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From Concept to Completion. Creative Advertising and Graphic Design Services.


Enhance Your Autumn with “Etnico”

image courtesy of peace107.com

image courtesy of peace107.com

Ah, Autumn! The weather turns cool, the leaves turn colors, and we can all bundle up in warm cozy sweaters and drink cocoa around a crackling fire! At least…some people can do that. Here in Houston, of course, it stays a balmy eighty or ninety degrees until well into October. Leaves stay green, grass keeps growing, and the only time it would make sense to drink cocoa is when you’re trapped in an air-conditioned office all day!

Etnico color collage

This is exactly why we are loving Color Marketing Group’s September color alert, “Etnico.” With a little of this warm, earthy orange in your life, it really does feel like fall! “Etnico” reminds us of autumn leaves and pumpkin pie, and we think it’s the perfect addition to your fall ad campaign.

Here’s what Color Marketing Group has to say:

Courtesy of elitemillennial.com

Courtesy of elitemillennial.com

“Bringing to mind hardened earth, baked pottery and, indeed, the orange of the setting sun, the color embeds

itself deeply in products. It celebrates when enhanced with a metallic effect, seduces with a matte richness and glows with a polished gloss.

Not just a simple terra cotta, Etnico takes orange to a new level in home and office. It is becoming a new staple for leather and a solid color coordinate to copper. Count on it to accent classic hues like plum, navy blue, and ivory, and to create a new twist with charcoal grey, wine and olive green.

Earthy, yes, but also sophisticated, charming and energized.”

Love it, love it, love it! Take a cue from the experts and incorporate a little “Etnico” into your next design for a bold, warm, earthy look.

This chick likes “Etnico” too! A lot. Like, way a lot. Image courtesy of CMG.

This chick likes “Etnico” too! A lot. Like, way a lot. Image courtesy of CMG.


Top 10 Things Designers Hate: Everything You Need to Know

Creating the perfect ad campaign for your business can be tough, which is why it’s so important to have a great graphic designer in your corner. Of course, we know that sometimes working with a designer can be hard, too! Maybe you don’t quite know what you’re looking for in a design, or you have ideas, but you and your designer are not speaking the same language.

Don’t worry! We can help. Last month we gave a detailed breakdown of the top 10 things that every designer hates—and how to avoid misunderstandings and stress when building your perfect ad, logo, or website!

If you haven’t had the chance to read the full series, don’t worry! We’ve gathered up the whole list right here. Now is a perfect time to get up-to-date on the things your designer hates—plus how to avoid common snafus, and keep your design process running smoothly!

10) Too Much Text

No!                Yes! Images courtesy of  http://adsulikeit.blogspot.com (left)  and  http://popurls.com (right)

                          No!                                                                                       Yes!
Images courtesy of http://adsulikeit.blogspot.com (left) and http://popurls.com (right)

Ads with too much text can be stressful to read, hard to design, and not very pretty. Keep it clean and simple, and your designer will be happy—plus, your eye-catching ad will attract new customers who can see how savvy you are!

9) “Borrowed” Images 

Image courtesy of thevisualcommunicationguy.com

Image courtesy of thevisualcommunicationguy.com

While it is sometimes ok to borrow an image from another website if proper credit is given (as above), many images are copyrighted, and there are complicated rules for when it can be used and when it can’t. Instead of copying something you like online, work with your designer to create something unique for your business.

8) Read the Rate Card

This is the rate card we gave to clients who were placing ads in the 2014 Quilts Buyers’ Guide, a publication we design for Quilts, Inc.

This is the rate card we gave to clients who were placing ads in the 2014 Quilts Buyers’ Guide, a publication we design for Quilts, Inc.

What in the world is a rate card? Basically, it tells you everything you need to know to place an ad in a given publication—and it’s different for every single one! We broke down the basics of where to find the rate card and how to use it to keep your process running smoothly. Check it out!

7) You say, “Let’s use something fun, like Comic Sans!”

Image courtesy of imaginaryanomaly.wordpress.com

Image courtesy of imaginaryanomaly.wordpress.com

All we have to say about that is: Noooooooooo! Your designer can certainly, absolutely, unequivocally find you a better font that is classy, smart, and unique to you. Let us! Pretty please?

6) Embed Your Fonts

Do what now? This is basically a term for a simple process by which your fonts are included as part of a document you send your designer—so they can see those fonts, even if they don’t have them on their computer already. Follow the link for helpful tips on what “embedding fonts” even means, why it matters, and how to do it! Easy!

5) Color: “Why won’t it print like it looks on my screen?”

The Pantone Color Guide. The book depicts roughly the difference you can expect between computer images and printed images.

The Pantone Color Guide shows roughly the difference you can expect between computer images and printed images.

Simple! Sort of. Actually it’s a little complicated. If you’re interested in the nitty-gritty, we explained it all in the original post. Suffice to say, it will look different from screen to page, so make sure to request a color proof, and use the delightful Pantone color guide shown above to help predict how your ad will look printed.

4) Low-Resolution Images

Image courtesy of stackoverflow.com

Image courtesy of stackoverflow.com

Resolution is another one that takes some time to fully explain, but the basic principle is this: send your designer the biggest image possible. This will allow it to be printed larger without blurring. If you’re not sure if it’s big enough, ask your designer! Or, check out the longer article to learn how to identify high- or low-resolution images, and make sure the pictures in your ad are crystal clear!

3) Last-Minute Changes

stop-the-press 2

Allow me to repeat myself: Nooooooooo! Alterations that a client thinks are “quick” may or may not be, and your designer may have to work overtime to get that ad to print by the deadline. Missing the deadline can mean big hassle and even extra fees from a printer if the process is delayed! If you schedule plenty of buffer for your design process, you’ll ensure that last-minute changes are never necessary, and keep your designer (and your wallet) happy.

2) “My last designer was terrible! She wouldn’t give me the design files!”

Uh-oh! When we hear those words we know there’s trouble a-brewing—because most designers won’t give you those files, either. Image courtesy of www.amandavyne.com.

Uh-oh! When we hear those words we know there’s trouble a-brewing—because most designers won’t give you those files, either. Image courtesy of http://www.amandavyne.com.

In general, the client owns the final ad, but not the working design files or various component parts of the ad. This can vary in different situations—we get more specific about that here. Making sure your agreement is crystal clear at the outset can prevent misunderstandings down the road!

1) You say, “Give me something….different/Unique/Special”

Pardon us while we freak out. Image courtesy of www.warcom.com.au

Pardon us while we freak out. Image courtesy of http://www.warcom.com.au

This kind of request is a little too vague, and it puts a lot of pressure on a designer to guess what you might love. We always want to give our clients what they want—but first we have to know what that is. Make sure you know what you’re looking for, or be ready to trust your designer to come up with something awesome! Specific thoughts about color and style can point your designer in the right direction, and examples can be helpful, too!

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If you want to learn about our collaboration and design skills firsthand, get more information here or call us at 713-627-1177 to set up your free consultation!


Cool Off in August With “Vintage Mint”

Images courtesy of http://www.hawaiikawaii.net/. (Left) Color Marketing Group’s August Color Alert (center), and http://www.polyvore.com/ (right)

Images courtesy of http://www.hawaiikawaii.net/ (left) Color Marketing Group’s August Color Alert (center), and http://www.polyvore.com/ (right).

August in Houston is always hot, and this year, it’s record-breaking! Cool off a little with this month’s spotlight color, “Vintage Mint.” We’re loving this light, refreshing shade of green for everything from ads, to accessories…to cocktails.

There's nothing like a classic mint julep! Image courtesy of https://cocktailvultures.files.wordpress.com

There’s nothing like a classic mint julep! Image courtesy of https://cocktailvultures.files.wordpress.com

Plus, we don’t like to brag (too much), but as you can see from our blog’s color palette, we liked “vintage mint” before it was cool (pun intended)!

If this cute dude can figure out how to rock vintage mint, you can, too! Then you’ll be as cute as he is! Image courtesy of CMG.

If this cute dude can rock vintage mint, you can, too! Then you’ll be as cute as he is! Image courtesy of CMG.

According to the experts at Color Marketing Group (CMG):

“Vintage Mint has its roots in mid-century design…[but with] a distinctly modern edge… Always fresh, but now a bit daring, this new version has the energy to take on fashion, graphics, industrial design and transportation. Its daring has brought diversity, as it takes on unexpected roles in menswear, accent furnishings, and kitchen appliances.

Take a cool, fresh breath, with Vintage Mint.”

We couldn’t have said it better ourselves! Take a cue from the experts and incorporate vintage mint as a fun, fresh addition to your next ad or postcard.


The Number 1 Thing Designers Hate

Welcome back! We’ve covered a lot in this series, and we’re almost finished! We’ve come a long way together, and now it’s time to reveal the number 1 thing designers hate. Drumroll please…

1) You say, “Give me something….Different/Unique/Special!”

Image courtesy of www.warcom.com.au

Image courtesy of http://www.warcom.com.au

“I want it to be different, but I’m not sure how.”

“I love what you’re doing, but could it be more…artsy?”

“I’m not sure what I’m looking for, but I’ll know it when I see it.”

Here you have it: a designer’s worst nightmare. It can be difficult to satisfy a client who speaks in vague concepts, but has little idea about what kind of visual they’re looking for. A request like, “give me something unique,” can be fun for a designer, because it gives a lot of opportunity for creativity! But it can be frustrating, too, because it puts a lot of pressure on a designer to guess what you will love.

Buzzwords that evoke feelings like “family,” “futuristic,” and “fun,” are common in marketing, but they’re also not very specific. Graphic designers are more visually oriented, and they’re looking for more visual descriptions like “use shades of blue,” or “line drawing,” or “photographs of puppies.”

Here you go! This is a photo of a puppy with shades of blue and line drawing! What could be better?

Here you go! This is a photo of a puppy with shades of blue and line drawing! What could be better?

Often clients do have something in mind—they just don’t know how to describe it. That’s when they may default to vague descriptors (like “unique”) and then be disappointed with what we come up with. If you know what you want but have a difficult time describing it, it’s great to bring examples of what you like to share with your designer (but try to avoid #9). Just be ready to say what you like and don’t like about each example.

For instance, a client for a new website might send a list of links to the designer and say, “I like the layout in this one, but I want less text,” and “I like the color scheme here, but mine should be brighter and the pages on this site are too cluttered.” From that, a designer can start to glean the aesthetic you’re looking for, and what kinds of things won’t work for you.

If you really have no idea what you want, that’s ok, too! Trust your designer to create something unique for you—they’ll be thrilled to do it. Then you can tweak it together, until you have exactly the right design for your company!

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Top 10 Things Designers Hate Number 2, or: The Great File Caper

We hope you’re as excited as we are to be getting to the top 2 on this list! We’ve covered rate cards, too much text, and all kinds of great stuff about fonts. We’re now approaching the two most difficult problems that designers encounter with clients—but never fear! We’ve got the scoop on how to avoid these snafus and keep your process running smoothly. The number 2 thing designers hate is when a client says…

2) “My last designer was terrible! She wouldn’t give me the design files!”

Uh-oh! When we hear those words we know there’s trouble a-brewing—because we won’t give you those files, either. Image courtesy of www.amandavyne.com.

Uh-oh! When we hear those words we know there’s trouble a-brewing—because we won’t give you those files, either. Image courtesy of http://www.amandavyne.com.

Occasionally, a client may believe that he is buying not just a logo or ad, but also all the ad’s component parts and the right to make changes at will. The client may ask the designer to create the artwork in Microsoft Word, or simply to share the InDesign or Quark files so it is easier for the client to make adjustments himself.

This is generally not something a designer will do. In most design contracts, clients own the final artwork, but not the “working files” or drafts. While a designer will be happy to collaborate with a client on making changes until the final design is satisfactory to both parties, the majority of designers will not allow a client the right to make changes to a completed design.

There are many reasons for this! First is professional pride: designers want to prevent their painstakingly crafted artwork from being altered. A client is not likely to know as much about composition, fonts, or graphics as a trained graphic designer, and that can lead to oddly stretched or pixelated images and strangely composed ads. We have our reputations to think about, after all!

Maintaining ownership of working files is also good business sense: if a client believes that he or she can simply re-adjust the same ad over and over, then why go back to the designer for a fresh new ad campaign? (of course, wouldn’t you rather have a shiny new design?!) In addition, there are some potential licensing issues. Most images are copyrighted.  If a client gives a designer a photo for their ad, then the photo continues to belong to the client. But if a designer acquires fonts or images elsewhere, then they have the right to sell the final product, but they may not have the legal right to sell you the individual parts.

Understanding what you are (and are not) buying from a designer is an important part of maintaining a positive working relationship. Many conflicts between designer and client can be avoided if ownership and the process are discussed beforehand! Then everyone knows what to expect, and you’re all happy…just like this puppy in a bucket!

Image courtesy of justcuteanimals.com.

Image courtesy of justcuteanimals.com.

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Top 10 Things Designers Hate: Number 3

A simple but important part of any working relationship is respecting each other’s time. We think most people totally get that! But this particular issue still comes up every now and then, so this week, let’s talk about how much designers hate….

3) Last-Minute Changes

Image courtesy of http://www.zerouno.org.

Image courtesy of http://www.zerouno.org.

Every designer has had a client wait until at or after the deadline to request a color change, a text-rewrite, or even a complete overhaul of an ad. These last-minute changes are often accompanied by, “oh, it’s just a little change, it shouldn’t take you very long,” or the dreaded: “I need it by today.”

Of course, clients often don’t realize how long a given change is going to take. Something that seems simple, like replacing the copy, can actually be time-consuming because it requires the text to be sized and formatted to fit in the same space as the old copy. A change like, “could you just add a photograph?” isn’t a matter of just sticking something into the ad. A designer needs to find the right image, get the client’s approval, and make sure it’s the right size and resolution to look good with the rest of the ad. stop-the-press 2

Sometimes, as with ads printed in magazines or newspapers, there is a hard deadline for getting the ad to print. That can mean the designer has to work overtime to get the ad in on time. If you’re printing a brochure or a magazine and want to make a change when it’s already at press, you can end up wasting paper (oh no! the environment!) and you may be charged by the printer for the time they’re not able to use the press because of you! Nobody wants that!

All these last-minute changes can be avoided if you build your schedule with a little buffer-time—and stick to it! Then you’re happy, the designer’s happy, and look: this puppy is happy, too!

Image courtesy of idressmypets.com

Image courtesy of idressmypets.com

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Top 10 Things Designers Hate: Number 4

So far in this series, we’ve covered too much text, reading the rate card, and talked extensively about fonts. The latest designer pet peeve ties in to a similar issue to the one we ran into in post number 5—just because it looks good on your computer screen does not mean that it will look good printed. The number 4 thing designers hate is:

4) Low-Resolution Images

Artfully pixelated image courtesy of stackoverflow.com

Artfully pixelated image courtesy of stackoverflow.com

Resolution in digital images is measured in something called “dpi” or “dots per inch.” The standard dpi for something you want printed relatively large is 300 dpi or more. That means there are, quite literally, 300 little dots of color in each inch of the image. On your computer screen, these dots are called “pixels.”

Often, clients will send us an image that they pulled from Google or Facebook, without paying much attention to the image’s size. Then, they’ll ask us to “blow it up” or “make it bigger.” The problem is, while we can stretch something to be much larger on a computer screen, this does not increase the number of pixels in the image—it simply makes the pixels (or dots) larger. This stretched image may look fine on the computer screen, but when it gets printed there’s a good chance that a smallish image will come out grainy and unclear. And no one wants that!

If you’re using stock photography in your ad, it’s often better to let your designer source the images for you. We’ll know what to look for to make sure the image will come out nice and clear in printing. Then you also avoid issues of “borrowed” images that we covered in Things Designers Hate Number 9.

If you are searching for images for yourself, keep an eye on the number of pixels in the image. Google image search shows the size of images in number of total pixels. If an image is 300×300 pixels, then that image will be 1×1” at 300 dpi when printed. If you enlarge that image to greater than 1×1” when printing it, it will come out blurry.

This sad puppy is 1600x900 pixels. That means the image can be printed as large as 5.3x3 inches without any degradation of the image quality. He’s sad because you tried to print him 10x6. Image courtesy of Google.com.

As you can see circled in red on the right, this sad puppy is 1600×900 pixels. That means the image can be printed as large as 5.3×3 inches without any degradation of the image quality. He’s sad because you tried to print him 10×6. Image courtesy of Google.com.

You can use this information as a rule of thumb when searching for images online. Say you want to use an image that will eventually be printed in a magazine on a standard 8.5×11” page. You would need the image to be at least 2550×3300 pixels to get a resolution of 300dpi.

Finally, clients will sometimes copy all of the images they want to use, paste them into a Word document, and send that document to us. Please, for the love of that adorable puppy up there, do not do this! Pasting images into a Word document can lead to re-sizing in order to fit the image on the page, and can cause compatibility issues between computers with different generations of Microsoft Office, or between Macs and PCs. Always save your images separately and attach them directly to the email. They can be saved as a JPEG, PDF, TIF, or PNG file, but they must be saved at high resolution, at the size you want it printed or larger. That way it will arrive in your designer’s inbox the same way you sent it: nice and big!

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