The 55 secret Rules in Design and Advertising: Business Relationships Part 2

2. Your job includes selling, so better get good at it

In the modern world of business, it is useless to be a creative original thinker unless you can also sell what you create. Management cannot be expected to recognize a good idea unless it is presented to them by a good salesman.

David M. Ogilvy

Clients are possibly your highest hurdle in the creative business – and the most essential one. You can’t always live with them, but you can definitely not live without them. So you only have two possibilities: you can either give up your profession and start collecting stamps instead, or you can choose to become better at selling your work to the client, e.g. by increasing your persuasive skills.

Familiarize with the idea of handling your clients professionally. Put as much effort in selling as you invest in design. Unlike other businesses, where customers have a variety of static products to choose from, the design business is, per definition, the conversion of creativity into a product. You invent things. And if you want to be successful at it, you should learn how to sell them.

3. Presentation is everything

The beauty of our profession contains the predicament of a pool of different tastes. Everybody perceives design differently. Above the line of psychological findings, people are different from each other, thus are attracted to different things.

Let’s say you created six different designs for your clients Corporate Identity. You most certainly have a favorite one – it is the one you know to be best for your clients needs. But you also know that there is a chance of your client not going with that specific design. While he has more insight than you about his business, you have the necessary insight and knowledge about identity design. So how win your client for the best and most significant design?

These are things you shouldn’t do the points you should always follow:

  • Avoid sending drafts out per mail.
  • Never send initial drafts out per e-mail.
  • Unless your job is a website, never bring a laptop to a presentation.
  • do not hand out USB sticks or DVDs / CDs of your drafts.

And this is how you could do it:

  • Always present drafts personally. You have a personal relationship with your client. Give him the respect he deserves! After all, he is not buying tulips for his wife, but an identity for his company.
  • Walk the client through the presentation, do not just throw the drafts at him. Give him some insight about the reasons for every one of your designs. Familiarize him with your thoughts. Use your know-how to make it clear why you chose to do what you did.

The 55 secret Rules in Design and Advertising: Business Relationships

This is the fifth installment in the 55 secret Rules in Design and Advertising. So far, I have covered the following parts:

  • Part 1: Basic Rules
  • Part 2: Rules of Composition
  • Part 3: Rules of Workflow and Getting it Done
  • Part 4: Rules of Personal Matter

Set 5: The Rules of Business Relationships

In the 5th and final part of the 55 secret rules in design and advertising, we will deal with the part where you have to generate an income from your work. it is a fact that a designers job comprises more than just design. You know this, especially if you are a freelancer. As for thrilling experiences, if handling clients wasn’t a part of your job, you’d have to start getting into free-fall parachuting instead.

Accordingly, our first rule of business relationships is the following.

1. Your client always knows everything better

I want a flower. Show me a flower and I’ll want a tree. Give me the tree and I’ll ask for a river. Bring the river and I’ll demand a bucket to water the forest I wanted in the first place.

– Your Client

I’d like to bring up your neighbors sassy troublemaker. The one who is 3.5 feet tall, usually smashes your front windows and spray-paints your wife’s tulips. Even though you might agree with him that the tulips look a lot better with silver and toxic green stripes, and even if this might turn out to be a key experience for the kid, who might become a great graffiti artist one day – you very much object to it because these are your tulips. Sorry – even worse! They are your wife’s tulips.

If we project this scenario onto your situation as a designer, we could say that to your client, you are that kid. You spray-painted his wife’s tulips. In addition, you even dare to speak up and defend your art instead of doing exactly what he asked you to do. The point is, because you are the designer, and your client is – well, your client, you have to skillfully balance his wishes – and his needs. You have to prove that your approach is the professional one and, if so, that his idea of an approach is a bunch of crap (regarding that, also read Your Clients Bad Taste). Convince your client by acting professionally and embodying who you are – the designer, not a graffiti kid.

All of this, of course, under the condition that your client is new to design and that you are good at what you do. If your client has experienced working with design professionals before, your job might be easier.

The 55 secret Rules in Design and Advertising: Composition Part 3

3. The Rules of Odds and Space

These two rules are best explained in reference to each other. They state that an artwork is more interesting and appealing to the eye when

  1. a) displaying an odd number of objects – in contrast to picturing an even number of objects, and when
  2. b) there is room for the eye to breathe and add its own context.

The rule of odds is quite interesting; it’s not too well known but it does apply. It may be because when you have an odd number of objects, there is always one in the middle (of the objects, not necessarily of the image), adding a sort of frame, or comfort, to the artwork. We can find this out by taking a look at these ads for Harvey Nichols:

You can also see the rule of odds in the following ad; it doesn’t only apply to the whole image, but also to sections of the artwork:

The second part of this rule, the rule of space, states that when you have, say, a picture of a man who is looking to the upper right, you should place him (as the focal point) to the lower left and leave space where his eyes are pointing at. This, as a result, leaves room for the viewer to put their own imagination to work. This rule, if used properly, is of great importance in photography, where you have a greater need of creating an inspiring environment. In advertising, on the other hand, you don’t always want to leave too much room for imagination – you rather want to control what the viewer is imagining.

These ads for Eurostar make quite a good use of space:

Now, that we came this far, I think it’s time for a coffee break. Bookmark this page and grab a coffee.

Back? Let’s go on with the next rule of composition

The 55 secret Rules in Design and Advertising: Composition Part 2

2. The Rule of Thirds

The rule of thirds is sometimes referred to as the golden ratio of design or photography, and again, that’s not too correct. The golden ratio is a mathematical function used in art and architecture, describing the ideal relation of distance between objects to make it pleasing for the eye. The rule of thirds though is more valuable in design, thus a rule of composition.

The rule of thirds states that by dividing an artwork with evenly spaced horizontal and vertical lines – two of each, creating 9 parts -, the intersections of these lines are to be sought after as the most preferred focal points of an artwork or photograph. This is because at these points, the eye has the best perception of the main object in relation to the surrounding objects. By applying the rule of thirds to your artwork, you can stress the focal point and turn a rather dull image into something more interesting.

Let’s take a look at this example. This is a photo of a kid at the beach. It’s shot without any rule or anything of that sort in mind:

Now, let’s see if we can make this photograph more interesting. First, we will apply two horizontal and two vertical lines, dividing the photo into nine equal parts.

Now, let’s play around a bit. What is the focal point of the photo? Where do we want the eye to jump to? I would say it’s the boys head.

So we scale the grid in order to put one of the four intersections right onto our intended focal point, like this:

Now, we just crop the image according to the new borders – and voilà, this is how our photo looks now:

Do you notice the difference? Applying the rule of thirds created a much more interesting image. We can find this rule in practice in advertising, as well. Here are a few examples – this is an ad for the Hard Rock Cafe:

Guess where the intersections of our lines are:

That takes the cake! Another ad for the American Newspaper Association:

As you see, the focal point of the image doesn’t have to be exactly at the intersection of two lines. It works just as well if it’s just in close proximity. Just like these ads for Axe:

Here, too, the most interesting spots are created by using the rule of thirds – but also our next rule of composition, which is:

The 55 secret Rules in Design and Advertising: Composition

This is the second installment in the 55 secret Rules in Design and Advertising. So far, I’ve covered:

  • Part 1: Basic Rules

Set 2: The Rules of Composition in Design

Composition describes the arrangement of the elements of art, or design, in an artwork, using the principles of design. Sometimes, comp is used as a substitute for artwork (mainly in advertising), although that’s actually incorrect, as the artwork is the piece itself and not the placement of the elements inside.

This leads us to the question: What are the elements of design? The answer is the first rule of composition:

1. Know your Stuff

The first rule of composition refers to knowing the elements and principles of design. Let’s take a look at the elements first.

These are the basic components, or ingredients, we use to produce an artwork. They provide the structure for a design. The elements of design are:

  • color – has three properties: hue/tint (red), intensity/purity (bright red), and what is an element of design itself:
  • value – the lightness or darkness (luminance), especially important for monochrome artwork
  • line – we all know a line when we see it – it can be straight or curved, thick or thin, solid or dashed or dotted, blurred or fuzzy, etc. etc.
  • shape – usually two-dimensional (e.g. a square)
  • form – a three-dimensional shape (e.g. a cube)
  • texture – the feel of an object, expressed by a surface quality like flat, glossy, glittery, wet, furry, sandy, leathery, etc.
  • space – the distance between (negative) and taken up by (positive) objects

Looking at our everyday work, we can see that everything we create and use, from a photograph over a vector illustration to a typeface, is made up of these elements.

Now, as we know what we’re talking about, let’s take a look at the principles of design. These refer directly to the elements of design as named above. They are intended to lead the designer in order to create a better artwork. Some tend to see the principles of design as ideals, others as issues; however both as inherent in the best designs. The principles of design are:

  • balance – the way the elements of art are arranged to create stability (symmetry, asymmetry, radial)
  • emphasis – the dominance given to an element in an artwork
  • harmony – a union, or blend, of aesthetically compatible components
  • movement – arranging, and combining, the elements of art to produce the look of action; also in a way that causes the eye to move over the work
  • pattern / rhythm – the repetition of an element; visual tempo creating movement
  • proportion – comparative relation of one part to another
  • tension – tenuous balance, capable of causing anxiety or excitement
  • unity – the combination of all elements into one complete whole, achieved through balancing harmony and variety
  • variety – the opposite of monotony in an artwork; the use of diversity

So there you have them. Knowing the elements and principles of design is of great importance for every designer. We use the elements every day and use the principles to make a composition, so we should know what we’re talking about!

Let’s move on to the 2nd rule of composition.