In the spotlight: New Moon Nursery

Ahh... The satisfying ping of a new enquiry dropping into your inbox.

Even more satisfying when the ‘Where did you hear about us?’ section says – ‘Internet Search.’ After giving our SEO guru a pat on the back, we responded to the enquiry and a routine discovery meeting was scheduled.

The initial brief was to produce a brochure for New Moon Nursery – a private day nursery based in Castleford. It was clear from the initial meeting how they wanted the business to be portrayed and our style guide was their existing website, which was aptly playful; featuring rockets, planets, stars and aliens.

We set to work on designing an initial concept, using the website as inspiration for the look. Having designed a variety of covers and a few internal spreads, we felt the initial concepts were ready to be presented, so we did just that.

Here is the initial concept we produced. Based on the existing website, we made sure it was consistent, engaging and relevant to help strengthen the Nursery's brand in a rather competitive local market.

As a designer, it’s always a nerve-wracking wait to have your work approved by a client, especially when it’s something you’re personally rather pleased with.

Ooh… That ping again, feedback had arrived in the inbox.

Though the concept reflected the current website, it had prompted a change in how they actually wanted the business to be portrayed. A more simplistic, modern approach was now on the agenda, along with the realisation that perhaps the Nursery had reached a point where a complete overhaul of the branding and website were also required.

Over the last few of months of 2018, we worked closely with them to redevelop their brand identity, rebuild the website, and of course finish the brochure that this journey was triggered by.

The final logo was a development of various concepts combined, giving a fresh new identity to the Nursery as they move into their 10th year in business.

Now that the new identity was approved, we could make a fresh start on the brochure. The final brochure couldn’t be further from the initial concept and previous website. Though that is the case we can rest assured that the Nursery have received final products that they are truly happy with and will stand the test of time.

The redevelopment of the website was next on the agenda. Keeping consistent with the Nursery’s new identity, we produced a new site which was approved and ready to go live for New Moon’s big relaunch in January 2019.

They now have a fresh and consistent image that is helping them to stand out from other nurseries, whilst showing how they work to create a supportive and trusted environment for young children. They are already receiving positive feedback from parents and within a week of the site being launched they saw an increase in enquiries and online interest.

Visit the site here: www.newmoonnurseries.co.uk

The Cutting Room Floor

No project is complete without the concepts and ideas that didn’t quite make the cut. We like to produce a good variety of concepts to ensure the client gets a final outcome that is right for the client.

Here is a selection of the logo ideas that paved the way to the final outcome.


Dyslexia & Creativity

“According to The Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity, up to 20% of the world’s population could be struggling with dyslexia”

That was a quote that caught my eye and to be honest I was astounded. We were told that my son had Dyslexic tendencies a few years ago, nothing major but it does mean that it takes a lot of effort for him to read, especially long paragraphs and he loses interest pretty quickly.

Dyslexia takes many forms but the idea that sufferers see words as an incomprehensible jumble of letters isn’t necessarily true and quite often it is more a case of the brain taking a little longer to change what it sees into sounds. For some people it can be numbers that are a struggle, but where there is a negative there is always a positive to balance it and dyslexics are proven to become some of the best entrepreneurs and engineers in the world. Dyslexia doesn’t mean you’re “thick” or “disabled” (two words that will get me shot down by the P.C. Police for using.) it just means your brain works in a different way and is better suited to other things. Albert Einstein (Legendary Theoretical Physicist), Richard Branson (Founder of Virgin) and Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock (Space Scientist) are just a few.

So, how does this fit in with web and graphic design.  Well, If I said to you lets reduce the number of people who read your website or brochure by 20%, how would you feel? That’s a pretty big chunk of potential customers that you are missing out o

So, what areas should we put some extra thought into to help people who may be struggling with our designs.

Typography

This is probably a good starting point as it can have the greatest positive impact for dyslexic users!

Research shows that the “hook” part of serif fonts can makes them difficult to read, so it’s wise to go for san-serif where possible, but what if you are forced to use a serif font because of your existing brand guidelines. Well, all is not lost as reducing the spacing between letters and increasing the spacing between words is shown to help.

It may also be worth considering dyslexic specific fonts which can be found at OpenDyslexic and Dyslexie .

Whatever font you are using it is wise to avoid italics and underlining, instead use bold to emphasise text.

Don't get hooked on Serif fonts

Layout

Keeping your content simple and not too wordy is always a good idea and particularly in this instance. Long sentences and text that spans across the page are not easy for anyone to read, so keep your columns to a maximum of 80 characters wide. Also, avoiding high contrast colours is helpful to all of us, especially if you spend your day in front of a screen. Using an off-white screen background can help and maybe a dark grey font instead of hard black.

Keep it simple.

Tools

You can give users an element of control by providing them with readability tools. There are a variety of simple tools available that let users adjust font size, line height, and even mask certain areas of the screen.

For users who really struggle with reading, a text-to-audio option could also be beneficial. This can be one with an automated tool, or by providing an audio clip of someone reading the text areas in full.

Navigation

Finally, keep your navigation simple and always allow your users to find their way back to the homepage from wherever they are on your site. Again, it’s just good practice.

If you want to find out more about dyslexia the British Dyslexia Association is a good starting point…

“Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.

- Albert Einstein (Dyslexic)


Change is inevitable

Change is inevitable

Rebranding is a big step for any business. You risk losing the identity you’ve worked so hard to build, and the only way to know if it’s a success or not is to release it into the snake pit that is planet earth.

We all saw Leeds United’s horror show and the endless memes that followed. What about the time when Animal Planet removed the animal and the planet from their logo and seemingly tranquillised the ‘M’ in the process.

Here’s one major rebrand that I have personally struggled to grasp.

I was born in 1993, the same year Formula 1 introduced this logo.

I used to watch Formula 1 every Sunday with my Grandad. The logo meant absolutely nothing to me, I was so engrossed in the action (and busy eating my Sunday dinner), I don’t think I ever really gave the logo a second thought… not consciously at least.

As I grew up and my career in design started to take shape, I began to pay more attention to the finer detail that design had to offer. The hidden bear in the Toblerone logo and the ‘secret’ arrow in FedEx, I’d started to appreciate the way things were done and the reasons behind them, and I’d paid closer attention to the F1 logo than I had initially thought.

Fast forward to a really cold, dark, miserable day in 2017… I was scrolling down my Twitter feed when I saw it…

I was gutted.

I don’t know if it was because there would be an unrecognisable new icon in the bottom corner of my TV screen every weekend, or the fact I could no longer inform people of the ‘1’ that had lived in the negative space for the past 24 years. Either way this was an unwelcome change of identity for me.

A brand new mission statement was revealed; ‘Formula One also unveiled its mission statement with five key behaviours – revel in the racing; make the spectacle more spectacular; break down borders; taste the oil and feel the blood boil.

It was said that the change represented a new era in the sport. The logo would be ‘easier to work with,’ ‘widen the appeal of the sport’ and ‘lead it into a digital future.’

As expected when a large brand changes their image, there was a bit of backlash online about the ‘overly simple,’ and ‘rushed’ look of the design. The old saying, ‘If it’s not broke, don’t fix it’ was sprayed around like champagne on the podium.

For me, it’s hard to argue with the reasons behind the change, but the new identity doesn’t have the same appeal to me as the previous one did. It’s not even that I dislike the new design, it’s just not the identity that I’ve always known, and it’ll take some getting used to.

I suppose what we can take from this is that you can’t please everyone. Change is inevitable, and design is subjective. Not everyone is going to love everything that you create, but if you have a strong enough reason to believe it is the right thing to do; Just Do It. (Thanks Nike).

Does anyone know how Lewis Hamilton is getting on? I’ve only watched one race since the new era was unleashed.*

 

 

 

*Lack of viewing may not necessarily be directly linked to the new identity, I just needed a dramatic end to my first blog.



No such thing as a free lunch!

No such thing as a free lunch!

No such thing as a free lunch, well that’s not necessarily true as was demonstrated the other day. In fact it was free training and a free lunch.

I’d taken the opportunity to attend a day long seminar entitled “Getting to grips with Google”. It was yet another event in a long list that have been run by innovative business support programme, Digital Enterprise – under their Digital Knowledge Exchange umbrella. The programme is funded by the European Union (European Union Regional Development Fund), Leeds City Region Local Enterprise Partnership and the nine local Councils, which make up the Leeds City Region.

Buckets full of Google info..

Image courtesy of Digital Knowledge Exchange.

Empower your Customers.

As a business we are very much about empowerment. We work closely with our clients to understand their businesses, their aims and build them solutions that increase their revenue and grow their presence in the market place. We also get them as involved as possible with their digital presence, after all it is a tool for their business and something that benefits their business as part of their marketing and sales strategy. To this end we would encourage any business owner/manager to look at some of the offering from Digital Enterprise as we do our own clients.

Empowerment is about getting your clients to buy in to what you do.

Missed opportunities.

In my opinion, not enough businesses are making use of initiatives such as this to make sure that they are getting the most from digital technologies.  First of all you need to check if you are a qualifying business, but in a nutshell you need to be an SME who meets the following criteria:

  • Businesses based in the Leeds City Region
  • Employing fewer than 250 employees
  • With turnover below €50 million p/a (approximately £43 million)
  • With a balance sheet total below €43 million (approximately £37 million), and
  • Firms which have received less than €200k (£185,000) of State Aid in the last 3 years

It’s easy enough to do and takes only a minute or two. If you qualify, then you are open to benefiting from some of the following

  • A Digital Growth Voucher – a hugely popular grant worth between £2-10,000 to help eligible businesses who operate in a business to business (B2B) environment to invest in digital technology to achieve business growth and digital transformation –see here for more details.. The next phase of this scheme will open in October 2018.
  • A Connectivity Voucher – to help eligible businesses to upgrade their digital connection – worth between £500 to £1,000 – see here for more info.
  • Free to attend workshops, masterclasses, digital conferences, mentoring support and digital audits via their Digital Knowledge Exchange service – see here for more info.

Don't miss the bus.

Anyway, back to that free lunch.

Anyway, back to the free lunch. More specifically the access to knowledge days through the Digital Knowledge Exchange, opens up a raft of seminars presented by experts in a number of fields. At this particular event we had the pleasure of listening to the Digital Knowledge Exchange legend that is Pascal Fintoni. Starting with a review of Google plans for the future followed by hand fulls of tips on Google products and online marketing this proved that these events are a no brainer when it comes to extending your knowledge of the online world.

If you are an in house marketing manager, owner or manager, these events are invaluable for you. Or if you are in online marketing or Website Design & Build, why not encourage your clients to go along. They will either come back more knowledgeable, more appreciative of the work you do or with a long list of things for them and you to do. Either way it is a win win situation.

A dedicated team.

Finally, the Digital Knowledge Exchange Team are a dream to work with. Your success is their success, so get yourself and your clients involved and don’t miss out on this Free Lunch. In fact have a look at their menu  of events that will whet your appetite.

“Ain't no such thing as a free lunch"

- Milton Friedman


Coffee and Catalogue

Brand Identity, the face of your business.

“Can you write me a blog about branding?”

“Sure”, I said. You know when you have to write something to order and all you are really doing is staring in to the bottom of your second cup of coffee and thinking about the third. That’s just where I am at the moment. I’ve even opened the post in an attempt to find distraction.

Just a moment, the kettle’s boiled…..

Amongst the post there is a clothing catalogue. Not your 2 inch thick Next Directory, but 124 pages of very well designed and presented catalogue containing slightly off the norm clothing, not outrageously odd, but refreshingly different. The thing is that a few years ago, or maybe a few years more than that, I visited this company in one of the less fashionable areas of Leeds. It was little more than a back-street warehouse on a not very nice back street and they were selling very nice clothes over the internet, very successfully and probably many years ahead of their time. This is back in the day when I built IT systems and I can’t claim any influence in the success they have had since then.

A brand should reflect the quality of the product and not the warehouse or offices where they are shipped from.

Cardboard Boxes

The point is that if you were to visit them at their office come distribution centre and see cardboard boxes full of clothes ready to be shipped the length and breadth of the country, you would be less likely to buy from them than if you were to look at the well-presented, fashionable, high quality clothing which has a well-known household brand attached to it. A brand that reflects the quality of the product and not the warehouse or offices where they are shipped from.

Now there is nothing wrong with a sparkling Brand Identity standing between your clients and the harsh, unromantic reality of product distribution or manufacturing.

Its not about the box, but what's in it.

So, what does this strong brand identity provide?

OK, before we answer the question, let’s get one thing straight. There is a very big difference between Brand Identity and a Brand.

Your Brand Identity is the set of rules which specify how you present yourself to your customers. It encapsulates your core values and why your customers or clients would want to purchase your products or services. This is something that we specialise in and you can find out more on our Brand Identity page.

Back to our original question as to what a strong Brand Identity provides:

  • A strong brand identity can improve your brands perceived equity – how much you’re able to charge for you product.
  • Branding creates an emotional attachment between the customer and your product or service.
  • Strong Brand Identity unites & motivates employees making loyal, productive employees.

To strengthen you Brand Identity you need to consider the following:

  • Create a Brand Strategy – Creating a strategy can be the most effective way to strengthen your Brand Identity.
  • Integrate all your communications so they are in line with your Brand Identity.
  • Ensure that all your marketing communication is consistently applied using your logo, colour pallet, typography, website, photography and use of language.
  • Don’t forget to communicate your message to your employees. Not only will this help to motivate them but will also ensure a consistent message.

A strong brand identity can improve your brands perceived equity – how much you’re able to charge for you product.

The much desired Holy Grail.

Get all this right and you will create a Brand. That much desired Holy Grail where your customers become evangelists for your products and services. Remember a Brand can be influenced by you but created by your clients and customers, more importantly it is how they feel about you and your products. It’s what makes them loyally return for the latest version or renew their contract, but most importantly they become Brand advocates.

Now should I go for the 4th coffee…. That may be a step too far even for me. Although, I may order that shirt.

“The key is to set realistic customer expectations, and then not to just meet them, but to exceed them — preferably in unexpected and helpful ways.”

– Richard Branson


Like going back in time!

Like stepping back in time.

I’m full of cold, well it’s actually man flu. Today will be a work from home day. That was the plan until 9:30 when the electricity went off, but it will be back by 11:30 according to Powergrid.

We live out in the sticks but not the ends of the earth. Half a mile to an A road and 2 miles to the nearest shop. The broadband speed isn’t up to much and the phone signal could be better but, like I say, it’s not the ends of the earth.

It’s now half past one and very quiet, not even the sound of the fridge compressor keeping the milk cold. A few emails drop in to my phone as it picks up a 4G signal when the wind is in the right direction. I’ve made the odd crackly phone call and received the odd text including another from Powergrid saying that everything will be sorted by 15:30, but they said the same about 11:30.

Making a cup of coffee like you used to do when you went camping as a kid.

Time for Coffee.

It’s time to boil a pan of water on the gas stove, which fortunately still works, although I do have to light it with a match. It’s a bad day when the height of entertainment is making a cup of coffee like you used to do when you went camping as a kid.

We spend a lot of time interconnecting our technologies these days. Websites, social media, data and apps in the cloud, 99.999% uptime, server availability and resilience. Getting your targeted message to your target audience, wherever they are at any time of the day or night. Billions of pounds, dollars and other currencies are invested in making this all happen, in our here and now world. But not for me, not today.

An old fashioned book full of new ideas.

Back to basics...

I’ve written this blog with a pen in my notebook, which is a bit of a contradiction in terms and certainly a bit old school, but my laptop went flat hours ago. So instead of me clicking a button and this text being whisked into cyber space for you to be able to read in a few seconds from now, you’ll just have to wait until I get chance to type it up and post it. You see printed material still has its place and we can help you design it.

Till then best wishes from a relaxed 1972, North Yorkshire. (Flares not compulsory)

“No man is rich enough to buy back his past.”

- Oscar Wilde


Coffee & Juice - information overload

Information Overload, Croissants and Coffee

Sitting in a French Hotel

I’m drinking my morning coffee and checking my email. There is a recommended publication email from Amazon. It’s all about creating brand identity, something we work on almost every day. So why is this of interest? Is it just more Information Overload?

I click the link and order it on Amazon Prime. It will be on my desk by tomorrow although I’m on my way to the Alps for a two week holiday with family. The world is small and everything moves so fast these days.  I’ve got a 700km drive ahead of me and plenty of time to think while the family is in the car alongside me, watching their personal choice of movie on laptops and iPads or listening to music on phones or reading books on kindles. I’m listening to a podcast and of course the satnav as we head south through France.

There is nothing better than sitting down and learning something new that you can then pass on or help somebody with!

Time to reflect.

700km to ponder the fact that we are so readily surrounded by information, either digital or physical. So, how much do we actually take in or effectively use. Until maybe the last 20 or 30 years things have changed relatively sedately, probably due to the physical nature of the world but now in the digital age things change in an instant. The burning question is, are you keeping up?

I spent a large proportion of my career in the IT industry and I can tell you it doesn’t move much faster than that. Those work ethics are something that I carry on to this day and try to instil in the team at Visible Thoughts. Whether we are studying for NVQ’s, Google exams or reading a new book about something we already know about we are always on the hunt for new information, techniques, trends and ideas that allow us to create the best for our clients.

An old fashioned book full of new ideas.

In essence...

It’s over a week until I get my new book but in the meantime I’ve got some articles on SEO to read! After all, there is always an opportunity to learn and an opportunity to be able to give even more to your clients.

"I don’t think much of a man who is not wiser today than he was yesterday."

- Abraham Lincoln


Should your business look like your website?

Now don’t get me wrong

We have been working with a couple of clients on their branding over the last few weeks and both have a strange link. Both have had their brand dictated by their website or more accurately their web designer. Now don’t get me wrong, we work with some great web designers but the thing about them is that they recognise that their websites are built around a well designed, well defined brand identity that is created by a brand identity specialist to capture the uniqueness of their clients. And that’s all before they start building your shiny high performance website.

Your Brand Identity is about you and how you are different or unique compared to the others in your particular market place.

Time to reflect.

Let’s reflect on this as a concept – you have your £1 million house and decide that you need some more space for the important things in life like your full size snooker table, Olympic swimming pool, IMAX Home Cinema and garage space for 12 supercars (it is a concept). Do you go to a builder to design your extension or an Architect who will talk to you about your lifestyle, how you will use your extension and look at all the aspects of planning regulations. Who will then design you a specific layout that meets all your needs. In our industry, we are the Architects where the Web Developer is the Builder.

We spend a lot of time with our clients to find out about them and what they do.

Time well spent..

We spend a lot of time with our clients to find out about them and what they do, what makes them unique and what we need to portray to their clients. This allows us to build the extensive rules that dictate how they should appear to both their internal and external customers in order to capture that uniqueness. That “them” is then applied to every aspect of their business from printed material, workwear, printed media, advertising and yes their website.

So now we are in the situation where the web developer is able to represent the “them” effectively. Rather than them having a blue logo because the developers favourite WordPress theme defaults to a particular shade of blue or the logo is this shape because it fits nicely into a Facebook profile picture.

"If people believe they share values with a company, they will stay loyal to the brand"

— Howard Schultz, Executive Chairman of Starbucks

Building a Brand Identity.

Building a Brand Identity needs an investment both in money and time but it is the foundations of your business and how people perceive it. People talk about having a brand and ultimately this is what we all desire. Your Brand Identity sets out the rules of how you are depicted but the Brand comes from the way your customers and the public perceive you, the feelings they have towards you and how they expect to be treated by you. The question is do you want the way people feel about you to be based on a random website design or on a quality Brand Identity that defines what you stand for?

While we are answering questions lets go back to the original one – should your business look like your website? No, your website should look like your business. Don’t put the cart before the Horse. Speak to us and we will help you get things done in the right order and maximise what your business stands for. Remember you only get one chance at a first impression… don’t blow it!


Corporate Brand Names

Naming your business is like naming your Child!

Choosing a name for your Company?

It’s like choosing a name for your child. It is that important that you have to get it right.

You will brainstorm a whole list of possibilities with people around you, probably putting some very unlikely words together. You will start to notice what others have named their businesses.

The first thing to consider when thinking about a business name, is to consider your vision, values and passions. Your business name should reflect these.

What do you want to be known for?

  • What is your vision?
  • What are your values? Maybe it is your expertise,
  • affordability, quality or type of materials that you use, fun, handmade etc.
  • What are you passionate about?

Write down a list of descriptive words to do with your vision, values and passions. By working with these words, you will discover a business name that best fits you.

Think about brands that you really like. For me, they include Apple, Boost, Virgin. Also think about brands that don’t work so well for you.

It is that important that you have to get it right!

When you've decided.

When you finally decide on the right name, you will need to do a quick check:-

  • Is it easy to spell and pronounce. Avoid quirky spellings such as Innov8;
  • Is it easy to remember. You need to make it as easy as possible for people to find you online;
  • Is it future proof? Just like choosing a name for your child, consider how it will sound in 20 years time;
  • Is the name still available? Check Companies House. Your trading name can always be different to the registered company name if it has already been used;
  • Check if the domain name exists;
  • Check out the competition – who is already using this name?

Once you have your name. Test it out on friends and business contacts, but be thick skinned! Many of them will love it and many will hate it, but that doesn’t make it wrong. Your business name will be your unique choice based on how you see yourself and your company.

Now the fun begins with designing your logo – good luck and enjoy!

 


Hot Chocolate and Coffee

What's with all the coffee pictures?

Finding what makes you unique.

Here we are with our new website and the first blog I’m writing is not about Graphic Design, it’s not about Marketing and it’s not even about business growth – oh no, it’s about coffee! More specifically it is about the coffee related images that pop-up around our website.

Special places and special events usually involve sitting down and enjoying coffee in good company.

- Pierre Blanch, Les Coches, Paradaski, French Alps.

Uniqueness

This uniqueness and character is something we look for in our clients. We spend a lot of time chatting, especially with new clients, to find out what makes them different. More often than not this is over a cup of coffee, tea or anything else that you as an individual prefer.

We are all inherently different and unique but society dictates that we should all conform to the norm. We should follow trends and fashions. We should all buy from a pool of identical items which are mass produced, keeping productivity costs to a minimum and if they are “fashionable” will become financially lucrative. However if you take the time to look at people, businesses and products and truly look closely without prejudice or preconceived ideas you will find that they are truly unique. And, by definition, if you are unique you stand out from the crowd and if you stand out from the crowd you are more likely to attract attention from prospective customers. You don’t need to be loud and whacky or anything amazingly different, just different. This search for uniqueness in our clients is what in turn makes us unique as an agency. After all the work we do with you should be about you and for your benefit

Even a bike ride is a chance to enjoy time and a coffee with friends.

— Nostell Priory

What about the pictures!

So what about the pictures! Well, we like coffee and more often than not when we go somewhere and do something we stop for our favourite drink. The pictures, well they are of cups of coffee in places we have been while doing things we have enjoyed. So every cup is tied to a memory that we want to keep. To the casual viewer it’s a cup of coffee in a random picture but to us it’s the cup of coffee we had at the end of a great days skiing with the family in the French Alps. To us they are unique experiences but to the casual observer they are pictures of cups of coffee on a mountainside.

It may be a strange idea but to us it’s a unique way of remembering the things we have done and the places we have been with friends and family. Maybe we are a little odd or maybe just a little unique!