Upping Your Print Game: Part 2

Tips for Keeping Print Costs Down

flashing money symbols

In our last blog post, I gave you three reasons to add printed marketing materials to your strategy. You took my advice and paid a graphic designer to create a beautiful piece. Now that you’re ready to turn your PDF into a physical print piece, you may be concerned about the cost. I get it. I feel the same way when I print marketing materials for myself. The trick is to be smart when it comes to your printer and to create pieces with a long shelf life.

Here are five tips for keeping printed costs from busting the marketing budget:

1. Befriend local print shops. If you plan on printing several pieces over time, develop a relationship with a local printer. And don’t settle for the first salesperson you meet. Once you establish a face-to-face business relationship, you can more easily negotiate costs. Better yet, get a few local printers and get multiple quotes for each job.

2. Use quantity control. Do NOT overprint. I launched a kid’s book a couple years ago. To prepare for my launch, I ordered some 1000 beautiful promotional rack cards. I sold all my kid’s books. I still have ~983 beautiful rack cards. There is a savings for printing large quantities, but make sure you need them. If the savings is minor, print a smaller amount and then reprint as needed.

trees

3. Go with evergreen content. For your high-quality printed materials, create pieces that will last. Avoid putting any information on a brochure or rack card that might change in the next few months (employee names/photos, event dates/times). Keep content high level and direct consumers to your website where they can find more detailed information. There’s nothing worse than putting information on a printed item only to have it inaccurate two months later.

4. Design with print in mind. Check with the printer before you start the project. Give the print vendor an idea of the project and ask them what can be done from a design standpoint to lower the printing cost. For example, it’s often cheaper to print something that is a standard size. You can also find interesting cost variations if your project is printed on a traditional vs. digital press.

5. Shop online. If price is more important than quality, use an online vendor. There are some very good online printers. Some of my go-to online resources are primoprint.com, smartpress.com and 4over.com. I avoid vistaprint like the plague. My caveat for online printers is that quality isn’t always a sure bet. And if you hit a snag, customer service won’t be nearly as easy as dealing with your local printer.

One last tip on creating printed marketing materials: give yourself plenty of time. Factor in the design time, edits and approvals as well as the turnaround time for the printer – which could be anywhere from two days to two weeks.

Print doesn’t have to be a major cost investment if you take a smart approach. Let’s talk about how to add print into your marketing budget. 

Next month, I wind down this three-part series on print marketing collateral with several examples of print materials I’ve created for client projects.

Have a great week,

sig

P. S. I sprinkled in some animations on this blog post. Thumbs up? Down? LMK.

Upping Your Print Game: Part 1

3 Reasons to Give Print a Try

business cards hand sketch

These days we consume most advertising and marketing messages online. But that doesn’t mean print marketing is dead. In fact, it can be a novel way to showcase your products or services. Much in the same way, people today cherish receiving a hand-written note in the mail versus an email.

tri-fold hand sketch

When clients ask me to design a printed product, I get excited. I love the stuff you can hold in your hand: brochures, catalogs, business cards, annual reports, maps and rack cards. I’m forever collecting samples when I’m out and about.

If most of your work lately has been online, consider printed marketing materials for these three reasons:

1. Keep your message simple. A limited amount of space forces you to craft an uber-clear marketing message and communicate that message in a visually appealing way. Unlike websites with unlimited scrolling, something like a postcard or brochure forces you to be concise with your wording and requires an eye-catching design.

opened brochure hand sketch

2. You can go big or small. From billboards to business cards, you can select a size that fits your business and creative needs.

3. Stand out with your marketing. Everyone has a website, but not everyone has a printed brochure or catalog. Not every business in your industry has a look-book of ideas or a booklet of work samples. This is a great way to separate yourself from your competitors. And, if you really want to go the extra mile, select a high-quality paper, embossed lettering, foil touches or a glossy shine.

Ready to give print collateral another look? Don’t miss next month’s blog post for tips about how to keep print costs at a minimum.

Have a great week,

sig

Do I Need a New Logo?

It’s never a bad idea to evaluate your overall brand and corresponding marketing materials. You want to ensure a clear, consistent message and one that accurately reflects who you are and what you do. It all starts with your logo. A company logo sets the stage for your overall look and feel – it’s the tip of your spear. It’s the flag on your pirate ship, so to speak.

I know a marketing refresh takes both time and money. So it’s important to pause and truly consider (why you might need a new logo) before you start the process.

Let’s start with a few questions to ponder:

  • Do you like your logo? Maybe you bought a business and inherited the logo so it doesn’t feel like “yours”. Or maybe you’ve simply grown tired of your existing logo. If you aren’t exicted about your logo, it’s unlikely your customers (or employees) will be either. If you’re proud of your logo, you’ll want to put it everywhere: t-shirts, car magnets, etc. This extra promotion naturally leads to more conversations about your business, which hopefully leads to more opportunities.
  • Is your logo current and up to date – especially when compared to your competitors? Last month we talked about trends and the importance of not being overly trendy in your designs. But, if your logo looks like it stepped right out of 1995, it’s time for something new (unless, of course, you sell slap bracelets).
  • Is your logo similar to another business in your industry or geographical market? You definitely don’t want your business to be confused with another one because the logos look too similar.
  • Is your logo practical to use? A logo with lots of details and colors can be tough to use on branded materials like hats and pens. A tall logo or a long, horizontal logo is difficult to use as a social media profile. You have to think about all the ways you’ll use your logo so it fits nicely into any marketing situation – that also means having access to a variety of file formats and sizes.

The final — and most critical — question: Is your logo doing its job? Are you working for your logo or is your logo working for you? It has a very important role. Consider your logo to be a member of the marketing and sales team. And like any good team member, it should have a job description, get occasional performance reviews and not drink too much booze at the Christmas party.

The next time you catch your logo in the break room, sit down and ask it these questions:

  • How well are you visually representing our brand (ethos, people, offerings, value, products, etc.)?
  • Are you clear and readable? Do you have a tagline?
  • Do you show up consistently across the “brandscape” (e.g. from the website to the 5K t-shirt)?
  • Do you look great on our social media platforms? Vertical tradeshow banners? Horizontal billboards?
  • Does your aesthetic (typography, colors, style) feel appropriate to our industry?
  • When you “work from home” are you actually just watching TV?

I bet your logo is really quaking in its boots and will spend the rest of the day thinking hard about its performance. Hopefully, you will too. Just like any member of your team, a good logo should make your life easier, not harder.

What if my logo is old, but well recognized in the marketplace? Then you may want to consider a logo refresh. Maybe you just need to choose an updated font or tweak the color. It’s a great way to keep your logo current without sacrificing that hard-earned brand recognition.

Now that you’ve taken some time to assess your current logo, where do you stand? Will you stick with what you have or is it time to try something new?

Have a great week,

sig

Graphic Design Trends for 2019

Whether it’s fashion, food, home decor or technology, we see “trend” lists everywhere. Graphic design is no exception. Whether it’s a hot color or a funky new font, we pay attention to what’s new and how we might incorporate it into ads, websites and logos. Are you excited about any upcoming trends?

I am. It’s fun to think that I can do the same basic task that I did 10 years ago (e.g. make a logo, create a print ad) and make it in a completely new style. That’s the sort of perk that keeps us creative-types excited about our jobs.

swatches from past years

That being said, trends aren’t the be-all end-all. We don’t abandon good design principles and individual client needs just because a trend list says we should. An overly trendy design runs the risk of premature obsolescence. Few companies have the time or the budget to revamp their design materials every few years to keep up. So I like to think of trends as a good starting point.

What’s the balance between trendy and tried n’ true? If I told you that, you wouldn’t need to hire me. 🙂

Get to the Trends Already!!!

Keep your pants on.

That’s a trend now. All the cool kids are “keeping their pants on.”

That was a joke. Here are a few things I’m seeing for 2019:

Pantone Color of the Year

For 20 years, Pantone’s Color of the Year has influenced product development and purchasing decisions in multiple industries, including fashion, home furnishings, and industrial design, as well as product, packaging, and graphic design. The color experts at the Pantone Color Institute search the world for influences – entertainment and art to travel and technology. This year’s selection is “living coral.” Pantone describes this color as “an animating and life-affirming coral hue with a golden undertone that energizes and enlivens with a softer edge.” Look for it everywhere, especially in clothing and decor.

simplified logos

Logo trends don’t really occur on a yearly cycle and they vary drastically according to brand, business size, target market, etc. But there are styles that are interesting to follow. Here’s a great write up on those. A recent trend that you may have noticed is that many big companies are cutting the fat. (images from Brand New)

Hand-drawn

Hand-drawn designs (and maybe 70’s level trippiness) are abounding. A favorite example is email marketing company MailChimp. Its website is filled with hand-drawn – and quirky – illustrations. Because I love drawing myself, this is a trend I embrace wholeheartedly.

Other Resources

Truthfully, I’m not a “bleeding edge” designer. My defaults are more along the lines of timelessness, simplicity and authenticity. So when the moment calls for it, I dig around to see what other designers are doing. While working on this article, I came across some really interesting round ups about 2019. For further reading, I recommend a lot of this and a little of this. And here’s a GREAT video with a ton more detail about what’s trending.

Are you up for taking a trendy chance in 2019? Let’s talk! We can discuss which trends might work well for your business as you enter the new year.

Have a great week,

sig

P.S. Want to know what’s out of style? The old Instagram logo. It’s soooo 2016, yet, I still see it on company websites and marketing materials. Even if you love the old logo, it’s time to embrace this change. ICYMI: I addressed this exact topic in a previous blog post; check it out.

New Year’s Card Struggle

If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you know I do more than graphic design work. I also paint, doodle and draw. Weirdly though, I get the most satisfaction out of my work when I’m creating something for someone else. As an artist, I don’t know if this is a feature or a bug, but it definitely helps with running a successful freelance business. Sometimes, I forget this.

Take this abstract painting I created for my wife, Erin, last year. She requested it, and I got to work.

abstract painting on a white wall
48″ x 36″ abstract painting

I would never have thought to paint this picture. It’s not an original “idea”. At first glance, there’s nothing “me” about it. I copied the color palette from some other painting I found on Pinterest.

It took longer than expected (she’s a closet Art Director). It also turned out way better than I imagined. She loved it. And it resonated with many other people too. In fact, it’s one of the things I made last year that I’m most proud of because it’s beautiful AND it was a crowd pleaser.

Truthfully, I feel embarrassed about that latter confession. Artists sometimes feel like everything they make has to be completely “original”.

Back to my painting: A few months later, a friend commissioned me to do a similar painting for his wife as a Christmas gift. She loved it too.

picture of abstract painting being held by someone in a parking lot
Commissioned Abstract

What does this have to do with a New Year’s card? Well, every year I do a New Year’s card for ABD. It helps me stand out from all the other holiday cards hitting the mailbox in December and spares me from Christmahanukwanzus.

Each year I’ve tried different things, and I’m usually pretty excited about it because for once, I tell myself, I’m the client. This year, I was stumped. Fresh out of inspiration. Suddenly it was Dec. 15, and still nothing.

marker illustration of a pig caesar
Pig Caesar

I had plenty of ideas, of course. But none of them felt right. I landed on a nice little piggie character (to go along with the Chinese year of the pig). I was kinda excited about it, but it still felt forced. Would it really resonate broadly with my target market? I asked my Art Director for a second opinion.

She was not a fan and suggested I create a nice calendar.

I pouted.

She was right, though. I got to work on a simple calendar. It suddenly occurred to me to repurpose my abstract painting. I showed it to Erin and she loved it. I added a “crummy commercial” for my biz on the other side and hand wrote “Happy New Year” on each one.

2019 calendar front and back
My 2019 New Year’s Mailer (front and back)

Like the original painting, it was a big hit.

In retrospect, I wasted a lot of time getting to this final product. I was trying to be too original. I had forgotten my own motto: I am NOT the client. Or my other one: Keep It Simple Stupid. Or my other other one: if middle-aged women think it’s pretty, there’s gold in them thar hills.

I’ll work on that self-fulfilling original idea on my own time… or more likely, next December.

Oink,

sig

P.S. If you received one of my calendars, I’d love to see how you’re displaying it. Take a photo and post it on social media. Be sure to tag me on Instagram (@andrewbartondesign).

Merry Chrismahanukwanzus

If you’re a marketer or a business owner, you know it’s important to share a message of “positive celebratory vibes” (a holiday card) with your customers around this time of year. This seemingly simple task can be difficult. Should you say Merry Christmas? Or keep it safe with a Happy Holidays or Season’s Greetings? Designing that holiday greeting card may be harder than you think. I’ll tell you exactly what you should do…

Ha. No, I won’t. This post is NOT about helping you figure out how to spread cheer while keeping to your convictions and offending zero people. I have my own strategy which I’ll include towards the end of this article.

The purpose of this post is to explain in a little more depth what each holiday is all about and when it takes place. Here are 4 holidays that occur end-of-the-year-ish.

advent candle graphicChristmas (Christ’s Mass) is celebrated by Christians around the world to remember the birth of Jesus Christ in the year zero. Christmas day – celebrated on December 25th – has been a U.S. federal holiday since 1870. According to Pew Research, 9 in 10 Americans (although not all Christians) celebrate Christmas.

hanukkah candle graphicsHanukkah or Chanukah is an eight-day Jewish celebration that commemorates the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem, where, Jews rose up against their Greek-Syrian oppressors in the Maccabean Revolt. Hanukkah begins on the 25th of Kislev on the Hebrew calendar so it typically falls in November or December.

kwanzaa candle graphicsKwanzaa was started by Dr. Maulana Karenga, a professor of black studies at California State University, in 1966. Following the Watts riots in Los Angeles, Karenga was looking for ways to bring African-Americans together as a community. He founded a cultural organization and began researching African harvest celebrations. He combined several aspects of those celebrations to form Kwanzaa, which means “first fruits” in Swahili.

animal sacrifice graphicWinter Solstice: Cultures around the world often mark the winter solstice – the shortest day and longest night of the year. It usually falls between December 20 and 23 and marks the official start of winter. Ancient Romans would host many celebrations during this time, including Saturnalia, honoring Saturn, the god of agriculture with sacrifices and more. Read more about how other cultures celebrate the winter season

So, which greeting is right for your business? Here’s what I do. Skip it. For my client-base, none of the individual holiday greetings would cover everybody and I find Happy Holidays / Season’s Greetings to be a little bland. Instead, I send a Happy New Years card (like this and this). This is a tradition I observed when I lived in Japan after college. New Years Cards are a big deal in Japan. It’s a little different and it works for me.

So.. um.. good luck and please enjoy this special time we’re having right around this time of year when things start getting colder,

sig

P.S. If you’re into it, Merry Christmas!

Copyright and Design: Who Owns What?

Thanks to social networking and the Internet, finding great design ideas and inspiration has never been easier. On the flip side, technology also make it super easy for someone to steal your work. Literally, a screenshot or a right click to “save image” is all it takes for someone to grab your photo or carefully crafted design.

This also can come into play when you hire a photographer, videographer or graphic designer to create work for your business or on behalf of your client. It’s important to know who owns the work product or copyright, whether the designer can use that work in his portfolio or with other clients.

So, how do you know who owns what?

First, let’s define copyright: A form of protection for “original works of authorship,” including literary, dramatic, musical, architectural, choreographic, graphic, sculptural, and audiovisual creations. Copyright protection does not extend to any idea, procedure, process, system, title, principle, or discovery. In short, whomever creates the work is the author and therefore has the copyright on that work.

The second important term to understand is “work for hire.” An employee who creates something within the scope of her job would not retain the copyright; the employer would be considered the author. If you’re hiring someone as an independent contractor and want to legally retain the rights to the work created, the contract needs to spell that out clearly.

If the work is not made for hire, then the designer retains the copyright. If you, as a business, want to have the copyright, you’ll need to discuss that with the designer and detail that in a contract. You’ll want to specify if the copyright covers the work as it is or if it can be altered or modified. This also could be important if a business wants to ensure a designer doesn’t use a similar design for another client.

When you’re considering hiring a designer, ask about copyright and if the designer feels strongly about retaining the copyright or if he’s OK with a “work for hire” contract. Either way, it’s always good to discuss these legal matters and get decisions in writing. It will surely save time and confusion down the road.

Visit Copyright.gov for details on copyright law, FAQs, information on registering a copyright and more.

Have a great week,

sig