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The Design Center / Creative Networking / March: How Designers Sell  
Preface: Heather took so much interest in our February quiz question, we simply had to present her comments in her own page. It's too bad more designers don't contribute -- everyone would be better for it. You can read our other reader comments in this month's column. So, here's Heather Marie Kirkland a designing woman professional from Tampa, Florida . . .

How Designers Sell

personal reflections from Heather Marie Kirkland

My life's purpose is to design to sell! I sit at my Macintosh, open my favorite program, Photoshop 7.0, and let my mind go crazy. (Which doesn't usually take very long). Here are my thoughts on designing to sell on eBay, tips for designing headlines, designing Yellow Pages ads, selling tricks for direct mail and using color to sell. I've also included my idea of successful print advertising.

The World's Biggest Flea Market

The key to being a successful eBay seller is the item's picture. You need to capture the "essence" of the item: show it at its best, make sure the color is phenomenal and make sure the clarity is pristine.

Shoppers always look at the picture before reading the description. Using a superb picture will bring the "eBay-er" to the written description.

For the written description, I have one word: Adjectives. Use not so common adjectives: immaculate, unspoiled, faultless. Headlines need to grab the shoppers attention -- draw them in they read the remainder of the advertisement.

Getting the reader's attention

Here are some successful ways to grab a reader's attention with a headline.

1. Reverse block text with an attention grabbing color. A red box with a black rule around it and white text inside with a black drop shadow or a thin rule around the text, for example.
2. Big, fat font. Even if the ad is black and white, a big, font font is an eye grabber.
3. A not so normal looking font is eye catching. A good example would be "Ad Lib" or "Red Five" which you can freely download from Fonthead Designs.
4. A familiar image such as the company logo or signature statement. For example, "Just Do It" (Nike).
5. Using typographical skills: An example would be taking your headline, we'll use "Big Sale" for this example, and making the "B" in a reverse black box and the "S" in another reverse black box. The "ig" and "ale" can be in a cursive or handwritten font - just make sure the fonts have a bold in their family!

Use Yellow page ads to sell

Using the company logo and signature statement is always a plus. If using a full page ad, the options are limitless - all the company's information will fit. Just remember that type is also a graphical tool.

With the smaller ads, however, it may be a challenge to fit the company's goals. If you need to fit a lot in a little space, try a
Bullet list: using a bulleted list will help delete words that are not necessary. Remember, bullets don't have to be circles. They can be relative to the company's main product.

Some points to remember when designing yellow page ads are:
1. The right image: When using images, research the printing resolution. If you use an image with improper resolution for the particular printing press that your ad will be printed on, you may end up with a muddy image that is unrecognizable.
2. Prominent headlines: Use larger fonts for the headlines -- you want to grab the reader's attention so they will read the rest of the ad.
3. Readable Text: If using fonts in a small size, remember to use a legible font so people of all ages can see it.
4. Listing a website is also good advertisement if room is tight

Use direct mail to sell

When designing direct mail it is important that the mail piece is eye catching and gets a point across - otherwise it will end up being vertically filed (otherwise known as thrown into the garbage can).

Some selling tricks for direct mail are as easy as 1 - 2 - 3.
1. Know your target audience. This requires having an understanding of the products your client offers. If you are designing a brochure for a company that sells burial plots, the target audience will more than likely be people that are older. In this case, you wouldn't use "fun, happy, playful" fonts and colors. A more sophisticated, serious look is called for.

Larger, thicker fonts are needed for legibility. Write the headline so it will grab your target audience. An example would be: YOUR FUTURE - WHERE WILL YOU BE? Something like this will cause a curiosity, therefore the potential customer will read on. With this headline, remember to use large, thick fonts. A reverse box would work. Consider a bullet on each side of the text.

2. Get to the point. Think about what the client wants to sell and get to the point. Make sure this point is clearly stated somewhere on the mail piece. Personally, I like to have something that leads to the point on the outside of the mail piece in order to intrigue the potential customer to read on.

3. Provide a complete message: Make sure all information is included. Sometimes clients are so "into" creating an excellent mail piece that grabs attention, is on a great paper stock, has wonderful artwork, font usage, etc. - information may be left out.

Examples. (a) If designing a flyer to announce an automotive sales event, make sure that the day, time, place and all aspects of the event are included. (b) If designing a brochure for a company describing their services, make sure that all of their important products are included and all contact information is included (phone/fax number, physical address, website, e-mail). Some clients may not want all of their contact information included, but it's always better to ask before printing the project.

Color is attractive and can be a great eye catching tool if used properly. But use caution with color! If you have an 8.5 x 11" flyer with 40 different colors it may be hard for people to concentrate on the message. In my opinion, color represents emotions. Depending upon the project will depend upon the color. Selling burial plots, for example, you may want to use dark colors and not bright colors. However, designing a flyer for a party would require happy, bright colors. When creating a 2 color job, I always recommend contrasting colors that go well together. For example, black and red will look better than yellow and red. And always remember: different paper colors can also add an additional color to a project. Color, used properly, can be a strong design element.

I also like unusual shapes, paper choices, designs and folds. I've received direct mail pieces that are folded so uniquely, that it makes me open it to see what it looks like once it's opened. The designers goal accomplished their client's goal because the consumer, opened the direct mail piece! After all, isn't that our goal?

My favorite print advertising campaigns are the unique ones. When you look at a direct mailer, or a brochure and say "Wow - how did they think of that?" - those are the ones that I admire.

Being a graphic designer is more than just artwork and typography. You'll become a better graphic artist when you learn about what you are trying to sell, and pay attention the the words - not just how they are formatted.

Heather Marie Kirkland

      Design professional, Tampa, Florida, USA

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