece and its style, and each deserves its own exploration process. Because we were still in the early stages of a rebranding, building a new site, and making upcoming changes to our products, I had some uneasiness about making firm decisions.

Other challenges

  • Print process is long and difficult

  • Had to do illustrations myself

  • Short deadlines with little notice

  • Sales teams wanted to add everything from the website onto tiny flyers

Impact

Five years later, we’re still using some of the same flyers and brochures. I’d say that we succeeded in our goals. Over time we’ve made some adjustments and rewritten the copy, but the style hasn’t changed much.

The upgraded designs and cohesive style improved our professional impact at conferences, too. Image is very important in business, and our company had a noticeable boost in confidence presenting ourselves to the public following this project.

Online banner ads

Full page ads

Business cards

Flyers

Brochures

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