Check these four design tips before submitting files

Dreaming in CMYK

Yesterday, my girl Katherine Tattersfield featured a guest post of mine on PrintFirm.com’s blog about what prepress does to your files once they receive them from you. (Thanks so much, Katherine!)

I wanted to take a minute and add some additional thoughts to that post on what you should consider when depending designing your next printed piece.

Rich Blacks

You’ve heard me talk about the differences in black in printing before. If you’re designing a piece that has a massive black background, you need to make sure you’re utilizing a rich black instead of just the 100% K value in your color settings.

Not sure what I mean? Create a box and make the color value C: 0%, M: 0%, Y: 0% and K: 100%. Duplicate that box, but change your values to C: 50% M: 40% Y: 40% and K: 100%. Then, print that document out on your (color)…

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Graphic Design: Why You Should Keep It Simple

Even when it comes to graphic design, sometimes simple is better. It’s hard explaining this to the client though. For one reason or another when they involve a “graphic designer” they need to make magical things happen. In some instances though magical isn’t always necessary. As a graphic designer you need to know when to make a design sparkle and shine to WOW the audience, and when to make a design look flat (or simple) so it does not take away from the message that needs to be portrayed. This is a learned trait.

Brixel Creative - Simple Graphic Design Blog

I’m what you might call a “self-taught” graphic design aficionado. I did not go to college to learn all the valuable graphic design techniques I use every day, I just sat down with Adobe and embraced my one-on-one time. I’d like to think my 15+ years creating wonderfully creative graphic design for various types of companies gave me more hands-on experience than any college would have done. With that being said, I’m sure there are some techniques I may not know about in PhotoShop or Illustrator, and I’m Ok with that. There are tons of amazing tutorials online I can take a look at on YouTube or read about on a blog. Some things in life don’t need to be complicated and are better if they remain simple.

When you strip away all that is unnecessary – get rid of the fluff – you’re left with a simple message that speaks quite loudly to the audience. Take a moment to think about the some of the most well know logos out there. I bet the ones you thought about are very simple designs. The ones that come to mind for me are FEDEX, Gap, NBC – all pretty simple, huh? But that’s what makes them memorable. It is less information for the brain to process and therefore makes it easier to remember.

Rather than piling on the effects, may I suggest you cut through the noise with white space, choose a clean type, incorporate simple shapes and limit your color palette. Sometimes it’s best to keep your graphic design simple. Get back to the basics because less will always be more, especially when it comes to graphic design.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this subject. Do you like to keep your designs simple?

Why Graphic Design Matters to Small Business

Ask any small business owner what’s an important factor to a successful business and I bet they would mention graphic design and branding. Yet, in business, having quality graphic design is often seen with an “out of our budget” mindset, too expensive and not affordable. However, that mindset can often be misleading and maybe even devastating to your business.

“A picture is worth a thousand words”

With graphic design, maybe it’s your logo, package design or just a simple icon that speaks to the consumer. When you put your business out there to complete with other businesses, there needs to be something that sets your business apart from the rest – but grabbing the attention of the consumer FIRST is what’s most important. It’s the first impression in the end that may be the only thing that differentiates your company from another. And remembering a brand is achieved with consistently great graphic design.

QUICK TIP —> Keep in mind a potential client must hear or see your brand numerous times before the memory of your company sticks. It’s important to provide a consistent and memorable message and image to accelerate this recognition and speed up the branding process.

Brixel Creative Graphic Design Small Business

So how can small business stand out and be seen – going up against those larger companies with huge marketing budgets? Well, first things first, you need to make sure you are competing with like-minded companies and be able to stay within your budget too. Let’s face it, a small business hand-making soap in a small town in Maine most likely cannot compete with a larger company from California selling in all major grocery stores. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t put money and energy towards your graphic design to develop your brand image. Having good graphic design gives credibility, boosts visibility, and provides consistency to the consumer making your product more memorable.

Outdated or up to date?

Picture this: you’re searching the internet for a new car. When perusing websites, there are some sites you come across that look very outdated and therefore turn you off right away so you move on to the next website. Then you find a very well designed site and you are intrigued to dive in further; and they might not have the lowest price. You see, it’s the FIRST impression you make on the consumer that is most critical and if your graphic design is “outdated” you risk losing potential client and there is nothing you can do about that.

QUICK TIP —> When developing your website or any marketing collateral, keep in mind this is your IMAGE and the visual design provides credibility and determines the professionalism and quality of the business. This may be your only chance to prove to the consumer you are worth purchasing from.

Having a great product and customer service is definitely important, but just might mean nothing if no one knows you exist. It’s time to put the image of your business first and show everyone out there how memorable your company can be! Professional graphic design can improve your business image, and offers increased positive exposure and sets you apart from the competition. Improving on your design assures you are sending the right message to your clients and most importantly will potentially increase sales. Graphic design improves acceptance and awareness of your products and services and that is what will drive business to your door.

Consider contacting a qualified graphic designer to review your current image and provide insight as to how your graphic design can be improved. In the end, how can you not afford to improve your image with graphic design!

5 Tips to Choose the Right Social Media Channel for Your Business

Whether you’re an established business or a relatively new start-up thinking about diving into social media, it’s not an easy task for anyone. The simple task of deciding which social media channels you will focus on is the toughest part. To help you decipher each option, below I’ll provide a few tips along with a nifty infographic showing the do’s and don’ts of social media. And as a follow up, in the coming weeks I’ll provide more detailed posts about each social media channel to further assist you.

So, here’s goes….

Tip #1: Start by researching each social media channel to determine which will work best for your business. Try to consider what you might post on these sites. Although social media may be free, also consider the necessary time it takes to come up with a plan to develop and schedule your posts.

Tip #2: Keep in mind it wouldn’t be good to sign up for every social media channel right off the bat. Decide which ones would be the most relevant to your company. Start off slow, then you can determine if adding more social media channels in the future would benefit you.

Tip #3: Before you take the plunge, narrow down your list of social media channels that you feel would work best for your company and implement a plan of attack. Make sure not to lose your business image when posting to social media sites. Doing so may have a negative effect so have a clear plan in place helps you stay on track.

Tip #4: Know your audience! This is most important when starting with any social media channel. You must know what your followers or fans want to see. The good thing is you can track this with engagement – over time you’ll get to know your audience and it will be easier to know what they like and don’t like.

Tip #5: Lastly, stay focused and try not to get frustrated. With your commitment it will be worth it, but keep in mind all good things come to those who wait! Be patient!

Brixel Creative - Do's and Don'ts of Social Media
Infographic courtesy of AllyWatch

Hope this information helps! Feel free to LIKE my page on Facebook, FOLLOW me on Twitter and CONNECT with me on Linkedin. Need any help with getting your company set up on social media? Contact me today – I’d love to help!

Don’t forget to comment below to let me know how social media helps your business!

The Anatomy of a QR code

You’ve most likely heard the term “QR code” within the last few years and maybe some of you have wondered “what on earth is a QR Code?”. I’ll decode the QR code for you today!  In definition, a QR code is simply a two-dimensional square barcode that’s read by a specialized app on your smartphone with a code scanning feature.

Here is an example of a QR code:

Along with the evolution of the internet and technology, the QR code was created for an instant way to view a page on the web using an app on your smartphone. Once the code is scanned, it will connect you to any online content of your choice such as a web page, coupon, promotional video, etc. The biggest benefit of the QR code is to quickly connect your customer or potential customer to much more information than any brochure, business card or direct mailing could ever display.  It allows you more information and in turn more engagement with your customer.

Here are a few ideas for you properly use your QR code to promote a web page or other content:

  • Product details
  • Coupons codes and special offers
  • Giveaways or contests
  • Instructional Videos or clips
  • Promotional videos
  • Sending an email message
  • Social media page or blog (Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin)

Market your QR code properly
Sure QR codes sound great, but don’t get too excited – they can’t be used in all applications. For instance, you wouldn’t want to use a QR code on a vehicle for the simple fact it would be moving 99% of the time or even on a billboard for obvious reasons. However, QR code can be effective if used on a business card to send an email, brochure to link the customer to more product information, or even within your trade show display graphics to quickly connect the potential client to your website.  As an added bonus you can track when your QR code is scanned, and if you have multiple QR codes, you can view which links had the most interest.

Where do QR codes come from?
So, I’m sure by now you are really wondering where you can find these QR codes. There are many sites online that can convert a standard website link into a QR code and in many cases they would be free.  One site you can try would be http://www.qrstuff.com/. All you have to provide is the webpage you’d like to link the QR code to, then you can download the QR code file. It can be used for print, you can upload it as a photo or post it on your website.

QR code do’s and don’ts
There are a few tips I’d like to provide to make sure you are getting the most out of your QR code:

  • MOST IMPORTANT: Size: QR codes have to be a minimum size of 1 inch by 1 inch. This will insure it is large enough to be scanned by your smartphone.
  • Color: Black and white works best for this application. However, you can use colors with high contrast from each other.
  • Space: You must leave a white border around the QR code so it stands out and to give it a better scanning ability.
  • Be clear: Be sure to provide clear instructions on how to scan the QR code and where they will end up once they do scan it. One example could be, “Scan this code to receive 5% off your next purchase.” You’ll want to make sure you make will be worth the customers effort to scan the code, so they will be more apt to scan it if they will benefit in some way. Just make sure your information is clear and they will be more willing to take out their phone and scan the code.
  • Test it…twice: You must not assume the QR code will work because you put in a valid URL. Once you’ve inserted the code onto your marketing material, make sure to test it many different ways to insure it will work for anyone no matter what. And have others in your office test it too. That’s the last thing you want is for the code to not work for even the most tech savvy the customer and it leaves them frustrated and annoyed.
  • Track it: It’s always important to track when and how often your QR code was scanned. This will give great knowledge to how you should or shouldn’t use the QR code in the future. It also gives good insight as to what your customer wants most.

In the end, QR codes can be a great marketing tactic to use when you want to engage your customers and give them more information about what your company can do for them. Use them wisely but don’t overuse them.

Comment below and let me know how you use QR codes to promote your business.

Happy QR coding!

What to consider when hiring a Graphic Designer

Consider this…you’re a business searching for a graphic designer to work with on a consistent basis to create the necessary graphics to get your brand out there. I’m sure a couple questions come to mind like “Does anyone know any local graphic designers?” or “Should we search for a designer online?”. It’s definitely a tough decision to make and there are lots of qualified designers out there that would suit your needs, local or not. However, to some it may seem like an impossible business relationship if your designer is not within arms reach, but nine times out of ten it can work out quite well with the help of technology of course. So let’s say you choose a designer that is not within your local area or maybe not even in the same state, there are a few things to consider when making this decision.

1. Trust is always a must
If doing anything online scares you – online banking, online shopping, etc. – you are not alone. Being able to meet someone face to face certainly can develop more trust than just talking on the phone or through email. Whether you are hiring someone local or in another state, there is always the chance your design relationship will not last. But in my opinion, you’ll know right away if this is going to happen. You have to trust your instincts just like anything else and you’ll know if the designer you chose will be the right fit or not.

2. Developing a way to communicate
What if you’re horrible at communicating through email and sometimes just can’t get your message across? What if you don’t know how to express what you want over the phone? What if you don’t know how to provide feedback or suggest changes? While all these may seem like valid reasons for you to hire locally, there is always a way to simplify any communication barrier. It’s all about getting to know each other and find a comfortable way to communicate. As with all things, this does take time but with a little patience things will fall into place and it will become easier to communicate your thoughts and ideas more efficiently.

3. Working together as a team
Teamwork makes it easier for both you, the client, and me, the designer, to effectively create the best possible design that everyone is happy with. Whether it takes one revision or several, its most important for everyone to be on the same page and come together as a team.

Having had 10+ year’s experience creating designs for clients all throughout the US, I can assure you developing a long distance design relationship is actually a lot easier than it sounds. I’m fairly new to the Freelancing community, but definitely not new to the design world. Freelancing just gives me the opportunity to work where I want and choose the hours that I want. More often than not, this just means you’ll be paying less for the same quality of work you’d get if you hire a large design firm. If you can look past the fact that your designer is not down the street or even in the same state, just remember they are only a phone call or email away.

So, how about we work together? Contact me now so we can discuss how I can improve your business image!

Beyond Instagram: Apps for Sketches, Selfies, and More

Getting a little bored with Instagram?!? Check out these other great apps for photos and let me know what you’ll be downloading!

The Daily Post

We recently shared photo editing and typography apps and alternatives to Instagram. Here are a few more photo apps on our radar — most of these offer tools to create drawings and sketches from photos, as well as enhancing selfies. Take a look, and have fun!

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