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Morgan Branding
Morgan Branding

branding + graphic design + web design

Simple Answers

How to Deliver the Right Images to Your Designers.

November 13, 2013

mbraster

There are lots of resources out there that define the two types of graphics: bitmap (JPG, GIF, TIFF) and vector (EPS, Illustrator). But rather than talk about the properties of each and how they differ, we thought we could offer some very simple guidelines that will help you understand what your graphic designer(s) need when you deliver assets to them, and hopefully dispel some of the frustrations that can arise during this process. Your designer should be able to help you with the leg work (ahem!), but this will, at the least, help you understand what is usually needed for production. Although these guidelines are most applicable for print, they can be applied to both print and web.

  1. Don’t Pull from the Web. If you’re creating something for print, assume that pulling graphics off the web isn’t going to work. This happens a lot when people are creating something that has vendor logos as sponsors…or something similar. Routinely, we get a bunch of images pulled from websites. This is a no-no.
  2. Don’t Upscale Images. You cannot make a bitmap image larger than it was originally (also called upscaling). In other words, you cannot use a photo-editing program, like Photoshop, to make a 2″ JPG a 6″ JPG and assume that will work for production. Due to the nature of bitmap images, this will result in a fuzzy, lo-res image.
  3. Delivery Vector Whenever Possible. If you’re ever in doubt of sizing, and you have the option of sending a vector image (EPS, Illustrator), do it. Your graphic designer can scale these to whatever size they need. One caveat: you cannot take a bitmap image, save it as an EPS file and assume that will work. You can convert vector to bitmap, but not the other way around.

When it comes to print, a lot of times people are unsure what size their images are, and commonly ask us if they’re large enough for whatever print piece we’re working on. Of course, we’re always happy to inspect and advise. But, this is some good info to keep in your back pocket. Simply find the pixel dimensions of your image (Mac users can find this via the finder at File > Get Info or by hitting command + i; windows users can find this by right-clicking on an image, selecting “Properties” and then clicking the “Summary” tab). And to be safe, you can always assume 300 for the print pixels per inch. There are instances where it’s lower, but this is a good starting point.

  • [width in pixels] / [print pixels per inch] = [print width in inches]
  • [height in pixels] / [print pixels per inch] = [print height in inches]

As an example, a 3000px image would end up being 10″ in print (3000/300 = 10).

Still confused? Don’t worry. We’re always here to help!

Simple Answer: Web Design Process

October 10, 2013

Aaron, considering creating a new website, asks: “I’m thinking about creating a website for my company. Can you tell me what the process of designing a website is, and what I should expect?”

That’s a great question, Aaron. And you’re not alone in wondering how it all goes down. So, here’s a quick list of steps and what to expect during each phase.

  1. Meet. First we’ll meet and talk through your ideas, goals, thoughts, etc. We’ll guide you through best practices for web, taking into consideration your desires, and end-user experience.
  2. Research. After we’ve had a chance to chat, we’ll go out and do some research on your industry, as well as start grabbing ideas for aesthetics (although visuals won’t be presented for some time, this is a chance for us to start getting excited).
  3. Wireframing. This is a fancy word for sketching. Here we sketch and present overall site structure. We’ve considered all of the necessary site content, your goals, and again user experience.
  4. Concepting. Once we’ve all decided on a solid structure, we’ll deliver visual concepts. This is where we’ll refine colors, textures, and other visual aids.
  5. Delivery. After everyone has signed off on the completed designs, the site goes off to development. We work closely with our developers, ensuring a seemless execution of visuals into an actual website. Once complete we deliver the files.
  6. Launch. Finally, we help you launch your site into the real world, ensuring there aren’t any bugs or egregious errors. As well, we help you understand the functionality of your site, and guide you through any upkeep you’ll need to do on your own, if needed and/or desired.

Throughout the process, we make sure you’re fully informed about where we are in the process, and what to expect moving forward. And, we’re very careful to keep a critical eye on things, making sure no balls have been dropped and that we’re meeting all necessary goals.

Simple Answer: Why Type is King

September 5, 2013

Brittney asks, “I’m a new designer. What skill do you think is the most valuable to focus on? There’s so many programs and stuff for me to learn, and I just don’t know where to start.” 

I remember when I was just starting out, and being overwhelmed with the steep learning curve in front of me. There were lots of new programs to learn, competing theories coming from all directions, and figuring out where to start was rough. But I have good news! No matter where you start, you’ll get there. Depending on your focus, you’ll naturally lean toward a good starting point. So, rather than focus on where to start…just start learning.

I would say, however, there is one thing you need to focus on no matter where you decide to jump in. Type. Above any other skill you can master as a designer (if that’s possible), type will undoubtably make or break you. The ability to control and manipulate type separates lowly designers from great ones. This skill will help you successfully organize large amounts of copy and content, develop appropriate heirarchy for conveying messages, and will undoubtably up your game no matter where you end up.

Somewhat related, study up on grids. For fun, design a front page of a newspaper with some of the common elements: masthead, headlines, teasers, bylines, captions, etc. Set up a nice rigid grid, focusing on the typographic elements on the page. See if you can successfully create a nice hierarchy of information.

Another tip I commonly give people is to NOT use the auto-align features of design programs, like Illustrator. Optically align them, and pay attention to the letterforms of the type above and below to make them appear lined up. For example, if a headline starts with “The,” the next line below will need to be inset a bit to make it appear lined up with the “T.” If you line it up with the arm of the “T,” it’ll look off.

Hope that helps!

Got other tips for new designers? Leave them below. Sharing is caring.

Simple Answer: Content Management Systems

July 11, 2013

Jeremy sent us a question, “I know I need some type of content management system for my website, but I have no idea which one is right for me. Do you have any insights?”

A Content Management System (CMS) is often a go-to system for company websites because it allows for easy, accessible methods of controlling online content. A big hang-up is exactly how to go about it. The W3 lists over a 100 options. While this list may be daunting, it’s first important to consider your goals and purposes for a website, the overall functionality, and how involved the webmaster will be. Rest assured, we can help you choose. But for your own education, here are the three most popular and documented CMS options, each with thriving online communities:

WordPress

WordPress has evolved, from a simple blogging platform into a robust, diverse system. Websites such as The New York Times, CNN and Jay-Z’s personal website all use wordpress. A strong selling point is the ability to add any necessary plug-ins ranging from social media functionality to entire styling options to accomodate functionality.  This platform is very user friendly and the most accessible. Users with little computer know-how will be best suited for WordPress.

Drupal

Drupal is a more involved CMS with more robust options in terms of functionality and content support. Large user groups and shopping cart functionality are also handled in a more integrated way.  Drupal also has the ability to scale for a large count of diverse page types. The Notable Drupal websites include: Firefox, The White House Petitions site and Zynga.

Joomla

Joomla is an intermediary CMS of sorts. It is less intricate than Drupal but more-so than WordPress. Joomla is ideal for e-commerce, inventory control and data reporting.  Notable Joomla websites include IHOP, Marco’s Pizza and Harvard.

Simple Answer: Leave Behinds

June 25, 2013

Mikhail asked a great question about leave-behinds when interviewing for a new job, “The leave behind still eludes me. Mainly, I can’t get a straight answer on it. Sometimes they’re totally vital, sometimes they’re totally optional, depending on who I’ve asked. I’ve also heard they can take just about any form, from mini portfolios to a bomber of beer. My question is, what do you guys looks for in a leave behind, and is there any advice you’d have for someone trying to get one together?”

We thought we’d answer this question from the perspective of a employer and employee. So, Joey and I will both offer our comments on this element of the interview process, and how it plays a role in decision making when hiring a new employee.

Chad’s Thoughts

Getting a new job is tough. Especially when you’re a green-horn. You’ve got little to no real-word experience and getting yourself noticed amongst a sea of other designers is daunting. I was there too at one point, and it was rough. And I too remember feeling like I needed all of these “things” to get hired; I needed a bunch of stuff, a recipe of items, that would knock my interviewer’s socks off. The reality is, however, most of that “stuff” isn’t needed. A strong book and a nice resume is sufficient.

What will show through, and what people remember, is you. Sure, you’ve gotta have some skill and talent. Don’t get me wrong. Those things are important. But, the most important thing you can have in your corner…is you. If you’ve got some talent and show a drive and hunger for the world of design, and show how willing you are to bust your ass and learn, they’ll remember you. I promise.

At the end of the day, it’s not about the things you bring, or what you leave behind for me to remember you by. If you walk in and show me who you are, and how much you want the job, I’ll remember you. I would rather hire a potential employee that has good stuff and is ready to learn and work hard, then somebody with amazing stuff who has an ego or is a jerk. As an employer, I’m defined by the people around me. And I’d rather have a team of people who give a shit and are willing to bust ass than some dude who can make pretty stuff and is a punk to my clients.

Joey’s Thoughts

I’ll preface my advice with this: Take everyone’s advice and take no advice. At the end of the day you should trust your gut. It seems there are a lot of absolutist design articles online that stress “YOU NEED THIS THING!” You should look at leave behinds as a tool that should only be used when appropriate.

That being said, I have never produced a leave behind. My goal has always been to work at a smaller, more intimate firm. So I catered my interview strategy for that environment. I wanted to focus on an authentic, unique interaction that was informed by my work but wasn’t necessarily limited to it.  For instance when I first met Chad, we met at a coffee shop for an hour. Maybe 15 minutes was spent talking about my work, with the rest spent talking about design as a whole, website pitfalls, horror stories, and favorite illustrators. I followed up a few days later with a phone call. Now I work here.

My goal was to be authentic and illustrate that I was engaged and wanted the job. So I felt a leave behind wasn’t necessary.