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

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).

Heritage Podcast Artwork

Podcasts are an amazing innovation.  I love listening to them because they are educational and entertaining. Or perhaps, I just work by myself all day and it’s good to hear another human voice. There are a handful of podcasts that have become an almost sacred part of my weekly routine.

Will Webb’s The Heritage Podcast is one such podcast. Will’s goal is to offer an entire liberal arts education in podcast form. That is a tremendously aspirational goal, he admits. Basically, he’s reading a whole bachelor’s degree worth of books and giving the listeners a free book report. It’s fascinating.

I enjoyed the podcast immensely but, as a visual person, I felt the podcast graphics, while on-theme, didn’t really do Will’s audio content justice. The things that make his podcast so enjoyable, his quirky sense of humor and casual tone, weren’t being portrayed at all. Take a look at where we started. It’s not terrible, but it is a little bland.

globe with text

I reached out to Will and offered my services to re-brand his podcast. He accepted. We started down the discovery process and I came back with a handful of concepts:

logos

Anything look unexpected? Yeah, those last two. The dolphins. What’s that about? You see way back in an early episode he recounts a ludicrous story from antiquity (Herodotus’s History) about a man who rode on the back of a dolphin across the sea. More on that here. Herodotus’s episode is a fantastical account scattered amid the rest of his seemingly believable tales. It’s kind of like if a witness was called into court to recount a crime they saw and just when they were wrapping up their incredibly convincing eyewitness account, they mentioned that after they get out of court they’re going to go for a unicorn ride. You, as a juror, would be hardpressed to take the rest of the witness’s testimony seriously.

Anyway, in order to highlight the absurdity, Will intermittently uses a dolphin sound effect here and there for giggles and/or to make a point about the reliability of source materials. It works although you probably have to hear it for yourself.

So that’s the logo Will selected. I took it back to the lab and polished it up. The rest is history. Here’s the final:

 

final logo

 

And here’s a video of the process:

I really enjoyed working on this project because I believe so much in what Will is doing. If you’d like to check out his website to learn more, click here.

Have a great week,

sig

Fine Art Book

Last year, one of my clients asked me to design an “art book” to celebrate their exhibitors. I find that one of the best ways to design with fine art is to get out of the way and let the pieces speak for themselves. The project was a study in simplicity. The cover of the book has a gold foil treatment and is perfect bound. We then added a printed sleeve to keep the booklet protected during shipping.

cover with sleeve art book coming out of sleeve art book on top of sleeve interior spread with wild cat artwork interior spread wtih fox artwork interior spread of art book back of art book - foil logo

 

I was very pleased with the results and so was my client.

Have a great week,

sig

The Case of the Pineapple Cliché

A short (& cheesy) detective story

It was a day like any other day, sunny and hot. I was sitting at my desk (sitting is the new smoking) when the phone rang loudly. The dame on the other end of the line was in distress. I jumped in my car and headed East of the Cooper. When I arrived, my client – let’s call her Trixie – looked up from her desk, anxious, with a handful of papers and a look of panic in her eyes.

Me: Hello, kid. You rang?

Trixie: I need a flyer designed, Detective. It’s for a special event I’m putting on for members of the hospitality industry. I can’t think of any imagery that would work. Can you help?

This case could be tricky, I thought. In a world of endless advertising, it can be hard to express old ideas in new and engaging ways. I went with my gut: Keep It Simple Stupid.

Me: How about using a pineapple? It’s the universal symbol for hospitality.

Trixie: No! I hate pineapples. They’re so overused and cliché.

Me: Trust me, kid. I gotta hunch.

I went back to my office and got to work. A few days later we met again, only this time, I was carrying the papers. I opened up my briefcase and showed her the work.

mount pleasant echa flyer design

Trixie: Oh Detective! It’s perfect.

Me: It’s all in a day’s work, kid. All in a day’s work.

Case Closed. I went back to my office and had a long sit.

The end.

Have a great week,

sig

P.S. A good designer can always find new ways to express a worn-out idea or cliché. If you need a good designer, get in touch: ab@andrewbartondesign.com or (843) 882-7627.

Simple Stamp Timebox

I often face a problem in my day to day work life. The problem stems from two separate realities:

  1. Terrible To-do List. There are many many many things I want to create. The list is endless and overwhelming.
  2. Perfectionism – the archenemy of progress. Even with small things, I often won’t take them on until I know I have time to do them perfectly. This prevents me from tackling my Terrible To-Do list. Is all lost?

foreverNot quite. An effective solution is called timeboxing. In short, you choose a task (or deliverable) and give it a set amount of time. At the end of that time, whatever you’ve accomplished is the final deliverable. In other words, you create a deadline and then stick to it no matter what. When your time is up, you’re finished with that project – forever.

Okay not necessarily forever. And it doesn’t work on every task. But for the right projects, I love this technique. It forces you to focus on the essentials and cut the fat. It works especially well if you’re deadline-driven, as I am.

Last week, I had an extra hour or two and I challenged myself to time box a small project I’d been putting off: create (and order) a return address stamp. Since the stamp isn’t expensive or something I’ll use forever, I figured it would be a great project to timebox.

sketch of hand drawn stamp

Here’s how it turned out. First I did the sketch. Then I scanned it. Then I converted it to a digital vector program and played around with it until my time was up. I placed the order just in time to hit my deadline.

handmade return address stamp

Is it perfect? No, but I love how it turned out. I had fun making it. And, of course, now I can cross something off that Terrible To-do list.

Have a great week,

sig

SIDENOTE: One interesting application of the timebox concept is used in creating indie (small time) video games. I’ve participated in a couple of these contests. Both times, I worked with a developer to create a simple, playable computer game in three days. You might be able to play one of them in your browser here (doesn’t work in Chrome).

Fishy Field Trip

The other day, I couldn’t bare to look at my computer screen for one more second. Not one. I blame early spring. I was feeling burned out. So, reluctantly I gave myself permission to go on a field trip. It was 10AM on a Tuesday — very much out of the norm for ABD.

I grabbed my sketchbook and headed down to the local aquarium. It’s an amazing place and their slogan is “Cheaper than a therapist!” Okay it’s not, but it should be.

I lucked out — no screaming kids. For the next couple of hours, I roamed the exhibits, sketched out various creatures that caught my eye and generally tried not to look like the creepy bearded guy by himself. It was a great afternoon and very relaxing.

Here’s some scans from my sketchbook:

aquarium sketches

Fast forward: a few weeks later when I was looking back through my drawings all these ideas just started flowing. I scanned in my drawings and made a short illustrated series for fun.

colored sketches of fish and an eel

colored sketches of fish and a jellyfish

colored sketches of fish

Then a few days after that, I ran out of business cards. Time was short so I grabbed my fishy friends and turned them into some new business cards. Take a look:

andrew barton business card

blue fish with one red fish

side of card

The moral of the story: sometimes it’s okay to give yourself permission to do something out of the ordinary. You never know what kind of creative ideas a little “me time” will spark. Try that on your boss and let me know how it goes.

Have a great week,

sig

PS – I really want to do some creative work for the Aquarium so if you’re reading this, SC Aquarium, swipe right.

Hatman Direct Mailer

Every year I mail out a New Year’s Card. It’s one of my favorite annual projects. Check out previous year’s designs here and here.

For 2017, I wanted to take it to the next level. I also wanted to tie the theme back to Charleston history. At some point during the brainstorming process, my fascination with the lapel pin craze and the Charleston Hatman coalesced into an idea that I was really excited about.

I was riding high until the realization that this project would be double or triple my budget. By this time, I was emotionally attached to my hatman mailer so I reached out to some partners to collaborate. Kimberly Hopkins from RR Donnelly printed the mailer and Michelle Harris from Karst Promo handled the enamel lapel pin. We all serve similar customers and used this opportunity for cross promotion. It was a win win… win.

Here’s how the project turned out:

direct mail front

happy new year design

charleston hatman history

hat man lapel pin

hatman lapel pin

BONUS – Watch a time-lapse video of the making of the Hatman vector artwork:

I was super pleased with the final product.

To summarize – need something printed? Call Kim. Need a customized lapel pin (or anything promotional)? Tell Michelle. Need some graphic design love? Nothing rhymes with Andrew. ? But here’s my number – 843.882.7627.

Have a great week,

sig

 

 

SEWE VIP Brochure

front page of brochure

front and back of direct mail brochure

gatefold design and insert

brochure flat inside

This brochure was designed to support VIP membership sales for the 2017 South Eastern Wildlife Exposition. The 5-panel mailer, printed on Sappi Flo 80lb Dull Cover paper, folds up and fits nicely into a #10 envelope. Inside the brochure hides a colorful invitation to a Gala event.

I’m particularly fond of the gated fold (center panels) with the avian artwork by this year’s featured artist, Ezra Tucker.

Have a great week,

sig