Friday, November 20, 2020

How to Kickstart Your Noodle During a Creative Block

"Design can be art. Design can be aesthetics. Design is so simple, that's why it is so complicated." (Paul Rand, graphic designer)


Never does a page seem so bleak as when you experience a creative rut in design.


Design ruts are the graphic artist’s equivalent of writer’s block. And everyone has been there! The world’s most imaginative people have experienced this obstacle and found a way to battle through.


One benefit of getting stuck is that you’re forced to rediscover your own creativity! Need help getting started? Here are some different ways to break out of stagnation when you’re stuck on a design:


1. Think laterally


Designs are ultimately problems waiting to be solved.


When you are stymied by the project at hand, come at the problem from a different angle, no matter how extreme it might seem.


One way to do this is to temporarily focus your thinking around individual parts of a message, like why a client might need your product or what pictures might best communicate its benefits.


2. Concentrate on your market


What are your target customers used to seeing, and what would make them lean forward and take note?


Maybe you need to challenge existing assumptions and go for something bolder. For example, in the financial world, materials tend to be produced in very corporate colors, like navy blue and grey. How could a fresh design upend traditional concepts in a way that is appealing and energizing?


3. Try the “what if” or the “why” game


When designs don’t seem to flow, start with questions instead. Like this:


What if questions:



  • What if I only use illustrations?

  • What if I only use type?

  • What if the type made the illustration?

  • What if I draw it with my eyes closed?

Why questions:



  • Why do I need to focus on this particular product feature?

  • Why is this feature important to prospects?

  • Why is this something that will impact their life in a significant way?

  • Why is this something they need to think about now versus later?

4. Take a Quick Tutorial


While it can be tempting to rip off a design from someone else, one of the best ways to build your original muscle is to go back to the drawing board.


An easy way to do this is to jump into an online tutorial. Though traditionally intended to educate, tutorials can be a rich source of design inspiration. Don’t merely skim the tutorial and glance at the result, go through the tutorial step by step with the author.


Doing this will force you to think like another person as you try to understand the implementation of methods that aren’t your own. This can energize you to think about new possibilities.


Don’t Force a Solution


When you feel overwhelmed by your lack of inspiration, remember that feeling stuck is just another step in the creative process.


If all else fails, embrace the moment and give it some time. What seems like a rut now might be an important step on your creative journey. Be patient, learn from it, and trust that you’ll come out on the other side.


Need help with your design idea? We can help!

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Finish in Fine Form with Beautiful Varnish Coatings

Have you ever judged a book by its cover?


You’re not alone! First impressions are essential to how people judge a person, a product, or a business. And when you’re going for visual impact, research suggests visitors will form an impression in as little as 50 milliseconds!


Once you’ve invested all the hard work and planning into your print marketing materials, it is important to go the extra mile on quality.


Want a simple technique that beautifully enhances your impact and appeal? For a budget-friendly bonus, try adding a varnish!


Know Your Options


Just as varnish on a dresser or table protects the wood and gives it a nice finished look, the varnish used on printed pieces enhances their look and durability.


Adding a print varnish brings a transparent coating to your printed page. Varnish can add a unique, creative element to get that five-star appearance, so make sure you choose the one that best fits with the look and tone you’re trying to communicate.


Here are a few options to consider:


Dull


Also known as matte, this is very different from a varnish-like gloss.


A matte finish is best suited if your design contains a lot of text, as it will deflect light and glare. Using a dull varnish can be an excellent tool for improving readability on pages containing text. Although called dull, matte finishes scream sophistication. These varnish coatings are never overdone but carry a simple and stylish vibe.


Gloss


As its name indicates, this varnish is the diva of the bunch and gives a glossy type of appearance.


Gloss varnish makes colors look more saturated, and your design elements look crisper and sharper. It is perfect for printed pages containing items like photographs and graphics, adding a glare or shine to bring extra attention to the areas where it is applied. An overall gloss varnish will protect areas with heavy coverage from rubbing off and will keep your piece from scuffing.


Satin


Looking to strike a compromise?


Satin varnish is created by mixing gloss and matte varnishes and offers a moderate amount of shine. This option is ideal if you have a lot of photo and text combination pieces.


Spot Varnish


Want to highlight a certain section of your piece, so it leaps off the page?


Spot varnishes are a great way to maximize the contrast between matte and gloss surfaces. This technique allows you to apply varnish to an individual image or graphic on your printed piece (such as a logo or photo) while leaving the rest of the piece unvarnished.


Aqueous Coating


The most popular coating for printed material is aqueous coating.


Aqueous is a clear, water-based coating that is environmentally friendly. Since it is water-based, it is best used on papers with a text weight of 80# or heavier, so you do not end up with curling or wrinkles. Aqueous coating dries quicker than varnishes and makes it ideal for running inline on the press.


UV Varnish


A UV varnish is applied off-line and is cured with ultraviolet light.


This process gives the surface an exceptional gloss and rub resistance. A great example of the glossiness of UV Coating is sports trading cards. These have a UV coating on the photo side but no coating on the stat side. This coating is cured by passing under an ultraviolet light that quickly dries and hardens the coating, creating a high-level sheen but the greatest possible protection. UV coated elements in your piece will take center stage.


Want to add excitement and durability to your next print product? Give us a call to talk about varnish options today!

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Shout Your News with Stylish Printed Announcements

Have you recently won an award, reached a milestone, or done something pretty incredible?


Whether you’re launching a product or expanding to a new market, your business or organization can share the news far and wide with printed announcement cards. In a world of digital noise, the medium is just as important as the message, so why not opt for something more personal and pristine with gorgeous custom announcements?


Share Something Special and Significant


Announcement cards offer a wonderful way to market your events, products, achievements, or stay in touch with your clients. These stylish notes are more than just fluff; they denote something of significance that boosts your brand and business.


Want to put your news at their fingertips? Here are just a few catchy headers:



  • Launching SOON

  • Coming to a neighborhood near you

  • We’re Hiring

  • The Future is HERE

  • You asked, we answered . . .

  • Save 20% more time with _____!

  • We’re growing. Find us at our new location __________

  • The best in the business: presenting our award winning ___________

  • Your new investment expert: welcoming MBA Edwin Harris to our endowment team

Want to have some fun with your announcements? Try one of these energetic theme ideas:


Take a photo of your team holding a sign announcing the news. Add colored party hats, streamers, or sparkling confetti.


Try peel-to-win cards or scratch-off tickets. Everyone loves a surprise, so include peel-to-win promotions (for example: 20-50-75 percent off or an exclusive 10 grand prize winners) as part of your announcement card.


Post a picture of a new location or featured team member using eye-catching props (like pulling a $100 bill from a magician’s hat or posing with a llama that is wearing a birthday hat).


Print a customized puzzle and send it in an envelope, so recipients have to put together the pieces to learn about your exciting news.


Do a mailing to your key referral contacts (or top clients) with a note and gift relating to the announcement. You may use a simple postcard for the majority of customers but add an incentive for others. For example, when announcing your new GOLD status, send bags of gold chocolate coins or gold-dusted chocolate strawberries to your VIP clients.


Keep Readers Curious


Remember, while announcements involve your news, readers will enjoy them more when you make it about THEM.


In all your messaging, focus on how your news translates into value for your friends and customers. Reiterate a special offer, a time-bound coupon, or a free sample for clients who attend your event. Use powerful action calls or “you” statements that convey benefits for the user. Whether you are a political candidate or a neighborhood business, reader-focused messaging gets the best results.


For example:


Measure Strain Without Stress


Make the Most Out of Your ________


Advancing our Community Together


Save $100 on Your Subscription When You Bundle _________ and __________


Something to Write Home About


Printable announcement cards make it easy to send exciting news to your friends and associates without breaking the bank.


From elegantly embossed envelopes to oversized foil-stamped postcards, ensure your message shines strong as you share events, grand openings, sales announcements, and more.

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

How to Ask for Help at Work

Were you forced to work from home in 2020?


What were your biggest challenges? Perhaps it was learning the necessary technology – or teaching it to others. Maybe it was forming a new business plan. Or perhaps you struggled to meet the workday demands while homeschooling your kids.


If you weren’t stretched this year, you were probably in the minority! And as you reached the end of your abilities, you probably faced a question most people prefer to avoid:


“How can I ask for help without looking weak?”


Though an independent attitude is great, at some point, everyone needs to lean on others. And sometimes, a can-do spirit can push you to take on more than you can reasonably handle, leading to failure or burnout. According to a 2018 Gallup study, 23% of full-time workers reported feeling burned out at work very often or always. And one major reason for this burnout was an unmanageable workload.


Examples of How to Ask for Help


Do you need more help but struggle to verbalize this? If so, having a script to start from can be a push in the right direction. Here are some principles and example “asks” that might be helpful:


Keep it Simple


When you beat around the bush, people sometimes feel manipulated or deceived. Instead, lead with a simple phrase like, “I’m stuck,” or “Can you please help me?”


Be Specific


When you want a clear answer, lead with a specific request.


For example: “Are you free Wednesday morning? I need feedback on my sales report and would greatly value your input.”


Or: “Can you give me a warm intro to Russ Colton? He’s your head of marketing, and I would love to collaborate with him.”


Give the “Why” Behind Your Request


People are much more likely to help you out when they know why your request is important. Try leading with a need, like this:


"I'm awful at design, and my slides look terrible. Could you help me tweak this presentation?”


Or: “This project needs to be done by Friday, and I have no idea how that will happen. We are juggling three proposals, and I can only manage two projects this week.”


Use Examples of Effectiveness


When you compliment someone during your request, they realize you truly value their input.


Try leading with a specific example of their competency, like:


“Would you please review this before I send it to XYZ? Your input really helped my previous pitch to ABC succeed.”


Begin with a Question


When you want to ask for help, start your request with a discussion and a clarifying question.


For example: “I’m still learning the ropes on this – could you give me an idea of how long this task should take me?”


From here, you can follow up with natural questions, press into another’s expertise, or pose a specific request about where you need assistance.


Say Thanks in Advance


Gratitude is always a powerful way to appeal to others.


A recent study of 350,000 e-mail exchanges found that sign-offs like “thanks in advance” and “thanks” yielded average response rates from 63-66%, compared with 51-54% for other popular options (including “best,” “regards,” and “cheers”). Even expressed preemptively, gratitude can keep people invested in helping you, as long as you focus more on their generosity and selflessness—and what that says about them as people—than on how you’ll personally benefit.


Together is Better


Finally, remember that when you need help, it’s best to be as honest as possible.


Being authentic and truthful makes people trust you and increases their desire to pitch in. And when you ask for help, you increase your team’s likelihood of succeeding and thriving.


Teamwork benefits everyone – so don’t be afraid to ask!

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Customer Trust: The Backbone of Your Business

It’s a small world, after all.


Though global population continues to expand, our connectivity is growing even faster. In 2019, the number of internet users worldwide stood at 4.13 billion, which means more than half of the global population is connected to the world wide web. The percentage of US adults who use social media increased from 5% in 2005 to 79% in 2019. And experts estimate most Americans are exposed to around 4,000 to 10,000 ads each day.


While the internet is a lifeline, it has also exposed the misbehavior and greed of many of the pillars we count on, leading to a unique paradox: today, more people are connected and fewer are trusted.


The Benefits of Trust


In this vacuum of mistrust, marketers find themselves on one of three paths:


1 -- Ignored


2 -- Sneaking around


3 -- Trusted


If you’re ignored, you can’t get far because you won’t earn much attention OR trust.


If you’re sneaky, you may gain followers, but not for long.


The third path – trust – is the only one that brings long-term benefits.


A trusted marketer earns loyalty by making promises, keeping them, and earning more loyalty. When the circumstances are right, that loyalty can become word-of-mouth recommendations or even tribal affiliation to your product or brand.


In a world that scans instead of reads, the best way to earn trust is through action. People remember what you did long after they forget what you said. When asked for a refund on a defective product, what do you do? When it comes to marketing, do your products hold up to the claims you make about them? When overloaded with new clients, do you put loyal customers on the back burner?


In a world of impersonal connections, you need to spend less time talking and more time doing: serving one customer at a time, day by day. Want to grow the currency of trust in your business? Consider options like these:


Improve Your Security


Make sure your customers feel safe when they shop with you.


Even if you aren’t selling your products online, customers will still visit your website, and the amount of safety they feel can play a significant role in how much they trust your brand.


Have a Strong Social Presence


People live online, and today many consumers equate a strong social media presence with relational authority.


The more active your brand’s social media pages are, the more likely it is that new customers will trust you. Equip your pages with striking images, company bio and contact info, and interactive content that meets customer needs. The higher your engagement, the deeper your relational roots will grow.


Under-promise and Over-deliver


Any time a customer feels deceived or manipulated, they’re likely to abandon your brand.


Don’t overestimate your capabilities! If it takes you a week to ship a product, tell your customers it takes two. If a product will last for 10 years, claim it will last eight. Happy customers are loyal customers; surprise them by going above and beyond what you’ve promised.


Make Your Brand More Personal


Treat your brand like it’s your business’s personality, giving it character and life. 


Don’t use scripts and formulaic responses; instead, encourage employees to speak from the heart, engaging customers like real people. This small change makes your brand seem more human than corporate, and can drastically influence positive impressions.


Always Be Available


Make sure your customers have multiple lines of contact for you at all times -- and if you have a dedicated account representative, give your clients that person's cell phone number in case of an emergency.


Finally, be consistent. The more consistent you are with your service and your brand, the more loyal your customers will be – and the stronger your reputation will grow.  

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Snag Younger Customers: How to Build Connections with Generation Z

With the oldest of Generation Z graduating and entering the workforce, it’s time to set your sights on this powerful consumer demographic.


Who are these Gen Z individuals, and what is the most effective way to reach them? While many media companies have written them off as “screen addicts,” Gen Z is actually very nimble, engaged, and unique.


Here are a few facts to consider:



  • As of 2020, Gen Z makes up more than 40% of U.S. consumers.

  • Born after 1996, most members of this generation are not yet old enough to vote.

  • Generation Z represents the leading edge of the country’s changing racial and ethnic makeup. 52% are non-Hispanic white, 25% are Hispanic, 14% are black, 6% are Asian.

  • Gen Z logs on to social media for roughly two hours and 55 minutes each day. This is almost an hour longer than the average millennial.

Want to engage younger prospects? Here are five tips to consider:


1. Diverse images are extremely impactful


Gen Z has a natural awareness of how diversity is depicted (or overlooked) in your media.


Whether it’s custom photography or variety in your testimonials, it will seem strange (or even offensive) if your media is too homogenized.


2. Gen Z loves a good deal


Estimated at having $4 billion in discretionary spending, the buying power of Gen Z is significant.


But having grown up during the 2008 recession, Gen Z has an innate appreciation for a bargain. Gen Z will hunt for value in two ways: buying from inexpensive brands or purchasing expensive items with durability guarantees. Generous warranties and engaging in-store experiences are also a way to offer them more bang for their buck.


3. Gen Z was born social


Over 91% of Gen Z kids have a digital footprint, and Gen Z spends more time on mobile devices than Millennials.


Gen’s Z’s favorite sites are YouTube, Instagram, and Snapchat. Because they are so visual, whenever possible you should “show,” not just “tell.” Image-based advertising and short-videos are especially effective!


4. Real is best


Gen Z people seek uniqueness in all walks of life, and particularly through the brands they buy from.


Gen Z-ers prefer brands that are authentic: 82% said they trust a company more if it uses images of real customers in its advertising, and 72% said they're more likely to buy from a company that contributes to social causes. Product quality, positive reviews, and customer service are the top three characteristics that fortify their trust in a brand.


5. Give them a voice or a role


Given how socially aware this generation is, remember Gen Z-ers love opportunities to contribute, create, lead, and learn.


Whether you allow them to personalize your product or you prioritize ethical marketing (like partnering with nonprofits or standing for a cause), Gen Z appreciates buying from brands that give them a role in the journey.


Help Them Live in Person


Finally, remember that Gen Z longs to engage, and this doesn’t have to be online. 


A new A.T. Kearney study reports that 81% of Gen Z respondents prefer to purchase in stores, 73% like to discover new products in stores, and 58% browse in-store selections to disconnect from social media and live in the moment.


From gorgeous window banners to sharp point-of-purchase displays, sensory impact plays a principal role in creating the right mood for an impulse purchase.

Monday, August 31, 2020

Why Carbonless Forms Make a Great Tech-Free Solution

When you “cc” someone on an email, do you ever think about what this abbreviation actually means?


In 1801, Pellegrino Turri invented carbon paper to provide ink for his mechanical typing machine, which was one of the first typewriters. Five years later, carbon paper was patented and released to the general public. Carbon paper soon became a primary method for rapidly reproducing documents or booklets, and today its legacy has remained in the header of emails. The “cc” abbreviation stands for “carbon copies,” or copies intended for recipients other than the principal addressee.


Since Turri’s day, carbonless forms have largely replaced their early ancestor. Carbonless copy paper has micro-encapsulated dye or ink on the back side of the top sheet, and a clay coating on the front side of the bottom sheet. When pressure is applied (from writing or impact printing), the dye capsules rupture and react with the clay to form a permanent mark duplicating the markings made to the top sheet. In the span of seconds, intermediary layers act as multipart stationery, adding flexibility and convenience to any business exchange.


Simplify and Save


In many industries, carbonless forms work better than electronic documents, and they may be a perfect fit for your business.


Carbonless forms offer a speedy solution that is ideal for capturing handwritten signatures or personal notes taken during an order or appointment. Want to ditch the unnecessary equipment or the headaches of expensive tech repairs? These forms are especially handy for team members who are frequently in the field, when you’re working face-to-face with clients, or when time and accuracy are essential.


Where can you put carbonless forms to work? The possibilities abound! Try these sensible custom pads for:



  • Invoices or inventory tracking

  • Design drafts or sales estimates

  • Onsite service calls

  • Patient intake forms

  • Inspections, permits, or delivery confirmations

  • As a customizable receipt for your small business

Carbonless forms are used in a wide range of industries, including mechanical, agriculture, funeral services, transportation, home improvement, auctions, and more. They are great for any situation where you want a simple business solution or a quick reproduction of up to four simultaneous copies.


And just because these forms are practical doesn’t mean they have to be boring! Experiment with bold graphics, two colors of ink, custom finishes, or three-hole drilling to allow for archiving in binders or booklets. Sequential numbering will enable you to easily track your transactions, or you can also send varying designs to print multiple for types in the same size and finish.


Get Your Forms ASAP


Ready to get started? Go carbonless with this convenient, budget-friendly option. Craft smart, rapid-return designs that will hold up for years.


Send an inquiry today for your free estimate!