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Down With Nephew Art

April 7, 2014

Nephews.

They’re great for a few family time laughs, some stories of youthful inhibition, and maybe even a little elbow grease around the house. Some might be struggling with school or sports, but at the end of the day, you wish them well and hope they will find the right path.

But maybe they’re into graphic design. Maybe you’re a small business owner. Maybe they can create your logo!

Stop right there.

A national epidemic has plagued small businesses since the birth of Corel Draw and Microsoft Paint, and you’re about ten paces from contracting it. This malady is known throughout the design world as “nephew art,” and its impact is not to be taken lightly.

You might think it’s a great idea to have your niece or nephew, who dabbles in design and is slowly building their portfolio, to take the reigns on your brand building initiative. However, it must be forewarned: the vast majority of young designers are unaware of the many workings, strategies and considerations that go into small business brand design.

Only a very small percentage of designers within the professional design community are actually fluent in this particular skillset. Speaking from experience, the results are abysmal when enlisting someone whose forte is not specific to brand building. For instance, the brand might look excellent on a website, but overly convoluted in print advertisements. It might look great on brochures, yet it doesn’t drive sales in the least from your target market. You might have to spend some serious coin to fix it up to have it appear properly on uniforms. And you won’t be able to put it on a billboard because it might send the wrong message.

Marketing is all about the correct message, and a brand is the multi-faceted, perception-creating tool that delivers that message from the onset. Our agency has seen time and again the incredible transformation a business undergoes when it flips the switch on a well-executed brand design. Sales get a boost, customers get excited, and business overall get’s better both inside and out.

However, the opposite is bound to happen when utilizing the dreaded nephew art approach. The design won’t pay for itself, and it might even end up costing you money when it can’t be seamlessly integrated across media.

The worst consequence is the impact this disheveled perception has on your business. For a small business to succeed, your brand needs to be united in its message and of the same perception throughout your marketing mix. The moment one element becomes out of line is the moment your marketing starts working against you. Prospective customers start questioning your legitimacy, credibility, and fundamental business. In the highly competitive business landscape, a competitor’s advertisement is always close behind, so losing customers is a very real possibility.

Opt instead for enlisting a designer or agency with a proven portfolio of work related to your industry. Ask them about their creative process, and most importantly—their collaborative process. You want to have an open line of communication during your brand building initiative. 

So leave the heavy lifting to the professionals. I’m sure your nephew will understand.

Dan Antonelli is the CEO and creative director of New Jersey advertising agency Graphic D-Signs, Inc., The Small Business Advertising Agency®, and the author of Building A Big Small Business Brand, available at www.amazon.com. For more information, visit www.graphicd-signs.com

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