White Space is Your Friend

There’s a hidden design element that gets opposite reactions from different clients. Every design has it, and it’s often the thing you just can’t put your finger on that makes you like one design over another.

It’s white space, those areas of a design that are unencumbered with text or images. And just like the humble zero revolutionized math, negative space (since it’s not always white) can transform your designs.

As an easy comparison, check out the front pages of Yahoo! and Google. They’re both massive search engines, and Google now does almost everything possible on the web, but consider the contrast between the designs. Google feels minimalistic and sleek, while Yahoo! is busy at best. Yes, Yahoo! offers more information, but the use of white space was a conscious design choice by both companies.

For many small businesses, more white space is beneficial. It does more than just balance the layout of your marketing and brand collateral. More white space can help you get noticed and get more business.

There are several ways that white space is your friend.

First, it makes your content more readable and scannable.

It also gives you the ability to highlight and emphasize your most important features and selling points. 

Creative use of white space can help direct the eye in a certain direction or along a specific path.  You can use it to make a graphic or picture more prominent.

Perhaps more importantly, the use of white space tends to position your brand in the marketplace. Advertising standards have conditioned us to view brands that use more white space as high-end luxury brands, while brands that have less white space are for the broader market. For example, compare the websites of Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom.

If you want to position your brand in the high-end, luxury market, then more white space can help customers accept that brand image.

Take a look at your current marketing collateral and see if you could use more white space.


One more post on Pinterest…

This from my friend Ann at A.Point.Marketing. Worth one more mention.


Are your files clean enough to print?

A conversation last week with a colleague reminded me of the value of providing clean graphic design files to a print house. Many business owners who hire a graphic designer may not realize it, but good printers are very particular about how graphics are submitted. And different printing processes and companies require different parameters.

It can get technical, but a clean file essentially has all of the parameters aligned with the specific printing process that you plan on using. Why should you care?

If the file isn’t properly prepared, that beautiful design you paid for might not look like what you expected when it gets printed. Or important images or text could be cropped because measurements weren’t precise. Or your text could reflow and you could lose part of your message. A good printer will catch problems before going to print, but they can charge you by the hour to fix it, or send the files back to your designer for changes.

Bottom line: Poorly prepared files can increase the cost of your project, and you could loose valuable turnaround time.

You might assume that this is something your designer automatically does. It would make sense for “Clean Files 101” to be part of every designer’s education—but it’s not. Many designers haven’t had the experience with all the ways printing can be done to make files consistently accurate. When I worked as the designer for a printing house, we would frequently receive great designs that weren’t ready for the press.

The next time you’re hiring a graphic designer for your marketing, consider asking them about their experience with printing, and if they can guarantee clean files. You’ll end up with a better product, and you might save some time and money.

Receive a Free Signature Brand Audit from our Partner A.Point Marketing

When business owners call and ask me to design a brochure or other marketing piece, I often ask questions about how this project will fit into their overall marketing strategy. There’s one simple reason that I do this: I want to know I’m actually helping them.

Over a century ago, department store owner John Wanamaker quipped, “Half my advertising doesn’t work … I just don’t know which half!” Many of today’s business owners have the same problem—when they don’t have to. New technologies allow for a phenomenal level of tracking for any piece of marketing.

But to benefit from them, you need to have a marketing strategy in place, which is where my friend Ann Gusiff comes in. Ann owns A.Point Marketing, and focuses on the importance of strategy before tactics. (And by the time somebody is asking me about a brochure, they’re well into the realm of tactics.)

As an authorized Duct Tape Marketing Consultant, Ann offers a free Signature Brand Audit that can help you start thinking about a marketing strategy for your business, so you know that each piece of your advertising has a purpose and actually supports your marketing goals.

To really jumpstart your marketing strategy, Ann will also be presenting her half-day marketing bootcamp, “7 Steps to Small Business Marketing Success” this Friday, April 27, from 8:30-11:45am in San Rafael. I will be joining her, along with Business Writer, Brandon Wilborn, to talk about branding and marketing messages. We will repeating this presentation again on Friday, June 1.

If you’re interested in attending, please register in advance. Even if you can’t make it, I encourage you to get your free brand audit at www.gusiff.com.

To Pinterest or Not to Pinterest?

We had started this conversation on our Facebook page, but I think it’s worth continuing the discussion.  I personally have mixed feelings about the fairly new social media site, Pinterest. I think it has its appropriate uses. However, it also has some serious pitfalls.  This article illustrates some of what I believe are some of the biggest issues with Pinterest’s current user agreement.

What are your thoughts?


Make Your Brand A Roaring Success

How often do you hear, “Your brand is your business.” or “Your brand is everything.” But, what does that really mean to a business owner or a nonprofit?

A smart marketing consultant I know, Ann Gusiff, says, “People buy from businesses that they know, like and trust. Potential customers first need to understand what you have to offer. They have to feel good enough about you to want to buy from you. Then they have to believe that your product will be helpful to them. So, how do you get people to know, like and trust your business?

Think about how you last went about making a purchasing decision. You might have done some research on the Internet. You might have talked with a few people for some recommendations. Then it came down to the impression you had. How did their website or business card look? How did they make you feel? Did you clearly understand what they had to offer? Did you get a sense that you could trust them?

Your good impression probably started with their business logo and the colors and the fonts that they chose. If they were a flower shop, for instance, their logo might have been done with bright colors – something that made you think of springtime. And how about that plumber you needed last week, or that attorney that helped you settle your aunt’s estate? Their logo and marketing materials looked very professional and sincere. They sent the message, “I care about your situation, and I know how to solve your problem.”

Building trust with customers also has a lot to do with consistency. Back to that flower shop. All of their marketing materials: their website, business cards and in-store signs say, “Flowers make people happy. You will smile when you business with us!” Everything has that common, predictable theme.

Another component of building trust is showing customers how you can help them. Not just now, but in the future. That flower shop might publish an e-newsletter with coupons that you’ll save for your next purchase. They might include an article right before Mothers’ Day offering advice on how you can help celebrate with a nice, floral gift. They’ll probably make it incredibly easy for you to get the flowers to her, even though she lives a thousand miles away.

So, what does all this mean for your business? You don’t always get the opportunity to meet face-to-face with every customer, so your brand and marketing materials have to speak for you. Do they truly reflect who you are? Do they send a consistent message? Do they help potential customers know, like and trust you?

If they do, your brand is well on its way to being a roaring success.

Have You Created Your Graphic Design Calendar?

Have you mapped out what you want to accomplish with your marketing strategy in 2012? Do you know how much money you have to work with and the most beneficial ways to use it? Do you know what you’d like to do but are unsure of how much it might cost? Preparing your marketing calendar can give you a clearer picture of the road ahead.

Every project you undertake to market your business should have clear goals and objectives. You should know who your audience is, how the project will help you reach your target market and your expected return on investment. You can use your marketing calendar to outline all of the projects you want to undertake, identify the best timeframes to do them, and get an overview to help you prioritize.

Having a marketing calendar is essential to helping you plan ahead and can save you significant amounts of money over the year. It lets you slot in upcoming major marketing events, conferences, trade shows and networking opportunities and provides time-based visibility to when you need to prepare your promotional materials.

Many business people don’t realize how costly last minute rush jobs for promotional materials can be. It’s hard to do vendor price comparisons when you’re in a hurry. Also, whenever a production company or printer is asked to hurry to complete a project in time for an event, a “rush fee” can be tacked on. Priority shipping is also expensive. Completing a project “last minute” can often add as much as 20% or more to your overall costs.

An additional benefit of planning ahead is that your graphic designer and other professional team members can help you find less costly solutions to achieve the same results. For example, by suggesting that we make a poster just 1” shorter, I recently saved a client over $300 because we were able to use a smaller sized printing press. If we’d rushed to get the poster completed, we might not have had the time to consider alternative options. Planning ahead allows the luxury of reviewing each project with an eye towards determining the most appropriate and cost-effective way of producing your materials.

How do you begin? We’re offering one hour of free consulting time to plan your graphic design and printing needs for the coming year. We’ll help you develop a high level cost estimate based on your needs to assist you in planning your graphic design and printing budget. There is no obligation. Email suzi@slmcreative.com to get started today!