Day at Derby University

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Photo credit: University of Derby

I was delighted to be asked back to the Portfolio Review Day at Derby University this year. As part of the students’ 3rd year of their BA (Hons) Graphic Design course, industry insiders come together to chat to the students and give some pointers about how they could improve their work and what they could do next.

I can imagine that it’s quite stressful talking to strangers about your art. Nevertheless, it’s an important skill to prepare them for life outside university. Although I was interested in their thought processes, reasoning for choosing certain fonts and colours et cetera, I was more interested in the individual – their future plans, what interests them, what they can do differently. Art is personal, and I’m grateful that the students opened up to me about their aspirations. There were some fantastic pieces this year, and some great personalities.

What do I get from it? I get a sneak preview of the upcoming talent. Graphic designers are all different; there isn’t one standard type. Everyone brings his or her own unique gifts and abilities to any job, but in a field as broad and diverse as Graphic Design, there are many different avenues that youngsters can venture in to. As I chatted to the students, I felt it necessary to stress that once they finish University, they will no longer be afforded the luxury of having 12 weeks to create a brand. In the ‘real’ world, time is money. Being artistically inclined is one thing, but finding a perfect balance of speed and quality is another.

In previous years I’ve seen some quiet students, perhaps more suited to app building or website work. This year the outgoing students pleasantly surprised me. I could easily picture them in a studio setting, taking briefs from clients and delivering the finished product. I was impressed by both their attitudes and abilities.

Overall I was blown away by the quality of students at this year’s Portfolio Day. Not only were the students super creative, but they have brilliants ideas for apps and other projects. They are forward thinking and innovative – key qualities in any profession, but vital for Graphic Design. What’s more exciting is having the ability to connect them to the people that can either make it happen, or point them in the right direction.

The future of Graphic design is in good hands…

If you’d like to see for yourself, pop along to the University Art and Design Show on Friday 1st June.

Chat > Vision > Design. If you need help getting creative, please call us on 01332 417964.

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Social media changed marketing – oh and the world!

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The role of social media in marketing

Social media has changed and continues to change the world.
It changes how we think, how we feel, how we communicate, how we do business, who, where and how we meet. But how has it changed marketing? Better consumer insights, increased customer research and broader company reach. It almost sounds too good to be true…

What is social media?

Social media is the collective of online communications channels dedicated to community-based input, interaction, content sharing and collaboration(1).

Social media isn’t new

Social media is widely recognised as a modern phenomenon. However, it’s not as young as you might think. The earliest recognised social media site is Six Degrees, which was created in 1997(2). It allowed users to create a profile and then friend other users. Fast-forward 20 years later and there is now an immeasurable amount of social media sites, apps and platforms for anything and everything.

Social media and business

It was only a matter of time before businesses started to use social media as a way to advertise and promote their product or services. To give you an idea, social media is projected to generate $11 billion in revenue by 2017. This is up from just $6.1 billion in 2013.(3)

For a market that didn’t exist until 20 years ago, this is enormous.


Everyone uses it

Well, almost everyone.
There are now over 3 billion social media users in the world — about 40% of the global population(4). Put simply, if you have the best business in the world but don’t use social media, you are ignoring a HUGE potential customer base.

Gain valuable customer insights

Social media has allowed companies to target customers more accurately – digital footprints play a major role in this (look out for this in one of our next blogs). As a very loose example: posting a photo of a donut you’ve bought on one of your social media accounts may give some donut businesses an insight in to your donut-buying behaviours (I know, the horror). Online, businesses can track what you do and where you do it – this is incredibly powerful. It can provide companies with greater understanding and forethought as to what you are interested in and what you might want to buy in future.

The pitfalls

Not everything is sunshine and rainbows. You have to be careful about what you post on social media, it’s a double-edged sword. Recently Labour suspended MP Jared O’Mara because of the abusive comments he made online over a decade ago. There have also been numerous instances of social media fails from companies, much to my amusement researching. Tesco for example, got in to trouble for this pre-scheduled tweet: “It’s sleepy time so we’re off to hit the hay. See you at 8am for more #TescoTweets(5).” This seems like a perfectly acceptable tweet, right? Unfortunately it was tweeted during the alleged horse meat scandal in 2015. As you can imagine, outrage ensued. Thankfully others have learnt this lesson for us…

You can’t find the ROI

Just a quick note:– it isn’t impossible, but it’s very difficult to gage a return on investment as a direct result of your social media usage. This does not by any means make social media worthless, but unhelpful if you base your business-making decisions on this kind of information.

Ultimately, as Uncle Ben from Spiderman once said, “with great power comes great responsibility”. You have the ability to reach hundreds, thousands, millions of people when you use social media. You can increase brand awareness, engage with your audience and generate new leads, but you can also damage your reputation and business if you use it clumsily. Fad or not, social media is sticking around for a while. Considering this, it is vital that you trust the employee(s) looking after your social media accounts. No one would want their Twitter deleted by a rogue employee *cough* like the President of the United States…

If you do use social media, use it wisely.

(1) http://whatis.techtarget.com/definition/social-media
(2) http://historycooperative.org/the-history-of-social-media/
(3) https://martech.zone/brief-history-social-media-advertising/
(4) http://mashable.com/2017/08/07/3-billion-global-social-media-users/#2HKgVazlgaqJ
(5) http://www.businessinsider.com/the-top-10-corporate-social-media-disasters-2013-11?IR=T

Written by Anna Hill

Chat > Vision > Design. If you need help getting creative, please call us on 01332 417964.

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Blogging is a waste of time…but read ours

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Should I start blogging or not?

There are conflicting opinions about whether blogging is worthwhile or not. Some say it’s a shrinking market; a time waster and you get nothing from it(1), whereas others attest that you can earn money, new followers and more attention on your website. Let’s explore the pros and cons and what needs to change about the state of current blogs.

First things first, what is a blog?

A blog is ‘a regularly updated website or web page, typically one run by an individual or small group, that is written in an informal or conversational style’. In other words, a blog is anything you want it to be.
From “web log” came the term “blog.”(2)


Don’t…BE BORING – Is it Groundhog Day?

  • The blogging scene is as overcrowded as any other market today. Where there is over-saturation there is repetitive content. Whilst doing my research, it became clear that a lot of material was recycled and unoriginal. I may as well have read the same thing over and over again, and I don’t need to explain why this is a bad thing. I’m not insinuating that you have to write a ground-breaking blog every week, I’m just suggesting that a little more thought and research should go in to what you write. Try and find something new to say or, failing that, something interesting with your own insight.
  • Post different content. Post long blogs, short blogs, story blogs. Be creative, it will attract a wider audience. If all of your posts are similar it will get boring very quickly(3).


  • If you’re looking to promote or mention your business in a blog, make sure that you don’t shove it down people’s throats. The last thing that people want is to be sold to. People want to read something interesting that makes them think. There’s nothing worse than opening a blog and reading a sales pitch.

Steer clear of: ME,ME,ME,ME,ME,ME,ME,ME,ME,ME,ME,ME,ME,ME…

That being said, don’t be afraid to throw a few lines in about what you do.


  • Do you ever finish reading something and think, ‘what was the point of that’? Nobody wants to read a nothing blog…if you’re not telling me something interesting or making me think about what you’re writing about, I won’t stick around and neither will anyone else – It’s the Internet. There are already millions of articles, comments, posts, videos and blogs churned out quickly and carelessly on a persistent and uninterrupted basis – don’t let yours be one of them – there’s no rush to write 50 blogs in a week. In this instance, quality over quantity is everything. Take your time to research and find a topic to write about. If nothing pops in to your head, leave it.

With this in mind, Forbes uploaded this video recently – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MTjnHzjYzgU (4). It’s a well-made video and I liked it. BUT, there was an explosion of comments about the message. As one user pointed out, this is how you keep yourself busy while accomplishing nothing. Think about the output. More importantly the quality of the output.



Blogging is one of many ways to find and reach an audience(4). The more you broadcast your content, the more likely people are to engage with it (hopefully). Some websites proclaim that Google Plus is a waste of time because fewer people use it than more popular sites like Facebook and Twitter. This couldn’t be further from the truth. There are 111 million active users on Google Plus(5). Yes, the engagement rates may be significantly lower than that of Instagram, but that doesn’t make it obsolete. You need to explore all of the available avenues to find which platforms work for you. It’s better to have thousands of engaged followers than it is to have millions of disengaged followers, but how will you find out where your engaged followers are if you only post on one site?


If you have a blog with a regular readership there may be opportunities to monetise your entries(5). There are plenty of ways that you can make money from blogging, even if it’s not directly through your writing. Advertising, events and offline business are just a few examples(5).

Don’t take my word for it: ‘It seems like everything began when my monthly hits were hovering right around 20,000 a month or 700 – 1,000 hits a day.  The emails started coming in from advertisers and I began to be accepted into networks and such.’ – Amy Renea. See the full blog here: http://www.anestforallseasons.com/2012/02/how-much-traffic-should-you-have-before.html (6).

Note: If you want to make money, success won’t come quickly or easily. Don’t expect to make a million pounds or gain a million followers overnight. Put the effort in, stay consistent and you might earn a small fortune. Dream big but start small.

IT’S FREE (7) 

What have you got to lose? Blogs cost nothing and require all but some brainpower and a machine to write one. Blogs can be convenient ways to convey a message or to share an opinion. They’re also a great way to challenge yourself. When it comes to reading things online, people bounce from site-to-site and usually don’t read the whole thing. I do it all the time. Think about the last time you read something online that commanded your full attention. See if you can make people stay.


We hope you’ve enjoyed our blog about blogging dos and don’ts. We’d love to hear your feedback about our blog. For more blogs like this come back in a few weeks. If you’re tired of the word ‘blog’, follow us on: Twitter, Facebook and Instagram for something a little different.

(1) http://www.makealivingwriting.com/stop-writing-blog-posts-do-this-instead/
(2) https://www.thebalance.com/blogging-what-is-it-1794405
(3) http://www.brickmarketing.com/blog/blog-useless.htm
(4) https://www.forbes.com/forbes/welcome/?toURL=https://www.forbes.com/sites/stevedenning/2015/04/23/has-google-really-died/&refURL=https://www.google.co.uk/&referrer=https://www.google.co.uk/
(5) https://www.huffingtonpost.com/michael-b-fishbein/10-reasons-you-should-sta_b_5326353.html
(6) https://www.forbes.com/sites/stevedenning/2015/04/23/has-google-really-died/#15ebcb44466c
(7) https://problogger.com/make-money-blogging/
(8) http://www.anestforallseasons.com/2012/02/how-much-traffic-should-you-have-before.html
(9) https://www.becomingminimalist.com/15-reasons-i-think-you-should-blog/

Written by Anna Hill

Chat > Vision > Design. If you need any help getting creative, please call us on 01332 417964.

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Picture influence on an audience

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Choosing the correct image to support a logo is vitally important.  Using the wrong image may appeal to the wrong market as the image backs up the logo or message of the slogan.

If you look below, the word ‘pulse’ can be applied to broad range of markets. When pictured with a heart behind the word ‘pulse’ it could make the reader perceive that the business is maybe involved with private healthcare whereas, if you place an image of someone running, it could indicate the business specialises in some form of fitness or exercise.

Picture of pulse with a heart behind it, compared to pulse with someone running with pulse on it

Images also have to be used correctly throughout a brochure or publication to convey the correct image or message. For example, to attract a young audience, bright, colourful images are used that relate to them. This can be seen in our work for Buxton Opera House.

Theatre brochures are no exception and need to attract attention according to a show’s target audience. Here at Square One Creative we understand this and use imagery to target different markets – our main aim is to communicate a message within 30 seconds of a customer glancing at the picture. The more relevant the picture is to the customer, the higher the likelihood that will attend or make a purchase.

If you need to attract a certain audience or want to attract specific people, Square One Creative can help make this happen.

If you need any help with your design please call Maggie on 01332 0417964

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Different factors of a logo such as the colour, shape, font and slogan have a massive influence on how a customer or client perceives your brand.

If you take into consideration the colour of the logo, different colours give a different message. If you look below at the Fanta drinks can, it uses the colour orange to tell the customer it’s a drink with orange as the main ingredient.

If you look to the right, you can see that the can is essentially the same but the colours have changed to red. Using red leads the customer to the perception that the contents could be cherry or strawberry.

Using the correct colour is just as important as choosing the company name or slogan, as each can set the tone or feel of the company. What you also need to consider is that some colours can be interpreted differently in other cultures. For example, in China, red means money whereas in America green is considered the colour of money.

Here at Square One Creative we understand the importance of the correct use of colour. We have shown (below) in work for the NHS how the use of their corporate blue and it’s variations are used throughout a report. We work with several companies who have an in house graphic designer and the relationship works really well as we are their in house, out house studio.

The colour blue gives the feeling of calm and wellness, whereas, colours like black or grey for example, could give a totally different feeling. These colours could give the perception of death or emptiness which would not suit an organisation whose aim is to promote health and wellbeing.

If you would like a chat about how we can use colour to build your brand awareness or indeed build a new brand that can match your business goals, please get in touch.

If you need any help with your design please call Maggie on 01332 0417964

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Four reasons why your in-house graphic design department is causing you problems

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Quite often in companies they will opt to employ a graphic designer rather than outsource their graphic design, mainly as they think this will save them money if they have a regular flow of work, this however can be at a much greater cost, let me explain why.

1. No Urgency

One of the common complaints we hear is that the Designer has no urgency for their work. He/she is often fed work to produce from many individuals all saying it is urgent, it hard for the designer to prioritise so usually just makes his/her way through the pile of work. A solution to this is having one person manage/working with the designer, setting timescales for projects and prioritizing which is the most urgent for the company for it to fulfill its strategy.

2. Everything looks the same

Quite often you will find that most designers have a set style for their design and once coupled with the companies corporate branding everything has the same look and feel – boring. A solution to this is working with a local agency that can brain storm in their studio probably having a couple of their designers work on concepts/ideas, these can then be fed back to the in house designer to work up and complete. That will cost me more money I hear you say BUT if that piece of design is super creative and gets you a return on your investment it is worth every penny.

3. Sickness/Holidays

Of course this is not a problem you come across every day hopefully but when it does happen it is quite an inconvenience and can cause a bottle neck in your company. Having a friendly Graphic Design agency that you have worked with can be a great solution, they already have a feel for your product/service and a good feeling for your business, they are more than happy to step into the breach, then once your regular in house designer is back they will hand over the files so he/she can continue as was.

inhouse Graphic Designer Blog Image-Pic 2

4. Overload

As your company grows and develops you will find that your graphic designer at times is overloaded and with the best planning in the world everything is wanted now, but only having one designer to try and cope can be frustrating. Once again your dependable Graphic Design Agency can come to the rescue, as they are well versed in turning design projects around quickly, so in times of overload this can be an instant life saver. Ensuring that your in house designer is always sent the files on completion you are always in control.

We work with several companies who have an in house graphic designer and the relationship works really well as we are their in house, out house studio.

If you need any help with your overload or planning please call Maggie on 01332 0417964

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How to choose a graphic designer to work with – and making the switch

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Choosing the right Graphic Designer to work with on your next project is so important, the obvious does go without saying, but I will say it anyway. You need to like them, design is a journey and your need to like your travel companion and of course be able to work with them, you must meet them, visit their studio, and know the team.

Find out what experience they have as experience is very important. A good designer can only survive is they are providing an excellent service. Checking how long they have been doing this for is equally important.

Have a look at the work they have produced this should be displayed with pride on their websites, look at the creativity in their work, attention to detail and continuity, if they have done several projects with a client this shows consistency and the fact that the client has confidence and enjoys working with them.

Testimonials are a good indication too never be afraid to ask for references on your designer we are always happy to put potential clients in touch with existing clients.


And importantly can you afford to work with them? Ask them to quote but be very careful on this one. Some designers do go in with a cheap price to win the project but then when the client (you) makes changes you get stung. I know we always quote a cost per project and stick to it. Obviously every rule has an exception, and if you change the brief or re write the copy so it has to be completely re done we will quote for this extra work, but on many small amendments we do not charge.

Making the switch is not as difficult as you think, I am sure most of you will have your logo, copies either electronically or printed that you have previously had produced and your new chosen designer can simply take it from there.

Square1How to choose a graphic designer to work with – and making the switch
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The Client’s Guide to Image Resolution

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There always seems to be confusion from clients on what size of image/photograph is good enough for print. We are often emailed a selection of images which are all around the 59KB mark; these are usually images which have been lifted from websites. We have to explain that such images won’t print well because the image resolution is too low.

Here is a little more information to help explain further. The resolution of an image refers to the density of the pixels (or printed dots) of which it is made up of. When images are at a high resolution, they appear crisp and sharp. If the resolution is decreased or the image is enlarged too much, it loses detail and the blocky squares of the pixels become clear. If you remember how TVs from the ’80s looked, they would appear fuzzy and washed out today compared to HD – high resolution makes all the difference!

Web Resolution vs. Print Resolution

Screen resolution is measured in PPI (pixels per inch) and print resolution is measured in DPI (dots per inch), though the terms are often used interchangeably. Because the entire viewing area on a computer screen is made up of pixels of a fixed resolution – typically 72 to 100 dpi – any image optimised for this resolution will look detailed and natural to the human eye. Therefore, using an image size of 59KB at 72 dpi will be perfectly acceptable for web and screen use.

But if that same image is printed at full size, its inherent pixel ‘blockiness’ becomes too obvious and unacceptable for print.


Size Matters

For professional printed/exhibition images, 300 dpi is the standard. If you want to use a web image in print, you will run into problems.

For example, for a full page A4 image, you would be looking at a photo/image size of 17MB.

When you have a choice of image sizes at your disposal, such as from an in-house image library or stock photo site, it’s best to go for the largest image available. Any image can be made smaller as needed, but an image cannot be increased in size without losing quality.

When it comes to resolution, bigger really is better.

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Are design briefs a thing of the past?

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Having worked in the design industry for over thirty years, we have noticed things have changed and this is not always for the best.

In days gone by, we were always supplied with something called ‘a brief’; for all you newbies on the block, this is what your client provides you with to give you a picture of what they expect from you. Typically, we would receive a written or typed document detailing what our client would like us to produce, what they are trying to achieve, their ideas on what they think they want and what their competitors are up to. The brief would be a clear message reflecting what they want to say and, most importantly, it would be an indication of their budget and the required schedule. As a client, by writing a brief you can ensure that a designer will hit the mark first time with the added benefit of saving time which will, therefore, ensure a cheaper invoice at the end.


How do I write a design brief?

It is really helpful to give the designer a summary of your business with a brief history of other design/marketing activity you have been involved in. Supply a realistic evaluation of your company’s service/product, and a brief overview of what your competitors are doing too.

Give an explanation of the reason why you need this design project – e.g. a new product or a sales push etc.

Have you undertaken any research around your service/product? What about any advertising you may have done? This could include direct mail, graphic design or public relations etc.

Ensure you have a specific message. Where possible, include information to be shown in the designed item, e.g. taglines, body text, imagery etc.

Who is your target market? Describe the age, gender, income, employment, geography, and lifestyle of the clients you want to reach.

Confirm what you are hoping to achieve. Where possible, make the objectives specific and the results measurable.

The designer should have a detailed and realistic schedule of how you want the project to advance, considering these points:

  • Consultation (research, strategy)
  • Creation (concept and design development)
  • Production (artwork and print procurement)
  • Delivery (handover)

If, as a designer, you’re dealing with a client who hasn’t produced a design brief, it’s important to provide your own questionnaire at the outset.


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