September 26, 2016

Girls’ Life vs Boys’ Life

Photographer Matt Frye took his kids to the local library in Kansas City where he saw his 7-year-old daughter looking at the cover of Girls’ Life — a US magazine aimed at 10-15 year olds. A few rows up was an issue of Boys’ Life — the official magazine of the Boy Scouts of America. Matt sat them side-by-side and shared the snapshot on Facebook, calling it “a sad microcosm of what our society says being a girl vs being a boy means.”

Girls’s Life, Boys’ Life coversPhoto by Matt Frye, One Tree Studios

Headlines from Girls’ Life include “The New Denim Checklist (get ready to hear ‘I love your jeans’),” “Wake up Pretty (because mornings are rough),” and “My First Kiss.”

While Boys’ Life is all about exploring futures.

This dumbing down of what young girls should be interested in is nothing new, but I’m glad designer Katherine Young called it out with a quick mockup of her own cover.

Girls’s Life cover, by Katherine Young

“‘Wake Up Pretty’ was the most glaring part for me. There it was next to a girl who had went through a professional photoshoot and been touched up digitally and we are telling our daughters to look like her right out of bed.”

Girls’s Life cover, by Katherine Young

Matt and Katherine have both generated a ton of media coverage in the past couple of weeks.

Doing good > looking good.

Via Quipsologies.

February 24, 2015

Virgin, Run a Holiday

Oli + Josie came up with a brilliant idea to link the Virgin brands.

Read more

September 10, 2014

Antisocial media marketing

My Logo Design Love Facebook page has been "liked" more than 300,000 times, yet even the most popular newsfeed update (the photo album that's screen-grabbed below) isn't shown to everyone who has chosen to see what I share.

Facebook reach for Logo Design Love

That number at the bottom of the image is what I'm talking about — “127,104 people reached.” It's not that the other 60 percent just weren't using Facebook at the time. It's that Facebook limits the reach in order to sell me the attention of the page's supporters. Thing is, a reach of about 40 percent is now way above average. Page owners normally get a 2 percent organic reach, and declining. Numbers as high as 40 percent are only possible if a lot of people like and share the post (or I suppose if I pay). So if the few people that initially see what I share don't like it, then no one else gets to see. And even when a post such as the one above gets more than 4,500 likes and hundreds of shares, it's still only shown to less than half the page's supporters.

Here's a more common example. The Identity Designed page has more than 110,000 likes, yet the post below was shown in the newsfeed of just 3,134 people.

Facebook reach for Work for Money, Design for Love

So 3 percent got to see what I shared. The "Boost Post" button invites me to pay to share the post with others. But this 9-minute video (embedded below) is a good deterrent against paying Facebook for anything.

I watched that video after Jeff Hamada talked about The End of Facebook. In one of the comments below Jeff's post, James Davidson of We Heart said:

“...with around 30k [likes] we were seeing some posts getting just a thousand or so views. Ergo, we were drawn to the dreaded "Boost Post." Funny thing is, it seemed to have an adverse effect on the posts that weren't boosted — we dropped down to just a few hundred views for some of them.

“As we grew disenfranchised, we stopped boosting so much. Guess what? The views have been slowly creeping back up. An algorithm to capitalise on those stupid enough to feed the mouth that bites? I wouldn't bet against it.”

Anyway, just something worth thinking about before spending too much time or money on your Facebook page.

September 28, 2012

When pro bono design pays off

Working pro bono is an excellent way for inexperienced designers to build their portfolios, and for experienced designers to do great work for causes they love.

Javier Mateos of Mexico-based design studio Xplaye helped both himself and others with a successful pro bono effort. Two years ago, Xplaye started a series of tribute exhibitions that involved taking a famous music band and translating some of their songs into illustrations.

Last year, the studio created a tribute to Grammy Award winning Café Tacuba, one of the most popular bands in Mexico. The project wasn’t intended to make a profit, but rather to raise funds for children with spina bifida.

Through social media, Café Tacuba heard about what Xplaye were doing. They were so happy that they decided to autograph every illustration for an auction to increase the donations for the association helping the kids.

Café TacubaCafé Tacuba signing Xplaye’s illustrations.

Café Tacuba

Café Tacuba

Café Tacuba

Café Tacuba

The project was covered on CNN Mexico, in Rolling Stone Mexico, on, and in the most important TV and print media in the country.

Roughly $10,000 was raised, and five companies approached the spina bifida association to offer materials and supplies.

“This project grew our design bureau in a wonderful way. As a result we are now invited to many conferences, we’re asked to give interviews, and we gained respect from our colleagues in Mexico. It was an amazing and successful experience!”
— Javier Mateos, Xplaye

Just one example of how to grow your business while helping those in need.

In Work for Money, Design for Love you can read other case studies where pro bono design has led directly to paying clients.

Pro bono resources:
Five myths about pro bono design, on Co.Design
AIGA job board, contains a pro bono section
How to improve your portfolio with pro bono design, in the archives

And here’s a video of Café Tacuba unplugged with Gustavo Santaolalla. I love their sound.

November 28, 2011

TIME magazine covers: worldwide differences

The difference between the US version of the TIME cover and that of the rest of the world recently proved to be a popular comparison on Reddit, with some calling it censorship.

TIME magazine covers US vs rest of the worldTIME covers, 24th October 2011.

TIME magazine covers US vs rest of the worldTIME covers, 05th December 2011.

TIME magazine covers US vs rest of the worldTIME covers, 02nd April 2007.

TIME magazine covers US vs rest of the worldTIME covers, 03rd November 2008.

TIME magazine covers US vs rest of the worldTIME covers, 08th August 2011.

TIME magazine covers US vs rest of the worldTIME covers, 20th September 2010.

Selective variations might appear politically-driven, but might it be the result of the publisher attempting to increase sales in different markets? TIME is supposedly the world's largest weekly news magazine. Why wouldn't the company change cover depending on what it thinks will sell?

The above examples mightn't look great in isolation, but you don't need to venture far into the TIME archives for differences that aren't as noteworthy.

TIME magazine covers US vs rest of the worldTIME covers, 31st October 2011.

TIME magazine covers US vs rest of the worldTIME covers, 17th December 2007.

TIME magazine covers US vs rest of the worldTIME covers, 14th January 2008.

TIME magazine covers US vs rest of the worldTIME covers, 14th November 2011.

TIME magazine covers US vs rest of the worldTIME covers, 11th February 2008.

August 10, 2010

I wish I’d known that

What advice would you give a design graduate? Chris Arnold, founder of Creative Orchestra and former creative director at Saatchi & Saatchi, offers his pearls of wisdom.

green dice sixesImage via Thinkstock

It's tough. Very tough. And there is a truth in the fact that only the toughest survive. The lazy ones fail. You need to be proactive, no-one is going to call you. You have to make your own opportunities, make your own destiny. Your success is in your hands. As is your failure. But here are a few tips. Most are based on the very basics of marketing. Many are common sense. Sometimes you just have to think like a creative director (CD) and then you’d wake up to what motivates them.

  1. Never send out blanket ‘Dear Sir’ emails. Total waste of time. Personalise all communications and do your homework. Know about them and their company and work. Quality is better then quantity.
  2. Do something that will get a CD (or senior) to really want to see you. They are time short so can’t see many grads. Like any good design or advertising, it’s all about impact. They are looking for the ones that stand out.
  3. You are not God, yet. Never tell them how great you are, “hot talent,” you aren't. Not yet. You are fresh but green and making claims you are great makes you look arrogant and deluded. They already have great people working there, so why will they hire you? Mainly because you are cheap, work hard, and have potential.
  4. Be different. So many books are all the same. Colleges turn-out sausage factory students with the same work. Blame the bean counters in Whitehall. Bin it. Start afresh and make the work yours. It should reflect your values, approach and style, not your tutors. Be employed for who you are, not who the college wanted you to be.
  5. Work hard. Really hard. You've been in cotton wool land for three years doing no real work with no real pressure by our standards. This is the real world. You need to work harder, faster, and all-hours. And never use Facebook at work. Friends, socialising, all comes second.
  6. Forget money. If you land a job, great. Most will spend months, maybe years doing unpaid or poorly-paid placements. It's not the money but the work that really matters. Get a job in a bar or pizza joint. You'll need it.
  7. It’s not just about the work but about people. You need to engage future employees, be nice, listen, be humble, take advice. Never argue or be arrogant (as an employee the boss's word is king). You need them more than they need you — the pool of talent for employees is very big. Make them like you. We want nice people with potential talent. Once you've seen someone, try and keep the connection going, come back, build a relationship.
  8. Think of yourself as a brand. You need to be remembered. What will they remember you for? What defines you? If you have it in you, do something that defines you. Invent something, develop a unique skill, get noticed for something — it creates a talking point.
  9. Action. Try and get a second interview. Ask to come back when you’ve renewed your folio. Ask about work experience. Ask for honest feedback or how you could make the grade to get a job there.
  10. Remember, it's a very subjective world and some will love your folio, some will hate it. The better it is, the more polar the response. If everyone just likes it then it's average.

Chris Arnold
Founder & CD, Creative Orchestra
(Former CD Saatchi & Saatchi, Draft, STH, Feel, Alliance...)

Chris is author of Ethical Marketing and the New Consumer: Marketing in the New Ethical Economy, available on

More help for design graduates from Lee Newham with these CV tips and design interview tips.

Other posts you might find of use: what graphic design schools are lacking, and self-employment advice for designers.

February 22, 2010

How pro bono design improves your portfolio

You’re a design student with a portfolio full of fictitious projects. You want to work with clients to build your experience, but you need to develop your portfolio to get those jobs. That’s when pro bono design can be a massive help.

Pro bono publico (usually shortened to pro bono) is a Latin phrase that means "for the public good." It’s generally used to describe professional work undertaken voluntarily and without payment as a public service. But unlike traditional volunteerism, pro bono uses the specific skills of professionals to provide services to those who are unable to afford them.

Small non-profits are the companies that are most in need. Larger non-profits are likely to have a percentage of their annual budget allocated to brand identity work, and will probably already have a working relationship with a design studio (although it can pay to ask if there’s a company you particularly want to collaborate with).

Search online, in a phone directory, or a local paper for a nearby organisation. There are a few advantages of staying local: You can meet your client face to face, helping to build confidence, and making it easier to ensure you’re dealing with the decision-maker rather than passing design ideas through a middle-person. You get the opportunity to take your own photos of the finished design (on signage, stationery, etc.) — if done right, these contextual shots can turn an average case study into a great one. And you’re building your network of local business contacts. The stronger your network, the more help that's available down the line.

Approaching a non-profit about pro bono work

Talk to the person responsible for the branding. In a small-sized company this is likely to be the managing director or chief executive. Pitch yourself as a talented designer with policy of devoting a small percentage of time toward pro bono, and that your client's mission is one you have a great deal of respect for (this should, obviously, be true). Detail the savings you are offering your client (your standard rate for an identity project, discounted by 100%). This’ll make sure the value of the outcome isn't underestimated, and helps keep your client motivated.

Ask for a 30-minute meeting, where you'll talk about design needs and set a course of action. That’s where you’ll arrive with your standard questions to help set the design brief.

Your client might be wary about having his or her brand identity created or redesigned. It might be seen as a risk rather than a way to help build the organisation's reputation. So the more in-depth your initial discussions, the more at ease your client will be.

Time the meeting, and if you haven't finished within half an hour say you’ve reached the end of the allocated time, and that you can call or email at a later date for any other information — your client will appreciate that.

I’ve outlined a number of questions to ask in the Logo Design Love book.

A few related reads:
Paula Scher on pro bono.
When pro bono design pays off.
10 tips for designers working pro bono, on Co.Design.

February 16, 2009

Getting your foot in the door

When Lee Newham worked as a senior designer at London-based consultancy P&W, he’d receive three or four CVs each day. Here’s his stellar advice on how to get your CV to the top of the pile.

Door knock

CV tips for graphic designers

99% of CVs are poorly designed. It’s a struggle.

If your CV is good, and relevant to me, you have a higher chance of getting a response.

The creative director often isn’t the person to contact. Many times senior designers are the first port of call for interviews. There is no harm in sending a CV to more than one person at an agency.

Be creative, but don't be pushy. Agencies find it very difficult to enlist good staff. That’s why most use expensive recruitment agencies.

Here's my advice to graphic designers trying to get their CV to the top of the pile:

  1. Brand yourself. Make yourself memorable. I know that some people may disagree with this, which seems to be a USA thing, but your CV is seen by a creative, not the accountants. 'Wow' them.
  2. Be more than a sheet of paper. Most CVs are now sent by email. What can you do to differentiate yourself?
  3. Don’t include things I don’t care about, like “I once worked as a waiter” or “I got a qualification in chemistry.” I don’t care if you like swimming. I do care, however, if you saw the last lecture by Paul Rand before he died and what your thoughts were. Make it relevant.
  4. Ensure everything is beautifully presented. Consider your kerning and double-check there are no silly mistakes — we all want to employ a safe pair of hands.
  5. Follow-up anything you send with a phone call, but remember, don’t hassle, be polite. Ask them what they thought of your CV and how it could be improved.
  6. Don’t try too hard. One student sent a mailer that was a fake bomb (with the tag line “dynamite designer.” The bomb squad were called and the designer was contacted — by the police. He didn’t get the job. This raises another point — don’t boast, no-one wants to employ an arrogant designer. Never say you are the best.

Patience + time = job. Good luck.

When your foot’s in the door, Lee’s interview tips will help you nail the next step.

References available upon request (and other things to leave off your resume), by Seth Godin
10 tips for a better cover letter, by Steve Pavlina
LinkedIn: let's liven things up, and When good CVs go bad, on The Writer's thingamablog
A few honest tips for job-seeking designers, on Cognition

Post photo by Nadia Carol

October 5, 2007

How I reversed my Google ranking penalty

Yesterday, through a large increase in site visitors, I discovered that my Google penalty had been lifted. In this post, I'm going to tell you why I was penalised by Google, what I did to have the penalty removed, and how you can avoid a similar penalty for your website.

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David Airey
Brand identity design

Independent since 2005
Website hosted by Fused

64 Beechfield Avenue
Bangor, County Down
Northern Ireland
BT19 7ZZ