This friday there is a public holiday in Victoria that I had NO idea about.
It seems almost irresponsible to have a day off for a public holiday considering we have been locked out of normal life for so much of this year but that is probably just me!
Being self employed, I have quite the opposite reaction to public holidays.
For starters I lose a daycare/kinda day which really throws a spanner in the works!
Most of the time I have no idea when public holidays are because life is pretty much an endless cycle of family, working, family, sleep. On Sundays we try to just do ‘family’ but this isn’t always easy when you're trying to launch a new product/business with your husband.
A side effect of these business conversations in the kitchen is that our kids are becoming surprisingly well informed about what branding means to businesses.
While in the supermarket the other day I had a conversation with Frank (the 4 year old) explaining how he knew we were in Coles supermarket because the logo was red but the other supermarket (Woolworths) is a different company because it is green. Being a kid he then asks the next logical question: Is there a blue supermarket? The cashier at this stage, quite intrigued by our conversion, jumped in with “Aldi”. “Of course” said Frank, quite proud of that fact he had organized all the different supermarkets by brand colours.
I too was very proud. My four years old is grasping the power of branding better than most business owners!
It's hard explaining to small businesses especially, how important branding and design is.
Many companies may invest in the initial design of their brand but they quickly ‘make do’ by promoting whoever knows the most about Photoshop or Illustrator to be their inhouse design guru. Majority of the time this person has to take the ‘design’ work on top of their normal day to day job.
As a freelance designer this unskilled (no offence indented) ‘non designer’ designer is one of my biggest competitors. Businesses that make do with what they have and don’t invest in the care and maintenance of their brand will find in a few months or years their brand is in dire need of work. Templates slowly start to degrade as someone accidentally replaces a missing font with something else. The brand colour ends up changing ever so slightly as they jump from program to program.
It's like playing Telephone* but with your design assets!
Below is an image of a logo I did for a coffee company in 2012. Design aside, the quality was fine. My original files are still high res PDFs and Jpegs. In 2016 I got asked to make some new coffee labels for ‘Buffalo Soldiers’ through another roaster. The artwork of the BS logo was sent INSIDE a word doc, was low res and looked so shitty that it would’ve been impossible for any designer to do a good job!
It's not often that design jobs come back to you after so many years but I was shocked. It made me realise that even though designers are employed at the start of projects and company launchings, they should really be doing annual check ups. Once a year (at least) an external designer should come in and check that everything is still on brand and make sure that new assets that have been made are still creating consistency across all business touch points.
It is so easy to vare off the path - like most things in life it happens slowly, a new font introduced here, a new colour there, but eventually you get to a point where what you are producing will be damaging your brand reputation rather than enhancing and empowering it!
There has been some interesting software that has come out over the last few years that helps businesses create their own artwork while keeping their branding in tack. Dokio is a Melbourne based business that takes a company's branding guidelines/assets and turns them into a usable set of perimeters for creating marketing materials. Everything from magazine ads to business cards can be output using Dokio. I’m not sure of the price but it would be cheaper than employing a full time designer I imagine!
It's scary to think about all the alternatives that businesses have to employing a designer - if other talented designers aren’t competition enough, there are ‘non-designers’ and now software that is capable of getting the job done!
My way of thinking is that this is an opportunity. All the reading and writing I’m doing for this blog for example has already added some much more to my value as a designer. Sure I can still whip you up an amazing brochure by snapping my fingers but I’m finding my ‘design thinking’ is what is starting to set me apart from your ‘everyday’ freelance designer.
Helping businesses come up with novel and interesting solutions to design problems is incredibly fun and rewarding work. If software is going to take over the deliverables then I’m happy to dive deep into the idea generation!
* ‘Telephone’ is another name for the game ‘Chinese Whispers’. The notion of "Chinese whispers" stems from a racist idea in the 1800s that Chinese people spoke in a way that was deliberately unintelligible. Best call it ‘Telephone’ from now on!