Archive for June, 2010

Pioneer Press: Oh No You DIDN’T!

June 15, 2010

Poor Pioneer Press. I mean, they’ve been through some major shake-ups in the past years. They’re a tiny, home town paper. They have less popular comics than their competitor. And they made the mistake of trying to woo us, die-hard Star Tribune readers, by sending us a free copy of their newspaper.

So it was that one Sunday morning I got up exceptionally early and realized that while my Star Tribune carrier was still happily slumbering, my dutiful free Pioneer Press carrier had already delivered the goods. And so this morning, I opened the Press and started reading.

The article about White Bear Lake’s waxing and waning lake levels caught my eye. Following the breadcrumbs from the cover of the local section to page 3B to finish my article, I was greeted with a graphic designer’s nightmare! Surrounding what otherwise was quite an attractive and well-designed advertisement for Pella Windows, were…CROPMARKS! PAGE INFORMATION! GASP!

Ok, for those of you who are not design geeks like myself, here’s a little background info. Crop marks are little lines, placed at each corner of printed artwork, that tell the printer how to position, print, and trim the artwork. They are not intended to be seen in the final product. Page information tells the printer the name of the digital file, as well as the date and time the information was printed. Also not intended to be printed in the final piece.

I frequently include crop marks when submitting art to publications, so they know how to place the art within their design. These are particularly helpful if you’re submitting an advertisement intended to have a white border around the edge.

Ok, so here’s the mess itself:

Printed crop marks!

See the crop marks and page information? (circled)

Lest you think I’m a terrible nasty person for pointing this out, I’d like to point out that we all make mistakes from time to time (see my previous article about apologizing!), and in the world of newspaper publication—when turnaround times are quick—a mistake here and there is bound to happen.

And, little mistakes like these make great gems for educating design students about the print process. So thanks for that.

On the flip side, I’d hope that the Pioneer Press made concessions to the advertiser for their error, which clearly had a negative reflection on the advertisers’ brand. And, unfortunately, their mistake cast a poor light on their publication to me—their potential subscriber—when it mattered most.

The lesson here? Well, never skip the step of careful editing and proof reading when you are publishing something to be seen by your potential audiences. It’s that expression your mom loves to use: you never get a second chance to make a first impression.

Caribou’s clever in-store social marketing

June 7, 2010
Caribou Stick Notes display

Caribou's example of low-tech social networking

Visiting the Caribou Coffee in Duluth’s Canal Park location this weekend, I spotted a highly effective, low-tech method of social networking: sticky notes.

With the phrase “What do you stay awake for?” printed on each little slip of paper, customers enthusiastically filled in the blank space. The sticky notes revealed a cross section of Caribou customers: teenagers, tourists, lovers, business owners, mothers and children. Their responses were surprisingly thoughtful, many of which spurred “conversation” from one sticky note to the next. In the age of Twitter and Facebook, it was wonderful to see these handwritten forms of expression that revealed much more about the author’s personality than pixels could ever do.

Should your business consider this type of promotion?

Caribou comments up close

A closer look at some of the comments.

To decide, let’s take a look at how Caribou benefits from their promotion. First, for a minimal cost of designing and printing sticky notes, Caribou created a promotion that:

1) Builds a dialogue between the company and their customers. This type of dialogue can build a sense of good will and customer loyalty. Clients feel listened to and achieve a sense of community with other Caribou customers.

2) Provides valuable information about their audiences. This information could be used to create future advertisements, Facebook conversations, or in-store promotions that resonate with their target audiences.

3) Provides a satisfying distraction while customers wait for their beverages.

4) Provides the foundation for an online social media campaign. Should Caribou wish to take the campaign online, they have a simple model that’s already been tested for sparking conversation, that they can implement on Facebook and Twitter.

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Anatomy of a Photo

June 2, 2010

Recently, Mix Creative had the opportunity to design the 2010 edition of the ONE coupon book. The book, filled with coupons for products from partners in the ONE (Organic and Natural Experience) program, needed to appeal to a demographic that included both tried-and-true consumers of organic products and the next generation of mainstream consumers.

Conceptually, my client and I wanted to merge the idea of the consumer experience with nature and organics. We imagined a picnic scene as the perfect juxtaposition. Next step: find the perfect image!

The brown grass outside told me a photo shoot was out of the question; I’d have to locate an image to use. I set out to find the perfect image, but instead found this one (click on a photo to see it enlarged):

Original picnic basket photo

The original photo: not quite right yet!

The original photo had the right idea, but lacked drama with its bland sky. The grass-only field didn’t tie in with the sunflower theme I had implemented on some of the interior pages. Also, the wine bottle wasn’t consistent with the type of products that were inside, the flashlights seemed out of context, and the thermos was distracting. Ideally, too, we wanted to highlight the types of products you might find inside the book.

So, I set out to make the image just right for our use by manipulating the photo in Photoshop. The following are the incremental steps to the final image:

Removed thermos from photo

Step 1: Remove the thermos from the photo and extend the foreground to fit our taller aspect ratio.

Replace sky in photo

Step 2: Replace the bland sky with one from another photo that had more drama, color and movement

Add flowers to photo

Step 3: Add yellow flowers to the foreground for visual interest, and to match the yellow flowers that appeared in the book's interior pages.

Add baguette

Step 4: Replace the baguette with a new baguette image. Strangely, the old one looked out of place once we started manipulating the photo, so we made the decision to add a different baguette image to this one.

Add lettuce to photo

Step 5: Add lettuce (taken from another stock photo) to the picnic basket.

Add jam to photo

Step 6: Add a jar of jam to the photo. Notice that as I added items to the basket, I also added the appropriate shading to make their presence more realistic.

Add crackers

Step 7: Add crackers to the basket

Add peanut butter to the photo

Step 8: Add a jar of peanut butter (and its shadows) to the basket

Add syrup to basket

Step 9: Add bottle of syrup to the photo. Note that I had to take particular care with all of the basket items to make them generic; the coupons inside vary from one edition to the next, so my client didn't want to highlight any particular brand on the cover image.

Add bottled yogurt

Step 10: In the completed image, I added a bottle of yogurt. The final image shows an abundance of consumer-friendly foods in an organic setting. Mission: accomplished!

The entire process took about 6 hours, and is compiled from 10 different stock photos. I should probably note that when possible, it’s more practical (and affordable) to shoot your own photography (via a professional photographer). That said, I was pleased with the final product. The cover image looked appropriate in the final design, appealing to a wide age range of consumers with familiar products in a beautiful and natural setting.

The completed cover

By the way, check out the Organic and Natural Experience online for tour dates (where you can get a coupon book and samples of partner’s products), and to learn more about how to live in sync with the planet.

What do you think of the completed image? Would you have done anything differently? We’d love to hear your comments!