Keep Things Real with Four Animated Design Tricks

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While you may not be able to launch a 3D billboard and party-train campaign, you can to stop traffic with 3D elements and hot design trends from 2019.

Here are four animated styles with practical examples to try in your next printed piece.

Three-Dimensional Designs

3D works seem to be everywhere right now: entire compositions that have so much depth, you can’t help but reach out and touch them.

Examples include 3D typography (that works with any kind of font rendering), metallic 3D pipes pulsing with neon electricity, or effervescent 3D poster compositions that jump off the page and make it impossible to look elsewhere.

Asymmetrical Layouts

While rigid designs have been standard for several years, layouts that break free from the predictable grid are now soaring in popularity.

Asymmetrical balance results from using unequal visual weight on each side of your page. For example, one side might contain a dominant element, which is balanced by lesser focal points or light elements on the other.

Asymmetrical balance is more dynamic and interesting. It evokes feelings of modernism, movement, vitality, and curiosity as viewers pause to peruse the design. Box elements within a page, stepped or tabbed layering, or the powerful use of negative space are all strategies for creating products that feel more customized and alive.

Open Compositions

Ready to throw off decaying designs of the past?

For years, illustrators have put frames around design elements, encasing them in boxes, frames, and in strict order. Today, viewers crave open, airy designs which seem to offer only part of the whole picture.

Allow your layouts to embrace white space with elements that feel loosely connected or even chaotic. Play with composition to make each part look like it’s continuing off the page to infinity. This allows viewers to engage with your image, using their imagination to wonder what else is out there.

Duotones and Gradients

In the 90s, gradients were a popular way to add color and depth to designs.

They came back in a big way in 2018, enhancing flat designs, adding color overlays to photos, and adding texture to backgrounds of all kinds. Gradients, or “color transitions,” are a gradual blending from one color to two or three others, blending similar colors (like different shades of blue) or completing contrasting colors (like purple and red). Gradients can be bold or subtle, modern or rustic, the focal point or the background. They can be used in logos, packaging, business cards, or photo overlays.

Find your favorite color schemes and go to town, because the energy of these stunning color transitions can elevate the vivacity of any design.

It’s an exciting time for design, especially when technology continues to allow us to push the limits. Have fun experimenting and make 2019 a year to look your best in print!

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Avoid These 3 Management Blunders (with Four Teamwork Tweaks)

Want to liven up your next dinner party?

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Just ask people for their “worst boss” stories. Here are some painful (anonymous) stories from those who’ve lived to share:

“When I was an intern at a PR firm, my manager would make me run her personal errands (pick up dry cleaning, ship things, drive her and her friends to SXSW events, etc.). She would get my attention by calling me ‘Intern.’ Needless to say, when they asked me to stay on full-time, I politely declined.”

“I once had a boss who multi-tasked in meetings by being on her phone and present in the meeting. In both 1:1’s and in group settings she would shift her attention constantly from the speaker to her phone—back and forth, back and forth . . . At first, I just thought she was extremely busy, and it was the only way for her to get everything done—until one day, I caught her doing crossword puzzles on her phone while doing a check-in with me.”

“I once had a boss who, while I was replying to a question addressed to me by their boss in a meeting, actually put their hand less than an inch in front of my face to silence me so that they could answer instead.”

Whether you’re the CEO, an intern, or a new manager, working with others is a key part of success in every job. But managing well while empowering others requires a delicate balance.

Beyond learning the names of your interns, here are four tweaks you can make in your leadership.

Listen

Good listening is essential to management, and it begins long before you start a meeting.

Keys to listening well include generating questions in advance, keeping an open mind, and not jumping to conclusions before or during conversations. Don’t assume you know what someone is thinking; instead, listen with the intent of understanding before “solving.” And give your team conversational breathing room by personally checking in for “no good reason” on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. You may be surprised by what they share!

Pair Criticism with Compliments

The Harvard Business Review says a good rule of thumb is to give more praise than criticism, but surveys show that 40% of respondents claim they never gave positive reinforcement.

People need a balance of both praise and criticism in order to thrive. Top performing teams typically give five positive comments for every critique.

Distinguish Between Personal and Organizational Issues

Employees will have challenges, and it’s your job to address them.

But workplace problems are typically either personal or organizational and treating them differently can be hugely helpful. Personal problems should be handled with compassion and accountability. But organizational issues may involve hiring, restructuring, or strategic planning. Don’t confuse bad attitudes with bad workflow policies!

Finish Meetings with a Question

Want to boost communication in your team?

Conclude every meeting with this question: is there anything else? Whatever is top of mind (concerns, challenges, excitement) will bubble to the surface quickly. This question signals you care and gives people permission to share things that aren’t explicitly on the agenda. Try it and see what happens!

From mediating personality clashes to enabling great leaders, your management skills are the key to growing great teams. Keep the conversations flowing as you encourage others, and your business will flourish.

Find Language to Express Your Ideal Design

Design involves a special kind of communication.

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First, creators must have an idea or concept in mind. Second, they need to articulate their ideas in ways graphic designers can bring to life on a page. This requires a common language, and sometimes graphic designers are known for having a vocabulary all their own.

If you’re working on a design concept, knowing the right terminology will help you communicate to produce the results you envision.

Here are some design adjectives that can help you articulate the concepts you’d like to see in your next print project:

Cool vs. Warm

On the color wheel, warm colors range from yellow to red-purple.

Those colors that are reminiscent of fire or the sun are called warm colors. These hues are reds, oranges, yellows, and pinks. Warm colors communicate energy, playfulness, happiness, sociability, and optimism.

Cool colors include blue, greens, and purple. These colors typically stand for sky, space, water, and nature, and communicate a calming or relaxing tone. Cool colors imply dependability, trust, growth, beauty, confidence, and power.

Minimalist vs. Maximalist

Minimalism is a style or technique that is characterized by cleanness, simplicity, and expressing the most essential ideas.

Minimalist designs use a small number of colors, simple lines, flat designs, or plenty of negative space.

Maximalist or baroque designs are lavish, highly decorative, or triumphant (think ornate wedding invitations). Minimalist designs are sparse and clean, while maximalist designs are exotic or busy.

Feminine vs. Masculine

Feminine designs are usually characterized by details such as soft color palettes, florals, and cursive writing. They may employ fluid, flowing fonts, pastel colors, facial close-ups or silhouettes, or feminine associations such as love, curves, fashion, or beauty.

Masculine designs are typically more rugged, monochromatic, or modern (think IKEA kitchen layouts). They may feature gritty images, thick fonts, hard edges, and darker color schemes.

Playful vs. Professional

Playful design styles are fun, giving an informal (rather than rigid) vibe.

Playful tones may be colorful, fantastical, non-realistic, or cartoon/caricature focused. Often these concepts focus around animals, mascots, illustrations, and impish font pairings.

Professional designs are usually characterized by muted colors and minimal details that represent conservative ideas. Formal tones are communicated with straight, classic font types, simple shapes or objects, minimalist and geometric use of line art, and cool colors (think college diplomas).

Abstract vs. Literal

Abstract designs shape images that are unhindered by what these objects might actually look in real life.

Abstract designs (like this Starbucks water bottle) are imaginative and varied, including ambiguous shapes, contemporary color palettes, curves and splatters, geometric patterns, or blurred images. Abstract art utilizes pure colors, shapes, and forms to express meaning (without getting bogged down in the storylines carried by objects and scenery). Abstract art can touch the emotions in a raw and powerfully direct way.

Literal designs are just the opposite, with concrete, objective ideas. Literal designs use sharp images, bold and simple fonts, and clearly defined limits.

Vintage vs. Modern

Vintage or retro (short for “retrospective”) is a style derived from trends of the recent past.

These designs incorporate rustic, nostalgic elements, including visual clues such as old letterpress, hand-drawn typefaces, ornate ribbons, sepia-filtered photos.

Modern designs are just the opposite, often changing in style. In 2019, modern graphic design trends include 3D design and typography, duotones and gradients, warm or moody color palettes for photos, and asymmetrical layouts.

One of the easiest ways to have a better client-designer working relationship is to align your project’s design style. Use this guide to get you started as a handy reference to communicate your ideas from start to print!

Three Video Content Tips to Humanize Your Brand

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Block that spam.

This describes the attitudes of today’s consumers. 80% of consumers say they mistrust half of all advertising, wearied by the half-truths and junk ads assaulting them daily.

Today’s marketing, sometimes called “The End of Control,” marks a revolt against technology-driven ads and marketing messages. People block them from inboxes, browsers, and social media feeds. They’ve disconnected landlines and screened robo-calls, rejecting nearly all that’s left.

The answer?

Humanized marketing that adds human-to-human (H2H) elements across all touch points a customer has with your business.

People crave inspiring experiences and authentic interactions with others.

You know that establishment in your neighborhood where people greet you by name, know your favorite special, ask about your hobbies, or offer amenities that make your day? That’s H2H at its best.

While you can’t touch everyone physically, video is one of your next best options. Globally, according to 2018 survey, 54% of consumers say they prefer to see video from a brand or business they support over other types of content. Through video, you can increase H2H contact and continually reimagine your business, demonstrating expertise, and sharing a vision in consistent, personable ways.

Intel harnessed this influence during a five-part “Meet the Makers” series, highlighting relatable stories of people around the world who used Intel products to create amazing experiences and new technology.

In one video, a 13-year-old named Shubham Banerjee shared how he used the technology to prototype and build an affordable braille printer to help blind people learn to read. By exposing viewers to inspirational technology stories, Intel sparked interest in a way product-centric advertising never could.

Want to grow your video presence and put humanized marketing in front of your viewers? YouTube strategist Trena Little has several content tips to help you grow your video niche:

Just Get Started.

Most people think they can’t do videos.

Perhaps they think they don’t have the right equipment, or don’t have a video strategy, “figured out.” Little says you don’t have to be an expert: “What people really connect with is when someone is just two or three steps ahead of them,” she said.

Remember, even when you know a little, it’s more than someone who knows next to nothing about a topic. Also, perfect backgrounds or cameras are non-essentials. “Just start posting videos!” Little says. After all, you have to start somewhere to get data to build on.

Mix it Up.

There are three main types of videos you can use: discoverable content (like tutorials and how-to videos), sales videos (featuring products, solutions, or directions to your landing page), and community videos (which connect with your audience even through things that don’t directly involve your business.

Remember, your goal isn’t primarily to sell products. Your “win” is establishing credibility and building relationships. Check out Android’s “Friends Furever” video for inspiration – this was the most shared video ad of 2015!

Hone Your Hook.

People don’t want to buy your product; they want to buy your solutions!

And they want to watch stories of people who understand their challenges. Little says it’s critically important to start videos strong. If you don’t address someone’s pain point or drive curiosity in the first 10 seconds, people will move on. Unpredictable story outcomes keep people engaged, as do value pitches and emotional words like “secrets” and “hacks.” Content that empowers the consumer is some of the most effective marketing you can generate.

Want to personalize your message and make your brand more human? You don’t have to be an expert in video to try combining it with your print marketing strategy. Stretch yourself today and give video content a try!

Affordable Offline Marketing for Your Small Business

Do you have a small business that could use a revenue boost?

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Most marketing strategies are crafted around costly advertising campaigns, but there are many free or affordable tactics you can use to grow your business at any stage.

Here are a few offline marketing fundamentals to get you started, no matter how small your budget!

1. Take part in local events.

Sales are based on relationships, and relationships require connection.

Network in proactive ways by attending or taking part in local events. Get to know other small business owners and have your business card or flyer ready; you never know when the opportunity will present itself!

2. Create customized stickers or labels.

It’s not just a kid thing – people truly enjoy stickers!

Create a colorful custom sticker and pass them out anywhere your target users might be. Stickers and labels can be used on car windows, water bottles, notebooks, and more.

3. Start a simple rewards system.

One of the easiest ways to boost your profits is by offering current customers a loyalty incentive.

If you have repeat customers or need subscription/service renewals to succeed, you can print loyalty punch cards, start a digital point-tracking system, or mail coupons to customers who make a baseline purchase with your business.

4. Offer demonstrations.

Life is more fun when you try new things.

If you wanted to learn yoga, woodworking, or the violin, would you learn by watching or by trying? Participation is an essential way to engage the body, mind, and emotions of your prospects.

Brainstorm ways you can combine learning and doing through presentations. Whether it’s giving samples, making online teaching videos, or offering live demonstrations at an industry event, engage your customers by getting them involved.

5. Launch cross promotions.

Is there some way you can build rapport between your business and another firm?

Work with another entrepreneur to offer giveaways, contests, or product discounts. During one holiday, GameStop and PayLess shoes partnered on a cross-promotional campaign. Shoppers at the video game retailer received register coupons for the shoe store, while shoppers at PayLess got discount coupons for GameStop. Because many of their stores are in close proximity, it was a winning strategy for both retailers. Cross promotions can include joint mailings, coupon partnerships, shared booth space, or promoting each other through social media.

6. Spread the word.

Got flyers? Door hangers and sell sheets? Looking to share the love? Go classic and canvas your area.

Pound the pavement and leave your print materials on porches, doorknobs, windows, cars, and more. Leave your business cards on restaurant tables, at coffee shops, in libraries, or even on mirrors. If you’re feeling brave, do some cold calling after you canvas and ask if you can share some follow up info.

7. Perfect your pitch.

What do you sell? What problem can you solve? If you can’t explain yourself in a single sentence, then you have a problem.

Like a great campaign slogan, an elevator pitch should summarize your business, product, or service in a concise, convincing fashion. YOU are your best advertisement, so have a short, convincing statement ready to introduce your business to new customers or colleagues any moment the opportunity is at hand!

A Building Block for the Future

Most of these tactics are inexpensive, but they do take time and effort.

Remember, results won’t come immediately, but boosting your name now can increase your revenue and enable you to cast a larger net in the future. Give us a call or visit our website to chat about affordable printed resources you can add to your offline marketing arsenal today.

5 Customer Service Phrases to Avoid (and What to Say Instead)

GettyImages-956959400.jpgIn May of 2018, Barbara Carroll ordered three cartons of toilet paper from Amazon. The order total: $88.17. The shipping charges? $7,455.

Carroll wasn’t overly concerned, as Amazon typically takes great care of its customers. But in this case, Carroll complained to Amazon six times and even wrote a letter to CEO Jeff Bezos. After every complaint, she received a form letter explaining a refund was impossible because the delivery arrived on time and undamaged. It wasn’t until Carroll notified a local television station (and the story went viral) that Amazon took action. Months later, she was finally reimbursed.

While this case is extreme, every company has its share of customer service flops. In some situations, the problem is no communication. In other cases, it’s inconsiderate attitudes.

Want to steer your team toward positivity? Here are five customer services phrases to avoid.

1. “No” (or) “I can’t help you with that.”

Even if a customer makes an impossible request, it’s your responsibility to care for them and to steer them toward a solution.

Alternatives to try:

“This feels like an issue which might be out of my control, but let me double check . . .”

“That’s not my area of expertise, but I want to connect you with someone who can help.”

2. “I don’t know” (or) “You need to check with someone else.”

If you can’t solve a problem, be as helpful as possible. Rather than abandoning someone mid-stream, work with them to find an answer.

Alternatives to try:

“I don’t know, but I’ll find out.”

“I’m not sure, but I’d be happy to look into that.”

3. “Ok, calm down.”

When diffusing a tense situation, telling someone to calm down usually frustrates them more. Instead, communicate empathy and turn the focus from the problem to the solution.

Alternatives to try:

“I understand how this must have upset you, and I’ll get on it immediately.”

“That would frustrate me too.”

“I’m sorry for this inconvenience. Let me help you with that right away.”

4. “I don’t understand the issue.”

People who are upset find uncertainty even more frustrating. If you’re struggling to connect, clarify the issue or soften your request.

Alternatives to try:

“OK, so let me clarify…”

“What I’m hearing is [ISSUE], is that correct?

“If it’s not too much of a problem, I would ask you to be a bit more specific…”

5. “I’m going to put you on hold.”

Time is valuable, so don’t assume you can extend a service call without asking permission. If you do have someone hold, check back with a status update if they’ve waited longer than two minutes.

Alternatives to try:

“I understand your issue and if it’s ok, I’m going to ask you to hold on while I check on a solution.”

“The problem you’re describing is rather peculiar, so if you have a minute, I’d like to put you on hold while I check with my supervisor.”

“I’ll get right on it. If it’s ok, I’d like to look into this today and call back to you once I resolve this.”

Ultimately, customer service is not about the right words but the right attitudes. Remember, the biggest customer service frustration question is “why isn’t this as important to you as it is to me?” As you handle issues, address the person behind the problem. Communicate with compassion, empathy, and enthusiasm, and you will find your way through many sticky situations.

3 Reasons Direct Mail is Still Effective

Long before television and online marketing, direct mail ruled.

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One of the most popular examples of direct mailing can be traced back to Sears in 1888. The company sent a printed mailer to potential customers advertising watches and jewelry. Not long after, the Sears, Roebuck and Company catalog became extremely popular nationwide.

Today direct mail has received a bit of a bad rap. The term “junk mail” isn’t exactly a compliment! Some refer to direct mail as an “old” form of advertising, thinking of direct mail as antiquated or off-target.

But is that really the case?

The fact is, many companies do use direct marketing. According to a 2015 study by the Data & Marketing Association, 57 percent of total mail volume was comprised of direct mail pieces.

Response to direct mail continues to be strong every year, generating leads for businesses across a range of industries. Consider customer response rates from these common marketing methods:

  • 0.9% — Online Displays
  • 0.6% — Social Media
  • 0.5% — Paid Search
  • 0.45% — E-mail Marketing
  • 6.0% — Direct Mail to Household

Why is Direct Mail Effective?

Direct mail is easy.

Direct mail marketing is helpful because it’s easy to process.

In an age of digital noise, the tactile presence of a physical mailing is refreshing! One study found it takes 21% less cognitive effort to process physical mail, so your audience can digest it quickly and easily.

Direct mail is interesting.

The USPS found that 47% of Millennials check their physical mailbox each day, and many consider perusing mail a leisurely activity.

According to the Data & Marketing Association and the USPS, 18-21 year-olds’ response rates to direct mail are as high as 12.4%. If you have a new business or are willing to offer coupon discounts, millennials are quite likely to respond!

Direct mail is memorable.

People who spend time with physical ads have a stronger emotional response and a better memory of this material.

Of course, a clever message goes a long way too! If you send direct mail, do your best to create colorful, memorable messages, like this:

IKEA wanted to feature the simplicity of its inexpensive furniture so they engineered a 3D postcard. When customers “opened” the postcard, this flat mailing turned into a replica of the LACK side table, available for under $10 at IKEA.

The postcard perfectly demonstrated one of IKEA’s clever design concepts – minimalist furniture that ships flat but pops to life upon arrival. IKEA’s postcard allowed users to experience the simple assembly of the LACK table, which left a deep, memorable impression.

Go Face-to-Face Through Distinct Direct Mail

Whether you send mass e-mails, many people will toss your message without reading it.

But if you send direct mail, some will offer you one-on-one attention they wouldn’t give to any other medium. Paul Entin, owner of New York City-based EPR marketing, said he uses direct mail because it stands tall in a digital generation:

“Except for the many catalogs that clog our mailboxes between Halloween and Christmas, most of us receive very little snail mail, certainly far less than in years past,” Entin said. “This means your direct mailer has a far greater chance to stand out from the rest of the mail and get noticed.”

If you need help creating the perfect direct mail piece that will stand out, we can help you every step of the way.