Stevie Wolfe

Design

From high flyers to flyers it’s more important than ever for design to be bold, beautiful, daring, and different. We take an upfront look at how this applies to communications.

The most brilliant high flyer of our times turned 40 this year. And, like most successful types, there was little time for fanfare or celebration. The high flyer in question simply got on with the day- to-day business of shrinking the world. The high flyer in question? The Boeing 747 ‘Jumbo Jet.’ Still the fastest way of getting from A to P (over 80% the speed of sound), the 747 is almost 4 times the sales success even Boeing predicted it would be and it’s been incredibly safe, iconic in stature and life-changing for billions to boot. All of which makes it indisputably one of the most important designs of our time, nay of all time, and living proof, if any were needed, of the endurance and resilience of great design.

Not that we’re claiming for one cotton-pickin’ second to be aviation experts (beyond knowing that it’s always best to order the vegetarian meal option). Nor are we claiming that our communications material has the power to move people across continents (except in the case of holiday companies, in which case we’d like to think our communications can do just that).

What we do know for sure is that, in our shrunken, overcrowded, sensory-overload world, the need for good design is greater than ever. Whatever your product, whatever your offering, you need to stand out from the crowd, even if only superficially. And, if you have few competitors in your sector, it’s of paramount importance to draw people’s attention to just how unique you are. Image, backed up by substance, is everything.

And that’s where our design skills come in.

For a layout to paint a thousand words, it needs to be eye- catching, immediate, relevant and, of course, well-designed. Which means bold, different and uncluttered. Countless communications designs these days are vying to have the most product shots per square inch, the biggest price listings, the first logo visible from outer space. None of which inspires consumer confidence, brand loyalty or the ultimate aim, increased sales. In fact, more often than not, a communications material that shouts and screams its prices

and its logos, that can’t seem to make up its mind which product it’s pushing, will leave the audience nonplussed: by not trusting its products, its prices or its logo to impress at normal scale, the company betrays a lack of trust in itself, its products and in the intelligence of its audience. Never a good idea, for a lack of trust in your audience will only ever be repaid in kind.

It’s safe to say that if certain marketing managers had overseen the Boeing 747 design, it would have been the first ever plane with logo-shaped wings bowed under the weight of engines the size of Chipping Sodbury, boasting 500 differently-shaped seats, just in case punters were unsure.

We, on the other hand, always design our material to fulfill its purpose: no shouting, screaming or pleading here, just facts displayed in a bold, confident, and compelling way, designed to boost confidence, recognition and, most importantly, sales. We don’t believe bigger is better. Rather that better makes you bigger.

To get an idea of how much better we could make your communications, feel free to check out some examples of our design work.

For although words can paint thousands of pictures, it’s probably quicker to see for yourself.

Meanwhile, if you’ve got designs on a meeting or more information, feel free to contact us.

Copy

From the good book to a good slogan, words are of paramount importance. Here’s an upfront look at why.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” That’s what Saint John the Evangelist reckoned anyway. Now there’s a guy who believed in the power of the word.

Indeed, in the Greek philosophical tradition of which he was a part, the “Logos” (word) was seen as a power in itself. John would have known all too well that words have the potential to inspire, to please, to reassure, to enrage, to shock. Whatever reaction you’re after, positive or negative, you name it, a word or two can achieve it. Words are a biblically powerful weapon indeed, not one to be underestimated (and not one, for that matter, that ever has been underestimated by any leader worth their salt).

Underestimate them at your peril, for they harbour another, altogether more sinister power.

Something far more dangerous, not least from where you’re sitting: the power to inspire complete, abject indifference.

That’s right, the potential to do nothing. Think about it. When did you last read a website, an advert, an annual report that was intriguing, entertaining, inspiring, or even just easy to digest? Chances are it wasn’t a recent occurrence and, worse, that you can’t remember the vast majority of written marketing and communications materials that pass under your nose.

What a sad and unnecessary waste of everyone’s time and, of course, a total waste of money for the poor sod who commissioned the work.

You see, more and more communications agencies seem to think they can get away without the services of professional copywriters, that they can cut corners and save themselves some filthy lucre. They’ll charge you for copywriting but, in reality, your copy was probably written by the sensitive-looking soul from the art department who writes poems in his spare time.

After all everyone can write, right?

Wrong.

Everyone can write a postcard, fire off an email, ping out a text message. Plenty of people can write very eloquent Valentine’s cards,

write detailed reports or pen sales presentations. Plenty of people have “a way with words.”

Not many, though, are professionally trained writers who can connect emotionally and intellectually with any target audience you care to shake your stick at, to inspire, please, reassure, enrage or shock an individual into using your business.

And that’s why, here at Honest, we most certainly haven’t done away with professional copywriters. They’re alive, well and thriving here, writing dynamic pieces of copy that readers actually remember reading, that readers take something out of and that readers relate to. Our copywriters have produced copy for everyone from pharmaceutical giants to drug rehabilitation centres, from sports events organisers to reiki healers, shipping magnates, universities, the NHS, independent politicians, toy manufacturers and far more besides, adapting their style, tone and language to suit each individual requirement. They’ve written copy of every imaginable size, from two-word slogans to award-winning headlines to 20,000-word prospectuses.

Crucially, our copywriters have enjoyed more than their fair share of success, proving time and again that it really does pay to harness the power of the word.

Which, incidentally, you could do now: by picking up the phone and arranging a meeting (or of course writing to us).

Digital

An explanation of our online technical ethos: how we weave the web together, what goes in and what stays out.

The web can be sticky. Lots of businesses get caught in it. Some don’t make it out in one piece. But it’s nonetheless essential to virtually all businesses these days. And here at Honest, we’re better equipped than most communications agencies to navigate the pitfalls and exploit the limitless potential out there, whether it’s online locally or half way around the world.

That’s because we’re one of the very few communications agencies with a fully-integrated technical division. Lots of agencies will sell you a “website” that’s designed by creative types in funny shoes with a woefully insufficient understanding of technical matters. Lots of other companies call themselves specialist web design agencies, which generally means they’re solely populated by tech-types with no appreciation for the finer points of design. Consequently, you either get a website that looks pretty but works as often as a French dock worker or one that works fine but looks like it was designed by Ray Charles. Or you pay extra (probably without knowing it) to have your website job sub-contracted to a different company for either aesthetic or technical tinkering.

Or you get your communications designed and built here at Honest, where creatives and tech-types work together under one roof to create a website that looks nice and works well, at the same price as some of the cheapest “one stop shops.” Revolutionary we know but we believe in providing all the services you need right here, upfront.

Now, you can read more about our very own funny-shoe- wearing creative types on our design and copy pages and about our overriding creative philosophy on our brand page, and even about our pricing should you so wish, all of which, we hope, will persuade you that we’re by far the best option from a prettiness, a readability, a consistency and a cost-efficiency point of view. But what about a technical one?

Well, let’s talk tech.

For starters, we like to keep things simple so that our structures are understood, no matter the kind of computer or web-browser people choose to use. That’s why the foundations of our sites are built using HTML. This age-old technology has its restrictions but is understood by and works well with all web browsers. We then weave in other technologies to achieve additional style and functionality. For example, we’ll use the basis of a technology called CSS, which is very widely-understood by all modern web-browsers.

CSS extends the visual abilities of a website, taking design to a whole new level. Like with any technology, when using CSS we focus on the core commands, rather than the cutting-edge ones. While the more complex commands can achieve complex and fashionable features, they’re often restricted to one browser or sacrifice reliability and usability. So when a browser does need the extra code to comply with our standard command set, we’ll add it in such a way that doesn’t compromise how consistent your website looks on other browsers, or how successful its search engine performance is (search engines like clear, simple coding so we file browser-specific code separately). For extra functionality we use plenty of PHP and a little Javascript. PHP allows us to include database and other real-time dynamic information, while Javascript allows us to extend functionality of older browsers and present information in clever ways, such as with full-screen content presentation. The Javascript we use degrades gracefully, so if someone cannot access this technology, the site continues to function at a simpler level.

Most importantly (and uniquely), we test our websites on practically every web browser, new, old, popular and hens’-teeth rare. Our code is written and refined with the emphasis on maximum visual compatibility. So by getting an Honest website you’re guaranteeing visibility and functionality for every potential customer, whether they’re looking at your presence on a Mobile, PC, Mac or Table, running Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari, Opera, you name it.

All of which means that when it comes to choosing a company to develop your online presence, build e-mailers, maintain your existing site, we win on a technicality.

Several actually.

So why not use the wonders of modern technology now to drop us an e-mail or phone call?

Branding

We take a look at how to make a name for yourself and, thus, how to create a brand. And, of course, how we can help you do both.

What do you think of when you hear the word “Volvo”? If you immediately think of the latin for “I roll,” that’s very good but not quite where we were going. No, unless you’ve been living with Central African Pygmies for the last 40 years, you’ve probably been conditioned to think of safety, security, reliability and practicality at the first mention of the Swedish auto giant. Conditioned by careful, clever marketing and concerted brand-building most likely. But what exactly is a brand?

To put it briefly, it’s a company that’s staked a monopoly to a particular communications theme, or group of themes. By identifying characteristics that consumers want, or would want, a strong brand will lay claim to them, using clever and repeated communications to seal its monopoly.

But before we go any further, let’s elaborate by way of an example.

And it’s back to our old friends at Volvo again.

In an era before airbags, ABS, impact beams and most of the automotive life support systems we now take for granted, Volvo rightly asserted that people had the odd lurking safety-related concern about being propelled across the countryside at 70-odd mph in a metal box full of edges sharper than one of Don Johnson’s suits. So they became the first manufacturer to fit seatbelts as standard, as well as pioneering crumple zones, pedestrian impact protection, impact bars and countless other lifesavers. They also made their products to a much higher standard than most, using rustproofing techniques when others were busy perfecting the angle of their fins, the piping of their seat materials or, of course, building cars that were designed to rust and fall apart, forcing hapless customers to upgrade on a regular basis. Needless to say, Volvo wasn’t shy about trumpeting its unique virtues and, happily, they’d found a rich brand territory indeed. So much so that even decades later in the 21st century, the company’s slogan is “For life,” encapsulating the enduring themes of safety, durability and brand loyalty. Not that we’re suggesting for a second that Volvo’s admirable history of life-saving innovation has been primarily a brand-building exercise.

Far from it. Volvo was simply a progressive, responsible company that found a niche making motoring safer and more reliable for the masses. And, like all the best brands, the marketing simply highlighted the things Volvo did differently or better.

It’s all very well claiming to have prices “you wouldn’t believe” or products “you’ll love” or printing the word “SALE” bigger than the place itself. But, let’s face it, any company could say the same thing and, indeed, many companies will. Instead, the strongest, most memorable, most successful brands only ever tell the truth. They just tell it very well.
Which is where we come in.

We’ll highlight the things that differentiate you from your competitors. Whether you’re cheaper, better, quicker, stronger, more dependable, higher quality, more accessible, nicer to your customers, greener, bespoke, whatever. We’ll find ways to communicate what you do best so that it’ll be understood, admired and remembered by the people you want to communicate to.

We’ll use wit, charm, shock, awe, whatever’s appropriate to deliver your message powerfully and cleverly. We’ll also convey your messages consistently across everything from your website to your annual report to your leaflets, so that people start to recognise the familiar tone of your communiqués before they’ve even fully read them. After all, it’s always easier to buy from someone you know, understand and trust.

But why choose Honest over our competitors?

Put simply, a communications company can only ever create a brand as strong as its own abilities. Just as well for you that we’ve got the full compliment of skills, as well as experience and a proven track record of building strong brands for everyone from universities to one-man-bands. Just check out our case studies to find out more. And, just to prove the point, we’ve been entrusted with singing the virtues of household brands from British Airways to MTV to Volkswagen (a fuller list is available here on our brands page).

Not only that but we’re also the only communications company at the time of writing that’s prepared to put its money where its mouth is and actually build a brand of its own. Think about it. Many of our competitors will try to bully you into buying the most outlandish, daring work (mostly to win awards for themselves), whilst simultaneously explaining little or nothing of what their company stands for. What makes them different? What makes them better? Their silence, generally, speaks volumes. The way we see it, if we’re going to persuade you to part with your hard-earned cash for a brand idea, we’d better set about creating a brand for ourselves.

So we hope you wouldn’t buy a used Volvo or, for that matter a brand, off anyone else.

If you’ve already read through our upfront explanations of our, copy, design, and technology, there’s really nothing more to do but give us a call or email.

About

Honest Creative. It means just what it says. Honest, unfettered, uncluttered, unadorned creative work, designed to achieve results. All underscored by our simple slogan: “upfront,” which conveniently and concisely encapsulates how we go about the business of creating our work.

For starters, there’s the sheer range of services we offer, right here, upfront, under one roof. Too many to list but it’s safe to say that whatever your marketing, online, branding, design, creative, PR, or media requirements, we’ll create an honest, effective solution. And unlike many creative companies, we can create many of the less glamourous (albeit equally essential) elements in-house: website building, market research and media handling, for example, are all handled here, minimising outsourcing, maximising efficiency.

Naturally our upfront ethos extends to our day-to-day dealings: when you work with us, you’ll find that we’re refreshingly clear about what we do. There’s no marketing speak, jargon, sales talk or made-up bullshit formulae here. Just an open, honest appraisal of the best way forward. It is based on:

1 A discussion with you so that we clarify together what the essence of your product or service is (the brand).

2 Thinking in our team to identify a number of possible ways to communicate your message to your target audiences (the campaign).

3 Roughly outlining our thoughts to you so that you can choose the direction you’re happiest with.

4 Designing a campaign to put this message across in a way that is engaging, persuasive, on-time and within budget.


Customers tell us that our appeal is largely down to the fact that we don’t employ account people: here at Honest, you deal upfront with the very people who create (and therefore best understand) your work, not the usual raft of salespeople or middlemen. Some agencies, you see, are all front as opposed to upfront.

We’re also upfront and honest with ourselves. All too many creative types these days see their sole aim in life as getting the go-ahead to run outlandish, impractical, gratuitous and ultimately unsuccessful ideas in their clients’ names. They’re the kinds of people who’d claim that a giant flaming radish with a Nike logo burnt into it being airlifted into Piccadilly Circus was “on-brand.” Not that we’re against out-there creative concepts. Quite the opposite. You only need look at our portfolio if you’re in any doubt as to our flair. The difference is we understand that the message must always come above the creative team’s ego. And the message must always be relevant. In short, we won’t disappear up our own arts on you. By keeping our feet on the ground and our heads out of the clouds, we regularly propel our customers’ sales into the stratosphere.

Another area where we’re upfront with you is when it comes to the bottom line. Our prices are available for your perusal on this very website and, like those of pretty much every leading company from Apple Computer to The Big Apple Greengrocers in Dudley, they’re straightforward, consistent and reasoned. Proudly contrary to the tacitly-accepted practise in much of the creative world, itself a heady mix of mood-dependant thin-air-plucking, what-can-we-get-away-with derring do and the dark art of client means testing. Wherever possible, we aim to give you an idea of how much things will set you back before you decide to move forward.
And so to the upshot of upfront.

It’s simple really: by being upfront with our clients, they get upfront of their competition. Like the freight operator whose email campaign paid for itself in 180 seconds. Or the sports event organiser whose flagship event saw a 33% increase in participants this year. But then they’re different stories for another day (although you can hear them today if you really want to by visiting our case studies page).

The choice, as they say, is clear. If you want to get ahead, get upfront.

So email info@honestcreative.co.uk or call the studio on 07455592929 to up the ante.