Monday, June 29, 2009

Graphics - What quality should they be?

Have you ever seen an ad in a magazine that is pixelated (blurred and fuzzy)? Chances are you have and the reason why is because the person designing the ad didn't use high resolution images.

Web sites and other electronic mediums usually only require low resolution graphics (72 dots per inch - dpi) and typically come in JPG, GIF, or PNG file types. Low resolution graphics work great on the web because they load fast and don't require a lot of bandwidth to transfer; however, print marketing is completely different.

When advertising in a professional print publication, the media department or the sales rep will provide you with a specifications sheet, known as a media kit. The media kit will have all the ad requirements - height, width, color, and resolution. The resolution is always the same for print - 300 dpi(dots per inch). As I'm sure you've noticed there is a big difference between 72 dpi and 300 dpi, that is why it's so important to use the correct resolution in your supporting files.

When you have a professional graphic artist create your logo, they should give you the logo in EPS format, which can be used in most print advertising. An EPS is a hi-res, vector based image that can be used for every advertising opportunity from business cards to ads to banners to billboards. If you want to learn more about having a professional logo created in EPS format, please contact

In addition to the logo, the other elements in the ad need to be hi-res if they are going to look crisp and clean in the magazine. Often times people have a hard time knowing what is hi-res and what isn't. A good rule of thumb is, if you are designing a 8.5"x11" full color ad, all your supporting photos should be at least 1MB each - the higher the MB (megabytes) the better quality the image will be.

If you need a print advertisement created, whether it's an ad, banner, flyer, brochure, business card, or label Xfactor Designs can help you!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Business Identity

What is Branding?
A brand is a symbolic embodiment of all the information connected to a company, product or service, including an explicit logo, fonts, color schemes, symbols, jingles, ideas, and even personality. For example, you are able to recognize a Pepsi product without reading the label because you have learned their logo; they consistently use it in all their marketing. The same thing is true with the Alka-Seltzer jingle – “Alka-Seltzer to the rescue.”

Branding Steps
When I started in the professional design industry in 2000, one of the first questions I was asked "is how do you develop a brand?" The first step is to decide on a company name and a slogan/tag line and then, hire a professional designer to create your logo and color palette.

Once the logo and colors are chosen your designer can present concepts for business cards, letterhead, and envelopes (also known as corporate id). Not all businesses need letterhead and envelopes, but you will definitely need a business card. The first rule of thumb with a business card is don't go cheap. I understand that start-up budgets are tight, but your card says a lot about you and your company. If you have a business card that you printed yourself on perforated template paper, your potential clients will know. I often times get solicitations and if anyone hands me a homemade card it goes immediately into the recycle bin. Like many others, I want to make sure I'm doing business with a "real" company. If they cut corners with one of the most cost-effective pieces of the business identity process, then I wonder what else they will cut corners with - maybe the service I need done around my house.

After the corporate id is completed, I suggest starting on the web site. The web site gives your web designer a large canvas to grow the business brand. The colors and logo used in the beginning stages now get to come to life with stock photos or custom photos, fonts, content and icons. Creating a web site that helps promote your business identity is key because you want people to understand what you do and if you are the right company for them. Every small business should have a web site, even if it doesn't contain that much information. A Web site helps validate your business and gives prospects an opportunity to check you out a little more. You don't want to lose the sale, your business needs a web site.

Postcards, brochures, print advertisements, die-cuts (a super fancy speciality cut brochure), and flyers are next. These printed business identity pieces are very important in advertising your product or service; the general look and feel should match your business cards and web site. The ads should use similar photos, fonts, icons and the color palette to help tie-in the overall brand. You want people to recognize the visuals in your ad before they read the text, you want them to remember they've seen that ad somewhere else. I believe the more times buyers are exposed to a brand, the more likely they are to remember it when they need your product or service.

There are so many item that go in to creating a business identity and it can be overwhelming, but with proper guidance from a seasoned designer the process can be mush easier. For more information about developing your business brand, please visit

Friday, June 26, 2009

Custom Web site design versus template Web site design

Template Web site design:
Web sites templates are used widely among businesses with a limited budget, good for starter uppers. In the beginning stages of a business a template can work great, but be aware that thousands of other businesses will have a site that looks just like yours – no specialized branding. Keep in mind that there are limitations to templates and if you are looking to add features (i.e. placing navigation and photos exactly where you want, search engine optimization, animation, advanced functionality or databases) to your Web site, it may cost more in the long run then doing a custom Web site with a professional developer. You may also have a hard time finding a template that fits your company’s branding style.

Custom Web site design:
With an almost immeasurable amount of Web sites on the internet, it is imperative that your business Web site leave a lasting impression with the viewer. With almost everyone looking for services on the internet, sometimes your Web site is your company’s only chance to make a good first impression, so don’t blow it.

Having a custom Web site allows you to work with a professional Web designer to come up with a site that meets your company’s needs and can grow as your company does. Custom Web sites are also more cost effective in the long run if you want to add animation, specialized pictures, advanced functionality or databases, client login and other types of interaction that can benefit your company and clients.

To learn more about web site development, please visit

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Logo Design

When having a professional logo designed for your company, it is very important to know the audience you are trying to reach. The logo should focus on gaining the prospect's attention and effectively communicating what type of business it is. The trouble many small businesses run into is having a designer create a logo that fits there personal preferences, which often leads to disaster.

For example, I had a client come to me and say they wanted to have a logo created for their mortgage company and the lady was set on using pink butterflies because it was her favorite color and icon. I love pink and I think butterflies are beautiful, but probably more appropriate for a daycare center, spa or tea room, it doesn't really fit for a mortgage company. I explained to the client about the importance of creating a brand that the prospect (aka target audience) would understand and making it easy for them to identify the service.

When I presented the logo design concepts, I of course included a couple pink butterfly samples, but I also include several other choices. When she showed the logos to her friends and business associates, they told her that the pink butterfly logos were confusing and it took them a moment to figure out what type of business it was. At that point she realized that the logo wasn't about what she thought was pretty, but what would work and communicate effectively with her target audience.

Every client has ideas on what they would like to see in their logo and as a designer I am always happy to bring those ideas to life, but it is also my job to provide guidance and educate my client on effective ways to communicate their professional image.

For logo design services, please visit