Why You Need a Business Card

Business Card Design
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In recent years I’ve heard a few comments along the lines of ‘Business cards are old-fashioned and out of date. Nobody uses them anymore’.

I actually felt as though I was starting to agree. Why do we need business cards? Everything is online or digital now. Do we really need to cut down more trees in order to have a bit of cardboard with someone’s details on it. Does anybody even keep business cards that they receive these days?

A few things have happened lately that lead me to believe that yes absolutely we need business cards if we are going to be taken seriously in business.

An Awkward Farewell

A few of weeks ago, a client ordered some specialty business cards that were delayed due to the print process/drying time taking longer than expected for a metallic ink. This client has a brand new business and has been attending appointments to sell her new service online. That’s right she needed business cards to sell an online service. Because the cards were delayed, it meant that she had nothing to leave with her potential clients and suppliers with her details on it. She tried a digital e-card but not many people knew what to do with that and the conclusion of the meetings became awkward with her having to make apologies that the business cards been delayed and she then had to email the details through on her return to her office. Not having her own business cards became a real hurdle to get over at the end of her meetings. It really drove home to me just how much people still rely on their cards to leave their details with suppliers and clients.

A Snapshot of Your Business

Business Card Design

Logo and business card design for local builder ‘Building Squared’

Another thing I want to share with you is about the way your business cards look, how professional are they are they made on quality stock with quality printing finishes? Your business card can say a lot about you and it’s not just about what is written on them. One client called me after being handed my business card at a local printer as somebody they recommended could help with some custom design work. She said she decided to call me for some design work for her husband’s building company because my business card made her smile and feel happy and she was looking for a designer who could produce work for her that would give that same feeling to others. My cards evoked an emotional response that won me a new client!

A Networking Essential

For those of you that attend business networking events, you will understand how important the ritual of swapping cards upon meeting someone new.  At these events, you might meet 10-20 people and without a card to leave them or one in return, it starts to become very difficult to remember who was who both during and after the event.  Attending a networking function without a cards to exchange is little of like showing up naked to a party….simply awkward!  The last big networking event I went to, I handed out 9 or 10 cards and was contacted in the next couple of weeks by 3 of those people for quotes on design work. If I didn’t have cards with me that day, it would have been 3 lost opportunities.

 

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Common Printing Terms

Things you need to know about print
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Helpful Printing Terms Glossary

Even if you are not a graphic designer, there may be times when you need to send artwork to a printer. Some of my clients already have relationships with their own printers that they like to liaise with directly, and in those cases I don’t manage the printing for them,  and instead provide the artwork to them rather than to the printer.

If you do choose to manage your own printing, it’s helpful to have an understanding of some basic printing terms in order to ensure that any artwork you supply is set up to the correct printing specifications.

Below is a simple glossary of some of the most frequently used and helpful terms in printing.

Bleedcommon print set up rules

When you need your printing to extend to the very edges of your printed material without any white border, you need to include ‘Bleed’ in your artwork.

This means that whatever design or background you need to print right to the edge of the page, actually needs to be extended out beyond the page or to ‘bleed’ outside from the edge that will be cut. This is to ensure that no white shows on the edges when your printing is trimmed or guillotined.  Printers will usually ask for between 2-5mm of bleed, depending on what is being printed.

Crop Marks

In order for the printer to know where to cut your artwork to size, crop marks are required. These are short, fine black lines/marks that sit outside the edges of the page that are used to line up the guillotine to cut in the right place.  There are usually 2 for each corner.

DPI

DPI stands for ‘dots per square inch’ and relates to the resolution of a photo or image used in your design, or in the entire design if you are saving it as a bitmap format such as JPEG or TIFF. The higher the DPI, generally the higher the quality and sharper the image.

Most printers will ask for images to be saved at a minimum 300dpi to assure good quality printing. Lower resolutions will result in blurry or pixelated Images.  Some newspapers and magazines may ask for lower resolutions and also some large format printing that does not need to be seen close up can get away with lower resolutions (which in the case of large banners and signs, can also help to keep the file size down).

For most printing, there is no benefit in saving your images at more than 300dpi, as there would not be very much visible difference in the final result and it makes the file size unnecessarily large.

GSM

GSM is an acronym for ‘grams per square metre’ in relation to the weight of paper used in printing. The higher the gsm, the thicker and heavier the paper or card stock.

Common appear weights:

  • Copier paper is usually around 80-90gsm
  • Flyers and catalogues/brochures 150gsm
  • Brochure covers and light weight postcards 250gsm
  • Business cards, postcards, premium brochures 310-350gsm
  • Premium heavyweight business cards 350-420gsm

Overprinting

Often printers will ask for black text and fine black lines to be set to ‘overprint’ in your document. This is to avoid mis-registration errors being seen in the final print. In simple terms, instead of the black knocking out the colours that’s are printed underneath it, the black is printed over the top.   Therefore it is only suitable to do on areas of fine black print, as the colours below do show through as they can’t be seen with the naked eye for such a small area, but with and fine lines.  Do not set large black areas to overprint as some colour from below may be seen through the black.

Professional graphics software such as InDesign and Adobe Illustrator allow you to set object to overprint before saving you final print file.  InDesign actually has this as a default setting when you use 100% black, so if you are using 100% for large solid areas over other colours, make sure that you manually turn overprint off.

CMYK

Cyan, magenta, yellow and black are the 4 colour inks used in the printing process. All colours used in printing are made up of these 4 colours.  As well as CMYK printing, there are also specially ink blends such as Pantone colours that can also be used in printing if there is a particular need to achieve perfectly consistent colours across different printing projects.

Scoring

In order to help paper and card stock fold nicely, the paper must be creased first. This is called scoring. For simple everyday brochure and card folds, you usually do jot need to worry about showing where the score line should be on you artwork proof. However, for any more complex or folds and packaging, the scoreline will need to be shown on your artwork or in a proof file.  Your printer will advise how they require the artwork to be set up and supplied depending on the project type.

Die Cutting

Sometimes you may need your printing to be cut to a particular shape that is not a standard paper size or shape.  This is done with die cutting and it is usually carried out with the use of a specially made cutting shape (called a die forme) that presses into and cuts and scores the paper to the desired shape.


Although this is not an exhaustive list of printing terms, it covers some of the most common terms that I am asked about the meanings for.  I hope this helps you!  If you are ever in doubt, ask your designer or your printer for more information or instructions.

6 Ways to Get Your Creative Ideas Flowing

Creative Juice
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Everyone Can Be Creative!

People often tell me ‘You are so creative!  I don’t have a creative bone in my body. I wish I could do what you do.’  And I always reply that they can be! I am of the belief that anyone can be creative with a little bit of help and some simple techniques to help get those creative juices flowing. It doesn’t matter whether you are wanting to be creative in business, design, art or decorating, there are lots of different ways to improve and help your own creativity to grow within  your chosen project.

So I thought I would share my own techniques that I find work for me in my graphic design work, that I believe can be applied to any type of creative pursuit. I’m sure that some of these can help you too…just give them a try!

Dr Seuss Cat in a Hat
“Think Left and think right
Think low and think high.
Oh the thinks you can think up
If only you try!”

Dr Seuss

 

 

 

1. Research

The very first thing I do before commencing any creative project is to start with some basic research and background information.  For example, if I am designing any visual branding materials for a client, I look at their brief and their research and then extend this with some of my own. I look at what their competitors are doing and what is happening with current trends in their industry.  This doesn’t mean that I will necessarily follow those trends, but it is a good starting point for getting my thinking cap on, as it can help lead my thoughts in a direction in knowing what I want and don’t want to do.  I also research current and projected graphic design trends in general.

So what do I do with my research?  Read on…

2. Create a Vision/Mood Board

A vision or a mood board is basically a scrapbook or pin board of research and ideas surrounding your project collated to one page so that you can see it as a whole.  It’s goal is to clarify direction in your thinking and help you make the right creative choices for your project.

It may be made up of what ever you like that inspires you towards your creativity goal, whether that be colour schemes, shapes, layouts or images that you like and that fit in with the direction you wish to move.

My favourite way of creating a vision board is to take all of the best parts of my research and lay them out in a big circular collage around the outside of an artboard in Adobe Illustrator, which is my favourite design software for getting ideas started – you can use whichever program that you like for this or do it by hand on paper with a physical collage.  I find that I can then easily draw on my vision board for inspiration when needed.

Pinterest is another great way to make a digital vision/pin board by ‘pinning’ images that you find online to a selected pin board online, directly from the site you sourced it from. You can easily add to and subtract from your board and you can share your board with others or keep it private. This makes it easy to drill down a conceptual style with a client as you can share a pinterest board where you can add or remove images that you think will relate to your project.

PS. You can find me on Pinterest and check out some of my boards.

3. Brainstorm

Wikipedia describes brainstorming as ‘a group or individual creativity technique by which efforts are made to find a conclusion for a specific problem by gathering a list of ideas spontaneously contributed by its member(s)’.

So, you can do this on your own by just sitting down with a sketch book and writing down or sketching your thoughts and ideas as you think of them and usually one idea will lead to another until you have a collection of concepts that could work for your project.

If you have access to a group of people that you can work with, you can get together with the purpose of coming up with something great by firing off ideas at one another in a ‘storm’ of creativity. Once you get going and the ideas start flowing, it can be difficult to stop!

4. Daydream

Once I have done some research on a project and have a clear purpose for a creative project, I find that I often have ideas come to me completely naturally and out of the blue.  I think this is my subconscious taking what I have set my mind to and continuing those thoughts in the back of my mind until something stands out – aka daydreaming. You can’t always force creativity, so once you have started your creative process, try allowing yourself some time for ideas to come to you naturally.  I often have ideas for logo concepts while I’m driving my car, watching tv, reading a book etc… just during general mundane times of my day. I like to give myself a week or so to allow ideas to naturally take place and see what my mind can come up with, without forcing an idea from it.

5. Keep an Idea’s Notebook

A note book is a great way to record any ideas that you have while you are out and about in your day or ‘daydreaming’.  If you get an idea, just write it down or pop it into a notepad app on your phone and then you will always be able to go back to it later when you sit down to work on your project and you won’t have to worry about forgetting it.

6. Jump in and Start

Once you have done some or all of the above, its time to jump in and get started on your creative projects final piece.  I find that no matter how much research and preparation I have done in advance, I nearly always have more ideas while I am working on the project.  For example, I may start a logo design with only one definite concept in mind, however as I work on that first concept, the ideas for the 2nd and 3rd concept take root and grow from there.  Its as if the process of being creative opens the door for more ideas to flow.

There are many ways to get creative, and these are just some of the main techniques that work for me over and over again and I hope that they can help you too.  Good luck and get creative!

How Much is a Designer Worth?

How much is a designer worth?
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HOW MUCH SHOULD YOU PAY A GRAPHIC DESIGNER?

This is quite an open ended question, but one that most small to medium business owners will need to know when setting up and running a business.  I will try to answer it in as straight forward a manner as possible, however, there are many variation, so please take this is a GUIDE only.

It basically comes down to the type of designer that you choose and how they charge for their services.  Generally, there are two ways that graphic designers will operate 1. Hourly Rate and 2. Flat Rate.

HOURLY RATE

Most freelance designers, studios and agencies will work out their quotation estimates based on an hourly rate, regardless of how you see the final bill.  However, some designers choose to charge purely by the hour for the actual time they have worked. They will usually provide an estimate before commencing, however if the job goes over the estimated time allowed, you will be charged for that time.

In some cases, this can be a little scary for clients, as budgets can quickly blow out if you decide to make a lot of revisions and changes once first design concepts have been presented.  On the flip-side, it can also save you money if the time taken turns out to be lower than was estimated.

This goes without saying for any design project, however if you are going to work with a designer on an hourly rate, make sure that you really do your homework when providing your clear and concise creative brief and ensure that your content is provided in full and error free, so that the designer is fully armed with all of the required information to provide a kick-ass design that fully answers your brief without needing extra rounds of revisions that will ultimately cost you time and money.

HOT TIP: Keep communication lines with your designer open throughout your design project so that you don’t unknowingly blow your budget if the hours end up higher than estimated.

FLAT PROJECT RATE

Many freelance designers and smaller studios will offer flat rate fees for design projects.  Although these rates are based on an estimated number of hours, the client pays the one rate no matter the hours worked, so long as the terms of the original quotation are met.  This means that flat rate fees will usually come with terms that cover items such as:

  • the number of concepts that will be submitted
  • the maximum number of revisions included
  • the time frame allowed for the project to be completed
  • deposits and payments
  • cost of stock photography, if required

This is a great way to work for the designer, so long as they stay within their estimated working hours for the project – sometimes the designer will win on this and work less than the estimate, and sometimes they will lose and it will take longer, however the important thing is that the client is delivered with the work as agreed, at the agreed price. Its also great for the client, as they know their budget will not blow out, so long as they stay within the terms of the project partnership.

In my business, I will usually quote a fixed rate for a project, which I have determined based on the number of hours that I think it will take. These rates are based on experience with similar projects that I have worked on in the past.

HOT TIP: Take note of the number of revisions allowed for within the quotation, as additional rounds will end up costing you extra, outside of the agreed quote.

SO WHAT SHOULD YOU EXPECT TO PAY?

This will depend largely on the type of project, what you need to get out of it and the type of designer that you engage with.  Most designers will loosely fit into 4 price categories (yes there are more and there is a lot of cross over, but for the purpose of giving a rough cost guide, I am simplifying it to just these 4).  I have shown the various price ranges as hourly rates in order to show a fair comparison.

The following is a guide only, and is aimed at general business graphic design for branding, marketing and advertising purposes.  It does not cover designs that require transfer of rights and licensing where the client will be on-selling the design in one or more applications for profit, as that is a whole other ball game and quite a complex topic.

1. LOWER PRICE RANGE

Otherwise known as ‘cheap’, but not necessarily nasty, this is often your student or fresh design graduate who is wanting to build up their portfolio and range of experience.  It may also be someone who is self taught or working from home, so that overhead costs are low and they can pass on savings to clients.  Don’t disparage the self taught or home based designer though, as I’ve seen many whose skills far surpass those with high qualifications and years of experience.  Some people are just naturally talented and as the graphic design industry is not officially regulated, anyone can claim designer status.  The important thing here is to make sure that you check out their current portfolio of work, so that you know it is up to the standard that you require before hiring.  Also keep in mind that from this hourly rate, these designers need to pay for their own superannuation, hardware and software costs and other costs associated with building up and running a business as a sole trader, so please be kind and don’t try to drive their prices down even lower…also keep in mind that as they gain more experience in the design trade, their prices will more than likely increase in line with that over time.

Hourly rate range: $20 – $60 ex gst

2. MID RANGE PRICING

Now we start to move into the first of the professional price range brackets where you are looking at a designer with several years of experience under their belt and/or tertiary qualifications.  Designers that fall into this category (such as myself) will usually be freelancers/sole traders or work in the smaller creative studios and agencies.  You will usually be working directly with the designer that is working on your project, so there is no middle man or account manager to go through. The designer can become a close member of your team and get to know your business and its needs really well over time, making them a sound investment.

Hourly rate range: $60 – $120 ex gst

3. TOP RANGE PRICING

This category covers creative and advertising agencies and also the very highly experience senior designers and creative directors that may work on a freelance basis.  In the case of an agency, you are not just paying for one graphic designer to work on your project, but a team that may include an account manager, market researchers, creative directors as well as the design team, so prices are always going to be much higher than working with an individual, even though you may be able to achieve the same quality result in the end.

Hourly rate range: $120 – $350 ex gst (this can vary widely from agency to agency)

4. SUPER CHEAP PRICING

I’ve left this one until last, as I think its a bit of pot luck as to the result you may get when going with the super cheap designer, so I don’t really see it as a serious, risk free, ongoing design solution for businesses.  I’m also a huge believer in shopping locally for both personal and business and at these prices, it is highly unlikely that these designers are local to Australia (although you may be lucky!).

These designers are often found online via websites like fiverr.com and design competition sites and they are very cheap as they will often live in countries where there is lower employment rates and wage opportunities in comparison to Australia.  This is not always the case and I’m certainly not disparaging anyone’s right to seek work overseas via the internet, however I do think that for serious businesses, this is not a great option to run with. You may get good results for a one off project though, so if you are on a particularly tight budget, it may be worth a try!

In my research and experience with speaking to business owners who have tried sites such as fiverr.com for graphic design work, they have received sub standard work, that was often a direct rip off from a stock image library or of someone else’s work, causing copyright issues and so the work was unusable.  I have heard the odd success story however, so if you’ve got the time to try it out and don’t mind that you may not receive what you wanted and are happy to take the risk, then by all means, give it a go!

Hourly rate range: $5 – $20 ex gst

YOUR DESIGNER IS A PART OF YOUR TEAM

They key foucs points when choosing a designer are:

  • that you love the style of their portfolio of work
  • that you get along with them and they are a good fit for your business and open to a two way dialogue with you
  • you can see positive testimonials from previous clients
  • they can follow a brief
  • you have allowed the right budget to achieve your desired outcome
  • they can carry out the work with your timeframe

Your budget may a major determining factor in choosing a graphic designer that is right for you, however one thing that I can’t stress highly enough is that a designer WILL become a huge asset to your business if you find the right one, so make sure that the person or agency that you choose is one whom you think you will be able to work with on an ongoing basis, and that their style resonates with you, as they really can become part of your team and be worth every dollar (and more) than their fee represents at first glance.

 

Which Colour Space Should I Use?

Colour Space
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Why Do I Need to Know About Colour Space?

If you are new to the world of producing materials for printing or for the the web, then you may not know that there are different colour spaces that need to be applied to your text and graphics depending on the medium that they are being used in.

RGB

RGB Colour SpaceIf you are designing or producing visual materials to use on a screen that emits light (computer monitors, tvs, smart phone, tablets etc), whether it be for a website, email, powerpoint presentations, apps or onscreen pdf files, then you will need to ensure that you are working in an RGB colour space.

RGB stands for Red, Green and Blue, which are the three primary colours in light that you probably learned about at school.  It is what is called an ‘additive’ colour space, as when you add 100% of each of the  3 colours together, you will end up with white.

Because your are working with light and not a reflective colour, you can achieve very bright and vibrant colours with RBG.

CMYK

CMYK Colour SpaceCMYK are the four colours used when working with ink for printing. It stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black.  It is what is known as a ‘subtractive’ colour space, as it reflects light and when all 4 colours are combined at 100% of each, you will end up with Black.  In fact, you will also get black by combining just the Cyan, Magenta and Yellow, however in printing this uses a lot of ink, so by including Black as a 4th colour, it saves a lot of ink and can also provide a richer black print. A lot of designers will use a version of what is called ‘Rich Black’ which uses 100% Black and then various percentages of Cyan, Magenta & Yellow.

It is harder to achieve the same vibrancy with CMYK due to its reflective nature, particularly with bright blues and greens.  You will notice if you convert a very bright and vibrant RBG image to CMYK that some colours may become more dull and in some cases, you may need to adjust your image or graphics in order to get the desired print intensity.

CMYK colour printing can sometimes produce slightly inconsistent results depending on the printer you are using and colour calibrations from machine to machine.

Smart phones, tablets and some computer monitors will often display CMYK colours in a completely distorted way to their intended shade, making them ultra bright or a different shade of the colour, so make sure that you only use this colour space for documents that are being printed.

PMS

Pantone Colour BridgeThe Pantone Matching System (PMS) is a set of opaque specialty inks that are blended to make specifically named colours. Pantone colours are used when you need to achieve a consistently exact match in a colour that you are printing, no matter where or when they are printed.  It can be particularly important in company logos and branding colours, where consistency across branding materials is necessary.  Because the inks are opaque, it is not recommended that you use percentages or transparencies of PMS colours, but you should either select another PMS colour that closely matches the lighter shade that you are trying to achieve, or you could use CMYK colours with transparency.

Hex CodesHex Colours

A Hex Code is not a colour space in itself, but is actually a representation of a blend of RGB colours that has been given a 6 digit, 3 byte hexadecimal number to represent the blend of Red Green and Blue.  There is a hex code for every blended percentage of RGB possible in the spectrum, literally thousands of them.

Hex Codes are predominantly used anywhere that colours are appear on a screen and need to be assigned a code so that the screen knows which colour to display. They are used in website html, CSS, SVG and other computing  applications.

Getting it Right!

So, in order to avoid colours printing or displaying onscreen incorrectly in their final application, make sure that you are using the correct colour space by checking and adjusting your document colour settings appropriately.

Choosing a Graphic Designer – Freelance vs Agency

Freelance vs Agency Designer
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FREELANCE VS AGENCY

There are so many choices for small business owners out there when it comes to working with a designer. The world wide web has opened up so many more opportunities than were previously available.

So how do you know what type of designer is best suited to your business?  Should you hire a freelance graphic designer or a creative agency? Each option has it’s own advantages and disadvantages. I have detailed some of the advantages for each option below to help you make the right choice for your business.

FREELANCE DESIGNER

Price

With less overheads, a freelance designer will generally be a much less expensive option in comparison to an agency.

Communication

If you like to work directly with the person that is creating your design and marketing materials, then a freelance designer will probably be a good choice for you.  This person effectively can become part of your own team and a great working relationship can be formed.  Agencies usually filter all communications via an account manager who will then pass your requests onto their design team.

Freelancers will often work more flexible hours than an agency, responding to emails outside of the standard 9-5, although this will vary from business to business.

Style

If you like a particular freelancer’s portfolio and therefore their overall design style, going to them direct will usually mean that you know what to expect when working with them, so there should be no surprises when concepts are submitted to you.  Of course, most freelancers can also be quite flexible in their style to some degree in order to meet a client’s brief, but you should ensure that you choose someone whose portfolio pieces fairly closely match the vision you have for your own brand and style.

WHY CHOOSE A CREATIVE AGENCY?

Capacity

More hands on deck means that creative agencies are able to more readily handle larger projects and accounts. In some cases, this can also mean a broader skillset without having to go outside of the agency.

Availability

More staff availability may mean shorter turnaround times for project completion than when working with a freelancer, who can sometimes be booked for weeks or months in advance and no down time on your projects due to illness or holidays.

DECISION TIME

In general, a good freelance designer will offer a similar service to an agency on all but the largest projects and accounts, but it is important that you weigh up the pros and cons yourself in order to decide which option is best suited your your businesses needs. Every freelancer and agency is different, so not all of the above will accurately apply to everyone. This article is a general guide only and there are always exceptions to every rule.