Monthly Archives: August 2010

How to Pack an Identity Suitcase

Whether you’re working with a design firm, or acting as your own DIY designer, at some point you’ll need to share your company logo with an outside source. Are you prepared for that moment? Or will that one simple request send you scrambling through the office looking for a wayward CD, covered in dust, that probably slipped between the file cabinet and the waste basket six months ago. More often than not, when I meet a new client they fall into the latter category. Don’t spend another 4 hours calling previous service providers hoping that one of them kept a copy of your logo on file. Instead spend a few minutes packing your Identity Suitcase and you’ll be ready for the next trip to the print shop.

So where do you start? Learn from the pros. And who knows more about packing than a pregnant woman? Really.

Preparing for that inevitable trip to the hospital is the first thing a pregnant woman tackles. And what does she do? She packs a suitcase. That small act of preparation is the single most important step towards becoming a mother. Why? Because when the contractions begin, the water breaks and it’s time to make a dash for the maternity wing, the last thing she wants to do is search the house frantically for an Enya CD, the nursing bra or that special “coming home” outfit knitted by aunt Ida. She needs a grab-and-go bag that’s ready at a moments notice. And so do you…well, sort of.

What you need is an Identity Suitcase. And with the planning and know how only a mother can provide, I’m going to teach you how to pack one.

What is an Identity Suitcase and why do you need one? Simply put it’s a virtual travel bag for all your branding essentials. Once filled it will be ready and waiting for that next big project, or spontaneous request.

What to pack

Logos, and graphics and fonts, Oh My! These are the essential items in an Identity Suitcase.

Black & White Logos

The work horses of the print industry. While the world is quickly becoming digital, you’re still going to need them for print ads, flyers, and inexpensive 1-color print jobs. Make sure your suitcase includes a high resolution TIFF (600 dpi preferably) or a vector based EPS file. For an explanation of file formats (bitmap vs. vector) click here.

Color Logos

So many choices, so little understanding of why. Just like clothing, each one has a specific function. Forget to pack the right one and you’ll be going commando to that important business meeting. There are also dozens of color formats. For a detailed description of color formats check out this post on CMYK, PMS and RGB.

CMYK logos: used for full color printed pieces. Magazine ads, brochures, etc. This is your standard color logo. They can be in nearly any format although TIFF and EPS are the most common. JPEG color logos are great for sending via email, but make sure they are saved in CMYK not RGB.

PMS logos: depending on your industry these can be very important, or rarely used. If your corporate colors are hard to produce in processed color (CMYK), or if you are printing in less than 4 ink colors, then a PMS version of your logo will be necessary. These files will be in EPS format, and most likely created in a vector program like Adobe Illustrator or Freehand.

Web logos/RGB logos:  the digital age has seen a sharp rise in the need for RGB versions of your identity. Logos saved in RGB format, and in a lower resolution such as 72 dpi, are in demand for use on the web, on mobile devices and in television spots. These will likely be in formats such as JPEG, GIF and PNG. While these files are great for sending via email they are not great for print. So always keep in mind the final usage of the logo before choosing which one to send.

Don’t forget the accessories

Like any well packed suitcase, the inclusion of some critical accessories is a sign of intelligent design. In an identity suitcase your accessories could include the following:

Fonts: Many businesses use specific typefaces on their materials. If you want a service provider to match those fonts your best bet is to provide them. Even with a cast of thousands at their disposal it is highly likely that your 1990’s Corel Draw specified a different font than today’s design programs. Better to provide it, than be surprised when they swap it out for something similar.

Graphic elements: Do you like to use a specific decorative ornament on your stationery? A cluster of grapes, or calligraphic drop cap perhaps? Or maybe you have product illustrations that are often included in your materials. These are identity accessories, and they should be kept nearby.

Photos: If you’re producing a lot of full color work, either in print or on the web, and often need to send photos of your products, location or services, these should be well organized and stored along with your logos.

Once your Identity Suitcase is packed and neatly organized in a folder on your computer desktop, make a copy, or two, and burn it to a CD or save it on a thumb drive. You may also want a back-up somewhere else on your hard drive or online in an accessible location like iDisk (for Macs) or on an FTP site. This will allow you to remotely access your important identity info from any location.

Taking the time to pack an identity suitcase will insure a smooth labor and delivery for your next project. Something every pregnant mother, and business woman, can appreciate.

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Posted by on August 2, 2010 in Branding/Identity, Design


How to Use Negative Space to Improve Your Advertising

What’s the biggest mistake you can make when designing an advertisement for your business? Over-stuffing. Oh, you know what I’m talking about. If the last ad you produced was packed like a suitcase on a 3-week safari, then you’re guilty as charged. But relief is on the way. I’m going to give you one simple tip that will improve your D.I.Y. design skills overnight.

Focus on the Negative

Negative space, that is. Also referred to as “white space” it’s the empty space in your design. The area that surrounds the important copy, image or logo. Negative space allows the eyes to rest, focuses on the message and improves retention.

Imagine a garden that’s planted so snug that every flower is straining for light, food and water, and no one notices their individual beauty. Or, perhaps you can relate to a closet so full of clothes, purses and shoes that you can never find anything to wear. Why? Because there’s not a square inch of space that hasn’t been filled with clutter.

Like a garden, or a closet, our ideas need breathing room. If you clear away the extraneous debris, and unnecessary information, the concepts we’re trying to express come into focus. In advertising, negative space is that solution.

What’s so important about Negative Space in advertising?

As a designer it’s all about building a balanced composition. Like ying and yang, the negative space helps to balance the positive. For the advertiser that means drawing attention to the ad’s message. And for the reader it’s welcome relief from all the action on the page. Which is a bonus for you if they’re resting their eyes on your products now isn’t it?

When you’re designing a display ad, short TV spot, even a website, it’s easy to start filling every inch of space with information. Logos, address, phone number, email, website, free offer, taglines…STOP. Even this list is boring to read.

I can see your eyes widen in disbelief, like looking in the mirror when you first wake up. It’s not a pretty picture, but you recognize the reflection. That’s OK. We’re going to fix it.

How to use Negative Space to Improve your Advertising

1. Choose a Focal Point: Select a singular focus for each ad or promotional piece to ensure your reader gets the point without a lot of confusion. Just because you have a fax number and a twitter ID doesn’t mean it needs to appear on every piece you create.

It’s important to remember this: one ad can’t be all things to all people. That’s why there are thousands of opportunities to engage your target market.

An ad in a local magazine or newspaper should focus on their readers and what your business can do for them today. It doesn’t matter that you have 15 locations world-wide and are open 7 days a week if you’re promoting a One-Day In-Store Sale. One ad = one relevant subject, period.

“It seems that perfection is reached not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away” – Antoine de Saint Exupéry

2. Let it Breathe: I realize that ad space is valuable, and often paid for by the inch. So why should you leave that space blank instead of loading it with information? To punctuate your message. A little breathing room around that Special Offer or perfect product shot gives you the super power of controlling the readers eyes. Magically their focus is drawn to your message. And without the extra distractions, your message gets top priority in their memory.

Have you ever noticed it’s much easier to remember a telephone number you just heard than, say, a 10-digit bank account number? That’s because our short-term memory uses a technique called “chunking” to make it easier to recall long bits of data. This works in advertising too. When you insert negative space into your ad it breaks up the message into manageable chunks which are easier to remember. Business identity, focal point, contact info. Enough said.

So how do you know this technique works?

Got Milk ad image

Got Milk Campaign (copyright 2009

Consider some of the most successful national ad campaigns as an example. Got Milk? The message is simple. One photographic subject, one headline and a short bite of copy. They’re paying for a full page color ad, when the content could fit on a quarter-page. But without the negative space around the actor it wouldn’t be as effective.

Or how about the power of the Nike “Just Do It” ads. All the drama of action-packed sports is captured in a freeze-frame image of one athlete mid-air with the phrase, Just Do It and the signature swoosh. The negative space doesn’t always have to be “white,” it just has to be plain. You want the subject to be more memorable than the background.

Now that you know what I’m talking about you’ll start to notice these ads jumping off the page when you’re reading a magazine. And with the steps above you’ll be able to transform your advertising into attention grabbing masterpieces too.

As they say, sometimes less is more. And when it comes to ad design it’s OK to focus on the negative…space that is.

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Posted by on August 2, 2010 in Design


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