What is Project Management?

Project Manager

We constantly get asked all the time ‘What does a Project Manager do’? ‘What is it doing in your breakdown of costs on our quote’?

As a design professional I meet a lot of people that have no idea what a project manager does, and how important they are in delivering a quality product, with no hassles.

It’s a tough question to answer. Especially because in many design firms the project manager is still an emerging position.

Project managers are responsible for the leadership of the project from start to finish. They lead a team and help negotiate relationships within the project—whether it’s with clients, team members, printers, photographers, etc.

Project managers are not the people chasing work and developing new relationships. Instead, they maintain a healthy client relationship throughout the course of the project. This often can turn into a long-term business relationship.

Once the contract is agreed upon and signed, the team is then assembled. Most projects start with a team meeting, that may differ depending on the goals and scope of the work. It is up to the project manager to decide what the best approach to the work should be. Sometimes project managers tend to forget their role is to lead, not dictate, they need to have a vision and an approach, as well as have a clear understanding of the goal.

For us at DesignLab, “It’s all about the relationships.” In a collaborative project setting, successful relationships between team members are essential, and the job of keeping the foundation often falls to the project manager. Conflicts can be an important part of the creative process, but it’s really important that it doesn’t sidestep the project.

One way is to make sure that every team member feels valued, and that they are an important part of the project. This can include making sure that team members are coached effectively, and praised, especially during the challenging stages. It is the project manager’s job to care about the quality of work, and that is the same about the quality of the working environment. Maintaining a positive working environment builds good rapport between the team, and keeps enthusiasm levels on a high.

For the hands-on graphic designer, the profession and work consists of big ideas and the small details. It’s not just enough to have a great concept these days — you have to be able to execute it, and this often means working through painstaking precise and multiple iterations of a concept until you get it right.

It’s the project manager who has to keep an eye on the goals & objectives of the project, both for the client and the design team. Clients can be just as easily fooled by sexy layouts, but it’s the project manager’s job to avoid those temptations and make sure the project meets its objectives.

Although design agencies can benefit from a project manager, they are not always required, especially if an agency has many experienced design professionals. Project managers usually are best in mid-sized to larger agencies with at least 20 staff or more.

In smaller design agencies, an art director or design director often functions as the project manager, and may be capable of handling the role. But sometimes project management is the last thing an art director wants to — or should — be doing. This is where a project manager can relieve the pressure of the art director of these responsibilities so that they can focus on the quality of the design rather than the project process.

Hiring a project manager will not solve all of your agencies issues. But allowing for leadership of your projects, and your agencies work will enable smoother outcomes, and a better workflow, and maybe even encourage leadership within your agency.

Finding the right team, giving correct direction and managing the working environment — while focusing on a strategic direction and staying on top of deadlines and deliverables — are all part of a project manager’s role. It’s a challenging task. But if you can find someone who is good at it, you can build your business and improve the quality of your portfolio.

Psychology Principles to Use In Design

Psychology Principles to Use In Design

Did you know that psychology is everywhere in design, because psychology has helped us understand that red is the choice colour for restaurant logos and marketing—because it stimulates our appetite. There are psychology principles to use in design that can help your design reach your target audience quicker and easier.


You can’t ignore psychology since principles of the human mind influence how people react and interact with designs.

Have a read of the below psychology principles that can help you incorporate into your design practice.

The Von Restorff Effect

Ron Restorff Effect

The Von Restorff effect tells us that the more out there an element is, the more it will stand out and be remembered. In branding world we call it ‘differentiation’.

The theory was tested by Hedwig von Restorff around 1933. She made a bunch of subjects look at a list of similar items. If the item was isolated (i.e. highlighted) it was easier for the individual to remember the item over others.

This same principle can be applied to design. The obvious is that if you want to draw attention to something, you isolate it, such as through colour, size, spacing, etc.

Because people focus more on the isolated item, they remember less about the others. Keep the inverse in mind when considering whether or not to highlight an item. Do you want your customers to remember the one thing, and only that one thing? Don’t highlight that particular item if the other items are equally important and you want everything remembered.

Psychology in Color

Psychology Colors

A good designer should have a clear understanding of colour and how it relates to a design. Some new designers tend to ignore how colours affect the mind, instead choosing to design with colours they like themselves. Are you considering how your design influences your audience?

Colours can influence emotions. Adobe lists colours and their corresponding emotions, the positive ones as follows:

  • Black: sophistication and power
  • White: cleanliness, sophistication, virtue
  • Yellow: happiness, optimism,
  • Red: power, courage, strength; can also stimulate appetite
  • Green: sustainability growth, balance
  • Blue: calmness, peace, trust, safety
  • Yellow: optimism, happiness
  • Purple: luxury, royalty, spiritual awareness
  • Orange: friendliness, comfort and food
  • Pink: tranquility, femininity, sexuality

Emotions people associate with colour can change depending on cultural and/or religious backgrounds. The above list refers to our culture.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Did you study Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs in high school or college? If not, here’s what it is:

Maslows Hierarchy of Needs Triangle

The pyramid was designed to show how one must take steps to reach self-actualisation. Before a person can feel loved they must have their physiological and safety needs met first.

How does this apply outside the psychology classroom? Marketers and graphic designers can use Hierarchy of Needs in advertising and public relations.

Try this, when designing any marketing material, use the theory when developing a buyers persona. Think about where your client’s target audience is in the above pyramid. How can your design motivate them to the next stage of the pyramid?


Hick’s Law

Hicks Law

Hick’s Law relates to how long it takes for someone to make a decision. If someone has more choices to choose, it takes them longer to decide. In many cases, it takes them so long that they’ll decide to make no decision because the burden of deciding has become too stressful and hard.

You can incorporate this concept into design also. For example, say you’re designing a website for a client, and you want to keep your top menu panel as simple as possible with just a few options to choose, you can group the pages into drop-down menus so it’s easier for a web visitor to categorise their options which in turn makes it a quicker decision.

This also is what we do with a ‘call-to-action’. When designing a poster, you don’t want to tell users to do many different things. You want a call to attention. For example, your poster may focus on collecting donations with a call-to-action of “Donate Now – Call This Number.” The secondary call-to-action could a QR code that leads to your client’s social media page.

Personalising It

Facial Recognition

Using faces into your design is one of the most effective techniques, it pulls someone right into your design. We are all drawn to faces—so much that we see faces where there aren’t any. Case studies show that when faces are added to websites, it boosts conversions.

This idea can be applied in many ways.

You can use faces to connect with your audience. Just put a face on your design, I bet you you’re more likely to catch a viewer’s eye.

You can also direct their attention based on which way your model’s face and eyes are facing. Eye-tracking studies show that people follow other people’s gazes much like they follow arrows.

You can use a face to convey lost of  emotion. There are a number of facial expressions:

  • Sadness
  • Happiness
  • Surprise
  • Fear
  • Anger
  • Disgust

Utilising this can immediately set the tone for your design, as well as communicate across language barriers.

Fitt’s Law

Fitts Law in Web Design

Fitt’s Law is a scientific law that’s used to describe computer-human interaction. It says that “the time required to move to a target is a function of the target size and distance to the target.”

You can use this same principle in web design. For example the larger a clickable area is, the more likely it is to get clicked on.

When you design a web page, you make the navigation menu items clickable. But what is the area of the clickable link? Will only the words link to the target URL, or will the tabs themselves be clickable?

You can also design with the opposite in mind. Links that you don’t want to be clicked on often such as delete or cancel buttons—should have small clickable areas.

Occam’s Razor

Occams Razor in Design

Occam’s Razor tells us that the simplest explanation is usually the correct one. Even though this is more of a philosophical idea than a law of design, it still can easily be applied to design. First time designers usually create complicated designs with elements that are unnecessary to show how creative they are. But you often find that these designs are not user-friendly.

This relates back to Hick’s law. If you’re trying to cram too much into a poster instead of going for the simplest solution, people will just not read it. The design becomes overwhelming and people will quickly abandon it.

In Summary

As you can see psychology can play a huge role in how we go about our day-to-day lives, and if you’re a designer, it’s important to pay extra attention to those psychology principles to help create artwork that translates to your audience, which converts for your clients.


How To Sell Your Design To Skeptical Clients

You know that nervous feeling just before your’e about to sell your design ideas to your clients?

It’s because you know they’re going to ask why, and you’re going to have to think up some sort of explanation. And you’re going to stutter through it with meaningless phrases: “It works because of balance” “I think this is the way to go.”

Why not instead enter the meeting with a solid argument in your back hand. To truly convince a client, nothing beats a lucid, coherent argument based on actual evidence. You may be a designer, but when it comes to pitching an idea, you have to act like a salesman.

Here are four techniques for making a good convincing sale.


Sometimes, your client is trying to tell you things they don’t know how to express themselves. Your role as a designer is to pick through the subtle ties and pull out the truths they’re not being explicit about. Before you can make a valid case for any kind of solution, you need to know what the problem is. And that means listening.

Listening helps you determine what the constraints of a project really is, what the client’s concerns are. It helps you see whether or not you’ve already got the right argument in hand or if it needs looking at again.

It also helps put your client into a mindset. Repeating what you’ve heard back to the client you’re listening to is the No. 1 way to make a client feel they are being heard to the ideas you’re about to show. It shows that your forthcoming recommendations will be tightly relevant to the client’s needs.


A good designer should ask questions—about the business, they’re concerns, they’re needs, they’re prior decisions, they’re team and goals. A great designer wants to see the whole picture.

They ask questions because they’re really curious. They ask questions because the answers can help them see what they’re getting into. They ask questions because they want to work toward a vision they can use to make good design decision. Asking questions lets them do that.

Asking questions lets a designer form a coherent debate. Asking is as important as listening. It’s actually part of listening. Asking means dragging more information out into the spotlight.

Next time you walk into an interview, ask questions. Next time you need to make an informed decision ask questions. Next time you need to fend off a bad idea, someone’s bias, your own bias, ask questions.


A client asked me to add “click here” to a link. They were worried users wouldn’t know what I meant for them to click—the link was a question like “Forgot password?” I explained the reasons for not including “Click here.”

We all know it takes time to explain things like this. That email took 15 minutes to write.

But it’s worth it. It buys you respect, and it shows your client respect. What they hear is that you care enough to explain your rationale. It also demonstrates that you have a rationale for everything you do. It can build trust.

Educating your clients and co-workers and stakeholders with every recommendation you make has effective effects:

  • It guarantees you have a reason for your recommendation.
  • It gives everyone a good reason for the recommendation.
  • It has a long-term effect: It teaches clients to think about design. To think like a designer. To think like a consumer. It teaches them that every decision has an impact on a user’s experience and therefore should be considered. Do this well, and over time you won’t need to form an argument for your reasoning.


If you can present your case and do it at the start, you won’t need to argue. Your narrative will address every concern before it comes up.

It helps to apply an essay-style structure to your presentation. When you’re presenting design work to someone, that essay can be helpful. It’s a template. Its tells a story.

Here’s one tip for how to keep an audience captive while you’re making your rationale.

A lot of times, your audience, especially smaller ones will want to ask questions during the presentation. This is fine if it’s a minor question with a quick answer. There is no quicker way to derail your argument than to let something like this distract you and leave everyone forgetting what you were hoping to achieve.

The tip is simple: Ask your customers to hold their questions until the end of the presentation.

In many examples, especially if you’ve anticipated their concerns, you’ll have already answered most of the big questions. This doesn’t mean you’re done. It’s practically a guarantee that someone will ask you something you haven’t yet thought of. This is why the questions are at the end.

If you let these things throw you off track in the middle of a presentation, you may never answer the other important questions. If your meeting is an hour, leave 5-10 minutes at the end for questions.

Whatever the case, leave some time. Questions are the only way you’ll know what you’ve missed.

In Summary: It can always be a tough sell to convince your’e client your reasons for why you design a project the way you do. Steve Jobs put it so well “The customer is always right was told by the customer”. People don’t know what they want, you need to show them. Believe in what you do and why you do it. Remember customers come to you because they can’t do it themselves.

Why White Space is Good For Graphic Design

Why White Space is Good For Graphic Design

Graphic design is a method to communicate a certain message by using elements such as visual arts, typography or layout techniques whether we are referring to newspapers, ads, logos or websites. This style of design is defined by visual communication and it takes time and experience to master the best of its techniques so that your audience will understand your message.

Graphic design is a process that consists of seven steps that you have to take into consideration when designing. That way you can ease your work, be more organised and meet deadlines in time. It can begin with analysing your audience, stepping through defining the purpose of your message and then establishing layout and visual graphics that you will use in order to send your correct message.

There are hundreds of tips on how to perfect graphic design, but our blog is dedicated entirely to white space.

1. What is White Space?

White space means having a good eye for composition. This means you have to be able to find the right composition so that the information or whatever you are focusing on will be easy to read and spot.

There are 2 types of white space:

  1. Active (this insures a better structure and layout in design, it gives focus to the content. It is usually left out on purpose)
  2. Passive (this is the default white space left out at borders or in between content in order to make it readable)

White space DOES exists for a reason – it is to ease the process of analysing graphics so this is what you have to remember while using it in graphic design. It is a tested fact that the human eye percepts an organised and clean layout better than a cluttered space full of disturbances.

Why should you design with White Space?

To balance the layout

Passive white space is one of the reasons why text is visually received and understood easier, whether it’s regular white space or negative space, used in designs with dark background and white text.  The more space you use the easier to read and it also improves readability. Space creates a certain balance in your output, making it easier to digest.

Emphasise objects

In order to focus a viewer on a picture, try using a white border. This way you will attract attention on what’s inside the object or a picture for that matter. Always make use of white space in these situations and you will see how much more improved your design will be.

Focus on certain content

Another great technique for using white space in your graphic design is using it in a excess way. This does not always work for all designs, but when used appropriately it can really be effective and powerful. Imagine a text that has lots of white space around it. Tumblr has so many pictures like this and your eyes go straight to the text.

People really do appreciate it

At the end of the day the simpler the design looks, the better it is received by people. A cluttered design is like a cluttered desk – you can never find what you need, or if you find it than you spend lots of time looking for it. There is a bigger chance that your customers will love your design.

Your layout really appreciates it

Sit down and play with your layout, see how much it changes when you make use of  all the white space. Instead of cluttering for example your images and your text that goes with it together, try separating them by using white space. It will depend on whether you use a vertical or horizontal layout, but white space will  focus more on your content.

An elegant design is guaranteed

We have always considered white and black as the most elegant colours. They are simple, classic and timeless, and they do send the right message when you need them. White is pure, black is strong and this is why most graphic designers make use of these two colours. Larger companies use a lot of white space to advertise their products.

Remember white space is important, but it does depend on you how you want to use it, you need to be experience. If you use it in excess you might get either a boring design or on the flip side a truly unique design. Use it a little bit to get a cluttered design, or to leave out the most important elements.


whitespace-design-blackswan whitespace-design-montecristo-poster

The Importance of Letterhead design

Over the last couple of weeks we have talked about the importance of business stationery, and how business cards are such an essential part of selling your brand.  Today I want to discuss the importance of letterhead design.

Why your letterhead is important

Your Company logo

Your business has a logo for a reason. This logo will define and identify your brand, and will help your customers to recognise you. So by putting your business logo on your stationery you expose your brand and what it stands for, in turn giving you a far greater brand awareness in your industry and among your customers.

It backs up your brand

Every business wants its customers to know that it offers the best service or the most affordable products, then your letterhead therefore needs to reinforce your brand message.

If your brand is all about providing a professional, bespoke service (for example) then you should make sure that your letterhead reflects this, whether that’s with a clean design, or by colours and fonts. Once you’ve chosen the particular identifiers, make sure to stick to them across all of your business’ communication for consistency.

It shows legality and authority

Not only does your business letterhead present who you are, which helps to identify your brand; but it should also be used for all official documentation. It reinforces your brand’s authority and gives the remainder of the letter credibility.

What makes a good letterhead design?


Clean and simple

Your letterhead should be easy to read, so it’s important for it to be a clean and simple design. Your letterhead should consist of your logo and any contact details.

Contact details

It’s important that your customers can contact you by looking at your letterhead. This means ensure your contact details are relevant and up to date.

Two font rule

Now this is in the eye of the beholder, but we feel you shouldn’t use any more than two fonts in your letterhead design. Try to choose a font which reflects your logo. You may decide to use a specific typeface for all of your marketing communication.

Company colours

You should make sure that your letterhead contains any corporate colours from you logo. A business which sells items specifically related to food for example will likely opt for green and red, rather than purple, it’s simple logic.

Good examples of successful letterheads

Below is a look at some examples of what we think is successful letterhead designs. Just remember as long as you include the right information, and keep any design consistent with your brand’s identity, you can’t go wrong.


Simply in the shape of a comb, this works great for a barber shop.


Choosing a corporate colour must have been a bit of a no brainer with a name like Redbrick.

If you want to chat to DesignLab about how we can help with your business stationery in Adelaide, call Spiros 0n 0431 926 575.