Archive for August, 2009

Just for fun

August 30, 2009

Our extended family recently celebrated its tenth anniversary of attending the Minnesota State Fair together—all 9 of us! To commemorate the event, Mix created this t-shirt design, printed expertly by our friends at Eagan Shirtwerks. Everyone was pleased with the design and especially the shirts—which in the color “pistachio” made it easy to find all in the group.

tshirt

In Praise of Print

August 11, 2009

INVEST IN PRINTING AND PAPERS TO MAKE THE RIGHT IMPRESSION

In the past five years, social media combined with online and digital printing have leveled the playing field for businesses, allowing small businesses unprecedented access to tools once reserved for large corporations.

Take for example the business card. In the past, large companies had blank business card shells printed on specialized paper with one or two Pantone inks that they printed periodically with deserving employees’ names. Today, with printing prices and required quantities much lower than the past, new cards can be printed in full color for  just about anyone or any thing, from calling cards to angel cards, or even multiple cards for different parts of a business.

So what’s the harm in that?

Well, to use the sports analogy from earlier: with a more level playing field comes… more players. And with more players comes more competition.

“But I’ve hired an ace design firm! Isn’t that good enough?” you may ask.

Of course, good design goes a long way toward defining your company and standing out in a crowded marketplace. But if you want to go all the way, you’ll want to spend some money on how your brand is presented in print. Here are some suggestions:

  1. Consider the paper it’s printed on. Think about it. When you hand a card to someone, wouldn’t you like them to notice the quality of paper right away? Consider printing on FSC-certified papers. Far from the dull, grainy papers of the past, these green “goddesses” now offer bright whites, textures, weights, sheens, and colors that fit your business. Ask your designer to see paper swatch books for your next project—you’re likely to be surprised by how paper selection can take your design to the next level.
  2. Create a piece to “die” for. Created on the press using a metal plate with sharp edges called a “die”, unique shapes and cut-outs enhance your brand message while creating interest. Consider a postcard cut in the shape of your product or logo. Or a pocket folder with pockets that mimic the curve of your logo. Or maybe a cut-out shape that has a playful presence on either side of a business card. Often rejected for their additional cost, die cuts may well be worth the expense.
  3. Make key images shine. Recently I received a direct mail piece from a major retailer that caught my eye. Printed on  matte, white paper, the models (and product) practically bounced off the page with a glossy varnish. Called a “spot varnish,” the technique packed a visual punch that kept me interested.

These tips may seem ill-timed in a scaled-back economy, where saving money is on everyone’s mind. But consider the benefit: quality papers, inks, cuts, and varnishes send the message that your business is as strong as ever, inspiring confidence in your company and signaling to clients that they are worth the expense.

For more ideas about how special printing techniques and papers can enhance your brand image, contact Mix Creative.

MetroIBA Jumpstart Twitter Training

August 11, 2009

Interested in learning how to grow your business using Twitter? Learn from an expert at the following Metro Independent Business Alliance (MetroIBA) training:

MetroIBA Jumpstart Twitter Training
August 26 8-9:30am or September 16 at 8:00. Choose the best time for you.
Register here.

Learn how to grow your business using Twitter in this working session with Zack Steven, social media pioneer and co-founder of BuyTheChange.com and LocalTweeps.com. You will create or enhance your Twitter profile, learn how to connect with new and existing customers and practice posting updates and sending messages. You’ll also get insight into Twitter terminology, best practices for businesses and time-saving resources.

$35 MetroIBA members, $55 non-members
Zack’s regular price for this class is $199.
Preregistration Required. Register now here.

Space is limited to 16 participants for each class, so register ASAP. 12 Laptops provided—BYO Laptop if you have one with wireless.

Classes are at the WomenVenture computer lab,
2324 University Avenue West, Suite 120 St. Paul, MN.

The mystery of Internet Explorer popularity, or why everyone should help a designer and download Firefox today

August 7, 2009

As a graphic designer who has taken on the task of also developing (or working with programmers) to develop internet sites, I have been launched into a world of seeing a design, so beautiful and pristine on my MAC screen, rendered crudely on a PC—a phenomenon only users who switch between the two operating systems will understand. But there’s also another obstacle: code that works consistently in Safari, Firefox, and Opera displays sporadically in Microsoft’s Internet Explorer.

And recently I’ve discovered that apparently there’s inconsistency between how code is displayed between Internet Explorer (IE) 7 and IE8. Or even, from one page of identical code to the next in IE8!

Voicing my frustration in solving this issue with my different web developers, I have come to understand that Internet Explorer has long been the problem child in web browsers for displaying code correctly. Developers everywhere pull their hair out finding work-arounds to make their code compatible to this flaky browser, and have been for a long time.

Not only that, but Internet Explorer is a frequent target for hackers, and far less secure than other browsers. Microsoft itself has posted articles about the issue.

My developers tell me that the cross-platform browser Firefox was developed as the solution to this flakiness. And, true to its mission, performs admirably. According to its website, www.mozilla.com, the software was developed to be “faster, safer, smarter, better.” It has a huge list of awards to its credit, is free to download, and has numerous user-friendly browsing features. It’s also been around since 2004 and, according to the twitter feed Firefox Counter, has exceeded one billion downloads.

So with a superior operating system out there, why is Internet Explorer still the most used internet browser?

Turns out, I’m not the only one asking that question. Type the question into into your Google search, and you’ll get pages of search results, including Robert Nyman’s summary and musings, titled “Why would anyone use Internet Explorer“. Yet the predominant answer is quite simple:

  • It comes preinstalled on a PC

Really?

An anecdotal check with my friends and clients in the business world confirms it—they’re using Internet Explorer. Often, IT departments within the company prevent employees from downloading unapproved software, which includes the Firefox browser. Also, people I talk to are surprised to hear of IE’s bugginess. They just use what they’re used to. They’re not developers, after all, and they haven’t ever compared it to any other browser.

W3Schools, a respected resource for web developers, published statistics that show an increase in Firefox usage, but admit that other site statistics still report that Internet Explorer accounts for up to 80% of users.

Thus, it appears that designers and programmers alike will be struggling to make sites that look good in the lowest common denominator (IE) for a while longer. In case you’d like to be part of the solution, visit www.mozilla.com to download Firefox 3.5 today. Twitter about it. Tell a friend. And start enjoying seeing sites the way they were intended to be viewed!