Saturday, June 19, 2010

Branding: Does My Logo Work?

This is a question most business owners should ask themselves. Unless it's something point-blank like Joe's Hardware Store, your business name and logo may mean something entirely different to someone else. If it's at least relevant you might not think twice about it.

Does my logo work?

Recently I had a sit-down interviews with a couple of business mentors, and they both agreed I should consider changing my company name and logo entirely. Why? Sight unseen, they had not met me yet nor seen my business card, and their first impression of my company was that of an optometry business.

I had to stop and think for a moment. Optometry? How did they come to that conclusion? The only thing I could think of was they had focused on the middle word in my company name instead of taking in the entire name. There's no right or wrong in that type of assumption, but it was interesting, and honestly, a little frightening to hear.

Does my logo work?

It started me wondering if everyone else held a similar viewpoint. After consulting a few friends outside my profession, I concluded:

1. People sometimes perceive names of companies and their logos differently from the actual business owner's viewpoint;

2. The only way to change this perception is to continually educate people what my company is all about.

The reason the mentors asked me to consider changing my business name and logo is because they felt it would take a lot more marketing than had been done up to this point. But would it be better to undergo a complete name, a complete identity change and re-educate the public about my company?

Does my logo work?

I'm going to find out. Stay tuned.


Friday, June 18, 2010

Document Design 101: Image Manipulation No-No

I just read this article, and quite honestly, the stoopidity (yes, I mispelled this on purpose) absolutely amazes me. Just when I thought I had seen everything in my industry, I read this article about a magazine called Outside taking extreme liberty with Lance Armstrong and photoshopping text onto his T-shirt. Here's the article link:|aim|dl9|link3|

The stoopid part comes into play when the magazine's editors try to defend their actions: "'s not Armstrong's real T-shirt." ... "...[magazine] doesn't typically consult cover subjects on all editorial decisions..."

This is the worst case of non-professionalism I have seen in my twelve years as a graphic artist. Granted, editors have the final say in how their magazine is represented, what articles to showcase, and final editorial edits/changes. That is a far cry from actually photoshopping something that isn't there onto someone's shirt and not telling them. I can see maybe doing this as a school project, but in this situation, Mr. Armstrong should have been asked for and [magazine] should have obtained his written permission first. It is not okay just because "it's not his shirt"; it is not okay because they deliberately TAMPERED with Mr. Armstrong's BRANDED IMAGE, period.

In a day and age when print advertising is suffering enough damage, there is now a rouge magazine basically giving viewers and potential models the impression, "hey, thanks for your advertisement / thanks for posing for our cover, but we've decided to change it up a bit and we can do that because we can. Thanks for playing our game!" Definitely NOT professional, and not a magazine I would recommend anyone paying any attention to now and in future issues.


OP-ED, Lisa Raymond, Deseyner's Eye Creations.

Document Design 101: Text Boxes

Designing a document for print sounds pretty easy: you put some text together on a page, add a photo or some clipart, slip in a small call-out box and - whammo! Instant document design.

It can be this easy, but there's a few simple steps to remember. I'll explore these over the next couple of days. Today I'm going to talk about that call-out box in my example.

A call-out box is nothing more than a box shaded 20% with black text. Sometimes it is designed with a dark background and white text. The basic function is to call attention to specific information. A good example of this are the little boxes newspapers sometimes use when describing a new movie review: the box may contain information about the name of the movie, rating given by the movie industry, main cast of characters and a short synopsis. This information is treated in this manner so the viewer can easily find it. The call-out box can also be a light-shaded box following the long margin of a document with text inside. The size of the box doesn't matter, but the visual appeal does.

In order to make this box visually effective, you have to leave some space between the edgs of the box and the edges of the text box. This can be done by either by increasing the paragraph margins by one-eighth of an inch on all four sides, or by adding some inset spacing to the text box on all four sides. The number isn't hard and fast; you can add or subtract space to make it visually appealing, but do add some space. If the text butts up against the sides of the call-out box, the viewer's eyes tend to stop reading. Adding space allows for continuity and flow, and helps the text look great in print.


Thursday, June 17, 2010

What's Your Social Media Plan?

When I first started my journey with social media, I really wasn't sure how I wanted to use it and what I wanted to do with it. The more I actually interacted with people, I saw a value in following experts in my industry to gain insight from their knowledge and experience. I watched who they interacted with, and I saw value from reading their posts and questions. From all this I have a short marketing plan (finally!): to use the social media to increase my knowledge while educating the viewers about my company.

Sounds simple? It's not, really. Using social media is not much different from face-to-face networking or client interaction> The only key element missing is the physical human interaction; meaning, being able to see the person's reaction to your elevator speech, the head nods of comprehension, and even a dog-lopped head turn of "huh?" when they're not exactly following the same logic.

This may turn into a series of explorations, but for now I'll ask a question: when you started your journey in social media, did you develop your marketing plan before or after you began using SM? Please feel free to type a quick note - I look forward to learning from you!


Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Reverse Your Serifs

A reverse use of type is a white or light-colored typeface against either a black or dark-colored background. Typically I don't use a serif typeface in reverse unless it's very bold and doesn't have a lot of thin parts to it. It may be just a personal preference of mine, but what I've noticed in my experience is typefaces like Times New Roman and Bodoni have very thin parts to their style. This makes it very difficult to use in reverse because the thin parts tend to become "swallowed" by the background, making them harder to see, therefore harder to read.

If you really have to use that serif typeface in reverse, try to use a typeface that, when used bold, still has a good thickness in the serifs and connecting points. Some of the serif typefaces I would recommend using are: Gloucester MT Extra Condensed, Bernard MT Condensed, Bodoni MT Black, Cooper Black, and Rockwell Extra Bold. You may be able to find these for a free download; if not, they can usually be found on for a reasonable price.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Prospecting On Craig's List?

I've seen a number of posts coming from oDesk, eFreelancer, Craig's List, etc., all looking for similarly creative people. It made me stop and wonder how effective this might be for prospecting.

Most sites like these are looking for the cheapest price to get the work done. From the posts I read, I can see why a number of new freelancers would get the impression graphic design can be done cheaply - the audience asking for the work expects the design done cheaply, but not looking cheaply. Tall order.

If you decide to prospect these clients, go into this realizing that you're being shopped, and if you're not on the cheap side you'll likely not end up with the job. In most cases this is a good thing, since this can be a sign of a client that will need a LOT of hand-holding, have a lot of revisions, or not pay your invoice. Just as they are careful with their shopping, be very careful prospecting this way. Try to read a little between the lines, if you can. If you have any doubts, see if you can send them a question or two. Bottom line: this type of relationship can be difficult to maintain because of preconceived ideas on both sides. Take the leadership/teacher role and communicate what you understand - both you and the potential client will have a clearer picture, hopefully harmoniously.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Now You See It...Or Do You?

When creating a design, be it for print or web, it's natural to try and fit an entire image so viewers don't miss a beat. Same goes for text when used as an image. You don't want people guessing at what you mean, so you show the entire image, maybe as a watermark. It's done tastefully, so why doesn't it work?

Sometimes good design calls for part of the image to remain hidden. It's okay when someone has to stop and stare, trying to put the pieces together. In the case of a word, the mind will usually auto-finish the word, so nothing is left behind. Take a photo of a house and a flyer. You can advertise the entire house and list your text beneath, or you can watermark the house and lay text over the top. You also can have the photo fill about 2/3 of the space on top, and list your text to the blank side. It's true that part of the house will be hidden, but depending on what is being advertised, it's either the main thought or a graphic element. The difference is the intent.

What's Your Passion?

I had a coffee meeting with a new friend/colleague today. Just sitting across from him, his passion for his work permeated the bakery. It was definitely catching and hard to watch him try and contain himself (which, by the way, he did miserably!). All the way back to my office, after tucking my boys in bed, I found my thoughts wandering back to his enthusiasm, logically trying to figure out how he stayed so motivated.

It comes back to doing what you love, which is evident of my new friend. He found his peace, so to speak, and in doing so discovered what he really loved doing best! Think about it: how would it feel to wake up every day and know, absolutely KNOW you are right where you WANT to be, not where you need to be, and loving that place!

I'm living my passion - I love design! I've been a designer since 1998 and I still enjoy how each project is as different as its client, how each day comes and I can learn a new process to apply to your project that solves your problem. I'm still learning, but I like to think I don't just make things look nicer; I solve a visual communication problem.

I'd like to hear from you what your passion really is, and are you living that passion or just doing what you're good at? If you're not living your passion yet, why not?

Sunday, June 13, 2010

What's In A Printed Ad?

You've decided to buy a newspaper or magazine ad to help advertise your business. You probably know the size of the ad, but do you know whether or not the newspaper or magazine will allow you to submit your own advertisement, or is designing the ad part of the ad purchase agreement? If you can submit your own ad, do you know what resolution is required? Do you know if the newspaper or magazine prefers a certain file format, and what that format is or how to create it? Do you know if you can submit an RGB (three-color) photo and still run the ad? If not, can your designer convert the photo from RGB to CMYK (four-color) without forgetting to adjust the black level? Does the newspaper or magazine have the fonts you want to use? Can you make a .pdf that will embed your fonts? Does the newspaper or magazine prefer you submit the ad through e-mail or FTP?

Your contact at the newspaper or magazine will have these answers, and hopefully I've asked some questions you haven't thought of. A professional graphic designer or production designer will either know these answers or know who to contact to get them. Also, by working directly with the designer, you ensure the ad will look exactly the way you want and begin a professional relationship that will help keep you looking great in print.

Primary Colors, But Are They Right?

It's not real secret that color ads attract more attention than black and white ads. The secret, however, is in how you use that color to your advantage.

We've all seen political ads with orange text on green backgrounds, or red and blue. What most people do see is what I wish their ad designers saw: visual distortion. Visual distortion occurs when two colors are placed one on top of the other and hurts the viewer's eyes to look at it. I used political ads as my example because they are, in some cases, excellent examples of what not to do. If you decide to use blue text on top of a red background, or vice-versa, you'll need to put some space in between the colors. One way to do this is putting a white outline around the text. Another way is to "box off" the text into a white box, which will also draw attention to those words (like a call to action). Sometimes changing the hue of the colors will work, but some color hues don't like to play nicely, so use this option with great care. Remember: if it hurts your eyes, your viewer's eyes won't like it, either.

How do you spell "write"?

Have you ever created a print job for a client, sent it to your print shop, then picked it up only to have the client find a typo? Unfortunately, this senario happens more often than you might think. About three months ago I was perusing my favorite magazine when I came across an advertisement for a new online company; the ad looked great – except for two glaring typos. Earlier this spring I was visiting the vendor booths at our local Womens Expo, and an advertisement at a landscaper’s booth had a large typo – unfortunately after over 10K copies had been printed.

Always have another pair of eyes look your work over, preferably someone that is outside your company. You should still use the spell-checker option, but don't trust the program or your own eyes to see everything. Having another pair of eyes unfamiliar with your work can save you time, money, and embarrassment.