Look No Further for Inspiration

harlanwestblogphotoBy Harlan West, Design and Marketing Professional with 25 years of experience designing materials for major healthcare organizations, municipalities and large corporations.

The Inspiration Store—Places to Tantalize Your Imagination

The inspiration for your successful corporate communications can be found in the least likely places. Indeed, most creative people probably do not produce their content while sitting at the corner Starbucks and typing away on their tablets or laptops.

As a result, I have compiled a list of some unlikely retail stores which can spark your imagination:

Rolls of silk in shopFabric stores are great places to find interesting continuous patterns and textures. Buy a yard or two of fabric, scan it, and digitize it and then manipulate it using a photo-imaging program. Thrift stores also have quirky clothing with printed patterns that could also be used for the backdrop behind mastheads or pull quotes. Paisley patterns can make interesting graphical elements for elegant invitations. Just make sure that the fabric or garment you select does not have a copyright.

The samples of collection ceramic tileTile stores have some of the best patterns around. Pieces of tile can be very organic and can provide unusual twists of color. Tiles arranged in rows can also create a unique checkerboard square pattern that can be used behind mastheads, on covers of reports or for border treatments.

Bookstores are a wonderful resource for new graphical ideas. Look at book covers.  Indeed, the art needs to sell the book.  Generally the cover art is really effective in grabbing one’s attention in just a few seconds. Take notes and makes sketches.  These will come in handy later.

Flower shops can provide unique color combinations along with interesting organic shapes. Buy a few exotic flowers and take some close up photos of the petals or inner center shapes. These can provide interesting graphical shapes for logos, illustrated patterned textures or photo backgrounds.  (See SuccessfulCorporateCommunications.com blog post, Color Me Pink.)

Plums and fresh apricotsGrocery stores are a great place to takephotos of foods and nuts and other bulk items. Indeed, the produce aisle offers an array of delicious fruits and vegetables.  These can also be used as great backgrounds for mastheads or pull quotes or simply as stand along graphical images. (See Successful CorporateCommunications.com blog, Open Your Refrigerator and Head to the Salad Bar.)

Bakeries are a great place to photograph sweets. Think of how captivating a backdrop of fresh bread or tart pastries might be in your food or cooking newsletter.  Where’s the milk?

Nurseries offer great opportunities to snap some quick shots of plants. Leaves and greenery makes for great graphical elements in any page layout.  (See SuccessfulCorporateCommunications.com blog, Leaf It Alone.)

Electric GuitarsMusic stores are great places to get reference material for music newsletters, elegant invitations or concert program brochures. Sheet music can also be blurred and screened back in the layout, but be careful of copyrights.

Hardware stores and lumber yards offer a wide variety of nuts, bolts, brass plumbing connectors as well as tubes and pipes. Take close-up shots of brass connectors and the ends of sprinkler (PCV) pipe stacked in a box. Stacked lumber also makes for an interesting visual. These retail establishments provide a great opportunity to discover exciting new patterns and shapes.

Bike stores are nice places to photograph bike tires, wheels and bike gear. Take shots of the gears, pedals, spokes and tire treads. You’ll love the graphical shapes that can add a new dynamic to your client’s newsletter.

Just a suggestion…

Look around you.  Open your eyes.  See what you see.  You’ll be surprised at how much rich content is right in front of your nose.

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If your company needs an innovative newsletter, annual report, elegant event invitation or just plain creative consulting, please contact HWDS at hwdesign@west.netWe make beautiful things happen. To find out more please visit westdesign.com.

Harlan West is the author of successfulcorporatecommunications.com and has been working as a creative director and design professional for more than 25 years and has designed and art directed hundreds of publications for both print and online purposes.

Paper Adds Weight to Your Marketing

harlanwestblogphotoBy Harlan West, Design and Marketing Professional with 25 years of experience designing materials for major healthcare organizations, municipalities and large corporations.

While at a Santa Barbara paper event this past week, I was quickly reminded of the importance of paper. In the digital world we live in, we, too often, overlook the fact that humans are tactile beings. We respond better to communication messages if there is a tactile component. The best solution for effective communication is a campaign that includes both a print and a social media component.

Rotolo di carta colorataThe choice of a paper is as important as choosing a particular design or color treatment. Paper choice is so important because depending on the texture, weight, brightness, opacity, color and trim, it can enhance a design and increase the effectiveness of the message. High-grade papers can portray strength and importance. Vellum sheets, for example, can show elegance and can act as a “window” to other pages.  Paper comes in coated and uncoated stocks.  Coated stocks can have gloss, silk, satin or matt finishes. Uncoated paper stocks come in felt, velvet, velum, silk fiber, smooth, linen, and laid finishes. Papers come in an extensive range of basis weights, shades and finishes. Adding foil stamping or embossing can add dramatic effects to a report cover or annual report.

The brightness and opacity of a sheet of paper are factors in determining the cost of the paper. Generally the higher the opacity and brightness, the higher the cost of the paper.  Brightness is one of the characteristics used to determine a paper’s grade. A no. 5 paper grade has the lowest brightness (less white and uniform texture) while a grade no.1 has the highest brightness. Opacity is the degree of show-through of printing on the reverse side of the sheet.  Complete opacity is at 100% and complete transparency is at 0% in terms of the percentage of reflectance, a measure of opacity. Economy sheets generally have a grade of 3 or lower and have a lower rating of brightness.

Today, there are some wonderful low-cost, short run options for printing on the digital printing press. The HP Indigo® press, for example, can print beautiful short runs of large format posters using a process of wet ink using a CMYK dot configuration similar to conventional offset printing.   It uses liquid ink rather than toner and a six-color ink system, including light cyan and light magenta, to produce photo-realistic colors and tonality. Since there is no make-ready (the wasted sheets needed to get the press up to speed and quality), there is substantial cost and time savings. What you see is what you get (WYSIWYG) and there is little need for a press check. This is important for clients who have tight budgets as well as tight deadlines. Even more exciting is the ability to print with white opaque ink, something not previously possible with traditional offset CMYK printing. Other benefits include unique bookbinding options where pages are hand sewn and gathered for the binding, using a technique that allows the page to lie flat when the book is opened. This works in place of perfect binding.

Due to consolidation in the paper industry, much the result of non-print solutions such as online non-printed communications, there are now fewer paper houses and paper stocks to choose from. But that does not mean that a project still cannot be printed on an elegant paper stock.

When deciding on a paper stock, it is best to determine who is the audience for the piece and what is the shelf life. If a piece has multiple uses and a longer shelf life, it might be worth it to spend extra money on the paper stock.  If the intended use is an invitation for an elegant affair where image is important, a high-end stock may also be warranted.  But when a mass mailing is involved and the piece has a shorter life-span consider a more economical paper stock. A good rule of thumb is not to spend more on the paper if the ultimate purpose does not warrant it.

The are literally hundreds of choices when it comes to printing. I have distilled these down into 6 simplified categories:

1) Premium papers for offset printing jobs.  This is reserved for or those high-end jobs when the client is not on a shoe-string budget. Some examples include annual reports, automotive brochures, restaurant menus, jewelry boutiques, high-end coffee table books, lithographs of art and photography and beautiful paper sample books. These papers capture fine details, print with cool and crisp blue tones, and have unparalleled readability and clarity.

Many premium and environmental papers are also often acid-free. Acid-free papers are manufactured in an alkaline environment. This helps prevent the paper from discoloring and deteriorating over time, thereby adding to the longevity of the printed piece.

2) Mid-range quality sheets.  These are less expensive than the premium sheets and are commonly used for newsletters, brochures, posters and collaterals with a longer shelf life and small press runs than direct mail pieces or catalogs.  Here, paper quality is important but the job does not warrant a premium sheet.

3) Economy stocks.  These papers offer excellent print performance at a reasonable price. They allow you more bang for your buck.  These are generally used for projects where the budget is tight and quality is not as big of an issue.  Some examples include quick print flyers, direct mail pieces, news magazines, advertisements, seat drops and mailbox stuffers.

4) Web press papers. These jobs are printed on from a huge roll of paper that is fed through the printing press. Typical web fed jobs consist of newspapers, park district/recreation catalogs, newspaper inserts, magazines, direct mail pieces, class schedules and large catalogs with large runs, often 10,000 or larger. Some web presses print at speeds of 3,000 feet per minute or faster. Different options are available for the web press but usually these are not the top of the line, premium papers. The web press usually runs grade no. 2 or lower paper stock and has a high dot gain, usually around 20%.

5) Environmental papers. There are a wide range of recycled, environmental paper choices. Using these papers helps to demonstrate a commitment to our environment. There are 100%, 80% and 30% post consumer fiber choices as well as 50% alternative fibers/50% consumer fibers. These papers are Processed Chlorine Free (PCF), FSC® Certified (meeting the mark of responsible forestry), Green Seal™ Certified (a minimum of 30% post consumer fiber with mill processes and packaging that are environmentally preferable) and Carbon Neutral Plus (helping to reduce carbon emissions with a commitment to conserving the environment).

6) Digital print papers. These papers are made specifically for use when an alternative is needed to conventional offset printing. Typical digital print jobs have short runs  or consist of on-demand printing. Digital printers require exceptionally smooth papers, guaranteed for digital offset and production laser print equipment. These papers are also optimized for dry toner presses, color laser, HP Indigo and offset digital printers.

To find out more information on papers, I have included a link to a wonderful guide, Paper Basics, from Mohawk Papers. Be sure to review at page 8 which includes a list of questions to ask, when selecting a paper. In a nutshell, these include the following topics:

  • intended use
  • perception
  • printing process
  • finish
  • type of images
  • availability of envelopes
  • opacity
  • mailing costs
  • environmental concerns
  • deadline
  • budget

The touch and feel of paper can add substance and bulk to your message. Use it to get in touch! 

Paper—the message that endures.

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If your company needs an innovative newsletter, annual report, elegant event invitation, recreation guide or just plain creative consulting, please contact HWDS at hwdesign@west.netWe make beautiful things happen. To find out more please visit westdesign.com.

Harlan West is the author of successfulcorporatecommunications.com and has been working as a creative director and design professional for more than 25 years and has designed and art directed hundreds of publications for both print and online purposes.

50 Reasons to Follow the Successful Corporate Communications Blog

harlanwestblogphotoBy Harlan West, Design and Marketing Professional with 25 years of experience designing materials for major healthcare organizations, municipalities and large corporations.

I am proud to commemorate the publication of 50 blog posts! Celebrate with us by continuing to read our blog and encouraging your friends and colleagues to subscribe as well.

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Since we just completed our 50th blog post, here’s 50 fabulous reasons to keep reading and rereading:

  1. Take advantage of valuable design tips for your newsletter.
  2. Use color to make a more effective publication.
  3. Learn how to create effective mastheads.
  4. Escape the pitfalls of staff meetings.
  5. Learn ways to deal more effectively with your clients.
  6. Discover how to create more effective bilingual publications.
  7. Find valuable tips on advertising.
  8. Learn about effective branding.
  9. Gain valuable information about e-publications.
  10. Increase your knowledge of printing techniques.
  11. Increase your appreciation of elegant paper stocks.
  12. Learn how to create effective event promotions.
  13. Discover ways to include effective infographics, charts and diagrams in your publications.
  14. Learn about ways to find employment as a skilled graphic designer.
  15. Unearth new ways to promote healthcare events.
  16. Invent new ways to illustrate your newsletter with the use of graphical icons.
  17. Find ways to develop an effective logo for your company.
  18. Learn about ways to add a mascot or cartoon character to your newsletter or publication.
  19. Differentiate your company’s product and service from the competition.
  20. Produce beautiful maps that provide more than just directions.
  21. Explore new ways to be more responsive to your clients.
  22. Recognize how to find a quality print vendor.
  23. Realize the beauty that nature can add to a publication.
  24. Originate the use of iMags for your company’s publications.
  25. Learn how to save $1,000’s on publication costs.
  26. Conceive of new ways to use patterns in your publications.
  27. Innovate the use of online publications in your company’s publication requirements.
  28. Discover ways to add navigational elements to a newsletter.
  29. Lean how to use photos for maximum impact.
  30. Make the best use of typestyles to increase the legibility of a publication.
  31. Find new ways to maintain quality control.
  32. Learn how outsourcing the design of your publications can save the company money and can increase the return on investment (ROI).
  33. Find out why it is important to use a marketing firm that specializes in your industry sector.
  34. Learn what makes your client “tick.”
  35. Discover the importance of having a corporate newsletter.
  36. Explore new reasons why corporations should outsource their marketing efforts.
  37. Unearth the ultimate checklist for developing successful marketing materials.
  38. Invent new ways to harness the power of the word of mouth.
  39. Explore how color defines your brand and shapes your newsletter.
  40. Find out how silhouetted graphics can shape your newsletter.
  41. Invent beautiful patterns and graphics through the use of shadows.
  42. Learn how metallic pins can make great promotional items or giveaways to honor anniversaries, celebrations, or facility openings.
  43. Discover how to use fruits and vegetable shapes to craft an unusual masthead or headline.
  44. Learn how to create healthy designs for healthcare marketing.
  45. Pioneer new ways to include graphical portraiture in your publication.
  46. Benefit from testimonials and how they can create great “buzz.”
  47. Discover how to make your newsletter soar to new heights by adding architectural elements.
  48. Find out how to add edgy border treatments that will make your articles jump off the page.
  49. Recognize the importance of type and how it impacts the look, feel and legibility of the publication.
  50. Discover ways to “tune-up” your marketing without ever getting your hands dirty.

These topics and more can be found on our blog.

Happy reading!  But remember to ask yourself the following question: “Why just be a reader when you could also be a leader?”

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If your company needs an innovative newsletter, e-publication, meeting presentation or  advice on communicating, please contact HWDS at hwdesign@west.netWe make beautiful things happen. To find out more please visit westdesign.com.

Harlan West is the author of successfulcorporatecommunications.com and has been working as a creative director and design professional for more than 25 years and has designed and art directed hundreds of publications for both print and online purposes.

Why Internal Staff Meetings Should be Replaced

harlanwestblogphotoBy Harlan West, Design and Marketing Professional with 25 years of experience designing materials for major healthcare organizations, municipalities and large corporations.

In the name of successful corporate communications, I strive to provide the best tips for how to effectively communicate. Holding internal office meetings is not among the strategies that I recommend. In fact, monotonous meetings are one of my pet peeves.  Meetings almost always, are a waste of valuable productive time.

Years ago, I worked for an employer that held meetings followed by more meetings.  Rarely was anything accomplished. EaMeeitngburnoutch week, one of the managers used to inconvenience his colleagues while he went on a long diatribe about how much his staff accomplished during the previous week.  He used the time to toot his own horn for nearly 20 minutes while others suffered through the agony. As a result, the staff, including myself, came to dread meetings. This example demonstrates a complete failure in attempting to communicate effectively. It’s one that we can all learn from and become better communicators, as a result.

Here’s some suggestions to avoid meeting burnout:

1) Keep meetings on point.  Don’t stray from the reason you called the meeting!  Don’t allow a participant to hold the meeting hostage by going off on a tangent. Look to old cartoons and know when to get the cane in order to pull them off stage. Continue reading

Marketing Lessons to Be Learned from the Government Shutdown

harlanwestblogphotoBy Harlan West, Design and Marketing Professional with more than 25 years of experience designing materials for major healthcare organizations, municipalities and large corporations.

With the government shutdown, we see Republicans and Democrats failing to communicate. Stalemates are no fun and they certainly are unproductive, costly and demoralizing.  shutdownonlyRemember, it is not which party you are in. Rather it is about keeping the party going…

Here’s some helpful tips to make us all better marketing communicators and to keep the party going:

1.  Find a microphone and get on the soapbox. Communication is the key to reaching your clients, target audience, suppliers and employees. Don’t do what Congress did, namely, to stop talking. It’s not a bunch of relatives having a typical family spat! Instead, do the opposite.  Your medium is really the microphone. Use it and blast the message out regularly.  And don’t skip issues of your publications.  It is always best to keep the communication regular and flowing. Turn up the volume; keep it colorful; keep it lively. The tide will eventually turn.

2)  Shake hands with your competition.  Never overlook who may be your future allies or business partners. Putting heads together and cooperating can help you better deal with emerging trends and might be an opportunity for sharing equipment, information, promotions and skills that could benefit both entities.

Quote3)  Find compromise with the client.  Don’t be a prima donna who is married to every word or graphic as if it is a masterpiece. Make the client your partner.  It’s not a game.  It is simply a process to deliver a successful marketing package, newsletter promotion, collateral or advertisement.  There’s no need to feel defeated even if your vision is not brought to life in full regalia. Continue reading