About Michael Meadows Creative

Michael Meadows Creative has been in business for over 18 years, providing our clients with on-target creative messages that set them apart from their competition. Contact us if you want that next big idea to be for you.

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Tuesday
Aug062013

Why Color is Important 

If we were all like dogs, color would not be an important part of our lives. We would all be driving grey cars, watching black and white television, and Apple would have no reason to develop a color computer monitor. Grey or black suits and little black dresses would be de rigueur for all cocktail parties. Maybe smell-o-vision would have been a big hit. But since we are most fortunate to see the world in a wide spectrum of color, how it’s used to sell your product or service can be the difference between getting the attention it needs to thrive in the marketplace, or dying on the vine, like a shriveled grey tomato. 

Here’s a few statistics:

  • According to the Seoul International Color Expo which documents the yin and yang of color and marketing, 92.6% of the respondents to their research found that how the product looked was the most important. 
  • And color accounted for 84.7% of the respondents that thought color is important in more than half of the various factors in picking one product over another. 
  • The Institute of Color Research found that judgments about a person or product were made on a subconscious level in 90 seconds and 62% is based on color alone. 
  • According to a University of Loyola, Maryland study, 80% of brand recognition is attributable to color alone. 
  • Color has been found by psychology studies to increase memory of scenes. Color acts as an extra tab of memory in the mental folders of our lives around us. This is from the American Psychological Association report “The Contributions of Color to Recognition Memory for Natural Scenes”. 
  • In the report “Color for Impact” by Strathmoor Press, color in advertising increases readership by up to 42% over ads that are produced in black and white. 
  • And comprehension was found to is increase by 73%, according to the article “The Power of Color” in the Successful Meetings, June of ’92 publication.

And in research conducted by the Xerox Corporation: 

  • 92% of the respondents think color equals great quality
  • 90%  of respondents expressed that color can be helpful in getting new customers
  • 90% of respondents felt that customers would recall presentations and documents more fully when in color
  • 83% of respondents believed that color equals success
  • 81% of respondents think color sets them ahead of the competition
  • 76% of respondents held the opinion that color gives a larger business presence to clients

I could go on and on with statistics, factoids and marketing anecdotes, but I’m sure you get the point. In the world of graphic design, advertising and public relations, color can be a useful tool that puts you in front of the competition, or relegates you to the lower shelves. So, when an art director or designer picks out a color combination, it’s not based on a whim or their mood. It's based on what will work best for the specific needs of the project to get your product or service the attention it deserves to withstand the constant winds of competition. That’s why you will never hear the question “Do you have a favorite color you want to use?” at Michael Meadows Creative. Color is a powerful tool that can’t be taken lightly in today’s marketplace. It has to be lassoed, corralled and tamed to plow the fields of creativity in order to bring in a bountiful harvest of profits for our clients. And that’s the bottom line on color.

Tuesday
Jul302013

When should you use an illustration and when should you use a photograph?

Back in the early days of advertising, there was never a question of whether you should use a photo or an illustration. You had one choice, and that was illustration. In particular, a line illustration. Photos didn’t come into the picture for mass communications until the advent of the photo halftone, invented in the early 1850’s. Halftones could also be used for illustrations, and in fact the earliest halftones combined both line art in an intaglio process and the dot matrix of the halftone. This is the photo of Steinway Hall on East 14th Street, between University Place and Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. It’s the first halftone print of a photo used in a periodical in the United States, and ran in December, 1873. 

But today, we don’t have the technical problems of times past. In fact, you don’t even have to convert your photo or illustration to a halftone dot matrix any more to get that message out there. TV and online communications are quickly making print a minor (but still necessary) player in the modern world of mass communications. But the question posed by the headline is still pertinent. Do you use an illustration or do you use a photograph? Through much experience in trial and error, I’ve come up with a maxim that I employ when determining what to use—photo or illustration. This is what I ask myself: is it absolutely critical that you want your viewer to believe this is the actual product, person or place? That there is absolutely no doubt that this is 100% real? Then use a photograph. But if you want the viewer to understand an abstract concept that can’t be easily produced photographically, to convey a sense of whimsey, fantasy or a certain age group like small children, or to give a sense of a period style, then you would use an illustration. It’s as simple as that. 

There will always be grey areas where the decision to use a photo or an illustration is not easy to determine, but for the most part, this exercise has held me in good stead throughout my career. 

As technology advances, the lines between photography and illustration are going to blur more and more. A prime example of this is the depressing movie “A Scanner Darkly” based on a Phillip K. Dick story. The entire film was converted from filmed images (which we all know is just a whole bunch of photos strung together to give the illusion of movement) to illustrations—one frame at a time. I think I would have gone insane if I had to do that. The illustrative technique was flat colors that looked like illustrations made in Adobe Illustrator, but I’m sure that eventually they’ll develop a technique where you can convert a film into a Van Gogh or Rembrandt style. Now that could be pretty interesting. Imagine the movie “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” produced as a continuous Van Gogh painting. Crazy!

Thursday
Apr252013

To-May-to, to-mot-o—is good typography just a matter of preference? It can mean the difference between success or failure with your marketing campaign.

What makes good typography? Does the average person even care? The answers to these questions can have a direct impact on whether of not your advertising or marketing campaign is successful.

Typography is one of those foundational elements that every communications effort is built on. Picking the right typeface can make the difference between the viewer staying with your message, or turning the page—and unlike Lot’s wife, never to look back.

The elements of good typography are fundamental to conveying your message in a way that supports the style of the message, without getting in the way of understanding the message. When you use a typeface that is difficult to read, the viewer will always gloss over the message. “I don’t have time to decipher what that ad is all about”, I gotta get some coffee”. Never give your potential customer an excuse to turn the page, because boy-oh-boy do they want to. People are bombarded on the average with over 3,000 ad messages per day. If they had to pay attention to every one of those messages, they would be overwhelmed, and probably not remember any of them. So their message filters have, over time, have become pretty robust. In order to blast through that wall of resistance, to get them to pay attention to your precious message, you can never give them a reason to move on, to ignore you. Using the wrong typeface that is difficult to read gives them that excuse. So picking the right typeface that is easy to read, reinforces the message, and enhances the mood of the message, becomes very important.

To illustrate the idea of legibility, here are some examples. I’ll use a favorite phase “zebra gas” my old college professor had us hand letter over and over (and over and over and over…) back in the stone age when hand lettering was still a viable method of producing typography. 

As you can see, even though the phrase is the same for each example, legibility is quite different. Samples 3, 4 and 8 are difficult to read. Use something like this in your headline and watch that page get turned fast enough to make your head swim. 

Typeface style is another important tool in using typography effectively. The style of a typeface conveys a “mood”, for a lack of a better word. It conveys the appropriateness of the typeface choice. To give you an idea of why appropriateness is important, I need to tell you about a scene in Sofia Coppela’s period movie “Marie Antoinette”. At one point, the camera is panning across the floor of Marie’s closet along the line of shoes she owned. Right smack in the middle of all of the shoes is a pair of bright pink Converse basketball shoes. WTF! Completely wrong for the period, and like a jagged shard of glass jammed in my eye. I’m now suffering from cognitive dissonance big time. What was Sofia thinking? I could no longer think of this as an accurate portrayal of the historical facts; all I could think of was she wanted people to think how edgy she was as a director. I no longer cared about the story. Navel-gazing is a fast was to lose an audience. She threw me completely off by her style choices. There were also inappropriate musical themes throughout the movie that just made it worse. 

To show what I mean by appropriate style in typography, here are some examples. 

I’m using the name “Ozymandias” from the poem by Percy Bysshe Shelley. Sample #1 has a classical typeface, which is highly legible and very stylish. Sort of high brow, dignified and official, like the king in the poem wants you to think of him when you hear his name. Sample #2 is a script typeface, which is appropriate for setting the mood for the period that the poem was written. It is though, somewhat harder to read. But it says “1818” hands down. Sample #3 is both the wrong period (think river boat gambler), and difficult to read. Watch that page get turned, pronto.

There are a lot of other considerations for functional typography—kerning, line spacing, alignment are just a few. Any competent graphic designer will know how to use these tools. But mood and legibility are most empactful when it comes to the potential customer staying on your message long enough for them to remember it.

Wednesday
Apr102013

The importance of a professionally designed logo.

Historically, the idea of a logo is rooted far in the past. In ancient kingdoms like Sumeria, Egypt or Phoenicia, the only people that could read were the priest class and some of the aristocracy. The vast majority of people were illiterate. So pictures that represent what one did, like an image of a shoe for a shoe cobbler, would be hung out front of the shop to attract business, to tell people “Get your fresh, hot shoes here”. But what is a logo in modern times? Pretty much everyone can read now, so why is it necessary to create that little bug that is on every sign, product label, website or ad. It all comes down to leaving the consumer with something simple they can remember, something they can relate to the next time they see that symbol. It’s like a memory trigger. When I say Coca Cola, what comes to mind? That antique script type, that red and white ribbon wave and that distinctive bottle shape. Each of those can stand alone and everyone knows what they represent. Planet wide. Of course, that recognition didn’t happen overnight, but through a century of usage and hundreds of millions of dollars in promotion. But you get the idea.

I don’t think I have ever had a client ask me what is a logo or what to look for in a memorable logo; but it’s important to understand what it is, and what one can expect it to do for your company. If you go to Wikipedia, you’ll get this definition: “A logo is a graphic mark or emblem commonly used by commercial enterprises, organizations and even individuals to aid and promote instant public recognition. Logos are either purely graphic (symbols/icons) or are composed of the name of the organization (a logotype or wordmark)”. I think though, that it is a bit more than this. 

In my experience, the process of creating a logo for a company is almost never a cold, abstract exercise. I have yet to meet any client that can remove the emotional aspect out of the decision of what makes the ideal mark that symbolically represents their company, product or service. But, contrary to that primal need to make that decision based on emotional needs, that is exactly what they should do to make that logo do all the hard lifting that it needs to do to be successful. In a sense, it’s as much science as it is art. And a professional designer is that scientist (and artist) you need.

In order to get the best logo, one must first narrowly define what their company, product or service is and how they want the public to perceive them. That takes a bit of soul searching, and if it’s a large company, a lot of back and forthing among the principle decision makers. This is probably the hardest part to crafting an effective logo, but you should take the time up front and really define what you want the public to think of when they see that mark. It pays off in the end and you will almost never be surprised by what the designer shows you.

Once you come up with that definition, refrain from doing logo window shopping before you meet with your designer. I know it’s a temptation, but it’s best not to go into the process with any preconceptions. Meet with your designer and go over what you have decided you want the public to feel when they see your logo, and then cut them loose. 

If I were designing your logo, I would use all of my design tools to help define and differentiate your mark from all of your competition. Designers have many tools in their tool box—color, typography, line, texture, value, shape—and I would apply many of these in designing your logo. But first, the logo must work in a one color usage. If it can work as a simple black and white logo, it can work as full color, loaded with texture or extruded into a three dimensional aspect whizzing across the screen. And, it needs to function at a very small size. Those hairline rules under the name of your company looks fine when they are on a billboard, but put it on the side of a ballpoint pen or down in the corner of a website viewed on low resolution monitors, and those rules just might disappear. Functionality in all possible usages is critical. A good designer knows these things and will apply them to crafting your logo. 

Whenever I design a logo, step one is a one color usage. Simple black and white. If the logo functions at that simple level, you have a firm foundation to build on. After a black and white version is approved, step two is looking at it in color. Color is not an arbitrary choice; it too must pull it’s weight. What does that color choice tell the public about your company? Does it function across a multitude of backgrounds? All of these choices must be considered before a final decision is made on color choices. Just because the CEO or his/her significant-other likes hot pink isn’t a reason to apply it to your company logo (I’m looking at you Verizon). Make that color work.

Will the logo have a texture, a dimensional aspect? And what will that tell people about your logo and what it stands for. I could design a logo using helvetica (the most commonly used typeface in the world), and just by applying some grungy texture or a super slick surface to it, a whole new perception is achieved.

As you can see, a logo is not a simple, pretty gewgaw; there is a lot that goes into designing a logo that does the job it is designed to do. And that is why it is important to use an accomplished logo designer up front. I know it’s tempting to use the teenager next door because he has a website he produced himself, but deep down inside you know that’s going to bite you in the keester. In the end, you’ll be happier with what the pro brings to the table.

Wednesday
Mar142012

This Phony Kony Dog Don’t Hunt 

By now I’m sure you’ve heard about the Kony 2012 viral marketing campaign being run by a NGO that goes by the name of Invisible Children Inc. The video “Kony 2012” was released on March 8, 2012, and within 24 hours over 30 million Americans had viewed it. Impressive. I was one of those viewers, and I have to say, I got chocked up by the message. This Kony guy must be stopped! What a monster! 
Of course, I wanted to know about what the average shmoo could do to bring this war criminal to justice, so I clicked on the link at the youtube video that took me to the Kony 2012 website. The video was very well produced, and that feeling of professional sophistication was further enhanced by the design and functionality of the website. Nothing overt, but slick, professional production values were obvious throughout. What raised my suspicious nature was the lists of “culture makers” and “policy makers”. Instantly I felt I was being manipulated. Who in there right minds would think that the list of policy makers that include the likes of George W. Bush, John Kerry (skull & bones brothers to the end) and “I did not have sexual relations with that woman” Bill Clinton, would do the right thing and take care of this terrible problem. And the culture makers list included such luminaries as Mark Zuckerberg, who said about Facebook users "They trust me—dumb fucks”, the super sexy face of the Council on Foreign Relations—Angelina Jolie, mister-no-spin himself—Bill O’Reilly and, of course, the Bieber. The freaking Bieber!
Suddenly I knew I was being played, as did millions of others that at first bought into the whole slick propaganda campaign. Within 24 hours, the real story about Joseph Kony was coming out. Kony hasn’t been in Uganda or even heard from for over 6 years. In fact, he may very well be dead. His child army of over 30,000 has been decimated to a rag-tag 250 or so and are scattered in 3 other countries. Not much of a threat to Uganda as many people in Uganda have come forth and declared. So, knowing this, I had to ask the question—“Cui Bono”—who benefits from all of this. A bit of digging turns up that Invisible Children Inc. have ties to USAID, who have ties to the CIA. Uganda is very resource rich, with lots of unexploited mineral deposits as does the entire central Africa region. And the Chinese are making huge inroads in Africa. So, the job of this whole Joseph Goebbels operation is to get a foot in the door with more troops in Uganda, and cock block the Chinese from making counter offers. Cui bono indeed.
Now you are probably asking yourself “what has this to do with advertising”, right? And my message is that in order to be believed in today’s ultra connected social media saturated market, you have to be honest. You can not play fast and loose with the truth. I won’t shove any moral lessons down your throat, that’s between you and whatever you hold holy. My point is that if you are not honest with your customers or viewers, they will find out the truth—pronto. Joseph Kony will go down as a modern day equivalent of Emmanuel Goldstein, the nonexistent boogyman and scapegoat from the novel “1984”. Nuff said, lesson learned.