March 2015

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Last week I had the pleasure of attending the DotGovDesign Conference in DC.  I’d like to share some of what I learned with you here, to give you a taste of what is going on in local government design.

Creating Motion Graphics & Video Communications – Department of Labor

The first session that I attended was Creating Motion Graphics & Video, presented by the Department of Labor. They showed their video on family leave, as well as some other interesting videos. A favorite highlight in this talk was the animation at the end of the video – where the wings flap slightly to animate the logo. While many people think of government design as restrictive, the Department of Labor staff proved that there is interesting and modern work going on, and that you should seek to constantly challenge the status quo to make each design better than the last.

Design Federal – Jason Schupbach

The next session I attended was the keynote by Jason Schupbach from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). He talked about the history of the NEA, including the many grants they have sponsored to help better the arts. These grants have touched many people, including some of the great designers like Ivan Chermayoff – who produced “The Design Necessity” for the first Federal Design Assembly. Jason mentioned that the NEA funds about 50% of design grants submitted – so start applying and get some funding!

Building Confidence in your Agency’s Leadership for New Designs and Solutions – IDEO

The next session I attended was with IDEO, and was about building confidence in design. They gave us 5 basic principles – design for someone specific, build props, everyone in government is a service designer, make the design process transparent and design for the way decisions are made.

Design for someone specific suggested that the more specific you get, the more broadly applicable your solution will be.

Build props is about making your project easy to imagine. Showing people a prototype or sketch can go a long way in helping you both sort out the wrinkles in your design, as well as get your design approved.  It starts a dialogue.

Everyone in the government is a service designer brought forth the notion that as a designer, we can empower others to see themselves as valuable contributors to the design process.

Design for the way decisions are made was one of the most insightful parts of this talk – it implies that instead of trying to fight the process, we can use it to our advantage to help get our ideas through the decision making process. It seems so obvious, and yet it is something that many people can easily overlook.

Could Design Help End Extreme Poverty? – USAID

After lunch, I attended the talk by USAID on “Could Design End Extreme Poverty?”  Again we saw video design for USAID, which seems to be an extremely effective way to engage people for cause advertising. Many of the work at USAID is done in conjunction with Ogilvy, a well known design firm. The ads were engaging and tugged at the heart strings.

Designing for 1600 Penn – Ashleigh Axios

Designing for 1600 Penn was the talk that I was most looking forward to at the conference. Ashleigh’s talk was full of interesting tidbits and insights.  Some of my favorite quotes and insights were:

Designers are creative problem solvers at heart.

In house designers have a special kind of endurance.

It is a little easier to get things done when the White House has done it before you.

Mistakes will happen. Roll with them.

40% of lower income families only check internet on mobile, so think about how you strip your site down for that screen size. 

Ashleigh showed us an extensive wall plan for the enhanced State of the Union address – with layers upon layers of infographics, the President’s speech and key facts that could be interspersed for viewers.

She also consistently proved that no matter where you work or who you work for, design is design and things happen. From a slide not showing up on the President’s Powerpoint to “handling the crazy,” it seems life at 1600 Penn is not so different from life at our other in house design studios.

Thank you AIGA DC for organizing the DotGovDesign Conference!

layout terms

When you are hiring a designer to work on your ad, flyer, book, etc, it is useful to be aware of some basic printing and layout terms. This will help you communicate easily and clearly, and ensure that you get a better product. Below are some of the common terms that cause confusion for many designers and clients.

Justified Text

Justified text is text that is fully aligned on both sides and spans the whole column.

Flush Left Text

If text is flush left, it means that the text is aligned to the left side, and has a ragged right edge.

Body Copy

Body copy is the main text for the flyer, advertisement, etc. When you are asked to “cut copy” it means that the designer would like you to make the text shorter.

Heading 1

The largest heading or title text on the page. This would be your headline.


The gutter is a term primarily used primarily when working with books that have a spine. The gutter is the center of the book where the two pages meet. Since a book with a spine will not lay flat, you will usually want to leave a larger margin in the gutter to ensure text and images are easy to see and don’t fall into the “gutter.”


Bleed is extending the images, colors, etc slightly past the edge of a design so as to accommodate for shifting when printing. This will ensure that there will be no white edges on your document. A full bleed page has color to the edge.

Crop marks

This is where the printer will cut your document. If you have bleed, it extends beyond these markings.

Safe area

This is a common term when printing with an online printer.  If you see safe area on your template, it means that even if there is a shift when printing, anything within this area should still be safe from being cut off the edge.


Recto is a term for a right hand page.  This is particularly useful when laying out a book where every chapter opener needs to start on the right. A left hand page would be “verso.”

For my designers out there, what other common terms would you recommend your client take note of?


In April, I’m giving a talk about creating simple graphics for your business with Fuel DC.  In the spirit of that, I thought I’d introduce a few things to help you here on the blog.


There are many resources for the entrepreneur who is trying to create simple images for their blog, social media or website.  One of my favorites is Canva.  Canva makes it incredibly easy for you to create graphics for all your business needs by offering you a variety of pre-sized dimensions, including Facebook cover photo, instagram post, etc. From there, you add text and images to create an appealing design.  Canva has a handful of free choices, as well as a variety of designs that cost a very small fee to implement, and is great for someplace with a small budget. Though nothing beats a design eye, Canva is the next best thing to hiring someone to design posts for you. is a great resource for creating charts, infographics, etc to dress up your website or newsletter. You can choose your type of graph, input your numbers and colors, and viola!  A chart that looks so much better than the ones that come out of an excel spreadsheet. For a small fee, you can sign up for a subscription that will allow you to download the graphics as pdfs. For a designer, this means you can bring them into Illustrator as vector art, and manipulate them til your heart’s content.

Font Squirrel

Font Squirrel is a great resource for downloading fonts that are free for commercial use. What I love about Font Squirrel compared to some other font sites is that they take the guess work out of it for you. All of their fonts are licensed for commercial use, which means while it is still advisable to read the licensing agreement, most of them can be used on any of your professional marketing products.


Unsplash is one of my favorite sites for free stock photos. They upload 10 high quality photos every 10 days, and those photos are free for to use for commercial purposes without permission or attribution.  Now, there are a lot of stock photo sites out there, but these are downright beautiful. They may not be a fit for every business, but they are certainly worth a look around.

I hope that we have given you some ideas on how to create simple graphics for your business in a cost effective way.  Happy designing!  For more information and to continue the discussion, join me at Fuel DC in April!

*Note: All sites above are to be used at your own discretion. Stacy Kleber Design is not affiliated with them in any way, and makes no guarantees about the quality of the information or the licensing.