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I no longer offer design services for hire.

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How to Look and Sound Good

When you take the time to identify what's meaningful to yourself and your audience, the design takes care of itself. Here's how it works.

Yikes! People!

Congratulations, you've started your venture and gotten your website online! Now...what are you going to say?

This is an exciting and incredibly daunting stage of your journey. Don't worry...lots of people feel unsure of exactly what to do next, and it's helpful to get another pair of eyes and ears on the topic. So here's my contribution to you: an outline of the challenge.

What You Want from People

If you're like most business owners (myself included), you have three main desires:

  • Lots of happy customers
  • Strong word of mouth / referrals from past customers
  • Predictable cash flow and consistent profit

There's two ways people tend to approach the fulfillment of these desires: play it safe with everyone or stand out to a few.

  • When you're playing it safe, you want to fit into a category and be familiar. This means you strive to appeal to everyone without offending anyone, and try to avoid attracting unwanted criticism. In other words, you avoid creating a negative impression. If this is your strategy, your website should then be informational and "look like what people expect". This can work just fine, but be aware that "being like everyone else" is the same as hiding in a crowd. That's not the way to get noticed, and any new business you get will be based on sheer chance.
  • When you choose to stand out, you want to appeal to specific people to get a much stronger response rate. By being specific, you're also appealing to fewer people, but if you do this right those people are likely to spend more and be more loyal because you "fit" them better. And, because you're the right fit for them, they are much more likely to tell other people about you and bring in their friends. However, there's also the risk that you'll lose some customers who don't think you're the right fit for them, even when you are.

What People Want from You

So how do you choose which approach is right for you? It almost doesn't matter, because what's more important is making sure that people can:

  • See what you are offering
  • Find answers to their questions
  • Get a taste of your offering
  • Start talking to you

Remember: your visitors already know what they like without you. Your job in the first three seconds (or less!) is to show them something they need before their attention wanders. Whether you're playing it safe or standing out doesn't matter in those first three seconds; it's only during the next 5-10 seconds, after you've grabbed the interest of your visitor, that style-words-imagery will start to shape the impression being made. If this impression is positive, then something good may happen next: a sale, an inquiry, or a compliment.

I can help you understand how all this works, pick the right path, and build you something that does the job.

Connecting with Your Peeps

I'm the kind of designer that likes words and meaning, and my design process starts by identifying how we'd like to happen. There are thousands of ways to create the impulse to act through design. Some simple examples of this:

  • If we want to make people feel happy, we use images of smiling children in joyful nostalgic situations, with bright colors and open compositions. When done well, this can create the right environment for message to be received positively. Yes, maybe you SHOULD buy that convertible, because you might feel like THAT.
  • If we want people to feel nervous, we could use images of car accidents set in environments that are eerily familiar to their own neighborhoods. Lots of heavy type could close-in on the imagery, further oppressing it. Perhaps it's time to strongly consider purchasing some kind of accident insurance?

In other words, there are ways to arrange images, words, and graphics to create both emotional and logical reactions in viewers. That's Advertising 101.

For your own communication needs, we'd like people to have positive associations with you, and have a specific reason for it. There are thousands and thousands of reasons why anyone wants to see anyone; the challenge is to pick:

  • specific reasons that are...
  • the most "naturally you" and are...
  • the most effective at generating net growth

Once we know that, it's easy to pick the right graphic elements that help "sell" the reason to your audience: this works well in the"stand out" approach. If instead you're choosing the "play it safe" approach, we use the straightforward layout to make it very clear what you are about, and use emotional associations (like the above two examples) to help make the content more striking. In either approach, it's achieving clarity about how people can appreciate and resonate with YOU that is the foundation of my design process.

I love doing this. It's the writer/storyteller in me.

What About Style?

By now, you've gotten a pretty good taste of how I write, so what about my design chops?. This is a matter of personal preference, so here's some examples of my recent graphic design so you can make your own decision:

Color and background guide for studio logo. Poster for photographer's walk-in event. Business cards (upper card photography: Sid Ceaser) Logo design + specification for local group. Scooter illustration. Business card. Gun safety poster for trainer. Resource visualization grid for project management.

And here are some other interactive and online design samples:

Photographer website design. Photographer blog design for existing website. Interactive marketing CD-ROM Interactive kiosk for tradeshow. Interactive calculator for marketing campaign. Information architecture for website. Interactive Portfolio CD-ROM. Interactive astronomy application design. Wordpress theme creation.

You can find more design examples on my portfolio page on the Flickr photo website. You can also find examples of my photography there as well.

Let's Get Going!

My design/writing services are estimated and priced by the project. There's probably something I can do to get you moving. For example, I offer:

  • Business Card Design
  • Print Collateral Design
  • Website Templates
  • Scoping of Design Work
  • Graphics Software Training
  • Creative Brainstorming

I can work within most budgets if you are concerned about controlling costs. Contact me and tell me your story, and we'll see what we can work out.

I have a standard set of terms of work that you can read about regarding project scoping, hourly rates, project management, and other such matters.