David Langton, a visual communication designer and author of Visual Marketing (Wiley) was recognized in Graphic Design USA’s annual review of designers in America as one of the People to Watch in 2009. David is co-founder with Norman Cherubino of Langton Cherubino Group whose work is featured in Designing for the Greater Good (HarperCollins). David is an adjunct professor at Hostos College/City of New York where he teaches digital communications.
David has more than 20 years experience providing conceptual direction for Fortune 500 companies and serves as a consultant to leaders and marketing executives of small and medium businesses. Langton Cherubino Group is a communications design firm, based in NYC, dedicated to improving the way that businesses and their audiences interact. Its visual, messaging, and interactive solutions provide the visual intelligence needed to inform and captivate and have served some of the best-known names in health care, finance, business and philanthropy.
MO: Can you talk to us about the book you published last year on Visual Marketing? What was your inspiration for the book and the creative process behind it?
David: The world is visual. We use our eyes to take in much of the content that influences our behavior, tempers our reactions, and informs our decisions. Whether it’s on the Web, in a brochure, or live in person, the most effective solutions are ones that unexpectedly grab our attention. Thousands of books about marketing have been written, yet few focus specifically on that intersection point between design (the visual) and marketing (influencing buying behavior), or do so on a scale that small businesses will find relevant. Visual Marketing is a compendium of winning ideas intended to inspire small-business leaders, creative professionals, entrepreneurs, and students. We hope it inspires you to think up your own ideas for incorporating visuals into your marketing.
MO: You have some very impressive clientele from Fortune 500 companies; however half of your clients tend to be small businesses. Aside from budget restrictions what are the major differences and approaches you use when working with a small business instead of a well known company or brand?
David: When you are a student in middle school or high school you are expected to excel in every subject —but when you graduate and go into a career, you usually specialize in something that you are good at doing. You are no longer expected to be the best at every subject. (I am still relieved that I do not have to take pre-Calculus classes.) Large businesses have departments devoted to executive management, accounting, human resources, investments, and manufacturing of the product or service. Yet, small business owners wear many hats and are expected to juggle all of these functions, and on top of that run sales and marketing. I like to remind small business owners what my business partner, Norman Cherubino always says, “Do what you do best.” Even as you wear many hats and work many different aspects of your business, never lose sight of the fact that there are others out there who can become your support system. So collaborate with an accountant, find a visual designer to do your marketing, reach out to others so you may focus on what you do best.
MO: What are some ways that you’ve evolved or reinvented yourself during the course of your career and as markets continually shift?
David: This may sound old fashioned, but when I graduated from college designers did not have Macs. I spent my first few years specifying type, working with typesetters, operating stat cameras and learning the craft of a field that doesn’t really exist anymore. Guttenberg’s printing press didn’t change for over 400 years. We’ve gone from offset printing to photocopying to digital to the virtual world of Facebook in just 35 years. We are living in a technological revolution and that means that all small business owners must be ready to embrace the next wave of change. We do this by experimenting with new offerings whether it be QR Codes, Pinterest or the latest social media tool. We do it by keeping focused on the marketplace for ideas and how it affects our target audiences.
MO: What inspires and motivates you and how do you bring your ideas to life?
David: This may sound crazy, but bad design often motivates me. When I see a disorganized website, an incomprehensible identity, a confusing announcement, I see opportunities where good design and communications may help a business promote, educate, inform or entertain. I am inspired when I see what my design colleagues, Norman Cherubino and Jim Keller, can do with typography and images as they apply visual intelligence to their design solutions.
MO: What are three trends that you’re personally or professionally excited by?
Trend #1: The tools to do-it-yourself are getting better and more accessible. Initially this leads to a flood of bad design, especially through crowd-sourcing of design and creative solutions. But eventually, there is a greater distinction and value for good design and visual thinking. Just as a typewriter did not turn everyone into a great novelist, YouTube does not make everyone a great video director. Yet as the tools become more familiar, the ability to assess and value the well-done design solutions becomes keener.
Trend #2: Authenticity is becoming more important. Looking slick and professional are not enough, are you real? Does your business have a physical location with real people, or is it a hobby in virtual space? It’s more about defining a real presence and finding an identity for your business, product or services that reflects the true sweet spot that makes you —you. A distinctive brand is not just another pretty picture or free stock photo or piece of clip art. It’s built upon images and themes that really matter.
Trend #3: Technology leads to more collaboration. In today’s world you can instantly connect with people through Skype, Facebook and Texting. This allows for a deeper specialization in what you do best and provides more opportunities to collaborate with other experts. We can now offer the services of top-of-the-line video directors, website programmers, as well as tap into the leading writers, illustrators, photographers and creative thinkers. Just because you wear many hats in a business doesn’t mean you need to be the best at everything all by yourself.
MO: What are some insights or tips that a small business can easily implement to their visual marketing campaigns?
David: Too often, small business owners take their own identity and marketing messages for granted. Make sure your business card looks like it connects to your website which looks like it connects to your Facebook page which looks like your marketing materials. Your company’s communications should all speak the same visual language, share common messaging and position your company, product or services in a consistent manner in print, on line and in person.
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