Category: Design Basics

What To Do When You Can’t Afford Branding

Recently, I got an email from a long-time friend. He told me how he was thinking of starting his own business, but still trying to figure out if it would work. He couldn’t afford to invest in a professionally designed brand identity system now, so what advice did I have for him about working with low cost options for web sites, etc. First of all, I have to say this is a bit like walking into the BMW dealership and asking them which Hyundai model they would recommend. I don’t study the free options out there for building web sites. I use and choose professional level tools. But, I am aware of these free and ultra-cheap options (and their pitfalls) from clients who have gone that route and then are ready to have a high quality web site. Therefore, this post is not about specific recommendations for tools or services to use. It is a guide for the type of… Continue Reading »

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7 Reasons Why You Need To Stop Sending Word Files

Microsoft Word is a cornerstone of the business world. It’s the most common word processing software in the US and a mainstay of every business computer. However, Word is not a design or publishing program and there are many reasons and many occasions when you should not be sending Word files. Here are some of the issues that arise when sending out Word files to different users. Font substitution. When you work in Microsoft Word, you are choosing from the fonts on your computer. But those fonts don’t get transferred with the file. So if the person who opens your document does not have the font installed, another font will be substituted. If you use a “corporate font” as part of your brand identity, this cannot be reliably carried over within a Word file. Layout changes.Because fonts get substituted, line breaks and pages breaks can be affected. Different fonts run larger or smaller based on how narrow or wide they… Continue Reading »


Choosing a Logo Design: First Impressions, Timelessness, How To Evaluate a Logo Design

Presenting the first round of logo designs to a client is one my favorite parts of my job. It’s very exciting to show how loose ideas, general likes and dislikes, and sometimes even conflicting input gets translated into a tangible logo design. I’m happy to say we’ve been very successful at being able to translate these abstract thoughts into concrete designs, and generally our clients are pretty wowed by the effect. Whether they are a local client from Portland, Maine or someone we are working with entirely through phone calls and emails, we manage to figure out what they are looking for. The next step then becomes evaluating the options. How to choose a good logo design? Good logos have appeal both at first glance and when you’ve had some time to sit with them. Great logos have immediate appeal and then grow even more appealing as someone has time to take in the detail. A fun example of this… Continue Reading »


What To Do When Your New Web Site Sucks

Unfortunately, I’ve been hearing the same scenario frequently from some potential clients who are requesting estimates for web design work. We just had our web site redesigned recently, but we hate it! Can you help us redesign and redevelop it? With prospects like this, we usually set up a time to talk and walk through their current site. We look at what they like (if anything) and what’s not working. These are some of the typical things we see: The design is just not working. These issues usually come back to the basics of good design. Making the most important things most prominent. Good, readable typography. Layouts that show balance. Color palettes that work together. Not using cheesy clipart or poor photography. The web site is not user-friendly. Sometimes the navigation is difficult to use (example: roll-overs that are twitchy). Or, the content is not organized well so it is difficult to find. Or, the names used in the navigation… Continue Reading »