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,

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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.

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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!

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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,

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The Importance of Great Photography

camera-flash-animation-gifI’ll bet you’ve done this: you’re writing a Facebook post or designing a brochure. You’ve conceived a brilliant concept or written some snappy copy. You decide you need to decorate it with a photo so you grab whatever’s handy and go with that.

You spent four hours writing 20 words. And four seconds finding the picture – which, as they say, is worth 1,000 words. Ironic?

That doesn’t make sense.

Great photography can make the difference between a lousy brochure and a great one. It’s the difference between a Facebook ad that captivates and an ad no one notices. The tricky thing is that everyone has a camera in their pocket. And that may lead us – especially if you’re the one signing the checks – to think that anyone can take a picture that’s “good enough”. Take a look at the following pictures that your boss might approve, but you know in your heart aren’t quite up to snuff.

fail

Unfortunately, your business portraits have to be distinguishable from your personal profile pictures.

nope

All the components of a great work shot are here, but poor lighting, a frownie face and an oddly distracting post-it note undercut the story.

swipe

Are you trying to get my business or my phone number?

alone

The empty chairs beg the question.

fired

I can’t figure out what she’s trying to communicate with those blue eyes. “Help?” or “I really need this job.” or even “I don’t get paid enough to put up with this”. In any case, the unbalanced lighting on her face gives this picture too much drama.

guilty

Uh oh. This guy should know better. Even yours truly is guilty of using bad photography from time to time. Finally, last year I decided to put my money where my mouth is and hire Stan Foxworthy to take some professional portraits. Here’s a few of them.

me

Now I just have to find the time to update my website! Just remember, an amateur photographer will get lucky from time to time. A professional gets lucky every time. It’s important to know when your organization can do things itself and when it should pay for professional help. Photography is one of those things companies often skimp on. A good designer can tell you how much of a difference great photography can make.

So go ahead, give Stan a call.

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Razors and the Cost of “Manliness”

RAZORIf you’ve looked at my photo, you can see that I don’t have much need for a personal shaving system. That’s what they call razors and blades these days. Why? Because manufacturers can’t make big profits by selling a stick with a sharp blade to scrape hair off your face.

Because these products are commodities (i.e., the product is pretty much the same no matter who makes it), the marketing wizards have cooked up elaborate schemes to convince you that they are different from each other. They target market segments and position their brands as the system used by men who share certain characteristics.

pg-612_1zTake the Gillette Fusion razor, pictured here. It’s positioned as a macho, TURBO-FIED experience that is sure to make you feel like that sexy stud in the commercial. Use our razors in a steamy bathroom, muscle-bound legs wrapped in a tight white towel and feel your powers of charm and manliness grow! You’re all but guaranteed to make the women swoon and the men go green with envy. I’m exaggerating for emphasis, but I’m sure you see what I mean. From the size of the company and the number of ads they buy, it must be a very successful ploy.

It’s not working for me, though. To me, the design and product are inauthentic. I FEEL LIKE THEY ARE SHOUTING AT ME. You’re paying more for the hi-performance packaging than for the razor. It feels like a company trying to bamboozle me into purchasing a bunch of blather. And please, PLEASE don’t make me buy one more thing that needs a battery. 

Screenshot 2016-05-04 10.46.01There are 2 competing products on the market that take a different tact: Harry’s and Dollar Shave ClubAlthough they both sell on price, WAY less than the big brands like Gillette, it’s the way they communicate their message through packaging design and advertising that speaks to me. For Harry’s, I appreciate the elegance and style achieved through simplicity. And DSC combines economy of design and humor throughout the customer experience. For example, every razor refill package they send me has a different, clever phrase on the box (e.g. “Leave the CUTS to movie directors. “). Funny. 

Screenshot 2016-05-04 10.48.24

I suspect there are many guys like me who not only don’t want to pay 20 bucks for a personal shaving system, but who also don’t care to pin their identity to this relatively unimportant product. For us, these alternatives are perfect. They might not say I’m a sports-loving tough guy; just that I’m smart enough not to spend my lunch money on a razor.

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P.S. You guys going to see Tough Guy 3 this weekend?

A Rebirth of Simplicity

boxTrends come and go in the world of graphic design. Many of them are exciting, inspiring and brilliant. They also represent an era, so when that era passes, the trends fade and become less relevant. Think art deco.

Simplicity is timeless. A designer can always return to simplicity. If well-executed, simplicity can be equally brilliant and inspiring, and it’s almost always functional.

A new book documents the “rebirth of simplicity” in the graphic design.” Stuart Tolley’s “MIN: The New Simplicity in Graphic Design” documents the new wave of minimalism washing back over the world of graphic design.

min

The design of the book itself is a tribute to minimalism, as are its 400 photographs.

book1 book2

Contrary to its form, simplicity is not simple, and it requires creativity and expertise to execute. It’s a bit like turning down the volume on a rock band – that’s when you discover the real musicianship.

9k=

Minimalism will not crowd out other design concepts; it’s just an appealing option. Ultimately, that’s the best design trend – whatever works for the product and consumer.

So what do you think? Are you a fan of minimalism?

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