Morgan Branding
Morgan Branding

branding + graphic design + web design

Two Cents

Ever heard of DIY graphic design for non-designers? Yeah, it’s a thing.

February 17, 2016

DIY graphic design sounds a little silly to me. Recently I read, “3 Ways Learning InDesign Can Save You Money” and I became pretty eager to voice my opinion on the matter. The writer gives a list of reasons including designer fees, productivity and becoming self-sufficient. I am all about learning and DIY, but honestly, I see nothing productive about trying to figure out any Adobe program in hopes of cutting costs. Plain and simple, If you have never touched Illustrator, Photoshop or Indesign and you think you are about to teach yourself well enough to not need a designer, I vote you scurry off to the woods and wrestle bears.

So, let me rebut…

#1 Designer Fees

Would you try and DIY replacing your radiator if you had absolutely no mechanical experience, relying on trusty-o YouTube to teach you? Probably not. Listen, being a designer is a lot more than just knowing how to use InDesign. Understanding how to properly communicate, visually and verbally, to consumers isn’t as simple as one might think. Paying a designer for their expertise is a win-win if you’re serious about what you do.


#2 Productivity

Hmm. If you’ve never touched an Adobe program, it’s a steep learning curve. To become even slightly proficient in InDesign (or any creative program), takes a serious time investment…all while your projects sit sadly in the corner crying small project tears. Designers spend 40+ hours a week designing. We’re efficient and damn-good at what we do. And again, we’ll make them more successful than you probably can as a new “designer.”


#3 Becoming A Self-sufficient E-Publisher

I agree, if you want a cheaper, more accessible product, digital is the way to go. But in a world that’s incredibly information rich and time poor, you need to make sure your stuff rises to the top. Providing people with content that is easy to read and makes them trust you, will inevitably help make you stand out. And when you’re making all the money, and you don’t have time to sit behind a computer all day (you’ll be traveling around being famous, of course), you’ll gladly pay your designers what they’re worth.


So, you want a design job? Start here.

February 8, 2016

Every so often (okay, 10 times a day), we get résumés from hopeful designers. Less often, we get asked something along the lines of, “what do you look for in a designer?” So, we thought we’d shed some light on what can help make you appealing, and us very happy.

Q: What do you look for in graduates?

First, let’s assume you’re a descent designer. Check.

After that, the first thing that comes to mind: details, details, details! When you’re just startin’ out, trust me, you’ll get burned by the details. But, after you’ve cut your teeth a bit, you’ll come to love the details! The reality is, if you fail to figure this one out, you’ll not only piss off the client (yikes), but your boss, too (double yikes). Being able to manage your projects and pay attention to all the wee-little details, without someone holding your hand, is crucial for holding a fancy, grown-up job.

Beyond that, we also look for fresh, vibrant talent that not only has a good eye for design, but has the ability to think creatively. It’s not enough to be a designer capable of cranking out cute stuff, you gotta be able to develop fresh and unique ideas to problems or challenges that clients have. Without good ideas behind your work, you’ll end up with “beautiful pieces of shit” (thanks, Brad Frost).

Lastly, you gotta be cool! Personality goes a long way. Top 3 personality traits: funny, hard-working, kind. Don’t be a jerk! Conan says, and we agree wholeheartedly, “work hard and be kind, and good things will happen.”

Q: What skills would a student/graduate need?

Skills we look for (in everyone) include: attention to detail, broad knowledge of typography and color theory, good sense of hierarchy and overall layout, and a very strong knowledge of Photoshop, Illustrator and Indesign, along with a basic knowledge of HTML and CSS. And if you wanna get fancy, get familiar with Sketch.

We recommend doing internships your entire way through school so you can get a feel for agency life, and what you’ll need when you leave the school-nest. Nothing beats experience. And we’ll say it again, don’t be a punk. We look for big personalities with small egos. If you don’t know something, don’t fake it. You’ll come off kinda douchey.

Now get out there, and good luck!

—The fine folks at Morgan Branding.

My Views On The 2020 Olympic Games Identity Battle

January 27, 2016

So here’s what is going on. Japan had a “contest” of sorts, to snag a logo for the upcoming 2020 Olympic games. In their eyes, it’s a design free-for-all, where some lucky person could win $8,000 (JPY 1,000,000) if they get chosen AND forever be known as the person (or designer) that has made the logo. Those seemingly rad benefits are REALLY making people mad, saying that the correlation between such a historical and culturally rich graphic design legacy (aka Japan) and the lack of respect and taboo that designers have against spec work is a big “no no” and that Japan should immediately pull back the competition and just hire a real, respectable design wizard to do the job (and pay them Olympic-sized money).

After finally choosing a logo, the work got thrown out under allegations of it being plagiarized (mind you, it looks almost exactly like Olivier Debie’s work for Théâtre de Liège.) Currently, they have chosen a handful of options which will be whittled down and are expected to hold the big reveal sometime this spring.

Several highly respectable design organizations have written them letters, addressing the repercussions of spec work and how it not only jeopardizes quality, but also devalues the time and ability of the designer. In response, Japan doesn’t really care and is continuing to move forward with the project, getting more and more careful, as their choices prove to be full of faults. 

So, what do I think of all this? 

I think all of the logos that I have seen from the competition are absolutely terrible. I also think that the people that are organizing all of the hype around the 2020 Tokyo Olympics are probably just some out of touch marketing people that see a great opportunity to get people involved with the least amount of effort as possible. Everyone wants to be a winner, right?

Spec work to an extent, is kinda lame. I totally get wanting to show off your chops as a designer, possibly landing a great project and be known on an international level but when you are providing a HUGE corporation with something that is going to be the face of the Olympics and they aren’t paying you, you have to ask yourself, “What am I worth?” On top of the fact that it is pretty apparent the choosing committee has no eyeballs, I would have to deem this competition as “Really not worth my time.” At the end of the day, I say “know your worth” and don’t settle for anything less than what you and the project deserve.


The Brand Gap: Bridging the Gap Between Business Strategy and Design

January 20, 2016

“If we had asked the public what they want, they would have asked for ‘faster horses.'”

—Henry Ford

Picked up a new book over the weekend, The Brand Gap by Marty Neumeier, which offers some really great insight into bridging the gap between business strategy and design. Thought I’d share one takeaway that was a bit of an “aha” moment for me…

One of the key disciplines he defines, validation, suggests that some level of market research can get your company/product “out of first gear and onto the highway.” The above quote from Henry Ford illuminates the aversion to research that predominates some of the worlds most innovative companies. And, it’s pretty well understood that quantitative research is antithetical to creativity. Marty doesn’t disagree that the initial stages of innovation and creativity can, for the most part, ignore anything other than the creative spirit; Creativity is subjective only until it reaches the marketplace. Then, it’s measurable. So, applying some level of research to your creative “thing” before it hits the marketplace is crucial for success.

To test a concept, Marty suggests creating 2-3 prototypes and conduct one-on-one interviews with 10 members of the real audience and ask questions related to understanding (not liking). Questions like, “which one is most valuable to you?” Or, “if company X made this promise, would that make sense?” And then, ask why. He argues that these small tests are just as valuable as exhaustive, 6-figure study.


Purpose is Power

January 8, 2016

I’ve been reading a bunch of articles recently that have really got me thinking of my place in the world as a designer, and how my role pertains to the graphic design realm, and other graphic designers around me. There is a heavy trend in design blogs right now, that declares illustrator’s ownership over the title “graphic designer” and I can’t help but think, is this factual? Or is this just another egotistical struggle over a title?

The point I want to make (as concisely and accurately as possible,) is that there is indeed a difference between illustration and design. Illustration is merely a component, as is typography, color and messaging. I think that what this all boils down to is purpose. If it is in the best interest to communicate visually by a series of illustrations, or illustrative type or hand-drawn type or whatever, then absolutely, illustrators are designers and should be considered as much. I think what is happening here is that illustrators that are identifying solely as illustrators may be feeling trivialized by titles, but don’t forget, design isn’t about ego. 

The whole reason for design is communication, and we all know that there are way too many ways to communicate nowadays. Just make sure you do it with purpose. Stick figure, 105pt Helvetica Bold, or the cat heart eye emoji. Just do it effectively.