Roberts Design Company

Roberts Design is Now Thunderstruck Design

Posted on: October 1st, 2013  |  

Thunderstruck logo

Well, it’s finally official!  As of October 1, 2013, Roberts Design Company, Inc. is now Thunderstruck Design. After many, many months of preparation, we are excited to make this announcement. We hope you’ll share in the excitement too. You’ll begin seeing our new brand immediately… so be on the look out.

So why the name change? The new name, Thunderstruck Design, reflects a repositioning of the company that will provide a platform to incorporate new services to offer our clients. It will provide a launchpad for growth and expansion to better serve those who come to us for help with their marketing.

Roberts Design Company was built upon a strong foundation of graphic design excellence and personalized service.  Our focus and strengths are in branding, print and advertising and we have created many exciting and unique campaigns for businesses in these areas.  Continuing that legacy as we move forward as Thunderstruck, we will incorporate an enhanced focus on digital marketing, website design, social media development and management and consultation services. And I am sure the new name will create a buzz in the graphic design community providing us access to an ever widened pool of creative talent.

So what’s with the name Thunderstruck Design? Am I some sort of rabid AC/DC fan? No, not at all. I just liked the name. I actually acquired the domain years ago. The word ‘Thunderstruck’ represents how often times ideas seem to strike out of the blue. I have always been fascinated by weather and weather phenomenon, so it seems fitting to me. Additionally, I think it lays a great foundation to build a vibrant and creative culture for our team members. Plus, it’s memorable and rolls off the tongue easily and just plain cool!

Our new logo depicts a ‘cloud and lightning bolt’ symbolizing the meaning described above. Along with the new mark, we have adopted a simple tagline for this repositioning – “Communicate Loudly”.  “It is always been my belief that a simple and well developed message is the best way for a business to effectively reach its customers. Our tagline says that loud and clear.

We are also pleased to announce that we have recently moved into our new office space on the 7th floor of the Huntington Tower. The additional 485 sq. ft. offers a more conducive environment and creative atmosphere… not to mention a little more leg room. It also provides a wonderful view of Champaign and Campustown. Stop by and visit when you’re in the downtown area, we’ll be happy to show you around.

With all the changes, your probably wondering are there any more? Yes and no. For instance, the phone numbers remain the same, both the office and fax lines. However, our emails have changed. To reach any staff member just type their first name followed by and you’ll be connected at the touch of the return key. And there is yet one more change… we have added Michael Vincent to the creative team. Learn more about him on our new website at When you have a moment… check it out.


I know I speak for my entire staff when I say that we are very excited about our new brand, our future and our continued service to our clients. We appreciate the opportunity to be a small, but effective part of helping companies like yours grow, thrive and become successful. We look forward to continuing that legacy as Thunderstruck Design.

Rod Roberts is creative director and president of Thunderstruck Design (formerly Roberts Design Company), a premier graphic design and marketing firm based in Champaign, Illinois.

©2013 Roberts Design Company, Inc., DBA Thunderstruck Design


Post-Recession Trends in the Design Business

Posted on: August 18th, 2013  |  

People working in office, elevated view

Here’s a news flash, the Great Recession is over. However, the effects still linger. It’s a different world now and the fallout continues to trickle down.

There are some positives that came from this event, providing your company survived it, and that’s the fact that it opened our eyes to how high off the hog we were living. It was a stark comparison to what it is today… and this in my opinion is a good thing. We have learned to scale back and do more with less. It tests the imagination.

This is precisely the trend taking place in the graphic design and marketing industry now. Clients that came through the recession learned this very fact, how to do more with less, pulling a lot of design work in-house to save money. This dramatically impacts studios who counted on this ‘guaranteed’ continual work to flow through their company. It’s not just there anymore or coming in a drips and dabs.

The problem with this trend is the work being produced can be unimaginative and bland. Not to say that this is the case with all corporate in-house departments. In fact, I have seen some very good work come from in-house designers. Award winning stuff.

Instead, I am referring to those companies that do not have a designated in-house department per se. In these cases, the design is being done by the marketing director, sales manager, or worse, an administrative assistant with little or no graphics training. The result is poor work, poor brand image and poor communications. This could easily devastate a brand making it difficult to shed the negative impact that it may incur.

The benefit of hiring an outside firm provides the ability to look at the marketing problem from a complete unbiased and objective point-of-view providing the client a more viable solution. Graphic design studios can offer up fresh ideas and approaches that maintain brand equity and enhance brand image which leads to future success and increase sales. Think of design companies as your personal marketing consultant and then weigh the value of the company against the cost of the ‘do-it-yourself’ approach that may damage and tarnish the corporate image, all for the sake of saving a few bucks. Is it worth it?

However, pulling things back in-house is now a fact of life. The challenge to design firms today is to prove how they can increase value to the client’s bottom line. An uphill battle, but one that must be fought if we are to survive in these post recession times.

The second trend identified is an increase in competition from freelancers. Where a design firm was bidding against other design firms, now we see that design companies competing head-to-head with freelancers who have very little, or no overhead.

Being a former freelancer myself, I’m not knocking freelancers here. We all need to make a living. I’m just identifying a trend in the marketplace. If any finger pointing must be done, this trend is being spurred on by the results of the recession and clients who are looking at freelancers as an option to save money and cut expenses.

Although freelancers can bring much to the table at a substantially reduced rate, many do not have all the resources that a full-fledge design studio would have at its beckon call. When clients opt to use a freelancer rather than spend money on a design studio, they are often short changing themselves.

Both these trends are real and impacting the design business locally, nationally, and across the globe. How we deal with them today will ensure how successful or unsuccessful we will be tomorrow.

Rod Roberts is the president and creative director of Roberts Design Company, Inc. a graphic design and marketing firm based in Champaign, Illinois.

©2013 Roberts Design Company, Inc.

10 Things a Design Firm Will Want to Know Before Starting a Project

Posted on: June 11th, 2013  |  

When hiring a design company or graphic designer to work on a specific project or campaign, many details need to be brought to light before beginning. Fortunately, a good design firm or designer will know what to ask to help make the process easier for the client.

Typically, we question clients to get a good understanding of the project, define the objectives and what results are expected. Following is a list of 10 things designers might ask at a preliminary meeting.

1) What is your primary business? This is a fairly general statement, however, it’s actually helpful to have the client verbally describe who they are and what they sell. After all, who knows more about your company than you?

2) Please summarize the project. Often times, the client comes to us with a single project… with specific objectives. Here is where you can describe what it is you are wanting to accomplish in grand detail.

3) What are your major goals for this project? In other words… what type of results are you wanting to obtain? These should be clear. For example, you want to increase your email mailing list by 10%. Or, you want to increase sales by $100K. Be specific… it sets the stage for molding the creative.

4) Is this a redesign of a project or something brand new? If it is a redesign of an existing project, an evaluation of its prior success should be reviewed to discover what worked and what didn’t. The redesign parameters will be defined by the results of this evaluation.

If the project is a new one, we’ll refer back to the project summary to develop the creative.

5) Who is the audience? Basically, who are you trying to reach with your message? The answer to this question will be determined by several factors: a) market research b) objectives and c) target demographics.

6) Who will be working on this project from your end? It’s best to have a single “point person” within your organization who has the authority to approve design and creative. Design by committee tends to water-down the initial creative solution hindering the results. Having a ‘key’ person delegating responsibilities makes the whole process run smoother.

7) What is the motivation for doing this project now? The answer may resemble the project summary, however, this question tends to bring out a more detailed answer, such as a competitor has introduced a new product, loss of marketshare, or a new service is being offered.

8) How will success be measured for this project? When it comes to your expectations, it’s good to know what is anticipated as a successful result. It provides a precise target to aim for.

9) When do you want to have this project completed? This may be one of the most important question of all. A follow-up to this question may be “What is the motivation for this target date?.” Designers are deadline driven, at least at Roberts Design we are, so the answer plays a crucial part of whether or not a designer can take on this project. Depending on the scope and parameters, there must be enough time allowed for the creative to be developed and the production to be completed. The worst thing that could happen is the job is rushed through without enough research and development. This could effect the anticipated results.

Don’t get me wrong… there are those rush projects that must get pushed through no matter what. It’s a fact of life in this business. Time is how we measure and sell our expertise, so we want to make sure our clients get their money’s worth.

10) What is the budget for this project? This is usually the tough one to get an answer… In most cases, the client has a figure in mind, however, for whatever reason, is reluctant to share it with the design firm for fear that they will create a campaign or project around that figure. That is not necessarily the case. A good designer will use this as a ceiling figure and then go to work trying to figure out how to get the desired results the best way possible. The misconception is that designers won’t look for a cheaper alternative when they know how much they have to work with. While 9 times out of 10, the reverse is actually true.

However, some clients have a budget and do provide that information and are willing to spend up to that amount. Often though, these budgets are not big enough to cover the full scope of the project. And it is up to the designer to inform and educate the client about what it will actually take to bring the project to fruition.

After all the questions… the design firm will write a creative brief that encapsulates the answers provided by the client. This document is then shared with everyone involved with the project and sets the tone, scope of work and project parameters to achieve the desired results.

Rod Roberts is the President and Creative Director of Roberts Design Company, Inc., a graphic design and marketing firm located in Champaign, Illinois.

©2013 Roberts Design Company, Inc.

What’s Your Design Strategy?

Posted on: March 11th, 2013  |  

When beginning your next marketing project, do you ever think of the “design strategy?” This is an industry term among graphic designers usually spoken when we first begin the process of gathering information about a specific project or campaign.

When we speak of a strategy, it refers to putting together a plan to achieve an objective or goal. This strategy can help differentiate our clients from their competition.

So what is design strategy? Design strategy refers to an integrated planning process that examines the relationships between how design and business may complement one another. Simply put, the goal is to merge the business objective with creative solutions that moves beyond just aesthetics. It could be described as inventing a language to express your client’s philosophy, products or services more clearly.

In a recent article in HOW magazine, design strategy is described as the process of learning and discovery; acquiring a deep understanding of the client’s industry, competitors, goals and opportunities that allow designers to formulate an executable strategy. The target is to determine what is appropriate, obtainable and makes sense. Start by asking yourself… what are we trying to accomplish?

Don’t confuse design strategy with a creative brief. Design strategy is how we recommend approaching a project while a creative brief frames the goals and objectives. Both are important.

So what components go into a design strategy? Below is a list from the HOW article written by Terry Lee Stone.
Any design strategy should address the following:
• Existing problems and ongoing challenges
• Current benefits and successes to be leveraged
• Unmet client/customer needs
• Changing client/customer behaviors and attitudes
• Emerging ideas and trends
• Opportunities to differentiate

Some of the steps to take for performing a design strategy include:
1) REVIEW – What are the design’s measurable goals and objectives?
2) SCAN – What internal and external factors impact the design?
3) FORM – How will the design work to meet these challenges and opportunities?
4) IMPLEMENT – What exactly will we do? Who exactly will do it? How will it be done?
5) EVALUATE – How well does the design achieve its goals and objectives?
6) MAINTAIN – Do we need adjustments or do we keep the design as it is?

A design strategy affects every aspect from advertising & promotions to employees to product design and encompass all media.

A good and effective strategy is simple and understandable, even when the objective is not. Successful design strategy is communicated in easy to comprehend terms that the intended audience will understand. You’ll want to use all the tools at your disposal to get the strategic value across.

So that brings us to the final question… will a design strategy result in a better creative solution? The answer, if the design process is well thought out and executed, then it will become obvious on whether or not the strategy was a success. As designers, our objective is clear, we need to absorb all the information at hand from our clients, have a complete understanding of the objective and goal and be able to bridge the gap between creative solution thinking and the intended purpose of the business strategy. The result: a better and custom defined design that communicates a clear message to the specific audience we want to reach.

Rod Roberts is the president and creative director of Roberts Design Company, a graphic design and marketing firm in Champaign, Illinois.