When embarking on a new project, be it a new advert, a new website or an entire launch campaign, it can be a daunting time knowing where to begin. For some, you may not even know what it is that you want.
In order to get the most out of us, or any design agency, it helps to be clear on what it is that you want to achieve. You are the expert in your field, you know what has and hasn’t worked in the past, the more wisdom that you can impart on us, the better.
Here are just a few points to get you started...
1. What is the product/service?
Have a think about what it is that you want to do. Where are you now? What makes your product/service stand out from the crowd? Why should a customer choose you?
2. What do you want to achieve/what’s your objective?
Try to establish measurable targets. What would make you feel as though the project was a success? Is it all about sales, brand awareness, increased footfall, clicks on your website…?
3. Who is your target audience (try to be as specific as possible)?
Can you identify the type(s) of customers that would be interested in your product/service. What do they do for a living, what are their interests, how much disposable cash do they have, how old are they, where are they geographically? The more you can pin point exactly who it is that you are talking to, the more likely you are to successfully reach them.
4. What is the size of your budget?
Now for the fun part, how much do we have to spend? It’s not always about large figures making the biggest splash. If your budget is tight, tell us and we can work out the most effective solution right from the start.
5. Are you working to a timeframe, is there a deadline?
Thinking back to your objective(s), what is driving them? By setting a timeline, we are able to plan what is needed by when. Trust me when I say that “ASAP” is nobody’s friend!
You don’t need to worry about having all of the answers; that is for us to come up with. What is useful however is a clear understanding of what it is that you are trying to achieve – the simpler the better. Also don’t hold back in sharing examples of ideas that have inspired you, especially if you have a specific style in mind. We can’t promise to explore that idea only, but it never hurts to know if you have certain expectations from the outset.
Creating the perfect brief can take time, but trust us, it will be worth it!
Property development is constantly expanding our towns and cities. Cranes towering over the skyline seem as permanent a fixture as the buildings they are creating. As the demand continues to grow for more homes, as does expectation for developments to be affordable, sustainable and attractive.
Spatial planning is becoming a big issue for property developers. It is expected that six out of ten people will live in urban areas by 2030 and over half the buildings that will exist in 2050 already exist today. The age of regeneration and refurbishment is allowing designers to be more creative in how and where developments are built.
Shipping containers have become a cost effective and sustainable option for building design. London has seen success with its retail park BOXPARK and in Bristol the new Cargo development is regenerating an area of the central harbourside. Both developments are encouraging local, independent shops and restaurants which is very much the current demand. Elsewhere around the world, shipping containers are also being using to combat the spatial and social challenges faced by some developing nations. In 2015 CRG Architects proposed a shipping container skyscraper to replace slum housing in Mumbai (pictured). It would require around 2,500 containers and would house up to 5,000 people.
The steel containers would be supported by a concrete structure and arranged with their edges overlapping to create two cylindrical towers – one measuring 400 metres in height and the other 200 metres. The architects propose that a single unit could be subdivided to provide a studio flat, while up to three containers could be joined to provide a
three-bedroom family residence.
Affordable housing is at the forefront of demand but the health and wellbeing of buildings has become more prevalent in recent years also. This drive is to encourage the industry to think about social, mental and physical wellbeing of the building occupants during the design as well as the building itself. Following a report in 2014 by the UK Green Building Council (UKGBC) on Health, Wellbeing and Productivity in the Workplace, they released the Health and Wellbeing in Homes report in July 2016. One key finding from the report was that the ‘consideration of health and wellbeing was increasingly influencing consumers’ buying and decision-making’ and with reports of over 70% of home buyers and renters willing to go over their budget by as much as 20%, this could have a serious impact on the housing market if the developers can show the real health benefits to living in their homes. One other key finding was that ‘many of the design features which enhance health and wellbeing also bring positive environmental benefits’, such as green space to enhance biodiversity and better daylighting to reduce energy consumption and carbon emissions.
The demand is high for more affordable and sustainable homes but also an expectation for a home to be desirable with consideration of health and wellbeing of the occupants. Maybe shipping containers will not always be used but it shows there are many alternative options to make housing developments affordable, sustainable and attractive.
Student - Summer Placement
At Village we like to ensure that our clients get the best possible results for their project. To have a clearer understanding here is a short guide to some of the many printing processes available which we recommend.
Matt/gloss/soft touch lamination
Is an application of a thin plastic sheet across print to help protect the printed item from dirt and moisture. From an aesthetics point of view we would recommend which finish to use based on the paper stock chosen and style of product we are selling.
A lamination technique that applies varnish to specific areas of print, to create a different texture and allow a central point to be focused on e.g. a logo or brand message.
Raised elements of print to add texture and depth, ‘blind embossing’ can create a more subtle look with shadows and highlights.
A technique where a pigment or metallic foil is applied to the surface of print, which can give designs a premium feel.
Involves cutting designs out of a printed page which can emphasise a multi layered feel. It can be used to create simple shapes for example cornered edges through to intricate pattens in a decorative in a more elaborate way.
A premixed ink which is used where colour accuracy is critical e.g. for a company logo.
The right finish will be a key factor to the overall printed piece so it is worth considering all the options available which can give the simplest designs a higher level of quality and finesse. The type of paper stock used with also effect the finished product and we put much consideration into this and all factors when suggesting the best finished product for you.
In a world where we now spend more time looking on social media websites than any other major Internet activity, businesses big and small have no choice but to adapt and keep up with the pace.
For some this may seem daunting, however if a business gets their strategy right, it can be a fantastic way to organically grow your business and engage naturally with the end consumer, be it for advice, increased sales or a product launch.
Besides social media transforming communication, it’s also changing the way business is carried out. A recent study by the Internet Advertising Bureau UK found that nearly 80% of consumers would be more inclined to buy more often in the future because of a brand's presence on social media.
At Village Design we have embraced social media and we also support our clients to adapt and positively establish themselves in the social media space.
Moreover, we strongly believe if a business keeps these simple do’s and don’ts at the back of their thoughts, it won’t take long to get in to the swing of it.
Do not be overly promotional
If you push your products and/or company and hard sell you will just put off your audience. Social media is an opportunity to speak and hear your customer’s point of view and if you listen and respond wisely you will, in turn, create the sales naturally.
Respond to all comments
If negative or positive, and don’t be tempted to delete any undesirable opinions, it can create more damage than the perceived negative comment in the first place. Instead respond and remove the widespread doubt that might have been viewed by other members of your audience.
Don’t be tempted to buy followers
You will eventually be caught out, which could be detrimental. Lets face it, you want your audience to be fans and share your posts amongst their friends and followers. In return you need customers you can rely on for advice and sales.
Be systematic with your communications
Give your audiences a reason to like and follow you, keep up with the posts and messaging, try to be as interesting as possible. Social media is a great way to put yourself out there and if you can just get those few more followers it could lead to a jump in company sales and revenue.
Spelling mistakes and grammatical errors are a big no, it looks messy and unprofessional. If you are having a hectic day avoiding this might be the quick decision. However, it’s imperative to take time to proof before you post, and even better ask a colleague to double check.
At Village we are lucky to have an experienced and passionate team of Account Managers who understand the client’s wants and needs. More importantly we know how best to advise and guide clients in order to effectively communicate their desired product or brand.
A solid team of Account Managers, however, is only half the story. It takes hard work across the whole team to produce effective brand communication.
It can be tough pouring countless days and sleepless nights into a multi-route pitch, only to find it’s been unsuccessful – of course we’ve all been there. Unfortunately it comes with the territory, but that doesn’t make it any easier. In business, such as in life, nothing is foolproof, but here at Village we have a highly successful ‘win rate’. We have therefore put together our top tips on how to produce a knockout pitch.
Remember the Brief
This sounds like a no-brainer but it is so easy for designers to get carried away with making something pretty. Write key facts on Post-It notes and stick them above your monitor for constant reference to keep you on track.
Ask for Feedback
You can’t lock yourself away in the design cave and reappear with a dozen ideas that all nail the brief. Never be too proud to ask for feedback from your colleagues. It’s amazing what a fresh pair of eyes can pick up and how bouncing ideas off someone else can sometimes give you a ‘Eureka’ moment. You might spend hours trying to figure something out on your own, only to find that it could have been spotted in seconds by a co-worker, saving valuable unpaid pitch time.
Don’t be Tight
You have had an idea for a cover that includes a fantastic silver foil effect. Since this is only a concept you print it out as a grey gradient and let someone just explain the idea during the pitch. That’s okay right? Wrong! For the sake of a few extra quid mock-up your ideas as close to the final product as possible using a printer or finisher if required. Clients can’t always see your vision the way you imagine, showing them could mean the difference between success and failure.
Go the Extra Mile
Our own experiences have given us sound knowledge of what a client needs in order to promote a new brand. If the brief seems sparse (or even if it isn’t!) never be afraid to throw in a few extra ideas to add that WOW factor. A 30 second video might mean a days work, but it shows that you are both committed and proactive. If your agency goes the extra mile and 3 others don’t, it puts you a cut above.
It’s often said that turnover is vanity and profit is sanity but there’s a deeper truth that anyone who’s run a successful small or medium sized business will understand: cash flow is king.
An inability to generate enough cash at the right time to meet demand can stall investment, strangle growth and affect even the most profitable companies.
Village Design is lucky to have loyal clients that respect our payment terms. However like many companies, the Accounts team occasionally has to implement strategies to tighten cash flow and ensure monies are received on time.
Our business philosophy is to have a deep partnership with our clients and we work hard to build relationships that work well for both sides.
So while we cannot control when customers pay - and the very nature of business is that certain events will fall out of our control – we can have confidence in our cash flow forecasts by being confident about our relationship with our clients.
To do that we have some tried and tested strategies followed by the Accounts team that we know will improve cash flow and therefore reduce risk:
1. We ensure there is a clear credit control policy in place
2. We are firm, polite and diplomatic when chasing payment
3. We assess our credit terms and have considered changing to 14 day payments
4. We run regular credit checks on all clients
5. Some clients have monthly retainers to help spread the cost irrespective of how much work is completed
6. We consider staged payments for large projects, initially invoicing design, artwork and strategy, followed by print and production, followed by amends and finishing
Clear and consistent communication is central to our successful partnership with our clients. By sticking to the above action plan enables Village to retain a healthy cash flow and a business that thrives.
If you are a creative agency then hopefully by now you are aware of the phrase “Death by PowerPoint”? The importance of an engaging presentation is second to none and its even more important to stay clear of slide presentation, using badly designed templates, bullet points, small fonts and presenters turning their back to the audience!
Here are some tips to engage with your audience without using PowerPoint, ensuring you get the result you are looking for!
Use your enthusiasm. Confidence doesn’t come naturally to everyone, so utilise your enthusiasm for your work and the creative. No one likes a know it all and this is where you come in, use your enthusiasm to sell, its infectious and your audience will be able to relate and appreciate your passion.
Ensure your message is clear and to the point! Visualise your presentation in a small number of points that are simple for your audience to understand. This ensures your message stands out and it will be clear and concise, also, if anything goes wrong it is easier to remember the structure of your presentation.
Transfer your message into a story. Have you ever heard a presenter say, “I’ll begin by telling you a story…”? If so, you’ll notice the audience relax into their chairs. They are entering a trance, which they will most likely be able to relate to. Consider your message. What problem does it solve? What’s the human dimension? Who does it remind you of? Once you have the elements of a story, practice telling it until you it makes you laugh or cringe. If it affects you, it’s sure to affect your audience.
Wow them with words. Never try to memorise every single word of your presentation, although it does pay to remember a few key phrases.
Create stunning visuals. When it comes to visuals, nothing beats beautifully presented boards, however if you are presenting something interactive make sure you use video and present using a screen or iPad to ensure your audience engage, after all video is far more compelling than static graphics. Don’t dilute your creative or message with too much ‘stuff’, always leave the audience wanting more.
Keep your presentation simple. All you need for a great presentation is:
The ultimate test will be your audience’s response. But as long as you apply the same level of imagination and passion to your presentations as you do with the creative it will result in one killer presentation!
The property market has changed. All of a sudden the roads are busy with flat-beds, city skylines have come alive with tower cranes, building materials need to be ordered way in advance.
With this upturn in confidence comes fierce competition. How will a development stand out? Why will a downsizer buy? What will turn interest into a signed contract? Property developers will need to make their projects stand out from what is gradually becoming once again a crowded marketplace. So it stands to reason that there has never been a more appropriate time to invest in marketing.
Through the recession many property-marketing companies have disappeared so it may be more difficult to find an agency that really understands how to sell property. The job of the agency is to make a project stand out, inform and sell. The way property is marketed is also changing, with new innovation and technologies such as Augmented Reality there are new ways to present projects to potential customers, and apps are now an option to replace or sit alongside traditional printed material.
Managing expectations is one of the most important aspects when maintaining a healthy and rewarding relationship with clients. Consistently having positive relationships leads to a calmer work-day and a high level of productivity. Here at Village we value these relationships and we follow a few tried and tested golden rules to maintain them.
Establish a concrete brief
We love to solve problems but we always make sure we are tackling the right one. We ensure time is taken to carefully listen and fully understand what is required of Village. We are not afraid to ask questions to clarify specific points of detail and if our client does not have a clear brief we guide them with strategic questions to establish one. Once we have that brief we challenge it. Our clients value our expertise so if we don't believe the brief will deliver the desired results we will suggest solutions and refine the brief.
Be honest from the outset
It can be far too easy to say what your client wants to hear but to consistently deliver quality design on time and within budget it is essential that realistic deadlines are in place. We always honour our commitments
Embrace open communication
At Village we understand that nothing can reach it’s full potential if people involved are not speaking frankly. We encourage our clients to speak honestly about design concepts and drafts as we admit that we can occasionally get caught up in a design concept and lose our ‘fresh eyes’. Learning to have an open and honest communication pipeline between account manager and client not only leads to better design – it leads to building trust.
Be transparent about the design process
Here at Village we find that using a consultative approach on certain projects can be invaluable. Therefore we are happy to show our clients ‘works in progress’, out-takes, sketches and comps. It also helps to show the journey we take to achieve our final goal.
Know everything you need to know
We are confident we know our craft inside out. We are the experts in creative marketing solutions and that is what our clients pay us for.
Don’t underestimate human interaction
We work efficiently through email but we always welcome a meeting, especially if there are tea and biscuits! You can’t beat seeing your clients face to face.
This of course is not an exhaustive list but by keeping these points in mind we can ensure professional relationships flourish which result in a rewarding working day, repeat business and referrals for new business.
There is no doubt that the property market is becoming stronger and arguably more investable. The question now for many new homebuyers and investors, is how long could it last and is this growth sustainable – and is it worth securing a property off-plan? For homebuyers it’s an easier decision, as historically long term investment in property has tended to pay off.
Before the recession off-plan sales were commonplace – the logic being that if you could afford to commit buying early in a rising market, by the time you completed, the value of your new home (or investment) may well have increased. Of course the recession changed all that, but with renewed confidence in the property market and a shortage of new homes available, an increasing number of properties are being bought ‘off-plan’
Kyle Caldwell – The Telegraph:
Landlords are using a new form of “top up mortgage” as a way of boosting the incomes they can earn from their property investments. The “top-up mortgage” – so far the only one of its kind – sits alongside the landlord’s main mortgage. But it works differently from an ordinary mortgage in that no monthly interest is paid.
Instead, at the end of the agreed term, typically between five and ten years, the borrower settles the top-up loan by paying back the original capital, plus a slice of the property’s increase in value over the period.
In this way some of the costs of the landlord’s total borrowings are deferred, and converted into a future, capital payment, which could be made if the property is sold or refinanced. Specialist property finance firm Castle Trust, which launched the scheme in November, said it had experienced “phenomenal demand”. Some landlords are using it to increase the income they can draw from a property to supplement pensions or meet another need for income. Others are using it to buy properties where the yield – the rental income measured against the property’s price – is too low to satisfy mainstream lenders.
This renewed confidence along with a range of mortgages coming to the market is bringing investors flooding back into property.
It seems to be more and more common for clients to be dictating the budget for a project rather than us, as the agency, producing an initial quotation. It’s a good way to work, as everyone is clear of the end goal. It is important however that a concise brief is supplied alongside the budget.
Our property clients, in particular, prefer working this way. Their marketing budgets are worked out by a percentage of the GDV (Gross Development Value). So why not then pass on a set amount to the design agency to produce all the marketing collateral required?
Within reason, it is nearly always possible to work to a specified budget; the key is to manage the client’s expectations of what they will receive for it.
The most effective way of planning to work to a budget is to figure out what you would have billed without any price constraints. Make a list of all the aspects of the project with the cost next to each job including any external costs marked up with your normal mark up cost. (You can also use this list as a plan for the studio to follow when briefing them on the work required.) You can now review all the costs and look at where savings can be made if required. For instance, print: can you produce a more economical product, or time: can we work faster in any areas.
Don’t worry if you go through the costs and find its not feasible to work to the budget, most clients are open to discussing this and if you can give a clear, fair reason why it can’t be achieved, they may either re-consider their brief or their budget.
In the past video was used in business solely for training purposes. Later, with the advent of digital technology, we were able to combine film and animation effects to create something more appealing and cheaper to produce. This proved to be an extremely effective way of getting across messages to live audiences, not only in training sessions, but also at company conferences, presentations and seminars.
Today, with the huge growth in mobile computers and with faster download speeds, it is possible to stream video direct to laptops, smartphones and tablets, allowing companies and brands to connect with audiences in a far more dynamic and engaging way.
Incorporated into websites, video is far more compelling than static graphics by drawing in and engaging the viewer. Analysis reveals that video appears in over 70% of Google’s search results.* Also, a recent survey has shown that integrated into emails, most people would prefer to watch a video than read text. **
Digital publications, such as magazines and sales brochures, are downloaded as apps and eliminate print and distribution costs. They give the reader a truly interactive experience with extra content, scrolling text, panning images, 3D models, animated graphics as well as video clips. Company reports, distributed as an interactive PDF attached to an email, can include video interviews with key personnel. A recent survey shows that 59% of senior executives prefer to watch a video interview than read an article.***
So now is the time to take the step and consider video as a key element in your marketing and internal communication strategies.
** Implix Email Marketing Trends Survey.
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