A graphics primer

A graphics primer

Part 1: Design elements

Graphic design

As entrepreneurs or business owners, we all need to have graphics done from time to time. Having a professional graphic artist instead of using your own support staff or trying to do it on your own, can be the difference between an amateurish brochure that will end up in the recycle bin or something that really grabs the reader’s interest and is worth keeping.

Before you get started, you need to know what you want and how to ask for it. Here are some explanations of terms and techniques that are important to a graphic artist.

Don’t worry, there is no test at the end. It’s helpful for everyone to know the terms so you can tell your graphic designer what you want.

Photos

Let’s start with my pet peeve! Printed images and web images are completely different. Your logo artwork or photo can look amazing on your website, but will print like garbage if it is not the right format. Images for print must be a minimum of 300 dpi (dots per inch). Websites look fine at 72 dpi, but will print looking pixelated and awful. Websites require RGB (red, green, blue) color and printing needs CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow, black). Color printing is called 4-color process and prints all colors made up of percentages of cyan, magenta, yellow and black inks.

Graphic element

Anything that is in your project including text is a graphic element. This includes words, photos and artwork.

Author’s alterations vs corrections

Author’s alterations are when the client changes the wording rather than correcting an error. Generally those are not included in the quoted price. If you make changes, you will be charged for them. Your copy should be ready to go before you start the graphics. Corrections, however,  are always included in the price.

Camera ready art

Camera ready art is ready to go to the printer without any changes. Your graphic artist should give you camera ready art as the finished product, usually in PDF format for printing. Some printers prefer the original graphics file, but they can be quite cumbersome. You need to discuss with the printer what they require before the graphic artist gets started on the project.

Artwork stretching

I’ve seen people stretch logos or photos to make them fit into the page layout. You never mess with someone’s logo. Make your design fit the logo, not the other way around. The same goes for photos. You can crop and size them in a way to make them fit.

stretchy bee

Colors

Colors should compliment each other and not clash. Bright red on bright blue or green can do crazy things to your eyes and should be avoided. The easiest text to read is black text on light yellow. Generally speaking, soothing colors go with calm subjects and bright colors go with a more vibrant subject matter. If you are unsure about what colors to use for a project, you can always extract colors (there is a tool for that in most software, usually an eye dropper) that match an image or logo. For example, if a logo is purple and yellow, those colors can be used in the text. Please make sure they match perfectly or don’t use them. If they are close, but not exact, it is not pleasing to the eye.

White space

You do not have to fill every bit of space with text or artwork. White space is a design element that some people forget is available to them.

Negative space

Negative space is the area around or between the main focus of an image. The World Wildlife Fund logo is a great example of using negative space. You see the entire animal even though your eye has to fill in part of the outline.

Image courtesy of World Wildlife Fund.
Image courtesy of World Wildlife Fund.

Grid layout

A grid layout is commonly used for things like brochures. Everything is generally at right angles and the end product is pleasing to the eye. If you create something that looks slightly off kilter, it can be irritating to the reader.

Special effects

Too many special effects on one graphic element like feather (edges fade away), drop shadow (shadow behind the object), rotating, outline and inline can be distracting. You can tell by looking if it is too much.

Paper

Coated or uncoated paper (shiny or not) is another graphic element to your project. Depending upon the project, you may want different paper types (bond, laid, onion skin, etc.), thickness (card stock, paper, newsprint) or paper colors. Discuss paper choices at the beginning of the job because adjustments may be needed to get the desired effect. For example: Newsprint can only be printed on a web press and most printers do not have room for them. On a web press, the paper is in a giant roll and gets printed on one side or both sides, cut, collated and sometimes stapled as it goes through the press. Most presses do not use paper rolls, but sheets of paper that are cut to size after printing.

Bleed

A bleed is where text or an image goes off the page like on most magazine covers. You need a larger sheet of paper for printing with a bleed. After it is printed, the excess is trimmed away. While the finished product looks better, it usually costs more to print.

Summary

Some of the best examples of logos are elegant and simple. Think of the Nike swoosh, the NBC stylized peacock or the McDonald’s arches. The same simplicity can work for a brochure or any other graphic piece.

Next time we will discuss typography, the text for your project. Choosing the right font (typestyle) is important to the legibility and success of your printed project.

Contact Social Squids if you have a graphic design project like a corporate identity package (logo, letterhead, business card), trifold brochure, flyer, ad, newsletter or any other printed piece.

From Drab to Fab

Social Squids owner, Holli Friedland, was involved in the some of the writing, editing and graphics of From Drab to Fab.
You can purchase this book about improving your image and your sense of style through this handy workbook. It contains tips on how to figure out what colors and styles work best with your body type, along with effective ways to go shopping. Edit your closet and get started on the new you!

Use images to your advantage

social media image is everythingIn cyberspace, much like real life, image is everything. Do you have your logo or a photo on all of your social media pages? The black silhouette on LinkedIn or Facebook and the empty egg on Twitter give people the impression that you are either new to the site or inactive.

A professional studio photo is best, but really just having some kind of image is better than nothing. Put your business logo if you do not want to show your face. If you do not have a logo, use a photo, illustration or icon of something that relates to your business.

If you repair cars, you could have a photo of a car. A chiropractor could show an image of a spine. Computer programmers can have an image of a computer. You get the idea.

Let your clients and prospective clients see that you are an active business and post on your page often. People love photos, videos and infographics. Instead of posting a statement, add an image to pique the interest of your audience. These images help to shape your brand. This is not just for your Facebook page, your website should have images as well.

You have only a few seconds to get the attention of your prospective client. Photos work really well to help grab people and keep them on your page.

Do you have Google Analytics? We’ve talked about this before. If you do, check out your website’s bounce rate. That is when a person only looks at your main page and “bounces” rather than looking at other pages on your site. In print media, this is the equivalent of someone reading a front page news story and then going to the page where it is continued. If they “bounced,” they would only read what is on the front page.

Are you grabbing people’s attention? If you are, you will have a low bounce rate. If not, you need to figure out what your prospective clients want to see and give it to them. Add images that relate and add them often to get the best response to your website, social media pages and blog.

11 ways to make the most of QR codes

QR code business facebook pagesoQR codes are popping up in all sorts of places. These weird, little, square symbols are the new way to take smart phone users to any web page. How can you use QR codes to help with marketing your business? Here is a list of ways you can make these scannable codes work for you.

Signage: There is only so much space on a sign. QR codes are found on large posters or signs in bus shelters, in bathroom stalls, on public transportation, schools, sporting events or other places where people walk past. Get more traffic by adding a QR code to your sign.

Advertising: Magazine and newspaper ads are using QR codes more and more to encourage people to go to the website of the business to get special offers and company information.

Borchures and flyers: Brochures and flyers can be found on retail counters, left under windshields, in doctor’s offices or handed to people. A QR code can give much more information or take potential clients to a video or slide show.

Packaging: This is a great way to go from someone purchasing your product to someone learning more about the business that produces the product. Get people to go from purchaser to devoted fan.

Name tags at events: Scan in business information about a person on the spot.

Business cards: There is barely any room to write much of a message on a business card. A QR code will let people read the whole company mission.

Real estate for sale signs: As potential buyers see a house for sale, they can stop and scan your QR code, which can take them to a virtual tour or lots of pictures of the interior before they decide to call the agent about the house.

Subscription links: If you have a brochure, sign or flyer and want people to sign up to be on your mailing list. A QR code will quickly get them to the right page.

On an interactive map: A map of an area can add QR codes for readers to get details about interesting landmarks.

On giveaway marketing materials: Key chains, refrigerator magnets, nail files and even pens have little space for more than a logo. Adding a QR code will take them to your site to see details about your business.

RSVP on invitations: Make it easier for people to let you know whether or not they will attend your event with a QR code for yes and another for no.

I need a QR code for my business if you need a QR code for your business.

Great content gets great results

great content gets resultsMost websites are full of words, but how good is that content? Some sites have SEO (search engine optimization) articles that, while they have all the necessary keywords, the articles either do not make sense or the keywords are over used. The articles seem wordy and walk around the subject, never actually getting to the point.

Conversely, sites with interesting, interactive or unique content will grab the attention of the reader and urge them to read more. People return to those sites over and over again.

One of the easiest ways to grab attention is to change the information on the site. Of course, that is how blogs work. Hopefully, you update your blog often to keep people coming back. Giving high value content entices people to the site.

Content does not have to be words. Everyone loves a good photo or piece of artwork. Add graphics, photos or infographics to your pages, follow up by using Instagram and Pinterest to promote them. You will see more activity on your page.

By using Google Analytics, you can see what social media works for you and what does not. Just add the code to your website and you can start using this tool free of charge. If you use Blogger for your blog, there is a built-in Blogger version of Analytics that is already in use. You can find it in the “overview” section and it is called “stats.” If you use social media, you really need to make sure it is working and if not, change what you are doing.

Infographics on the rise

infographics-for-business-growthInfographics, like the one on this page, are gaining ground on regular photos for marketing. Why not? Take your subject matter and turn it into something that is a little more entertaining than a boring photo or mere words. You do not have much time to either get someone’s attention or lose him. Having interesting artwork can make the difference.

As memes have become more popular, infographics followed along with B2B (business to business) messages. At a glance, a person can see the article’s subject matter. Then, he can make the decision to read or to move along to something else. Because my background is in graphics, I find the use of infographics a fun way to get my message to others. Because the graphic work is a jpg or gif file, the image can be pinned on Pinterest.

Often times, I take some base clipart and add my own spin. I’ve always been a huge fan of collage and taking pieces of art and putting them together in a graphic is a little collage-y. I didn’t realize I was such a trendsetter until I started reading about infographics in the news lately.

Since the beginning of this blog, I’ve been custom designing little graphics to make my point. Who knew? What I thought was a quick little flourish on my blog, is now becoming a serious marketing technique. Without getting an advanced degree in graphics, you should be able to find some clipart (I subscribe to a service) and then embellish it to illustrate your content. If not, I’m available for consultation at a reasonable price.

As You Tube, Pinterest, Instagram and memes are snowballing in popularity, the visual media is nearly as important as the written words. Make sure if you are using artwork in anything you do, like your website or blog, that you have permission or pay for the art you use. If not, you can get yourself into trouble with copyright infringements. Better yet, draw your own images or take your own photos.

It seems like every day the social media possibilities are changing or growing. As a B2B owner, freelancer or subcontractor, you have to change with the times. You only have a couple seconds to get someone’s attention or they will click on to the next item. If you have read all the way to this point – thank you!