Graphic design is much more than taking a picture and adding text to it. It’s the art of communicating visually, visual problem solving.
So why is it so important? Well, imagine walking in a shopping centre and every shop has their name above their door in the same font, no colour, no style, no shape… Or what about magazines? If you page through a magazine and you just see one big block of words without any style, colour, images or different layouts. Would it keep you interested to read through the magazine?
This is where graphic design comes in – the visual message that a brand, magazine, billboard or poster sends needs to keep the reader’s attention to get your message out to them.
Graphic design has been with us since as long ago as 15 000 BC. Yes, it started in the age of the cavemen, who made symbols and pictographs on cave walls. It was used by monks in the Dark Ages. Even the Egyptians used it when creating papyrus.
Interesting elements in graphic design
When designing, you work with different elements to compliment your design, such as texture, line, shape, space.
What about typography?
Typography forms an important part of the graphic design process. Your choice of typography can set the mood and emotion in your design. There are different type styles, such as friendly, aggressive, calm, successful. By using the exact same words but in a different font, you can convey two different messages.
In this image I have used exactly the same words, “You are the one I want…” Can you see the difference in the message given by the words, when you make use of different fonts?
Shapes and patterns
When adding a shape to a design, you need to think about the message that you want your brand to convey. Is your brand strong, successful, feminine, trendy, do you want to show stability? If you decide to use a circle in your logo, this could suggest any of the following, safety, protection, free movement, completeness, unity, femininity and many more. It is really important to think about the meaning of the shape before using a triangle, square, geometric form etc. in your design. It is the same when using patterns; patterns can convey a feeling of stability, order or even motion.
Just like type fonts, colour also plays a big role in sending out the correct message when designing something. Look at the difference in the mood between the white text on the red background and the red text on the black background. Romantic vs Scary – while using the same words.
Every colour you use can have a different meaning, but the lack of colour could have a meaning as well. Purple can give a meaning of rich or royal, where blue can portray reliability or calmness. Red has a lot of meanings – love, danger, passion, violence or even adventure. Instead of just adding a few colours together you can look deeper into the meaning of each color. Do not use too many colours. Most well-known brands only use two colours in their logo. So how do you choose which colours to use together? Here you can think about complimentary, contrasting, reflective and analogous colours.
Lines can suggest different meanings. A thin line can suggest frailty and easy to break, where a thick line can suggest strength and difficulty to break. A vertical line can suggest dignity, upwards growth, lack of movement. Where a horizontal line can suggest security and stability. You can also choose between lines such as diagonal, curved, zigzag, dashed, artificial and natural.
I constantly find myself when standing in a shop or even when I am watching television, not looking at what the name is on a logo or advertisement, but actually looking at the shapes, colours, lines, fonts and white space used by the designer. To me, graphic design is a really interesting field to explore. Even after I finished my degree, I constantly find myself doing research, tutorials and watching “How To” videos. This is an industry that is constantly evolving, and it is best to upskill, especially with the constant updates to the tools used.
Hiring a full-time graphic designer for your company?
Why not hire a virtual assistant to take care of the graphic design tasks you must get done in your company? Your virtual assistant can take tasks such as the following off your plate:
- company branding
- website designer
- social media designer
- eBook designs
- even image editing
Why not give it a try? Our world is changing and as we go into the future, virtual work will become the “go-to” option. We can already see this happening. To find more information about virtual assistants, take a look at VA Connect.
Photo by Anthony Shkraba from Pexels
With the current state of the world it is extremely difficult to stay motivated – even the most driven people struggle.
Staying motivated to achieve sales targets in any climate can be taxing. Managers and supervisors can get frustrated and use methods of motivation that may be detrimental rather than effective, such as negative reinforcement. I personally do not respond positively to negative reinforcement and having managed a small sales team for a few years, neither did they.
A great demonstration of this is shown in a Netflix series called 100 humans that experimented with this theory in an episode named Pain versus Pleasure. This episode centers around how humans respond to criticism versus praise, and which works better.
Criticism and praise
The participants are tasked with spinning plates on a stick, and there are two rounds. In the first round, participants are either criticized or praised for their performance, regardless of how well they perform. The results from this round show that individuals that performed exceptionally well but were criticized, lost confidence, and performed poorly in the second round. Whereas the participants that performed poorly in the first round but were praised excelled in the second round. This experiment proves that despite the performances, positive reinforcement was more successful in motivating the participants than negative reinforcement.
Tried and tested methods
It can be frustrating to keep everyone motivated under normal circumstances, let alone during a pandemic, primarily when targets are not being met. Here are a few examples on what I have used in the past and my tips on what keeps me enthusiastic to reach or exceed my sales goals.
- Praise for small wins – I received praise by a simple phone call from my COO for a closed deal from a personal sales lead. Even though it was a small order, it showed that every bit of my effort was appreciated and drove me to close an even bigger deal. This can be used at every level to reassure your team that their hard work does not go unnoticed.
- Tiered targets – Having a target for a set timeline. I have used a 3-tier quarterly incentive approach with a large bonus for the top salesperson, a local holiday trip for the second tier, and a valuable prize, such as a laptop for the 3rd tier prize.
- Performance based commission structure – Not only do you reward your sales team fairly, but it also drives under-performing sales team members to thrive especially when their colleagues are receiving higher commissions. It also instills a level of healthy competition within the team.
Innovation and creativity
However challenging this period may be for your sales teams, innovation and creativity needs to be a massive part of your motivation strategy. Having regular check-ins and listening to your team’s suggestions on what motivates them is vital. The most important thing is to try and test various methods with your team to find out what works, whether it’s a pat on the back or something more tangible.
I believe that it goes without saying that if you take care of your employees, they will take care of your business.
Event Management was always something I thought would be an interesting career, so I studied Tourism Management with Event Management as a subject. Only when I moved to Johannesburg and started a job as an events co-ordinator did I realise how much I would love it. The satisfaction of a successful event was addictive and pleasing the clients was the goal. I enjoyed getting to know people from all walks of life.
Fast forward a few years and my first role as a virtual assistant assisting my client with events. It was meant to be!
Events can be stressful. There is no doubt about it. The fear is real – no one wants to be responsible for ruining a brides wedding day or a company’s product launch.
Here are a few tips to help you plan and execute a successful event without loosing your hair or sleep.
1. Never say never
Never say it won’t happen. If it can happen, then it will. Murphy’s Law is widely practiced in the events world. There is a great unspoken respect for this. Always plan for the worst. If it doesn’t happen, then at least you were prepared for that possibility.
2. Attention to detail
This is a given. The best way to not miss a thing in planning for the event is to write EVERYTHING down, put it in writing and email it to your client so that they know you have remembered their requests. In some occasions, this can also cover your back, if anything goes wrong and you can’t prove you’re innocent, it could end up as a “he said she said” scenario and this is not where you want to be. Always have a notebook and pen handy no matter where you are, don’t always rely on your memory.
3. Talk, talk and talk some more
I cannot stress how important communication is. Never underestimate the role communication plays. As an event manager, you have a few role players involved in an event. The client, the caterers, the venue staff, the technical team, perhaps a florist, a DJ and a décor team. Keep everyone on the same page, and never make assumptions – hold weekly or even daily meetings with those involved. Create a shared document so that any updates can be seen at all times, leaving less room for error.
4. Have Fun
This may apply to many industries, depending on your definition of fun, but events take the cake. Event management is fun! If you have planned meticulously and feel confident in your work, the best you can do is have fun and enjoy what you have helped create. The smile of joy and success on a client’s face is priceless.
Despite Covid, the events world is very much alive and well. It hasn’t missed a beat and has almost immediately got back on its feet and channelled itself into a technical space. Some say virtual events are here to stay post Covid. It is easy to see why as there are a number of advantages:
- Huge budget cuts – no flights, accommodation, venue hire or catering costs to name a few
- Wider audience reach – attendees from all over the world are now able to log in online
- Economical for attendees – attendees can now include those not able to afford the costs of travelling
- Positive environmental impact– less people travelling means less carbon footprint
As with live events, there are always going to be challenges.
No matter how well prepared you and your technical team are, there are sometimes gremlins that could completely ruin an online event. Do your homework finding a reputable, experienced technical company. Arrange a dry run prior to the event so that any issues that may arise can be eliminated.
Teamwork Makes the Dream Work
It is also essential to ensure that the facilitator, all speakers, organizers and attendees are on the same page. Use an easy to use booking system such as Eventbrite. Attendees are able to register on this platform and will automatically receive reminders and log in details on the day of the event. If there are any queries these can be resolved prior to the event.
People enjoy networking and mingling at live events. The buzz at an event can be electric and give the audience a sense of excitement. This also provides an energy for speakers to feed off. It’s a huge challenge for the event facilitator as well as the speakers to create this kind of energy from the solitude of their home with very little interaction from the audience. Make sure you have an experienced facilitator who has enough energy and confidence to fill a virtual room.
There have been some very embarrassing videos of Zoom meetings doing the rounds on social media. To avoid this, Zoom has published their very own meeting etiquette guidelines. Have a look at the link below for some very useful tips. These should be shared with all attendees prior to the event.
The future of events
I personally feel that smaller, less social events can benefit by going and staying virtual, but there is no replacement for a live sporting event, a festival, a music concert, or a wedding where friends and family reunite from all over the world. If the coronavirus is here to stay, a few years down the line it will be common practice to hand sanitize and take precautionary measures and the event organisers will add coronavirus protection to the health and safety checklist.
But the show must and will go on!
Photo: Courtesy of Event Farm
“Working remotely” is the new buzzword nowadays. It’s a new concept for many businesses to have their staff working from home. But virtual assistants have been doing this for many years. I have been a virtual production manager for the past ….. years.
I have been asking myself the last couple of months “How is it possible that there’s a whole world of brilliant virtual personnel out there, and many companies still do not know they exist”?
Only now have some companies realised you do not need a production manager, HR, accountant, video editor, marketing manager and many more human assets to sit in an office to complete a project with professionalism and success. I only wish that my first employer (me fresh out of varsity) knew that before he pushed me into an office that killed my spirit and enthusiasm for anything production-related. Someone looking over my shoulder and expecting me to work effectively from 14:00-16:00 is the worst management trick to pull on a person like me. I often thought that “production management is not for me, maybe I wasted my time, maybe I am not good enough”, etc. I am sure many of us have felt like this at work.
Not everyone is made for remote working, especially in production, but if you get the balance right, managing production remotely can be as easy as any other remote position out there. My first VA client, and still my client a few years down the line, is a wonderful human who designs bespoke suits. At first, I thought it was impossible to create something as personal as clothing for someone when your production manager is not on site. I was stressed, slept little and read my email every 5 seconds. Eventually, I started to find my rhythm and understood my client’s pace and work ethic. I realised remote production management is my thing. You know – your “thing”, that thing that you love doing even over weekends. This is the job that I am most organized in and that takes me less time to complete than any other virtual position.
In short, production management is fun and can be made easy. Now that companies are taking note of virtual production, I realize that I am where I need and should be.
Here are some pointers if you are a production manager or a company owner thinking of managing production remotely.
How to maintain productivity
- Monitor – Remote monitoring through various software and tools to help with unit production operations.
My tip for monitoring is to stay on top of all new orders. Process new orders immediately. Issues can creep up on you in various stages of the production process, and you want to tackle them head-on. Do not let orders accumulate until there’s too much to do. This is where mistakes creep in. As all my processes and tools are loaded onto the cloud, my client can monitor the progress of every order in real-time.
- Collaborate – Standardize Operating l Procedures.
Standard Operating Procedures (SOP’s) can eliminate human error as everyone in the business is on the same page. SOP’s should consistently change to make the production process and human interaction more relevant and up to date.
See what works for your remote position and work SOP’s into your everyday operations. Create a Standard Digital SOP and record standard procedures rapidly, and is available for all personnel to view and understand. Examples of remote SOP’s are:
- Readiness checklists
- Roles and responsibilities
- Activity tracking and reporting (Bitrix24 is a great tool to use for this)
- Communication process and hierarchy (Bitrix24 is a great tool to use for this)
- Enable – This is probably one of the most important tools in virtual production.
Enable the rest of the production staff to understand working remotely. Train them on the various platforms and tools available to connect with the virtual world. Use platforms that are convenient, accessible, and easy to understand. The following tools are easy to understand and can make communication easy and effective:
- Slack (business communication platform)
- Trello (web-based Kanban-style list-making application)
- Dropbox (web-based file hosting service)
- Google Calendar (time-management and scheduling calendar service)
- LastPass (password Management Program)
- Zoom (conference calling for the whole team)
How to ensure that production keeps going while you are not there physically
Communication is probably the most important of my tips. Learn to be a good communicator in any position within a business. Nothing can dampen the employee spirit like no communication, or the lack of the correct communication.
Earlier on, during my desk job, this was probably one of the reasons I got so frustrated. When I needed to get approval for certain production tasks or money to pay for certain dry goods, top management either did not respond to my calls and emails, or they left some of the queries until it was too late to produce a product at the right time, at the right price. Everyone knew management lacked discipline and communication skills, but it still irked me so much that I could not do that job anymore. With a remote position, communication is even more important. Make it clear to your client from the beginning of production that you expect certain responses to make sure that the product gets produced and issues are straightened out in real-time.
- Customize your processes so that it is easy to hand over
Let’s be honest, anything can happen, and you will most definitely miss a few days of work at some point. You might even be lucky enough to go on vacation.
As a remote production manager, it will always be expected that you are available or easily accessible if new orders come in or issues occur. But you just want to take a break for a while? Well, make sure your processes are up to date and easy to understand for someone you will hand the production over to.
It is always a good idea to have a handover document in case the stand-in needs to go back and research or need to understand something. Make sure your handover document has all the relevant and up to date contact details of suppliers, buyers etc. on, also explain the production process in clear steps to follow.
Ensure past mistakes will not be made again
Remember to document mistakes/issues. For example, a client gained some weight and one suit was too tight around his belly. Because we make use of standard operating measurement forms, his new measurement was never updated. Luckily, he was fine with waiting for a new jacket, but it did cost us a couple of 100 dollars to fix the problem. Try to implement an Issue Tracking template early in the production process and share with your client regularly. Topics like issue type, issue status, action required and date created can be used to track your issues. There are even Issue Tracking templates for IT and Ops out there which accuracy with real-time plans. These increase collaboration with teams. They also improve efficiency with resources centralized in one location. Quickly resolve reported issues, gain visibility into issue patterns, and maintain auditable records without additional work.
- Use an instant messenger such as WhatsApp
I find that the simplest way to track past issues is through messages on WhatsApp. Remember to use hashtags in front of your issue this makes tracking easier.
Production is important
It should be managed in a way that makes your customer a market leader. Use the tools, software, people, support out there to make production easy, effective, accurate and relevant. Remember, good communication is key if you want Remote Production Management to work.
Most virtual assistants out there are familiar with the tools which make remote working possible. One characteristic of a virtual assistant is that they are very accessible, easy to train and open to new ideas. If you, as a company owner, use a platform that is new to the virtual production manager, give them a few days to get comfortable with it – it will not take long.
Virtual Assistant Companies like VA Connect have production managers on their books and they probably have almost all of the other super-skilled personnel you are looking for.
And if you are sitting with a product you want to produce, but you do not have office space for a production manager, you know where to look!