Is bigger always better?

Since setting up Howdy in 1999 we have worked for a wide variety of clients of all types and sizes, from global multi nationals through to lone entrepreneurs. During that time we have never had more than six staff at any one time, yet we have met many crazy deadlines, developed global brand strategies and identities, and produced suites of literature, exhibitions and signage programmes. We have delivered each job within the timescales and budgets agreed at the outset.

We previously worked at some large global branding companies, where we worked in equally small teams. It often appeared to the clients that the entire design department were working on their job, therefore justifying high fees from seemingly endless hours of work having been spent their jobs. Sadly, that often didn’t accurately reflect the reality.

Before client meetings and presentations we would spend an hour updating an extended team of people on the project’s progress since the last meeting so that they could all turn up and appear to have been fully engaged and a productive part of the process throughout. We would then negotiate a tricky path throughout those meetings as the peripheral team agreed to unrealistic deadlines and unachievable deliverables, while we tried to rein in expectations and agree appropriate and realistic goals while still meeting key client deadlines and budgets.

We left that world to set up Howdy, knowing that we would be able to build honest and transparent relationships with our clients, without hidden fees or an illusion of extended teams of people behind the scenes.

Careful planning and preparation, in partnership with our clients, ensure that clear, achievable deadlines and fees are agreed and managed by the people directly involved in the projects. Maintaining a dialogue directly between the client and the designers throughout ensures that there are no chinese whispers, and reduces the risk of things getting missed or overlooked.

We do the work and discuss issues and suggestions directly with the clients, giving them the benefit of our design experience and training. We’re not ‘yes’ men. We explain why we’ve done things a certain way, say when we don’t think something will work, and then discuss the options to reach a mutually agreeable solution. We believe that this direct dialogue between clients and designers makes the process more efficient, less frustrating for both sides and ultimately more cost effective.

Branding and Marketing tips for Schools and Colleges

The branding and marketing of schools and colleges is yet another thing that’s been added to an ever increasing list of things that Headteachers and Principals now have to manage. Chances are that it is not a specialist area for most people in these roles, so where do you start?

Howdy work with organisations, including schools and educational establishments, to create and build strong, distinctive brands and effective marketing materials. We realise that most schools don’t have in-house communications specialists so we help with all aspects of the marketing and communications planning through to the execution and delivery.

We’ve put together some simple tips below to help guide you through the process.

Compass Schools website designed by Howdy

Compass Schools website designed by Howdy

1. Why?
It’s important to think carefully about the reason behind the decision to review the branding or marketing materials.Do you need a new brand, maybe to shift perceptions following a change in the organisation, or is it simply that your existing communications are looking tired and in need of a refresh? It may sound obvious but this initial goal is often forgotten in the process resulting in the project drifting away from the original aim. This should dictate the nature and scope of the project.

2. Identify the scope of the project
Look at what you already have, if anything, and how much needs to change. Do you need a revolution or an evolution of your branding and marketing communications? A rebrand doesn’t have to mean throwing everything that you have in place away and starting from scratch. What are the positives and the negatives of your current materials? An audit of existing materials and their effectiveness is an important starting point.

3. Identify your objectives
What are the outcomes that you need to achieve? Decide on the key messages you need to communicate and who with? This may need to be segmented into slightly different messages for different audiences. What is the purpose of your communications? These will form the core of your design and marketing brief to ensure that you end up with an appropriate communications plan and deliverables. See our five tips for writing a design brief for more help and advice.

4. Identify the challenges and issues
The diverse audience you need to communicate with is a challenge in itself. Engaging parents, students, trustees, governors and sponsors, each with their own priorities, is difficult. Throw in other issues, like social challenges – maybe literacy levels or language barriers – and you have a challenging brief that will need to be taken into consideration and addressed in the design.

Compass School reception signage

Compass School reception signage

5. Get feedback
The best way to find out what people do and don’t like is to ask them. Why try and second guess how parents would prefer to receive information when you can ask them? A small amount of basic research before the project begins can save a lot of wasted time and money developing something that people won’t use. This could be a few questions on your website or an email survey, or simply asking people in the playground face to face.

6. Identify the resources available
By this we mean both time and money. It’s important that you have an idea of how much time staff can realistically commit to updating a website, social media, writing copy for newsletters, etc. This will ensure that your communications plan is appropriate and achievable. Of course it’s important to have a ballpark budget in mind. You’ll need to get quotes from companies to help guide this figure but don’t get sucked in by unnecessary whistles and bells that blow your budget without adding real value and benefits. Having clearly identified the scope, objectives and challenges first, it will be easier to stick to clear parameters.

7. Identify the deliverables
Before anything, you need a clear mission/vision statement, agreed by all stakeholders. This, no doubt, exists in your’s, and your colleagues’, heads, and will have been voiced at many meetings, but it needs to be pared down to a succinct written statement against which every aspect of your brand is measured. The brand is the embodiment of your mission so, without a clear statement, any investment in branding and marketing will be wasted.

As well as the logo/badge, branding includes the colour palette, typefaces, tone of voice, style of photography, illustration, etc. which need to be consistently used across everything. Of course there are all the standard day to day applications such as stationery, signage, uniforms, etc. and, without exception, all schools and colleges need a website and prospectus which form your primary marketing materials. In addition, there is an almost infinite list of things that you can brand with your school badge or logo for marketing purposes, such as bags, pens, badges, etc. and it’s important to ensure that the things you choose, if any, are appropriate to your audience in terms of suitability, budget and effectiveness.

Compass School 2014-15 prospectus

Compass School 2014-15 prospectus

8. Find the right design/marketing company
It’s important that you work with someone that you feel is a good match for you and you’ll enjoy working with. There are many companies who design exclusively for the education sector who may feel like a safe pair of hands, but beware of template based design solutions. The whole point of design and branding is to differentiate and address your specific requirements and brief, rather than deliver a formulaic solution.

The image below, from one such company’s web portfolio, shows a selection of their ‘tailor-made’ designs for schools. No matter what your brief, I wouldn’t mind betting that at least one concept they present would contain a ribbon-like swoosh device on the prospectus cover and website. Having removed all the names from these there’s little to differentiate one from another. Of course there will be a number of commonalities across all school briefs, but the purpose of design is to make you stand out from, rather than merge into, the crowd.

Some 'specialists' offer formulaic, templated solutions offering little or no differentiation

Some specialists offer formulaic, templated solutions resulting in little or no differentiation

Our blog on choosing the right design partner offers more advice on this.

You might also be interested in our Compass School case study.

We hope you found this useful but if you need any further help or advice feel free to get in touch.

What type of client are you?

By Neil Smith

Over the past 30 years, 15 of them as Howdy, I have worked for a diverse range of clients, from incontinence pad manufacturers to major banks. I’ve visited laboratories in Germany and international news agencies in New York, I’ve had meetings at 10 Downing Street and in offices above kebab shops in Finchley. This experience has enabled me, very unscientifically, to identify a number of client types. Obviously I haven’t bothered with the ‘friendly’, ‘efficient’ and ‘reasonable’ clients, as I couldn’t think of anything funny to say about them. New clients are very hard to come by, and we’d be happy to work with any of the following client types. And I’d just like to add that at Howdy we love all our clients, especially our current ones, most of whom fall into the final category.

The well informed client
Not to be confused with the client who thinks they know it all, this client actually does. One particular client’s knowledge of typography, design history and print technology put us to shame. She took a sadistic pleasure in getting us to re-kern lines of text with a scalpel often late into the night (this was pre- Macintosh) and was an intimidating presence whenever she visited the studio. We produced some of our best work for this client.

The randy client
This group of clients doesn’t exist, until you give them alcohol. You’re more likely to encounter this client at a Christmas party or a company launch than in the board room. I encountered one at a party as a young designer, and felt terror and confusion in equal measure as the company’s biggest client tore my favourite shirt off my back and ran her clammy drunk hands across my naked chest. I think she might have even snarled a playful ‘Grrrrrr’ in the process. It still sends shivers down my spine after all these years. I’ve blanked the rest from my memory.

The ‘more is more’ client
This client doesn’t really get Swiss typography or Nordic minimalism. They’d rather buy design by the square metre. A client once phoned and asked if they could have a ‘bit more design’ on the cover of their insurance policy document cover. We argued that the white space was working as hard as the text and imagery. They didn’t buy it.

The deluded entrepreneur
The most troublesome of the client groups. They lure you in with promises of fame and riches, of shares in their new Google / new Amazon / new Starbucks venture (delete where applicable). You commit totally, you submit to their infectious passion and before long you are an enthusiastic ambassador, telling anyone who will listen that this is the next big thing and that by this time next year you’ll be sunning yourself in the Bahamas. Then you get the phone call: ‘The backers have pulled out’ or ‘We have patent issues’. Six months (unpaid) work down the pan and you swear you’ll never be seduced again. The phone rings… ‘Hi, we’ve got this idea for a new range of oxygenated fruit drinks’… ‘Great, when do we start!’.

The ‘more money than sense’ client
Not sure that this ‘type’ exists outside the 1980s. We once worked for a City chap who was setting up his own trading firm. After briefing us on his branding project he took us to his basement to show us his Ferraris (yes, that’s plural). We figured that this gentleman would be happier paying over the odds for this design work so that he could brag to his chums about how much he’d spent on his new logo. Our hunch paid off, our client was as happy as Larry with the estimate and with the finished project, and we were able to fund an extension to our studio Scalextric track (well, this was the eighties).

The ‘design is for girls’ client
Thankfully not so common these days. We presented to the Chairman of a large textile company and his board of directors, who seemed preoccupied by our funny haircuts and blouson jackets. At the end of the presentation the Chairman seemed slightly non-plussed, saying that he thought he liked it, but he would have to show his wife before he could make a decision. We also encountered the following, from a CEO at another presentation: ‘Purple? it can’t be purple – my wife hates purple!’.

The ‘I’ll know what I want when I see it’ client
The presentation went well, everyone’s happy and excited then suddenly you find yourself producing endless variations and colour combinations of the ‘approved’ design because, apparently, its not quite right. The client can’t quite put their finger on what they don’t like, but of course ‘They’ll know what they want when they see it’. These projects can seem infinitely long, but unfortunately not infinitely well paid.

The frustrated designer
The only reason this client doesn’t design it themselves is because they don’t have the time or the software (or the talent). Ideally they’d like to sit next to you listening to your Smiths CDs, drinking espressos and offering handy suggestions on what typeface to use.

The ‘play it safe’ client
This is the client whose logo and pithy strap line gradually morphs into a Novella as they desperately try to keep their bosses and ‘stakeholders’ happy.

The bad driver
You’re collected from a rural railway station and driven at terrifying speeds, in an executive saloon, through narrow lanes to an out of town business park. I’m not sure, but they seem to be saying ‘I’m the client, i’m in control, and I’m going to drive really, really fast and scare the shit out of your trendy, fixed wheel riding, London arse’, or something.

The perfect client
This client is a careful driver. But more importantly, they’re open to ideas and trust your skills and advice as a designer. They provide a comprehensive brief, or enough information for you to be able to write the brief with them. They have an understanding and appreciation of the benefits of design, a realistic budget and realistic expectations. They also don’t leave things to the last minute. They’re pleasant and friendly to work with. That’s about 10 points I reckon. If a client can fulfil six or more of these, I think they’re pretty perfect.

Here we are having fun with some of our perfect clients
Here we are having fun with some of our perfect clients having just won an award for the great annual report we did for them.  

Design trends – how much should they influence branding decisions?

It’s the time of year when annual trend forecasts are published and magazines are full of news on what colours and shapes are ‘in’ and what will dictate 2016’s ‘style’.

This year Pantone have selected two ‘colours of the year’: Rose Quartz and Serenity. According to Pantone’s Executive Director, Leatrice Eiseman: “These colours demonstrate an inherent balance between a warmer embracing rose tone and the cooler tranquil blue, reflecting connection and wellness as well as a soothing sense of order and peace.”

What does this mean to us, as branding and communications specialists, in our day to day marketing and design decisions? Probably not a lot in all honesty. Identity and communication design needs to reflect, enhance and communicate a brand and its values on a longer term basis.

Fast changing trends are essential in fashion, an industry built around seasonal, short term collections fuelling our desire to update our wardrobes every few months, but it’s no accident that most fashion brands’ corporate identities are black and white or neutral, giving them the flexibility to work with and sit above each season’s changing trends. Brands like Chanel, Burberry, YSL, Gucci and Fred Perry, are iconic and have changed very little, if at all, in the past 20+ years, maintaining consistent, well managed and instantly recognisable brand identities.

A brand identity is not a short term investment and, as such, should not be subject to seasonal whims and fancies. Longer term trends do occur and brand identities can become tired and outdated and in need of a revamp, but this should be after years not months.

The key to a successful and long lasting corporate identity is to get the brief right and find a design partner you feel is right for you (see our blog ‘Choosing the right design partner’).

Ensure you end up with an identity that accurately reflects your brand values and personality. Be ambitious and look to the future. Think about where you want the organisation to be in five years and aim for an identity that reflects that vision. Don’t be swayed by this season’s style ‘must haves’. Don’t end up with a logo that’s ‘so last season’ in 12 months time.

 

 

 

 

 

Howdy Christmas Charity Emporium

Howdy’s 2014 has been notable for two major events, one good, one not so good. We celebrated our fifteenth birthday this year, which was good – and Howdy partner, Sharon, was diagnosed with Epilepsy, which is not so good, although she sometimes refers to it as Leprosy*, which would’ve been worse.

So, we’ve decided to clear out 15 years worth of junk, flog it on Ebay and donate the cash to the Epilepsy Society. This also gives you the opportunity to bag some unique gifts, like a 15 year old packet of quick drying cement, a nearly-complete roll of Police incident tape or a copy of Labour’s 1997 Manifesto (which we helped design).

boiler_suit_SOLD

Boiler suit, Large, used
The last time this was worn was 15 years ago by Neil, when we painted our studio and it’s never been washed! Ideal gift for someone who may wish to give the impression (to a new partner, for instance) of being a somewhat messy decorator or an abstract impressionist painter.
Sold for £14.50

creative_review SOLD

Set of 11 Creative Reviews from 2000, used
Design/Advertising journals including features on: Peter Saville, Designers’ Republic, Pentagram, Martin Parr and many more.
Sold for £2.99

Police_tape_SOLD

Roll of Police Incident tape, partially used
We acquired this for a Design Council, Design Against Crime project. Could be used for guaranteeing a parking space outside your house, or for reserving a spot on a crowded beach, for instance.
Sold for £1.45

Eurotape

Eurotape 500 metres
This is ‘The world’s best barrier tape bar none’. Handy if you have a large crowd to marshall, or a sink hole to cordon off.
Sadly this didn’t sell!

Quick set cement

Quick setting cement 2kg (nearly), opened
No idea why this is in the cupboard, but it’s an ideal gift for anyone who needs to repair any masonry surface – even underwater, according to the packet. Small amount used.
Amazingly this didn’t sell so contact us privately to negotiate a good price.

Don_McCullin_SOLD
‘Cold Heaven’ exhibition catalogue signed by Don McCullin
A catalogue for the exhibition of Don McCullin’s photographs of the AIDs crisis in Africa. Designed by Howdy and commissioned by Christian Aid.
Sold for £25.00

Labour_manifesto1997 Labour Party Manifesto
Bag this historic political document. Howdy partners, Neil and Sharon, were part of the team that produced this document at Millbank Tower in 1997.
Sold for £1.99 

cables

Cambridge Audio Atlantic interconnect cable
Whether you’re listening to Slade or Handel this Christmas, this interconnect will make your stereo sound fab.
Sold for £6.00

Door_closer_ribbon

Spring door closers, unused
As it says on the pack, this is ‘The best way to close any door’. Despite the deceptive name, it’ll close doors all year round too.
Sold for £5.51

Speaker_mounts

AVF Speaker Wall Mounts, boxed, unused
We can’t think of a more perfect gift for someone who needs to mount their speakers on the wall.
Sold for £7.55

printer_3

Epson Stylus Pro 4000 inkjet A2 printer
We bought this for producing high quality printed presentations. These days we tend to project from PDF files and as a consequence this printer has sat idle for the past 2-3 years resulting in clogged nozzles. These will need cleaning or replacing. It comes with a selection of paper rolls too.
Sold for £155.00

grip_seal1

100 Grip Seal bags, new
It’s gripped, it’s sorted, let’s off-road!
These remain unsold – anyone wanting any grip seal bags please get in touch – we have a lot!!!!

Bulbs

4 x 60w daylight simulation light bulbs
Ideal for confusing moths. (Not recommended for vampires or badgers.}
Relisted so you can still snap these up – bid here.

Singleweight_matt_paper

Unopened box Singleweight Matte printer paper
From back in the days when we ordered in bulk, yet more excess stock, no longer required given we’re selling the printer – see above.
Sold for £5.60

heat_lamp

Philips InfraPhil infrared heat lamp
Sore leg? Ingrowing toenail? Egg-bound? Buy this heat lamp – it’ll cure the lot.
Sold for £1.20

playing_cards

‘Greek lovers’ playing cards
Whist drive a little listless? Take inspiration from these pornographic playing cards and turn it into a full-blown Tuesday morning greek-style orgy.
Sold for £9.45

Maracas

Maracas
We’ve no idea where these came from, but we found them in a magazine holder. Great balance and rich tone. Ideal for beginner to intermediate level maracas players.
Sold for 99p

laptop

G4 Powerbook
Our trusty ten year old Powerbook. It’s a bit dented and the Apple key is wobbly, but it still works and comes with the original system installer disks and charger cable.
Sold for £39.89

Sales currently total: £449.31 (updated 4.30pm 5 January 2015)

Some people have very generously expressed an interest in making a donation to the Epilepsy Society without having to buy any of our old tat – hard to believe I know. Consequently we have set up a Just Giving page so please click here if you would like to make a donation.
Donations currently total: £200.00 (updated4.30pm 5 January 2015)

*An unexpected side effect of Sharon’s epilepsy is that she frequently mixes her words up, often to humorous effect.

World Cup wall charts

In 2010 we wrote a design critique of some of the World Cup wall charts that landed on our desks during the run up to the tournament – a total of eight. We thought we’d produce a 2014 version of this ‘popular’ blog piece, but unfortunately we’ve received a sum total of zero wall charts this year. We think this says something about the low expectations of the current England team’s chances. Have you noticed the lack of England flags on taxis and vans?

Anyway, we’ve been to the newsagents and researched online and have cobbled together a few wall charts that we mostly don’t like. Our random five from 2014 are:

The Telegraph World Cup wall chart ‘simulator’
As the title suggests, this isn’t exactly a wall chart, but just simulates one, although not well enough for it to be attachable to your wall. Apart from this major shortcoming it functions well, although we found it visually dull and unexciting. We reckon they would have made more effort if it had been the Polo World Cup.

Image

The Mirror
We think the designers have been influenced by a recent team-building exercise at a Delta Force Paintballing centre.

Image

The Times World Cup app
We noticed this on Creative Review’s blog, and thought it looked interesting, although again it’s not a wall chart (maybe it’s the future of wall charts?). Unfortunately we don’t subscribe to the The Times online, so we couldn’t see it to review it.
Image

Samuel Ladlow, from ‘The Drum’ wall chart competition
This was one of the entrants to an online design competition that we didn’t have time to enter. We like the big football shirt numbers, although Sir Neville’s England shirt numbers seem to have been overlooked. On close inspection it seems a bit impractical so probably wouldn’t have made it to our wall, even if we had a printed version.
Image

Andrew Fishleigh (as above)
We had a guess at what the brief for this one might have been: “In 2014 Brazil, a vibrant, booming country, will host the world’s biggest and most exciting sporting event. Can you design us a wall chart please, but make sure it looks like a survey from your local authority about parking provision and quality of waste and recycling amenities.”
Image

And our review from 2010…
Grafik
First on the doormat was the bright orange chart that arrived with Grafik magazine. Designed for beard-stroking typographers this one, printed with fluorescent and metallic inks, gloss varnishes and typeset in one size of a rather nice sans serif typeface. All very functional and minimal. And just a little bit joyless. I think I’d rather put a mortgage application form on my wall – at least it’d use less blu-tack. And we think it’s probably been designed by somebody who doesn’t really like football – a Manchester United fan most likely.

Image

Creative Review
Next up was the Creative Review chart. Not enough pictures of Didier Drogba and too many numbers on this one. For instance: If England win their group they go through to L16 50 26 06 19 30 and play the runner up of group D. If they win that game they play the winner of 49 in 58 on 02 07 19 30. We really couldn’t be bothered. Having said that, we quite like the pixelly patterned background.

Image

WineOneHundred
Just like most football fans I know, we’ve been having heated discussions at Howdy about which wines to drink while watching the games. So imagine our delight when the ‘Wine drinker’s guide to the World Cup’ arrived. We love the big Avant Garde Gothic numbers and the ‘Tree Free’ paper stock. Attractively, but impractically set out as a calendar, the copywriter has pulled out all the stops to match a wine to every game: “Group H, Spain v Chile – Abadia Retuerta Rîvola (£12.49) A wine almost as slick as the passing of Xavi, Iniesta and Fabregas.” Hmm, World Cup Lager drinker’s guide anyone?
Image

News of the World
The News of the World wall chart gives half of its space to that famous picture of World Cup winners’ hands grasping at the trophy. However, the hands have been retouched in the colours of various national flags which gives them the appearance of a pit of exotically coloured snakes fighting over a cornet. Strangely, this one seems to be the studio favourite.

Image

Daily Mirror
Tim found The Daily Mirror wall chart on the bus. It’s sponsored by Wii Resort and has an alternative Wii wall chart on the reverse so if we get knocked out at the group stage you can turn it over and fill in the result of the sword fight you had with your nan.

Image

Howdy celebrates 15 years

On 1 June 1999 Neil and Sharon launched Howdy.

During those 15 years we have had the pleasure of working with many great clients and staff and we would like to thank them all for their support. Throughout June we’re going to be showcasing some of the great work that we’ve produced during that time so we hope you’ll enjoy our nostalgic trip down memory lane and check out our daily updates.

Howdy

We moved into our freshly painted studio in Battersea and are still here today.

1999

Labour Party ARWorking on the Labour Party Centennial Report was particularly interesting as we researched and sourced all the archive material for inclusion in the report looking back over the past 100 years. We also directed a photoshoot with Tony Blair at Downing Street.

M&S ShowWe worked with Camron PR on the design and branding for the Marks & Spencer, ‘Time to Celebrate’ roadshow celebrating the millennium. The Show travelled to different stores around the country showcasing products as well as featuring catwalks, food demonstrations and workshops. We produced signage, brochures, carrier bags and promotional materials for the event.

2000

UIP_GuidelinesSo 2000 was upon us – the world hadn’t come to an end and our computers hadn’t ground to a halt – and we did the new corporate identity (as they were known in those days) and identity guidelines for the film company, United International Pictures, dragging their brutal dated 70’s logo into the noughties.

It was the dot com boom and we produced this identity for dig-it.co.uk, an online gardening company and implemented it across the website, marketing materials, ads, packaging and catalogues.

2001

CA_Annual-Report

We gave this Annual Report and Accounts for Christian Aid a magazine style showcasing the great pictures from their picture library.

Kalends_website

In 2001 Reuters launched Kalends, a service that provided notice of future events covering finance, sports, society, conferences and market/public holidays aimed at business customers. Howdy designed their website and office interiors, promotional materials including advertising and Christmas cards.

2002

We designed this press pack promoting the Design Council’s Design Against Crime campaign. A set of case study sheets were sent out in an ‘evidence’ bag. We directed the photoshoots for the project and the photographer even smashed his own car window for one shot. Now that’s dedication!

The prints for these Black & Decker seasonal press packs were made using grass, leaves and flowers from our own gardens.

2003Reuters

We designed this exhibition for the Reuters Journalist of the Year awards ceremony showcasing the finalists.

This brochure for Ulster Carpets was to promote their custom made carpet service.

2004

#2 001These materials promoting Reuters’ Formula 1 sponsorship were based on the layouts of each F1 circuit.

Vega_cardsThis ‘talking’ logo for VegaStream had a warm friendly feel to introduce VoIP to a wider consumer audience rather than just business users.

2005

Reuters-LiteratureWe redesigned the promotional literature for all Reuters products and produced extensive design guidelines and templates for implementation.

#8a 001We designed the identities for four Christian Aid Week campaigns from 2001-05. We implemented the designs across a wide range of materials in English and Welsh including posters, worship materials, information leaflets, collection envelopes and schools resources.

2006

howdy_folio 0188This identity for food and drink PR specialists, Phipps, used playful food references chosen by each member of staff on the reverse of business cards as headlines.

howdy_folio2 0002We produced this identity for GuildHE following a name change. They campaign for distinction and diversity in Higher Education.

2007

/Users/ranaldmac/Desktop/howdy_folio2/Output/.howdy_folio2 0011.tifA strong professional identity for executive search organisation, Hoggett Bowers.

OpiniumThis clean and simple identity for research company, Opinium, used a visual play on the periodic table reflecting their strapline, ‘the pure element of opinion’.

MitreThis trade catalogue for sports manufacturer, Mitre, focussed on grass roots sport and we directed the mood photography around that theme, as well as directing the product photography of over 300 boots, balls and accessories.

2008

howdy_folio 0152 UKCISA is the UK’s national advisory body serving the interests of international students and those who work with them. Our brief was to develop the logotype and branding to unify all publications and electronic media. We produced templates and guidelines so that all materials could be produced inhouse.

GA_GuidelinesWe first starting working with Green Alliance in 2008 and they are still a great client of ours today. One of the first projects that we did for them was to review and develop their identity and design guidelines developing a colour palette for each of their six work themes.

2009

IFF-LogoThis identity and branding project began with email and telephone research among IFF’s existing, lapsed and target clients, and staff workshops, to build a clear picture of IFF’s position within the marketplace and any barriers preventing their future growth. This formed the basis of the design brief.

wot_4We designed this book – Window On Teens (WoT) – for marketeers about teenagers based on extensive research conducted by Lowe Advertising. The pictures were all supplied by the teenage participants.

2010

CHPA LogoWe designed this identity and design guidelines for the trade association, Combined Heat and Power Association to help shift the name towards CHPA following a shift of membership to include other sustainable industry and district heating providers.

DUCO_clothingWe designed this identity for a range of site tools and anciliaries for the building and construction industry. The brief called for an identity that shouts ‘strong, tough and reliable’.

smitf_wall_3We produced the identity and brand guidelines for St Martin-in-the Fields church in Trafalgar Square. The logo was based on the story of St Martin cutting his red cloak in two and giving half to a poor beggar on a snowy night. The logo launched at a special service on St Martin’s day and featured a hymn specially written about the new brand. The identity received a Highly Commended in the Third Sector Excellence Awards beaten by our identity for the QNI featured below.

Qni_guidelinesThe Queen’s Nursing Institute is a charity dedicated to improving the nursing care of people within their own homes. They wanted a new modern and distinctive identity to  engage a wider audience beyond the nursing community following a shift in mission and focus. This won best brand in the Third Sector Excellence Awards.

lifehouse_bagThis droplet logo for Lifehouse – a spa in Thorpe-le-Soken, Essex – reflected both the beautiful gardens and lake as well as the significance of water within the spa. The droplets were then also used in a fun illustrative way throughout the signage and across the communications. Further examples of this can be seen on our website at http://www.howdy-pardners.com/portfolio_identity_lifehouse.php

2011

Marlborough clinicThis marketing campaign for the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust was to promote their sexual health clinic, primarily to a younger audience. It appeared on buses, bus stops, tube posters and in doctors surgeries.

LBF_1

We have been working with London Business Forum since 2003 designing a wide range of marketing materials for them promoting their business events. In 2011 we redesigned their website. You can see more examples of our work for LBF at http://www.howdy-pardners.com/portfolio_print_lbf.php

2012

Reform_book_1To celebrate their tenth birthday, the independent think tank, Reform produced this collection of essays. You can see more of our work for Reform at http://www.howdy-pardners.com/portfolio_print_reform.php

BIICL2We produced this identity for the independent legal research institute, British Institute for International and Comparative Law (BIICL), and associate organisation, Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law delivering design guidelines and templates for inhouse implementation across all print materials. We designed all templates for the website http://www.biicl.org/

2013

GA_UKsuccessstory_infoWe turn the raw data from Green Alliance research into infographics to help convey their research in a more immediate and engaging way. These work well both in printed form and online but are also extremely successful for use across social media.

2014

UCLH AppWe worked with UCLH NHS Foundation Trust to create a unified brand that was implemented across all their communications, including phone and tablet apps.

Five tips for writing a design brief

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It goes without saying that the first step to getting the right design solution is getting the brief right. Your designers can help you to write a design brief but the basic information that you need to provide is outlined in the five steps below.

  1. Outline your objectives clearly.
    Why are you commissioning this project? As with any marketing exercise you need to set clear goals outlining what you want to achieve. Typical examples might be to raise awareness, increase sales, reach a new audience, etc.
  2. Give as much background and supporting information as you can.
    No one understands your business as well as you do so make sure you tell your designers about it. Good designers will engage with your business and share your enthusiasm. Tell them about the culture and personality of the organisation as well as a factual overview. Share what’s good and bad, what is and isn’t working. Be honest. Recognising issues and addressing them is key to business success and design can help reflect changes and alter perceptions. Tell them about your competitors, industry and audience.
  3. Clearly state any specific requirements.
    What are the deliverables? Try to give a guide budget and timescales. If you have brand guidelines ensure that you supply them. If this needs to work alongside other marketing materials ensure that you show them.
  4. Don’t be overly prescriptive.
    Try to involve your designers as early as possible in the process before too many decisions have been made. They can recommend formats, distribution methods and production options that you may not have considered. Try not to influence the design solution too strongly with your own ideas at this stage. You’re paying designers for their creativity so don’t stifle them at the start of a project even if you have to rein ideas in at a later stage. This leads to more exciting and innovative design solutions.
  5. Supply any examples of designs that you like or think are effective.
    While you don’t want to copy what others are doing it’s a good starting point to see examples and get an indication of what you do and don’t like. If you have any examples of materials that you have produced previously it is important to show these – even if it’s to show what you want to change or feel isn’t working.

These are all discussion points to develop a dialogue between you and your designer and help them gain a deeper understanding of your organisation and create something that is unique and relevant to you and specific to your brief. The more information you can give the better the outcome.

Choosing the right design partner

Choosing the right design partner can be a daunting task. There are thousands of design groups out there of all sizes and abilities. Below are five simple tips to help avoid an expensive and disheartening mistake and help you find a company that you will enjoy working with and result in a successful design solution that answers your brief.

  1. Ask for recommendations.
    The easiest starting point is to ask friends and colleagues who they use. Also find examples of designs that you like (not only in your own sector) and find out who designed them. Feel free to ask any design group for references from clients too or ask if you can contact clients directly. Most companies will be happy to let you do this, assuming they have nothing to hide.
  2. Don’t choose someone just because they’ve done a lot of work in your sector.
    It often feels like the safe option to go for someone who has a lot of experience in your sector and therefore ‘specialises’ in that area. If you want something that is truly unique and specific to your brief and objectives it might be better to look elsewhere. You want to stand out rather than look like your competitors and a fresh perspective should offer a refreshing and tailored solution to your brief. With the right brief and a good designer you should get the right design solution. 
  3. Always meet face to face.
    In the digital age it’s all too easy to just communicate through email and phone, but when commissioning a design group for the first time it’s important that you meet in person. Personality plays a big role in design and you need to be sure that you choose someone you can happily work with, and that you feel understands the organisation and shares your enthusiasm for what the organisation does and is trying to achieve. A company website will give an overview of the culture and personality but make sure you meet the people you will actually be working with on your project as design requires a close working, two-way relationship. Always try to visit their workplace before making your final decision. 
  4. Consider the following key points; Personality, Experience, Quality, Culture, Size and, of course, Price.
    As covered above, personality is key. It’s all about a good working relationship.
    Experience speaks for itself – you don’t want someone learning on your job!
    Again – the quality of design and production is obvious right through from the ideas to the execution.
    Company culture and size is about finding someone that is the right fit for you. Make sure you feel confident that your job will be valued and nurtured and not take second place to bigger ‘more valuable’ clients. You’ll know if they feel right culturally – go with your gut instinct.
    Price is obvious – ensure that they can do the job well for your budget. Check there won’t be hidden extras and that their pricing is transparent and upfront.
  5. And finally – don’t get companies to free pitch.
    This is a contentious and much debated subject and we won’t go into a full blown rant about it here, except to say, that no one likes to work for free so what are the chances you’ll get a carefully considered, researched and well executed design solution that effectively answers your brief? Virtually nil. Agencies need to allocate time and resources to produce something that demonstrates their expertise and therefore be a useful guide for you to determine their suitability. You won’t get a carefully selected tailor-made team that’s right for your project – free work will be squeezed in between fee paying jobs and done by whoever is free to work on it. Most design groups refuse to free pitch but there are some who will, begrudgingly.

    If you really feel that you must get a hint of what you’ll get before committing then you can invite companies to take part in a paid pitch in which the unsuccessful companies are paid a nominal fee to cover time and expenses. Never invite more than three companies to take part and always ensure that you are only asking companies who have ticked all your other boxes first. Be very clear about what you want the companies to present to ensure that you are comparing like with like.

We hope that you found this useful and that it will help you find the right design partner with whom you can build a long and rewarding working relationship.