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brand zine a collection of articles on the topic of graphic design & branding

written & edited by bogdan Ä?ekerevac

spring 2018 issue


scanning the bar-code on the left will lead you to my website




Table of Contents:


7 Lessons I’ve Learned From Chasing My Own Brand / page  4 How I Got A Web Design Job Without Being A Web Designer  / page  8 Why Graphic Design Is Heaven For Puzzle-Solvers  / page  10 Designers, You Are Not Self-Taught  / page  14 Why Logos Don’t (Always) Matter As Much As You Think  / page  18 To Thrive in the 21st Century, Designers Must Become Doctors  / page  24 Afterword / page 31



7 Lessons I’ve Learned From Chasing My Own Brand - 4 min read


4 / brand zine / march 2018


Your logo. Does NOT have to be complicated.

Look, unless you’re an very important family or a country that needs a coat of arms, in most cases you won’t need complexity. Look at all the recent logo re-designs: Google, Insta-

It just has to be legible. I know I’m going directly against myself here (since I design logos often and for a living), but my own logo is just TWO UNDERLINED LETTERS. And it works. ↓

gram, Microsoft, Verizon… they all went the minimal route and stripped away the unnecessary parts of their logos, only leaving the most recognizable stuff (like their color palettes in Google and Microsoft’s case). And while we’re on the topic of color…


Don’t mix teal, purple and red. (jk)

Okay, that’s a bit of a joke cuz'

from “Boksy Chan” to my real

Visual branding: your colors,

I have a personal grudge with

name, Bogdan Čekerevac, it

your logo, your stationery…

that particular color palette,

was literally like turning over a

they’re only a part of this

but the real point here is…

new page. No more fake bull-

“branding puzzle.” The most

shit and hiding behind aliases.

important part is how you


Just the real me. Now, this ties

express yourself and your


in a bit with the next lesson:

business. You like swearing

There’s a good reason why Facebook is blue, Target is red, and most luxury brands are black. Because those colors project the feelings they want their brand to be associated with. Online you can find a lot of infographics that talk about color theory. Just do a quick Google search for “color theory guide”. Spend some time


Your language is way more important than ANY graphic.

AND so does your target audience? Swear away.Or maybe your clients prefer a feminine voice, the one that screams pink? Glitter it up! Which brings me to #5 over on the next page.

reading those and then decide which feelings your brand should represent. Those are your colors. Now, let’s talk a bit about names.


If you can’t think of a good branding name, just go with your own REAL name. I learned this after trying to do graphic design under the name of, wait for it, Boksy Socks… oh god, that was even a crappy NICKNAME, let alone a BUSINESS name. Anyways, when I changed my Facebook name 5


Know WHO you're talking to.

I’ve NEVER been a niche person, and I’m still not. But literally everyone and their mum agrees that you cannot really serve everyone. So instead, just pick a bunch of people with whom you resonate the most… and get into their brains. Learn what they think about, what they listen to, what they watch… and to go back to point #4, learn their language. All of this will help you out tremendously, because you won’t necessarily have to narrow your skillset, you will just have to narrow the difference between the industries you serve. Why do this? Well, you become known in that specific niche, and that makes you irreplaceable to this bunch of people, and to their friends. Doesn’t that sound much better than staying a noname forever? I think it kind of does.


Brand guidelines are a MUST, whatever your niche is.

They also have the company’s

Now, I did just say that lan-

ber of times I’ve had to refer

guage is more important than

back to my own brand guide-

visuals, but visuals still hold a

lines, pictured above (I called

lot of importance.

it the “style guide” but it’s the

purpose, vision, and goals. That’s what folks like to call “the brand philosophy”. Having both the philosophy and visuals packed together in an easy-to-read document is literally a gold nugget. A num-

same thing) once I was feeling Besides, brand guidelines

like veering off the course I set

contain more than just a logo,

for myself. And finally, to finish

fonts, and the color palette.

everything off:


6 / brand zine / march 2018

Look at this inconsistent mess that was my old Instagram back in 2015… random scribbles, photos of cosplayers, a bit of my design, and I don’t even know what that video was in the top left corner. Now, in 2018, I have an established grid that is nothing but my posters.


Be consistent.

You’ve probably heard this a dozen times already, but I’m repeating it here anyways. For my first “Boksy Socks” brand I didn’t have any sort of guideline, just the color codes and fonts. And that was NOWHERE near enough. Basically, I had no idea what I was doing; but at the same time, I was doing so many things. Except for one… actually being consistent and clear about my actions. Fast forward to today, I’m challenging myself to up-level my copy-writing game by writing at least one of these posts every day. My topics may not be consistent, but the branding and my language certainly are. What about you? Have you met your branding? Are you chasing it? Did you

catch it yet? If you want someone else to catch

Have you ever seen anything that resembles the book pictured above? Well, those are brand guidelines. And they’re also much, much more.

it for you, we can always talk about how to make that happen. ‡


my IG grid in 2015

my IG grid in 2018



Look, I never identified as a web designer. Website building has always invoked in me a mixture of disgust and fear of its complexity. And even today, it still does. But what I didn’t realize for most of my design career is that you don’t really need to know coding in order to design a website. You only need to know it for developing a website. So, when one day, a friend approached me asking for “some adjustments on a .psd template”, I had no idea what was coming. At that moment, I only thought it’d be some 30-minute fix and a quick buck earned. Quickly after however, I got added into the agency’s Slack group and we were pretty much off with the web design project. There was no going back. While the project manager was explaining the brief

8 / brand zine / march 2018

to me, I felt like an utter fraud. I was on the verge of just telling all of them: “Look guys, I’m not a web designer, I have never done what you’re asking of me. I cannot help you”. But deep inside, I knew that if only I stuck to the end, this would be a lesson worth learning… so I did. Luckily, my friend immediately introduced me to InVision, so this, along with a Photoshop-based workflow, helped out tremendously. Soon, I was actually having fun with rectangles and text layers! But the real surprise only struck at the project’s end. It was when I saw my Photoshop design live, inside my browser. It honestly felt unreal. The navigation bar was responsive, the slideshows were finally clickable, the background video was playing… and all the doubt immediately went away. Except, maybe not. After that

I am now officially a web designer. Except, not really. project was completed, I started searching around for some more web design jobs. Turns out, 90% of job postings are asking for “a full-stack developer”, meaning that these developer/designer hybrids need to know how to design a website & how to develop it. Suddenly, all the disgust I had previously correlating with web “design” started to creep back in. I really, REALLY didn’t want to start learning HTML, CSS, JS, and however many other acronyms there are nowadays. So, I kind of gave up on this newfound venture and went back to what I know best — brand identity & typography design.

All was not in vain, however.

sign Job Designer

- 3 min read

Besides the fact that this was a

4) Web design is also graphic

well-paid project, I also man-

design's best paid branch, at

aged to pick up valuable

least when it comes to mid-

lessons along the way:

sized clients. But still, at the corporate level, brand identity

1) While you should obviously

is definitely the highest paid

keep specializing in one area,

branch of graphic design,

you shouldn’t necessarily

even when the contracts

throw away leads just because

do not include a website.

it’s not “what you do”; after this web design project, I also

5) And to recap, you don’t

landed a copy-writing job even

need to know coding in

though I’m not a copy-writer.

order to design a website, but in that case, you WILL need a

2) Photoshop is bad for web

developer to work with you. ‡

↑ I’m a graphic designer, not a spider! I design graphics, not webs!

design. It was originally built for an entirely different purpose, but for some reason, people started designing websites in it, and Adobe didn't manage to keep up. Next time, try Illustrator, Affinity Designer, or even Sketch if you have a Mac somewhere nearby. 3) Web design, at its core, is very similar to regular graphic design. It could even be called a branch of graphic design. This is why I was able to easily design a website without any prior experience in the field. ↑ Better stick to tried and true, even if it pays less than web design.



Sometimes you may also omit

later naturally evolved into af-

less important elements be-

finity for puzzle video games

cause a certain layout will

(think Portal 1 & 2, The Talos

require you to do so. Take

Principle, The Witness, and

for example, my last brand-

so on…). In Portal, I’d spend

ing project of 2017, a re-brand

hours upon hours figuring out how to get to that exit door using a combi-

Gr D ap es h ign ic


in and solving a puzzle. This


a He

cubes, lasers, and

elements: the blue textured

whatever else Ap-

background, yellow “do-not-

erture Science

cross” lines, the actual logo,

had on their

and the event’s mascot. The

disposal. And

trick was to make all of them

then, I found the

stuff like sudoku and word

than putting

Fo r


seamless consistency. Take See, a major part of graphic design is applying the same concept to different layouts. Think merchan-

10 / brand zine / march 2018

another look on the layouts on the right side and you’ll notice that no two of them are the exact same, even though to-

dise, different kinds of

gether, they all appear like the

billboards, flyers, posters,

same thing. This is what seam-

and so on. Doing this re-

less consistency is all about.

quires you to take all the design elements in

Because of different contexts

front of you — pieces

(a large billboard that’s most-

of the puzzle — and keep

ly seen from across the street,

re-arranging them to form

vs. a smaller billboard that sits

brand new layouts that make

3 feet away from pedestrians),

sense in a given context.

some layouts had the logo in


- 5 min read

outs, flyers… you get the point. kind of “puzzle” is to achieve



that last


more joy to me

offices, varied billboard lay-

similar to a puzzle, you ask?

search. There were few things that brought

different applications: ticket

So, the key when solving this


they were fun riddles, or even

fit neatly onto DOZENS of

Why is graphic design so


a literal “puzzle” form, or

gion, Games.CON. There, we always had four recurring

zle of all: graphic design.

Whether they were in

vention in the Balkan re-

nation of portals,

most challenging puz-

As a kid, I LOVED puzzles.

of the biggest gaming con-

one horizontal line, some had it stacked, some didn’t have it at all. And every single application that had the sponsor logos, had them laid out in a different configuration.


to explain why that was the case. To an average person, these finished sponsor layouts will look pretty boring and uninteresting, which ironically enough, means that I’ve done my job correctly. To give you some more context, on the picture far below I’ve illustrated the fact that those 30+ logos used to be individual images, without ANY pre-determined order or layout. The only rules for the arrangments were: Republic of Gamers & Telenor need to have the largest logos, and each logo needs to have enough “breathing” space around it. If you notice on those images, all the logos had different shapes, some were extremely elongated, some were completely square, and others were elsewhere on the spectrum. This bumped up the puzzle difficulty to somewhere between very hard and insane, because you couldn’t go the usual route of aligning everything in a neat, homogeneous grid. But enough about my projects. Let’s talk more about this puzzle analogy.

↑ Breakdown of the Games.CON “puzzle”: the above elements a.k.a. puzzle pieces, when combined together in various ways, equal a seamless brand identity.

Now, looking back at this Games.CON project, I’d say fitting the sponsor logos were by far the hardest puzzle of them all. Let’s dive deeper ↑ The “sponsor logo” puzzle.


Turns out that there is

All the while, other people

puzzles FOR them. Puzzles

actually one MAIN difference

prefer having more ways to

that usually have multiple

between regular puzzles and

successfully accomplish the

solutions. How cool is that?

graphic design puzzles…

same task. For them, building

I think that’s actually one of

a new puzzle that doesn’t nec-

the main reasons I’ve become

Here, most of the time you are

essarily look like the box art

a graphic designer in the first

the one coming up with the

is also considered a success.

place. The thrill of solving that

final layout (unless of course,

If you’re like that, you should

one problem that once seemed

you’re a pixel-pusher that’s mi-

definitely consider a career in

insurmountable still runs

cromanaged by a commanding

graphic design. You’ll have a

through my veins.

art director).This fact, depend-

ton of fun. I promise.

ing on the person, may make

What about you? If you’re a

it easier or more difficult to do

But even if you relate more to

fellow designer reading this, I

the job properly.

the first example, I think you

wanna know: what got you into

can agree that puzzles ARE

design? Tweet me @bogcek.

Some people have gotten used

everywhere in graphic design;

to a singular, pre-decided way

because this branch of design

And if you’re not a designer,

to completion. They see the

is about solving problems by

what is your profession, and

image of the final puzzle on

arranging pieces in various

have you ever wondering why

the box, and in their eyes,

ways to form the final image.

you got into it? Let’s start a

that’s the only “true” way

But the best part of it all is,

discussion! ‡

to complete a certain puzzle.

people will pay you to solve

12 / brand zine / march 2018

i iss rm sio m te is n n m I o i r te ss ssi i i In m m r te ter In In This zine was written & edited by Bogdan ÄŒekerevac. You can follow him online @bogcek, or visit his website bogcek.com.

Next Up: Designers, You Are Not Self-Taught


Designers, You Are Not Self-Taught - 5 min read

Photos: Emile Seguin, Christian Perner


14 / brand zine / march 2018

Even you guys who have

have to waste years & years in

decided to create their own

only ever learned from books,

a backwards educational sys-

YouTube channels. The peo-

you still have the authors of

tem, I think that it should be

ple that I’ll now list have

those books to thank for, and

your moral obligation to never

shaped me into the creative

in a way those authors could

forget who (indirectly) taught

person I am today, and there

be considered your indirect

you and be thankful for those

is no currency, no thing or

teachers. So while you’re still

people. For me, those teachers

service that I can ever

“allowed” to say that you’re

have been mostly design

do to re-pay them.

self-taught and that you didn’t

industry veterans who have

Those seven people are:

know, 3 hours have passed and

This guy is literally a

I could already do semi-com-

consistency machine.

Stephen Looney.

plex shapes inside of Illustrator. Stephen is currently on a

I believe I found him in

YouTube hiatus due to father-

February 2015, and back

hood, but his channel still

then he was celebrating

contains a breadth of critical

reaching 21,000 YouTube

knowledge, available to you


right here, right now. He has

This man is THE man. He basically single-handedly taught me Adobe Illustrator.

also created a Facebook group

Fast forward to March 2018,

(GDTL) centered around

he’s nearing 300,000, with

graphic design, which has be-

nothing but pure work and

come one of the most popu-

consistency. I don’t know how

lar FB groups in that niche.

he does it, but boy, am I glad

Thank you, Stephen.

that he does.

Roberto Blake.

Roberto was the one who

It was one summer afternoon on a Monday, outside was a blazing hot fire of air, and I was bored to death. I don’t exactly remember why, maybe it was because I wanted to up my logo design game (prior to that, I was creating logos in Photoshop), but I randomly typed “adobe illustrator tutorial” into YouTube’s search bar. Stephen, with his A-Z logo design challenge, hooked me in right away. Next thing you

taught me the mantra of creating awesome, and that there are other designers on this earth who have suffered through severe depression and managed to come out on top of it. He also personally responded to me a couple times, and I’ve soaked up all the truth bomb he ever told me. Thank you, Roberto.


Shawn Barry.

Udemy course which at the time was $99, and he gave me a free pass to it! Thanks

Nathaniel Dodson.

to that, I managed to levelup my knowledge about the branding and logo design process, including learning what a style guide is and how to design one. That’s a skill I’ve been using constantly ever since. In regards to his YouTube content, Shawn likes I believe we actually met

to get very in-depth, and the

in Stephen’s group. Out of

tutorials he uploads hardly

all the experts here, Shawn

ever focus on teaching you

has been the biggest direct

a design program, rather,

teacher. With time, we’ve

what he does is teaches you

actually grown to become

design principles themselves.

very good friends, in spite of

Due to his multi-decade long

age and location difference.

design career, he’s nailed all

What brought us together is

these principles and has since

a common sense of humour

turned to teaching them to

and exchanging ideas. One

generations up and coming.

time, he was launching a

Thank you, Shawn.

Nathaniel taught me that Philadelphia’s nickname is Philly. But he also taught me an enormous amount of Photoshop, Illustrator, and Premiere Pro techniques and little tricks. His videos that left the largest impression on me are “How to shoot a very short film w/ cheap gear” (something I was interested in ever since childhood), and “10 powerful Pho-

Aaron Nace.

Aaron is the face of Phlearn, a collective of

toshop skills/techniques you need to know”. The first se-

creatives who make Photoshop

ries helped bring me back into

and photography tutorials. I’ve

filmmaking two years ago, and

always loved his teaching style

the second one upgraded my

and how in every video he has a

Photoshop game by tenfold.

different haircut. Jokes aside, I’ve established myself as a Photoshop expert mostly thanks to Phlearn’s tutorials and the way they cover the more unknown

The fact that he’s creating stuff in all of these different mediums by himself made me relate a lot to him, because I’m also this weird kid who’s interested in video editing, illustration,

parts of Adobe’s photo-editing

photography, typography, and

program. Thank you, Aaron and the Phlearn team.

animation all at the same time. Thank you, Nathaniel.

16 / brand zine / march 2018

Chris Do.

before they split and Chris

how I re-discovered what this

renamed it to The Futur, but

man has to offer. Basically, a

at that time I didn’t find their

few months ago I had a 7+ hour

videos very interesting sim-

bus trip all alone. My phone

ply because I wasn’t starting a

battery wasn’t that great, so I

business yet—I was only learn-

needed to have something to

ing the design ropes.

keep me entertained whilst not murdering the battery. The idea

Chris’s background lies in

then sparked. I downloaded

creating high-budget motion

the mp3’s of around a dozen of

graphics commercials with his

The Futur’s YT videos and just

agency Blind. However, he

binge-listened. The transforma-

has recently transitioned from

tion I had that day was unbe-

I’ve actually known of his and

motion graphics into brand

lievable. So much new knowl-

Jose Caballer’s channel The

development and teaching the

edge changed my mindset for

Skool for a long while, way

“business of design”. Here’s

good. Thank you, Chris.

cameras in your usual fash-

I have a challenge for you.

Simon Cade.

ion. Even though that’s how he first started, Simon’s style has quickly evolved into

Yes, you reading this

film-making tutorials and

article. Whether you’re a

thought videos regarding all

desiger or not, think back

aspects of film-making. The

to who has helped shape

artistic way in which those

you into who you are today.

videos are produced is very

Write an article thanking

unique and something you

them for it. Then tweet it to

don’t usually see on You-

me using @bogcek, so we

Tube. But what struck me

can build a big list of heart-

the most was a challenge

warming stories and

he once imposed on himself: I actually discovered Simon

film an entire short film on a

in one of Roberto Bla’s videos.

very old/cheap camcorder.

His channel dslrguide has a bit

The result was just stunning,

of a misleading name, because

and it made me respect his

upon looking at the name for

ingenuity even more than

the first time, you might expect

I already did before.

a channel that reviews DSLR

Thank you, Simon.

acknowledge the people who made us! ‡


Photo: Rawpixel.com

Why Logos Don’t (Always) Matter As Much As You Think -  min read

18 / brand zine / march 2018

A few days ago I got subcontracted for a branding project. At first, the project sounded like an easy feat. But my contractors felt that the

↑ For my personal brand, I played with the initials and the abbreviation for “because”, which is “bc”, morphing it into various slogans, along with a distinctly blue color scheme and bold typography. You can read more about it on my website bogcek.com.

logos I was producing for their client were not “on par”, even

I went out of my way to contex-

They achieved it because they

though they clearly and simply

tualize it, to apply it onto dif-

were simple enough and the

communicated what the com-

ferent mediums, and acquaint

company behind it continu-

pany stood for, and even after I

the public with the brand. I put

ously kept building a strong

provided examples of possible

it into slogans. I made intros

narrative around it.

real-life usage. This strange

with it. I used it in thumbnails.

experience got me thinking:

And that is how you build a

You may have heard of the $35

brand experience. The two let-

Nike logo story. Back in 1971,

ters on their own don’t mean

when Carolyn Davidson was

much, besides, of course, the

only a student, she designed

fundamental meaning of a let-

the simple “swoosh” mark

ter. But by putting them into

which ended up amassing a

Why would a logo alone MATTER?

context, building an appro-

More precisely, why would

lot of meaning down the road

priate mood around them, a

it matter how simple or

when Nike started picking up

certain attitude, and a consis-

complicated the logo is?

the pace as a company. But

tent language, you manage

the mark on its own meant

to breathe in meaning into an

nothing before Nike weaved

For example, my own logo

otherwise meaningless jumble

it into its brand image and

(shown on pages 6 and 7) is

of letters or symbols. And to be

added the “Just do it” slogan

literally just two letters which

honest, most of the time you

to it. Today the company is

are underlined, and it probably

won’t even need any complex

worth around US$12.41 bil-

took me half an hour to design

symbols or intricate typogra-

lion in total equity, so you can

just that "mark". But it works.

phy. Some of the most famous

only imagine how much value

logos out there have achieved

there is behind the mark now.

Why does it work? Because

their fame not because of how

I built a narrative around it.

“well” they were designed.



On another note, let’s analyze a textonly logo. My British friends probably come into contact with the NHS logo below very often. It belongs to the National Health Service of the United Kingdom. But if you look at it more closely, it is just three letters typed out together in a plain font and placed into a blue rectangle. There is nothing fancy about the logo. The tail of the S doesn’t even align perpendicularly to the H. But it works for its context.

Brand ≠ logo, brand > logo. Many of my readers are very well-acquainted

So instead of wasting time trying to come up with a clever mark, the NHS brand designers spent their time creating very thorough and professional brand guidelines, so they can bring consistency across an extremely wide range of uses and convey a certain visual language that is expected from

with Gary Vaynerchuk and his branding. But did he ever bother with creating a detailed logo? Nah. He just used his own signature as a logo. What did he bother with? Creating a wellorchestrated brand experience. His brand has

such a large organization. This brings me to… 20 / brand zine / march 2018


a specific language. It has a specific look. You know why? Because that’s how you win customers. Not with a fancy logo. But with an appropriate brand experience. But then again… Gary’s branding is mostly personal. So let’s instead take a look at some of the corporate branding to see if there is a pattern.

Like maybe… the very site this article was originally written on. Their logo doesn’t even have

first one: reliability, strength,

But did they settle on a very

any colour! Such blasphemy!

professionalism, and the black

simple option? They sure did.

But yet again… it works. The

heaviness of the type referenc-

And while it is true that the

funniest part with this exam-

es the bold headlines of good

Medium logo is entirely black

ple is that the logo you see

ol' printed newspapers.

& white on its own, through-

today is only a recreation of

out the site they couple it with

their original logo, which had a

It manages to accomplish all

many interesting collages, as

white slab serif "M" locked into

of this with a simple chiselled

well as with the green from

a black square. They tried to

serif “M” coupled with a black

the previous logo. This way, a

go the complex and tiresome

square and “Medium” written

full brand experience is easily

route — and they got burned

using the same chiselled treat-

created, and there is no witty,

badly. This “new” logo con-

ment. Did it take them a while

tryhard logo to divert the

veys the same qualities as the

to arrive there? Most likely.

user’s attention.

Image courtesy of BoredPanda

But of course, simple doesn’t ALWAYS win. Of course, there’s bound to be exceptions. Take for example, the Toblerone logo. It has both typography and a symbol. It

has drop shadows, bevelling, and a ton of hidden references. The mountain in the logo not only references the Swiss Alps,

product’s name. The reason

brand has a premium vintage

but it also contains a hidden

why this “complex” approach

feel to it. If the logo were flat

bear, which is on the coat of

works for Toblerone is just

and used a plain typeface,

arms of Bern, the city where

because the product carries a

the brand’s language simply

the chocolate originated. The

ton of legacy (2018 is actually

wouldn’t be communicated

city’s name also appears in the

its 110th anniversary), and the

as accurately. 21

Same goes for Coca-Cola.

family — had they used a more contemporary typeface?


sure one of the most enduring

Perhaps. But there would

ones, and for over 100 years,

always be one key thing

the mark has remained

missing: the legacy. When

relatively unchanged.

you think of 1960s Americana, you think of Coca-Cola. Were

The iconic wordmark defi-

Would Coca-Cola be able to

it not for the complex vintage

nitely isn’t one of the simplest

communicate the same feel-

logo, that connection simply

ones out there. But it is for

ings — happiness, friendship,

wouldn’t have existed.

So what are the lessons we learned in our exploration today? Most of the time, especially if you’re starting a new brand, you just won’t need a complicated logo. All it takes is a few letters in an appropriate typeface, or even a simple symbol,


and you’re good to go. Now, the thing that’s actually going to help your company, organization, or agency will be the

brand’s positioning. Think of your brand as a person. How


would you describe them? Funny, serious, playful, pro-

L 22 / brand zine / march 2018

fessional, minimalistic, witty,

But in most other cases, don’t

modern, or perhaps vintage?

try too hard with the logo. Do

If you chose witty and/or

try hard with the execution.

vintage, then by all means


go the complex route of

Now, if you’re someone who is

Toblerone & Coca-Cola.

interested in having this brand execution created for them or their company, then maybe you could benefit from a chat with me. Find me online @bogcek and let's begin. ‡

o o e t y r h t t . t o ' h t n g i o o l w D rd a h     

brand zine

h t i w d . r n a o i h t y u r c t e o D ex spring 2018 issue


To Thrive in the 21st Century, Designers Must Become Doctors

24 / brand zine / march 2018


Photo: Rawpixel.com

- 8 min read


Imagine this situation. You suddenly become sick and you have no idea what the cause is. You want to go to work but no, you‘re almost bedridden. In other words, your day-today life is ruined. You know some symptoms of this sickness: chronic stomachache, difficulty breathing, intense sweating, but you can’t really pinpoint the exact cause. So in that case, let's say you have two choices in front of you: a) Go to a pharmacy and buy a generic stomach-ache medicine for cheap, having no idea if it’ll cure your disease, or even worse, harm you; Or b), go to a professional doctor with years of expertise, pay more money than the pharmacy but get a top-notch experience, an accurate diagnosis, and finally your body cured within days? If your answer was b), congratulations! You know and value the importance of your body being healthy. ← Just like actual doctors, designers should be able to easily "x-ray" the client's brand and get to the core of the problem(s) they might be facing.

“Wait, so how does this have anything to do with graphic design?” Well, let’s apply the same scenario as before, but replace a few words. Let’s say you’re a successful business owner. Stuff’s going well, when suddenly—your revenue took a huge dip in a short amount of time. Again, you have no idea what happened, but your business is now struggling, just like your body was. Of course, at the back of your mind, you know some possible symptoms: • You tried launching some Facebook ad campaigns on your own, but you haven’t even managed to break even, let alone turn a profit on them; • On top of that, your logo and print ads are stuck in the 90s, • And your customers are reporting website problems daily (because it was made in 2008 and had barely been maintained ever since). So again, do you: a) Go to an outsourcing website and buy a generic (or even stolen) logo for $50 and a cookie-cutter website for $200, then employ a third-rate “social media ad agency” to mechanically run your Facebook ads without giving a crap about you or your customers; b), do you go to a professional design agency, pay more money than outsourcing websites, but get a premium brand strategy session that dives deep into the very core of your business, then launch a complete visual redesign with the 25

same agency, and on top of that, sign a 6-month retainer for social media management and see amazing results within just 2 weeks of hiring them? If your answer was b), again, congratulations! You know and value the importance of having a healthy business. Anyway, the purpose of these

Photo: Jens Lelie

scenarios was to showcase the two choices people usually have when they’re in need of a

but very risky option, and 2)

risk-proof option. We’ll touch

service: 1) the low-end, cheap

the high-end, more costly but

more on these later in the post.

So what’s up with the “thriving in the 21st century” part?

Ever since the infancy of

graphic design up until two

into one worldwide market.

about the true value of design.

decades ago, this craft was

The consequence of this is that

It can quite literally make or

done by a select few. These

design is becoming commod-

break a company. Even still,

people devoted their lives to

itized, automated, and out-

a lot of business owners just

branding, typography, grids,

sourced for cheap to “third-

don’t bother with higher-end

and numerous other design

world” countries.

options even if they can afford

principles. This, along with

them. And that is perfectly fine

lack of globalization, made

Coming back to the scenarios

for them, because the global

competition in graphic

from the start of the text, de-

market offers a ton of

design nearly non-existent.

pending on how much value

choice for these clients.

clients place on a given ser-

But designers that are living

But we’re living in the 21

vice, they will either choose

in “first-world” countries, the

century now. For better or for

to invest more or to skimp out

ones that had no competition

worse, globalization is in its

on it. When it comes to our

in the 20th century, are now

full swing today. Thanks to the

bodies, we’re very much aware

getting left in the dust, unable

internet, it’s extremely easy for

that if we take a risk there, we

to cover their basic living ex-

just about anyone to learn the

can get a serious ailment, or

penses because they cannot

basic technicalities of graph-

even worse. So we’re ready to

compete on price due to high-

ic design programs, and the

cough up more for our body’s

er costs of living. Because of

design industry has merged

health. But when it comes to

this surge in competition, the

our businesses, many people

only way to rise above in the

just haven’t been educated

graphic design industry today


26 / brand zine / march 2018

is to develop expertise in brand

with “why”. Keep asking until you get to the core of the client’s

consulting — you may not be

problem(s); that's usually gonna happen when after 3 "why's".

able to compete on price, but you can compete on value.

So how does a designer develop that expertise? Slowly, but surely. The first step is just becoming aware of the current situation. Then, the second step is educating your audience. I am doing that right now with this very article. And the third is, instead of blindly following whatever your client tells you to do, start asking them questions,

For example, this is a lot


of cheap client/designer

*adds another page*

relationships today: … dozens and dozens of Client:

pointless revisions later…

—I need a new website! Client: Designer:

— Sure, this is good enough.

*creates the website im-

Here is your $300.

mediately, no questions asked* Client: — I don’t like this colour. Can you change it? Designer: *changes it*

This is why Designer: designers — Why did I do so much work for this little money? need to I’m such a fool. become And 3 months later, the doctors. client needs to redesign their Frankenstein website again


because it’s not doing the work

— We need another

it should be doing. And what

page for this here.

was that work? No one knows.

especially the ones that start ↓

If you want to transition to a consultant, it’s all going to lie within the conversations between you and with the client.

Why does no one know? Because neither party took the time to ask questions and get deeper into the core reasons for change.The analogy I’m making here is that like doctors, physicians, and psychologists, we too should develop experience in the act of consulting, instead of just blindly following whichever orders the client gives us. You know how when you go to one of the professionals mentioned above, Photo: Rawpixel.com


they spend 20–60 minutes just

create the solutions in the first

“Is that change going to help

asking you questions and

place (what’s the problem),

us accomplish the objectives

listening to the responses?

HOW we should create them

that we've previously set?”

Because without that crucial

given the business’s histo-

part, they cannot give an

ry, language, and reputation

With this question, they’re

accurate diagnosis and solve

(to stay “on-brand”), and also

eliminating any kind of sub-

the problem in your body.

to make sure that we establish

jective opinions, and focusing

The same is true of graphic

trust towards the client by

on only what is actually going

design. Our job isn’t just to

being highly empathetic,

to help the client long-term.

create visual solutions, but to

transparent and showing

This in turn, makes the client

work with the client in order

them that we truly have

stop looking at design as an

to figure out WHY we should

their best interests at heart.

“expense” and begin thinking of it as a valuable investment in the health of their business, and thus, the

So now that we’ve learned

Designer: — Oh, so you need

all this, let’s go back to our

more leads. WHY do you

client-designer relationship

think a new website will help

and apply the lessons.

you achieve this goal?

their eyes, and not just


Client: — Because it will have

in their quarterly reports.

— I need a new website!

more features & capabilities, and that will allow us to put

designer becomes an irreplaceable expert in an expendable statistic

To designers reading this post, I hope I’ve shed


new, more modern lead gen

— WHY do you need one?

systems in place.

some light on what you

Client, stunned for a few

Designer: —Oh, I understand

in today’s market. If you

seconds, finally speaks out:

where you’re going with this.

— Because our current

So what do you think about

one is outdated and isn’t

us creating a solid strategy

bringing us many leads.

on what we want this new website to accomplish? (...)

should do to stand out wish to stop being a simple “order-taker”, start getting paid to think by developing real & usable strategies for your clients. And to other business

And just like that, the designer isn’t just a commodity anymore.

owners, I hope that this post made you think more about the true importance of design and brand identity in businesses. The designer

Now, they’re an expert helping the client in their business,

should be an integral part

creating strategies and objectives to move the business forward

of moving your company

and ensure that the entire design process doesn’t veer off course.

forward, and not just a mind-

The best part of this approach is, any time someone wants to give

less pawn that designs your

28 / brand zine / march 2018

unsolicited feedback, here the

ads and your websites with

no questions asked. ‡

designer can just ask:

Photo: Christin


This article was inspired by the book The Win Without Pitching Manifesto, written by Blair Enns. Highly recommend it for everyone who needs to present ideas in their daily jobs, not just designers. The best part is, the entire book is available completely free of charge on Blair’s website!


brand zine

THANK YOU FOR READING. 30 / brand zine / march 2018

Afterword. This is where one would usually credit the numerous people who normally contribute to the making of any large-scale printed booklet. But this was a 100% self-initiated project. All the articles penned by my hand, all the pages designed by yours truly. Now, the actual idea for the zine came about after I was on the brink of securing a magazine layout gig, but it fell out of my reach just because there weren't any magazine Photo: Brandi Redd

projects to showcase in my portfolio. Therefore, this zine will serve the role of proving my editorial design expertise to potential clients, as well as entertaining and educating them about design & branding with the articles written in the zine. To you, the one who has stuck around until this last spread of pages, I say thank you. Thank you for supporting me in this new endeavour, and I hope you've learned something from these six articles. And even if you're here just to enjoy the design and not read, thank you as well. Sincerely, Bogdan




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Brand Zine - Bogdan C  

Brand Zine - Bogdan C