Drawing maps is what I do for fun on a Saturday night…what about you?
Category Archives: Graphic Design
All independent creative directors and graphic designers have been there… You have an awesome client and project that presents an opportunity for you to shine…however, your budget is little and your vision for the project is BIG. You have a minuscule or non-existent budget for stock photography… so what do you do? Instead of settling for mediocre…YOU create your own image library! With a little resourcefulness you can save your client AND yourself hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars and give your project a unique, custom look all your own.
After perusing Taekwondo stock images for a project that I am currently working on, (Ferkile’s Taekwondo in Saint Petersburg, Florida) and calculating the costs for the images that I wanted to buy, I determined that I could borrow props from my client and stage exactly what I wanted instead of settling and save money. I could also create a robust library for all future projects for this client.
Since I am also a professional photographer, I had a distinct advantage. You will, however, be surprised at how much money you can save, even if you are not a photographer, by thinking outside the box and hiring a professional photographer in your network of resources to help you. Many photographers will be willing to work with you at a reduced fee if you schedule a time that is convenient for them. Make sure you have your shots planned out and are organized. Not only will you be able to create images that are EXACTLY what you envision for your project AND save money…you may also be able to “stock up” on images that you can bank for future projects.
🙂 It was a no-brainer for me.
Drawing maps for sporting events can be tricky and time-consuming. Simple running maps are easier than drawing maps for say, triathlons. This particular event features three different running distances. I had to determine which elements and visuals were important to highlight, eliminating anything unnecessary or distracting, so that participants would quickly understand the routes and know where to turnaround. I drew this final version for the 2014 Tampa Bay Lightning Bolt Run using Adobe Illustrator CC, but you can use most drawing programs to accomplish the same goal. I started with a vector graphic so that we would be able create multiple sizes or file types for any purpose. You might find it interesting to compare this drawing to the Google Map version to see what I left out. 🙂 Here’s the link: https://mapsengine.google.com/map/edit?mid=zp3tg7-KJdLM.kae-L0RZfQZA
The client provided several style samples he liked and a list of icons and button colors he needed. I found a style I liked that reflected what he was looking for and then altered the design to suit his specific needs. I was able to easily draw many of the icons in Adobe Illustrator, like the graduation cap, house, balloons, lightbulb, red cross, emergency symbol, paw print, star and heart. It was fun to draw all these … but to keep my time investment down and crank out the project quicker, I pulled the others from two collections I had purchased through iStock photo . They matched the style I had already established, so why not? The people, film strip, trophy, medal, dove and ribbon were all pulled from two different collections. I could have drawn them all myself, but didn’t have to invest any additional time in doing so because I was able to leverage these stock illustration collections and call it a day! I inserted the icons on the colored buttons I prepared in advance and voila! Happy Customer.
“Michelle Walker Nault has worked with LinktoEXPERT in many capacities. She created our logo, provided feedback and support as we built the infrastructure for our portal, helped write and refine scripts for promotional videos and testimonials, provided professional headshots and photography services for myself and many of our members and most recently developed our new marketing campaign, “Got a Marketing Migraine?” This campaign is geared towards attracting new business for LinktoEXPERT by promoting our new support services that take the “pain” out of developing content and managing promotional and marketing activities for our members.
Every time I use the flyer she created in a presentation, attendees always ask if they can
keep a copy because it makes such a big impression on them.
If you want to grab your client’s or prospect’s attention using high impact marketing materials, photography and concepts that produce results AND present your brand, products or services using powerful messages and killer design… hire Michelle today. Michelle=ROI.
She is truly amazing!”
This mission was to design a print advertisement to run in a new Tampa Palms area magazine called ” Palms
As with any project, a good creative director must complete their “due diligence” list before the design and development process begins so they have all the information needed to help the client achieve success AND make their life a little easier and the project flow much quicker.
I began as I always do, by first obtaining a copy of the publication the project would be appearing in…along with a specs sheet. It’s important to always review the format, articles, other advertisers/contributors, any competitors of your client, file guidelines and submission deadlines. (All publications will usually have a Specs Sheet or Submission Guideline available.) Next, I chatted with the consultant he had hired for several future projects…and had asked me to work with, Barbara Beall, president of Postal Options to get her feedback and ideas, confirm the target audience, agree upon any verbiage that needed to be included and any call to action or promotion to highlight. (Barbara was delightful to work with and offers a valuable service to anyone interested in direct mail! She also knows the publisher and editor of the Palms Magazine, which is a bonus for anyone interested in advertising with them!)
I asked for Dr. Venturino’s logo, which he sent me in a JPG file and then I naturally redrew in Adobe Illustrator so I had a vector EPS file to work with… because I am a control freak and prefer to have vector files. I also reviewed his website to see what else I might consider before working on concepts and looking through stock photography catalogs. I had a slight advantage because I already knew and respected Dr. Venturino so I understood his field and scope of care.
Below are several image concepts I presented with the original copy I wrote based on my initial conversations with Barbara and Nick.
After considering the original concepts above, Dr. Venturino could now visualize the space and design we discussed…and I was able to more clearly help him determine what was the most important information we needed to highlight. If you are not a visual person, it’s hard to understand what something might look like until you have something in front of you. I deal with this all day long with many clients.
We agreed that the call-to-action needed to be the free massage offer; I just needed to tweak it a bit and perhaps change the color. He wanted me to add the words, “neck pain, back pain and headaches” so that people clearly understood his specialty. We also tweaked the verbiage here and there to emphasize or de-emphasize certain points. After adding the appropriate disclaimer in teensy tiny text and VOILA, the content was complete.
Now, Barbara and I had already decided that we both liked a more bold approach…she preferred a dark background with a bold image thinking it would work best to make the ad POP in the magazine and stand out from the rest of the publication. I preferred the image of a mother with her daughter or the bold image of a silver body with a hands outstretched and a red glow on their back. I thought this married well to his logo, the audience and was very eye-catching. But as usual, the lesson I am always reminded of is that it is not what I like that matters …. it is what the client likes and what will achieve the desired goals of the ad. Results, results, results.
Dr. Venturino decided that he preferred something more traditional and wanted me to use the image I found of a man with a skeleton overlay. So, after discussing the selection with Barbara, I decided to offer Dr. Venturino three more proofs. Two would offer a solid background behind the illustration of the man to add richness and make the overall imagery more powerful…..But would also be providing the client with what he asked for.
In the end, we settled on a nice compromise that will provide Dr. Venturino with a professional new brand and help him attract the audience he desires. To see which design he ultimately selected from the final three, visit the Palms Magazine online or buy the February 2011 edition!
In 2005, I had the good fortune to be asked to serve as volunteer creative director by a friend of mine, to help brand and produce a gala event and fundraiser for the Florida Blood Services Foundation that she had been charged with producing. I said yes, but I must admit that initially my commitment was driven more out of a desire to help her, than it was by a passion to support the foundation. Two years later I would find that the universe was knocking at my door because my best friend would need Florida Blood Services’ help with platelets while she battled Leukemia…but let me rewind back to before I knew about that…I was involved with several other charities as well as employed as a Creative Director for a training company full time and we were in our busiest time of year.
Regardless of these other important factors going on in my life, when my friend approached me and because “NO” is not one of the most used words in my vocabulary, I blindly said, “Yes”.
Five years ago, I could not imagine the long-term benefits that embarking on this collaborative adventure with FBSF would have on my career. The networking opportunities alone, have been well worth my time, not to mention the new clients it generated for me. I was focused on following through on my commitment, doing a good job and helping make the event a success… as quickly and painlessly as possible. It turned out to be a larger time investment than I had bargained for and I felt overwhelmed juxtaposed to my other commitments and my full-time job, but what I hope to communicate is that the most valuable lesson I learned… is that paying it forward and giving your all will serve you well and reward you beyond your imagination. This is true no matter whether you are producing work for a paying client or a pro bono client, charity client. If you work from your heart and truly apply yourself and treat each job like it’s a million dollar account, you will reap endless rewards both tangible and intangible. Do not concern yourself with the benefits, focus on doing a good job and helping your clients find success.
So now…off my soap box and back to my story.
Then there were meetings, phone calls and discussions galore. (Not to mention, fifty million emails to read.) I served as creative director, but also served on the planning committee, which consisted of various volunteers from different industries and two FBSF employees that included my friend. Few, if any, volunteers came from the creative world, but everyone enthusiastically wanted to contribute towards the idea pool and to be part of the decision making process. The first step was to choose a theme, which seemed easy. We quickly selected “Alice In Wonderland” and decided to call it “The Mad Hatter’s Ball- Gift of Life Gala”.
After we agreed upon a theme, the next step was to agree on a style. This proved to be a teeny bit more challenging. We spent weeks reviewing Alice in Wonderland books, other successful events around the US with a similar themes, other styles, photos and illustrations found on the Internet. What worked for them, what didn’t work and what could work better. This is where the committee seemed to be torn.
They tossed ideas back and forth and the idea exchange took on a life all its own while my time investment grew. When you are in position like I was, you must be gentle and remember that most everyone was donating their time and while you think you know best, if you want to get swift decisions and not alienate anyone, you must invest more time on the front end planning process to help people understand and SEE your vision, while also feeling like they are a part of that process.
Just because I could visualize everything vividly and believed that my concept would work through all aspects of the event, I needed to also be able to clearly communicate this vision and help non-visual, non-marketing individuals understand and embrace this vision too. Plus, it was my job to keep an eye on the calendar and the reality of the event date juxtaposed to the reality of printing deadlines, promotional deadlines, press deadlines, etc. and I could hear the White Rabbit’s clock a tickin’ away. I needed to thoroughly create my vision, communicate my vision, be compelling, pitch it and sell it as quickly and efficiently as possible.
Our ultimate mission for this event was to create a fun, upbeat and lively environment and buzz that would attract more affluent members of the community who would spend their dollars with us… and draw people to our event versus other events scheduled around the same date that were competing with us. Plus we needed to create a formula that we could apply moving forward each year. I knew my role was extremely important.
My personal design taste is usually bold, colorful and whimsical. But, while I believed that my taste seemed perfectly matched for this theme, I needed to help the committee members leaning towards a more nostalgic old black and white pen and ink sketch style come to the same conclusion. An even bigger motivator for me was that I was worried if they didn’t vote “yes”… I would be back at square one, staring down the rabbit hole at gazillions more hours of idea exchanges, mockups and design possibilities.
Offering up some thumbnails and pencil sketches was not going to do the trick. I had to dig deeper. I went ten steps further and created much more detailed full-color mockups and illustrations. (I was also crossing my fingers that I’d actually get to use at least some of the elements I created during this process.) I provided them with a sample layout of the event invitation and program as well as a table tent card and various other signage. I illustrated several character and design elements that could be scaled up for large format visuals to provide examples of how the style would be carried through from one thing to the next. I took extra care to make sure that anything I designed could be easily and inexpensively incorporated into stage and table decorations as well. While I was focused on branding that would help make the event a success, I was also forced to be sensitive to the fact that we were working on a shoe string budget and that this was a fund-raiser for a non-profit organization. My illustrations needed to drive the design because I did not have the luxury of proposing fancy die cuts, unusual shapes or sizes, expensive paper and elaborate displays. “Cheap and cheerful” was my budget.
In the end, all the pre-planning and detailed samples I presented paid off. By assessing my client correctly, in this case a volunteer committee with little branding experience, I actually cut my overall time investment down to a minimum and helped us meet all our deadlines. The committee loved my proposed ideas and voted in favor to move forward and gave me (almost) complete creative control. This project was one of many lessons I have learned over the years about how important it is to invest extra time being thorough, communicating effectively and planning properly in order to sell your idea or vision. This is particularly important if you whole-heartedly believe that your idea is in your client’s best interest and offers the greatest chance for success.
The original plan for this annual gala was to create a new theme every year. But after the success of the first event, due to excellent planning, exciting design (if I do say so myself), the entertainment, the venue, the dedicated volunteers, the memorable activities, the happy guests and the funds raised for Florida Blood Services, they opted to keep the same theme for the next two years. Instead of reinventing the wheel, they changed the venue. Lucky for me, all I had to do moving forward each year was create a few new character illustrations, new signage and help them update the printed materials.
Today, I received a link to a recent Biz Bash Magazine publication. I was in awe when I noticed that 5 years later and 2 years after the last gala, Florida Blood Services is still being featured in articles about the top events in the Tampa Bay area. The Mad Hatter’s Ball, Gift of Life Gala still receives enough hits and generates enough interest that they rerun the story often. There, for everyone to see, are photos of the event, a very nice article and my name featured as the Creative Director with a link to my contact information. Not too shabby in terms of residual pay back. Something I never expected or imagined.
Give it your all, be thorough in your planning and preparation, understand your mission and your audience…and you and your clients will be rewarded tenfold!
For a link to the Biz Bash Article, visit: http://www.bizbash.com/orlando/content/editorial/7608_gift_of_life_gala_inspired_by_alice_in_wonderland.php
For a link to see more photos of the event, visit: http://www.fbsblood.org/html/foundation/events/gala/gala2008.aspx
Michelle Walker Nault