The Dreaded Holiday Card

What’s worse than seeing Christmas decorations on sale before Halloween? Waiting until the last minute to work on your Holiday Card!

So what is your plan for some festive self-promotion over the holidays? A Thanksgiving card? A Christmas basket? Personally, I skip the Christmas, Hannuka, Kwanzaa, Saturnalia fiasco and send a New Years Card instead. I learned this little trick from my time living abroad in Japan in my 20’s. More on my most recent New Years Card later.

Holiday Card Ideas

Good news – you have lots of options. I’ve scoured the web and gathered a few examples of fresh Holiday promotional ideas.

holiday graphic vector

This hipster line art design is great for a trendy holiday card or email blast. (Source: Justin Burns)

hot chocolate

Or you could add some practical value by giving your customers an illustrated recipe. (Source: She Knows)

 

christmas graphic design

Or go minimalist with a simple design and outstanding typography. Bonus points if you get this printed on letterpress. (Source: Jay Roberts)

Or Tell a Story

For the 2016 New Year, I told a story and inspired my clients. I wanted my mailer to be unique and practical. To do this, I ordered custom-printed pocket sketchbooks from Scout Books.

happy new year card

The illustration on the front is an arrow head. Then I added a belly band with a short explanation about the arrowhead. It told a simple story about how I had achieved one of my life goals in the previous year: finding an arrowhead.

hand sewn envelope

Next, I engaged my master-seamstress mother-in-law to create some hand-sewn envelopes out of packaging paper. Finally, I addressed, stamped and mailed them. Done.

pen and envelope

I loved this project and so did my clients. It helped me stand out in a crowded marketplace by making a memorable and personal impression.

So what’s your plan? Don’t wait. Take some time this week and think about how you could take it to the next level. Ask yourself how you could really WOW your clients. Or better yet – let’s do it together. Give me a call – 843.882.7627

Have a good week,

sig

Pulling the Horse

Marketing a business can feel like the Wild Wild West. Your business is this wagon.

wagon

And your logo is the horse.

logo horse

Your logo should be making your journey easier. Like this:

wagon

Your logo should do at least two things:

  1. Symbolically convey your company’s identity
  2. Build trust with your customers by being consistent across all platforms

Sometimes, though, I run into marketers and business owners who’ve got it backwards.

wagon pulling horse

They’re pulling an untamed horse!

Here are a few examples of what that might look like in real life:

  • You don’t have a one color version of your logo for special occasions (e.g. on a charity 5K t-shirt)
  • Your logo is too detailed and doesn’t look good small (e.g. on a promotional pen or a car decal)
  • You don’t have the original files (e.g. you’re always scrambling to find the right format)
  • You don’t have a “locked up” font, color or icon (e.g. the logo on your business card is different than your website)

If you have any of these problems, you’re working harder for your logo than it’s working for you.

It doesn’t have to be that way

Let me suggest that you need a visual identity system (a.k.a. logo) that uses typography, color, space, and icon(s) in a consistent and organized manner. If you’re working for a larger institution, your guidelines could look like Clemson University, Boy Scouts or LinkedIn. If you’re a small biz, you may not need to be that organized, but – whatever you end up with – should be written down, easy to understand and make your life easier. Your guidelines should be an instruction manual that accommodates all of your marketing channels: from tradeshows to letterhead to web apps.

brand guidelines

So take a few minutes, hop down off the wagon and take a good look at your horse. Is it pulling you along or slowing you down?

Might be time to put that horse out to pasture. Start fresh. If so, give me a call. 843.882.7627

See you on the trail,

sig

Stranger Typography

stranger things logo title

Think about your favorite tv series. Now think about the title sequence (or opening credits) for that show. Do they suck you in? Do they put you in the mood for the story? Great title screens do. A few of my favorite title sequences are Sherlock Holmes, anything Star Trek and The Walking Dead.

But let’s take this a step further. What if you took your favorite show’s title sequence and removed all the fancy effects, shots of the actors and any scenery. Would that title screen still be able to do it’s job? If that title screen belonged to Stranger Things, then, yes it’s doing the job amazingly.

Stranger Things is Netflix’s new fantasy suspense drama set in the 80’s. It’s very very good. And it’s simple intro does a spooktastic job of setting the tone for the show. You can watch it here.

I want to note three great design aspects of this sequence.

1. So much with so little. While the design is minimalistic, the mood and tone completely draw us in. It takes serious skills to be able to communicate so much with typography, three colors and an – admittedly incredible – sound track.

2. It’s a mystery. The title sequence, like the show, is itself a mystery. At first, the shapes floating around look remarkably familiar but not entirely recognizable. A few scenes later, they reveal themselves to be letters, but what do they say? The mystery isn’t resolved until we zoom out to see the whole picture.

3. It’s retro AND contemporary. The title font, if you’re curious, is a Benguiat variant. And as this excellent blog post points out, it was pulled directly from the cover of multiple Stephen King Novels. It’s also contemporary because the designer elegantly paired a serif and a sans-serif. The sans-serif, Avante Garde, is the font used to render the names and roles.

Imaginary Forces, the team that made this sequence, really nailed it. Now it’s your turn. You can have some fun with this Stranger Things logo generator to make your own title screens. Here’s a few of mine:

typography rules

dumband-dumber

huckleberry finn

Have a great week,

sig

Grand Slam Poster

Did you know Charleston used to have a baseball team called the Charleston Rainbows? I didn’t until a few weeks ago when I collaborated with the awesome team down at Wine + Food Charleston. They commissioned me to design a poster for their upcoming ticket launch party on Sept 15th: Grand Slam Jam.

The event theme was the Rainbows, baseball, retro, etc. They put together a mood board to help give me an idea of the what they wanted. From there, I developed some rough sketches:

sketches of charleston rainbow poster

They picked one, a bunch of graphic design happened and we ended up with this for the final poster:

final wine + food poster for ticket launch

Additionally, we used the poster as an animated graphic for their email promotions.

charleston baseball jam

Great people. Great project. Don’t forget to buy your tickets to the Grand Slam Jam!
sig

You Don’t Need WordPress

broken lawnmower illustrationChances are – if you have little to no experience with web development – you don’t need a WordPress website.

To many people, that statement is blasphemy. After all, a quarter of the entire internet runs on WordPress. Surely that many people can’t be wrong, right?

Nope. They are wrong.

But first, just to clarify, I have no problem with WordPress as a platform. These very words are written in a WordPress blog. I’m suggesting that if you are a small business looking to manage your own website, you would be better served with an alternative solution. Why?

WordPress is Like a Lawnmower

I recently got a new 4-cycle lawnmower. It’s a beautiful and efficient grass-slaying machine. It mulches, it bags and the self-propulsion is strong enough to pull a dog sled. With this machine, I’ve harnessed all the benefits of modern engineering. BUT, I’ve also got an engine to maintain. It requires cleaning, fuel, regular oil changes and periodic repair. In short, it’s a total pain. WordPress is the same: tons of power, a total pain.

Here are 5 things you should know about WordPress before you DIY:

ui buttons1. It’s Not New-user-friendly

If you’ve spent any amount of time on the back-end, you’ll know there are a zillion buttons, tabs and menus that are not intuitive. Unless you are using it on a regular basis, you will probably find it challenging.

frankenstein icon2. Turns into Franken-press

While WordPress itself is free and easy to install, the “ease” ends there. To make the platform “yours”, you have to add Plug-ins, pick a Theme, customize widgets, etc – all made by different people. Your site can turn into Frankenstein quickly.

puzzle piece icon3. Plug-in Perils

The plug-ins are great for adding additional functionality and power to your website. BUT, if you haven’t done your research, you may end up with plug-ins that don’t work well, aren’t kept up to date or worse – compromise the security of your site.

hacked icon4. You Might Get HACKED

Not every WP site gets hacked, but if you aren’t regularly updating and monitoring your site, security issues may arise over time. Back to the lawnmower analogy, if you stay on top of your maintenance, you’ll probably be fine. If not, you’ll be calling the mechanic.

support icon5. Lack of Support

What happens when something goes wrong? If you don’t have a support person in place, you’ll spend hours searching web forums for answers. And what if you break something big? NP – revert to one of your backups. Wait – do you have one of those?

In Conclusion

WordPress, like my lawnmower, is an incredible tool. If you’re willing to put in the time to learn it or have an ongoing arrangement with someone who does, you’ll love it. But it’s definitely not for everyone. And if you’re tight on time or otherwise swamped with the many daily tasks it takes to run a small business, I recommend a better tool for your needs. Squarespace or Pagecloud come to mind.

How has your experience been with WordPress?

Have a good week,

sig

 

Lapel Pin Mania

There’s a revolution brewing in collectibles – lapel pins. They’ve been in the ascendant for a few years now and Instagram is flooded with them. Have you noticed?

Are they practical? Not for my wardrobe. Are they cheap? Not really. Are they NSFW? Depends where you work.

But are they cool? Yes. 💯

In fact, here are a few that struck me:

LAMBORGHINI MERCY🔥 • #PINTRILL x @mrflawless1 releasing tomorrow via PINTRILL.com + in store

A post shared by PINTRILL (@pintrill) on

 

✨🌵✨ (tap photo for sources!)

A post shared by kaylah doolan (@thedaintysquid) on

 

 

 

 

Solve this 🔶🔴🔷 >> Cube puzzle and toy-inspired pins in our online shop

A post shared by PINTRILL (@pintrill) on

 

 

 

 

This is just a tiny drop in an ocean of cheap metal and plastic. There are so many different kinds. It’s crazy. Go jump on instagram and check out some pin-friendly hashtags like #lapelpin or #pingame (remember, I warned you about the NSFW part).

So what do they cost?

They range in price and start around $10 a piece. To test the margins on this, I whipped up a quick design and got it quoted from a random vendor online. 200 of these puppies cost ~$420.00. So not, perhaps, a mechanism for getting rich quick, but it could be a cool way for you (or your company) to stand out at a tradeshow or reward your people or say “thanks” to your customers.

Here’s the design I submitted if you’re curious.

charleston lapel pin

Maybe, I’ll get in the game.

Have a good week.

sig

 

 

2016 Print Trends by Paperspec

This month, Paperspecs put on a webinar about the hottest print design trends in 2016. Paperspecs is a website dedicated to all things printing and paper. And by paper, I’m not talking about your run-of-the-mill Staples multipurpose. No, this is more like the TMZ of the paperworld: what’s hip, mill news, swatch book scandals, who’s printing who, etc. Real design nerd stuff.

I’ll save you 45 minutes and sum up their “Top 5” print trends. Or if you like, you can watch the original webinar here.

Number 5: Kraft Paper

It’s got that artisan, handmade, enviro-friendly feel.

kraft paper wedding

Number 4: Go for the Gold

It isn’t just for Grandma’s bling anymore.

gold menu items

gold ink brochure

Number 3: Soft Metallic Sheen

According to the webinar, this is silver label paper printed on a digital press. Pretty slick.

 soft sheen label
Number 2: Tone on Tone

There are many ways – in various price ranges – to achieve this next level effect.

 spot varnish

emboss

Number 1: Hand Sown Thread

This is called smyth binding. It’s not new, but this treatment (exposed) is the rage. Juries out for me on this trend.

smyth sewn

smyth2

 

Hope you enjoyed this recap. Have a great week!

sig

 

 

 

Gradients Are Back!

have you noticed that gradients are making a comeback in the world of commerce? Perhaps, you didn’t know they were ever out of fashion. Or even more likely, you’re not 100% sure what a gradient is? Never fear.

Simply defined, a gradient is a slope (or fade) that displays a smooth transitions between two or more colors. Here are some examples of simple gradients.

graphic design gradients

In the early days of computer graphics, gradients were rampant… and bold. Any old desktop publisher with a copy of Photoshop could pop a rainbow fade into their design with the click of a button. The effect was so easily achieved that it lost it’s appeal as a sophisticated element of design. And sometime during the rise of minimalism, the gradient was cast to the background along with other aesthetic rejects like the Drop Shadow and Comic Sans. It also probably didn’t help that professionally printing a design with a gradient tends to increase production cost because it requires at least 4 layers of ink.

The gradient is indeed back. Truthfully, they never went away completely, but now you can find them featured prominently in many types of graphic design. Proof of their status: big brands (i.e. people with money to lose) are using them. A fresh example is the new Instagram logo suite.

instagram

As with many things, the old is now new again. There is one key difference though: the new gradients are almost always highly saturated and very colorful. Here are some examples that really struck me.

website with gradient

(source: https://mixpanel.com/jql/)

f8 gradients web design

thank you typographygradients web design

(source: https://www.fbf8.com)

Not to be left behind, I’ve dipped my toe in the water when the situation was appropriate. Take a look!

south carolina graphic design

let's get to play

Go forth! Upgrade your marketing materials with large swathes of fading color! A word of warning though – like any fashionable trend, please consult a professional to make sure you’re “doing it right”. Luckily, I happen to know one.

Have a great week,

sig