Lizzie Everard Design Blog

Monday, 16 March 2015

_benefits of good design



The time has come. After working long and hard to start your business, after taking a brave leap to realise this new dream, devoting months, possibly years, to polish raw thought into clear shape, you know your new business venture really deserves to look its best when you launch into a world that badly needs it. 

You know good design and a strong brand is important for getting your message across, but can you put your finger on why? 

To give you something to hang on to, here are my five top reasons good design will set you apart.


1. Good Style

It is so important to present your business in a way you know is true to you and your mission. Your good visual style begins here, to match your good thinking, smart thinking, with appealing character – all characterised in your visual communication. 

Style is about character and personality. Fashion is about fad and trend. They are not the same. 

Done well, good design style always transfers beautifully across all materials you use in the day to day of your business. Business cards and web banners are just the tip of the iceberg, but good style can come through on anything you use to communicate with your audience because it's based on something true that comes from the heart. And it also has flexibility to adapt – so basically, your perfect capsule wardrobe that goes to work in all sorts of scenarios. 

Paying attention to good design means you always show up in really good—and appropriate—style, because you know yourself, and you know your audience. 


2. It’s about Personality

A well-thought-through approach to your design and visual communication gives you plenty of scope for getting your personality across. Good design should give the world a sense of you and what you stand for, so whether someone has a quick glance at your business card or a longer read through an eBook or slideshare, they get a feel for the type of character and attitude inherent in your business. 


3. Coherent Communications

I'll say it again. Good brand design should be transferrable across many platforms and materials. I’ve mentioned web and business cards, and consider too – proposals, blog illustrations, training material, the book you’re writing. These can all work really well for you with a strategic approach to the design. What about the signage at that annual ideas camp you're dreaming about hosting, or the campervan-freindly stickers you want to give out

Think about the stretch – how far will your company reach?

The folk at DO have a very simple approach, but they do it so well. And I like Pie Minister too (obviously). You can always spot both of these a mile off, whether a bookshelf at ten paces, or food-stall banner at a busy festival. 

Coherent design plans mean all elements clearly live in the same visual family. Not to say they all look identical – different formats are used for different reasons, but it’s important they all work together. 

Your audience should always know they are looking at your stuff. 


4. It Helps People Believe You

Done well, consistently, and over time, good design helps people to believe you – your message, your passion, your integrity and conviction, and commitment to making the world a better place. It's consistent with the key principles of good content marketing, which says wherever you speak, whenever you speak, do so in a consistent voice.

Of course, there are many more things that go into the mix, but without good design woven all the way through, well, it’s like buying a campervan and only using it for the school run.

Benefiting you and your message, and helping your audience know what to expect from you, good design really does set you apart and give you distinction by communicating in the voice only you have. 

Good design can be a mark of integrity.


And finally,


5. More than words

Sometimes an idea is so much more powerful seen visually, with a great image or some cracking typography.

Think of a painting or image you’ve seen that made an instant impression, held you glued, gazing, with no verbal explanation necessary.

I have a little fridge magnet on the radiator next to my desk, bought at the National Portrait Gallery during their Lucian Freud exhibition a few years ago. What he'd make of a fridge magnet I don't know, but I love the quote:

“What do I ask of a painting? I ask it to astonish, disturb, seduce, convince.”

Visual communication can do these things for us too, if done well. 


So that's it. Hold on to these five gems, they'll help you make good decisions as you grow your company's design.



***
If you've found this post helpful, you may also be interested in these articles: 

• My friends over at Valuable Content flesh out some of my suggestions with super-practical advice
• And in more detail, here is Newflangled with some Content styling tips

Friday, 13 February 2015

_navigating a 'creative process'



Day 9 & 10 of #100Days project – Carol Ann Dufy & D.H.Lawrence


Anyone setting foot on the path of creating—making, inventing, imagining, developing—is saying 'yes' to the so-called creative process*. Inevitably, there will be mess, confusion, both silence and noise, and probably fear too.

You are a brave and adventurous soul, agreeing to this slightly frightening mystery, so how best to hang in when the above recipe seems too sticky to stir and you just need to get something done because you're up against budget and deadline?

I don't think it's complicated.

I do think it's about courage, and faith, and accepting the mystery for a while, and just getting better at recognising what's going on when you hit those sticky points.

Simply:

Courage
In having the initial idea, there is something happening inside telling you that this thing could work. The sub-concious knows it, and is trying to get a message through to your cognitive, rational mind.


Have courage that there is sense in your hunch, and put that first step on the road. 

Faith
You have tools at your disposal to throw at this conundrum. You have gathered those through hours—years—of practice, so have a little faith that the practical tools in your kit are there because they work. Pick them up. Have a play. (What are those tools for you, by the way?)

Have faith that your tools serve a really useful purpose, and just pick them up! 

Mystery
Making ourselves accountable to journeys in which we have no idea what the outcome will be, it is all of the above (fear, mess etc) but it is also—in and of itself—a fantastic fact of life, and the better we can become at life, well, who's not up for that?

I've been really inspired by a recent interview with artist Ella Luna on The Great Discontent. "What could you do with 100 days of making?" she asks. It's a project she's running for MoMA, inviting anyone to pick up a habit over 100 days, tweeting or posting on Instagram with the hashtag #100Days.

I have lots of ideas and couldn't wait for the start date so just got on with my own version, without knowing what I expected out of it except a hunch that something new wanted to emerge. Absolutely miles out of my comfort zone here! My plan simply revolves around writing something positive everyday, and picturing that somehow. I post on twitter, Instagram and my Tumblr page, and to friends on Facebook, labelling the day number and some brief thoughts.

Now, ten days in, I realise what I've committed to – it's a big, fat, juicy mystery. That's it! But because I have faith and courage on my side, I reckon it's worth putting one foot in front of the other on this mysterious path, knowing that all those steps along the way are going to take me somewhere.

Sharing each step so publicly can throw up raw and vulnerable feelings, no doubt. But it's a kind of accountability, to myself, to my friends, communities. It is frightening; revealing.

But the mystery of a project unfolding is also exciting, surprising, and delightful, and that's what to keep pursuing in tiny, incremental little steps.  

So how about you? What's your project, or dream, or adventure, or risky business plan? Perhaps you can take some encouragement from these words along your journey, and share with us how you get on.



*
If any of this struck a chord, here are some more thoughts on the topic:

Another post on the creative process theme, looking at what resources we have in times of the mess.

And for when you're just knackered and need a break, have a read of this post!

Friday, 6 February 2015

_how to DO things



There is progress to be had in discipline, and I've been catching some of that lately. 

While elbowing a space each day to work on old school lino print projects at my desk, just for the beautiful sake of it, I've also been feeding on the wise, often vulnerable words of experience shared by speakers at the DO Lectures, and decided to share some of what I learned here.

All this is in a fight against, perhaps, inertia, or getting stuck in ruts. It's also an attempt to create a working environment that nurtures those faint inklings that could get lost too easily while cruising on autopilot, and without some careful TLC. Those of us who set out to shape our business around things we care about really need to be watchful, and stay plugged in.

So who did I listen to? For me, a focus on creativity, but these talks all appeal broadly. In no order:


  • Marion Deuchars, who told me how to make a genuine connection with my world, my ideas, my imagination, by making art the way a child does – in play, freely, uninhibited by right or wrong. That's exciting, she says, because who knows where that will take us in business or otherwise?
  • Mark Boulton, who—with the opener that 'Making things is messy'—shared five practical principles that have helped him grow successfully through years of design and publishing. One of my favourites is this: "Stay with the mess and talk to clients about that too." Honesty, humility, and courage.
  • Tim Smit, who slightly scared me but no one can argue against this tour de force. He is on a fierce rebel mission for beauty as our only way forward, and I for one love that. Soak it up! (And then go and recover at the Eden Project.)
  • And finally, Stef Lewandowski, a lovely, life-bringing hacker who has a wonderful story behind his 15-year-long maxim to 'Create Something Everyday'. A humble, gentle man who's clear focus on life is infectious, and who will leave you in no doubt whatsoever that however tiny the step you make, the moment is now. "Lean in!"


I think there's something really precious about taking time to search for shared gems like these. It means those valuable thoughts of ours that sit quietly in the background may actually have a chance of finding their way out. Thanks DO-ers!

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Bristol Media Brand You Awards 2014





What a night! Last night was the 2014 Bristol Media Brand You Awards, and I went along with nearest, dearest people having been nominated. Here's how the night evolved:

Fluttering around a busy and beautiful room full of stylish people, there we were cramming our faces with the fancy canap├ęs, slightly wary of what a free booze-bar can do to an empty stomach. While no one was looking my partner wiped a smear of salsa off my cheek while I thought, "Well, if nothing else happens these snacks are truly amazing."

The Brand You Awards were set up last year to recognise the significant input of freelance experts in Bristol and the South West's media industry. I was delighted to have been nominated in three of fourteen categories – and slightly confused. We are not short of very clever, creative people in these parts, so the room was packed with a lot of very brilliant, and some quite heavyweight competition. Some of Bristol's largest agencies were out in force, and to those of us who work alone, ploughing our own furrow, this feels very intimidating.

I was fully expecting the Brey Leinos and Mason Zimblers of the world to bag all the gongs, so when Fraser Bradshaw read my name out for a second year running as winner in the marketing category, I swiftly scoffed down my chicken goujon, did some massive(ly inappropriate) power grabs and sashayed up to the stage while my lovely friends cheered like animals!

Award winners feeling the joy

It was an absolutely wonderful moment, and a total triumph for the 'small is beautiful', 'power of one' devotion that so many of us commit to, believing we can make a difference in the world with our skills and insights.

Thanks to Bristol Media for hosting such a special night, and congratulations to fellow winners and nominees, especially Melissa Kidd who was there with Pam Lloyd PRMick snapped this lovely pic of us both:

Me and Melissa in the afterglow
Beaming with my award

Monday, 15 September 2014

_how to survive mondays




Wow. Really. If I have another day like that I may just give in and go to work in a sandwich shop. It's not even that anything dreadful happened. It's just that, sometimes, showing up to run your own business (or in fact, anything!) on a Monday morning is bloody hard work.

Let's be clear, there are some brilliant reasons why—if you're a creative soul and want to make a difference—that doing your own thing is a great plan. Come to the party with some energy and conviction, free from too many restrictions, and the best conversations have a chance of actually happening.


Ideas, lots of them.

New horizons every turn.

The day beats to your own drum:

More of this, less of that.

Focus and graft, making it count; 
you alone reap the reward.

Another drum beats with yours.

Me, you, them, us,
and the things we make together.

Join me. Bunk off early and go see a film?

Make the planet spin a little smoother, no?


Well no, not today. Some days, these joys come in such fractured pieces that putting them together into a meaningful picture seems impossible, doesn't it?

It happens a lot on Mondays for me – by 6pm, left with an exhausting mosaic-feeling in both head and heart, a little of everything crammed in there, and no coherent picture or plan to show for it. It's a dreadful way to start the week, and I have really come to hate this feeling.

It is agony. So what can be done to make tricky Mondays better?
How can we be gently productive and emerge positive from the week's first day? I have a couple of ideas.


First.
Just show up, and pay attention. So long as you do this, something begins. Things often take longer than you originally hoped for, especially if a thousand things ask for that attention. But pay attention and things do begin, I promise.

Make some coffee, write down a few key things to pay attention to, get set with some nice tunes and work through it. Don't feel bad about shutting the world out if you need to. Just show up, and pay attention.


Second.
Keep the faith. I reckon the agonised feeling comes from not knowing how things will be resolved, and having to leave them in mid-air. A thousand things to figure out and who thought it would be a good idea to set them off like a professional party popper?

Hang in there. The very fact of having paid attention means your infinitely capable head and caring heart are working away on them even when you're not looking.


Show up, pay attention, keep the faith, and don't believe the lie that nothing's working. That's just the agony of a blue Monday talking.



{Today's Soundtrack: New Order – Blue Monday}

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Thresholds

From 'Making Change Happen' by Jane Northcote
Illustration ©Lizzie Everard 

Some people love change, thriving on realising new visions. Others really don't like it. Some of us become quite good at it out of excitement or necessity, or both. Too much unexpected change can drive a person beyond nuts.

I think the paralysing fear within times of big change—and the thing that stops many of us even going there—is that saying 'yes' to this change means a previous vision that guided you will be lost forever, and a future vision as yet unknown will never materialise.

A threshold; cast adrift from what was, not yet anchored in the next harbour, and land not quite in clear view in any direction. Terrified of making a wrong decision, of just drifting... quite frightened.

If this resonates at all, you are not alone! You are really not alone.

So, from right in the middle of my own fiercely unsettling changes at the moment, me and my wringing-wet hanky are forming an idea and want to share it with you here. Seeing something take shape in visual form, tracked, charted, recorded, for all to see, can be such a help. In this vein, for six years on and off, I kept my Lightbox habit, posting on all kinds of soul-searching and adventures and planting and uprooting and people, driven by everyday photography and a love of words. I reckon picking up this habit again could really help navigate unknown waters, but what form this new habit takes, not sure yet.

Some questions for you, and I'd love your thoughts on this if you'd like to share:


  • What are the helpful things you pin up around you at work or home, which you look at to keep you on track each day? Or is there an object?
  • What reminds you of where you've come from, to see just how far you've travelled? 
  • Have you ever had a 'visual ritual' that you held consistently to help you keep moving (eg. morning pages or a daily sketchbook)? What worked about this? 
  • What—if anything—is stuck onto your fridge (or other nearest magnetic surface? We have a tartan sheep in our office!) Does it help?!
  • What pair of shoes could sum up the miles you've walked / run / danced? (These are my running shoes – the hundreds of miles they've come with me and I'm still curvy round the edges!) 




Do share your thoughts and projects. It's not just me is it?

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

_what to do with what you've done








So, welcome to the new year. How are you doing? Fancy taking a moment to draw breath and gather good strength for the year ahead?

Standing at a turning new year, I can't help but get a little reflective – come on, you know me well enough by now! Walking around on sunny (yes, really) English beaches over the winter break and enjoying the big views, I felt really grateful for a year of hard work and great achievements. I also felt strongly that I didn't want to waste those accomplishments, but build on them as we push ahead into the coming months with new ideas.

I think lots of us forget, when setting new plans in motion, to really appreciate the foundations we've worked hard to build. I think that's one reason why lots of resolutions don't stick, because we throw baby out with bathwater and assume new plans are all about starting from scratch.

Instead, let's ask, "What's really helpful about what's already happened?"

Translating big dreams into tangible goals can feel unwieldy, so, I thought I'd share a useful help with you by way of this simple exercise. Based on David Kolb's experiential learning theory, I came across this 'reflective cycle' in my post-grad studies and have often found it helpful since. Even if not writing things out explicitly, doing this exercise a number of times can form a habit of mind, and now I naturally find better motivation to get on and act, reflect, imagine, plot, see great things happen, and keep moving – act, reflect on that action, imagine how it could be improved, and practically plan your next move.

The picture above is postcard-quality size – feel free to print it off and stick it somewhere helpful so you can easily refer to the stages:

Write down:

1: WHAT? What act did you do? What experience was it? Just describe facts.
2: SO WHAT? Reflect on what you learnt, or discovered. 
3: WHAT NOW? What could you do to build on this, and improve that action next time?
4: & HOW? Given this revelation, make some practical plans for your next 'WHAT' experience.

If this is your year to explore new ways of communicating and using good design to get your message across, this reflective cycle could prove really helpful in keeping track as you try things out and refine your visual language. If someone else is helping you with that, I think this could be a good way to practically reflect on stuff that often seems difficult to get a handle on.

I hope you have a really great year with some brave moves, rich experiences, and cracking results – a really happy new year folks!