Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Design Strategies

*Picture in original design mock-up courtesy of iStockphoto*

As a design firm in Chicago, we rely on a variety of strategies to create successful design pieces. When our graphic designers take on a new graphic design project, one of the first questions asked is, “Who are we targeting with this piece?” Whether you are designing for certain groups or a demographic, designers always have the intent to grab their viewer’s attention by making sure their design is appealing to the group it will serve. A main goal throughout all of our projects is to capture the viewer’s attention at first glance.

Just recently we designed a mailer for one of our clients that featured a striking man with an odd facial expression. While they did not end up going with this design, we all found the image to be strong and felt it would make people take a second look.  What was the reason behind this design decision? Think about how much mail you receive daily.  Think about how much of that mail you simply throw away without even really looking at it?  As a marketing and graphic design company, we strive to create design pieces that are not simply disregarded. If you received this mailer in your pile of mail, would you stop to read it?  Would you throw it away?  Would you at least be curious enough to read it?

There are many different strategies graphic designers utilize when creating design pieces:  

Evoke emotion(s): Most powerful designs evoke emotions from those who see it.  Depending on what the piece is about, think about what kind of emotion you are looking to evoke from your design and figure out what you can implement to help you achieve that feeling.  Some of the best pieces we have seen are the ones that know how to capture an emotion perfectly. 

Create confusion: If you want to capture your viewer’s attention, try creating some confusion through your graphic design piece.  Designs utilizing unfamiliar objects or mismatched imagery will guarantee a second look. If the imagery is unusual or challenging it may require your viewers to pay attention in order to understand it. Don’t get too cryptic otherwise viewers will simply discard your graphic design if the design just doesn’t make sense.

The element of surprise: As demonstrated in our mailer for one of our clients, images with unusual or surprising visuals will grab the attention of your viewers. Images that go against what is expected by your viewers will make them want to know more.

If you enjoyed these tips and the attention-grabbing mailer shared, leave comments below. Interested in our services? Contact us to have a custom created mailer for your company or small business.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

5 Free Applications for Graphic Designers

We are a graphic design firm in love with all sorts of programs, gadgets and apps, that is for sure.  If you are anything like our graphic designers, you must love different types of software and apps that give you, as a graphic designer, multiple virtual capabilities. Since our graphic designers are avid Mac users, we decided to share a top list of FREE Mac apps useful for all graphic designers. As a creative agency we use the Adobe Creative Suite daily, but sometimes we like to explore different options. With the Adobe Creative Suite going for nearly $2,000 you may be looking for some more cost effective options and lucky for those of you that are graphic designers, there are many free applications available to be downloaded that have similar features to the professional software like Adobe Photoshop.

If you are a graphic designer looking to create logo designs, our graphic designers highly recommend that you download the free Mac application called Inkspace. Inkspace is an alternative to Adobe Illustrator and CorelDraw as it has the tools available to create vector graphics. The application has great capabilities for being a free software. The program allows you to do everything involved with creating vector graphics even tracing, XML editing and path operations. The software also supports standard SVG format and XML and CSS standards just like the professional software in its class.

If you’re looking for a quick application to manipulate colors in a photo, you might want to check out Colorate. Just like the other applications we’re talking about in this blog, Colorate is a free application for graphic designers. It allows designers with creative minds to add and create a color palette to each of your photos. Whether you’re blending the existing palette, creating your own custom pallet or creating a totally randomized palette, you can definitely have fun editing your images using Colorate.

The free Mac application Image Tricks has dozens of cool filters that we, as a Chicago graphic design firm, love to mess with. Not only does this application have so many different capabilities with filters, it also allows graphic designers to apply filters to over 20 different image file types!

One of the most popular free photo editing software’s available is GIMP. The name ‘GIMP’ stands for GNU Image Manipulation Program. Not only is it a very useful tool for graphic designers, but the program is highly supported and is frequently updated compared to most free software applications. GIMP is often times related and compared to Adobe Photoshop. The application can make photo retouching, color correction, image sizing, image composition, etc. a very simple task. There are also plugins, extensions and filters available for download for advanced users looking for more capabilities.

If you are a graphic designer looking to expand your knowledge on design, try DAZ studio. DAZ studio can be a lot of fun if you’re a graphic designer looking to learn about 3D models and creations. DAZ allows you to create realistic 3D models such as people, animals and objects. DAZ Studio is one of the easiest 3D animation tools and is a great program for those who would like to teach themselves how to use it. 

Have a great free app we didn't mention here that you want to tell us about?  Feel free to leave us a comment below or contact us.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

A Graphic Designer's New Year's Resolution

Now that it’s almost the New Year, it’s time to set some new goals. Are you a graphic designer hoping to advance in the graphic design industry? If so our very own team members have been there before.  Getting your foot in the door to the business of a graphic design company may seem intimidating, but make it your 2013 resolution to make a big impression. As a Chicago graphic design company our very own graphic designers have been in your shoes before and can help guide you in the right direction.  If your New Year’s resolution is to advance in the graphic design industry, check out the following tips from our very own graphic designers:


As graphic designers in Chicago we are active participants in graphic design conferences and professional events. Networking is a great way to meet new people and build professional relationships. You have the potential to meet anyone from fellow graphic designers to web developers or business owners to copywriters. Before visiting any event, always plan ahead. Be prepared to socialize. Make sure your portfolio and business cards are something you can’t wait to show off. Going to networking events can definitely be intimidating especially as a burgeoning graphic designer. Prepare yourself by keeping these tips in mind:
  • When talking to others show interest in what they are talking about. Ask questions, use eye contact and be friendly. Show courtesy for others and thank them for their time.
  • When talking about yourself, don’t brag or try to oversell yourself. Tell don’t sell. Keep the conversation casual, you’re all there for the same reasons. Don’t forget to share your business card with whoever you talk to.
  •  Look the part. Be prepared ahead of time. Figure out ahead of time exactly where the event is located and whether you need to dress casual or formal and always dress the part.

Start a Blog

Broadcast your portfolio on the web and start a blog. Never underestimate the power of blogging. Social media and blogging can help establish your online identity and be the voice behind your name. As a socialmedia company and search engine optimization company, we take blog writing very seriously as we know the power it holds for search engine optimization factors alone. A blog is a great opportunity to advance in the graphic design industry and show what you can do as a blossoming graphic designer.

Seek Advice

Share your portfolio with someone and ask for their professional advice. Constructive criticism is a great tool. There may be errors that only another pair of eyes can spot. When asking for advice, seek criticism, not praise. The soul purpose in sharing your portfolio with someone is to help you improve it.

Find a Mentor
Someone who is experienced in the graphic design business should become your best friend. Turn to someone who has been in your shoes before that can help guide you throughout your journey. As a graphic design firm in Chicago, we love when we receive emails or phone calls from students or young professionals who ask questions or want to interview us. There is always something new to learn and we’re always willing to share what we know.

As a Chicago marketing company with over 25 years of experience, we are here to help you successfully complete your New Year’s resolution. If you ever hit a bump in the road, or just need advice, feel free to contact us