Monthly Archives: October 2009

Declare a Jargon-Free Zone

Are your marketing materials filled with complex terminology and industry jargon? Then it’s time to clean house. Clear the verbal clutter and declare a jargon-free zone.

What’s so wrong with a little tech talk? Nothing, if you’re sure your audience speaks the same language. If not, you stand to lose your customers before they make it through the front door. Here are a few simple tips to streamline your communications.

Speak to your audience, don’t speak at them. The other day I received a letter from my son’s school with information about a schedule change for the speech therapists. It was written by a very competent and dedicated individual… who completely lost my attention after the first paragraph. Why? Because she forgot she was speaking to a parent, not a colleague.

It’s easy to get used to the language that gets volleyed around the office among peers. But remember, your clients and customers are most often not your peers. You don’t need to speak down to them, just speak clearly and simply. If you need to explain that you’ll be in the office three weeks and out for one, then say that. Don’t lose them in describing the new “3:1 service delivery model employed by the district for greater efficiency”.

Keep it Simple Stupid. This is one of the guiding principles to good communication. You don’t always have to dress up your copy to make it appealing. Let’s face it, people are lazy. They don’t want to dig through pages of explanation to find one golden nugget of truth. Keep it simple, be honest and direct and your customers will thank you for it.

Educate don’t alienate. If your industry is technical, and customers are coming to you for advice or need your expertise, the greatest service you can give is enlightenment. Lawyers, accountants, engineers, computer technicians, they all work with very complicated systems. Help your clients understand what it is you do. Clarify and explain the technical jargon so they don’t get lost on the paperwork. A little free knowledge goes a long way toward building that client relationship.

There’s nothing inately wrong with jargon. It’s the product of professional industry. Without it we’d spend hours trying to communicate complex concepts amongst peers while losing valuable work time. But when we step outside the office and attempt to communicate with our customers it’s time to forget the jargon and get back to basics. I could spend hours extolling the virtues of proper kerning and tracking when pairing ascenders and decenders of slab serif fonts, especially when designing logos…but I know better than that. And now so do you.

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Posted by on October 8, 2009 in Marketing


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Death of the Commercial Artist

Designer. Graphic artist. Graphic designer. Artist. Commercial artist. What’s the difference? To be honest they all seem like titles thrown around indiscriminately. Then I came across a simple, honest and unbelievably accurate way of determining which side of the fence you want to be on.

Consider this: A successful Designer likes to solve problems posed by other people. An Artist prefers to solve their own problems.

I think this is an important distinction to understand. If you are a Designer, your job is to make the client happy using the skills you have that your clients don’t: the ability to work with color, images, and words to speak on behalf of your client. Your skills and ideas are a means to their end product. That can be a bitter pill to swallow for some designers. That’s because the artist inside wants to take control.

The Artist is a creator. They generate the ideas, experience the emotions, and communicate through their work. The Artist works for himself and has no client to answer to. It’s the Artist’s style, their product that draws the clients, not the other way around. The Artist’s struggle is to find clients who appreciate their work…but don’t strive to change it.

So which side of the fence are you on? For the record I consider myself a Designer. I do enjoy solving the design dilemmas of others. But as a trained artist I hope my clients realize they came to me for a reason. Whether it’s an ability to convey their truth, or to create one for them.

The world needs Designers and Artists. But I say, the concept of a Commercial Artist is dead.

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Posted by on October 2, 2009 in Design


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