For those who missed it, I spent one night last week with Fuel DC teaching small business owners tips to create simple images for their websites and social media. If you aren’t familiar with Fuel DC, they run a few events a year in order to help entrepreneurs learn skills that will assist them in running their business.
While having a designer create custom graphics for you every day would be an ideal scenario, as small business owners, we all know that this would be neither cost effective nor realistic for someone who is either starting out, or is a single person business. That is why we need to find simple, fast and lucrative ways to promote on a budget.
I covered some of the websites that I shared in my blog post earlier in March as a teaser for the event. This week I’ll recap some of the tips that I gave on designing your images for maximum effectiveness.
Keep your fonts simple, and stay away from cliches like Comic Sans. Script fonts are ok, but be wary of using them on images that will be used small, such as photos you are inserting into tweets. Script can get hard to read at small sizes.
A color wheel is a great cheat sheet for choosing colors. Do not overlay colors on opposite side of the color wheel, or they will appear to “vibrate” to the eye (for example you wouldn’t overlay yellow text over purple, or bright red text over bright green). Stick with dark on light, and light on dark for maximum contrast.
Overlaying Text on Images
When you want to overlay text on an image, choose something that is either blurred out so that the text won’t compete, or an image with a large blank area such as a sky or a grassy field, where the text will be easily visible.
Keep your message short and simple. People skim their social media, and if they don’t get the message within a few seconds, the opportunity to hook them in is lost.
Even with all the options out there for creating images, be true to your brand. People build a relationship and come to expect a certain image from you as a business. If you start giving them conflicting messages, and images that don’t fit your brand, you will begin to build a level of distrust with the customer.
I have worked with international companies for a number of years now, and very often we end up printing designs in locations other than the US, so I thought I’d give a quick recap on US versus international paper sizes.
In the US, you are probably familiar with our standard sizes – letter, legal and tabloid being the most common.
Letter – 8.5″x11″
Legal – 8.5″x14″
Tabloid – 11″x17″
Also common are 3″x5″ and 5″x7″.
Internationally, it is much more common to use A sizes. The interesting thing about A sizes are that each size is a sheet folded in half. So A2 is half A1, A3 is half A2 and so on. As the number gets larger, the size of the page gets smaller. Most of the time these sizes are listed in millimeters, but for the US audience, I have put them here in inches for easy comparison.
A1 – 23.4″x33.1″
A2 – 16.5″x23.4″
A3 – 11.7″x16.5″
A4 – 8.3″x11.7″
A5 – 5.8″x8.3″
A4 is the closest to US letter. It is a little taller and thinner than letter. A2 would be closest to US tabloid.
There are additional A sizes, but I think this should give you a pretty clear picture of how it works. There is also a B and C series, but I won’t get in to those here.
Have you ever printed internationally? What is your biggest challenge?
Almost every designer will provide you Pantone or PMS colors with your logo – but what are these? And why and how should you use them?
What is it?
Pantone colors are a way of creating a standard color match. Designers and studios will buy Pantone books, which look like paint swatches – each color with a specific corresponding number. This number can be given to a printer, with a guarantee that when printed in spot color, you will get an exact match in your printing.
Each color has a specific formula that the printer will mix. With Pantone, there are colors such as neons or metallics that will only come out that way by using Pantone rather than CMYK. This is because of the inks used as the base.
Most commonly used books
The most commonly used set of swatches is Pantone Solid Coated – solid colors set for coated paper. These are denoted by a number, followed by C. You may also see U or uncoated.
When would you not use it?
There are times when you simply can’t use a PMS or spot color. This includes times when you need to print photographic images, as the images are made up of CMYK inks. In this case, it is helpful to provide the printer with the PMS number for your brand and let them know that the logo or background should closely match that color.
When would you use it?
You might want to use your PMS color for letterhead or business cards – products that only have one or two colors. While this may sound limiting, Pantone also allows you to use percentages of these colors in 1 or 2 color printing. This means you can get a range of depth with very few colors. You would also want to use spot color for thermography, or raised, printing. Sometimes, using only 1 color can also be a money saver. It really depends on the job.
Other interesting facts
Pantone was originally for printing only, but has moved in to all sorts of different areas such as home and fashion, weddings and Pantone Universe accessories. We even look forward to their color of the year every January to give us an idea of what is trending in the year ahead.
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!
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 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 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.
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.
This is where the printer will cut your document. If you have bleed, it extends beyond these markings.
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?
We all feel it sometimes – that sense of dread when we realize that we have creative block, and the ideas just aren’t flowing. What can you do when this happens to you? Here are my top 5 ways to boost creativity.
Tip 1: Travel
It doesn’t have to be far, and it doesn’t have to be for long, but nothing boosts me out of creative block like travel. Sometimes, it is a vacation. Sometimes, it is just a walk. But getting away from the screen and looking around can sometimes spur the unlikeliest of inspiration. Plus, the sun and outdoors will inevitably give you a mood boost as well.
Tip 2: Look
Look for inspiration – be it google or in art books or in the morning newspaper. Seeing what other people have created will likely inspire some new ideas of your own.
Tip 3: Play
Don’t be afraid to get all of your ideas down without judging. Does something about the curve of the typography inspire you? Try it out and see what happens. Eventually, playing with different aspects of your project will lead you to a cohesive final idea.
Tip 4: Decorate
Make sure that where you work is a creative space. My desk is surrounded by type specimens, gifts from friends who travel, famous design sayings and projects in progress. It makes me happy, and that translates into my work.
Tip 5: Relax
Listen to some music. Do some yoga. Get yourself in a relaxed mindset and the ideas will be more likely to flow.
Above all, remember – you can do this! Every creative person struggles with the blank page. What do you do to help yourself beat creative block?
A lot of businesses send out promotional materials in December as a thank you to their clients for the holidays. But why limit it to December? With a day for nearly everyone, we think you should pick your own holiday to celebrate. After all, holidays are a great opportunity to keep in touch with clients and set yourself apart from the pack.
Here is a list of some of our fun favorites for every month to get you started*:
January 26, 2015 – Bubble Wrap Appreciation Day
Who doesn’t love Bubble Wrap? If I were going to send out something for this, I would send out bubble wrap and a list of fun things to DO with bubble wrap on a card. Because lets face it. Popping bubble wrap is just fun.
February 17, 2015 – Random Acts of Kindness Day
This one would be great for a non-profit. What better way to further your cause than to call attention to Random Acts of Kindness Day? Do something nice for your clients or donors and ask them to pass it on.
March 14, 2015 – Pi Day
Pi day is already pretty popular. This might be a good one for some of the services out there that specialize in numbers and math. OR use Pi Day as an excuse to send your clients a real pie. After all, who doesn’t love pie?
April 13, 2015 – Scrabble Day
For the wordsmiths out there, this could be a fun holiday to send out designs or cards with Scrabble tile inspiration.
May 15, 2015 – Bike to Work Day
Bike to Work Day is super popular in the DC area. Try sending a mailer with some sort of reflector for a bike or vest that has your logo.
June 5, 2015 – Donut Day
This is another easy one. A dozen donuts is low in cost, and food is always a hit with clients. If you work with local businesses, hand delivery means a lot as well.
July 2o, 2015 – Lollipop Day
Lollipops are fun and easy to customize. Get some lollipops in your brand colors and send them to clients.
August 9, 2015 – Book Lovers’ Day
Book Lovers’ Day is a great day for you to share knowledge with your clients. Does your company have a book? Promote it! If you are a marketing agency, it might also be a good time to send a list of your favorite recommended books to help your clients succeed in their marketing efforts.
September 19, 2015 – Talk Like a Pirate Day
This is another day that took off due to internet fame. Why not send all your clients a pirate eye-patch or bandana with your logo and help them look the part?
October 30, 2015 – Check List Day
Who doesn’t love those notepads that have the presorted checklist for your day? They can include everything from a list of grocery suggestions to a list of things to do. Put your logo on them, and you have a great promo for Check List Day! Maybe even add your company to the list.
November 26, 2015 – Cake Day
Do I need to say more?
December 21, 2015 – Crossword Puzzle Day
This is another fun day. Create your own crossword puzzle for your clients with a secret message. Include a link where they can find the key online.
So search the internet and find a holiday to make your own. It never hurts to connect with clients throughout the year, and this is an easy way to stand out and create a holiday synonymous with your business.
*Holidays via Days of the Year
We’ve all been there. Your company is developing their first brochure and you need some photos to fill the space. But what should you pick? Here are my 5 tips when choosing stock photos.
Tip 1: For kids or corporate stock, try to pick something natural.
All those photos of kids and corporate execs smiling at the camera are great, but they scream “posed.” Look for photos of people in a more natural setting, talking to each other or engaging in an activity. This will look less contrived, and will make the photos seem like they could have been taken specifically for your materials.
Tip 2: Keep your audience in mind.
Different countries or audiences have different expectations, so keep your target audience in mind when choosing photos. Does the area have sensitivities to how women should be portrayed? Should your photos be multicultural? Does their corporate culture include employees in suits or in jeans? These are all good things to consider when choosing your photos.
Tip 3: What is your budget?
Sure, Getty has some great photos, but they are also often incredibly expensive. If you have a low photo budget, you may want to stick with a less expensive option such as iStock or Dreamstime. This will allow you to get more for your money.
Tip 4: Beware of editorial use only.
Many of my clients send me links to photos they like, only for me to find the “editorial use only” note below them on the page. Keep an eye out for this when browsing on stock sites. These photos can be used in a newspaper or magazine article, but can not be used for advertising and promoting your business.
Tip 5: Size matters.
There is no hard and fast rule as to what size you will need for an article or website. It really depends on how large the photo is being used. Generally, you can assume a photo should be 300 dpi for print and 72 dpi for web. For most sites, this means your photo will need to be “medium” or larger if being used in a print piece.
I hope these tips will help you in your quest for stock photography. Keep them in mind next time you browse.