Are business cards dead?

I do my fair share of networking and I’m always surprised when I meet anyone who doesn’t have a business card. They usually say – with some embarrassment – that they haven’t gotten around to it but it’s on their list.

The other day I met a successful small business owner who said he intentionally doesn’t carry one. His strategy was to immediately connect with people on LinkedIn via smartphones. My curiosity was piqued and it got me thinking. In our smartphone, digital contacts, LinkedIn world, do paper business cards still make sense? 

I’d argue business cards aren’t dead or outdated, but they have evolved. Business cards remain a relatively inexpensive way to market. They’re a tangible reminder of a great new professional contact or a meaningful conversation you shared. They, of course, aren’t the only way you market yourself, but they can serve an important function in providing a first impression of your business. 

As we approach the start of a new year, most people are turning their attention to growing their business. That usually means attending networking events, joining an entrepreneurs’ organization or signing up for a business owners’ mastermind. This could be the perfect time to reconsider your current cards. Is it time for a refresh? Ask yourself these three questions:

1. Is it worth keeping?

Consider adding something beyond your company logo and basic contact details. Add to your card a concise description of the problem you solve, your specific services or the value you provide. If I come home from a networking event with four business cards from insurance agents, how will I know the difference between them? What can you add to your business card so you stand out from others in a similar industry? 

2. Is the “feel” right?

Does your card express who you are and what you do? Does the tone fit you? Casual. Fun. Secure. Trendy. Timeless. If you’re in a creative industry, have a creative business card. If you’re not in a creative industry, how could use creativity to make your card (and business) stand out? You can also consider an unusual size or texture to express your creativity.  

3. Is it up-to-date?

Does it have all the necessary information? This may seem obvious, but check and double check that your card has easy ways for people to get in touch. If you’re rarely at your desk, add a cell phone number to your business card. Make sure you have an email address (not just info@) and a physical address, especially if you have an office or storefront people can visit. 

Networking season is just around the corner. Do you have networking events, professional conferences or trade shows on your calendar for Q1? Now’s the time to give your business card a critical review and make some edits.

Have a great week,

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Putting ink to paper to Instagram in October

People be lovin’ a time-limited challenge – whether it’s writing a novel, eating healthy or doing a plank every day for a month (nope). Artists are no different and – even though getting “excited” is out of my comfort zone – this month I’m excited to be participating in an annual creative challenge called Inktober.

What is Inktober?

Every October artists from all over the world commit to creating one ink drawing each day of the month. The rules are pretty simple: make an ink drawing and post it to social media using the hashtags #inktober and #inktober2019. Search those hashtags on Instagram and you’ll find millions of posts – of varying quality and subject.

The subject matter is up to the artist, although Inktober’s creator, Jake Parker, does provide an official list of interesting prompts. I did this challenge two years ago and did my own thing but this year, I’m traveling with the masses and sticking to Jake’s list.

Why do this?

Good question – I have three kids ages 5 and under. Where will I find the time and energy? The answer is simple: neglect. Neglect is the artist’s way! 😉

Why do it? It’s fun. And it’s about growing, improving and committing to doing something even when I don’t feel like it. I know I’ll run out of easy ideas (or steam) halfway through the month and that’s when I really have to stretch myself and get creative.

Another reason is the communal aspect of the challenge. Several other artists I know in real life are also participating: Tami Boyce, Morgan East, Abdul Shabazz, and Samantha Bell. And here’s some folks I don’t know IRL but I wish I did: This Northern Boy, Roxannimus, Ania Przybylko, and Ataliefite.

As for me, in addition to the official prompts, I have committed to including a person in each daily drawing. Drawing characters is an important skill for an illustrator and it’s an area in which I need improvement. The only way to get better at drawing people is by… drawing people. The timing is great because I’m working on the sequel to my children’s picture book Heyward the Horse and I’m at the people-adding-stage.

Slogging Through

By day 7, this challenge was definitely feeling like work. In life and art, I put a premium on being “clever” (I don’t recommend it) and when I can’t think of something clever with the daily prompt, I get nervous. But somehow, if I show up, ideas flow in from wherever ideas come from. For example, on this day, I was around people watching football.

On this day, I was reading a book about tigers.

Another example, on day 10, I had literally no ideas. I just started doodling a bunny and then – to meet my requirement – added a little boy doing a handstand. The daily prompt was “pattern” so I just decided to make a simple pattern. I let myself go and didn’t try to overthink it. You can see the finished product below. Turns out, this has been one of my favorites and has connected with other people. 

So you see, Inktober is a bit like running a race – ups and downs (and a finish line). Have you ever done anything like this in your business or personal life? Tell me about in the comments below or shoot me an email. And, if you like, follow me for the rest of my #inktober journey.

Have a great week,

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Upping Your Print Game: Part 3

In this blog post, I finish out a series on why you should give printed marketing materials a second look. If you’ve been focused largely on social media and digital advertising, now’s the time to consider adding printed materials to the mix. If you’re on the fence, check out this blog post for three reasons to consider print marketing. And if you’re concerned about the cost, read this post for tips on how to be smart and cost-effective with your printed marketing plan.

Now, for some real-life examples. Here are some printed materials I’ve created for clients.

Southeastern Wildlife Exposition

Thousands of people attend this event each February in Charleston. Many are repeat attendees – both locals and visitors – so a mailer is a great way to let people know what to expect in the coming year’s festival and how to get their tickets. This one is a self-mailer so it’s sealed on the bottom and eliminates the need (and cost) of a separate envelope. Plus, when it lands in mailboxes, people immediately see a beautiful image and the SEWE branding so they are more likely to open the piece. We also chose to do a vertical format to make it stand out more than a traditional tri-fold brochure.

Alhambra Hall

This sales brochure positions Alhambra Hall in Mount Pleasant as an ideal wedding venue. This printed brochure includes all the information a bride or wedding planner would need: a site map illustration, a map of the facility and surrounding property, pricing details and plenty of photos to showcase the venue. The design mimics a wedding invitation with its pearlescent paper that gives the piece a metallic sheen. And the cover has a registered emboss that makes it stand out and is similar to what you might find on a wedding invitation or ceremony program. The size of the piece is 4.625 x 11 inches tall and skinny – giving this printed piece an uncommon size and makes it stand out.

Lowcountry Food Bank

Most nonprofit organizations produce an annual report as a way to showcase their good work, detail how they spent their donations and to recognize large sponsors and donors. Oftentimes, an annual report can run multiple pages, thus, driving up the printing costs. To make this Lowcountry Food Bank annual report both budget-friendly and readable, we opted for an oversized tri-fold brochure (10.5 inches x 5.5 inches). Keeping the piece shorter means you pick out the most critical items for print and then you can supplement with more details on your website if needed. Annual reports typically have stats and numbers so it’s important to present those in an impactful way. For this report, I presented the numbers in a pie chart shaped like an apple (apple pie chart?) matching the image of the apples on the cover.

Like I said, printed marketing collateral can be a great tool in your marketing toolkit. You might be surprised at the reaction you get from potential customers who appreciate the time and effort you put into giving them a tangible takeaway.

Have a great week,

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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,

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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,

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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,

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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).