Diverse Global is a Saugatuck-based company that serves the automotive, appliance, food service, and other industries by designing, assembling, distributing, and servicing a wide range of customized packaging and dunnage solutions. Rob Schaftenaar, Vice President of Sales and Marketing, had this to say about the company before they worked with Black Lake: “We were a new and growing team, with various backgrounds and experiences. We had decades’ worth of industry knowledge between us, but we needed Black Lake to map that information and summarize it.”
At Black Lake Studio & Press, we help nonprofits, thought leaders, and entrepreneurs like Diverse Global discover, articulate, and express their identity for the next stage of growth. We begin with a deep dive into the business model and craft messages and media that produce results. This is where Black Lake came in to begin establishing a strategy with Diverse Global: “We sat down for the mind mapping session, all with various expectations and hesitations,” said rob. “Had we been left to our own devices, it would have taken months, if not years, for us to determine what everyone in the room thought and knew. But with Black Lake guiding us through the mind mapping process, we were able to get everything down on paper in one day, and collectively decide what Diverse Global would be as a company. Going forward, we’re all on the same page as we navigate what we are, what we are not, and what we’re going to be in the future.”
Having collected the end results of an in-depth mind mapping session, the next step of the process was to create a comprehensive marketing plan that reflected the company’s needs and goals. “They told us what our brand message should be; what our logo, colors, and fonts should be; what marketing materials we should be utilizing and in what ways; how we should bring our brand to the marketplace; and who we should be targeting as prospective customers. Everything we needed to know about how to properly market our company was delivered in a comprehensive plan that was derived from the information gathered during the mind mapping session and was specific to us as an organization.”
After engaging in the discovery stage, Black Lake turned that critical information into visuals that represent just what Diverse Global has to offer. This important step of the process allows for users to gauge the value proposition, competitive advantages, and core messaging through materials that serve as “more than just materials and a website.”
Ashley Helminiak, Creative Lead at Black Lake Studio, reveals how you can become that brand that engages powerfully with its audience.
When I say that you can be that brand that everyone’s talking about, I don’t mean that scandal with the spokesperson with skeletons in his closet. I don’t mean that one restaurant chain that gave thousands of people food poisoning. And I don’t mean that popular brand whose CFO got in trouble for embezzlement. I mean that brand that is all the buzz on people’s mouths, social media accounts, in coffee shops, etc. That brand that has its audience always expanding, with new users flocking to it and telling their friends about it. That brand that is everything you could hope to be as you grow your own business. In the end, audience engagement is one of the most important factors that influences the success or failure of your brand.
But how will you become that brand? Well, first you need to know what you’re all about. Then try implementing these strategies:
Choose the right channels for your audience.
You can excel at social media accounts, do special promotions, publish compelling content on your blog, and even engage in personal phone calls or meetings with clients and customers. But if your users aren’t the type to have social media accounts, then your carefully planned, excellently crafted posts will have no audience, and therefore no engagement. Know your audience and communicate with them in the ways they want to be contacted. Black Lake can help you plan ahead and craft a customized strategy.
Create content your audience is interested in.
Content should be relatable to the audience you’re targeting. Find out what they’re interested in and the types of hooks that appeal to them. If you have a high-end product and are targeting customers that are interested in high-quality merchandise, you may want to avoid accentuating cost or offering discounts. In this case, you should be focusing on the benefits of your product instead. We can help you figure out how to share relevant content and make it look super cool.
Offer something in exchange for your audience’s engagement.
It doesn’t have to be a gift card to Starbucks or a coupon for half-off barbecue pulled pork sandwiches if you come in between 11:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. on Tuesdays. Often, choosing something related to your product or service is the best way to go. However, don’t underestimate a drawing to win a prize at a trade show! Black Lake can help you come up with effective incentives for your audience.
Respond to your audience when they talk to you.
If someone comments on your content, respond! They’re giving you their feedback and opinions, which is exactly what you want. Interact with them and offer more of your own insights. This will help you gain traction. Communication is a two-way street, after all. Black Lake will equip you to communicate effectively.
Caraline Visuri, Designer at Black Lake Studio, reveals how you can be that brand that has a super cool and effective visual identity.
As discussed in last week’s blog post, after establishing a strong foundation composed of an extensive discovery phase, the creative portion of the process can begin. To build a brand that can stand on its own, communicate what it’s about, and appear visually striking, this foundation is absolutely key. By establishing exactly what a brand stands for, designers can more easily translate a client’s value proposition, competitive advantages, mission, and their users’ needs into something unmistakable.
To be that brand that looks super cool, your brand must be more than just a design trend (hey hipster stamps!) and more than something that you feel simply looks neat. A brand that looks super cool is so much more than a logo; it’s deliberately crafted to convey certain emotions, connotations, and reactions that represent what you stand for and what you want your target audience to feel.
Other than relying on your brand’s already established foundation, there are many questions to take into considerations when building visuals for your brand:
- Is it unique? Is it easily recognizable? Looking at competitors, are there too many similar elements? Does is stand out among a group of competitors?
- What types of emotions or feelings should it induce? Emotions can be evoked through color choices, typography, and layout. Consider who your audience is and what they would respond best to.
- Is it readable at different sizes? Do size changes evoke different feelings? Is the brand easily identifiable at different sizes?
- What are the meanings behind the visuals? What are you referencing? Again, logos and other visuals should always be backed up by a sound foundation that audiences can easily understand.
- How are your visuals going to look five, ten, or twenty-five years from now? There are always a handful of design trends that are tempting to jump on board with, but they will quickly feel very dated and not allow for uniqueness when standing against competitors.
- What do elements look like in black and white? This can help you identify if elements are too complex and if you need to simplify things.
At Black Lake, we keep these pointers and more in mind when we craft visual brand identities. After a few rounds of design, a masterpiece is born that conveys your identity in style.
When we craft brands and design assets for clients, we are always thinking about strategy and communication as well as aesthetics. Form and function work together to create the best experience for users, no matter the medium or industry.
Audio Scripture Ministries (ASM) is one such client that we had the pleasure of working with. Among the assets we built for them was a new website. Not only did we build the site with user experience and interface in mind, we looked further to meet industry-related requirements—namely, Charity Navigator.
Charity Navigator is an organization that rates nonprofit organizations based on their financial health and accountability and transparency, with a maximum rating of four stars after averaging the scores of the two categories. Many people check Charity Navigator scores and reports to determine if their donation is going to a good organization and being used properly. If they like what they see, they’re more likely to continue giving; if they don’t, they may well take their donation elsewhere.
We noticed this lack and brought it to ASM’s attention. We then added all of this information in the spring during our rebrand and redesign of the website. As a result, we have helped ASM bring their three-star rating up to a four-star rating. They now have a 100.00 rating in the accountability and transparency category. Paired with their already excellent financial health score, this pushed them up to a four-star overall rating.
Whatever type of client we have, including nonprofits, we are always looking to meet and exceed industry standards so they can put their best foot forward. Our collaborative workflow and strategic process allows us to create solutions that help capture our client’s vision and apply it in an intentional, business-minded way.
See ASM’s Charity Navigator Report: www.charitynavigator.org
Visit ASM’s website: www.asmtoday.org
You don’t stop learning about your chosen field when you graduate from college. If you do, you’ll fall far behind and will quickly cease to be an asset to the company that hired you when you were “full of potential.” Part of being a designer is being able to keep up with trends and technology, and expanding your knowledge beyond what you learned in school.
Of course, much of this is done on the fly when there are clients to satisfy and deadlines to meet. Since I started here at Black Lake Studio, I have greatly increased my knowledge of WordPress, brand strategy, and many other aspects of design.
Most recently, I learned how to do a manual multisite WordPress install… in less than eight hours. I had to work with a third party to get multiple sites live for a client, and the guy on the phone said, “You should really do a multisite install, it will be faster and take up much less server space.” I thought to myself, “Alright, I’ll give it a go.”
After much frustration, and learning that I should have waited until after the DNS records were updated, I successfully completed a multisite install and brought both sites live. Upon learning this new skill, I saw how I could apply it to the development of sites under our own server for the future.
I also had to battle with Microsoft Excel for Mac recently. It’s laughable how designers can navigate many Adobe products with ease, but when you present them with a Microsoft product that they haven’t touched since several versions ago, they get completely lost. For this particular project, we had to make sure the client would be able to make their own on-brand pie charts in the future without needing us to make one in Illustrator every time. After once again mastering the creation of a pie chart (which took longer than I would like to admit), I went on to learn how to create a custom theme (which had to be done in Powerpoint for some reason) and apply it to the charts. Not bad for a day’s work, if I do say so myself.
While learning new things can be difficult (especially outside the safety of college and professors that always seem to have the answer), it can be very rewarding. Ultimately, it will help you stay current as a designer and not fall behind. I look forward to learning more things in the future as I move forward in my career. Bring it on, Adobe Digital Publishing Solution!
The Bat-Signal is an iconic part of the Batman mythos. Whenever the Gotham City police department requires help fighting a particularly tough villain, they turn on a searchlight and project the Bat-Symbol into the sky, summoning the Dark Knight to their aid. This way, Batman can intervene whenever the authorities need him.
We may not have a branded searchlight or snazzy capes, but the Black Lake team does actually work a bit like Batman. Let me explain how.
I’m sure the Gotham police force loves having Batman around so they can call him in when they’re in deep trouble. But would they want him involved in every case? They don’t exactly need his help with every carjacking or purse-snatching, and he’d get stretched awfully thin if they used the Bat-Signal for petty crimes. Plus, if they kept summoning Batman when they didn’t really need him, they’d develop an unhealthy dependency. The officers themselves would never perfect their crimefighting skills if they knew that Batman would back them up at any time. Lighting up the Bat-Signal in emergencies is a great way to keep the city safe, but if overused, it would actually hurt the cause of justice.
Likewise, clients come to Black Lake when they genuinely need our services: developing or reassessing their business model, brand messaging, and communications media. But then what? What happens when the project is over, when the brand campaign is created and successfully launched?
Black Lake doesn’t abandon its clients after a project, but it doesn’t micromanage them, either. We help clients put systems in place to manage their brands by themselves with whatever level of support they feel is necessary. We call it STAR Support:
- System Build: We help clients make internal adjustments, including hiring and restructuring, so they’re organizationally equipped to carry on their brand.
- Training to Operate: Imagine that Batman personally trained key members of the Gotham police force, who then used their newfound Bat-Skills to bolster the entire department. Black Lake trains key personnel on how to maintain and update their communications assets, continue communicating their brand message, and follow their business model effectively.
- Adapt Over Time: As organizations grow, messages evolve and media assets need to be modified. That’s why Black Lake transitions into an as-needed support role. We’re on-call if you should need our help making adjustments—it’s like having your own personal Black-Lake-Signal on your building’s roof.
- Reach Forward: Black Lake helps organizations grow and develop, to overcome challenges and meet the requirements of a changing world. That doesn’t have to stop when the project is finished.
Brand management is a day-to-day affair requiring a level of vigilance that exceeds the capacity of a lone vigilante like Batman. Businesses and nonprofits have to be able to manage their brands independently. However, that doesn’t mean they won’t need help from time to time, and that’s where Black Lake’s ongoing campaign management services come in.
If you need me, I’ll be on the roof, watching the sky.
Feelings are helpful and shouldn’t be ignored—but they’re not always the most accurate things in the world when it comes to determining what you really need. I’ve observed that this issue often boils down to the difference between what we feel we need and what really need.
For example, if you’re walking down the cereal isle at the grocery store, you might feel quite strongly that you need to buy a box of Chocolate Frosted Sugar Bombs. After all, sugary cereals are fun, and who doesn’t need a little more fun in their life? The reality is that you’re not seven years old anymore, and you ought to decrease your sugar intake and consume more fiber. Something with lots of bran or granola probably suits your body’s needs much better than pure high fructose corn syrup.
But who cares about that, right? The Sugar Bombs’ packaging has flashy colors and friendly cartoon characters that remind you of the carefree days of your childhood. On the other hand, the box of bran cereal is mostly white with some muted accents; it’s kind of boring. Your emotions are pulling you toward the swirl of primary colors, artificial flavors, and marshmallows. Your grown-up senses are apparently out to lunch. Should you go with what you feel you need, which looks a lot more appealing, or buy what’s good for you, which doesn’t sound like much fun at all? This seems like a no-brainer. Continue Reading…