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


How Did Graphic Design Work Before Computers?

Many people fondly remember the “good ole’ days.” Back when everyone sat down for Sunday dinner, singing kids played hopscotch in the streets, and couples could get into the drive-in for a nickel—those were the days!

Of course when it comes to graphic design, the nostalgia starts to…wear off. Before the advent of programs like Photoshop and InDesign, creating logos and ads was a significantly more painstaking and time-consuming process than it is now! It involved cutting out pictures and text with razor blades, carefully gluing (or waxing) things in place, and drawing perfectly straight lines, over and over.

Hunter-McMain, Inc. has been in business since 1989—and when we started out, we didn’t even use computers! Our designers can remember back (not so fondly) to long hours cutting and waxing down all the components of an ad until it was just so—only to start over from the beginning when the client decided he wanted a different font or a new image.

In fact, we still have some old design tools sitting around the office! Designers used tools like these to create their designs:

Lectro-Stik WAX (left, center) was applied to the back of type photo paper to attach it to art boards. Rubber cement (right)was used to adhere regular paper or “placement” photos (that is, photos used to determine the placement of an image within the ad.)

Lectro-Stik WAX (left, center) was applied to the back of type photo paper to attach it to art boards. Rubber cement (right)was used to adhere regular paper or “placement” photos (that is, photos used to determine the placement of an image within the ad.)

These special pens known as Rapidiographs, were for creating specific line-widths by hand.

These special pens known as Rapidiographs, were for creating specific line-widths by hand.

This “die-cut” was a specially made (and expensive) metal stamp, used to emboss paper! The designer usually owned the die-cut and sent it to the printer to use on the final product.

This “die-cut” was a specially made (and expensive) metal stamp, used to emboss paper! The designer usually owned the die-cut and sent it to the printer to use on the final product.

This fancy stuff is called Letraset. The letters could be rubbed off onto paper one by one, but it had to be done right or parts of the letter wouldn’t stick and the image would be ruined!

This fancy stuff is called Letraset. The letters could be rubbed off onto paper one by one, but it had to be done right or parts of the letter wouldn’t stick and the image would be ruined!

This great video by the publishing and multimedia company Airows shows the pre-computer process of building an ad! Our veteran designers at Hunter-McMain have confirmed that, yes, this is actually how they used to do it. Watch:

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BONUS: This beautiful tool is called the “Gentle Rub Electric Eraser.” That’s right, it’s just an eraser. That is ALL it was used for. You’re welcome.

Gentle Rub Electric Eraser.

Gentle Rub Electric Eraser.

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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 7

Welcome back to our blog series, “Top 10 Things Designers Hate!” If you haven’t already, definitely go check out our previous posts in this series, about “borrowed” images, rate cards, and ads with too much text! Today’s post will cover another topic that is near and dear to the hearts of many designers: Fonts.

Specifically,

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

One of the most important things to know about design is that Comic Sans is not your friend. Nor are Papyrus, Times New Roman, or any other over-used fonts that can be found in Microsoft Word.

This is a good example of a poor font choice. The font is cutesy and fun, but the Harley-Davidson Riding Club should seem cool and tough! Image courtesy of  bonfx.com.

This is a good example of a poor font choice. The font is cutesy and fun, but the Harley-Davidson Riding Club should seem cool and tough! Image courtesy of bonfx.com.

Designers see fonts like this as a “lazy” design choice. Since they are so frequently used, they are perceived as all-purpose fonts. That means they are not going to provide that specific, individualized tone that you’re hoping to achieve with your ad. There are even websites devoted to pointing out bad uses of popular fonts.

Not that we don't love the funny papers! Image courtesy of listpod.net.

Image courtesy of listpod.net.

Your designer likely has a stockpile of hundreds of fonts that aren’t immediately recognizable by the average person. They will certainly have something with the feel you’re looking for, but with the added advantage that clients will not recognize it. That means that they’ll think of the font as unique, and associate it with your business—instead of with the Sunday funny-papers.

A great font can help send the message that you want to send, and tell your story, visually. Instead of asking for a specific font you already know about, try focusing on a general look and tone that you want for your ad! It may help to bring in examples of ads you like, and explain what about them works for you. With that information, your designer will be able to generate a design (with a font) that is perfect for you and your business.

This Kodak ad makes great use of typography! By using a font that evokes an old typewriter, they emphasize the comparison they’re making between pictures and words. Image courtesy of 1stwebdesigner.com.

This Kodak ad makes great use of typography! By using a font that evokes an old typewriter, they emphasize the comparison they’re making between pictures and words. Image courtesy of 1stwebdesigner.com.

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Top 10 Things Designers Hate: Number 8

Welcome back! To recap: last week, we talked about “borrowed” images, and before that we covered ads with too much text! Today we’re covering number eight on our list:

“Please, Read the Rate Card!”

Ah, do you hear that? Off in the distance? you can just make out the troubled cry of many a frustrated designer.

What’s a “Rate Card,” you ask? And why should I read it?

A Rate Card is a document provided to you by the publication in which you will be placing an ad. The Rate Card contains all the information that you need about placing your ad in a publication: prices, deadlines, size requirements, and in what format your ad should be sent to us (i.e., .pdf, .cps, or .tif). Often, the Rate Card will look something like this:

This is the rate card we gave to clients who were placing ads in the 2014 Quilts Buyers’ Guide. As you can see, the card shows ad sizes, costs, for both black and white and color ads, and deadlines.

This is the rate card we gave to clients who were placing ads in the 2014 Quilts Buyers Guide. As you can see, the card shows ad sizes, costs, for both black and white and color ads, and deadlines.

The publication where you’ll be placing your ad will always give you one of these—please read it! While working on a publication like the Quilts Buyers Guide, which contains many ads placed by different companies, designers can spend a surprisingly large amount of time fielding emails and phone calls with information about sizes, deadlines, and prices—in other words, information that can be easily found on the Rate Card.

Your designer will be happy to help you out if you have questions or difficulties with your ad! But if you check the Rate Card first, you will help ensure that the conversations with your designer are focused on more important and difficult questions than “when is this due?” For example: you want a flying squirrel in the ad? Sure, why not!

Thanks for reading your Rate Card!

 

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Top 10 Things Designers Hate #9: “Borrowed” Images

Welcome back to the top 10 Things Designers Hate-and how to avoid them! Last time, we looked at ads with too much text! Today we’re looking at:

9) “Borrowed” Images

You found this picture online that would be perfect for your ad! We agree that it is really nice! The only problem is, it doesn’t belong to you. Most images online are created, and therefore owned, by someone else. There are exceptions to this rule, but it can be tricky!

Look, a handy flow chart! Image courtesy of thevisualcommunicationguy.com

Look, a handy flow chart! Image courtesy of thevisualcommunicationguy.com

In most cases it is best to assume that taking an image straight from the web and using it in your ad will infringe on copyright, and is therefore illegal. When you can, try to use images that you own, like photographs of your business or the products you sell. You can also work with your designer to generate a graphic or find a (public domain) image for you!

If there’s something you found online that you just can’t live without, it is sometimes possible to reach out to the owner and try to pay for its use. But if you want something that really stands out and says “you” to your clients, it’s generally better to use something unique.

This issue sometimes leads to the instruction, “I want it to look just like this other ad, but don’t copy it! The same; but not too much!” We want you to have what you want—but designers are artists, and they won’t be happy to copy other artists’ work. Plus, copying another business’s ad concept can get you into hot water with websites like this one, which pokes fun at “copycat” ads.

Instead, figure out what it is that you like about the image you want copied—is it the colors? The use of certain techniques like line-drawing? Talk to your designer about how to incorporate these elements into a brand-new design that will be specific to your business!

This Jeep ad is a great example of a unique, creative ad that uses images belonging to the company! It also sticks with our #10 rule: minimize text! Image courtesy of www.hongkiat.com.

This Land Rover ad is a great example of a unique, creative ad that uses images belonging to the company! It also sticks with our #10 rule: minimize text! Image courtesy of http://www.hongkiat.com.

Elsewhere on the Web:


Dodge Ram Vintage Advertisments

Dodge Ram truck uses the vintage look in the advertisements.  Wish you could go back to the old days when we used our trucks for the ‘great’ outdoors? That’s the image that Dodge Ram truck uses in this recent campaign using the ‘old fashion’ outdoor theme to provoke memories we don’t want to lose. As one ad suggests, “Find yourself in places where no one else can.” The ad agency that created this campaign for Dodge Ram is The Richards Group in Dallas, Texas. Our hats off to them for creating retro advertising that works!

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