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Archive for January, 2010


As a graphic designers who has tons of deadlines to meet, sometimes we are faced with limited resources, including images that we are going to use for the artwork. Using stock photographs is one solution that can be considered. However, we also have to realize that we might not find the perfect photo, which means that we have to do a little ‘magic’ with Photoshop in order to make it work.

The city of Toronto is quite notorious for its Photoshop works. The cover of Toronto Fun Guide says it all.

torontofun

Toronto Fun Guide Before & After

In the image above, not only the proportion is off, the hue and lighting are off too. Take a close look at the finger tip on the left side of the image. Looking at the original picture (left), I believe those fingers belong to the mother, and in the engineered picture, the fingers were darkened to suggest they now belong to the father, and this makes it even funnier, since the father’s arm must be very long. In addition to those silliness, the cropping against the blue background is terrible.

If you want to read the entire article, you can go to http://network.nationalpost.com/np/blogs/toronto/archive/2009/06/10/city-digitally-adds-black-guy-to-fun-guide-cover-to-make-it-more-inclusive.aspx

I took a subway train yesterday, and I saw another ad, this time by Toronto Public Health, and it really bothers me because of some technical and non-technical issues. (I thought the lady in the picture is too confident, she should have been more sad, but let’s leave the conceptual side later).

Here is the original image:

Original Ad

Original Ad

Using my common sense first of all, I can see that the hand is a montage. If I use the face as a basic of my analysis, I would say, that the woman in the picture is about 16 years old, and most likely on the slim side. When you look at the chubby hand, they just don’t fit. Not to mention the different in hue between the hand and the face, the hand got more exposure to hard light than the face.

When you try to find the source of light, you will see that the direction of light for the hand and the face is also different. Not to mention that there are no shadows on the paper at all.

Analysis

Analysis

If I did this image, I probably would look for a hand that is more petite and have similar hues and shading to the face. However, just to show you my point, let me try to fix it, even though it’s not going to be perfect, because I would need a hi-res images to get it right.

  1. First of all, I made the hand ‘thinner’ and ‘slimmer’ to match the face.
  2. Then I made the hand less bright and add more ‘red’ and ‘yellow’ to the color balance to match the hue
  3. I even added some shadows on the bottom side of the hand (not too much)
  4. Then I worked on the paper by adding some shades to the paper using filter and drew the hand’s shadow on it with around 65% opacity

Here is the result:

Corrected Image

Corrected Image

Now I believe it is much better. (PW)

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Marketing v. Sales


What I am about to talk about is a very classic case of marketing v. sales. Even until now, there are a lot of misconceptions about marketing. Most people I talked with still think that marketing is the same as sales or advertising. There are a lot of marketing positions that I believe are not marketing at all, such as marketing managers (which sometimes means sales manager), and marketing coordinator (which usually means graphic designer or ad & promo manager). I guess somebody has to start ‘correcting’ these terms soon; otherwise the virtue of ‘marketing’ will soon diminish.

When asked, which evolved first, marketing or sales, then obviously sales comes before marketing. Marketing comes into the pictures when companies realize that they need sales support to study the competition and the market in order to help design the products (or services) and packaging, give the appropriate branding and pricing, decide ways to communicate the products and services, positions the product among its competitors in the market and to maintain the customer service. Marketing then become more popular when studies showed that maintaining existing customers is more profitable than acquiring new ones, which also means that losing existing customers is very costly.

In the old days, the market was very product(or service)- oriented (or what we used to call push system). Manufacturers were creating products and services and they tried very hard to ‘sell’ them to the market. In those days, those companies were the king, the one who made all the decisions. The consumer did not have a choice, if they need it then they would have to buy it. However, there were some problems with this mechanism; what the companies offered was not exactly what the market needed.

At some point in time, the products being offered have become so saturated, and then comes the superstores era. The superstores had intelligent information on what the market really needed. They were the ones who decided what products to order because of high demand. They were too smart for the manufacturers, so instead of buying the products, they offered the ‘shelf space’. Manufacturers had to fight for shelf space, and had to take back anything unsold. These superstores the ones who shifted the fulcrum. The manufacturers are not the king anymore, but the power moved to the consumers through the superstores (we call this the pull system). To make things worse, now the stores negotiates with their suppliers to help them produce their low priced domestic brands, especially for fast moving items.

Now with the internet, consumers can gather a lot of information about any product or service, therefore they are intelligent enough to make their own purchase. So the power now moves further toward the end customer. However, despite the increase in ‘utilitarian’ consumer intelligence, the ‘old’ way of marketing, such as using persuasion in the form of advertising and promotion can still be very effective because people still make irrational decisions. I truly believe that people buy iPod mostly because of the image the product can give them (and probably because of loyalty to the Apple brand). If they only want just an mp3 player, they could buy some other brands which are much cheaper and serve the same purpose. Images are built with integrated communication and commitment that could take years in development and are very expensive. Prestige and loyalty are some forms of irrationality.

Going back to the main issue, in short, sales is short-term and marketing is long-term, more like an investment. Both are essential to every company because both affect revenue (or potential revenue) generation. The important thing is that both should work in sync. Marketing cannot be treated as a part-time or commission-based job, while sales can. (PW)

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False Information Overload

If you live in a metropolitan city like I do, you will notice that you are surrounded by hundreds of thousands of ads, either they are printed or in other media forms. Some are convincing and some are just useless piece of information. Some provides too much information, some enough and some are just too vague. Some are serious, some funny and some others are just trying to be funny. Some are memorable and some are just too easy to forget.

Nowadays, graphic designers and ad agencies have a lethal way to cut costs, i.e. to use images from stock photo sites.  Using images from various stock photo sites will eliminate (of course) the photographer’s fees. By paying so little (or none), graphic designers can have access to thousands of high quality images taken by professional photographers all over the world. There are a lot of sites that offers free stock photos, such as

StockXchngEverystockphotoImagebaseMorguefileOpenphoto,

StockvaultUnprofoundFreepictures

Yes, isn’t the internet a wonderful thing?

Those stock photos are being used by graphic and web designers to create numerous good looking imageries for ads and websites that sell. So, what’s wrong with that?

The Moral Hazard of Using Stock Photos

Using images from stock photo websites can be disadvantageous. From all the ads I see on a daily basis, probably about 30% is just plain ugly. When you see them, you know at that instant that the images used seem to be just ‘pasted’ onto the ad. Immediately, your spider-sense will tell you that they must be stock photos. You might be surprises that some of these ugly ads are from reputable organizations. I have a feeling that the graphic designer or ad agency was just too lazy to find images that fit the concept. The only right thing to do if they cannot find the right images, is simply to call the photographer to get specific images taken. Finding the right image on stock photo websites can be very time consuming, sometimes it feels like finding a needle in a haystack.

On the other hand, there are some companies that use the stock photos to mislead customers. For them, using stock photos gives them the chance to create an image that is far from the actual condition, much like botox or a photoshoped fashion magazine cover.

From an ethical stand point I can see potential problems, especially when the service offered by the companies requires specific skills or when it requires a certain scale or range of expertise.

For services that requires specific skills, such as medical services, we would expect the doctors which are depicted in the design to be ‘real’, not just some stock photo ‘mannequins’.  You will be surprised that a lot of images used for medical services are stock photos, which means the friendly and charismatic doctors, nurses or pharmacists you see on their websites or ads do not exist.

For services that requires certain scale or range of expertise, we would also expect the companies to have at least x numbers of in-house professionals. You will also feel ‘tricked’ because there are a lot of imageries that uses photos of professionals or a team of professionals that are taken from stock photo websites. In reality, you will be surprised that these companies only have a few employees, and probably most of the deliveries are done somewhere else (outsourced), even offshored.

In the internet era, where anybody can be whoever they want to be using false photos and fake information is becoming quite common. Tons of companies are doing just exactly the same thing. A small moms and pops company can provide pictures as if they have large facilities and lots of employees. A company can also say that they can offer 100 types of services, while in reality they can only offer a few. Yes, in this era of information, anybody can say anything, not only people, but companies and organizations. (At this moment, you should now ponder whether the lady you have been chatting with for the last 4 weeks might not be a lady after all).

Customers Beware

Who in the end will end this madness? You, the customers.

You have to use your own wise judgment to decide which company you are going to buy the service from. There are a couple of things you can do:

  1. Don’t believe that if they have a local phone number, then the company must be a local company, because with VOIP technology, they can use local phone numbers for international calls.
  2. Call them from time to time and ask the same set of questions. Consistency here is the key. If a company is really committed into providing service they claimed to perform, then they will be consistent. Don’t email them because they will prepare very convincing replies.
  3. Call them and ask to talk with a technician or an expert. If they told you to call back, then you should beware. If they put you on conference, you should also beware because the experts might be offshored somewhere.
  4. If possible, visit the company incidentally. This will give you most of the information you need, because you can see the buildings, the facilities, the equipments and the staffs.

As for ad agencies and graphic designers out there, use the images wisely. Before you decide to use the images, think about the effect that the ad or website would generate. Think of the hidden message it will convey to the customers from the imageries and the text content. If you have done all the above, then you have done the right thing. (PW)

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