Design and marketing tips for growing businesses

Strategies to help businesses grow by Olsen Creative

Get a cool logo that looks like you

Posted by on in Graphic Design

No, we're not saying that having a face on your logo is the answer. We already did that. The "you" we're referring to is the visual expression of your brand. It's like a personality.

oc ladyLet's use the Olsen Creative Lady as an example. At Olsen Creative, we love what we do. We are helpful, approachable and do all we can to demystify the creative process. With good humor, we take your projects seriously, put your business interests first and assure you that everything is going to be OK as we walk through the project. That's our brand statement. It's who we are. And that's why the Olsen Creative Lady is so happy!

When we listen to what you want in your logo, we ask a lot of questions — questions about you, how you relate to your customers, what they say about you, and even what colors you find appealing. What we're really getting to is the bottom line: your brand statement. From that, we can create an image that projects the "personality" of what your brand already has going for it.

We don't make brands, and we don't just design logos that we think are cool. We design logos that communicate your brand value. And that's pretty cool already.

See our Logos Portfolio

At the core of every graphic design project is the marketing message. It’s the story. The subject. The essence. Beginning a design without clear direction is a recipe for confusion – that’s evidently how we got the platypus.

The message determines the design. Before you pick a single color or font, know your purpose.

Find the answers to these questions, then let the rest fall into place:

1) Who is your target audience? Learn all you can about the demographics. Who are you speaking to? Male or Female? Young or Mature? Empathize. How would you talk to them if they were sitting in front of you?

2) What does your audience expect? Do they already know your product? Do you need to educate them? How does your product compare to the competition? How can you enlighten your audience?

3) What is the personality of your business, or the Brand? (For the sake of creating a design, the more adjectives you can come up with, the better) How your business presents itself is a key element to making a decision on graphic elements. Be consistent with the Brand personality. Imagine that you are the Brand, and you meet a friend on the street. How do you act? How does this situation differ from when you meet a client in the boardroom? Your business should have a consistent brand standard. Know it and live it. Don’t be visually schizophrenic, like our friend Mr. Platypus.

4) What mood or image do you want this project to convey? Do yourself a service and reflect your brand personality. There’s nothing worse than having an established brand and then creating a very different piece based on your creative whim. There’s no better way to lose your audience than to turn away from your buddy, The Brand. Instead, imagine that this piece is speaking on behalf of the Brand. It’s like writing a script for an established character. If you were going to write a play about, say, Robin Hood, he would have a distinct, recognizeable personality (the Brand), but he could find himself in a myriad of situations (the Project), and would handle himself differently depending on to whom he was speaking (the Audience). "Robin Hood the Dude" has many possibilities, but "Robin Hood the Brand" must stay consistent or he risks being mistaken for another character.

When you’re clear in your direction, you're ready to start designing.

Use what you already know.

Learn what your audience already knows.

Know your purpose.

Be relevant in communicating.


At the moment we first entered the world and opened our eyes, we were consumed by visual stimulus. We began to sort and interpret these images, learning their meanings and significance. Every shape has a property. Every color has a meaning. We perceive shapes as organic or architectural based on their function in nature. We perceive colors as warm or cool based on their presence in nature. We organize many separate elements into a collective whole. We perceive, recognize, categorize and cross-reference until we have a comprehensive knowledge of how the visual world works. And as if we’re not already busy enough interpreting visuals, we are simultaneously processing the other four senses of sound, smell, taste and touch in the same manner.

We recognize what we know.

Does that sound too obvious? Through exposure, we put information into context, and thus retain the information. How does this principle apply to reaching your customers?

Effective communication comes down to one simple principle: with each of the five senses, we recognize what we know. Visual communicators learn what is familiar to their audience and select relevant imagery to communicate clearly, effectively and most importantly, quickly. When a visual message is familiar, right and appropriate, it is clear, comfortable and obvious. When it’s unfamiliar, wrong or inappropriate, it can be confusing, unsettling and misrepresenting. 
Unfortunately, even seasoned professional designers sometimes stray from objective decision-making in their quest to create something new and different. Artists by nature, they sometimes forget that graphic design projects are not gallery pieces where museum-goers will stop to ponder the greater significance of the message. To the average consumer, a graphic designer's labor of love is only a snapshot seen in a fleeting moment, if perceived at all. Marketing studies indicate that as consumers zip down grocery store aisles, their eyes rest on a package for approximately .03 seconds. (Pantone Guide to Communicating with Color by Leatrice Eiseman). In this split-second opportunity, the outer packaging must grab attention, communicate the inner contents and create desire. That’s a lot to expect from a busy audience of consumers who are already bombarded with similar images from thousands of other visuals also competing for their attention. Really, there’s no time for lofty, Picasso-centric agendas.
Be relevant.
This the key to communicating quickly to your audience. If the imagery you incorporate into your piece is vague, obscure or otherwise off target, you’ll miss what is likely your only opportunity to get your point across. Sure, you’ve seen those multi-million-dollar ad campaigns that attract attention through surreal product connections, but is that really the project that’s burning a hole in your in-box? “How to Create a 30-Second Ad Spot for The Big Ballgame That Everyone Will Be Discussing The Significance Of The Next Day” is the subject for another blog post. This is about where the rubber meets the road – your project that's going on right now.

You may not know it yet, but you already have everything you need to make your project a success. Don’t underestimate your perceptions or reactions to the effects of graphic elements. You’ve seen as much of the world as a graphic designer has. Even if you’re uninitiated to the process of graphic design, you can still learn how to make objective visual decisions. This blog will give you a context for understanding, to put a label on what you probably already know, and familiarize you with what you already see.

If you can label it, you can communicate it.

One of the things I hope to accomplish with this blog is to demystify the creative process to help growing businesses get the most out of the resources available. Today's economy is squeezing businesses more than ever, forcing owners to think outside the box for cost-effective solutions on all fronts.

If you own a small business, you probably don't have a huge marketing budget. You probably didn't intend to do a lot of the marketing, advertising, promotions and even page layouts yourself, but to keep operating costs down such tasks are frequently necessary for the survival and growth of your business.

So you became an Accidental Graphic Designer.

For all of the small business owners looking for do-it-yourself solutions, I'm here to coach you on what you really need to know to creatively survive the marketing and design process.

1: Communicate Meaning
Space is a premium in the world, on the internet and on paper. In a matter of milliseconds, you have to capture the attention of a prospective customer with a message that's strong enough to compel them to come to you for your product.

A strong message does not necessarily mean big, bold and red – although sometimes it doesn't hurt. Strength is communicated in relevance. How well understood is the message? Are you speaking your target customer's language? What are they looking for at this time, and are you offering it?

Communicate meaning in each and every element you create. Your logo must be appealing and understandable to your audience. It makes little difference whether you personally like it, if it doesn't communicate clear meaning to potential customers. Your website must be logically organized to guide potential customers down the path that leads to the most important place - buying from you. Your print advertising must contain a call to action. Get people onto your website and/or into your store so you can turn them into new customers.

Communicate meaning in everything you do.

We will help guide you through the process of creating a meaningful message.

How to work with creative-types

Posted by on in Graphic Design

Everyone has a talent for something. Everyone has the ability to create. Talent and creativity are things that everyone is born with, to varying degrees. In terms of visual creativity, some people are attuned to seeing the possibilities. Some can’t draw their way out of a paper bag. Most people fall somewhere in the middle.

I cannot count the number of times that clients have approached me with a project and said, appologetically, “I’m sorry, I’m not a designer. Can you help me with this?” 
OK, that would be like me going to my doctor and saying, “I'm sorry, I tried to fix this ruptured spleen at home, but I’m not a surgeon.” Hey, I don’t know my spleen from my appendix, so who knows what I would have been taking a stab at. (Sorry for the gratutious pun!)

The thing about designers (and all creatives), is that they have a feel for what solution best supports a message, and hopefully have had some advanced education and experience so that they can make good decisions. 
Just like when you go to the doctor, you may have a feel for what the problem is, but you can be better treated if you outline the symptoms. The creative process works the same way. If you tell your designer where to “operate” you may not be treating the real problem. If you tell your designer where it hurts, then they can come up with a solution that tackles the problem directly.