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Friday, February 28, 2014

Industry Insight: Ross Barber (Design)

Friday, February 28, 2014

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I had the pleasure of connecting with Ross Barber, Web Designer at Electric Kiwi, via the powers of Twitter. Having formed a professional reputation and an ever-growing client list, I was interested in finding out his experiences, advice and how important he feels design is, in the visual world that we live in.

Sunny: Hi Ross, thanks for joining me to answer some questions. For starters, could you maybe give the readers an idea of how you got involved in Web Design. Where did your interest in it start and how did you develop it?

Ross: I started doing web design as a hobby around 15 years ago - mostly because one of my friends built a website and I thought “Hey! I want to do that!” - so I taught myself how to code HTML and CSS, and learned how to use a graphics program (it was Paint Shop Pro back then, but I’ve since moved onto Photoshop as my main graphics program).

My first websites were terrible - it’s funny to see what they looked like. Of course there were so many limitations back then, and the Internet has changed SO much since I got started - even just in the past couple of years things have changed a lot… it’s crazy!

Sunny: The Internet has certainly brought a renewed importance to branding when it comes to marketing, regardless of whether its for a business or musician. Why do you feel web design is so important?

Ross: Absolutely. Web design is so important as it’s all about creating a professional and consistent image. Ideally, your social profiles should be branded consistently with your website too - strong visual branding can be very powerful. For a musician, a website should be the centre of their online presence.

For example, if you were to search for any big artist, what would you expect to find for them? A website! Not just a Facebook or a Twitter page - you would expect them to have an official branded presence online. In my opinion, a good looking website can set you aside from other artists who may be just as good as you musically who don’t have a website. It shows you’re dedicated and committed to your career, as well as being a valuable promotional tool.

A website should be a place where fans or potential fans can find out more about you and purchase your music. It should make it easy for bookers/promoters to get in touch with you, and it should really represent your music in a visual way. You have a lot more freedom on the types of content and design that you want to showcase than you do on social media.

There are really so many reasons, and I could probably talk about it all day!

Sunny: I definitely agree with what you’ve said, especially the importance of visual consistency with image and branding. The best thing artists / bands can do if they’re keen to take their music seriously, is to treat it like a business & be wholly professional about it!

What are your opinions on social media? Do you think they enhance an artist’s branding & reach or, due to so many different social medias, it distracts from their music and live personas?

Ross: I’m a big advocate of social media - especially Twitter. There are so many possibilities and opportunities out there when you’re connecting and networking with people!

Ideally, an artist’s social media profile branding should be consistent with their overall web presence - so it should reflect their website, artwork etc. I think this makes a big difference to how you are perceived online - if things are consistent and professional, you’re likely to be seen as a more serious and dedicated artist.

When it comes to the actual management side of social media, it can be overwhelming trying to manage so many different profiles. In my opinion, it’s best to choose 2 or 3 platforms to focus on, and do those really well. Find out what works for you, be authentic and do what you’re comfortable with.

I think that for many independent artists, it can be easy to get swallowed up by the day-to-day admin work, including social media and online promotion — just remember that the music should ALWAYS come first, and if you find that your creativity is being hindered by other areas of your business, think about outsourcing some of the admin tasks to others. You can’t - and shouldn’t - have to do it all alone! This is maybe easier for bands as you can delegate certain tasks to members of the band who are better at different things. For a solo artist, it can be more difficult as you don’t already have a team in place. It’s important that you make sure that the music remains the focus; everything else (while still important) is secondary.

Sunny: Very good advice there for musicians and artists alike.

People say that the world is much smaller place now because of the technology we have that can connect us to the other side of the World instantaneously. Have you connected with many potential clients overseas?

Ross: Yes! I would say around half of my clients are based overseas (mostly the US and Canada), and half are here in the UK. The Internet has really made the world a much smaller place, and social networking has made it so much easier to connect with potential clients. Most of my international clients have found me either via Twitter or through word of mouth.

Nowadays I really don’t think that location is as important for building a career within the music industry. Of course it can be beneficial to be in a music centre like London, New York, LA or Nashville, but now with social media and how connected we are, it’s far less important where you are - the focus is much more on what you can offer and bring to the table.

Sunny: So in terms of offering - could you give a breakdown of the services you offer artists & brands?

Ross: My main focus is web design, and that’s accounts for around 70 - 80% of my business. I offer social branding (designing Facebook cover photos / Twitter backgrounds & headers etc), and also design posters, album artwork, flyers etc too. I tend to work far more on digital projects rather than print which probably just goes to show how important the Internet is when it comes to promotion and marketing now.

I also like to try and connect my clients to others that can help them with other aspects of their business. It’s not really a product or service, but it’s something that I think my clients appreciate, and sets me aside from other designers and/or digital agencies. I try and help as much as possible - so I like to think that I’m a little more involved and invested in my clients’ careers than the average designer.

Sunny: And finally, what advice can you give to artists & brands who want to enhance their online branding and look more professional going forward?

Ross: My advice would be; be consistent and make sure that your online platforms are reflective of who you are as an artist or brand. If you’re not a designer, or don’t have a member of the band who is involved in design, don’t try to do it all yourself. If your branding looks poor, people will (perhaps wrongly) assume that your music is, too - and that’s not what you want, especially when there are so many other artists out there. With so many artists around, anything you can do to stand out is going to help you - and having a professional and consistent brand is going to put you ahead of the pack. Then all you have to worry about it writing music as good as your awesome branding ;)
Industry Insight: Ross Barber (Design) - Sunny Stuart Winter


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