The Twelve Deadly Sins of Design

harlanwestblogphotoBy Harlan West, Design and Marketing Professional with nearly 30 years of experience designing communications for major healthcare organizations, municipalities and large corporations.

Old Cemeteries - Row of Tombstones

Heed the warning and don’t make the following mistakes. Successful corporate communication designers know how to avoid these pitfalls:

1) Failure to include a call to action.  What is the purpose of a marketing or sales publication if it doesn’t produce a return on investment (ROE)? Let’s face it, the print world has largely gone away. Clients are looking for results from their advertising and marketing budgets. Promoting awareness or providing information alone just won’t cut it in today’s marketplace.

2) Failure to follow the client’s corporate design standards. Don’t overlook the brand. Shame, shame, on you if you do!!! Effective corporate communications are branded to help promote awareness of the corporate brand and to promote consistency of look and style.

3) Failure to select images that are not carefully vetted. For example, never show a person not wearing a seat belt in a carpool photo. Never show a bicyclist not wearing a helmet in a promotion for Bike to Work Day. Never show just one person driving a car in a brochure on ridesharing or commute options.

4) Designing text using colors that are too difficult to read.  This means colors that are too light, too bright or that are printed with fluorescent inks. I once saw a publication created by a popular art school that was indeed beautiful but you needed sunglasses to read it. Beautiful as it may have been, the publication was completely illegible since all the type was printed in bright orange fluorescent ink against a pure white background. Yikes.  Pass the sunscreen!

5) Failure to place functionality over aesthetics. A beautifully designed work of art which does not sell the product, promote awareness or even reach the targeted audience is a zero design. A piece can be the really beautiful, but if it doesn’t work what is the value? Remember what my grandmother used to say, “Beauty is only skin deep but ugly is to the bone.”

6) Failure to design a piece that cannot be easily printed. Many inexperienced designers create pieces that do not have proper bleeds, do not contain proper color call-outs, do not have plates that separate out or do not have postscript and properly licensed fonts. Have the printer review the art during the process to make sure that it can be printed using their equipment. Make sure that the printer has the correct print specifications.

7) Failure to include diversity or demographics.  Today’s world is important—it is a global community. Don’t “look yesterday!”  Be sure to represent people who are the intended audience and who represent the local community. Publications that fail to do so will be overlooked.

8) Failure to modify or enhance a stock image. These images can be easily spotted. Furthermore, you don’t want your photo to show up somewhere else.  All stock images need to be customized to the publication. Change the cropping, colorization, angle. Add a funky border treatment or combine photos or superimpose type so that the images do not look generic.

9) Failure to use high resolution images for print. Cell phone images usually don’t cut it. When designing for print be sure to use images that are at least 300 dots per inch. Low quality images almost always look bad.  Remember, ”garbage in is garbage out.”

10) Failure to use fonts that are easy on the eye. Using a condensed font, italicized type or all caps throughout can be a legibility nightmare. Don’t make your client go blind while attempting to read your publication.

11) Failure to design for the audience. Use large type for an older audience. Use graphics and color schemes which relate to the demographics and cultural traditions of the target group. Don’t design a super hip publication for an older audience and don’t create a stodgy traditional layout for a group of teens or millenials.

12) Failure to properly outline hair on people or what is known as the “helmet-head effect.” Avoid those bad hair days when your parents put a bowl around your head and cut off the excess hair. Hair needs to be soft with flowing strands, not hard angled and choppy. Don’t attempt to give someone a haircut if you are unskilled in Photoshop.

Follow these valuable tips and design with confidence.  Don’t be a sinner along the way.

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If your company or organization needs an innovative or unique solution for a promotion or marketing campaign, 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 nearly 30 years and has designed and art directed hundred of publications for both print and online purposes. HWDS and Associates, Inc. has been in business for 25 years.

A New Year Design Manifesto

springtime landscape

Here’s a list of resolutions to help you start out designing a successful New Year:

I WILL print less, digitize more…In this age of green, we can only move to greater use of online e-publications that have little impact on the environment. That does not mean that we should abandon print completely, but rather we should use it were we can have the greatest impact. Such effective uses include annual reports, car catalogs or product brochures and some direct mail pieces.
I WILL produce sustainable events that employ digital invitations, reusable directional signage, recyclable tableware, hand-printed nametags. Attendees might also be encouraged to use ridesharing or alternative fuel vehicles to reach the event.  Include commute options with the invitation.
I WILL design for cell phones, tablets and desktops with responsive design that adjusts to the device.
I WILL not print 2-color materials. Four-color printing gives so much more bang for the buck especially with the widespread use of digital printing.
I WILL design with clean, uncluttered and simple layouts with lots of white space.
I WILL use infographics to display data and I will skip the boring charts, graphs and tables. No one reads them.
I WILL refuse to use clipart.
I WILL refrain from using stock photos that have not been customized or altered. This consists of modifying photos so that they are unique to your publication or website.  This prevents them from reappearing in another publication and avoid the use of a stale prefabricated, canned image.
I WILL try to use PowerPoint less frequently for my presentations. In my opinion, it is dated and trite. I will try other programs such as Adobe Keynote or programs such as Adobe Muse to provide interactivity. Simple talking points with a few visuals are often enough. Why put the audience to sleep? If I do use PowerPoint, I will limit my presentations to five words per slide, and I will not repeat what is already visible on the screen. Try something new and original.
I WILL design websites that are informational and functional, rather than complex works of art. The days of websites driven by special effects and animated graphics are long gone.
I WILL create communications that show diversity and inclusivity in the use of photos.
I WILL strive to create publications that have a localized feel to better tie products and services to the community
I WILL strive develop publications which promote giving back to the community or that have a charitable component.
I WILL print on recycled papers using vegetable-based inks.
I WILL, I CAN AND I PROMISE to create better and more enriching communications.

Make 2016 the best it can be. Art makes life livable.

23 Tips for Developing an Effective Park District/Recreational Catalog

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

 

Little girl in the parkI often receive park district catalogs and recreational catalogs in the mail. Having designed several of these magazines, I would like to relay some suggestions to my readers:

 

 

In order to develop an effective park district/recreational catalog you should have: Continue reading

The Benefits of Press-Checking a Printed Publication

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

Today, press checks are often overlooked due to the better software and printing equipment which pretty much make the process “What You See Is What You Get” (WYSIWYG). There are fewer surprises on press than 20 years ago and proofs are much better. Yet, any surprise, unless it has an uncharacteristically positive impact, is usually something to avoid. I especially recommend press checking those jobs that are not the Fotolia_14739158_XS“run-of-the-mill” type of print project. Annual reports, press kits, automobile brochures, magazines, corporate reports and sales kits should be press-checked.  Generally the more expensive and the more complicated the job, the more important it is to do a press check.

Why it is important to attend a press check:
1) A press check provides for quality assurance. It’s the designer and the project manager’s last chance to check for color density, trapping and registration issues, as well as color consistency. During the press check, it is also a good opportunity to check crossovers, the application of tinted varnishes and the legibility of type against colored backgrounds.  Sometimes just a small shift on press can make a world of difference in terms of legibility of the type or how “plugged-up” a photo may appear.

2) A press check allows one to verify proper PMS color matching, bleeds, smooth gradients, and to check for paper “see-through.”  PMS matching is critical especially where a specific corporate color is required.  This is essential for corporate branding. Don’t be afraid to have the pressman make several “moves” on press to ensure that the color is “spot-on.” It is also the time to check the bleeds. While standing at the press, ask the printer to trim down a sample of a press sheet.  Make sure that the inks are fully saturated to the end of the sheet.  Make sure that gradients are not banding.  Finally, you will want to check for see through of image from one side of the sheet to the other.  Obviously it is too late to change the paper stock once the job is on press.  But you could have the pressman hold back or run lighter on the ink to help minimize this issue. Continue reading

Flying Off the Web Press with 50,000 Quantity

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

Roll’n, Roll’n Off the Presses We Go

It’s exciting to watch a publication being printed on the web press. Paper is fed from a continuous 2,000 lb. spindle of paper that is fed through what seem like two stories of mechanical gingerbread parts. Around and around it goes, till the publication is magically printed two-sided, folded and then spit out the other end at a rate of 10 pieces per second. In no time, 50,000 or even 100,000 copies are ready to be bound, trimmed, labeled sorted and bundled for distribution or mailing. I am reminded of a  tour that I attended at the Chicago Sun Times while I was in middle school, many a moon ago.

With the web press, the quality is not the same as most sheet-fed presses. Indeed, the web press offers great cost savings for newspapers, news magazines, recreation guides and direct mailers with large print runs. Yet, it is important to allow for some issues such as offsetting, where the ink, since it may not fully dry before folding, actually creates a slight impression onto another page. Another disadvantage is that the Web press can also slightly crease and crinkle pages during the very quick folding process. Nonetheless, these are small trade-offs for the benefits in cost-savings, especially for a quantity of more than 50,000 pieces.

Collage-of-press

1) A publication being printed on the high-speed web press. 2) Pallets of publications are shrink-wrapped for delivery.  3) A recreation guide coming off the press folded and ready for binding with the cover.  4) Huge rolls of paper for the web press. 5) A roll of paper on the web press. 6) The web press machine nearly fills an entire warehouse.

Shoot’n out the press we go.  It’s a – high-speed world!

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If your company needs a recreation guide, a news magazine or a large-run multi-page publication, 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 hundred of publications for both print and online purposes.

How the Printing Industry Has Become Environmentally-Friendly

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

Printers have moved from being detrimental to the environment to being very supportive of the recycling movement.

RollsofpaperpaperWhile at a press check this weekend for a job on the web press, I was actually reminded of how much large commercial printers do to promote recycling and sustainability. In fact, the printing industry is one of the biggest adherents to recycling. First and foremost, most printed products today are printed on paper stock made from recycled paper pulp. In addition, the printing industry has moved away from using colored papers due to the difficulty and added cost of recycling these papers. Today, the large amount waste created from printing during the make-ready stage and bindery stage is typically collected, baled and compacted into a block and then sold to companies that make products from paper and printing waste.

Paperpaperon-pressIndeed, the printing industry gets an undeserved bad wrap for being environmentally unfriendly. In all actuality, most printers today print on papers that are made of recycled fibers and they send the waste from the printing process, otherwise known as “make-ready” as well as the used metal plates off to be recycled.  Nearly 60% of printed publications today are printed on paper made of recycled fibers. By using recycled papers and planting new trees, the printing industry is taking essential steps to reduce the deforestation of our earth.

The great thing to keep in mind is that paper is not only biodegradable but it is also recyclable and reusable.

As stated in our blog post, Paper Adds Weight to Your Marketing, there are a wide range of recycled, environmental paper choices. Using these papers helps to demonstrate a commitment to our environment. webpress3There 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).

Printers also help the environment by:

  • Eliminating excess ink use by performing precise calculations
    to reduce the amount of wasted ink
  • Using soy-based or vegetable inks
  • Using more digital printing presses instead of offset lithography
  • Recycling rags and clean-up materials
  • Complying with Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
    mandated regulations

So next you visit a large commercial printer for a press check, ask to see how they are reducing their carbon footprint. You’ll probably be pleasantly surprised.

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If your company needs an innovative newsletter, annual report, creative consulting or print management, 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.

___________________________

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.