675 Words about Design @ 35,000 Feet

If the words “brand” or “design” interest you…

Well, yeah. But they weren’t words I expected to read in the headline of an ad in an airline magazine while flying across the Atlantic. And not just any ad, but a full-page ad for a small, woman-run, Minneapolis graphic design firm, Tilka Design. Was I dreaming? No. There it was on page 49 of Delta Sky magazine, right between the ad for Karrass Effective Negotiating Seminars and an article about the hottest Las Vegas lodgings.

A few days ago I caught up with Jane Tilka to find out how well the ad worked.

“Designers can really learn from the advertising industry,” advises Tilka, who says her five-person firm, founded in 1983, has been advertising for years in local media such as Twin Cities Business. “Clients expect designers to be compliant, not have an opinion,” she adds. “I know it was bold to do this, but we’ve got to promote our specific talents and services and show how important it is for organizations that want to build their brands to establish long-term, trusting relationships with designers.”

Effectiveness through design integrity and Connect, inform, resonate, motivate are two of the ten subheads in the low-key, all-type ad, which is black and white with a touch of red on a yellow background. “Yellow is just right for us,” Tilka explains. “It’s a color that feels safe yet attracts attention and keeps you on the page.” It’s a long-copy ad—675 words—intended for a captive audience of the 5.3 million passengers who flew Delta Airlines in July. According to Rifka Zacharia, Sky’s northeast advertising sales rep, Delta has the world’s largest in-flight readership and the greatest number of international business passengers. The cost of a full-page ad is $50,700.

Tilka, who acknowledges that her firm got a deal after designing the magazine’s media kit, characterizes the response as excellent: a dozen e-mails from business travelers, two strong leads, and a RFP from a medical services company. She’s working on the proposal now.

“The design community should not shy away from this kind of marketing,” she says. “We’ve got to put the word out there, to inform and educate. And people like magazines. They could watch a movie, sleep … or read our ad in the magazine.”

2 thoughts on “675 Words about Design @ 35,000 Feet

  1. Eric Hanson

    It’s always hard to verbalize the visual, but it’s necessary. I’ve thought a basic understanding of design and the design process could, maybe even ought to be, introduced to kids in school. In nature it’s the best-designed creatures that survive. The human environment is messy by comparison. Good design is efficient in so many ways.

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