Comic Brand-Aid: FOLLOW UP – How Sweet It Is/Madbury

Comic Brand-Aid Follow-Up: How Sweet It Is/Madbury

I first reviewed Scott Jenkin’s ‘How Sweet It’ with our first Brand-Aid article. Earlier this week, Scott made a comment on Twitter “I’ve been in branding hell since @RicktheStick band aided my comic. Still feeling my way around w/ concepts”, I thought it would be a great chance to follow up with him and see if I could help out. I asked Scott to shoot me over some questions he was having problems with – his questions/comments are italicized and bold. I’ll post the entire conversation in a PDF if you’re interested in downloading it (which will appear in Part 2).

Quick rundown – Scott has changed his comic’s name to Madbury and made some site changes, including using a computer font for the logo (as opposed to his freehand for How Sweet It Is). He also mentioned that he changed his color scheme to purple, red and white before asking his first question:

Should I be keeping my color choices to a minimum?

My answer is simple: that depends. Okay, not so simple but keep in mind that in my experience, the best way to design a logo is to start in black and white (without gradients). Why? Because it can help keep your design from getting too complicated. Black and white is its simplest form. Remember that your logo will be used in all different sizes. How would it look on an 88×31 pixel button? If you can reduce it down cleanly in black and white – you have a winner! Adding color is the easy part. I would also add that if you wanted to print out a flyer in black and white – you’ve already got your logo done – and you know it will reproduce well. The color scheme of purple, red and white is not bad – but I think Scott has missed something. Your brand is much more than your logo and banners. If you go to the site, Madbury has many more colors than purple, red and white. I see a lot of green, yellow, blue, gray and brown. In the previous article I thought Scott had a dark look to the site and he’s definitely lightened it up, but I think in exchange, he’s gotten too complicated. Simple doesn’t mean boring. For instance, Scott’s old blog posts used to feature reversed text which is hard to read. He’s changed it to a yellow gradient with red text. In my opinion it doesn’t offer much other than one thing – the blog stood out in the bottom section.

88X31 Banner Before and After (just like the graphic says)!

As a side note, just because I don’t agree with something doesn’t mean it’s wrong, and on the other hand, everything I say isn’t always right (only on very rare occasions). I’ve said on the podcast a few times that the main focus of your site should be your comic. If you find yourself trying to doll up the rest of the site to the point that you’re adding colors and designs and other things to “enhance” the look of the page you’re doing two things: distracting from your comic and taking time away from improving your writing or art. We are in a unique era of comics, where we are able to produce our strips with little cost and a very low barrier to entry. You can get a simple and clean website for free – WordPress/ComicPress is a very powerful tandem – without adding one iota of your own programming and it’s on autopilot right out of the virtual box. Now with regards to comics, the cream will rise to the top. No one is going to visit your comic if it stinks because you have a great site design (and I’m definitely not saying Madbury stinks). Content is king – if you’re looking to do this for a living some day – put the effort into your comic. I’ve been guilty of this as well but I’ve since learned that my comic needs more work than my site – so now I focus primarily on the comic.

Does the color of the font/logo mean as much as having a recognizable font/logo? Family Guy uses yellow, teal or white, Peanuts, red, white or yellow. Their commonality among the varying colors is they always use the same font/logo, so do I need to define logo color, or just logo design?

In a word: YES. For Scott’s new logo for Madbury, he used the font ‘Badaboom‘. It’s a definite improvement and certainly gives him more flexibility. The problem I have with it in this particular instance, is that he uses it on other areas of the site. I’m of the belief that you if you set your logo in a specific font and that’s about all you do with it. It helps it stand out and doesn’t confuse the identity – regardless of size or color. So set your font and set your color(s) – be sure to have a regular version and a reversed version. With reversed versions, make sure there is contrast between not only the colors but light and darkness. In Scott’s current header, I wouldn’t have used the purple he has set up on the green background. They are too close in luminosity and should have much more contrast to really make it pop. For those of you not familiar with this free resource, I recommend using or other color resources to get color schemes with complimentary and contrasting colors sets. Scott informed me he used Kuler and selected the “Tuscan Swatches”.

Site Headers Before And After. CLICK TO ENLARGE!! *If graphic remains enlarged for more than four hours, please see a doctor...

I’ve redesigned the banners for Madbury, making the larger ones carry more info, like a quick tag line and update schedule. Does it carry the elements needed to capture your attention and give a sense of interest to someone viewing it quickly?

In a word: no. While the name is clear – making it easily distinguishable, I recommend using a different font than the same as the logo for ALL other copy on your banner. Not to mention that the ALL-CAPS makes it hard to read and the color is bland. Additionally, in my opinion, I think the tagline needs some work. “Middle-aged Menopausal Madness” may be cute, but it’s not relatable. Personally, reading that tagline, I would think the comic is about middle aged women, when the comic is self-described as about a man (Hodge Madbury) and his wife (Melinda). Finally, there’s also no call to action – nothing to compel me to click on the banner and visit your comic.

Full Size Banners 468x60 (before and after)

Hedging on purchasing since google search for “madbury comic” or typing in the url brings you to the comic anyways. I probably should since is available, eh?

You should buy this ASAP. Even if you don’t use it now (and you should). Nothing has changed here – I still think there is a huge disconnect between your comic and your URL. If your goal is to get only people searching for your comic by name – then you should be fine. But if your goal is to gain new readers – don’t make it hard on them. Don’t make them work to get to your comic. If you go back to the old article, you can get my thoughts on this there.

I have about 100 comics [and] every 10 to 12 comics later showed a change in artistic ability (for better or worse). Before I start thinking about things like, say, books and merchandise of any kind, shouldn’t I lock in a consistent visual continuity with the presentation?

Good question and is specifically touched upon in one of the Webcomic Workshop Podcasts. I would go into the complete analysis of this, but the article is getting long – so I’ll give you a quick shot of my personal opinion – which is that the development of the comic is what adds the charm, I say leave them. You can catch more of my thoughts on this and those of my fellow Webcomic Workshop podcasters here – there are additional points of view in the comment area of that post.

In part 2 (scheduled to post in 2 weeks), I’ll offer Scott SPECIFIC recommendations. I’m taking the gloves off and getting my hands dirty. We’ll offer before and after shots so you can see how it looks.

Ken Drab at the dentist's officeKen Drab (me) has a small brain but a savant-like interest in branding, marketing and design. He better, that’s what he gets paid to do in real life. In make believe – he’s a webcomicker with a mediocre comic but a solid brand. Regardless, this is an ongoing series where we take a look at the concept of branding and how it applies to your comic. We’ll highlight do’s and don’ts as well as look at fixes. We’ll also be taking requests and take a critical but constructive approach to help real comic artists nail down their brand. So if you’re willing to put yourself out there – let me know. Email me directly at rtswebmail [at] gmail [dot] com or click here and add Comic Brand-Aid in the subject line. I’ll contact you if I think I can help you and we can help others by showcasing my recommendations.

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  1. Having talked w/ Rick, this discussion has helped break through a stumbling block for me, which is using banners “effectively” to promote the comic. I’ve always known they were lacking a flair, something that says “hey”, whats this”, but being focused more on quality of content for the comic itself, the bells and whistles have been left by the wayside. Which is why when Rick suggested a follow up to my stumbling block, I was all for it.

    The color scheme for the website I’m more than comfortable with, what I could do to make the logo pop in the header is change that background from the green to the yellow to give the purple that pop it needs. I think what has been lacking is a “personality” for it and thats where defining the branding comes in, so when you look at whats going on, you get that sense of knowing what things are about.

    Rick has also thrown out some themed ideas for Madbury that I think have opened the door to some fun ideas.

    • You can see the power of my brand. I’ve even got Scott whom I’ve had correspondence with over the last few days calling me Rick!

      As long as my wife and kids still call me by my real name, I’m fine. No, no… it’s okay, I’m fine. And no – that’s not a tear, I got something in my eye! 😉


      • Awwe c’mon man, I’ve been calling you Ken in the e-mails… I think, no? I must Have Byron Wilkins syndrome! *old age*

        You do have a good sense for branding KEN, some of the ideas you threw my way were really simple and quick witted.

        • I was half-kidding Scott. I was serious about my brand – I do a lot to blend my comic with myself so it’s a common occurrence.

          Thanks for the compliment – I’m looking forward to what we come up with!

      • Heh! Well, to be fair, KEN… a few weeks after we first met face-to-face at the Baltimore Comic Con two years ago, I ALSO kept referring to you as “Rick”… I think I might have even mentioned you as ‘Rick” in a couple of Lightbox Podcasts before I caught and corrected myself.

        Now, the real question is… WHY?

        My answer? It doesn’t have anything to do with your strip (ok, it doesn’t have THAT much to do with your strip). I just think you look more like a “Rick” instead of a “Ken”. Seriously, what was your mom and dad thinking??? 🙂

        -Chris (who has NEVER been mistaken for a “Roy” or a “Marc”)

        • another reason I’m glad I didn’t name my human characters. (no, I’m am never referred to as “female human”)

          You are SO a Rick, Ken.

          I think that just speaks to how well you brand it.. people remember the logo or the name, at the very least.

  2. I’ve been a designer for twenty…seven (?!!) years. Done everything but “pure” advertising (in an advertising agency.) Done quite a bit of marketing, promotions and publishing. And I’ll say this: Ken know his $h!t. I may not agree with everything he says *to the last decimal point,* but I spend most of my time listening to the podcasts nodding my head in accompaniment to his advice.

  3. Very insightful; lots of good facts that we artists tend to overlook (hey, it’s more fun to draw silly cartoons than to market them). I’m sure Scott’s cartoons will be noticed by the millions soon!

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