Posted on 29th March, 2019
UK entrepreneurial spirit reigned supreme in 2009 and 102,848 companies were established. 52 Degrees North was amongst that number. Fast-forward a decade, and on a bright spring day in March 2019, we’ve reached our ten-year milestone!
As with any small business, we spend our time looking forward – with it being our 10th birthday, we’ve also been reflecting on some of the things we’ve achieved over the years.
We’ve delivered over 4300 design projects, won awards, gained postgraduate qualifications, employed staff, apprentices and offered paid student placements. We’ve hit every deadline on time and on budget, seen revenue grow by 479%, moved into our own offices, worked alongside incredible businesses and most importantly, worked shoulder to shoulder with hundreds of inspiring people to whom we owe a huge debt of gratitude.
We have had words of wisdom and support from friends and family. Benefitted from objective business advice from other professionals. Enjoyed dedication and hard work from our team, reliability and expertise from our suppliers and opportunity and trust from our clients. We would like to say a huge thank you to you all!
It’s been ten years worth celebrating!
So what next?…
What better way to mark our birthday than by welcoming new clients to the 52dn family! We’re delighted to announce that following a successful tender process, we have just been appointed to work alongside the award-winning University of Huddersfield!
The design framework sees us join the Uni’s Agency roster and over the coming years, we’ll be offering creative support to schools and departments across the Uni. Needless to say, we’re absolutely thrilled to have been appointed and can’t wait to get started!
From Higher Education to Pre-school education. 52dn have got even more to celebrate having also recently been appointed by the UK’s Leading childcare nursery provider Busy Bees! We’re over the moon to be working with such an exciting brand. Our first project (an animated motion graphic video) complete, we’re looking forward to sharing the results!
Introducing the ‘Brand Bag’ – a new creative service designed exclusively for small businesses.
Branding is a big word. Say it, and most people think of the logos and ad campaigns of global giants like Nike, Starbucks, and Apple. So for some small businesses, contemplating branding can feel like wishful thinking. Indeed it’s too costly, complex, and sophisticated an endeavour for a small business, right?
To coincide with our tenth birthday, we are launching a new ‘Brand Bag’ packaged design service designed exclusively for small businesses. A ‘one-stop-shop’ for businesses that want help getting their brand off the ground, our packages start from just £599 and are available now!
With all this to come and so many other plans underway too, we can’t wait to see what the future holds. Time indeed flies, but we’re loving being the pilots…
Here’s to the next ten years!
Paul & Katie
Posted on 21st February, 2019
Are you a client who has provided a rough creative brief? Given your designer ‘a blank canvas’ but found the final result lacking in innovative design?
Are you a designer who has found yourself working to what you believed to be your client’s objectives? Only to discover (often too late), that you’ve missed the mark completely? You’re likely to have been missing one crucial ingredient.
There is a saying in life that ‘You get out what you put in’. This is never truer than in the case of graphic design. Graphic design is about crafting solutions to real problems. This requires understanding, and there needs to be information for understanding. Without knowledge (a meaningful insight), designers will have to resort to an awful lot of guesswork, which is not an excellent basis for a successful project. In comparison, they may be able to produce something that looks great (that should be a given with a professional). Will, it hit the mark when it comes to solving your problem, achieving your objectives or generating results?
A designer who takes the time to unravel your mind and get to know you will always deliver better results. If your designer doesn’t understand you, your audience won’t either.
“Design is the intermediary between information and understanding.”
– Hans Hofmann
NEED TO KNOW BASIS
As a designer, hearing the words “you’re the experts” can be both a blessing and a curse. Sure, it’s fantastic that a client has faith and trust in your ability, but that’s not a reason to bypass the all-important ‘getting to know you’ phase. That process can sometimes take a little time – but ultimately, it’s time well spent for everyone and can mean time and money saved.
The onus for this process falls to both the designer and the client. At the same time, a client should be willing and able to provide a detailed insight into context, challenges and preferences. Any designer worth their salt should also have the skills to probe further to leave no stone unturned.
SO WHAT HAPPENS IF YOU SKIP THIS ESSENTIAL STAGE?
At best, you could end up with something that looks great but achieves nothing. At worst, you could create confusion undo previous successes and potentially even damage your brand. If that’s not worth a detailed conversation upfront, we don’t know what is.
First, a designer needs to understand why there is a need for a particular piece of design. Have you seen a decline in sales, do you have a new product or service to launch? Way before a designer should be putting ‘pen to paper’ (or mouse to mac). The designer needs to have a solid grasp of the context for a project. Understanding where the longer-term vision and goals lay. This ‘bigger picture’ insight is an essential foundation, and in our experience, it fuels the creative process and allows for more imaginative thinking.
IS YOUR PROJECT PART OF A WIDER CAMPAIGN?
If so, the designer will need to know what’s going on beforehand, what’s going to run next and what’s going to come after that. Not only is this critical in terms of providing an insight into established branding and visual styles. It also helps us understand what stage in the buying process your customer may currently be. Thus how this particular piece of creative should perform.
WHO IS YOUR TARGET MARKET?
The more clearly you can define your target market, the more a designer can tailor their work. There is a well-known saying that ‘you can’t be all things to all people’ and this is undoubtedly true in the case of design. If you have evidence to support why previous campaigns have (or haven’t) worked well with your target market, that information is incredibly valuable.
WHAT DOES SUCCESS LOOK LIKE?
The design should be designed to incite a response, produce a specific reaction or promote a particular action. Without understanding what answer you’d want, or what you think ‘success’ looks like, how can your designer hit the nail on the head? If you calculate success based on an increase in sales revenue. But your designer is building on growing brand awareness or social interaction. You may not be entirely happy with the outcome.
WHAT ARE THE CHALLENGES?
In some instances, there may well be obstacles or challenges that your business faces. Your designer will need to bear in mind during the creative process. These may be linked to the competitive environment, factors on the broader market or could even something specifically relating to your business. Be they small or significant – we need to know about them.
WHAT ARE THE KEY MESSAGES/SELLING POINTS?
All businesses have something that sets them apart from their competition. But not everyone is excellent at identifying or summarising what that is. You must understand your key messages and selling points. This is so your designer understands them too and can clearly (and concisely) convey them in your creative.
WHAT IS YOUR BUDGET?
Do you have a ballpark budget in mind? If, so your designer needs to know. This isn’t so that we can go away and start planning our next shopping trip. It’s so that we understand the full scope and feasibility of what you’re asking. This way, we can come up with viable suggestions that will deliver against both your brief and your budget.
Posted on 23rd January, 2019
As we discussed in our previous guide to graphic design posts. Graphic design has become democratised, so when it comes to selecting the design agency for you, there is often no shortage of choice. Of course, making the right choice can be somewhat more complicated. In our view, in addition to creativity (which should be a given), there are a host of other things that are worth looking out for, many of which do not come from a free pitching process.
We understand that as a client, it may be tempting to put multiple agencies to the test before selecting one, but the value of the ‘free pitch’ has long been called into question, and for a good reason. Despite its allure, this old industry habit is not just wasteful of agency resources; it’s dangerous for the client as well. In short, when it comes to free creative pitching, everyone gets the short end of the stick.
Amongst other things, the pitching process can, in many cases, completely omit those necessary ‘getting to know you’ stages that we’ve previously talked about and gloss over the actual value that your designer has the potential to add…
TOUGH ON CLIENTS…
Design agencies sell an expert problem-solving service. When you hire a professional team, you’re getting a creative team who will dive into your business, investigate the problem, understand the stakeholders, and collaborate with you to fine-tune a solution that takes all of these into account. Much of what makes a solution successful are the insights that come along the way throughout this journey.
With the pitching process, however, all of this is generally thrown out the window in favour of a skeletal brief and some swift guesswork on the part of the agency, capped with a theatrical talent show. The result? A surface-level solution that might tick all the boxes in a creative pitch, but which has ultimately cheated you of the full value of the investigative design process.
WHY DO AGENCIES SAY NO?
Even though they’d likely love to work with you, some agencies may decline to take part in your pitch, leaving you with a weakened field. Here’s the reason why.
As an agency, we’ll be the first to admit that speculative work is time and cost-intensive and can be a massive drain on resources. Inevitably, an agency will only be able to invest a certain amount into your pitch if they are busy delivering results for their existing (paying) clients. What this means that you won’t get the full benefit of working with them – you’ll get a watered-down solution that will in most cases be ‘style over substance’. While some agencies may be happy with that, there are those amongst us who certainly wouldn’t be – and you shouldn’t be either.
SO WHAT’S THE ALTERNATIVE?
It may feel like there is no viable alternative when it comes to finding your designer, but that is not the case. If you want to see an agency at their best (and eliminate the chance of flimsy, poorly considered creative), invite them in to give a credentials presentation.
While this is a perfect chance to get to know the agency and see examples of the success they’ve done on people, it’s an opportunity to get to terms with their methods. You can then decide if they’re going to be a good match for you and, of course, have insight into their creative abilities as well.
HERE ARE OUR TOP THREE TIPS FOR GETTING THE MOST OUT OF THIS PROCESS…
Involve the right decision-makers
Make sure when meeting an agency that all of the decision-makers are in the room. As well as senior members of staff, this may well include those who will directly be working with the agency to make sure the project is delivered effectively. Those are the people who have to work with the agency after all – so rapport is essential. It’s far better for all of the crucial stakeholders to witness the presentations in their entirety, and be able to ask their questions.
2. Don’t get hung up on the design.
When evaluating an agency, try not to put too much weight on a specific design concept presented but instead, focus on the bigger picture. It’s more important that you can see that their work is of high quality, that they can innovate and that they demonstrate understanding.
Not all agencies will be a good fit for the personality of your business. Keep an eye on cultural fit and attitude, and don’t underestimate the power of that hard-to-define “chemistry.” (Yep, it’s a bit like dating.) They should be presenting some fantastic design work, but the designs can be changed – the team delivering them can’t.
3. Look for process
Use the designs presented as a window into each agency’s process. What research did they conduct? How did they get to the solution? Does the agency have a formal way of looping the client into the process from start to finish? All of this is d a great indication as to whether you think you could work well with the agency and build a partnership that works.
Ultimately, this is just the beginning (hopefully!) of a long process of creative problem-solving. By using it to understand how an agency works, and to get a feel for working together, a more successful union is on the cards. Treat it like a quick competition and, well, you’ll get what you’ve paid for.
Take a look at our other Straightforward Guide to Graphic Design posts part 2 & 3
Posted on 23rd January, 2019
It’s no secret that at 52dn, we believe that the best creative is born from the very best client-designer relationships. As a result, we work hard to build successful partnerships that deliver results and stand the test of time.
Of course, to do this, we like to make sure that we’re always improving our service, delivering on our promises and going the extra mile. In December 2018, we asked our clients to take part in our latest client satisfaction survey. This was to make sure that we’re doing just that.
The client satisfaction results are in, and we’re delighted to be able to share them. As with last year’s annual survey, the results have been incredibly positive, and it’s gratifying to know that our clients think so highly of us. We want to say a huge ‘Thank You’ to everyone who took part and shared their feedback with us – we’re looking forward to working together in 2019.
At 52 Degrees North, we work hand in hand with some fantastic businesses and genuinely inspirational people. From award-winning technology companies to leading educational institutions. All of our clients have something special in common – they all make a genuine difference to those around them. We like to think that the same can be said about us.
Do you want to work with a creative partner who you can trust? We’re reliable, responsive, innovative, and customer focussed, but don’t just take our word for it.
You can catch up on more news from 52 Degrees North here.
Posted on 19th December, 2018
This Christmas, we’re going to be supporting our local food bank in Tamworth by taking part in the Trussell Trust’s reverse advent calendar. With over 166,958 three-day emergency food supplies given to people in crisis in the Midlands in 2016/17. We will be donating an item of food for every day of advent.
We’ve also been posting our very own advent calendar on social media throughout December. So if you want to check that out, head over to our social media. Oh, and make sure you’re following us and help support your local food bank!