Saturday, November 30, 2013

Why Would Graphic Designers Want To Explore Public Relations?

Why Would a Graphic Designer take a one-year Post Graduate Program in Public Relations at Mohawk College? 
This was the question that many of my friends and family asked me back in April while preparing to seek work in the design field after graduation. I remembered thinking, I am not armed enough yet, I am missing some vital skills to be a great designer. Many of my teachers were not surprised when I began to explore the link between these two professions and how they work in coalition.  They knew more then I did at the time, and looking back it all makes sense now.

The first step is to know overall what graphic design is, and isn’t. The basic definition is the art of communicating visually using graphics, images and text to present ideas clearly and effectively.  Visual communications are designed to meet organizations goals, and be appropriate for the intended audiences. You’re not making art for your own personal self; you’re creating with a clear goal or message and usually for a client.

Secondly, the definition of public relations is the management of communication between an organization and its audience, including employees, customers, and the general public. This includes conveying information about a product, company or organization (art, cultural, non-profit and special interest) to the public, customers and potential clients in order to build, manage and sustain a positive image.  There is a two-way line of communication, it means listening and reacting to client and public opinions and feedback. 

When we read both definitions we discover some key words: communicating, audiences, information and image.  So what? If both roles are doing similar tasks, then its imperative to learn why and how this can help both fields of communications.

Together We Advocate For Each Other

Graphic designers possess extensive background in design, photography, page layout and web design. Public relations specialists must combine and integrate these skills into their own ideas if they are to remain progressive. Alternatively, graphic designers often avoid the art of writing or dealing with public. Public relations specialists recognize that writing is essential to the success of clear communication.  Graphic designers recognize that the principals of design are central to their visual achievements. 

By working with both skill sets or with one another, we begin to ask the right questions to prepare materials that work to reach our target audiences. Key messages are properly communicated via text and supported with the right graphics or images, at the right time and correct channels.  
The professions of graphic design and public relations must partner together to achieve clear and concise communication of a client’s purposes and objectives.

The Gap: Case Study

In 2010, Gap clothing company decided to embark changing their logo. The results as you can image were negative. The logo received poor reviews and the fans of the brand where displeased with the changes. The logo was not tested with primary audiences. They just designed, approved and launched the logo. After reviewing various articles about this design disaster in trade publications, it was evident that the designers and public relations professionals didn’t venture on this undertaking collectively. The Gap failed to reach out to its audiences about the new logo. Furthermore, they failed to integrate a communication plan to help audiences understand and embrace the new concept. Furthermore, they failed to examine possible consequences of changing something as impactful as a logo. One week later the Gap returned to their trusted logo and scrapped that project with no traces to be found. Below are links to read some additional information about this case study from CNN Money, Fast Company and Creativity Online. 

What This All Means? A Graphic Designer Who Ventured into the Public Relations Field

As a graphic designer you are communications professional. You must be aware of changes and trends. You must have the adaptability and imagination to stay savvy and survive the industry.  Personally, it was a hard task to find the words to creativity express myself. Drawing my plans up and using images was my natural tools for communicating. It was in fact the best decision from a design perspective, no longer was I creating to simply make an image or design look visually appealing. I now had the skills to analyze and plan out my design asking my client and myself the right questions that considered more then the design itself but the uses, the negative impacts, the best and worst case applications, the application of the design past the current project etc.

This week I was able to see my own work up in the college. I had the pleasure of working with their communications officer Jessica Scott. The process of the design started with an Integrative Marketing Communications Plan. The plan helped me understand the intended plan behind the design. I had the ability to understand the audience and eve the long term plans for the space. My original ideas were no longer, and I began to see how I could develop a design that would stand the test of time and remain in the space for years to come.  

When you can talk to clients and develop a communications plan that supports the design incorporate key messages, you find you can influence and see a response from the public that is compelling and impactful.

The Results
Below is the final product, Mohawk Colleges Waste Management Zone.  I recommend that all creative individuals take a course in public relations to become masters of communications for all angles and perspectives. Armed with this new tool set I am evolving and my portfolio is growing with more paid work then ever before.  No longer do I run from written communication, I now begin with it to plan and execute all my projects.

Mohawk Colleges Sustainability eNews November Edition

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