Alphagraphics blog

From the Design Desk: Designing for Experience

My friends and I play a lot of board games, ranging from super simple card games to the complicated games that can take several hours to play.  Tabletop gaming is enjoying a sort of renaissance, with indie game developers being able to use crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter to bring a wider variety of games than ever without the limitations of going through a major publisher. One type of game that has seen a big rise in popularity is a category called “legacy” games.  These games are designed to be played in intervals over a long period of time, and unlike most games (even other long-format games) that start with a clean slate every time you open the box, legacy games are meant to be altered as you play – adding or removing components, altering the game board and continually evolving each time you sit down for a session.  You play the same character or roles throughout, and ideally, with the same players each time.  Pandemic Legacy, one of the best examples of this genre, is meant to be played monthly, where you track and try and manage worldwide disease epidemics over the course of a year. As someone who loves games and is very careful about putting all the components neatly back into their box in a very organized fashion, the idea of a game board that’s meant to be written on and altered with stickers or decals is fascinating but a bit terrifying.  Instead of creating a slew of unnecessary components to facilitate the unique style of play, the game designers prioritized experience over replayability. As designers, when we’re creating pieces for an event or designing a campaign, it’s very easy to get focused on the fine details.  We get hung up on the way a piece looks, or in the minutiae of copy, message and content.  We forget sometimes to consider the overall experience of a piece, whether it’s a simple postcard mailing or an invitation package.  When you are designing for experiences rather than information, there are three major facets to consider:
  • Visual Experience – The way a piece looks is the easiest to focus on, but creative use of imagery, color and text can turn a boring piece into something much more impactful.
  • Tactile Experience – Paper and finish can vastly alter the look of a finished piece.  Consider straying away from the basics for specialty papers like metallic or linen, or adding a custom diecut, laminate or foil layer.
  • Emotional Experience – A good design campaign might look polished and professional, but a great campaign will also illicit an emotional response.  Whether you’re looking to generate leads at a trade show or conference, or simply advertise your business, consider the message you’re presenting and make sure you’re hitting all the points you need to get the maximum return.
June 15 / 2017
Author admin_us605
Category Graphic Design
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MARKETING MOJO: Building Authenticity in a Small Business

Have you ever walked into a salon and seen the stylists with unkempt, messy or badly cut hair?  Or gone to a financial or legal advisor who couldn’t manage their own portfolios? These days, when we’re looking for a new service provider or small business to fit a need in our personal or professional lives, one of the first things we do is look at reviews and testimonials from other customers online.  We want to make sure that we’re getting the best possible product or service, and an unbiased review can make a big difference in how we make those decisions.

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While reviews and testimonials are super important, they aren’t the only thing small businesses should be focusing on – particularly when you’re just getting started, and haven’t developed your customer base yet.  To build a small business, you have to be authentic – meaning you have to stay true to what it is that drives your business and makes you unique. Forbes’ contributor Pia Silva says it like this: Building authenticity in a brand is not the result of creating a warts-and-all portrait; instead, it comes from focusing on what you do best, and then inhabiting and communicating that in every aspect of what you do. Without that consistency, you create a dissonance that potential customers can sense-and that will likely make them walk away. Authenticity in branding means that you don’t just talk the talk, but you also walk the walk. A lot of people think that being “authentic” also means accepting and owning your flaws as well as your strengths, but the truth is, at least in a business setting, we should be constantly striving to overcome our weaknesses.  In reality authenticity in a brand really means consistency, defining your core mission or statement as a brand and sticking to it and making sure that your company reflects that mission in every facet of your business. Consistency leads to credibility which is also a big factor for being an authentic brand.  One of the best ways to give yourself credibility is by doing what you do best – for yourself.  Whether your business is social media, landscaping or finance, you want to be showcasing the work you do for your own business or yourself personally, so that others will see your dedication. Authenticity is key to building a strong small business, regardless of your industry.  Consistency and credibility in your work and your message are the best ways to build an authentic brand image so that you can build working relationships with your clients and earn their trust.
June 01 / 2017
Author admin_us605
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Marketing Mojo: Straight Talk about Print

In college, I was addicted to the original series of CSI.  I loved the characters and the drama of the crime scene-of-the-week format, but could never quite get over some of the more glaringly obvious mistakes of convenience. (Spoilers: Zoom and enhance don’t work like that!) We have lots of common misconceptions about science – just like we do about any other industry, and print is no exception to that.  Paper and print have gained a bad reputation out of concerns of waste, deforestation and effectiveness versus digital marketing – when frankly, none of those things are actually true! The folks over at ChoosePrint.org have released a new series of infographics highlighting some common misconceptions and facts about print and direct mail called “Straight Talk”  Check the link to download and view any of their excellent flyers and materials about print and paper, or check out some of the facts below: Misconception: Digital is a more effective marketing tool than print and direct mail. Reality:
  • Many consumers love receiving mail so much that they ritualize it and imbue it with emotionally-charged meaning.
  • Direct mail outperforms all digital channels combined by nearly 600%
  • Direct mail is far more persuasive than digital media it has a 20% higher motivation response
  • More people open print magazines (77%) and view ads that are in them than digital publications (49%).
  • Consumers on average ignore 82% of online ads

Read more at ChoosePrint.org

May 18 / 2017
Author admin_us605
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From the Design Desk: Trifold and True Brochure Design – Best Practices

A solid brochure is a basic essential for any marketing toolkit.  With more versatility than a business card or rack card, a standard trifold brochure is a great tool for presenting information in an easy to organize and navigate format.  And with a wide range of sizes, finishing options and print methods, there is no end to your creativity when it comes to designing the perfect brochure. Great brochure design doesn’t always mean straying from the formula, however, and before you can start breaking the rules, it helps to familiarize yourself with the basics.  Take a look at some of our brochure best practices below, adapted from this list by the folks over at Creative Bloq. Define your objectives – Are you looking to advertise or educate?  Who is your target audience, and what is your focus?  Answering these questions can help you determine what information is relevant, so that you can better prioritize the data you are presenting. Simplify and Clarify – I cannot stress enough the importance of copy-editing when it comes to a brochure.  When all is said and done, an 8.5 x 11 trifold isn’t a huge canvas, and if you overcrowd your layout with big blocks of text and information, the rest will get lost.  If the answer to the the questions above was “educate or inform”, then sometimes that much data is necessary, but if you don’t organize and break it apart into easy to navigate sections, it can be difficult for readers to understand. Organize your Layout – Gridlines and guidelines are your friend here, use them to keep each panel separate and clean.  Especially if you’re doing an uneven or short fold, using margins and guidelines help keep your copy from being overcrowded. Don’t Treat Visuals as an Afterthought – Pay attention to fonts, imagery and colors.  Make sure you’re in keeping with your brand guidelines if there are any to adhere to.  Make sure your images are high quality and professional looking, and don’t let your layout get too busy.
April 27 / 2017
Author admin_us605
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From the Design Desk: Logo Problems at the White House?

Here’s a trivia question for you White House afficionados out there: Which side of the White House is depicted on the $20 Bill?

If you answered the North-facing side, you’d be correct, at least since 1998.  The north side is also the side used in the official White House illustrated brand logo, which is most often seen on the wall or podium during Presidential press conferences.  But would it surprise you to know that for at least a few years from 2003 – 2009, the official White House Logo had a rather subtle mistake?

The original circa-2003 White House logo and an image of the North Face, indicating the inconsistencies.  Image credit AdWeek.

The north face of the white house features a long row of windows, with alternating arched and triangular pediments over the first story windows.  In 2009, a young New York design firm was invited to submit a proposal for redesign of the classic illustrated facade logo, and as they began to do their research they noticed a rather glaring mistake in the current White House logo.  The window directly right of the center had the wrong shape above it – a triangle instead of an arch!

Hello Monday, the design firm who noticed the mistake, was recently interviewed by AdWeek in an extremely entertaining article on the mysterious history of the White House logo’s rather hard-to-catch mistake, which is as delightfully full of conspiracy theories and elusive information as you could possibly want it to be.  It’s like a graphic designer’s version of “National Treasure”, but with less Nicholas Cage and a far less satisfying resolution – in the end, Hello Monday’s logo submissions were never used, and the mistake was mysteriously fixed – but replaced with a different one!  Now all four of the right hand windows have the incorrect pediment shape!

At least Hello Monday didn’t try to steal the window.

July 05 / 2016
Author admin_us605
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Marketing Mojo: Bringing Web Content Back to Print

I consider myself fortunate to have been part of the first generation to really grow up learning on computers.  When it was still cool to collect Encyclopaedia Brittanica, because Wikipedia wasn’t a thing yet.  I can remember when my deluxe Windows 95 edition of “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego” came with an almanac so that I could research all the clues I found while on the case.
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The internet has changed the way we interact with information, and most major publications have had to adapt to the increase in online readership, putting some or all of their content available online behind a subscription wall.  A  subscription to the Indy Star costs less than $15 a month for the daily paper and all-access online, but for $20 a year you can skip the print edition and still access all their digital content.

But before you make assumptions about the future of all news and information being delivered digitally, there’s still a strong market for print publications – and digital content creators are beginning to take notice.  For example, a pair of former Newsweek staffers in London have launched a free bi-monthly print publication called “Swipe”.  Geared towards millenials, Swipe has partnered with over 80 digital publications to print a collection of articles from a wide variety of web sources.  The magazine released its first edition in May.

In 2014, CNET, one of the leading online tech review and news sources, launched a quarterly print magazine, aimed at the everyday consumer.  According to an article on Publishing Executive,

“The goal of the launch, said CNET co-editor-in-chief Connie Guglielmo…was to deliver CNET content on a platform readers wanted. “We’re platform agnostic. It’s all about the reader and how they want to consume content,”


In this case, CNET realized there was still an audience that would benefit from their content, which had previously been exclusively online, in a printed publication.  It was, according to Guglielmo, an attempt to bring the “personal” back to technology, and give consumers a fresh perspective on tech insights.  It was an interesting move for a tech company that began in television.

We approach the storytelling in the quarterly magazine very differently than we do online. Everything that we write for the magazine is original. It’s not something that we’ve taken online and repurposed, then put in the magazine;  When you’re writing for that cadence, you’re approaching storytelling in a very different way than you are when you’re reacting to daily news. . . With every magazine we’re trying to connect the online and print well to our advantage. If we can tell a story in a certain way online and then do it differently and have connections to the print, and vice versa, that’s great.”

It’s interesting to think that as we push further and further into digital content and technology, there will always be a strong audience for print.  After all, as Swipe Editor Barney Guiton says in his interview with Digiday, “The great thing is we take it to them in the physical form, and you don’t have ad blockers in print.” 
June 24 / 2016
Author admin_us605
Category Uncategorized
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Marketing Mojo: Hit the Road – Vehicle Graphics to Fit Your Budget

When I was in high school, a friend of mine had a horrible old light blue 1980’s Toyota Tercel Hatchback that we called the “Rat”.  Both doors had been replaced with mismatched red paint, and he had installed a joke car alarm that sounded like someone shouting when it went off.  Realizing we hadn’t yet fulfilled this car’s full potential for hilarity, we decided on a whim to give it a bit of “flair” by painting flames on the hood using what I can only hope was auto-safe spray paint in the same red as the doors.  A few months later, we one-upped ourselves by spray painting the entire car black, then redoing the flames in metallic silver.

Thankfully, these days there are far easier ways to change up the look of your vehicle – ones that don’t involve a weekend inhaling black spray paint in your friend’s garage, and won’t break the bank at the same time.  Whether you want to brand a company car or delivery van, or simply customize your personal vehicle, consider the following options as a cost-effective alternative to full vehicle wraps or custom paint jobs.

Spot Graphics can include text, logos & simple graphics

Spot Graphics
If you’ve ever bought a bumper sticker or one of those “family” decals for your back window, you’re familiar with the concept of spot graphics.  Cut Vinyl is probably the most common form of vehicle graphics, and the category covers everything from simple racing stripes to a company logo applied to a door or window.  Available in a wide variety of colors including metallics and full-color printed graphics, cut vinyl is a simple, efficient way to customize a vehicle without the commitment and cost of a full wrap.

Window Perforation
If your vehicle or van has large windows or you are worried about graphics on your rear window obstructing your view of the road, you might consider window perf.  With material specifically designed for maximum visibility, vehicle perforation can be printed with whatever image you can think of – from flashy tiger eyes or camouflage to a company branded image and logo.

A partial wrap on a mobile canteen trailer for USO of Indiana that included cut vinyl graphics on the doors

Partial Wrap
If you are still looking for a way to truly customize or brand your vehicle, partial wraps are the way to go.  Like spot graphics, partial wraps are done with contour cut vinyl – but without the cost and maintenance of a full vehicle wrap.  It’s a broad category, to be sure, and cost will always depend on just how much of the vehicle is being covered – but especially when it comes to your business, partial wraps can be a great solution for branding your car or fleet on a budget.  With a vast library of auto templates available to us, we can make sure that your graphics are designed specifically to fit your vehicle.

If you’ve been considering getting some graphics for your personal or company vehicle, Summer is the perfect season to shift your plans into gear!  Simply bring your vehicle over to AlphaGraphics for a consultation with one of our team to take measurements, discuss options, and come up with the best solution to your vehicle graphics needs!
June 02 / 2016
Author admin_us605
Category Uncategorized
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From the Design Desk: The Designer’s Arsenal – Finding the Right Tool for the Job

Kleenex, Band-Aids, Q-Tips, and Post-Its.  What do all these products have in common?  Well, technically, it’s not the what the products have in common – it’s the brand.  All of these are brand names that have become more or less synonymous with the products.  We don’t call them “cotton swabs” or “low-tack adhesive notes” – but you wouldn’t use a Post-It Note to do a Q-Tip’s job.

Word processing, page layout and photo editing programs are as varied as any other type of software, but often times we lump them all into a a few categories of “design software”.  The truth is these different programs all serve vastly different functions and, at least in some cases, are designed to work together to make our jobs as designers easier.  “Photoshop” is as much a verb as it is an actual program in the common vernacular – but you wouldn’t want to use Photoshop to painstakingly lay out a 100-page book page-by-page.  Conversely, if you’re using Microsoft Word to lay out a business card or photo collage, you’re not only making your work much more difficult, but potentially limiting the quality of your finished design.

Below is a simple guide to a few of the most common and accessible programs that a designer or creative professional should have knowledge of.  Bear in mind this isn’t a comprehensive list – and there are a variety of other programs available that can serve similar functions – but it should help when you’re starting your next design project!

Microsoft Word & Excel
GREAT FOR: Basic text & writing for long or short forms, manuals, books, letters & documents, data entry
BUT NOT FOR:Complex layout, large prints or anything image-heavy

Microsoft Powerpoint & Apple Keynote
GREAT FOR: Online or on-screen presentations, digital slideshows
BUT NOT FOR: Printed materials such as booklets, brochures or large posters

Microsoft Publisher & Apple Pages
GREAT FOR: Basic page layout, Newsletters, letters, simple postcards or flyers
BUT NOT FOR: Complex layout, booklets, brochures or anything image-heavy

Adobe Photoshop and other photo editing software
GREAT FOR: Image editing & effects, background graphics, textures & text effects, large scale raster graphics, 3-D graphics, web graphics
BUT NOT FOR: Complex text layout, brochures, multi-page documents or booklets

Adobe Illustrator or other graphic illustration software
GREAT FOR: Vector illustration, scalable graphics & text, high-resolution logos, brochures, web graphics, signage
BUT NOT FOR: Complex or multi-page layout, photo-heavy graphics

Adobe InDesign, Quark Express or other page layout software
GREAT FOR: Booklets, brochures, multi-page documents, manuals, print layout and processing, tables, forms
BUT NOT FOR: Image or graphic editing, web graphics

Questions or comments?  What is your go-to design program?  Chat with us on Follow us on Twitter or Like us on Facebook!

May 26 / 2016
Author admin_us605
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Marketing Mojo 5 Small Business Marketing Tips Straight from the Shark’s Mouth – Shark Tank’s Robert Herjavec, that is

Robert Herjavec knows a few things about running a small business – having grown his own internet security firm from only 3 employees to over 220 since 2003.  One of the investors on ABC’s hit show Shark Tank, Herjavec has learned that one of the best lessons to be learned about small business marketing is that sometimes, you may not know all the answers – and that’s okay.  In an article published recently on Entrepeneur.com, he said,

“Like many entrepreneurs, we didn’t really know what to do at first,” he says. “As a startup, it’s almost overwhelming. I learned that’s where a third party comes in to help you. They take the marketing pressure off so you can do more of what you love to do — your business.”

Herjavec has started a video series called “Behind the Business”, focusing on his work with the companies he’s invested in on the show, but he shared with Entrepeneur some of his top small-business marketing tips relating to customer engagement and interaction:

1. Target your customers where they hang out on social media – Having accounts across social media is a good thing for a small business, but the key is to focus your efforts on where your customers interact.  If your demographic doesn’t use platforms like Snapchat or Instagram, they may not be as important as Facebook or LinkedIn.

2. Take your business online – Don’t be afraid to sell your products or services online, and if you’re able to have an online storefront – make sure it’s user friendly. In some cases, it can even help to streamline your own business or ordering systems.

3. Aesthetics and imagery are important – People are drawn to eye-catching photography or graphics.  If you want customers to be engaged with your brand, you need to elicit an emotional response – and visuals are the easiest way to do so, whether you are creating a marketing campaign piece, a website, or a storefront display.

4. Market to your customers the way they want to be marketed to – Along the same lines as #1 on this list, but with broader applications – if your customers don’t want to be bombarded with Facebook posts, but respond well to a personalized mailpiece, then you should be focusing your efforts accordingly.  Pay attention to how your customers respond to your marketing strategies to learn what works best for your business.

and finally…
5. Consult with an expert, so you can get back to business – Entrusting your marketing needs to someone with experience allows you to focus on your business. Navigating the waters of advertising and marketing as a small business owner can be overwhelming, but when you have a marketing partner at your side, you’re much better equipped. As Herjavec said, “It’s crucial that you focus your energy as a small-business owner on the core reason you started up in the first place. You wanted to take on the world with the product or service you had, that did something better than anybody else. And that was what you were passionate about….”

AG Logo - NewPart of our focus at AlphaGraphics Carmel has always been being a marketing communications partner for small  businesses in the Indianapolis area.  We know print, mail, marketing, design and signage – so you don’t have to. We’re here to make it easy for you to get back to work while still being able to grow your business. If you have questions, feel free to stop by, give us a call, or email us at us605@alphagraphics.com!

May 05 / 2016
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From the Design Desk: Designing the Perfect Business Card

Business Cards are really the bread and butter of graphic design.  They are among the simplest things we do, but for as commonplace as business cards are, they are one of a small business’ most crucial tools. Useful for networking, passing along contact information, and establishing your brand identity, having a well-designed business card is something that small businesses shouldn’t take for granted.

Luckily for us, the folks at CompanyFolders have put together a pretty comprehensive list of 12 tips for creating the perfect business cards.  While it’s important to keep in mind that some of the examples in the article are highly specialized processes – like letterpress and specialty materials – that aren’t widely available or cost effective solutions for most small businesses, there are still lots of great creative ways to achieve similar effects and finishes without sacrificing budget.

Click through to read their list of business card design tips, or click the image on the right to download an extremely helpful infographic that takes all of the information from the article and presents it in an easy to read and understand format for anyone to follow!

Read more business card design tips…

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April 28 / 2016
Author admin_us605
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