I am here with marketing and branding guru Bob Matthews, to find out how he creates his compelling graphics. Bob is the owner of Matthews Design Group and creator of Pixelogixs. He is also the co-publisher of WCWebzine.com and created the cover and multi tool icon for The Personal Power Roadmap: The Ultimate 7 Step System to Effectively Solve Problems, Make Decisions, and Reach Your Goals and the graphics for personalpowerroadmap.com.
Q. On your pixelogixs website, you say: “Open the eyes of a blind world. Reality is elastic. Make the point of the story or add bolder, brighter or darker and create an emotional message the world won’t forget.” On your portfolio landing page, you say: “look at an article, service or product from 100 different angles, take it apart top to bottom and create visuals that will surprise, entice or provoke an audience…for their split-second attention.” So your job is to help clients “get noticed in a noisy world,” as Michael Hyatt subtitled his book, Platform. What tools or processes do you use to “open the eyes of a blind world.”
A. Just about everyone has the ability to have creative ideas – meaning to take what we see and experience and come up with new ways to solve a problem either out of necessity, to better our lives and others or to prove we can think of something no one else has thought of. For myself, being creative is an important part of everyday living – almost like breathing. It can even be distracting especially when you have to concentrate on the more mundane tasks – new ideas are always exciting.
The key to following a successful concept through to fruition is exploring all the possibilities time allows for and executing them in a way that creates a lasting impression. It really takes a lot of thinking and sometimes working with other creative minds to make it all happen. You may start a project with a preconceived idea, but through the process of developing other concepts, that first idea doesn’t seem so great after all. Maybe it was too safe, or maybe too confusing or just not hitting the intended market.
The satisfaction comes when the client starts getting responses and their business gains more real value. Plus it helps keep long term business relations going which in these economic times is so important.
Q. How do you generate ideas for graphics?
A. Oh, ideas come from pretty much anywhere. When a project begins, the ideas start to come and the pencil starts moving. These are rough sketches with notations like what is in a scene, what the various headlines might be, the type of photography needed or maybe a stylish illustration. I look at examples of a clients’ competitors to get an idea of how they are addressing their marketing messages and take it in a different direction. Differentiation is important. I come up with 4-5 concepts and then end up with the best three. I take those and do a fairly tight digital rendering and present the best one.
Q. What do you consider when creating branding, icons, and other means to promote a client’s business?
A. When helping to brand a company, the message has to communicate a unified look and feel to everything that company uses. Signage, websites, trade show booths, packaging, ads and more need to be consistent. Careful branding is often the difference in who survives and who doesn’t. Over time, the result is an expanding loyal consumer base.
Q. Do you have a special problem-solving technique for coming up with imaginative ideas?
A. I use word triggers I find in the thesaurus and in current culture like movies, TV, or common shared events. I start with words that relate to the problem I am trying to solve, then I search for synonyms and antonyms. Sometimes an entire concept may be spurred while I’m thinking about something unrelated − while driving, on a walk or most often before drifting off to sleep. Soon pictures form in my mind. I create different graphics using the mental images, let them sit for a while, then refine those and select the best ones to show my client.
Q. Do you use the same technique to generate ideas for dealing with “life’s flat tires,” those problems that we all have as we go through life?
A. I started working at a very young age and was given responsibilities that required my own solutions to get the job done. One of the keys to solving problems is to stay calm, think about the options first before reacting too quickly – which can often be the wrong path. Most of the time, you can handle many of life’s problems, but not always. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help – it can make a huge difference and give you perspective away from your own bubble.
Q. If you had to teach a class of children how to solve problems and make decisions, how would you go about that? What would be the key points you would like to make and how would you illustrate that?
A. For starters, having a few kids myself one of the more important things is don’t try to censor ideas, have fun with exploring and trying something a little crazy – even if it fails completely there is something to be gained. Be fearless when it comes to ideas. The other is perspective. What is a big problem and what is a small one? Kids often get confused about that and get upset over basically nothing. It tends to stop rational thinking and get into an overly emotional state…. Come to think of it, maybe some adults should learn the difference too!
Q. Are you surprised by the images you come up with? Can you give us some examples? Maybe look at one of my favorites and tell me how you got from my text to your visual? I wrote an article on “How to Write Effective Letters: Some Lessons from “The Art of War.” I needed a visual for “What you write first is not the letter. It is the first draft.” You took inkwells, a pen, a samurai warrior, law books and other elements and combined the elements of the article with the graphic. You have a first draft that is really funny, as well. Can you walk us through your creative thinking process?
A. On that one, “The Art of War” was a pretty good example of one of the easier visual concepts we did on the magazine. I knew one of the main elements would be a Samurai warrior, so I could build around that. The article was about not acting hastily and one of the examples was not writing a poison pen letter, hence the pen and the letter. Fortunately, I had a lot of creative license, so I took liberties with the language expressed on the nasty response letter. The background gave it the “legal” environment it needed to pull it all together.
You can reach Bob Matthews at:
Matthews Design Group