Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Design industry evolution: The tools constantly change but quality endures!

By Randy Richards 12/11/12

From markers and mechanicals to a mouse and the latest Adobe Creative Suite. From printed materials to the internet and social media like this blog I post today. If you are a talented designer who has great skills, it really doesn't matter how things change and evolve because you can adapt and apply those skills to any project and produce quality that helps brand, market, communicate and sell products and services effectively. I always have embraced change like an explorer excited to discover new ways of doing things.

Many design developments occurred over the past 20 years while I had the opportunity to lead the design, branding and marketing communications to great success at several major Connecticut corporations. In 1989 I began using an Apple Mac Computer and Adobe software at BIC. It changed the whole design industry immediately. Then, like today, there were many designers bucking the system insisting that the only way to achieve quality was the traditional way. I knew that those people just had fear of change and eventually would embrace it and realize how much better the innovations make their lives. 

The new computers allowed us to complete many more projects in much less time! Workloads more than doubled and expectations from my design department increased dramatically! It was great though, because we still accomplished quality design with the new set of tools. A mouse instead of markers, specing type, using a photostat machine and producing mechanicals. All these items could be accomplished now by simply pointing and clicking. 

I embraced this new technology and used it for one of the biggest successes of my career! I created some of the first computer fine art pieces on my own time during those early 1990s as well as creating artwork used commercially. At home one day I was drawing shapes and patterns on my personal computer and started creating a zebra stripe pattern, then made a giraffe etc...and got the idea that they may look interesting wrapped around a pen! Little did I know I was about to create a line of pens worth $50 million and tap into a brand new market for Bic from these computer generated illustrations! I brought the designs into the office. I invented this line of Wavelengths branded pens for BIC in 1992 as creative director. I remember the day I showed Mr. Bruno Bic the CEO and Ed Koski the treasurer the first set of designs I called animal skins. Mr. Bic was instantly excited! He said "Randy, This is what we have been waiting for." He was about to jump out of his skin, he called his national sales VPs and said, "Get in here now!" Once arrived, Bruno asked, "How much can you sell... how much can you sell?..." I worked closely with Sharon Dupuy head of marketing and together developed the whole line of 10 sets of pens. A year later we had increased the entire writing instrument business by 1/3 or $50 Million.

Technology developed further as the years went by. I had the opportunity to also create the first ever website for The Hartford in 1992. I produced all graphics, the look and brand image and also created the first intranet site for employees and agents. At that time I remember seeing stats that indicated there would be close to 1 Million people online using the internet soon. That reminds me of seeing McDonald's restaurants when I was a kid with 1 MIllion sold listed on their signs! I was on the first Internet Committee too and worked closely with programmers to accomplish the tasks. I told the committee once that the internet was just another platform and that all the same design principals still apply, just with a new platform of interacting. They didn't really get that because they were not graphic designers but they trusted me to do my thing. I had total freedom and it allowed me to accomplish a great looking site and all the subpages, banner ads etc...At that time there wasn't really anyone to ask questions because the technology was so new! I just figured it out. Totay it is so much more complex but programming is much easier with new software. This was the period of time when Intel became a company and AOL was the browser.

I worked as creative director at Stanley Black & Decker for 8 years after the 7 years at The Hartford and we utilized the new technology and computers effectively winning over 70 national design awards for computer generated packaging and marketing materials. I had a cover story/multipage article on me and my team in a 2006 package design magazine. It spoke of how my creative direction and our design solutions contributed to success. The quality we produced with the new technology was now seamlessly integrated into daily process. After that, I went to ESPN Walt Disney and learned about animation and 3D design as well as broadcast Design and animation. That was new knowledge gained while winning awards and developing the design team to do more than just on-air graphics. I expanded the team's responsibilities and we also worked on marketing, advertising and branded materials from their work stations while servicing on-air show directors needs. The first year I implemented this change, my teams accomplished 200% more projects. I ran the creative department at RollEase in Stamford, CT after ESPN and rebranded the entire company effectively which increased the quality of materials and contributed to a 25% increase in sales. After a year at RollEase I decided to start my own design business called Randy Richards Design. I really enjoy helping many different customers and supporting different industries effectively. I provide my customers; "The creative Advantage Over The Competition."

Today things have come a long way but producing quality has not changed. I love all my Apple products and utilize a large screen iMac, a Powerbook, iPad and iPhone, I use the entire suite of the latest Adobe CS5.5., I tweet, I blog, I facebook and embrace the new technology. 
December 11, 2012
I just started this blog with hopes of sharing valuable design information, tips, trends and advice with colleagues, customers and anyone who wants to succeed by producing the highest level of creative design, branding and marketing communication materials.