Welcome to our first practical look at branding and how it relates to comics. Each article I’ll be selecting a volunteer and taking a critical but honest and constructive look at various components of the comic, it’s site and creative that encompass “the brand”.
I’ll be up front with you, I’m a believer in giving honest criticism as long as it’s constructive – and that’s the goal here. I’m not trying to pick apart the comic, it’s characters or storyline – we’ll just be focusing on the brand. One thing I would like to note – I’m going to refrain from employing much humor in this article because I’m concerned that the line between having fun and making fun is too thin to play with in this format – I don’t possess the level of talent and tact with my writing to pull it off. If you’d like a little more description of what’s going on here – check out the first article that describes the agenda.
Things I’ll look at and make recommendations would be in the realm of: Logo (name/design), Site (design/usability), Banners (design/congruency/probabilities) and finally Brand Recognition (differentials/memorables). That’s a lot to chew on so let’s get started!
Our first volunteer is Scott “Jynksie” Jenkins of ‘How Sweet It Is’. Scott describes the comic “as a fictional comic featuring Hodge as a 40 something year old syndicated newspaper columnist, his wife, friend and a couple of lesbians (because they are all the rage these days)”
The site is titled ‘How Sweet It Is – Turning 40 and Feeling It’.
Pros: Great name, using a well known ‘simile’ is great because you don’t have to introduce it. It’s familiar, and in this instance – it’s positive.
Cons: I’m going to pick on one thing: the logo design. It’s very hard to incorporate hand-drawn lettering that isn’t professionally done. I’m not saying it’s impossible, but there are a ton of factors that go into building fonts as far as kerning and legibility and it’s hard to pull off. In this case I have a problem with the legibility, which is well illustrated on the banner page of the site – look at the smaller banners. While I’m a HUGE, HUGE, HUGE fan of Orange and Blue (GO GATORS!), I caution use of polar colors in close proximity to one another which can cause the reader’s eyes to reverberate – it’s more of a danger with red and blue, but I’m just making a point. You want them reading and clicking around – not having seizures! Regardless, I would strengthen the borders of the lettering and make sure the smaller type is legible. Remember, not everyone’s monitor resolution is set to the same as yours – what may be huge on your screen may be tiny on someone else’s. Reverse type is harder to read so if you’re using a dark background, make sure your type is thicker. Vertical type is not natural to most western cultures so it’s harder to read. As a general rule, if you’re slowing down the process of absorbing and comprehending your brand, you’re doing it wrong.
As a general rule, if you’re slowing down the process of absorbing and comprehending your brand, you’re doing it wrong.
Pros: Tweeked out WordPress/ComicPress combo – nice! The site is clean without a lot of clutter. Unobtrusive functionality adds to the user’s experience. It’s not hard to find things and it’s easy to move around. I like the clever use of Sweet as a double entendre in conjunction with navigational links for the banners and gallery. The comic is front and center and navigation is clear and concise. Blue is a great color to build on the foundation of your site, just be careful not to over do it.
Cons: I don’t get the bubbles. They’re everywhere and I don’t understand why. If it’s a design element, it’s a distraction. I mentioned reverse type in regards to the logo and it’s even more of a problem with body copy in blog posts and comments. I can see someone getting worn out pretty quickly looking at the light blue background in the blogposts. Overall the colors lead to a dark site. The idea is to keep people on your site viewing your archives, commenting and ultimately buying your stuff – I tend to bounce much quicker on sites that are hard on my eyes. The header typically found on the site features images that are blurry and the theme is disjointed. The header is a perfect place to feature a quick description of your site and when you publish. Scott nails the latter.
Pros: Scott generally uses the banners for sharing with other webcomickers and he has five banners in landscape mode.
Cons: As I mentioned the smaller banners make legibility difficult and the colors need separation. I can’t make out the characters in the smaller banners so I’d lose them. There’s extra space on the 468×60 on both sides which looks like the 234×60 just expanded and bubbles added. In this particular banner, these are two great areas for your comic description and a call to action! One thing to remember is the context of where your placing your banners. In Project Wonderful, you’re bidding on specific placement – with banner exchanges you don’t particularly have a say where they’ll end up – and you want yours to stand out – to be the one that draws that click. The click is why you’re building, placing and exchanging these banners. You can’t be in it just for branding. You need to get a return on your investment (ROI). There is a lot of opportunity in these banners. Scott might want to look up Dr. Banner – the banner doctor. 🙂
Brand Recognition (differentials/memorables):
Pros: In my opinion the name is the strength of the brand since it’s easy to remember and doesn’t lock the artist into a specific genre. The logo doesn’t stand out and the overall site layout while clean and organized, doesn’t offer innovative or dynamic features. The comic itself is growing artistically and stylistically, but not enough to carry a successful brand.
Cons: There is a HUGE disconnect with the comic and the URL (web address). I had to google the title of the comic several times and messed up the spelling of jynksiecomics – I couldn’t remember the spelling of jynksie and the comics part being plural. One thing to strive for is brand consistency. Everything you develop should revolve around your brand. For instance, Rick the Stick can be found at rickthestick.com. Howsweetitiscomic.com is more memorable than the current URL. If you can’t land the exact title of your comic – think of ways to make it easier. Let’s say howsweetitis.com is taken – is sweetcomic.com available? sweetestcomic.com, howsweetthecomic.com, etc. You can also use hyphens. It’s not a perfect plan though because you have to be careful about type-o’s and the longer the URL the more likely someone will mistype the entry.
In conclusion, Scott has a lot to work on with his brand. I hope I didn’t come across too critical, but personally, I’d rather have someone tell me their honest thoughts so I could improve my product. I also hope this helps a lot more people with improving their brand. Did I come down too hard on ‘How Sweet It Is’? Tell me your thoughts – comment below!
Next up is Antoine Gagnon’s ‘The Drunken Fools’!
Ken 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.