Features | January 21, 2020
Design Bridges the Gap
In PS Magazine’s 2019 rankings of top distributors, Boise, Idaho-based SOLV was among the PSDA member companies with the highest 2018 fiscal year sales. It also ranked eighth among sellers of forms and other “traditional products,” such as receipt books, invoices and purchase orders. Since 1975, it has supplied forms to companies in myriad markets, and that remains a big part of its business.
Today, however, SOLV is a comprehensive managed services provider, boasting a wide range of offerings to meet customers’ unique and diverse needs.
Direct mail pieces? Check.
Document management and forms processing? Of course.
Office supplies and promotional items? Yep.
Sophisticated, multiplatform marketing campaigns? Absolutely.
Essential to delivering SOLV’s many high-impact solutions are its graphic designers, which President and CEO Tressa McLaughlin lauds for helping its customers save time and money while ensuring brand quality and consistency across print and digital products. That requires expertise beyond logo design.
“A lot of marketing firms can create a nice logo,” she says. “But then a customer comes to us that doesn’t understand that a logo designed elsewhere won’t look great on the many different print substrates we offer. We have to modify it, which can increase costs and upset customers. We can create a logo for multiple uses, from full-color commercial printing to apparel to promo. We’re always thinking about that, and our designers know how to do it.”
At SOLV, designers have a proverbial “seat at the table” in meetings with customers, which enables them to ask critical questions and make the right design decisions for them.
Tracy Lay, a graphic designer at SOLV for 14 years, says it all starts with listening to customers and learning what they want to achieve. Among Lay’s key queries: What’s your objective? What are your goals? What are you trying to communicate in your branding? How is this going to help you?
“Design is the bridge between what they’re thinking and what they’re doing to get their message to the people who need it,” Lay says of SOLV’s customers and their design needs. “Nobody is going to read a bunch of words on a page. But if the goal is to get a point across, to convey a mood, customers need more than something that just looks pretty in print.”
In turn, great design is more about efficacy than outside-the-box creativity.
“Clarity beats cleverness every single time,” Lay says. “If you’re trying to be cute or clever, that stays on the surface. It doesn’t necessarily communicate what you’re needing it to.”
Lay can cite many examples in her career when this philosophy this drove her design recommendations and, ultimately, SOLV customers’ success in print marketing and beyond.
“We recently had a logo design request come in, and the customer had some ideas about what they wanted it to look like,” Lay recalls from their first meeting. However, after learning what they wanted to accomplish through the design, she was able to “dig a little deeper” and come up with an approach that was more effective in “delivering the feeling they were after.”
“We ended up going in another direction, and they loved it,” she adds. “They came in with ideas but ultimately trusted us in pitching something that would deliver what they needed.”
Another example: For a customer appreciation gift box that SOLV created for a client, the company’s entire design and in-house print team collaborated on a letter insert, developing a unique design with a creative cut-out that allowed a coffee mug to “pop through” in the box. The project won a PSDA Print Excellence and Knowledge (PEAK) Award in 2018. Read about it here.
McLaughlin, who has been with the organization for 29 years, believes strongly in having designers on staff instead of outsourcing such work because they help SOLV build and sustain their customers’ trust.
“Having an ongoing relationship from concept to final creates a lot of trust with customers,” she says. “It allows us to help them in ways others can’t. Sometimes it takes a big leap of faith to put ourselves out there, and we want to do a great job for them.”
McLaughlin says another key consideration in offering graphic design services is scalability. And, no matter a job’s size or scope, having graphic designers on SOLV’s staff streamlines the process and puts their valuable expertise to work.
“If we have an electrician starting out who doesn’t need a big marketing plan, we can start small and grow with you,’ McLaughlin says. “But if you’re someone doing a complete rebrand, we can do those bigger jobs, too. Because we have this ability, we can be as small or as large as you need to us to be.”
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