When Affinity Express first became a sponsor of Go Red For Women, we offered our design services free of charge and thought we might help the organization with invitations or maybe a flyer or two. Little did we know that we would ultimately produce more than 100 pieces! We started in November by updating educational materials to demonstrate our capabilities and ended by providing all of the local support for the big annual event on February 25, 2011 to complement materials provided by the national organization. In fact, during the week before the luncheon, we completed approximately 40 designs.
The fundraising efforts were a tremendous success (the luncheon raised
approximately $100,000 just over $900,000), but what made our contributions effective was the way we took an established logo and national design requirements, and built upon them to set the Chicago chapter of Go Red for Women apart. It is an excellent example of how to create materials for your clients that are true to their brand while increasing effectiveness and satisfaction by interpreting that style in new and innovative ways.
Affinity Express Senior Designer for Marketing Mel Fernandez was responsible for all of these designs and has advice for designers who need to develop and execute these types of campaigns (and providers who want to grow beyond delivering individual products to capture a greater share of business from clients).
1. Respect the Brand
In today’s competitive market, companies spend hundreds of millions of dollars each year in advertising and marketing to establish and advance their brands. Consequently, it is important to adhere to the core requirements or the work will be rejected. You don’t tell major organizations like Coca-Cola, AT&T, Proctor & Gamble, or even a regional companies and respected non-profit organizations that you want to step outside-the-box (that is, unless they are looking to re-brand). Go Red for Women provided national branding guidelines, which were helpful for defining requirements around the logo and other elements. As Mel noted, “This was a good starting place to know what we could not do.”
2. Research the Business
Before you start with the design, it is important to learn about your client’s business and look at their previous communications. As Mel says, “I’m responsible for all aspects of these jobs from concept to completion, so I need to learn the clients’ businesses to provide appropriate and effective solutions. Without this knowledge, I could waste a lot of time on ideas that won’t ever be accepted.”
3. Build on What Works
Along with the first requests from Go Red For Women, our contacts provided a logo and invitation from last year as samples. When he starts with reference materials like this, Mel analyzes them and determines which strong components to keep and blends them with new concepts; making the finished products fresh but clearly part of the campaign because of visual consistency.
For some designs, it was required that we stay true to the national materials. However, in other cases, we were given more creative license. When there is flexibility, Mel advises that you research, develop several ideas and execute.
4. Tie Designs Together
When Mel was asked to create posters profiling CEOs who support Go Red for Women, he had to consider the photos, texts and the layout approaches that would work for all in the series, considering all the different photo styles and the need to use a logo in one case versus a photo. Here are the decisions that were made from a design standpoint:
- Fonts: Mel decided to use the same script for the names that were used in the other collateral and would make them stand out on the page. For the body texts, he carried over the same font as on other designs others to maintain a cohesive look.
- Background: He used the background from other documents but tweaked it a bit. He wanted it to look faded in some parts so that it would not dominate the messaging and become the focal point. For the red background of the photos, Mel adapted the hearts that were used in the save-the-date cards and refined the element through a process of exploration and experimentation.
- Colors: When using black, Mel said he doesn’t usually use 100% black for a text-heavy piece because he doesn’t want it to be visually overwhelming.
Before finalizing and submitting the posters back to the client, Mel made sure the overall look would be aesthetically appealing and incorporate the elements he used with the other documents-but recreated them in a new way to make these documents exciting on their own versus repetitive.
5. Generate Several Options
Often branded campaigns require experimentation and creation of multiple approaches so the internal team can review and provide feedback first. Then the client can choose the most promising ideas from what your team thinks is the best work. For example, there was a design element in the invitation that seemed heavy on the eyes, so Mel kept it but interpreted it so that something that looked quite static became a device to guide the reader through all the panels of the invitation. He also created a version where the same device was re-sized and faded as a subtle background element. We liked the first option better but the client chose the second. Without an alternative concept, we would have had to start over instead of being able to gain approval and move onto the next set of tasks.
6. Remember the Objectives
Mel says it is key to remember that branding is about perception-the perception of a company, its products or services. Successful design positions the company in the mind of the consumer. The designer should spend time brainstorming or generating ideas and thoroughly analyzing design problems. It will allow him or her to translate abstract ideas into visuals that will deliver the messages. In creating a brand experience, the designer must remember to thoroughly research every aspect of the product and understand the unifying element-mood, tone and delivery of the brand promise.
If there was one product he was most proud of among all Go Red for Women materials, it would be the CEO posters because he was able to recreate a style and still maintain the brand that ties the whole set of designs together-the foundation of building a great campaign.
Mel went on to comment, “I’m humbled and honored that my contributions helped raise money for this impressive non-profit organization.” Looking forward to the next year, Mel is excited to come up with new ideas that will enhance the image of Go Red for Women Chicago to generate even more awareness and achieve record-setting fundraising levels.
The quote he lives by and one that reinforces all of his suggestions is: “If you want to be a well-paid-designer, please the client. If you want to be an award-winning designer, please yourself. If you want to be a great designer, please the audience” (unknown).
Kelly Glass is vice president of marketing at Affinity Express and leads all marketing, strategy and product development activities. She posts regularly at the Affinity Express blog.