Mastering the Art of Improvisation For the Love of It
Done in: Fall 2019 / Customer: APTech/LeadingPRINT / Task: Cover Story Design
I was designing for the Association for Print Technologies magazine and ran into a problem that is common to every trade publication. You have to tell the story of a great victory that was achieved by seemingly boring details…like efficiency studies.
You CAN use graphs and charts with complete accuracy but no pizazz. Or worse, the use the obligatory picture a group of guys standing in front of the newly acquired-mysterymachine-with-inscrutable-number-bendo-doohickey attachment.
But you can do SO much more.
The line that inspired me in this story was from the author Tom Moe. He said “It’s more important to be a $15 million printer with a 4- to 5-percent profitability than a $25 million print company breaking even.”
What was needed was compelling visual of how small changes compounded over time make huge differences.
In design, size matters
Knowing and using this technique has saved my “design behind” more times than I can tell.
The author of the story included a story about how an airline was able to increase their bottom line some $40,000 by removing one olive from each salad served on flights. The moral of the story is that small changes make a big difference.
I thought, “Boom. Size matters. That’s the unifying concept.”
Years ago I read Kit Hinrichs descriptions of design and he challenged me to make things as big or as small as I could.
That was the inspiration to make an olive (pretty small) as tall as Tom Moe on the cover to advertise his oversized success based on making consistent small changes.
The opening inside spread juxtaposed that same olive a lot closer to real size with a small caption to indicate the reality of making small changes.
This introduction is what gave context to a great set of pictures of Tom and his team that included representatives of the press, sales, and production areas of the company. This unique team HAD to be included because they had used their unique perspectives to identify and solve inefficiencies – and to consider new and profitable opportunities.
Moving a potential reader from a boring and unattractive “I suppose this will be good for me…” to “Gee! I wonder if I can do this?” Is really the pleasure of a well built team that includes writers, editors, photographers and designers.
What could move your next design along?
Send me your questions. I would love to help if I can.
From the Publisher, Thayer Long
What happens when you make transformation an everyday event? Zappos executives famously encouraged employees by reasoning that 1-percent daily improvement makes you 37 times better after one year. What would happen if you challenged yourself, and your company, to be a fraction better in your execution from one day, week, month, quarter to the next? What is the mass effect of small steps, taken in increments but accrued over time?
The company leaders featured in this issue remind us. When done with intention, the impact can be big. True entrepreneurs are always tinkering and elevating the game, whether it’s by improving profitability 1 percent at a time, like Tom Moe; staying on the bleeding edge of technology, like Zora Agheli; or bringing a spirit of innovation and fresh thinking to each and every job, like Rick Sands.