While working as art director of VIP City Magazines I had designed many ads for customers. Most assignments involved taking a low resolution logo and blowing it up 200-300%, adding starbursts, cramming 400-500 words into a 4 inch square (while keeping the type at a legible size, of course), bolding the type, bolding it more (adding an underline for emphasis), and making the logo just a little bigger. You get the idea. The problem with being a designer in a situation like that is that you understand that the customer really isn’t a marketing person, they are usually just a small business owner who has a message to put in front of their clientele. Because they are customers, themselves, they are always right. In other words, a designer making ads for a local magazine isn’t in the position to offer expert advice on what is the most effective approach to their campaign. The publisher is simply providing ad space for them to do whatever they want.

Once I began freelancing, things changed significantly. Suddenly I found myself in situations where I didn’t only have the freedom to give my expert opinions, I was actually hired for them. Tennessee Industrial Printing had acquired a new digital press in early 2008. I was hired to develop a small advertising campaign to run in various local publications. I was amazed at how natural the whole process was. I sat down with the folks at TIPs and just listened to their needs. I was also very interested in hearing the message they needed to get out. It was quite simple: they had a new digital press that allowed them to turn around large print jobs quickly. They now had more direct mail capabilities as well as variable data abilities. Simply put: fast, mailable, high-volume, quality.

After the dust clears from such a meeting, the most important details rise to memory. I sat down and began typing the copy for what we planned to be a three-ad campaign. I chose the three most important attributes, applied quality to each, and developed three distinct concepts. After scouring hundreds of photos that visually communicated these three concepts, I developed the headlines and eventually came up with the illustrative designs (target, clock, and ruler). Putting it all together was the fun part.

Developing the TIPs campaign was a blast. After keeping my mouth shut for so long, I began to see experience and observation paying off. TIPs is a great home-owned group of folks to work with. If you’re ever in need of some great high-quality, fast turn-around, high-volume printing or variable data, direct mail services, check them out.

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