So I’ve not written a blog for a while as I have spending this month working to gain new customers and spending the evenings playing Assassin’s Creed (it’s awesome!). Got a couple of irons in the fire and perhaps I didn’t appreciate that these things take time. I’m just itching to get started now!
With one potential client, an association for lawyers, I went to their website and downloaded an application form to get an idea of their creative output. Where possible, I will always try to gauge the level of design for a business by checking out their website and looking at any available documentation. As is often the case, this form was obviously put together in Word and looked … erm … not great! I am a humble sort of chap and will not go out of my way to belittle anyone’s design but offer honest criticism as to how it can be improved.
It was rainy, it was a Tuesday, and so I set about redesigning it in proper Page Layout software. I may replicate it at some point and stick it into the Portfolio.
Forms are actually quite tricky to get right, being a balance between design and function. Forms should not be over designed as they need to be easy to follow by your customer. Visual devices such as text boxes, checkboxes and so on need to be consistent. But they should also be designed well and relate to your brand.
Which reminds me of a story!
Back in 2005 I had the great pleasure to have my first transatlantic trip to the mysterious country known as Canada. Actually, it was the first time I’d ever been anywhere abroad. The chaps and I were out one Saturday night, experiencing a couple of pints of Thruxton’s Olde Bowel Scourer and chewing over the events of the day. One of our number, an ex-pat Canadian, told us that he was going home to visit friends in the Spring. Slightly confident, I enquired the cost of a flight and then uttered the now immortal lines to my compadres, “What do you reckon lads? Fancy it?” Long story slightly shorter, 12 hours’ later I was on the phone to a local travel agent and had booked a flight to Toronto. There was apparently a bet going on within my little peer group as to how many of us would actually follow through with the slightly inebriated and over-confident plan. We all went!
Anyway, we stayed for most of the time in the very lovely little town of Kincardine, on the shores of Lake Huron in Ontario. Probably because it was my first trip anywhere outside of Blighty but I absolutely loved the 10 or so days we spent there.
Our Canadian chum told us that he was crossing the border into Michigan at some point and that we could stay in Canada and do our own thing. I have a friend in Michigan that I have known since the 90s. We met in a Pink Floyd chatroom, back when there was a total of about 67 people on the internet and chatrooms and forums weren’t full of idiots. One night we synchronised the playing of Dark Side of the Moon – by Pink Floyd, obviously – and ‘sang’ it together by typing out of the lyrics as they were sung.
“So where in Michigan?” I asked my Cannuck chum: “Kalamazoo”, he replied. By a staggeringly huge coincidence, my Pink Floyd buddy lived in Kalamazoo. So I called her up and we met for the first time. I must confess to being a little more English when I met her and her family. I was told Americans like that.
But, crossing the border at Port Huron, we illegal immigrants had to fill out a visa thing. Our Canadian friend was let through along a red carpet because Canadians are awesome. We were told by the absolutely massive border guard that “99% of people screw this form up”. The design of this card was absolutely awful. One’s entire life story had to be documented on a something the size of a postcard. There was no clear instruction and no consistency. Yes, we all filled it out incorrectly and, being English, I nearly said something that this was because it was craply designed, but the border guard was about 8 feet tall. And had a gun.
So forms are incredibly difficult to get right, but this is probably a subject for another blog.
But the point of this whole blog is that The Documentalist Portfolio is now live. Obviously, because we are a new agency, there is nothing to show yet and so I had to include some of the stuff I did when I worked at my last company.
Support Warehouse, formed in 2005 by two splendidly awesome chaps, dealt mainly with Hewlett Packard to address issues that their resellers in the UK had with the vast portfolio of technical support services offered by HP. We formed a team called Plus Pack, a knowledgeable bunch of people that were the first line of contact between IT resellers investigating the best type of support for their customers.
Actually, in 2005, the company I worked for wasn’t called Support Warehouse: it was 4P Marketing and Sales. Yes, the 4P bit was a nod to the 4 Ps of marketing. Price, er Pringles, Potatoes and … Phonebox. Yes, yes, I know what the 4 Ps of marketing are; I’m just in a bit of a whimsical mood at the moment as I’m meeting with someone later for coffee to throw some ideas together and I’ve not been out since the weekend!
Then 4P became Integrated Results and two other companies were formed: TSD (Technical Services Distribution) and Support Warehouse. Originally we had only acted as a support role to resellers; Support Warehouse and TSD were a reseller and distributor in their own right. Over the next few years Support Warehouse became more and more successful, moving into Europe, the Americas and South Africa, and so the marketing arm of the business was slowly wound down.
Throughout my time there I was the central and only point of contact for design within the business. Anything Design was my job, from putting brochures and posters together for HP, exhibition banners, merchandise and even video presentations (I’ll leave the story of masking out ten minutes’ of video frame-by-frame for another time…). Supporting this was a web design and development role, creating one-off websites for incentives as well as the various iterations of the company website. Oh, and I wrote a bespoke CRM system for the sales guys and an eCommerce capability too.
Being a new agency, not having a portfolio for The Documentalist is rather embarrassing, and so I have put together a portfolio of the work I did over the years in my last job. I hope that this will give you a flavour of the kinds of things The Documentalist can help you with. Remember, we can help you with Anything Design: posters, brochures, forms, exhibition banners, awards and even bingo tickets!
Obviously, these designs do technically belong to Support Warehouse and so thanks go to the MD for allowing me to reproduce them here, and to individuals that are featured.