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CLIENT-DESIGNER RELATIONSHIPS: HOW TO GIVE FEEDBACK

We need to talk about the elephant in the room that surfaces when designers and clients meet. It is the result of “feedback” and it can cause a spike in tension in a matter of seconds. You have the designer who has put their heart and soul into crafting something good. And then you have the client who is just not seeing eye to eye with the designer. And so the conflict begins.
Between the designer’s goal to produce an artistic piece and the client’s eye for business, a lot of miscommunication can arise, leading to undesired results. But that doesn’t have to the case. If the feedback loop is clear, concise, and objective, that elephant in the room shall disappear.
Want to save that client-designer relationship of yours? Here is how you should approach the feedback process:
1. Be specific

Avoid saying things like “I don’t like the logo in general” because feedback should never be generic and vague. Instead, you should pinpoint the elements – from big to small – of the design that you believe should be amended. Be as specific as you can because only then will the designer know that your feedback is not targeting their skills. You want to give the designer guidance into where to start with their edits to reach the outcome you had initially envisioned.

2. Be respectful
If you have concerns about the design, think before you speak to the designer. Acknowledge the effort they put into crafting their work. List all the pros and cons of the design to show them where they got things right and where they did not. Maybe consider posing some of the cons as questions to make the designer think about the various ways they could go about the amendments. Turn the feedback into a two-way conversation rather than a speech.
3. Be supportive
No matter what you think of the design, always express your thoughts in a way that won’t put the designer down. That is unless the design is sloppy, then that’s another story. Oftentimes, the designer does a good job but doesn’t necessarily execute in the way you had envisioned. Talk about what you don’t like and explain why you don’t like it. Try to give the designer a reason for your dislikes.
4. Trust the designer
Designers are the experts — after all, they design for a living. Always remember that when presenting your feedback. Don’t address matters in a condescending tone, rather engage in an active discussion with the designer to better understand their perspective on the matter. You will eventually reach a solution.
5. Be realistic
When it comes to design, and everything else in life, there’s always reality versus fantasy. While it is great to dream of the best, not all goals are attainable given certain resources. If you request something and the designer delivers a missing version of that request, ask them about it before making a judgment.
6. Find a middle ground
When you approach a designer with a project, you may have already envisioned what the executed version would look like. Still, you should always take a designer’s opinion into account – because they know best. They have experience in graphic design as much as they do in branding, which means that they know how to make your designs look good while adhering to business goals. Try to keep an open mind and you will most definitely reach a middle ground.

 

No two humans on the face of this planet can see eye to eye on everything. This is particularly a struggle when it comes to the world of design, specifically between clients and designers. They each have their own set of thinking and their own ideas. But with proper communication, constructive feedback, and respectful discussions, beautiful designs can come to life.
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TEAMWORK IS DOMINANT AMONG MANY ANIMALS. HERE’S HOW

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” ~ African Proverb

There is no arguing that individual effort can never match that of a team. Though such a notion has long been forgotten by humans, it remains present and dominant among animals. So, it’s safe to say that humans have a lot to learn from animals when it comes to collaborative efforts.

Below are some examples of how certain animals manage to adapt and survive by coming together as a team.
1. Meerkats: Trust

If you think you don’t know what a meerkat is, you’re probably wrong. Well, unless you have no idea who Timon from Lion King is. Meerkats are known for always having each other’s backs, quite literally. For example, while eating, one of them always keeps watch until the others are done. The absence of trust, to them, is a matter of life and death.

If such trust is implemented across professional teams, the overall quality of work will amplify. Acting as one entity and treating everyone’s work as if it is something you are responsible for is the winning feat of all great teams.

#BeLikeMeerkats

2. Wolves: Communication

Wolves are great observers and great communicators. Every wolf has a specific role in the pack, something professional team members can learn from.
If every member puts enough effort to communicate with other team members, there won’t be room for disagreement. Everything will be solved before the conflict even begins.
#BeLikeWolves

3. Killer Whales: Cooperation

While they are not the largest in size, killer whales are known to be the fiercest predators in the sea. The reason? They cooperate to feed on bigger animals.

Team members, in that sense, are no different because as the cliché phrase has it: “there is no I in team”. No team member should work as a separate individual. Rather, each member must think of others in anything they do. The best things are often the result of good teamwork.

#BeLikeKillerWhales

4. Chimpanzees: Conflict Resolution

When a fight breaks out between two chimpanzees, the one who was harmed the most makes the effort to reconcile with their opponent afterward. It is equally natural for disagreements to occur among members of a team.

If there’s one thing to learn from chimpanzees in this regard, it would be the importance of conflict resolution in the fight against all the tension that arises.

#BeLikeChimpanzees

5. Elephants: Empathy

Elephants are intelligent and empathetic, two characteristics that are perfect for coexistence. If an elephant is unable to move, other elephants come together to carry it with their trunks.

Similarly, team members should always be emphatic and sympathetic to others. For good work environments to arise, such an approach must be taken.

#BeLikeElephants

Teamwork Wins, Always 

Hierarchal attitudes, whether between humans or animals, will only lead to destruction among members of the same species. Working as an individual entity will reduce the overall outcome of the entire team, leading to lower productivity across the board. Working with others is essential for the survival of the company and for the growth of team members on both an individual and group level. Always remember that.

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Q&A WITH ZEIN KHALIFEH

1. What does a typical day in the life of Zein – the mother and the director of her own business – look like? 
It’s always a challenge to balance between work and family. I wake up at 6 a.m. to get my son ready for school and arrive at the office by 7 a.m., or at least this was the case before I got pregnant a few months ago. I try to finish everything at the office no later than 3 or 4 p.m. to go back home to cook and spend some time with my son until he goes to bed.
2. How did Zein Design come to be?
I used to work at an agency that treated its employees poorly, so I decided to start my own agency where I now have my own clients and treat employees fairly.
3. How is Zein Design different?
We are a family, not just an employer and her coworkers. Our office enjoys a homey atmosphere where we appreciate working together.
4. What’s your favorite part of your job?
If I had to choose, it would be the fact that I’m close to the people I work, something that pushes us to overcome obstacles together. Sharing things, especially with those who treat the company as their own, always makes things exciting.
5. How do you manage a remote team?
I put my trust in employees. We agree on certain basics regarding the workflow, which facilitates the process for both sides. Over time, I’ve learned how to express anything that concerns me in a diplomatic way.
6. How is it like to manage a multicultural team?
It’s confusing, but interesting. You get to learn things about other cultures, which is very enjoyable. At the same time, it’s crucial to know the importance of respecting others’ differences.
7. What qualities do you look for in an employee?
Self-discipline. Honesty. Good communication skills. Good vibes. Hard work. Respect.
8What do you think makes a person successful?
A successful person is one who sets their goals and works towards them without comparing themselves to others.
9. What is it like to be a leader?
It is nice but challenging. It’s a challenge to be fair, to be close to people, to lay down the rules, to understand how each person thinks in their own different way, all while trying to spread positivity without affecting the quality of work.
10. What does Zein Design add to its home, Lebanon?
Quality. Innovation. Positivity. Raising Lebanon’s name high. Portraying a good image of Lebanon to the outside world.
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THE TOP 10 DIGITAL MARKETING BLOGS

One day, several decades ago, people woke up to find that computers had become an inevitable part of their lives. Later, people underwent a similar experience when the rise of the Internet took over. And then it happened again with the advent of digital marketing.
Writers are required to learn copywriting and SEO. Business owners are required to narrowly define their audience and target them in incredibly customized ways. Even doctors are required to have an online presence to offer easy accessibility to their patients.
While many people claim to be marketing experts, not many can be described as leading experts. We’ve compiled a list of the top ten blogs on digital marketing, all of which offer valuable information to both beginners and experts in the field. Some of these websites also offer guides on different digital marketing topics while others, such as HubSpot, offer courses and certifications. If you want to place your career or business in the hands of those who really know how to handle it best, you should start by following the below blogs:
1. HubSpot

HubSpot, one of the top leading marketing websites, has a comprehensive blog covering all aspects of marketing – from branding and content to social media advertising, lead generation, SEO, to name a few.

2. Content Marketing Institute

Whether you’re a novice or an expert in content marketing, this blog will do you wonders. In addition to the daily articles focusing specifically on content marketing, CMI also provides how-to guides that will help you acquire the knowledge you need to excel in all things digital.

3. Moz

Before launching their tools, Moz started as a blog focused on SEO back in 2004 when SEO was still new to the world. The blog has since evolved to tackle all things SEO, with contributions by experts and the Moz team alike.
The blog is divided into different categories including basic SEO, content, branding, and advanced SEO.

4. Seth Godin

A name that has been associated with marketing since the ‘80s is Seth Godin. He has contributed a fair share of innovation to the field. The articles on Seth’s Blog cover a variety of topics that go beyond his four-decade-long marketing experience.

5. Duct Tape Marketing
Duct Tape Marketing is a website dedicated to small business marketing – from tips and advice to consultation and marketing services. Duct Tape Marketing was inspired by the importance and indispensability of duct tape in its approach. Just like duct tape, different marketing practices will ensure a business stays in one piece in today’s digital world.
6. Social Media Examiner
As suggested by the name and the tagline, “Your Guide to the Social Media Jungle,” the Social Media Examiner blog tackles all things related to social media. The blog posts are categorized according to the social media network as well as other sections such as research, how-to, and tools.
7. Copyblogger
Copyblogger is every writer’s haven. It aims to help writers master their craft by covering a variety of topics including freelancing, copywriting, content writing, editing, creativity, and productivity.
8. Unbounce
The name says it all. Unbounce focuses on the ways in which you can minimize your site’s bounce rate while maximizing your conversion at the same time. It tackles such metrics by covering a range of topics including pay per click, lead generation, landing page optimizations, etc.
9. Neil Patel
No marketer wants to overlook Neil Patel’s blog. The blog is neatly divided into different sections related to marketing, e-commerce, entrepreneurship, SEO, and paid ads – all of which target both individuals and businesses.
10. Ahrefs
Ahrefs is one of the leading marketing blogs providing insight and interactive materials regarding different marketing topics including SEO, blogging, link-building, and keyword research.
Is your favorite marketing blog missing from the list? Let us know in the comments section below.
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WHAT IS BRANDING?

Branding and marketing go hand-in-hand; one just cannot happen without the other. In fact, branding is a marketing practice that aims to bring out your company’s character. It combines several business elements including identity, values, voice, logo, online presence (e.g. website or social media pages), collateral, to name a few. Branding allows you to set yourself apart from other competing players in the industry. It is crucial for the success of any business in any industry.

Why is branding important?
Branding distinguishes you from competitors, making it a vital element of any business. You may be selling a product/service that exists in the marketplace, but branding is what will secure that sale. Branding lets a business tell its story, voice its values, and show customers the value they offer. Branding allows businesses to establish recognition among consumers and attract new ones over time.

How is branding achieved? 
On the one hand, you have brand guidelines. It includes information like font, colors, and the overall mood of brand designs — elements that will increase your brand recognition. Your brand’s logo, stationery, website, social media pages, and everything else that represents your business should always be consistent in identity, voice, and spirit. Branding helps businesses attain an unparalleled level of consistency.
On the other hand, you have the content. Just as the brand’s designs should maintain consistency in look and feel, the content should always speak in the same voice. From blog posts to banners and videos, your brand’s content should mirror its identity at all times.
Who to trust with branding?
Because agencies’ fees can sometimes be agonizingly high, several business owners sometimes decide to take matters into their own hands. However, the result would end up like that of bread baked at home by someone with no previous experience. It would not be optimal nor would it be right. Entrusting an agency with your brand may not be cheap, but it does pay off. At least, you’d be able to sleep at night knowing a team of experts are handling something they do for a living.

In A Nutshell: 
With proper branding, you can be sure that your business will have an influential presence. It is worth noting that branding is a long process that does not happen overnight. It costs time and money, but you’ll be reaping the benefits in no time. Trust us.
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NO “I” IN TEAM: Q&A WITH ZEIN DESIGN’S DESIGNERS

Design is an essential part of Zein Design, as the name of the company suggests. To give you an insider look into how the design process works internally, we sat down with our designers for a quick chat. We got to know more about their day, their passions, their clients, and what it’s like to be a designer all in all.
Here’s what they said:
1. What’s your favorite thing about being a designer?
The designers expressed how much they enjoy communicating things in a visual manner. In short, they love how they can transform simple ideas into pieces of art. They said that it is particularly rewarding to see the projects they’ve worked on go live. To them, the smallest of things make a difference — from the ability to work on designs with music on, according to Huda, to having your childhood passion for art and design turn into a career, which is true for Razan.
2. What does a typical day for a designer look like? 
For starters, there wasn’t an answer that didn’t involve coffee to some degree. They all agreed that they just cannot kickstart their day without a cup of joe. After getting their dose of caffeine, the designers check for any new or pending tasks, look for inspiration, and check their calendars to see if they have any upcoming meetings with clients.
As Zein Design’s founder and director Zein Khalifeh puts it, it’s all “coffee, create, coffee, create, etc.” As for Tricia, she likes to dedicate part of her day “to creating something personal, whether doodling, animating, or looking for inspiration to stay creative.”
3. What everyday challenges do designers encounter?
Perhaps the biggest challenge our designers face on a daily basis is understanding the clients’ needs and, according to Malak, “being creative enough to impress.” As for Tricia, she says one of the toughest things is knowing how to balance the artistic side of things with business goals.
On the other hand, time can be quite limiting. Although creativity and inspiration can make it challenging to meet deadlines, the designers said that there is always a team member willing to give a hand whenever needed.
4. What is the best way to give feedback to a designer?
All it takes is a show of appreciation into the hard work that has been put into the design, Ahmad says. Moving on to feedback, all designers stressed the importance of providing precise feedback, which saves both time and effort. Razan prefers if feedback took place via audio/video calls with clients to better understand their needs. Zein adds that providing examples of what you’re looking for can also help designers see things from your lens.
5. In your opinion, what makes a designer a good one?
A good designer is many things, though imagination and creativity, unquestionably, top the list. Curiosity and passion are also extremely important characteristics that good designers embrace. Without passion, it’s difficult to have patience, an essential quality of successful designers.
According to Zein, designers should always be willing to learn new things and take on challenges with a positive attitude, which she believes is synonymous with being a good listener. Tricia also stresses how important it is for designers “to be open to new ideas and experiment fearlessly through trial and error.”
 6. What, in your opinion, makes a successful designer-client relationship?
Like any relationship, both sides must put effort into making it work.
Designers, on the one hand, must take into account the fact that the client may not be knowledgeable in the area of design. This is where patience and proper communication come into play. In addition to that, designers, according to Huda, should accept feedback, as long as it is constructive.
Clients, on the other hand, should be clear about what they want, trust the designer, and as Razan and Huda said, understand that a bigger logo does not increase the likelihood of success.
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WHY HIRING A CREATIVE BOUTIQUE DIFFERS FROM A DESIGN AGENCY

When the word design comes up, many people tend to assume it is synonymous with style. In reality, design spans a wide range of different fields, focusing on aesthetics and function in all its elements.

Large creative agencies deserve credit where credit is due. They have the resources, the brains, and the experience. There is no denying that. However, hiring such a large-scale agency requires an extensive budget – one that will surely pay off in revenue in the future. But, many have argued against the hiring of a big design agency because of the vague dynamic of the client-agency relationship.Taking this into account, here are a few reasons why a small creative boutique agency is sometimes your best bet:

 1. Communication
With most large agencies, it is not possible to just pick up your phone and contact the designer working on your project. If you have an inquiry, your only option is to contact the agency’s support or the department representative. You may also have no idea who the designer is because the project is executed under the company’s name. These barriers are typically not there when working with a creative boutique agency. In the latter, communication has no boundaries. A simple text to the designer is very common (and makes things so simple!).
 2. Cost
When you pay for the services of a large agency, you are not only paying for your design, but also for the brand name, the employee salaries, the rental costs, etc. The cost package is usually very high and sometimes not affordable. While a boutique’s price would still cover these things, they’re usually on a much smaller scale.
 3. Flexibility
If an employee at an agency has a crazy, unconventional idea about a project, the idea must pass through a hierarchal structure to get approval. At a small agency, however, the designer would simply consult with their co-workers or boss, impress the client with their grand idea, and call it a day.
This is not to say there is one rule that fits all as there are always some exceptions. So, it’s important to do your research before putting your business in someone else’s hands. Weigh the pros and cons of the available options and always keep an open mind. Talent and professionalism are certainly important, but it is also equally important to take aspects of support, communication, and cost into account when doing so.
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WHY BRANDS MUST CONSIDER HIRING GRAPHIC DESIGNERS

In theory, the idea of handling your business’ branding may sound like a good idea, but in practice, it can really damage your brand’s reputation and hinder your opportunities for growth.
It is understandable that branding, design, and marketing can be costly, but the benefits are surely worth the price tag. This is why hiring a graphic designer or a creative agency is an essential part of any good business. A strong brand strategy is one that has strong visual storytelling – the key to surviving in a sea of competitors. A designer can help you achieve all those things.
If you need more reasons why you should hire a graphic designer, we’re eager to give them to you. Ready?
1. Reach your target audience
Good branding can turn heads. It is the result of powerful visuals. You may have high quality written content, but they won’t get the attention they deserve if they are not complemented with the right visuals. Designers create eye-catching graphics to convey a brand’s identity and spirit, making it easier for consumers to resonate and recognize your brand.
2. Establish a presence
Your brand’s logo is the first thing consumers encounter. Thus, it is essential that your overall branding, which includes your logo, speaks of high quality, and matches your target audience’s style. A good designer will know exactly how to reflect different personas into visually appealing items.
3.    Achieve credibility
If a potential customer checks your brand’s social media profile and likes what they see, they’ll probably choose you over competitors. Of course, they will check all your digital channels before making a purchase. This is why your social media channels, website and all other online assets must be consistent in their approach. Only then will your brand gain the credibility it was built to have. Say goodbye to pixelated photos, and say hello to originality.
4. Take an expert’s opinion
Designers know what graphics, concepts, and formats work best and you know what your brand stands for. With proper collaboration, communication and brainstorming sessions, your brand can get the best of both worlds. You want to be sending the right message with the right words and the right visuals. The latter cannot happen without a designer’s input.
In short, if you want to save money, leave your business’ branding out of the budget cuts. Your branding is everything your brand stands for. It is the face of your business. It needs to be the best for your company to reach the top.
Your brand’s products or services may offer top-notch quality, but how can they survive the market trends without unique branding? It is what gives your business identity and meaning, connects you with your target audience, and, above all, adds professionalism to your profile. So, do your best to give people a reason to choose you over competitors. Let a designer help you do that.
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INBOUND VS. OUTBOUND MARKETING: A COMPARISON

In the past, marketing was purely up to chance. It was like throwing a hook with bait into the water and hoping you would reel in a large amount of fish. In the business world, this approach has a name: Outbound Marketing. It is a traditional marketing practice that aims to reach the largest number of people in the shortest amount of time – regardless of who the target audience is.

While outbound marketing still exists, it has become outdated compared to inbound marketing which narrowly targets people who are already – or have a strong potential to be – interested in what you sell. The two approaches differ greatly from various angles. Below are some of the differences between inbound and outbound marketing:
1. Medium
Though there are exceptions, outbound marketing mostly takes place offline as opposed to inbound marketing, which is mostly online. Examples of outbound marketing are print, TV, radio ads, or telemarketing. Inbound marketing, on the other hand, involves ads on social media, ads on search engines, or SEO-related reach.
2. Customer-Centricity
While outbound marketing attempts to reap as much attention as possible, inbound marketing aims to target those who are – or potentially would be – interested in the brand’s products/services by personalizing the consumer journey. To give an example, if your brand is selling a sports-related item, outbound marketing is putting an ad on a billboard, waiting until it intrigues someone so much that it pushes them to the shop, where they will also contemplate a purchase. Inbound marketing, on the other hand, narrowly targets online users who are already interested in sports, highering the chance of a purchase from a first glance.

3. Costs

Traditional or outbound marketing can hardly be described as cost-effective. It involves paying a ton of cash whether for a billboard, a TV commercial, or the salaries of telemarketing representatives, all in the hope of making a sale. Inbound marketing, on the other hand, is very focused in its targeting, increasing the likelihood of reaching a potential consumer and ultimately securing a sale.

4. Return on Investment (ROI)
With the traditional methods used by outbound marketing, it becomes rather difficult for a seller to measure their profits against marketing and advertising costs. Conversely, the near-accurate statistics and insights into the audiences’ behaviors and demographics of inbound marketing make it possible to measure your brand’s return on investment (ROI). This enables the seller to know which marketing methods are most effective, which in turn saves both time and money.
In A Nutshell:

Though the comparison may seem in favor of inbound marketing, outbound marketing still has its advantages. These include the ability to reach a wide audience in a short amount of time as well as its effectiveness in establishing a presence.

Sometimes both methods are combined for more effective results. In the end, factors such as brand goals, audience, and resources together dictate which marketing approach you should be employing.
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WHEN SHOULD A BRAND CONSIDER REBRANDING?

Change is the only constant. And in the world of business, stagnancy is the worst thing that could ever happen to a company. Remember that.
Over time, consumers change. Their preferences, needs, and wants evolve. Brands must adapt to continue to serve ever-changing consumers in the best way possible.
Regardless of the industry, a business should monitor their consumers like they would their own children. In doing so, managers will know exactly when it is time to rebrand. Creating a brand is not a one-time thing that can be put on a shelf and abandoned. Branding strategies are made to be flexible because of the nature of the business world. Things change and brands must adapt to fit those changes at all times.
While circumstances may differ from one business to another, there are certain factors that businesses should not ignore. Instead, they should be considering rebranding when the following things happen:
1. A decrease in sales 
If your business is not making enough profit, you know you have an unsolved problem. Sometimes it could be the quality of what you are offering, but most of the time, it probably has to do with a lack of effort to stay connected with your target audience. Maybe the market trends have changed, and your branding doesn’t fit anymore. You must adapt to fit in.
2. Your brand is out of date

If what you’re offering is no longer in demand, it may be time to shift gears. Remember how popular MSN Messenger was back in the day? And how Yahoo was the number-one search engine? If this says anything, it is that no matter how successful a brand is, there’s always a competitor out there who’s working to get to the top. Don’t let your brand fall down the pyramid. Stay in the loop, always.

3. You have strong competitors

As a business, you can hardly ever sit back and relax. Even when you reign in your industry, there is a lot of hard work that must be put into sustaining your position in the marketplace. Rebranding is sometimes essential in the process, especially if a competitor is offering something you’re not. Rebranding doesn’t just have to be about your logo and identity, but involves your products and services, too.

4. Your brand changes

Just as nobody stays the same, neither does a brand. It’s very natural for a brand’s goals to change over time. There is nothing wrong with that. When you do, you must tell your new story—one that’s both sincere and easy to identify with.

5. Your brand’s reputation was harmed

The age of social media has changed the way “customer feedback” takes place. One bad review can send your brand to a dark hole, causing a dramatic loss for the business. If other customers happen to find that they’re not the only ones having issues with your company, this can be an even bigger problem. Sometimes, an apology is never enough. Instead, brands must consider rebranding for the sake of saving all they’ve worked for.

Truth Be Told,

Branding is no piece of cake. This is why many business owners may feel reluctant to invest in it. However, branding is an inevitable part of a brand’s survival, especially in the digital world. If you want your brand to maintain operations, grow and thrive, then you must work for it. And you must change when change is needed.