Category: Design Basics

Do-It-Yourself Business Cards, or Hire a Pro?

If you’re starting a business you’re going to need business cards. But if you’re starting a business, you may be looking to save money on the myriad of upfront costs involved with getting the company up and running. Let’s look at the different levels of professionalism and brand identity that you could consider when getting your first business cards. Design & Branding Fees vs. Production Costs There are two steps to creating your business card: first is the design of the card, and the second is the printing of the card. For the design, you will likely start by developing a logo or a logotype (a specific, customized typesetting of the business name). In addition, you will need to typeset your contact information, and then you will need to look at the layout of the entire card. You could try to do these yourself, or you could work with an experienced designer. For the production, you will need to find… Continue Reading »

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Heart of Sharing with United Way: How Can a Designer Help?

Day of Caring / Heart of Sharing Last Thursday, I volunteered with nearly 90 other creative professionals with United Way’s Day of Caring/Heart of Sharing Day. Designers, web developers, marketing specialists, photographers, writers and PR specialists were partnered with Portland area non-profits to give free, personalized advice to help them achieve their marketing goals. The sessions were 90-minutes long and each non-profit was assigned a team of creatives to help them. This was the first time I participated, but there were many professionals who had volunteered in the past, and this was the event’s twelth year. I wasn’t sure what could be accomplished in such a short time, but it was exciting to help prioritize a strategy for these local groups. Winter Kids I was assigned to work with Winter Kids. Although they have enough grant money and sponsorships to be able to afford well-designed printed materials, they were looking for ideas on how reach more people. Winter Kids focuses… Continue Reading »


Appropriate Design: When It's Better to Think Inside the Box

Like many graphic designers, at some point I’ve probably promoted my services as  “unique.” I often promise to deliver “creative” solutions. But sometimes we need to build on people’s expectations and design in ways that are appropriate, rather than just doing something different. I thought about this today as I was walking home from work. I was walking by an old brownstone-type building that is on a historic block in Portland. These old buildings are beautiful, but also probably difficult to maintain. This is the sign I saw attached to the broken handrail on the steps going to the front door. It is a lovely handmade sign. With legible, hand-done typography and even a nice border. The purple ribbon is especially beautiful. All this would be great for an invitation or a welcome sign, but it’s not very effective as a warning sign. Yes, I’m picking on this poor little sign. But the point is that sometimes you need to… Continue Reading »


How to Keep your Brand Looking Fresh

In my last post, I wrote about the importance of consistency in branding. However, I want to take the time to also talk about ways to keep your identity and branding from looking stale. Probably the most important thing to keep in mind is that your brand is a living entity and will experience growth and change. The key is to have enough elements remain consistent that you can play with other elements. Timeless brands are like timeless fashions A good analogy is how individuals wear their clothes and style their hair. There are some people who are always up-to-date with fashion: if you first met them in 1982 and they were wearing parachute pants, you may not be surprised to see them in 1992 wearing an oversized flannel shirt. In contrast, there are some people who have a timeless style. They purchase classic clothes, and are never very trendy. A third group is those folks who seem stuck in… Continue Reading »


5 Tips for Working with Fonts

Most small business owners find themselves creating their own proposals, presentations, reports and memos. They don’t have the time or the money to have a designer available to create everything. Here are few tips to use fonts wisely so your materials still look professional. Limit the number of fonts. That long list of typefaces that comes up when you go to choose a font can be mesmerizing. However, stick to one or two only. You can still use the bold and italics within each typeface. A few combinations that are tried & true are: a serif face for long running type and a sans serif for headlines; a sans serif for body copy and a fun, decorative font for headlines; serif type for the main copy and serif type for sidebars. Even better, just choose one typeface for the entire piece and only change the size and weight. Don’t underline anything other than a link. Underlined text is now universally… Continue Reading »