Our Creative Director Takes Over Instagram

Hi! Hello! Guten tag! Как дела!

Just your friendly Marketing Refresh Creative Director here. My name is David, and I am taking over our Instagram this week. Hopefully, you will tune in to my daily posts about the many faces of design and how it all ties into our approach to marketing.

This blog will be updated daily with new supporting content for the posts on Instagram. So what are you waiting for? GO. DO. READ.

graphic design is a liePost 1: Graphic Design Is a Lie

“Graphic Design is a lie…we’re lying to ourselves. The reasons young people go into graphic design have little or nothing to do with solving business problems and everything to do with making cool things.” ~John Bielenberg, Principal, C2, LLC

This was a quote that has stuck with me throughout my career. It perfectly sums up the difference between the emotional driver for why we do what we do versus how to practically apply our passion to help achieve real goals and results for our clients. Design isn’t necessarily the lie, but the belief that becoming a designer is going to be about “me, my passions, my ideas” and so on…THAT’s the lie.

If the purpose of graphic design were simply to create cool stuff, make pretty art and hang on the walls for people to look at, then it just becomes fine art that is subject to the judgment and critique of the masses with no real substance to back up the claims. It’s not impossible to do both (Andy Warhol), but my clients aren’t hiring me for fine art that sits and waits – they want active and engaging designs aimed at elevating their business in one way or another.

The absolute truth is that the client’s vision, need and purpose are the real driving forces behind successful design. By keeping this at the forefront of my mind, it becomes much easier to take the drive/passion I feel for being creative and give the client a product that not only looks great, but it can be measured and analyzed based on engagement with the audience – the undeniable statistic-based critique.

So…GRAPHIC DESIGN IS NOT A LIE. It’s a half-truth waiting for its counterpart: the client.

what is a camel?Post 2: What is a camel?

I know you probably expected something related to “hump day,” but a camel is actually a horse designed by committee.

So what does this have to do with design and marketing you ask? That’s a really great question. Gold star for asking it!

For starters, collaboration is key when creating successful designs that are intended to help your clients achieve their goals. However, one issue that can arise during the collaboration process is designing by committee.

Designing by committee occurs when too many voices have input or ideas to add to the creative process. It does not mean that all opinions are not welcome, but 10 people giving feedback on a project is going to yield a very mixed bag of comments and changes that likely overlap and contradict each other. This makes for a very inefficient process and ultimately…you end up with a camel — one hump or two, depending on the size of your committee.

To avoid designing a camel, it’s best to identify one or two individuals from the client side of the equation to play an active role in gathering feedback into a cohesive and concise manner that the design and creative team can accurately evaluate and implement. This will ensure that all voices are heard, and the design team can deliver the best product for the client’s needs.

No one brags about their camel, so let’s all work together to create the best horse possible!

throw out obvious designsPost 3: Throw Out Obvious Designs

One thing I like to do is think of all the obvious solutions … and then throw them out. What this does is it gives me my best starting place for the creative process to start.

By removing obvious and forgettable ideas, I free myself up to think more creatively about how the design can impact the goals and purposes of the client. For example:

A client comes to me and says, “I want a logo design, but it needs to include an icon – something with a square in it maybe. I also hate the color orange and love the color green. Make it modern, but also make it something I won’t want to update a for a long time — timeless.”

I hear this as a challenge to not simply give them a green logo with a mixture of sans-serif fonts and a flat square as their icon. I immediately think of all the not so obvious ways I can achieve these needs and exceed the client’s expectations in the process.

Which logo would you pick?

Think about why you picked that logo (the second one, right?), and the pieces you are drawn to were born out of that ability to focus on the creative rather than the obvious.

So to recap, unless you want a green square with plain text as your logo, throw out the obvious!

the other f-wordsPost 4: The Other F-words

F-words generally carry the connotation of negativity, and in some cases, the taste of soap in your mouth. Lucky for you, these two f-words are positive and helpful when it comes to executing a client’s vision. So let’s get right into it!


This is the word that most designers think about first. Form is the visual aspect of the design. It is what excites us when we see it, and it entices us to have a reaction…hopefully…and then an interaction. This is the part of the equation that will be most remembered by the user when they recall their experience with the form aspect of your site design or other collateral designs. That is, unless you fail to incorporate the other f-word…


This word is actually more important and often overlooked. Function is the reason, the purpose, the goal that your clients set forth. It is imperative that before you even begin the design process, you get a clear picture of the function: why do you want it this way? What are your goals? What’s the best practice for the user to get what and why to work together?

When you start by considering the function of the design and how it serves the client’s needs, you will always drive toward the correct target — the client’s vision. Using this vision as your driving force, you can now apply the form aspect and start the process of combining the two f-words to create successful and high-end products for your clients.

Function + Form = Successful execution of the client vision

The takeaway here is that while there are some aspects of marketing that make you want to say certain f-words, these are two words that mean a great deal to the creation of successful designs. AND you can safely use these words in polite company!

Read More! I recently wrote a lot of words on the topic of Form over Function Mistakes. Check it out.

set a trend by following the trendsPost 5: Set A Trend By Following The Trends

Recently, our digital marketing agency published a blog on the top marketing trends for 2018. At first, my gut reaction was: “Trends? Who needs ’em?” After looking through it, I educated myself a bit more on the idea behind it, and I started to realize that my gut reaction was misguided but not necessarily wrong.

In case you can’t tell from my bio or the first Instagram post from my Takeover Week, I come from the state of mind to “question everything.” I’m a free thinker who leans towards do it your own way, march to the beat of your own drum, insert cliche here, etc. So, naturally to me, the idea of following others’ trends seemed contradictory to my sensibilities. Then, I had a moment of clarity.

How can I expect to set a trend if I have no idea what trends are already out there? Then I remembered that ideas are born from paying attention and observing the behavior of others, and then you take what you learn and improve upon it if possible. It’s incredibly hard to set a trend in a bubble, so the only way is to pay attention to others, see where they are, what they’re trying to do, and start looking for ways to improve it, change it, or create something new from it.

They say imitation is the greatest form of flattery, but I would say that if you can put your own ego aside, observe what’s happening around you and use that to build a new process or trend that others will follow, then flattery will be the best form of flattery because people will follow your trend and be thankful for your contributions to the overall conversation.

Read More! Read our agency’s blog on the 21 Marketing Trends to Watch For in 2018.

start at the end and work backwardsPost 6: Start At The End And Work Backwards

By now, you’ve probably picked up on some recurring themes in my Instagram takeover updates, and the main point I’ve been driving is keeping your focus on your client’s needs and desires.

  1. Discover the client’s endgame.
  2. Work backwards to develop your plan.
  3. Use the plan to decide how you will utilize your own processes and trends.

Then, you will know how to create amazing designs and products that look and function well (because you threw out all the obvious answers first). You will also know how to involve the right people in the decision/review process.

Lastly, remember that your creativity, design skills, and drive to create excellent work is driven by the client’s passion for their business goals.

Start at the end. Because the end is the right beginning.

With that, this concludes my Instagram takeover for Marketing Refresh. I hope you enjoyed a peek inside my driving philosophies behind how we deliver our creative projects here at Marketing Refresh.

Thank you, and goodnight!

Who’s next to takeover the Marketing Refresh Instagram account? Follow our account to find out!

Terri Hoffman

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Terri Hoffman

Online marketing strategist and owner of Marketing Refresh. Mom to 3 daughters, wife to Ralph. And a MAJOR Green Bay Packers fan!

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