Canright designers share what stimulates their creative minds. Perspectives on the everyday findings we come across in our world of print and web design, typography, art, music, film, advertising, and literature.
February 6th, 2013 by Christina Canright
December 3rd, 2012 by James Richter
Often I hear company owners say they don’t want to bother with their websites. When I ask them about it, I get one of two responses: They say they don’t like their website but don’t want to spend the time and money to rework it. Or they say it’s “fine,” it will do for now. Either way, the website is not doing what a site is meant to do: Be an introduction for a company, and a continuing way to reach potential customers.
Many firms will put more money into making their reception space look impressive than they will put into their website and online marketing. They understand the value of the impression an office can make. The website is in that same category, except its reach is much greater. Considering how much a website could do for a company, just leaving the site “as is” essentially amounts to wasting a valuable sales and marketing resource. A good site can be set up to capture leads, tell what is unique about your company, and show how your company can be a benefit before a potential client even contacts you.
But what if you finally get past some of those objections and you decide to bite the bullet and redo the site? Given that it can be a challenging process, here are the five most common mistakes to avoid:
1. Looks like everyone else—impersonal.
Many sites try to look like each other, or follow the latest trend. They start with a home page with too much content or often feel cold and impersonal.
A site needs to reflect the company’s personality—whether it’s “we play tough, nothing is too difficult for us to tackle” or “we listen to you and will handle any problems or needs with expediency, so you don’t need to worry.” The tough players will have an in-your-face site, and the service-oriented firm will have a warmer, more accessible feel. Professionalism comes through for both.
2. Internally focused on the company rather than externally on the client.
Frankly, clients don’t care that much about your company’s mission. What they do care about is: What can you do for them, and what kind of reputation do you have? When you focus more on the benefits you offer, your prospect senses you will focus on them—and you more readily differentiate your company. Client alerts and articles in your areas of expertise show what your company and its people feel passionate about and have special expertise in. A company can gain a lot of credibility if it provides client briefings and backgrounders on especially complex issues.
3. No calls to action.
Guide visitors on the site to what you want them to do, whether it’s calling you or downloading reports and white papers. Use download buttons and links that are obviously buttons to click on. Buttons also make it easier for them to see where to sign up for a newsletter or how to access your blog if you have one.
4. Making it difficult for interested people to contact your company and get access to its resources.
On many sites, it’s difficult to find a phone number; instead, you get a form. While you do want to capture visitors to your site, you also want to make it easy for them to call you directly. Sites are for making you more accessible to your customers, not less.
5. Photos that don’t relate to what the company does (pictures of the city, office building).
There are exceptions to this, but because so many sites use the city they live in as the main home page photo, it’s best to stay away from a city photo, unless you use it in a unique way. Look for images that are compelling but not cliche. How many have people sitting around a conference table? How many use stock photography and models rather than real people? Every company can find creative ways to present its work.
If you know you need a better web presence or recognize one or more of these mistakes on your site, send me an email at email@example.com. I offer a free hour-long assessment to help you determine where to start.
July 8th, 2012 by Christina Canright
By now, you’ve probably heard about infographics. The secret has been out for a while, and they now seem to be everywhere.
We at Canright like the way infographics can combine data and design to tell a story in a creative, engaging way. The graphical format is not only easy to understand—it’s easy to share, too. If your infographic compels people to share it online, it can really help spread awareness of your brand while also telling your business’s story.
If you’re looking for some inspiration for your business’s next infographic, then we encourage you to have a look at these:
- Visual.ly, a website for creating and sharing infographics, can give you a sense of the broad range of topics that infographics can cover.
- GOOD.is magazine keeps an updated list of infographics that tend to have an altruistic or educational angle.
- Econsultancy publishes a weekly list of the latest and greatest infographics.
- Upworthy’s mission statement is explained with an infographic.
- There’s even an infographic about infographics.
- Infographics can have a sense of humor, too, as The Oatmeal has discovered.
As you can see, the rules for infographics are flexible. Businesses can use them to spread awareness, define their brands, present a value proposition, and much more.
However, you must beware of the bad infographic! Keep in mind that it’s only worth creating and sharing if it engages your audience while delivering the right message.
July 7th, 2012 by James Richter
Think Like A Designer:
Creating Effective Presentations
Simplicity is a key element in doing an effective and compelling presentation. This does not mean simple. A well-designed slide is one that has clarity—the arrangement is well thought out, words are pared down to their essence, and concepts are prioritized. At the same time, the presenter fills in relevant information—often with a story from his or her own experience.
The content becomes personal and grounded in the speaker’s experience. And, the audience can connect and relate more authentically with the speaker.Keeping it simple also serves another purpose: You increase the odds of your key points being remembered. According to Garr Reynolds, author, Presentation Zen, “There is simply a limit to a person’s ability to process new information efficiently and effectively.”
When you have too much information on a slide, your audience has to cope with what Garr calls “excessive cognitive strain,” and your message, even though it may be a good one, gets lost in the clutter of too much information.
So construct each slide with care to make sure it communicates efficiently and elegantly. Then, remember that the audience is there to hear what you have to say about the topic.
Because, when it comes down to it, the presentation is not about the slides, it’s really about you and the experience you bring. The slides are a partner to your message. The slides can either underline what you have to say or get in the way.
Think of Steve Jobs, a master of presentations who famously valued design—and thought like a designer. Most people remember him, the experience he created, and how he spoke about Apple’s products.
The slides, which were beautifully done, added substance to what he was describing. The slides were his tools, but he was the show.
March 6th, 2012 by Canright Communications
Canright Guide to Pitchfork 2012 – PDF download
Canright Guide to Pitchfork 2012 – PDF download
We at Canright Communications love discovering new music and sharing it with our friends, family, and business partners. Music can open our minds to unfamiliar emotions, different cultures, and new possibilities. We’re often listening to music while writing and designing new communications solutions for our clients. It can help us get in the zone.
Pitchfork has served as a wellspring of emerging artists for over a decade. Founded and headquartered in Chicago (just like us), the former start-up is now the leading voice in independent music. From their incisive, well-crafted reviews to their newly launched YouTube channel to the upcoming annual music festival July 13-15, Pitchfork is simultaneously criticizing, curating, and collaborating with musicians in a range of genres (and even helping to coin new ones).
While looking at the music schedule of this year’s Pitchfork Music Festival, we couldn’t help but notice that the set times and stages were presented in a format that is less than ideal. It’s easiest to plan out your personal schedule–and improvise while at the fest–if you have the acts lined up side-by-side. Most major fests do this, but Pitchfork does not.
Well, we just couldn’t resist, so we created a very basic schedule that you are free to download, print, mark up, and take with you to this year’s Pitchfork Music Festival. It has times, stages, and even some aftershows clearly laid out to help you make the best of the fest.
If you haven’t gotten a ticket, day passes are still for sale.
Enjoy the music, stay hydrated, and have fun!
Canright Guide to Pitchfork 2012 – PDF download
November 18th, 2011 by Canright Communications
Creating Effective Presentations
Often, when working with clients on creating presentations, I find that they want to include too much information—all in an effort to make it great. This is what I call the “kitchen-sink approach,” and it’s driven by the fear of leaving out something essential. However, a truly great presentation has only a few key ideas that are illustrated with compelling images and minimal text.
According to Nancy Duarte, author of slide:ology, one must think like a designer. As she says, “Design, at its core, is about solving problems…Essentially designers focus on the experience, making it as beautiful and memorable as possible.” In thinking like a designer, your decisions are about the experience you want to create for your audience, with meaning and relevance determining the hierarchy and priority of ideas presented.
Simplicity is a key element is doing a presentation. This does not mean simple. A well-designed slide is one that has clarity. The arrangement is well thought out, words are pared down to their essence, and the slide intrigues so that the presenter fills in relevant information—often with a story from his or her own experience.
Keeping it simple also serves another purpose: You increase the odds of being understood. According to Garr Reynolds, author, Presentation Zen, “There is simply a limit to a person’s ability to process new information efficiently and effectively.” When you have too much information on a slide, your audience has to cope with what Garr calls “excessive cognitive strain.”
So construct each slide with care to make sure it communicates efficiently and elegantly. Because, when it comes down to it, the presentation is not about the slides. It’s really about you and the experience you create. The slides are a partner to your message. The slides can either underline what you have to say, or get in the way. Think of Steve Jobs, a master of presentations who valued design and thought like a designer. Most people remember him, the experience he created, and how he spoke about Apple’s products. The slides, which were beautifully done, added substance to what he was describing. But he was the show. —Christina
November 16th, 2011 by Canright Communications
Today I attended Creative Mornings, which featured a talk by Scott Thomas. Creative Mornings is a monthly breakfast lecture series. The events are free of charge, feature a 20-minute talk, and even include coffee to help kick start your Friday.
Scott Thomas is a designer/developer well-known for his work with Designing Obama. He spoke about a new project he has been developing called The Noun Project. The project features an immense catalog of universal icons available for public use, and even provides cross language translation.
Creative Mornings was started in New York by Tina Roth Eisenberg (you may have heard of her blog and design studio swissmiss) who wanted to create accessible events for people to come together and become inspired.
November 3rd, 2011 by Canright Communications
Each Tuesday in our morning meeting, we have the chance to talk about what inspires us. We all agreed that this talk, featuring Yves Béhar and his idea of 360° design, was a great way to start the day. Check out Yves’ talk at CUSP 2011. Yves talks about asking the right questions, and how his team re-imagined something as simple as a shoe box.
April 4th, 2011 by Canright Communications
Why Canright loves type, and why you should care.
The purpose of this series is to open the conversation to the friends, clients and followers of Canright. These topics and classifications have been made countless times before, but are here on our blog to spread the word to our extended community.
At Canright, we have a special appreciation for typography. Collin’s family owned a newspaper, sharpening his eye for quality type from an early age. Christina has a background in magazine layout and publication design, which requires an innate attention to detail. Personally, I love graphic design because I love words and letters. Experimenting with typefaces infuses the same words with new voices and personalities. The three of us together, in addition to Canright’s newest designer, Caroline—fresh out of the University of Illinois graphic design program—are a team of type aficionados with different perspectives.
Before desktop publishing became available to the general public, typesetting was an art left only to type professionals. Now, however, anyone can set type on their personal computer. This is both incredibly liberating, allowing more and more people to become a part of the design world. At the same time, this revolution means more people are using software to set type, relying too heavily on the software to make decisions on spacing and size that a practiced professional would see and take care of easily.
Why should you care? Incorrectly set typography reflects poorly on your brand. The best brands in the world have used elegant typography that makes their content accessible to their customers. Thoughtful typography becomes seamless with your message and your brand. It is the charge of a graphic designer or art director to choose typefaces that are appropriate for the project, and to choose type for a purpose. The fonts that you use for your brand will reflect your brand personality, so it is important that this is considered. Just like color, the type on your products, collateral and messaging send your brand personality out into the world. It is our job to help our clients make sure their brand is sending the right message. There is a professionalism that’s conveyed with beautifully set and easy to read typography. It says “I care that you read this,” it invites you to read it.
If you want to know more, please see the resources below.
Links, References & Resources:
July 9th, 2010 by Canright Communications
Normally, when I think of networking, my mind draws this picture: Nametags, hotel conference rooms, uncomfortable conversations, old carpet. The last networking event I attended, however, drew this picture: great atmosphere, comfortable conversations, awesome venue.
In pursuit of improving my ability to network, the Canrights recently sent me to a networking event hosted by the Business Marketing Association Chicago Young Professionals. The event was all about networking, getting social, and meeting new people. I was a bit apprehensive (as you can imagine from my thoughts on networking above). I became interested however because the event was being held at Old Town Social, a well-known and popular spot just a hop from our River North office. The night of the event, after some introductions, some mingling and some great drinks, we broke off into groups where we could discuss networking with other young professionals under the guidance of one experienced professional.
The points that were made in our conversation were simple, but so important to remember:
- Read the news, keep up on recent technology, have interests that you can readily draw upon in conversation.
- Have a firm handshake, avoid politics, and try not to ask “What do you do?” first thing, considering today’s job market.
- Every week it is crucial to do your own personal research on topics you’re interested in and to keep yourself interesting. Try reading a couple blogs you’re interested in every week, or try Google Reader to keep you on top of your game.
- The follow up after a meeting is just as important as creating a memorable conversation. Continue to follow up with contacts when you start to lose touch.
One of the biggest points made at this BMA event was the importance of not becoming outdated and keeping up with the times. Be conscious of your web presence and social media, respond to emails and messages in a timely manner, and be ready for the next big thing. Today, we all know what Twitter and Facebook are, but what will be next, and how will you respond?
This event broke my previous belief that networking was boring. The event itself was fresh and exciting, and if I want to be a successful networker, I too need to be fresh and exciting in my conversations, my work and my ideas.
Grain edit is one of my favorite design blogs. They focus on design from the 50s-70s and work that is inspired from that era. Among other things, they feature interviews and studio visits with top notch designers and illustrators.
I have always respected the work of visual masters such as Milton Glaser, Paul Rand, and Herb Lubalin, so it’s no surprise that this is one of my favorite sources for inspiration. Take a look at some of the work/articles posted by clicking the sample images below.