Upping Your Print Game: Part 1

3 Reasons to Give Print a Try

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.

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.

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

3 Tips for Developing a Great Relationship with a Graphic Designer

In my last blog post, I offered tips for hiring a graphic designer. I outlined five important questions to ask if you’re considering hiring a designer to help with a project, create a company logo or give your marketing materials a makeover.

Once you’ve made your choice, the next step is creating a good working relationship that results in high-quality work. And ideally, you want the experience to be a fun one. 

Here are three tips for creating a good working relationship with a graphic designer:

  1. illustration of workflow chartTrust the process. You’ve hired a graphic designer because you need help. That means you need to let the designer work the process without micromanaging. Absolutely give the designer some direction (logo, brochure, website graphics, etc.) and let him or her know if there are particular colors or fonts that you like or don’t like. Offer some examples of designs you love and hate. Explain how the design will be used so the designer knows the end-use (horizontal, vertical, printed, digital, etc.).

Then, let go.

Trust the designer you’ve hired to create what you need. He or she is the professional with expertise in design, marketing and branding. Just as you hire a CPA to handle your taxes because he’s the expert in accounting, do the same with the graphic designer you’ve brought on to guide your design vision.

  1. Set realistic deadlinillustration of calendar due datees. At the start of a project, work with the designer to establish a deadline for when you need to have the finished project in hand. Make sure you build in time for two or three revisions and backdate your deadlines based on other factors, such as printing schedules. If you need a brochure for an event, for example, allow plenty of time to review the design and get the brochure printed.

Your designer is likely working on several other projects so discuss up front if he or she can meet your deadline schedule. This also means you need to stick to your tasks as well. Don’t wait six days to review the first draft and then complain because the project is off schedule.

  1. Set project parameters at the beginning. Before the first design is sketched, establish the project details. This should include the deadline schedule, the budget/price and the deliverables. illustration of check listBe sure to note how many revisions are included in the price. Designers usually plan for two or three revisions, but beyond that, you may have to pay additional fees.

Make sure you have buy-in from the key decision makers – whether that’s you, marketing VP or the business owner. This helps avoid problems as the project reaches the finish line.

Also, ask the designer what you’ll receive at project completion. If it’s a logo, for example, ask if you’ll get the logo in different sizes and file formats. Find out if you’ll receive a brand standards document outlining the fonts, colors and notes about how the logo should (and shouldn’t) be used.

illustration of telephoneAs with any working relationship, communication is key. Life happens. Things come up. Keep the lines of communication open and be respectful of each other’s time. Some of my best experiences aren’t the ones that have gone perfectly, but the ones where the client is open with me, and we resolve problems together.

Follow these tips and you’ll likely find you have a wonderful new partner in your marketing efforts.

Have a great week,
sig