Totally Graphic Class Series to start Sept. 24th

Totally graphic classes, taught by Nichole Nappi, will feature advertising design topics such as ad design, creating effective sales ads, designing brochures that promote and creating newsletters. These are all taught from the perspective of a graphic designer. All classes will have a 45 minute of instruction with Q&A at the end for those students who want to know more. For more information or to apply for classes, visit DIY Marketing STUDIO 21 on Facebook or visit N2designservices.com for a calendar of events.

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Ideas come and go…Couple of App suggestions for the creative thinking

The hardest thing to do when designing is come up with “fresh” ideas. What’s even more challenging is trying to remember these great ideas when comes down to getting them on paper. With the fast-moving world we live in, creative thoughts appear and disappear quicker than Trick-or-Treat candy at Halloween. Before you agonize over that lost creative idea…take note…of some of these note taking app suggestions, for your iPhone, iPad or smart phone for creating on the go.

When I’m on the road, I usually carry my iPhone with me and if an idea comes to me I type it up on the Notepad app. Notepad allows users to write messages, take notes and organize thinking on the go. When you open the application on your mobile device, you view a yellow type notepad page, similar to any office pad. One of the cool features on the iPhone is when you type in a date, email or phone number, the phone recognizes these and highlights them so you can add them to your calendar or address book without much effort.  If you want to email your thoughts/notes to yourself or a client, the Notepad app has this function to send as an attachment through your phone’s email.

For the artistic thumbnail sketchers out there, there’s the Bamboo app. Users can draw their ideas directly on the page with either their index finger or Bamboo Stylus (purchasable at any electronic store). This function also allows users to email their ideas to clients and themselves but the great functionality of this particular app is the ability to keep separate “Sketchbooks” and users can customize the title of these books for better organization. So users can have a “private” sketchbook or a “client” sketchbook. This ability to “write” on the tablet is an added novelty which I hope will be an added feature in the future of laptops…imagine being able to write notes directly on a proof by hand in front of a client or giving the client the ability to “sign off” on the final proof on right on the screen of the laptop.

Voice Recorder is a free app that comes with iPhone, in the utility window for you iPhone people out there, which allows you to verbally take notes for yourself. This is a handy function for those not too savvy with their touchscreen typing ability.

Of course, nothing beats the old fashioned pencil and notepad but, in this day and age where electronics are available…isn’t it more fun?!

Check that dropshadow at the door…importance of checking your “special effects” before printing

Oh the tragedy! You’ve spent countless hours proofing, revising and talking/selling your ideas to your customer only to see the final product is missing graphics, type or the effect looks awful. Your heart sinks to your stomach and you grab for the antacid by the handful. And to think…by checking your print preview in Adobe Acrobat, proofed your final media or checked the specs with your printer…this could of been prevented. We, as graphic designers, use some well-placed bells and whistles, dropshadows…bevel…fade, to increase the look to your print document and add a dimensionality to the piece.
Here’s a couple of tips you can use to prevent this from blowing up your print job.

Consider the need for these effects. Does the overall layout need this effect? Will this add anything to the overall effectiveness of the print piece? Will the stock you’re using for your print piece carry the effect the way it is on the screen?

Check your stock. If your printing on a pourous paper, chances are your special effects will fizzle out if the proper steps aren’t taken. Newspaper stock absorbs ink like a sponge and you may need to consider darkness and dot density of your blacks. Also grayscale black and process color black have their issues so you may need to experiment with what works best by proofing and printing in the method your final print product is produced in. Proofing now is better than a bad surprise outcome later.

Also consider the print method you are using. Color choices may look different from what you have on now on your screen than what the finished product is turned out. Check with your printer about the method and special considerations you may need to think about before you send your finals. For 4Over.com a special black ratio needs to be used for process color jobs through their online submissions. Offset printers may need your job to breakout in CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow and black) plates for spot color work.

As mentioned before, check your print preview in Adobe Acrobat Pro’s Output Preview function. Open your final PDF (Portable Document File). Then under Advanced Menu, go to Print Production and the Output Preview. Click on this and click on the Object Preview option. If any of the objects disappear, your printed piece will not print properly. You have to play with the effect options, like in Adobe InDesign, or reset the option style as needed. (A topic I will be writing about in upcoming posts) You can also check your spot color and CMYK breakdown here as well.

By checking your final with all of these steps, you can prevent costly mistakes and angry customers.

If you’re able to, consider a tour of your printer’s facility, when time allows, and ask about the process and the machines used as a way to understand the steps you need to ensure better final pieces and return customers.

Why can’t I find that file I just finished…importance of organization in design

Well, it’s that time of the year again when resolutions are made, projects are started and file back ups are started. In a couple of months, which is always the case, you’re going to reach a major meltdown…that design project is ready for proofing and you need the first draft for file information or art that the customer decided he liked after all. Where did I save that file? After some fruitless efforts to find said file, you grab the remaining specks of sanity and start the long process of looking through all your back up files under the word “proof”. There are 5,625 files with the word “proof” in the title or file. Ugh! After the first 2 hours, you’ve found it…the file titled “artproof#1.pdf”. To think this whole 6 hours of searching is unbillable due to this one file.

Before you waste anymore time, you’re going to have to spend time organizing. This time spent will save you valuable time and mental stability in the long run. We spend countless hours looking for things in our day to day lives. Hours that we can’t bill for and add to our already stressful lives. Start with your computer and please consider some of these ideas for your non-work situations.

Believe it or not, computers start off clean, immaculate and stable environments much like your home when you first move in. The impulse is to fill the space with your stuff in each room…bed in the bedroom, table in the kitchen, couch in the livingroom, etc. After the first couple of months you have your floor plan set and your living in your home and more stuff arrives. Just like the late George Carlin spouted,”… everywhere you go you gotta bring your stuff with you…”.

Folders, sub folders and more folders. I used to think folders were nerdy. I told myself just put the files in one directory and be done with it already. What folders achieve is the ability to generalize and specify all in one sweep.
Designers should consider their working environment before setting up folders, especially when working in collaboration with other designers. You need to converse with your cube mates on the ability to “share” folders and when the need to archive to such folders. This communication is necessary because duplication of folders could lead to file deletion or original, final files to be overwritten which can be devastating to the creative process.
The naming of your folders is important. Simply naming your art scans folder “scanning stuff” is not enough. Try naming the folder with a date and name of the account (i.e. 121211_joesplumbingscans) this folder name gives you the actual date of the scan and the client so when the next set of scans arrive your ability to avoid duplication of scans can help you avoid wasting time scanning images you may already have. If you want to generalize the “scanfolder” and create subfolders, that’s fine. Simply place “121211_joesplumbingscans” in the “2011 scan folder” which can also be placed in the “scan folder”. A simple search for “joesplumbing” will turn up with the file being located in the “scan folder” under “2011 scan folder”.

File names. Simply naming a file with the term “artcopy” is too general file name to use. Unlike the the naming of folders where naming conventions can be general and specific, file names should be a specific process, that when working with other designers, you should have an agreed upon system. For example…

A file completed for the first draft of your company newsletter with which there are multiple files associated including copy written in Microsoft Word in a couple different files. The name of the client is Joe the Plumber and his newsletter is printed quarterly.

I would create a folder for 2012 clients. My subfolder would be Joe the Plumber and the subfolder within this folder would be 2012_joetheplumberNL1. (NL short for newsletter) Art would be placed in a folder named art_joetheplumber2012 and scans, diagrams and other related digital art would be placed here as well. As far as newsletters are concerned, art is sometimes used frequently and in the case of InDesign, is linked to multiple files so care should be taken when moving art to different locations where the process of relinking can be a hassle. Before you proof your first draft of the newsletter, create 3 folders…working_joetheplumberfiles…proof_joetheplumber…finals_joetheplumber. I would name the file JTP_summer2012V1.indd. This naming convention tells me the client, the version of the newsletter, date and version. Do yourself a favor and keep a physical folder for your client and list any important filenames handwritten here…for quick reference. After your second set of revisions is received, save your file as JTP_summer2012V2.indd before you start work. Having that first version may prove helpful in case your client ever refers to this version at a later date or if your present file is ever corrupted or overwritten.

After the revision process, move your final “proof” version to the final folder you created earlier. You can move this file by simply renaming your final version JTP_summer2012FINAL.indd under the “final” folder. InDesign can do this process for you but it’s an extra set of steps but it’s great for prepping method for sending a disk to your company’s printer. For CS versions and higher, go to file, package file and follow the options available including exporting art files linked to the document and fonts. The folder can be duplicated, compressed and burned to disk but you should consider this process only when your shipping files out to other companies…this process used for the simple process of archiving will take up valuable hard drive space after a while and often the files are redundant if your doing this process every time you complete any project…especially when it comes to the process of exporting fonts and art.

Back up files. Decide when the process of files is necessary. At one point, my computer started to slow when faced with storing and retrieving files. I was working at a seasonal business part time and projects would change when the art was no longer applicable. Summer projects would backed up on a separate hard drive under folders with the following titles…SUMMER_Layouts2011…ART_summer2011…etc. So when the time came to retrieve this files and folders I would simply bring them back and rename them with the current date thus keeping the “original” files on the hard drive in case the day came when I would ever need to bring to another computer or review for a future ad campaign. Don’t be a victim of lost files…Back up your files. I once lost a years work when an IT person overwrote my entire drive…I was in the fetal position for days, overwhelmed with the possibility that all that hard work would never be regained. It was awful!

Other things to think about. Whatever naming convention you decide to use, be consistent. Don’t rely on time/date searches and file formats to find files in your system. If you’re working with other artists, make sure communicate the system so they use the same system or your system won’t function properly. If your colleague needs to use a separate hard drive, keep your own drive with all of your and her’s files on it, just in case the hard drive is ever lost stolen. The time you put into better organization pays in the long run in time, money and positive attitude.

Importance of disclaimers

They’re a necessary element to your sales event print advertising. Disclaimers.

Often overlook because of it’s location and “small” print, disclaimers offer retail businesses protection against profit loss, financial liability and customer service issues. Whatever the offer of your print ad campaign, your disclaimer should be consistent and extensive. By not including a disclaimer, you’re sales event could fail before and after the customers come through your door.

When developing your disclaimer, make you follow these rules.

1)  Look over your layout and write down your offers in the order they appear on the layout. Under every offer, list what you would want excluded from the offer (i.e. excludes all special order items, clearance items, etc.), maximum quantities purchased and financing information.

2) Have someone else read over your ad and ask questions your customers may ask. Consider these questions when it comes time to write your final disclaimer. You may want to write a synopsis for your sales staff to review to prepare for this sales event so they are prepared for these questions…such preparedness allows for a more confident consumer.

3) Decide the expiration date of your offer. A shortened time line may be more of an incentive for consumers to react. On the other hand, the extra time allowance may give consumers the chance to work with sales staff and increase the sales opportunity.

4) Refer to competitor disclaimers to decide if your offer can compete with theirs. Are their offers, restricted too much? Can customers benefit from the overall offer? Could you offer more to your customer or do you need to consider another element?

5) Write your disclaimer. Include your expiration date in the beginning of your disclaimer in bold so customers see this first and feel compelled to read the disclaimer. Signify your disclaimer applies to certain areas of the ad by adding an asterisk. Set off your disclaimer with asterisk at the bottom of your ad below your contact information. Point size of your disclaimer copy should be no smaller than 6, newsprint production cannot guarantee print smaller than 5.5 point.

“See store for details” does not cover your bases. This statement only causes doubt to your potential customers when you don’t disclose your business’ intentions. If consumers have to ask for the details they may go elsewhere like your competitor. Disclaimers may seem like a big buzz-kill but their important to the integrity of your advertising and your business’ reputation that they be as accurate and specific to the offers as possible.

Importance of proof-reading

How many times have you sent an e-mail to your contact only to see moments later in your reply that you had errors and misspellings. Well, the unfortunate event that happens in advertising is misspellings and grammatical errors. Errors in copy-writing can land your advertising on late night talk shows and in hot water with your clients. Potential customers are sometimes willing to look past the occasional “i before e” misspelling but when whole paragraphs are unreadable or nonsensical, they’ll be looking elsewhere.

There’s no shame in having someone check your work. As a creative person, I fear the red grease pencil, as it marks up an otherwise beautiful proof. The frustrating step of going back and adding an “s” here or re-typing a sentence there but at the end of the day, I know it’s necessary.

Here are some ideas for double checking your work:

1) Do don’t do your layout and proof in one day. Proof your layout the next day and look over all your body and contact info. The 12 hours away from your copy allows you to see your proof anew.

2) Give your proof to someone else to look over. Eyes that have yet to see your copy are quicker to point out errors. Admit it. After the third hour of looking at your ad copy on widget factors, your eyes tend to glaze over.

3) Use your spell check function carefully. What may be correctly spelled one way may be inadvertently “corrected” by your computer. Or, in one case, something that is spelled g-o-l-d but spelled g-o-l-f would not be flagged by your computer…don’t depend solely on spell check.

4) When in doubt consult more than one source on a spelling of a world. The Webster’s dictionary, although a very dry read, is a great source of what is “right”. If that source is of no help, try Webster’s online or Google. If it pertains to a proper noun, than you may have to send your query to your client for review. There is also many apps on iPhone and other smartphones that allow you to look words up. Purchasing a writer’s style guide is also an important reference to have; especially when you need to know the correct form of a word (lay, laying, laid) and how to punctuate certain sentences.

5) If you don’t have time to have someone check your work, read your copy backwards, from right to left…from the end to the beginning. This slows your thinking and allows you to read the words slower and carefully. Picking out errors will be easier because your brain is not filling in the blanks for you. Also, after this step, read your copy out loud. Hearing the copy spoken may also allow you to catch grammatical errors and allow you to adjust your readability.

Mistakes happen. We’re not perfect but mistakes can be costly. Don’t turn off your potential client or customer by using poorly written or misspelled copy on your next ad. An important decision about your company can be made in as little as 2 minutes.

Tips for creating a SUCCESSFUL newsletter

 

First off, what’s the purpose of even creating a newsletter?! Well, the main reason is to advertise current events pertaining to the business or organization. The other reasons include advertising new products and services or promotions that would benefit the user. For non-profit organizations, request monies and the purposes for the monies needed are the underlying reason.

1- Have a main theme or direction. Events and the benefit of the event for the user to attend should be listed.
2- A main story. The front page is your first impression. Start it off with a main feature to motivate or impress upon your viewer that there is more inside to review.
3- Table of Contents. Having a list of what’s inside, especially for multi-page newsletters is helpful and gives the viewer to look further into the piece.
4- Masthead. A creative title gives the viewer a way of identifying between the company/organization and other organizations. The title can be straight forward or clever. As long as the title makes sense and set on the front page.
5- Have valuable content. Stories that pertain the events/company/organization that would be of interest. For example, a jewelry store would benefit by advertising new arrival with background about the designer and the benefit of attending the store and buying/viewing this new arrival. Sometime advertising new personnel is great idea especially when it’s a service-based company/organization.
6- Calendar of Events. This is a great way of telling your viewer they are getting exclusive information on sales and promotions.
7- “Jump” your main feature to inside your multi-page newsletter. Meaning, for extensive features from the front page can be continued to inside. This makes the viewer look through your newsletter to find the continuation of the story.
8- If possible, PICTURES, PICTURES & MORE Pictures. Visual images break up large chunk of copy and make for an easier flow for the written material. Make sure create captions underneath the photos, especially if they’re people involved.
9- Date and Issue number below the masthead/title of the newsletter. This allows the viewer a point of reference in case there are time-sensitive offers and events. Example, Spring 2011….Vol. 12/Issue 1.
10- Contact information. Viewers may have questions or comments about the goings on in your establishment. Having this type of information allows your viewer to take the initiative in contacting your company/organization…thus establishing a better customer relationship. You can include this information in every story in the newsletter or establish a section somewhere before the end of the last story on the last page.
11- Check your postal regulations for label area. Money can be wasted on ill-designed address/mailing label area. Also check your permit or acquire a mailing permit to mass mail your newsletter. You may also want to inquire about mailing restrictions when it comes to folds and “tabbing” your newsletter. If they are improperly tabbed, there’s a chance your mailer will be returned thus, wasting money and time.
12- Decide whether you are going to mail monthly, bi-monthly, annually or yearly. This will also effect your design and what content is included. The usual time for most companies is bi-monthly but you can also consider quarterly as a possible option.

N2 Design Services, is a New Jersey based design company who services small businesses in Monmouth County. I am the owner and designer who believes in quality design is a small business best element for success.

Need more information or advice on your next newsletter, feel free to contact me via e-mail, nicholenappi@hotmail.com.

Logos for $4…what a deal! NOT!

Okay, this is something I’ve been thinking about for awhile since I saw this “service” available on a “public commerce” site a year ago. There were so-called designers offering logos for about $4 already set in a style ready to go you just had to plug in your company name and you were set. How hard could it be?! Right! Well, this is not a great deal and you are paying for but mass produced typsetting. There was no thought or marketing involved and many people, in all likelihood will have the same look as you and that’s not considered branding. Think about how Joe the Pest Control Guy (no offense to pest control people, just an example) and you have the same style and design of logo…do you really want to take that chance?

That is why Pepsi cola and Coca cola have different logos…why UPS and FEDEX have different logos, they are different brands. Brand confusion is deadly to a business and overall welfare of the companies future. If your company does not differentiate itself from its competition you may lose out to larger more recognizable brand and in essence you are assisting them in the process.

I base my logo design on target market, the overall “style” of the business and the personal thoughts and goals of the owner. After preliminary drawings and meetings, the logo is finalized and the company can begin the branding process including the tag line and overall mission statement to customers.

If you would like to know more or would like a consultation on your current logo or company branding, please feel free to contact me anytime at nicholenappi@hotmail.com.

Deadlines are not just a date to remember

Everyone loves and hates them…but why? Deadlines are just as necessary as toner for your printer. Without them, utter chaos reigns and nothing is achieved. Deadlines don’t have to be painful though, here are some suggestions on how to stick to project deadlines for your business’ advertising schedule.

Get Organized.
Invest in a calendar, Franklin Covey planner (I can’t live without mine) or you can use Google’s calendar for free on the web. You can use any of these options, just start now. Plan out your process from thumbnails, proof deadlines for your customer and your own time. You don’t have to schedule down to the minute but an approximate time for each task should be realistic.

Give yourself more time.
Okay, how long does it really take for you to perform your task? For example, if you think an hour is all it takes don’t let it be the hour before the project is due, lie to yourself and say it will take 2 hours, give yourself double the time it would take to complete the project.

Learn to prioritize.
When you prioritize your workload, what is the project that is coming up first and does the project need to completed early? Ask yourself questions. Does the project have priority over other projects and why? List all your projects and number or letter according to importance.

Don’t try to please everybody.
Just because someone asks you to do a project, doesn’t mean you have to do it. I have turned down projects because I can’t realistically complete them in the time they ask. I rather say no than say yes to a project than disappoint clients with missed or shoddy work.

Delegate.
You don’t have to do all the work. Can someone do some of the time-consuming simple work so you can focus on the important complicated aspects of the project.

Ask for more time before the deadline.
Still find yourself struggling to complete the project? Ask for more time before the deadline, not every deadline is set in stone. Can you do extra steps to help you have more time. Is the camera-ready deadline the drop dead deadline? Can you do without a proof if submit camera-ready? Sometimes project managers install cushions for such a situation and they may be more flexible if they know ahead of time that you may need more time.

Do you enjoy the project?
If you’re not “into” the project from the get go, more than likely you’re going to procrastinate. If it’s a project you have to do, find aspects of the projects you look forward to achieving and set a reward for yourself for when the project is ultimately completed.

Communicate your deadline to others.
When other people know you have to complete an important project or task, they may be more eager to assist you. They can do other jobs for you to give you more time to focus on the work at hand. They may be even helpful for reminding of your deadline or your goal as well.

Whatever the suggestion you chose to go with, deadlines are essential to any workplace. Deadlines are what keep us in check and on goal for whatever we want to achieve and you should strive to stick to them. Don’t beat yourself up for missing them. Learn from your mistakes and just keep moving towards the next one.

Need help with your next deadline? N2 Design Services strategy of plan first and succeed now is how I design. For a free consult for your business’ design needs, please e-mail me at nicholenappi@hotmail.com.

There’s always room for graphics

Yes, folks. There’s always a place to put your company logo, especially on facebook™. Even with the new layout and navigation changes, the facebook™ fan page is one of your company’s free and best “web billboards”…so get your logo, your company information and even your tag line all up in one image. FBML, facebook’s mark up language, uses some basic HTML with some special tags mixed in for good measure, allows users to customize tabs and add continuity to ad campaigns.

With the new changes in twitter™, however, space to customize has been reduced leaving some with chopped off or mostly covered up backgrounds, which a couple of months ago, were readable. Hopefully, Twitter has some more updates in the near future which will resolve this. To get the logo in the right place does require some trial and error but, it’s well worth it when visitors choose to “follow” your tweets. Just remember to save your graphics as RGB/JPEG files before you go to upload them. (For those who are confused by this terminology…web graphics are saved in the RGB color platform and JPEGs are a file type used for photos on the web – I’ll cover these terms more in depth in future postings.)

LinkedIn, is very restricted but there is an application that allows you to upload graphics as photos. This could be used to show current ad campaigns, web promotions or photos of your storefront. Of course, this site is very restrictive as to who you can connect with but the good thing about the photo gallery options is that your graphic is eye-catching and can be shared through other sources.

Also, other sites that are good to post to is Flickr, YouTube and StumbleUpon. All are very popular and great for storing and displaying graphics and advertising elements. Whatever the social media platform you choose to put your company’s name to, look for ways to make it your own. Being unique will put your business in the front of the line.

If you would like more information or would like a consult, please contact me, Nichole Nappi, at nicholenappi@hotmail.com to discuss.