Interview with Diane Stimson
By Kathryn Gordon, Food Startup Help
Kathryn: Hi Diane; I met you when I substituted for your pastry class one weekend at ICE (Institute of Culinary Education), and then you and I discussed your graphic design career when you were on the ICE Cuisine Course in France. Can you please explain what makes up a good logo?
Diane: A good logo is clear, not too fussy, and the eye focuses immediately on what is being presented as a concept.
Kathryn: What recommendations would you give to one of our clients, starting off in the food industry, regarding how to pick a good graphic designer? How does someone decide who they should work with?
Diane: The overriding goal is to create a recognizable brand through the art associated with the product (awnings, in store signage, menus, business cards, website, logo, flyers).
To start, make a point of viewing the potential designer’s portfolio (often on the web these days). Word of mouth is good as well; otherwise, ask for references and talk to them. Meet with the designer, to give them clear direction and so they’re comfortable doing the job for you. If a designer makes suggestions, allow them to do so as they should know best how to translate your ideas into a graphic – it is their expertise you are paying for, after all. Most importantly when you are given initial designs for review – give timely and clear feedback. Also, get a clear understanding of the cost (ask for a written quote) – most designers will require a 50% deposit, just be sure not to pay in full up front as there will be changes along the way until you are 100% satisfied.
Kathryn: When you are working on a project, what is your procedure and a typical starting cost?
Diane: Meetings are generally about a ½ an hour at first and I will send the customer a base quote. Then I submit 3 initial designs, and things evolve from there. I usually require a 50% deposit after agreeing on the work to be done. Generally, for a 2-color logo design, the fee should start at $500. For packaging, marketing materials and image branding additional costs will be incurred and can get quite expensive – this should be discussed in the initial meeting.
Kathryn: How can someone minimize their costs when they are working with a graphic designer? I’ve seen people seemingly “stuck” with a design they hate after they paid a designer for their logo… Or, they spin their wheels without great designs because their sister went to art school for a while, and they’re trying to save money. But the designs aren’t good, and nobody is satisfied with them or the process. It can be frustrating for clients.
Diane: First, find an accredited artist or graphic artist who understands marketing. Then, you as the client need to clearly define “who is the target audience.” Not every product appeals to every market. It helps a lot having clear direction (such as market segments defined in a business plan).
The KISS guideline “keep it simple, stupid” is key – for example, design for more of a corporate audience should be very clean and not too fussy. It helps a designer immensely to know where a product is intended to appeal to – the mommy and kid crowd? A general, more sophisticated public?
Kathryn: What pitfalls are there regarding printing costs for labels, stickers, custom boxes, etc?
Diane: Multi-colored (3-4 colors or more) printing is expensive. If a graphic designer is given free range, and comes up with a design with too many colors that the client cannot afford, that’s not good.
You can get a lot of mileage out of 1-2 colors, because that color can be used effectively in different “strengths,” and not affect the printing costs. You need a balance and not put every dollar available for investment into your logo, because you are also going to need to print other packaging and marketing materials… The more colors involved, the more costs incurred.
1. Example of 4-color business card 2. Example of 2-color
Kathryn: Should a company be prepared to rework their logo, etc. periodically? Do they look dated after a while? Does that matter?
Diane: If you think about it, very recognizable brands like Pepsi or Coca Cola don’t rework their branding. They may tweak things, but there should be no need for an overhaul with a good design. Right now, there’s a trend towards “grunge.” The edges are not clean, they’re a bit tattered. Menus are reproduced on kraft paper. But it works, and it’s identifiable for certain food brands – and probably they should stick with it.
Some examples of the current grunge look for logos:
Kathryn: Can you talk about how you got started in design?
Diane: I studied communications and art in college, and my first job was in advertising. I went on to study design at SVA, and fell into art publishing as a freelancer when I was laid off from my job in the early 90’s.
Now I specialize in licensing original artwork to the home décor industry, designing posters, lithographs and giclée art prints, as well as stationery, logos, packaging, and many other proprietary products. Most of my work is done for Target, Home Goods and Bed, Bath & Beyond. I’m currently published by 3 different publishing houses under 4 different names, 3 of which are pseudonyms!
Following are a few of my best-selling designs:
Kathryn: Thank you Diane for all the great advice!