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Archive for category Branding

Branding Your Social Media Profiles

Posted by on Tuesday, 22 January, 2013

We covered it well in our post last week on Brand Consistency, but the amount of people that skip easy branding opportunities really blow me away – and one of the most commonly overlooked online is Social Media Profiles.  Social Media is so prevalent now a days too, I find more and more often I think of contacting someone by sending them a tweet or messaging them on facebook.  We’re all online and really aware, whether we realize it or not, of how people look online.  The whole old adage about “you only get one chance to make a first impression” or the fact that it takes mere seconds for someone to develop an impression about you is really something important to think about.

As business owners it’s easy to think about making sure we have a good business card and more often now people are making sure they have great websites too, but people often miss their Social Media profiles.  Their either don’t know that they can brand them or they don’t know how.  Well I wanted to share that all of the “big 4″ – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube – can be branded, to different degrees and I want to do a quick overview outlining what ways each can be branded.

Let’s start with Facebook.  Pages and Profiles have the same ways that you can adjust them.  You have your profile image and your cover photo.  For personal profiles it really depends on how much you use your profile for business how professional you need to make sure it is.  If you find you use it more for personal you can be a bit looser with it (but be careful – you may want to un-tag those crazy party shots if you know your business associates may find you!), but if you use it primarily for business then you will likely want to stick to professionally done images.  So for the profile photo you generally want to use a professionally done headshot and on pages you can use a logo as well if you wish (if you use a logo on a personal profile you run the risk of your profile being shut down).  Keep in mind, this is the image that everyone will see in their timeline when you post.  Your cover photo is the one that runs across the top of your timeline view, so people only see it when they’re on your timeline.  We recommend a photograph of a local landmark, product shots or a professionally made image for your business.

Twitter has three different places you can play with – the profile image, header image and background.  Treat the profile image the same way you would your Facebook profile image, professional headshot or logo, again, this is seen by everyone in their feeds.  The header image is what people see when they look at your page specifically, behind your profile photo and short description.  A basic image is best here with any design elements in the top corners, other parts are covered in text.  The background has a couple ways you can do it.  You can either make one very large image or a smaller image that is repeated over the background. If you choose to repeat it make sure it’s not too busy!

LinkedIn, on your personal profiles you only get to choose your profile image, and same rules apply as other accounts.  If you have a business page though you are able to customize your header image.  We’ve used one similar to our Facebook cover image and it’s about the same dimensions, slightly smaller, so works well.

YouTube, you get two ways, your profile image and the background.  Depending on how you’ve designed your Twitter background you may be able to use it here as well, but you likely want it slightly different.  For our Twitter we’ve designed it so it looks like “sidebars”, and YouTube that doesn’t work.  I find it’s best to use a very basic image that’s not too busy where if you cover up a bunch it still looks nice.

So there you go – all the ways that you can play around with the look of the “big 4″ of Social Media.  Of course they all like to keep us on our toes so they do change relatively frequently.  We do our best to keep our readers informed of upcoming changes and how to do it, so feel free to check back!  And if you think it’s all just too much for you we’d love to talk to you about our Social Media Branding packages we offer, just contact us for details!

Brand Consistency

Posted by on Wednesday, 16 January, 2013

Tell me, is it just me as a graphic designer that notices it or or does poorly designed marketing material make you twitch too? Whether it’s noticing a bad advertisement in a local newspaper while reading an article or the very obviously not-customized twitter background for a self-proclaimed “Social Media Expert” I find myself twitching when such obvious to me branding avenues are sorely overlooked.

I can say with confidence that the most important focus of our company is Brand Consistency.  And by that I mean you have a look, feel, colours, etc, for yourself or your company that you’ve developed into a brand and you carry that through all your marketing material.  So if you’re handing out a business card or brochure they not only look good together but if someone visited the website listed on them it would match, or if they find you on Twitter, that matches too.  Having a brand is important, but USING the brand and being CONSISTENT with the brand is CRUCIAL.

I touched on it in the intro paragraph in what makes me twitch, but how often when you go to Twitter to you see someone with one of the generic twitter backgrounds that you can select in the Twitter back-end?  You know, those brown birds across the top on the light blue/teal background or the carbon-fibre type look one?  That to me screams missed branding and looking professional opportunity.  When I see companies or people that specialize in online services of any sort with those generic backgrounds for twitter I can honestly say my opinion of them starts much lower than someone who has taken the time to customize a professional background image that matches their website.  And by customize I don’t mean use your logo and set it to tile the whole background!

This Twitter profile is just one example of MANY out there.  Having a brand is really important and making sure that it really portrays you/your company is of utmost importance.  If you can capture your business in your brand then when you use that throughout all your points of contact with your customers, so your marketing material, how much easier is it for people to get an impression of your company?  We’ve already established that it makes you look professional by being consistent, but if you have a good brand then it can also help your customers understand you better too.

So the next time you get ready to hand out your business cards at a networking event or start posting tweets online think about it.  Is my brand consistent through all of these things?  And, is my brand consistent with what I want it to portray?  If you’re not sure about either of those questions make sure you talk to your graphic designer so they can make sure you’re putting your best foot forward visually!

Holiday Season, Great Time to Work With Your Graphic Designer!

Posted by on Tuesday, 18 December, 2012

It’s the holiday season – parties abound, gifts need to be found and purchased, houses need to be organized and cleaned for the holidays – our to-do lists get awfully long and scary this time of year!  We’re often so busy the last thing we often think about is ourselves or our company, but why not take some time to think about how you’re going to prepare yourself for the upcoming year?  The holiday season although busy is also one of the most common times for people to reflect on the past year and plan for the upcoming one – and don’t overlook your graphics, website or visual presence in general!

The Christmas season can be a great time to connect with your Designer to get some things done – get a custom designed Christmas card taken care of for email or snail mail, make sure you’ve got a great business card or brochure ready for any parties/get togethers, or even get your website ready for a “freshen up” come the new year.  One of the reasons that it can be a great time to get some of these items done is that the Christmas season can often be a very quite time for Designers – so you could get some great quality time with your designer this time of year!  Around this time last year we also wrote a post about Networking at Christmas & Holidays, if you’re going to be meeting a ton of people you want to be prepared, yes?

So before you start heading out to all your gatherings, parties and shindigs make sure your marketing material – from business card to social media profile images – are ready to come with you!  Embarrassed to hand your scruffy business card to your Uncle Fred?  Make sure it’s up-to-date!  And the social media profiles, website, and other items referenced on your business card or brochure should look up-to-date too!

New Twitter Header Image

Posted by on Tuesday, 25 September, 2012

One thing that always keeps us on our toes is how quickly technology changes – and that goes for Social Media too!  Twitter has added a new header image.  Not only does it look great on your profile page but it plays quite nicely with mobile devices where before there was little way to personalize the look of your twitter on mobile devices.

What they’re asking is for are images 1200 pixels wide by 600 pixels tall.  What we made for our header image looks like this:

ARK Squared Twitter Header Background

You’ll notice that most of the design elements are in the top corners leaving the middle particularly but also most of the bottom very simple.  The reason we do this is because in the middle is where your profile picture ends up and the bottom section is where your text displayed in your header goes.  So the final look in a computer internet browser looks like this:

ARK Squared Twitter Header

As you can see if we’d put any detail in the background image anywhere other than the corners it would have interfered with the text and images that Twitter puts up.

As mentioned it also adds a great bit of personalizing to mobile apps, my example is a screenshot from my twitter app on my Android Smartphone, but it works similarly on iPhone, iPad, etc.:

ARK Squared Twitter Header Mobile

As you can see it looks quite nice!  Now, if you haven’t uploaded an image yet for the header it will currently continue to display it with the old format for web, and for mobile it’s just a charcoal grey background where the custom image is above.  But why not take advantage of a great way to add some branding to your profile?  We’re all about having an integrated look and feel throughout your marketing material!  If you have trouble figuring it out we’d love to be of assistance, feel free to contact us!

My Pet Peeves With Bad Graphic Designers

Posted by on Thursday, 20 September, 2012

In a previous post I’d talked about My Pet Peeves With Bad Web Designers, this time I wanted to do the same for Graphic Designers. Through working in the industry there are a few things that drive me up the wall that are often very simple to fix or change but some designers just don’t do it!  Here are my top 4:

1) I designed the file so I own the file and you don’t. Similar to the number one point on my post about Bad Web Designers, it really blows me away how many designers will not give out the files they create to their clients.  We all hope our clients come back to us for changes, when they need more brochures or business cards, but sometimes people want a different designer.  It may have nothing to do with the designer, maybe they’ve just built a better relationship with a new designer or who knows, maybe one moved in next door and you’re doing trade.  Regardless, I feel if I design something for a client, be that a business card or a very time intensive illustration, they’ve paid for the design, they own the design, period.

2) Using really cool and unique fonts and then not saving the file in such a way that others can open it. I can’t tell you how many times I get files from clients or contact from graphic designers that they want to use and when I open the file I can’t use it because it’s asking for a font that I’ve never even heard of before. This one is REALLY simple to rectify (and one of the first things I learned when designing!) when you send your computer art to someone else you ALWAYS, even if you’ve just used Arial as the font, save the font as “outlines”. What this does is it makes the font a bunch of shapes instead of letters in a particular font.  Not only does this mean that anyone can open it regardless of what fonts they don’t have but it can also help save your content from being copy and pasted without your permission as people will not be able to highlight and “borrow” the text for anything.

3) Designing logos, illustrations and other images as a pixel image instead of vector. I’ve touched on this in a couple posts in the past, most recently Importance of Vector Version of Logos and Graphics. One thing that happens to me all the time when I’m working with a client’s logo that I did not design is I get it in a png or jpg format instead of a vector based format like an eps or an Adobe Illustrator file.  The big problems with this are that I cannot increase the size of the image (no banners for you!), I can’t recolour the image if I needed to (even simply making something black instead of coloured) and I more likely than not can’t use the logo on top of any other image because it usually means it has a solid colour background. This is another common side effect of point #1, designers not wanting to give out their files, but it’s INCREDIBLY frustrating! There have been so many times I’ve had to convert a logo to a vector image wasting time and costing my clients money – I don’t mind doing it of course, I often like the challenge, but I think designers should get it right the first time!

4) Making logos, images or illustrations and not noting what fonts were used. This is one of the downsides of following my advice in point #2, but it doesn’t have to be! There has also been a few times where I’ve worked with another designer who has been good about converting their text to outlines but then they neglect to record somewhere what fonts they’ve used. So if I’m working on something last minute and realized there’s a big typo I’m hooped.  There are some great tools out there that have saved me a few times, like the “What the Font” website that looks at an image containing text and does it’s best to tell you the font that was used, but they don’t always work. When designing a logo for example it’s good practice on the vector version of the file to have colour boxes with the colours used, I also will label them with the cmyk colour mix I’ve used or the “Pantone” colour code, as well as stating the font that was used.  Not only does doing this allow someone to make adjustments to the text but it can also be a great way to integrate a logo with content by using the same font so they look nice together.

I could go on with even more pet peeves, but those are the top ones. Again I just stress when you’re hiring a designer, for web or graphic, do your homework. Talk to them about what sort of work they do, insist on samples/examples of previous work and you can even go as far as to talk to some of their previous clients to ask them how their experience was. Your graphic designer will be working with the face of your company so you’d better have a great relationship!

How to Customize Your Twitter Background

Posted by on Thursday, 13 September, 2012

One of the things that we’re always preaching about is consistency of your brand throughout your different marketing materials – and that includes online avenues as well.  From your website to Facebook to Twitter, you need to make sure that you have a consistent image.  One thing that I see far too often is people just using standard Twitter backgrounds and a poorly chosen headshot for their profile image.  If you’re a small business person the different places that you interact with your customers, business associates and other important contacts are ALL important.  We’ve talked about Personalizing Twitter a while back but I thought I would tell you how you can create and change your twitter background.

I’ll show you briefly how we made our background:

ARK Squared Twitter Background

There’s two main pieces that you’ll have to make and it’s easiest to start with the left “sidebar” area.  The sidebar image size I’ve had the best success with is 235 pixels wide by 700 pixels tall.  If you go any wider or taller you risk having important information cut off.  That being said, still make sure that your most important information is not near the extreme edges, just in case.

So our side image we started with ended up like this (in a larger size of course!):

ARK Squared Twitter Sidebar Image

Make sure that you give the image a transparent background so when you add it into the full image it doesn’t have a white background or another colour.

Next you want to make the full background image. This image should be about 2560 pixels wide by 1600 pixels tall. Once you get this ready make sure you add your correctly sized “sidebar” image placed in the top left corner. Our image looks like this (again, small for demonstration purposes):

ARK Squared Twitter Background ImageSo we’ve got our sidebar image in there, and starting just before the halfway point we did a repeating collage style design.  I’ve also seen other designers do 3 right sidebars starting at about the same point and increasing in size so it hits up various screen resolutions.  I like the collage style or something that is not as dependent on particular screen resolutions so your image doesn’t get cut off funny.

Once you get that large image ready all you need to do is these steps:

  1. Open up twitter in your browser, and sign in if you’re not already signed in
  2. On the right side of the top black/charcoal menu bar click on the grey profile outline icon with the little down arrow beside it and select “Settings” from the drop-down menu
  3. In the left-hand menu select “Design”
  4. Scroll all the way down to the bottom and in the “Customize your own” section click the “Choose File” button and find the twitter background image where you saved it and click “Open”, make sure that the box for “tile background” is not selected
  5. Set your background and link colours to colours that match your image. So for ours we used white for the “background” (#ffffff) and set the “link colour” to a light blue, (#0084B4). It is very important if you manually enter your colours that you make sure to use the number sign and then a six digit code, if you don’t it won’t work. You also have the choice of clicking on the colour block and selecting the colour you like from the rainbow that pops up. Save changes.
  6. Navigate to your home page via the very top-left icon to make sure it looks right

Once you do that you should have a customized twitter background image!  What a way to look professional. Don’t forget to make sure that you now have a professional headshot or good quality logo (in a square format!) for your profile image – that’s what everyone will see in their feeds so make sure it’s good!

Adobe Creative Cloud – Design Programs Now Affordable!

Posted by on Wednesday, 15 August, 2012

While thinking about what to write this week I was thinking about what sort of things have made my life easier as a designer, and the software that I use came to mind.  I have been using Adobe products for over 15 years, and Macromedia as well before Adobe bought them, and the different they make for my final products designed for clients are huge.  I don’t think that I could function as a designer without Photoshop, Illustrator and Dreamweaver.  So when my version from a couple years ago started to get very dated I was not looking forward to having to pay the huge amount for an upgrade – but then Adobe introduced Creative Cloud.

Creative Cloud has been AMAZING!  I pay a nominal fee monthly, currently they’re charging $50/month, and I have access to the entire Creative Suite and any and ALL updates, upgrades, etc.  I never have to worry about my software getting outdated again!  The monthly amount also would likely be cheaper then if I upgraded regularly when they come out with new versions, and makes it fit into the budget much easier.  Only negative so far is that I personally had MUCH difficulty downloading and installing the software, had to surrender my computer to our Technical Director for a few days to figure it out, and that affected my productivity understandably!  Other than that I’ve been VERY happy.

Aside from the price and staying up-to-date, there are a ton of features that I haven’t even had a chance to take advantage of yet.  We can use the Adobe TypeKit for our clients websites to use unique fonts online in web designs, store design files in the cloud online so I can access them anywhere, and way more.  There are also more programs available to me than I will likely ever use.

So if you’re a designer looking to stay up-to-date and have all the tools you need for your design projects but working on a limited budget – or even just want to work smarter – check it out, we recommend it highly!  And will also say, so far I’m LOVING the CS6 upgrades in comparison to my old CS4!

Branding – More than just your Logo

Posted by on Wednesday, 13 June, 2012

When I’m out networking and doing my “elevator pitch” one of the things that I mention that I do to explain graphic and website design more is branding.  What tends to come to most people’s minds when I say that is, “Oh, okay, she designs logos” – but it’s so much more than that!  One thing that’s really important when designing is to develop your brand – a look, feel, colours, even a font that you use universally throughout all of your points of contact with your clients.

A few ways that we have done this are shown here in a screen shot of our website, and a picture of our brochure and business card:

ARK Squared Website ScreenshotARK Squared Brochure & Business Card

We’ve used the same cube for our logo, font throughout logo and content, and we’ve kept the same colour scheme as well.  We’ve also used the cube from our logo as a backdrop on all three pieces as well.  By doing these type of things people viewing our different pieces know they all go together.  It’s a very simple way of looking very professional.  By integrating all of your marketing pieces with the same look and feel through the use of colours, text and basic layout you tie all of your pieces together.

If you really think about it this is something that a lot of big brands do.  Think about Coca-Cola for example.  They have red and white as their colours and combine that with fizzy-bubbles and their logo on all pieces that represent them.  From the trucks you see driving around delivering their products, to their cover photo on their facebook page, all the way to the can you drink out of – all of their points of contact with their consumers look the same.

How about your branding?  Are you sending a professional, consistent message to your clients?  If not let us know, we’d love to help.  As we say, “we help you put your best foot forward visually”.  So the next time that you meet a graphic designer that says they do branding know that it’s more than just a logo!  But also check them out – when they design are they making sure to have a universal look throughout all different points of contact?  If not it might be best to see someone new!

Importance of Vector Version of Logos and Graphics

Posted by on Wednesday, 6 June, 2012

One thing that has come up a lot for us lately and that we’ve touched on partially before, in our post Logos – Importance of a High Quality Logo, is the importance of vector graphics.  Your logo is something that people see everywhere to represent you, so you want it to look the best, right?  So why would you only have a bad copy of it as the only copy you have?  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve needed a bunch of logos for different companies for projects and left sourcing out a logo online or if they email me something it’s a file that’s been copied, copied and copied and is now such poor quality.

A quick side note about jpg files, did you know that if you continue to copy a jpg over and over it degrades the quality of the file?  You’d think it would be exactly the same, but the more it’s copied the more data about the image it looses and thus the quality of the image degrades as well.  So make sure if you’re using a jpg version of any company logos, images, etc, that you either make a fresh jpg from your original vector file, or have an “original” jpg file that you always make copies from – don’t copy, copy, copy!

So what’s the difference between a jpg (or gif, etc) and a vector file?  Jpg’s, gif’s and some other file types as well are made up of tons of little boxes of colour, whereas a vector image is based off of shapes.  An example from an image we used on our quality logos post, jpg represented on left and vector on right zoomed in:

Zoomed In Pixeled CircleZoomed in Vector Circle

The big difference here is if you enlarge a pixel image file the quality degrades, but if you enlarge a vector based image the quality remains unchanged.  So if you have someone call you up and need your logo for a big banner or other large format use all you’d have to do is send them the vector version of your logo and you’re set.  You’ll always know what the logo will look like and you can be confident that the quality will be what you want.

So what if you have an old logo that’s been with your company for years and years and all you have is the copied and re-copied bad quality jpg file?  Talk to your graphic designer and ask if they can make a vector version of your logo for you.  They should be able to remake the logo into a nice high-quality, crisp vector based file.  This is a service we offer to those that need it and it doesn’t even take that long to do, generally.  We love making sure our clients always have great quality images because it make us look good too!  Another place that you might be able to find a quality version of your logo is if you have been using the same printer for years and years – it’s possible that they have a vector version of your logo, and if not may at least have a nice high quality version.

So the next time that you have to provide your logo to someone make sure you’re sending a high quality image – and if possible send them a vector version!  If you don’t really know anything about image files just remember jpg, gif and most png files are pixel images, and vector files are generally eps, or ai but there are many other formats as well (wmf, some pdf files, and MANY more).

Google Takes Doodle to the Next Level

Posted by on Wednesday, 23 May, 2012

Well Google has done it again, another great and unique “Doodle”.  They’ve altered their home page graphic for their search engine in homage to Robert Moog:

Robert Moog Google Doodle

 

A great graphic in it’s own right, but when I saw it I was wondering why there was a moving arrow pointing to the keys – so, being curious, I clicked, and instead of like most of their doodles going to a list of search items for Robert Moog, it started playing music!  So I clicked more keys, and got more!  I quickly learned that the whole thing was entirely interactive including the recording machine to the right, it could record and play back, wow!  Sure, the video for Valentine’s Day was cool, but entirely interactive? Wow.

Items like this really show just how much designers and businesses have to take their website interactivity to the next level if you want to REALLY stand out.  Having something that’s unique from your competition makes you memorable, and this is a perfect example of that!  Now, having said that, a professional corporate website would probably not want an interactive piano on it, but if you’re a more fun website why not have something fun?  A fun example for a client we’re just finishing up a website for is www.gearheadcountry.com.  Gear Head Country “is the show that features Canadian County Music songs that talk about 2 Wheels, 4 Wheels, 18 Wheels, and the Open Road”.  So we had fun with it!  We chromed out the page details, used gauges that look like the rev up when you go to click them, all kinds of fun stuff.  But would I use something like that on an Accountant’s website?  Certainly not! There’s a place for everything, and also a time NOT to do something.

So the next time you’re thinking of upgrading your website or online presence and want something different keep that in mind, make sure it’s appropriate to your industry, company culture and target clients.  And if you’re ever stuck for ideas feel free to contact us, we’d love to help!