Professional design isn’t just about design skills. It’s about understanding the unique values a product or service brings to its market, and then having the skills to communicate that message powerfully.
Sure, your cousin studying design in college could give you a piece that looks good. But looks good to whom? And to what end? The real ROI from professional design comes not in the look of a piece (although that’s important) but in the depth of thought and experience that goes into building a piece that works, AND looks good.
When Asenka takes on a project, we spend a lot of time in behind-the-scenes research before ever beginning the design process. This allows us to make intelligent design decisions, not just educated choices.
Rest assured that we’ll talk you through these decisions. For example, you might not like pink, and that’s fine. But pink can play a potent role in design. It catches the eye and speaks of things feminine and romantic without getting caught up in the potentially dangerous sensuality of red. If your message involves communicating romance to female customers, you’d be crippling your brand by refusing to use pink just because you don’t like it.
It’s called design with intention, and that’s what we do.
Or rather, “How do we work together?” We understand that working with an organization such as ours for the first time often prompts a few questions. Sometimes more than a few concerns, too. How much will it cost? How successful will we be in interpreting your needs? How can we do it most effectively? How can we do it most efficiently? Here are a few answers.
Like many service organizations, we base our invoices on the time we invest in a project. Currently, we bill our time at $150 per hour, roughly 15% under what other firms of our quality and experience charge. Project costs range from a low of around a thousand dollars up to tens of thousands, based on scope and budget. We provide a detailed proposal and estimate for approval before starting, and we always adhere to our estimates unless project specifications change.
Laying the Foundation
After being assigned a project, the first thing we do is to schedule an information-gathering meeting between our creative team and your key staff. We are interested not only in scheduling, budget and job specifications, but we will also be gathering key information about your company and the competitive landscape (see Groundwork). Although this process can be somewhat time-consuming (we don’t like meetings any more than you do), it is also crucially important. It will help you sharpen your focus and objectives, and it will help ensure that what we produce is not only creatively excellent, but strategically targeted.
Developing the Right Ideas
Despite popular misconceptions, good creative work doesn’t often come in a flash of inspiration; usually it comes from lots of trial and error and even staring out the window. This is why we take the time to consider several approaches (concepts), work them through, and try them out. Then we revise them. This means that we’ll normally ask for up to two weeks, depending on the job’s complexity, before we submit our rough concepts for your review. Of course, if you have a rush project or deadline pressure, we will adjust our workflow and timing accordingly.
In our experience, it’s best if we present our initial rough concepts to your project manager and just one or two others. This ensures that we all stay focused on the challenge and are not distracted by too many personal opinions. These can take place in person or remotely. We try to convey what we believe is the best approach to take, while considering your budget, schedule, objectives, and preferences. Yet, presentation is not so well-developed as to have wasted time and effort if we decide to refine our message or strategy.
After presenting, we’ll ask for comments. The more objective and specific you can be, the better we will be able to respond. Revision normally takes about a week, and we schedule a second remote presentation shortly thereafter. From there, we make any minor tweaks and finalize the timetable.
Ensuring Your Satisfaction
We recommend the finished layout be routed to the appropriate decision makers for fact and detail checking only, reserving stylistic and subjective decisions to your project manager. To avoid costly confusion and delay, it is also important that all communication with us comes from the project manager.
During the course of the project, we keep your project manager informed of our progress. Activities that will affect the schedule or budget will be identified in writing. Our goal is to keep your project moving ahead quickly, smoothly, and cost-effectively.
The purpose of our first meeting is to get to know you and to gather the information we need in order to begin intelligently and strategically building your brand. To get you started, here is a list of things we’ll be talking about. You may not have all this information at your disposal, which is OK. Take a look and start thinking or jotting down notes about the following areas of your business. Use our MarketProfiler and BrandProfiler documents to jump start the process.
This should be needs-focused. The most common mistake people make in defining their market is to focus on what they make or offer, as opposed to the NEED which is met by their product or service. As an example, let’s say your company makes vertical blinds. You might be tempted to say you are in the vertical blind market. However, your customer has several options when they go to cover their windows: cell shades, curtains, Venetian blinds, etc. Saying you’re in the vertical blind market is far too limiting. You are in the window covering market. Now you’re looking at your business the way a customer does (based on the need it fills), you can clearly identify customer needs, as well as better position yourself against your competition.
Define Target Audience
After identifying your market, try to understand what exactly you bring to that market and why people want what you have to offer. Now, describe the “perfect client.” This won’t be the only person you attract, but it is the person you most want buying from you. Next, narrow it down, as being too broad is a mistake. Your message loses impact when it’s spoken to too wide an audience, and the result is that you become lost in the crowd. You may have identified several key markets, but be sure there’s a real business need before you consider spreading your message.
Define Core Functionality (Core Benefits)
Simply stated: What do you do? This is the tangible product or service that you sell, in addition to any emotional or status/lifestyle benefits that someone might experience from owning your product or using your service.
Unique Selling Proposition
The key here is to find some place where you are different, and make sure you can OWN it. Make sure nobody else is in that space. This is not your only marketing message, but it is the UNIQUE one. It is purely a marketing tool. Maybe it’s your customer service (though that’s hardly unique anymore), some kind of cash perk, or a satisfaction guarantee. Maybe you use a proprietary technology that’s safer on the environment. Anything that’s perceived as valuable … and that no one else is doing.
The easiest way to do this is to picture your company as one person. Encapsulate everything your company is “about” into an imaginary person. Then describe that person. Write down what they look like, how they dress, what kind of car they drive, what their vocabulary is like. How about hobbies? What do they do in their spare time? Where do they eat dinner? Everything you can think of, write it down. We’ve created a form to help you along in this process.
Think of this step as part 2 of the personality. These are the values that drive the behavior and personality of the company. Does your company (imaginary person) value security, power, truth, intelligence, popularity? Write down as many descriptive words as you can.
Competitive Research (top 5)
You know who they are. Your life would be a whole lot easier if these top 5 companies weren’t around. If you don’t know who they are, find out. What we’re looking for here is a brief description of each company – strengths and weaknesses. Then do the same for yourself, also including strengths and weaknesses. Don’t worry, we’ll only talk about your strengths. And we always position you based on your unmatched strengths.