A Designer’s Guide to Pricing

Graphic Designer’s Guide to Pricing

To meet the author and learn more about pricing, contracts, collections and more, attend our design retreat: WMC: Off-The-Grid this October 5 -7th. For more information, head to wmcfest.com

A lot of designers ask us what they should charge for their services. I thought I would share with you some financial lessons I’ve learned while building Cleveland Graphic Design Firm Go Media over the last fifteen years.

And be sure to check out “How to Charge For Your Graphic Design Work (& Get What You Deserve)” – another post by Go Media, for more on this topic!

This article will cover:
What should I charge?
Flat rate or hourly billing?
How can I avoid being stiffed?
Should I have contracts?
Avoiding “Busters”
Do I need an accountant?
What’s a “Kill Fee”?
How do I send invoices and track sales?

What should I charge?

hi_fi_by_gomedia.jpgThis largely depends on how skilled you are and how many customers you have. Obviously, when you’re starting out you’ll be charging almost nothing. When Go Media started I was charging flat-rates. For example – I was charging $100 to design a flyer. I would spend two days (20+ hours) doing an elaborate illustration for the flyer. So, basically I was making about $5/hr. This sucks, but I was doing what I loved.

Now obviously, with me

how to use an opacity mask in illustrator

Try this Opacity Mask Tip with your New Vector Brushes for a Tattered, Torn Effect

How to Use an Opacity Mask in Illustrator (A Newbie’s Guide)

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Now, let’s get to the tip!

Skill Level: Newbie
Tools Needed: Cool Illustration, Brink Design Co. Industrial Pack and Adobe Illustrator

1. Install your Brink Design Co. Industrial Pack Vector Brushes (or, as I like to call, 100 handmade brushes from the heavens)
Instructions are included with the pack.


2. Open your illustration in Adobe Illustrator. We chose this cute little monster guy.


3. Start going crazy with some brush strokes. This is the fun part. Soak it all in.


4. Group your brush strokes all together. Ensure that your monster is left out of the mix.


5. Object > Expand Appearance


6. Using your Pathfinder Tool (Window > Pathfinder), select the first option – Merge


7. “Control C” to copy this element. Next, go into your Transparency Window. From the drop-down, select “Make Opacity Mask”


8. Click on the small black box within the window.


9. Click “Invert Mask” and BOOM.


10. Click on the masked area if you’d like change where your mask is placed.


11. You’re done! We hope you’ve enjoyed this tip. Make sure to pick up the Brink Design Co. Industrial Pack and create something great everyday.

Shop Brink Design Co. Industrial Pack

Spec Work: Just Say No!

Spec Work in Graphic Design: Why is it Bad?

Here at WMC Fest, it is our ultimate goal to love and support the design community in every way possible. So when we recently set up a design contest on our site, we were immediately hit with negative feedback. Due to your reactions, we pulled the contest down.

The backstory is that the contest was created by myself and a couple of other non-designers who love designers very much. Our intentions were the very best. Thanks to folks like Jamie Winebrenner from Cleveland’s AIGA and those who spoke out, we now understand the hurt that spec work in graphic design can cause – not only to designers, but clients as well. Our apologies to all who felt taken advantage of in any manner. We love our community and do our best to honor you always. (We make mistakes from time to time, please keep communicating with us and we’ll do our best to be better!)

In order to learn more about spec work and its effect on the design industry, the Jamie graciously took time out of her day to educate me on the matter. Thanks Jamie!

All the best,


Now, here’s Jamie with some answers to our questions about spec work.

Heather > Hello Jamie and thank you for stopping by to educate us about designing on spec. Our first question is – what is spec work? 

Jamie > Spec work is any kind of work whether it’s a final piece or initial concept that is done without the client committing to pay a fee. The designer may anticipate being paid eventually if the client likes the work. In this situation, a client usually doesn’t want to invest in a designer before seeing what they can do, and the designer must prove his or her worth before receiving compensation. For clients who are hesitant to commit to a designer, there is an appropriate way to explore the work of various designers. A more effective and ethical approach to requesting work is to ask designers to submit examples of their work from previous assignments as well as a statement of how they would approach your project.

Heather > What are some examples of commonly seen spec work?

Jamie >  One of the most commonly seen types of spec work are design “competitions” where a company will request submissions from anyone. The company will then choose and (potentially) pay for their favorite. These contests can include logos, t-shirts, stickers, pretty much anything. Spec work is done without any type of contract, and the designer typically loses all rights to their work, regardless of if they are chosen as the winner. One of the biggest issues with spec work is when a company could truly afford to hire a designer, or when the company is for-profit and intends on selling the design in any capacity for their benefit.


Heather > Why is spec work so hurtful to designers?

Jamie >  Spec work is hurtful to designers, but it’s also hurtful to clients who use these practices. When a company resorts to a spec work situation to solve one of their problems, they usually don’t know what they want or what goals they’re attempting to achieve. For example, they know that they want a logo, but they might not know (or care) about the meaning behind the design choices or how you chose to effectively communicate their message into a visual identity. One of the biggest issues with spec work is that it lowers the value of our profession. As professional designers, we know that there are many facets of design, research, initial concepts, fine-tuning, etc. Why would a company invest resources into these critical stages of the creative process, when they can hold a competition and get a “good enough” logo for $50? Often companies or clients think that designers “just push buttons” and don’t understand the true value of hiring an educated, professional designer. While there will always be some designers willing to create designs in response to an open call for work, without any assurance of compensation, the company or client immediately relegates their choices among those designers who are least likely to be experienced. Knowledgeable designers, who are in demand among clients, work according to the professional standards of the profession. Quite often, this choice of a less-experienced designer results in a client eventually having to bring a more experienced designer into a project in order to execute it, incurring additional expenses. The lack of dialogue in spec work prevents a relationship from forming between the designer and company as well. A good working relationship can be invaluable, leading to referrals or other projects from the same company.

Heather > How about crowdsourcing? How is this hurtful to designers?

Crowdsourcing is essentially another type of spec work. This can be in the form of contests (as mentioned above), and sometimes the hosts of the contest will keep all of the work and use it in future applications. Websites that ask designers to name their price based on a project description can also be considered crowdsourcing or spec work. These types of websites lower the threshold for creative fees. In this situation, designers are undermining each other for the sake of getting a job and usually end up with compensation drastically lower than what they would typically charge. Both crowdsourcing and spec work open the door for work to be plagiarized as well. Since the level of compensation with these projects is minimal at best, those who accept these projects may quickly copy over elements or entire designs from somewhere else.


Heather > What are some great ways for designers, with limited portfolios and access to work, to get their names out and more experience?

Jamie >  Young designers have a variety of options for getting exposure, without resorting to spec work.

  • Social media is a huge (and mostly free) avenue to get your work out there. Instagram is full of images of designs, lettering or illustrations from creatives all over the world. Make sure you have a website that accurately represents the kind of work you want to do, not necessarily the work you’ve been doing. If you can’t find a paying job that’s along the lines of the work you want to do, make up a project yourself!
  • Pro Bono work is also another option, entirely different than spec work. Events such as GiveCamp or Create-A-Thon give designers of all levels of experience an opportunity to create work for a deserving non-profit. These organizations accept applications to determine the projects they will work on, which results in a better working environment and gives the team creative control. You can get some great portfolio pieces and build relationships through this type of work which might lead to future opportunities.
  • Participate in community events and festivals, not just design-related ones. By volunteering and meeting more people or having a deeper contact base, your chances of finding work or hearing of job opportunities increase. Northeast Ohio has an awesome, active community with lots of opportunities for designers.

Thank you, Jamie!

Come see Jamie and AIGA Cleveland at Weapons of Mass Creation Fest 6 this August 7 – 9 at the Allen Theatre, Playhouse Square.

How to Become a Master Typographer

How to Learn Typography:
a Quick Guide by Your Friends at Go Media, the source for website services in Cleveland

Welcome to the Go Media’s Zine!

Are you a passionate creative, student, designer, entrepreneur?

You’re in the right place.

Inside you’ll find the tools you’ll need to successfully do what you love. We’ll share real-world practical advice, solid business techniques, step-by-step tutorials, as well as educational podcasts and webinars to take you to the next level.

We give all of our secrets away and cultivate an open environment for the sharing of insights and inspiration.

Join us.

When you’re ready, we would also love for you to be a part of our community. Please comment on posts, become an active member of our social media community and/or email to find out ways you can contribute your own designs or tutorials to the GoMediaZine.

Quick Guides

With hundreds of posts in our archives sometimes it’s hard to know where to begin. Our Start Here page is a great place to get started. This page holds 7 quick guides to becoming the creative you’ve always dreamed you’d be. You’ve landed on one of these lists so let’s get started, shall we? Read on to learn how you can:

Become a Master Typographer:

1. Become a Master Typographer: How to Choose the Perfect Typeface
2. Become a Master Typographer: 19 Expert Secrets to Creating Custom Lettering
3. Become a Master Typographer: Pro Tips – Making and Breaking the Rules
4. Become a Master Typographer: Playing with your Food (And Other Ways to Get Creative with Type)
5. 100 Top Resources for Typography and Hand-Lettering
6. Typography Shortcuts: ‘Custom’ Type Treatments for the Lazy Designer

Rules of Graphic Design

Become a Master Graphic Designer in 7 Easy Steps

Rules of Graphic Design:
a Quick Guide by Your Friends at Go Media, Cleveland’s best website design company

Welcome to the Go Media’s Zine!

Are you a passionate creative, student, designer, entrepreneur?

You’re in the right place.

Inside you’ll find the tools you’ll need to successfully do what you love. We’ll share real-world practical advice, solid business techniques, step-by-step tutorials, as well as educational podcasts and webinars to take you to the next level.

We give all of our secrets away and cultivate an open environment for the sharing of insights and inspiration.

Join us.

When you’re ready, we would also love for you to be a part of our community. Please comment on posts, become an active member of our social media community and/or email to find out ways you can contribute your own designs or tutorials to the GoMediaZine.

Here are our Rules of Graphic Design:

With hundreds of posts in our archives sometimes it’s hard to know where to begin. Our Start Here page is a great place to get started. This page holds 7 quick guides to becoming the creative you’ve always dreamed you’d be. You’ve landed on one of these lists so let’s get started, shall we? Read on to learn how you can:
Become a Better Designer in 7 easy steps.

1. Become a Master Designer: Rule One: Limit Your Fonts
2. Become a Master Designer: Rule Two: Limit Your Colors
3. Become a Master Designer: Rule Three: Contrast, Contrast, Contrast
4. Become a Master Designer: Rule Four: Spacing Is Your Friend
5. Become a Master Designer: Rule Five: Add depth to your designs.
6. Become a Master Designer: Rule Six: Motion
7. Become a Master Designer: Rule Seven: Putting it all together.

40+ Japanese Web Design Inspirations

Web Design Inspiration

If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll know I’m obsessed with any and all things Japanese – design included.

I can appreciate the full spectrum – from tranquil gardens to Harajuku chic to sampuru and everything in between.

I love the contrast between total zen and neon chaos. The juxtaposition between the steady, serene steam rising above warm cups of tea and the crazed onslaught of information rammed into a subway map, city street, webpage screen.

Web Design

Generalizing here, Japanese web design is a fearless dive into color, light and character, a direct representation of a busy Shibuya street. And because I embrace the full-on, I’m a fan. So today, I’ve collected some web pages that have in some way intrigued, inspired and entertained me.










Glaceu Vitamin Water


Family Mart

family mart

Fukuoka Facts

preview 22




preview 18




preview 10

Studio Zero

preview 2


preview 17



Mos Burger

preview 13

Nero Hair Salon






Kyougaku Ji Kindergarten

preview 16


preview 3



DIY Factory



preview 14



Mite Kero

preview 8

Kenji Endo

preview 15

Taro Magazine

web design inspiration preview 3

Happy Turn



web design inspiration kotori

Beard Papa



web design inspiration preview 4


preview 5



Hokkaido Gas

web design inspiration preview 5

Air Plus



preview 7

Milk Japan


Naotaro Moriyama

preview 21


preview 9


preview 11

Lig Inc.

preview 12





and just because…this:

New Designer and Developer Resources – August 2014

At Go Media, I’m a front-end developer, a podcaster, a content creator, a designer, and a maker. Just like you, I like to wear a lot of hats and I like to keep up on the current trends, tools, and resources that hit my inbox and Feedly every day. Almost once a week, I sign up to be a beta tester for a new app, or install a new extension to see if it betters my productivity on certain tasks. When I find something awesome, I share it with various members of our team, depending on what issues it’s solving.

And, I figured it might be time to share that with you as well.

This Month’s Resources

Here’s what I found this month (and earlier, since this is the first edition) that has helped me in my daily work, both in and out of the office.



Twibble is a new service that allows you to hook up any RSS feed and tweet new posts from it. While I haven’t quite worked this into my work at Go Media, I’ve been using it for another podcast I run. Any time we release a new YouTube video, a new podcast, or post on our Facebook page, we can promote it on a schedule to our Twitter account. Now we can keep active, and keep our followers on Twitter aware of all the content we’re producing, without the “manual labor”.

My Current Favorite IFTTT Recipe

I LOVE IFTTT! I use it to transfer “saved for later” articles in my Feedly to my Gmail. I use it to push content I’m creating to a Buffer’s distribution schedule. I’m using it to send me an email reminder every Thursday to move $50 into a “for a rainy day” checking account. And, I also use it to push content to WordPress and our Tumblr blog.


But, a huge bottleneck in my routine is trying to also keep a growing Facebook Group I help run active. Since I do most of my reading on my phone, and the Facebook app has it’s limitations, I couldn’t easily do that. In comes IFTTT and this recipe. I can share a story (either from our own feed or from other sites we’re reading) from Feedly to Pocket. That story is then collected by IFTTT and pushed to the Facebook Group. Now, I can start a conversation with the community without skipping a beat.

Being More Productive With Ambient Noise

We talked about the topic of ambient noise with Donald Wooten at WMC Fest 5, which you can hear on Go Media Podcast Episode 26. Ambient noise has added to music over the last 10-15 years to make it feel more authentic. A lot of us add noise to our daily lives so that we get distracted less while working.

But for me, I layer ambient noise behind music I stream over Spotify. It gives me a constant sound and keeps me moving because I’m not waiting for a song to end. Most of the time, I get so focused that I lose track of the transitions. 2 hours later, it’s hard to tell how many different songs, different styles, or different artists I’ve listened to. Or, if my playlist ended while I was so far in the zone that I missed it.



The main source I use is Coffitivity. It started off just as a long, streaming mp3 of background noise from a coffee shop. You’d hear the low murmur of people talking, cups hitting the table, and spoons dropping into the bottom of mugs. They’ve also added more options, from low murmurs to bustling chatter of a lunchtime rush, to the sounds of students on campus.


Another Ambient Noise maker has entered the scene and it’s a Chrome plugin that works offline.

Elmnts is an elegant ambient sound generator for improving focus and calm. Whether you’re studying, working, or just relaxing, the sounds of the elements make everything better. Works offline, so you don’t have to load a website to hear these high quality sounds, they’re yours to listen to anytime.

Five of the six audio choices are nature-based. You can listen to the rain hit your window or sit next to a fire. You could enjoy the chirping of birds and other woodland creatures or stick your toes in the nearby creek. You could even listen to the waves crash onto the beach as you hustle towards vacation. Or make your own combination by layering the sounds together.

How To Insert Featured Images Easier in WordPress

Whether it’s a new blog post or a new page, we’re always uploading featured images to WordPress. And, if you do it a lot, it can become a hassle (albeit minor) to do it efficiently. But, we have a few new options now, which give us the freedom to multitask without slowing down.

Instant Featured Image


What if you wanted to upload a featured image but also wanted to insert it into your post? To do that, you’d have to set the featured image first, then get back into the media menu to insert it. Why the extra step? With the Instant Featured Image plugin, you can save those clicks and just insert and set the featured image with one click.

Automatic Featured Images From YouTube Videos

Another personal project I have involves creating YouTube videos and sharing them to WordPress. While it’s easy to upload the thumbnail to YouTube AND then to WordPress after the video publishes, that takes too much work. With this plugin, you can insert the video URL into your post like normal. Then, put your description and hit save or publish. Once saved, WordPress pulls in the featured image for you.

Easy and Efficient PDF Compression with SmallPDF


We all work with clients that have these HUGE PDFs filled with large images. A normal PDF we receive to put onto a site is between 5mb and 40mb. Definitely not good for the ever-growing mobile market that these sites are reaching. So, we could go back to the client and ask them to compress them, or we can try and run it through Adobe’s built-in methods. But, SmallPDF can compress a PDF in the cloud for free and it does a heck of a great job at retaining quality.

This week, I used it to compress a 6mb, 2-page PDF, into a version under 1mb. HUGE improvement.

Can Email Be Responsive?


Over the last year, we’ve seen an increase of requests to develop an HTML email template for our clients. AND, it’s becoming more clear that the client expects those emails to be responsive. Unfortunately, most of our clients are a mix of B2B and B2C, therefor Outlook is a must. And, if Microsfot used anything above Word to render their emails, we might be able to feel better about the prospect.

While HTML emails are awful to build, there are options out there to help you get through it while still making something cool. Jason Rodriguez from A List Apart put together a good run down of what you can do to make emails responsive, or at least fluid. There’s also some good tutorials from MailChimp, our preferred email marketing service.

And, Zurb, the creator of Foundation, which is our responsive, front-end framework of choice, released a responsive email framework called Ink. We’ve used it on a few projects and have had a lot of success with them.

Write clearer with The Hemingway Editor


If you can figure out how to get me talking, you know I can ramble on, and on, and on. It’s a similar experience when I write. Sometimes I get to the point. Sometimes, my point just isn’t clear. With the Hemingway Editor, I can paste my stream of consciousness and know exactly what I need to fix before I hit the publish button.

Plus, as Earnest Hemingway taught us, “the first draft of anything is shit.” We’re both lucky to have a resource like this between my first draft and you.

And then I was like…


Need a quick GIF of your reaction to something? All you need is a webcam and this site. Maybe not work-related, but still easy to use and perfect for just about every scenario.

Thanks to @skullface for sending this my way.

On My Radar

Here’s a few more resources that I’ve bookmarked, but haven’t quite found a use for just yet.

Make eBooks from Google Drive


If you’re an Arsenal user, you may have noticed that we’ve started to release some new graphic design ebooks over the last few months. We’ve been designing and building those with Illustrator and InDesign, however, since a lot of our content is already on Google Drive, maybe this could come in handy. I’ll be playing with that idea this month.

High Quality Tees with No Upfront Costs

While not a new service, I got introduced to TeeSpring.com at WMC Fest 5. We spoke with Jimmy who was manning their vendor table on the latest podcast. After doing a bit of research, I really liked the idea and started putting ideas together for the podcast.

And that’s it.

That’s this month’s resources and tools that I’ve found useful during my day to day goings on. Hopefully you find them useful as well.

If you’ve got something you want me to check out, leave a comment here on the Zine. You can also tweet me @bryangarvin and drop me an email.

Massive Drawn to Business Price Drop: Build A Million Dollar Business for Less with this Must-Have Resource

Massive Drawn to Business Price Drop

As many of you know, we are incredibly proud of the content inside our newest eBook, Drawn to Business.

Drawn to Business is a transparent look inside our business, a complete guide on the way to build a design studio the Go Media way. It’s chock-full of tips, tricks, techniques and best practices straight from the founder of Go Media himself, William Beachy, plus more than a dozen contributors from other companies.


We came to realize that our initial pricing proved to be a barrier for some folks.

Because of that, we decided we needed to do something drastic.

Permanent Price Drop

We want any and everyone to benefit from the extraordinary insight inside this resource, so we’ve drastically reduced prices on all Drawn to Business products up to 60% off. (Yes, for good).

Discounted items include our Plus Package, eBook, Paperback, Supplemental PDF content, Bonus Video Content and Business Plan Workbook.

View all the features of Drawn to Business

Plus Package – now $59.99 ($150)


eBook – now $19.99 ($37)


Paperback – now $34.99 ($47)


Supplemental PDF Content  – now $15 ($76)


Bonus Video Content  – now $15 ($76)

drawn to business videos-sale

Business Plan Workbook – now $15 ($76)

drawn to business bpw-sale

View all the features of Drawn to Business

Enjoy and please share your thoughts on Drawn to Business below!

Become a Master Typographer: 19 Expert Secrets to Creating Custom Lettering

Your guide to a custom lettering logotype

“Typography is indeed the most essential and powerful tool a graphic designer has,” notes designer Albert Trulls.  “As designers, we have the possibility to add emotional values to the messages we compose by making them, for instance, more or less complex, more or less attractive. That is the reason why choosing carefully a specific typography to represent a message or word is fundamental, as it will strongly affect its perception.”

Creating a custom hand-lettered logotype.

One way a typographer can communicate a brand is through custom hand-lettering.

As Von Glitschka, Illustrative Designer of Glitschka Studios notes, “Few things can brand a product, business or service like a custom hand-lettered logotype. Illustrative lettering is the perfect balance between design sensibilities and illustration. A unique personality and identity can be imbued from illustrated letterforms that a standard typeface could never achieve.”

Just what should you consider when you’re creating the perfect custom hand-lettered logotype? Von and friends Jeremy Teff, Creative Director of BLKBOXLabs, Jason Carne, Martin Schmetzer, Albert Trulls Muntañà and Alison Rowan are here to share with us some ever important tips.

Courtesy of Von Glitschka | glitschka studios
Courtesy of Von Glitschka | glitschka studios

1. Start in analog.

“All of my hand lettered typography starts in analog and I solve the visual aesthetic in that stage before I ever attempt to build anything digitally.” – Von Glitschka

Courtesy of Von Glitschka | glitschka studios
Courtesy of Von Glitschka | glitschka studios

2. Break the Rules

“Custom typography is a great way to leverage illustrative skills in the context of a design oriented project. And don’t be afraid to break the rules that have been created for more rigid forms of typography like complete fonts. For example, I mix and match uppercase and lowercase all the time. Some people are very strict in their approach to typography and this would step on those sensibilities. Hand lettering should always have the freedom to do what ever looks best regardless if it makes a die-hard typophile cringe.” – Von Glitschka

Courtesy of Jason Carne | His hand-lettering tutorial is now available on arsenal.gomedia.us
Courtesy of Jason Carne | His hand-lettering tutorial is now available on arsenal.gomedia.us

3. Pay attention to color.

“Color is almost always last on my list of concerns when it comes to doing anything hand-drawn because it’s the sole digital step in my process aside from texturing occasionally. A general color palette or amount of colors should always be in the back of your mind when brainstorming and penning your rough drafts. This way, you can at least flesh out a certain vibe to the piece you’re creating. However, it’s not what is going to make your design a good design. Color choice can only enhance an already sound design, it can’t rescue a poor one.

In my work I try to attach time periods to my colorways to establish a visual foothold in a certain era; paints from 100 years ago had a different look to them than what you see in the stores today, and they were just as different in the middle of the last century. Researching advertising and home decor from certain decades can give you a good indication of what color styles were popular in the time period your design is trying to reflect.” – Jason Carne

Courtesy of Alison Rowan

4. Explore with Pencil

“My initial explorations are done very loosely with a regular pencil. A thin lined pass to set general proportion (The bones) then I do repeated passes beefing up each letterform and refining them as a whole. (The flesh) I’ll use several layers of vellum and a light box to continue to refine my design and perfect the details of it until I have a solid rough worked out.

Once I have a solid rough I’ll then re-draw my designs with a mechanical pencil in what I call a refined sketch form. This will serve as my road map for vector building. I draw it like I’ll build it and keep shape in mind.

I rough out pencils, refine those drawings so I know what I need to build in vector format before I begin building. My drawing always lays the foundation so I have a clear idea of what the final will look like before any bezier curve is created. I’ll of course improve things along the way when needed but I try to work out my design in analog first.” – Von Glitschka

5. Find what program works best for you.

“When we have a piece ready for the computer it is scanned, brought into photoshop and cleaned up. After some touch-ups in Photoshop it is brought over into Illustrator to vector. For some marks we use the live trace option to capture as much of the original artwork as we can, while other logotypes need a more polished vector feel like the Hero mark below. Depending on the use of the mark we will sometimes apply texture in illustrator but most of the time we apply texture in Photoshop if it is needed.” – Jeremy Teff,  BLKBOXLabs

“I never use Photoshop for logo work. Resolution independent art is a must in visual identity IMO.” – Von Glitschka

“I vectorize my hand drawings using the pen-tool in Adobe Illustrator. A funny fact is that all the designs you see in my portfolio are traced using the touchpad on my laptop. I only recently bought a Wacom Intuos board which I´m not 100% comfortable with yet, but I realize it is just a matter of practice and patience.” – Martin Schmetzer

Courtesy of BlkBoxLabs
Courtesy of Jeremy Teff of BLKBOXLabs

6. Get to know the company

“Understanding the company you’re working for very well is a must, but understanding what certain types of letters are meant for and knowing what effective layout is consisted of is equally important. Knowing that a heavy, industrial slab serif type letter is good for a tool or machinery company and not for a lingerie company is important stuff; style dictates impression. Even variety within a certain type of lettering can impose an array of different emotions with the viewer. For example, scripts can be equally effective for an automotive manufacturer (Ford, Studebaker, etc.) or a chocolate company (Russell Stover), but for different reasons that lay within their subtle nuances. You have to understand what makes a letter style elegant, or what makes it powerful or just what makes it tick before you can effectively decide what makes a good choice for the company you’re working for.” – Jason Carne

Courtesy of Jason Carne
Courtesy of Jason Carne

7. Explore with tools

“It all starts with a pencil and paper and spirals out of control from there. We have a box full of various types of brush pens, brushes, sharpies, markers, basically anything that you can make a mark on paper with. Tracing paper is very helpful when you need to make small adjustments to sketches quickly and refine a logotype. I would say a sketchbook, sharp pencil and a decent set of Micron’s is really all you need to begin with, the rest of the brushes, pens and paint are really about execution, variety, and exploration.” – Jeremy Teff,  BLKBOXLabs

Courtesy of BlkBoxLabs
Courtesy of Jeremy Teff, BLKBOXLabs

8. Integrate Symbolism

“Symbolism can add great value and meaning to a hand lettered logotype when done carefully and thoughtfully. A small amount of symbolism can go a long way. The supporting mark below we created for American Estates has some very simple symbolism in it, the brand is big on being American made and has a patriotic tone carried across it, we wanted to introduce that in a simple way. We sculpted the A to reflect a star, by pairing the star and the name itself the consumer instantly understands that the products are American Made and the company they are buying from is proud of that. The Onyx Coffee Lab logo was created to portray the same hand crafted feel as the coffee they roast, a small amount of symbolism can be seen in the “O” that forms a drop just over the rest of the the logotype.” – Jeremy Teff,  BLKBOXLabs

Courtesy of BlkBoxLabs
Courtesy of Jeremy Teff, BLKBOXLabs

9. Weigh your options

“The weight of the letters when creating a logotype can be very important to its personality. When you are thinking of how to portray a client’s image or brand you have to understand the message they are trying to convey. Thin lines can be delicate and give an image of softness, while bold marks tend to convey strength and stability. When we created the American Estates signature mark, we wanted a mark that projected simplicity and honesty, a mark that you could imagine seeing scribbled on the back of a pocket book from a generation ago. The line weight is fairly consistent but is very rough like you would imagine the signature of a man working with his hands all day would be. We felt the thinner irregular line weight really captured the essence of what we were trying to portray.” – Jeremy Teff,  BLKBOXLabs

10. Keep evolving as an artist

“I turn to a huge amount of references, from classical to avant-garde periods, to find what is best for the project. I like to do this research process while I work on the concept / idea. I consider that, in this way, the concept, the references and the shapes come together seamlessly, strengthening the result.

This is just a way of working – a process among others. I firmly believe that having a creative process, being determined and self-critical, are the best ingredients to evolve, learn and find better solutions. Often, it is more important what you learn in the creative process than the final result.” Albert Trulls

Yorokobu Magazine Cover by Albert Trulls.  The typographical illustration explores notions of 'dualism' and 'time span'.

11. Let Ideas Steep

“When I first get a project I’ll sit on it for a good week or so before I do anything. I have to let information and ideas steep. I call it slow boiling. Once I’ve done this I get a pretty clear picture of various directions I can go with it that would be appropriate and work well. I then start thumbnailing and drawing out ideas.” – Von Glitschka

12. Find a balance between skill and imperfection

“Many hand-letterers, including myself, will tell you that the minor imperfections are what truly makes the work we do worthwhile; it’s what distinguishes our craft from the work of those who rely on digital methods and software to create and design. However, imperfections due to laziness or ineptness are not what it’s all about. The design should look human, not sloppy, and there is a lot of work I see that walks a fine line between those two. There’s also a fine balance between being highly skilled and overly mechanical too, being too precise with hand drawn work while impressive, ultimately defeats the purpose of having the natural human element present in the work. Sometimes it’s better to put down the eraser and let the design evolve naturally without trying to dictate its course at an obsessive level. ” – Jason Carne

13. Observe.

“A form of research that we feel is absolutely necessary is observation, you have to experience what your client is selling, making, or creating, only then can you really understand their message. We spent an afternoon shooting photos and video in the American Estates shop and it really helped to develop their brand image. Much like the wood he uses the rough and scared hands of Jesse told his story. Their furniture is solid & strong, but not perfect and it’s those small imperfections that really make their products so unique. The two hours it took to observe and be a part of their process was worth a month of research.” – Jeremy Teff,  BLKBOXLabs

Courtesy of BlkBoxLabs
Courtesy of Jeremy Teff, BLKBOXLabs

14. Research

“Research plays a large part in any branding or logotype project. It is a very important step in creating the vision of a brand. We research design trends for that specific market or time and try to apply our own twist on them or stay away from them as much as possible. For many clients that want a very specific look and feel, it is important to research the root of that design style. Research is best done in books and in the real world, though some research online is necessary, we feel it is best to view original sources as much as possible. – Jeremy Teff,  Blkboxlabs

15. Start with a blank page.

“Start with a blank page—no lines, no grids. Let the text influence the style you choose, and the form it takes. The most emphatic lettering isn’t always drawn in straight lines, and with ruled paper we have a habit of forgetting that.”  – Alison Rowan

Courtesy of Von Glitschka | glitschka studios
Courtesy of Von Glitschka | glitschka studios

16. Look for inspiration

“When looking for inspiration, I try to gauge style based on the specific project at hand. For this one their whole personality was geared towards Rockabilly with a sinister twist so my solution has a flair towards gothic too.” – Von Glitschka

17. Value Simplicity

“Simplicity plays a major role in creating a great hand-lettered logo. Just like their super clean vector counterparts, logos that are simple and clean tend to be the most memorable. Less is always more. It is easy to over think or over draw a logo type, in the end what matters most is the mark is legible and conveys the message the brand is trying to represent. Most of the time the more simple mark will always be a better solution to the challenge you are facing.” – Jeremy Teff,  BLKBOXLabs

Courtesy of BlkBoxLabs
Courtesy of Jeremy Teff, BLKBOXLabs

18. Experiment with graffiti

“I’m a self taught letterer and came in contact with hand drawn typography through graffiti. I believe graffiti is a very good way of experimenting with the alphabet and learning how the letters are put together. You don’t have to follow any guides or rules and can twist and bend the letters ’til you tamed the word into something your own and unique.

When you draw the same name/tag hundreds, even thousands of times you also realize how you can modify/tweak each letter to make it look different every time. I´m sure this have been a big help to me in my lettering work today.

As a graffiti writer I always aimed for symmetry in my letters, something that follows me ’til this day in my hand drawn typography and logo designs, which you can see examples of in my behance gallery.” – Martin Schmetzer

Last, but not least:

Courtesy of Jason Carne
Courtesy of Jason Carne

19. Take your time.

“Sweat the details, spend the extra time and really dive head first into your work with the intent of producing work better than anything you’ve ever done before. Make that serif sharper, fix the angle of your shading, get the curves smoother. Rushing your work doesn’t benefit the client you’re cheating out of a better design and it doesn’t give you a better piece to put in your portfolio. Sweating the details doesn’t mean getting crazy with ornamentation and adding anything superfluous, it just means that you should be 100% certain that every part of your design is on point, consistent, and the best it can possibly be before delivering it. Also, proofread your sketches…that should go without saying, but it still needs to be said sometimes. There is nothing worse in the world of hand-lettering than spending 4 hours inking a word that isn’t spelled properly.” – Jason Carne

Thank you so much to my contributors! Please check out their work below:

Von Glitschka | Glitschka Studios | TwitterLynda.com | Behance | Full Project

Jeremy Teff from BLKBOXLabs | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Pinterest

Jason Carne | Behance | Instagram | Dribbble | Facebook

Martin Schmetzer | Behance | Facebook | Dribbble | Twitter

Albert Trulls Muntañà: Albert Trulls site | Behance

Alison Rowan | Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn

Other GoMediaZine links you might like:


Become a Master Typographer: How to Choose the Perfect Typeface


100 Top Resources for Typography and Hand-Lettering

Vector Textures Tutorial: How to add character to your designs with our new Clouds Vector Textures Pack!

Hey Gang,

If you follow me, know me, used or seen my work you probably think of high detail illustration. Well, every once in a while you gotta change things up. From time to time I’ll do something quite opposite just to keep things fresh.

Last summer, I had the idea to do something quite different and photograph my own images. I have been a fan of all the Go Media texture packs and I have used them in my work and figured out ways to manipulate them through Photoshop and Illustrator.

I started taking high resolution photos and thought about what I would buy and how I would use the textures. The set is divided into 6 categories, the first release is my Clouds Vector Texture Pack.


Soon to be released are my Ground, Plants, Rocks, Trees and Water Packs. Keep an eye out!

Now, let’s chat about some of the tricks and ideas that I’ve used with these textures. Clouds, you’re up!

Ready to follow along?

First, grab the cloud textures here, only $9!

Now, let’s go!

First I’ll start with an effect using the clouds. This effect is based on simple placement using a clipping mask and creativity. I’ll start with the personal monogram I’ve been designing. I’ll open the CLOUDS.eps file in Photoshop.

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I’m going to just grab some of the cloud textures and bring them onto the monogram file and start placing them over the design.

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Off the bat I know this is gonna be too much texture and won’t show enough of the design. I’m going to start over and change the color of the design and bring in another texture.

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From here I’ll place the texture over the design and select a clipping mask (click on the layer for PC and right click and select Clipping Mask selection)

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From here, I want to add a bit more to it with a simple drop shadow.

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Now, I’ll make a duplicate image of the design and set a complementary color stroke.

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Next, I’ll adjust the colors of the design that go better with the blue.

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Now I’ll select the colors of the cloud textures and change those colors.

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I’m thinking I want to take advantage of this pack and add a little more texture and grit from the upper left cloud.

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I’m just going to cut the middle out, paste it and duplicate the selection and just take a pre made eraser tool and get rid of certain areas.

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I’ll place it under the first cloud texture, adjust colors and then move the texture around a bit to get it where I want it.

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From here we created a simple texture using clipping masks duplicate layers and color strokes. Simple all from a cloud, creativity and knowledge.

Try this on your own and see what you come up with!

Grab the cloud textures here, only $9!

For more of Steve’s work, check him out his site or chat with him on Twitter.

Comic, Creature and Character Illustration: 4 Pro Tips

Tips for Comic Book Designers

Dei G of Deisign is a master of comic design. A provider of unique character and creature designs for the entertainment industry, as well as a generator of character driven covers and promotional illustrations, Dei has won numerous awards and has produced work for Paramount Pictures, Stone Circles Pictures and ToonBox Entertainment, to name a few.

His work is captivating, his characters jumping off the page with a refreshing sense of life, movement and vitality.

Just how does Dei animate his illustrations so exceptionally? Here are some of his pro tips for comic book style graphic design:

Designing Creatures & Characters

Move beyond emotion.

It is not so much about “the best way to depict emotion” but about the best way to emote. What I mean is that the goal shouldn’t be to draw great facial expressions that are identifiable, but believable and relatable ones. To achieve this, I try to abstract myself from the fact that I’m just drawing lines on a piece of paper, and believe that I am in fact revealing a character that was already there, who is genuinely alive in its own little universe and therefore, has got real emotions that I need to stay true to. Ideally, when looking back at the character, you wouldn’t go “boy, that’s a good sadness expression!”; you should say “boy, this character is heartbroken”. In fact, another thing that helps is to be precise with the vocabulary of emotions you are looking to express. Never go for generic emotions like sadness, happiness or fear. Instead, think in terms of specific shades of emotion, like feeling melancholic, bitter, defeated, thrilled, glad, anxious, terrified, etc. When you do all of the above, it becomes a matter of drawing with emotion (I frown, grunt and smile at my drawing table all the time) and asking yourself if you can truly empathize with the character’s expression you just drew. Drawing great expressions is not so much an exercise of draftsmanship, but an exercise of emotional honesty.


Evoke a sense of movement and life.

My background in Animation taught me that every pose and every drawing is not an isolated instance in time. Every drawing is coming from somewhere and going somewhere too, like a single frame from a film sequence. To evoke that sense of life, motion and emotion in drawing, one should be mindful of what precedes and follows the instance that is being depicted, both physically and emotionally. Additionally, a good base of anatomy and life drawing can’t hurt. Being aware of these things helps inform the drawing choices and ultimately increases that sense of dynamism and life in the illustrations.

Mind your composition.

I don’t use any actual grid systems when creating cover illustrations or character designs, but I am very mindful about composition, which does have some inherent guidelines. One example could be the famous rule of thirds: This particular rule states that when the canvas is divided in three equal vertical and horizontal segments, the top left and bottom right line intersections (and vice versa) are thought to be the most restful and comfortable for the human eye to settle on. However, one may also choose to set the focus at the very center of the page for a striking effect, etc. Composition is a very powerful tool that’s worth learning about and the possibilities it offers are endless. The only general recommendation I could give when it comes to planning the composition of a drawing, is to strive for clarity and to know beforehand which is going to be the focal point of the image.


Know your Focal Point.

As a character oriented illustrator and character designer, the focus in my illustrations is usually on the character, but it could be any element in a composition. What’s important is to know what that focal point is (could be one or multiple) and to use the background and other compositional elements to direct the viewers attention to it. This doesn’t necessarily mean keeping the background plain, but using it to compliment the main element of the composition. This can be achieved through subtle directional lines/elements, but also through contrast in tone, color and detail.

Lastly, Dei reminds, always be prepared when inspiration strikes.

“For my professional work, for efficiency’s sake I usually use Photoshop all the way from initial sketch to final color. However, I always bring a sketchbook with me to doodle and sketch out ideas. Nothing beats the feeling of pencil on paper.”

For more Dei:  www.DEISIGN.com | Facebook | Twitter

Become a Master Typographer: How to Choose the Perfect Typeface

Choosing the Right Type: 10 Considerations

A critical question we often ask ourselves and know other designers contemplate when working on any given design is, “How do I choose the right font?”

So many factors go into this decision, however thanks to the help of some friends, including Creative Director Michael Prewitt as well as Art Directors Craig Weiland and Harley Peddie, we’re here to share with you ways you can choose the perfect typeface for every project.

Use this tool from inspirationlab.wordpress.com, Pinned on Go Media's Pinterest
Use this tool from inspirationlab.wordpress.com, Pinned on Go Media’s Pinterest

How to Choose a Font

1. Ask yourself:Is the typeface appropriate for the subject?”

Before venturing into your design, investigate the mood, personality, and attitude of the project.

Then, as Michael Prewitt notes, ask yourself, ‘Is the typeface appropriate for the subject?’

“This question,” he finds, “is the king. Every typeface conveys certain ideas, emotions, and associations — even fonts that are not display faces, designed for body copy. Typefaces may be strong, graceful, elegant, brash, businesslike, quirky, playful, traditional, understated, fierce, etc. They may convey a certain period or historical/geographic context, such as Old West, Roman era, Victorian, Art Deco, 1950s, Art Nouveau, High-Tech/Sci-fi, etc. They may be designed to look very geometric/precise, flowing and curvy, hand-written or calligraphic, distressed or grungy, or traditional serif or sans serif type for copy. So it’s important to ask what you want the font to say, and what do you not want it to say. Think clearly and fully about this point, because you don’t want to be one of those designers who picks a font because it’s informal, but fails to consider that the job calls for ‘elegant and informal,’ not ‘drawn while smoking weed informal’ — or maybe the other way around.”

Adds Craig Weiland, “A designer has to be aware of the basics of type usage. Serifed type is often used for long copy, like books and magazines. This is because the serifs make the characters more recognizable, and the text easy to read in bulk at small sizes. Serif body copy usually pairs well with sans-serif display type. There are mountains of exceptions, but you have to understand the rules before you can effectively break them.”

Does this logo's typeface communicate the kind of things you'd go to a massage parlor for? I'd expect to walk out of there bruised and bloody. Is Agatha even a woman? - Craig Weiland
Does this logo’s typeface communicate the kind of things you’d go to a massage parlor for? I’d expect to walk out of there bruised and bloody. Is Agatha even a woman? – Craig Weiland

The process of choosing the perfect typeface not only comes from experience and education, but also through trial and error.

Weiland continues, “I test a lot of fonts when I design a logo. I’ll sometimes go through 20-30 different faces looking at how the characters relate to each other, the overall mood presented by the forms, readability at large and small sizes, how I might use color, how the letterforms create negative spaces and how I might use them, and so forth. I have to have a solid understanding of the attitude I want to project. For instance in the massage logo example above, the attitude communicated is strength, confidence, power, pride. A massage parlor should be welcoming, warm, relaxing and soothing. The typeface chosen must broadcast these attributes, or at least not be in conflict with them.”

2. And…Is the typeface technically appropriate?

Another aspect of being appropriate is technical, Prewitt points out.

“Some typefaces are too thin for the size at which they will be used, or maybe too heavy for the ink level on a medium that could allow bleed-through. Thin fonts will tend to choke (plug up) when printed reversed out of a dark background. For web fonts, readability on screens and devices is important. A font that will be screened onto a small object like a pen needs to have enough thickness that it won’t quickly deteriorate when the item is used.”

3.  Be aware of trends and clichés in type.

As with any other design, trends and clichés should factor into the design decision making process. Great designers can stay up to date by hungrily consuming the world of type around them, following fellow artists, social media sources, inspirational blogs, etc.

Prewitt notes, “Every decade, there are fonts and type styles that become popular and that become passé. There are trends in type that are affected by many things, including styles of clothing, popular movies, cultural movements, and more. The more you are in touch with trends in society, the better you will be at choosing typefaces that will resonate with current thoughts and feelings. This does not mean you should focus only on the fonts everyone else is using; but if you understand why those fonts are popular, it can help you find new typefaces that will stand out and still look contemporary. In the same way, you can avoid typefaces that have become synonymous with past fads.”

“In the 1990s, a font called Officina Sans was quite popular,” Craig Weiland recalls. “It was used everywhere someone wanted to project ‘contemporary office chic’. Today, I can’t use it at all. It’s worn out… it only projects ‘we think it’s still the 90s.’ You can’t pick up things like that if you aren’t paying attention to the design world around you. As a designer, you are (or should be) always paying attention to design in your environment and media. If you notice a cool typeface in something, like a movie poster or a billboard, see if you can track it down later using Google searches or WhatTheFont, so you can add it to your arsenal for future use.”

4. Look for a typeface that excels in the small details.

Prewitt begs designers to ask themselves, “How well do the letters flow together? Is there some little flourish, or ligature, or other detail that would give this typeface some extra class, without going too far? If you are designing something like a company logo where you are using just a few letters, a font that has a really nice letterform for one or more of the letters you are using could really make the design. Look at the punctuation and non-Latin characters. A well-designed font will include many glyphs besides the Latin alphabet, and they will be well-designed and not generic-looking (the punctuation will be in the same style as the letters, etc.).”

He notes, “People without a background in design will sometimes say that every roman typeface ‘looks like Times New Roman,’ or every sans serif font ‘looks like Arial.’ But the more you study typefaces and become familiar with them, the more you will see that even the most basic typefaces can be great designs or poor designs. The details make all the difference.”

5. Think about how different typefaces will work together.

When marrying typefaces, designers should tread carefully. Like coupling two people (or more) together, typefaces have personalities, and these must mesh well together in order to live in perfect harmony.

Prewitt agress. “Most designs involve two or more different typefaces. Some fonts work really well together, others are too similar and clash, or too wildly different. The fonts should complement each other, and they should all support the message of the piece.”

Found on Quora, Pinned on Go Media's Pinterest
Found on Quora, Pinned on Go Media’s Pinterest

6. Make use of your options.

“On my work computer I have over 3,500 fonts,” reports Prewitt. “I have my favorites, and there are some I have never used and probably never will use. But it’s great to have a diversity. Many designers, especially beginners, tend to use a lot of the fonts that came with their system — such as the fonts that come with Adobe products. There is nothing wrong with many of those fonts, except that they are sometimes overused. When a font is overused, people may connect your design with other designs that are completely unrelated, or they may see your design as clichéd. Besides that, when you use default fonts, you have to realize that lots of amateurs are also using the same fonts, and that can give an amateur feel to your work.

Even though I have lots of fonts, they are all sorted into groups and styles, so it is fairly easy for me to find just the font I want, without perusing the whole collection.

It is also helpful to collect pictures of good fonts for future reference. Probably you don’t have the budget to purchase every font that catches your eye. But if you save it to Evernote, or Pinterest, or some other place, you can refer back to it later when you have a hot project that needs a great typeface.”

7.  Consider the cost

Designers should considers clients pocketbooks when choosing an appropriate font, as Harley Peddie reminds. “Unfortunately, clients still squirm paying $100 to license a typeface when they’re so used to getting this stuff for free, especially with webfonts from our good friends at Google.”

8. But…avoid freeware fonts.

Per Prewitt, “Although professionally designed fonts can be pricey, they can also be exceptionally well designed. With commercial fonts, you usually get better kerning pairs (very important), more alternates, more ligatures, and more styles/weights that pair well together. With freeware fonts, you often get very bad kerning and sometimes even font errors such as overlapping paths that can cause problems in production. Also, many freeware fonts come with usage restrictions that will prevent you from legally using them in some projects. This is not to say that all free fonts are bad. But you have to be careful about which ones you use. Also be aware that there are often deals where you can get pro fonts for cheap or even free. Some free fonts are designed by professional designers or foundries, and so you could expect them to be high quality.”

9. Time
Time, too, can be an issue in choosing the perfect typeface. Peddie adds, “Sometimes you just gotta get it out the door, so instead of spending hours lost in the wonders of independent foundry sites, you dust off Univers one last time.”

10. Pick something (appropriate) from your arsenal.

What exactly to start with?

Prewitt comments, “The ‘starter fonts’ question is difficult, because everyone has their own taste in fonts, and different styles of projects that they do. Personally, I like Minion and Myriad quite a lot, although these fall into the category of somewhat overused. They are neutral enough that I find they are good base fonts to start a new project with, and I might replace them with other typefaces later in the design process. Besides those, I would recommend any of the following: Adobe Garamond (or the Premier Pro version), Arno Pro, Chaparral Pro, Chronos Pro, Didot, Encore Sans Pro, FF Absara, FF Acanthus, FF Milo, Gloriola, Helvetica Neue, Rayuela, Ronnia, Vista Sans and Vista Slab, and Warnock Pro as good starting points. None of these are display fonts and are not particularly exciting; but they are good sturdy fonts with a wide range of supporting roles.”

He adds, “I would recommend against using any typefaces that have been heavily overused in desktop publishing: Algerian,  Avant Garde, Benguiat, Bank Gothic, Bradley Hand, Brush Script, Cooper,  Copperplate Gothic, Curlz, Impact, Kristen, Mistral, Souvenir, Times New  Roman, Papyrus, Vivaldi, Zapf Chancery, Zapf Dingbats, etc. Always use Helvetica (or Helvetica Neue) instead of Arial.”

And last but not least:

“Don’t ever use Comic Sans.”

Cover Photo credit: Brenda Gottsabend | Flickr

How do you find the perfect typeface? Add your thoughts in the comments below!

For further reading:
100 Top Resources for Typography and Hand-Lettering

How to Make (and Save) Money as a Graphic Designer

One question we get asked with great frequency is simple, yet profound: “How do I make money as a graphic designer?”

Jeff did a fantastic post about this very topic in September of 2012 called, “Side Income Strategies for Designers.” Check it out. Awesome, creative tips there.

We thought we’d take a different slant on the post this time, with wisdom coming from Go Media President William Beachy’s book, Drawn to Business. While Jeff went into side strategies, we’ll discuss strategies directly related to your growing business.

If you haven’t been introduced yet to the greatness that is Drawn to Business, it’s a nuts and bolts guide to how Bill built Cleveland Graphic Design Firm Go Media from the ground up. In it Bill outlines a 15 year journey, including years of struggle and growing pains, all bringing him to create the best agency in Cleveland web design, custom branding and print.

If you haven’t picked it up yet, what are you waiting for? It unlocks all the mysteries of our success.

I want it now – $37

The Profitability Equation.

First, let’s agree to this. You’re agreeing you actually want to be profitable, right?

As Bill notes,  “If you don’t accept the perspective of “YOU DESERVE TO BE PROFITABLE,” then you’ll probably give it away. Now that we’ve gotten that straightened out, let’s go.

1. Figure out how to be profitable.


First, you have to do a budget.

What does it cost you to be in business? For this equation, let’s assume we’re dealing with a one-month time-frame. Most of your expenses are billed monthly, so this should cover most things. Your budget will include things like electricity, internet service, phone line, advertising, your salary (yes, you get to decide what to pay yourself), heat, and office supplies. That’s your monthly operating expense. That’s what you have to earn to break even.

Next we get to decide on the profit you want to make. You simply add how much you want the company to profit to the operating expenses. This is the total that you need to bring in each month.

Now, how do you figure out how much to charge to accomplish that goal? Simple, you need to figure out how many hours you can bill your clients each month. A safe bet is about four hours a day per employee. This may not seem like much, but remember all the things you have to do each day—answer phone calls, write estimates/proposals, design advertising, deal with freelancers, invoice customers, email files to the printer, etc. At the end of the day, you’ll see that four hours a day of billable time is a reasonable goal. Now we multiply that times five to get 20 hours a week times 4.3 (average weeks in a month) to get 86 billable hours per month.

The last step is to divide the total you need to earn by the billable hours you can work.

Simply writing out a math equation on a piece of paper won’t make you profitable. Writing down a salary of $90K in this equation will not make it come true. But this is a handy little way to think through what you’re charging, how many hours you’re working, and if you’re not profitable— why.


2. Write up your business plan.

Writing a plan is a great way to get your brain to start thinking about all aspects of your business. If you don’t write a business plan, it might not occur to you to consider how much money you have to pay to Social Security as part of your payroll and you might not consider what will happen if your company scales up quickly. Maybe your office is only big enough for two employees. What happens if you suddenly need to grow in year two? You should be thinking about where you expect your business to go, and develop plans for that.

BUT—and here’s the important part, a business will rarely go as planned, so it’s important to not get tunnel vision. When things start to go in directions you weren’t expecting, you need to be agile and flexible. You need to be able to identify opportunities and run with them. Also, you need to recognize quickly when something isn’t working and make a dramatic change if necessary, and quickly. I suggest writing the plan because it’s an important learning tool. By mapping it out, you’re setting goals and expectations. These are benchmarks that will allow you to make comparisons. You should invest real energy on it.

Our Business Plan Workbook

3. Pay yourself as little as possible.

Obviously, your payroll as owner is an expense to the company. It must be budgeted just like anything else. If you pay yourself too much, you’ll soon find yourself broke. So, for the benefit of the business, it’s important that you pay yourself as little as possible. At Go Media there have been many years where the partners paid their employees more than we paid ourselves. Occasionally when we’ve fallen on extremely hard times, the partners have skipped payroll.


4. Do not quit your day job.

If you have a day job and are considering starting a design firm —DON’T QUIT YOUR DAY JOB. Hold onto that day job as long as possible. That’s income. That’s your first client! They might be a bad low-paying client, but they’re still your only source of income. Go to your day job, then work on your business at night. Spend as much income from your day job as possible on your business. When you start landing clients, do that work at night and on the weekends. You should only quit your day job when you’re so slammed with work from your business that it justifies quitting.

Oh, and if you feel like you don’t have the energy to work on your own business after you’ve worked a full day at your regular job, you might seriously consider how committed you are to building your own company. Starting a new business requires well more than eight hours a day.

5. Stay in business.

It doesn’t have to be pretty or comfortable. You don’t need a fancy office or a catering service to bring you lunch. Staying in business means you have electric for your computer and a working phone line. If your idea of being in business means that you have fancy desks, embroidered shirts and a big neon sign, you need to adjust your expectations because things may get tough— very tough. And when they take away your neon sign, If you think you need it to be in business, then you’ll probably quit.

6. Avoid borrowing at all costs.

As outlined, frugality is key to survival in the early years of your business. You want to make it as difficult as possible to spend.

Borrowing does three things. First, it takes pressure off you to sell! If your rent payment is coming up and you have no money in the bank, guess what—you are going to feel a ton of pressure to go sell something. That’s a very good thing! Second, borrowing money makes it easier to spend. As mentioned previously, frugality is key to survival in the early years of your business. You want to make it as difficult as possible to spend. Third, borrowing money puts you in a worse financial position and saddles you with interest payments as well as possible emotional debts. Owing money to your family can be a terrible burden to carry.

“But Bill!” You say. “It does take some money to start a business. If I don’t already have it, how do I get it?”


7. Buy only on need, not want.

It’s simple. Only buy equipment based on need, not excitement. If possible, hold off on buying equipment until you can justify its purchase in the cost of the project.

One word on technology,  I’ve always been quick to make investments in technology and equipment. If some technology or equipment can make your company run more efficiently, I recommend making the investment. If you’re uncertain about the ROI of some new technology or equipment, you can easily do a quick cost vs. benefit analysis. Generally, a design firm’s wages are by far the largest expense. Anything you can do to maximize the efficiency of your staff is typically going to be a winner. I do like to hold off on buying equipment until I’ve landed a project that justifies the purchase.

8. Get slammed. Then raise your rates.

Work hard until you’re slammed, raise your rates, repeat. This is what I did over the first few years of my business. My logo design pricing for instance, went from $300 to $500 to $900. But I was holding steadfastly to my flat rate, upfront pricing system. Admittedly it was becoming more difficult. A customer would ask for a logo design, I would quote $900 and they would say: “$900?!? But I already did a sketch. I just need you to refine this letter ‘C’ I made. It should be very simple. Really? $900? That doesn’t seem fair.” In this scenario it would have only taken me a couple of hours to do what the client was asking for; that wasn’t fair. A flat rate system just didn’t seem to account for the variables in design projects. One price didn’t fit all cases.

For more on our pricing systems, see:
A Designer’s Guide to Pricing
How to Charge For Your Graphic Design Work (&  Get What You Deserve)


More than anything, remember to keep the faith. Go Media was not an overnight success. Money was terribly tight for at least the first five years. Remember that as long as you are in business, you’re being successful. And so long as you’re learning, given enough time, you’ll eventually figure it out.

Good luck.

For more on how to make (and save money) as a graphic designer, pick up Drawn to Business!

And check out our Graphic Designer’s Pricing Guide Tool Kit, which contains a bevy of resources to show you what we’ve learned about pricing and billing since opening our now million dollar company over a decade ago.

graphic designer's pricing guide

How Go Media makes their amazing mockup templates, Hamster Style!

Go Media Approved

Here at Go Media, we’re custom template creating machines.

Between our mockup sites Shirt Mockup and Mockup Everything, the mockup packs on our Arsenal and custom templates for clients, we’ve got our system down to a science.

Disclaimer: Creating these nicely organized and layered files is far from easy for that matter, even for us after all these years. So sit with us and stay awhile. We want to make sure we do this the Go Media way.


Follow along with me as I create this custom hamster jumpsuit template, from high resolution photograph, to clean and crisp PSD file.

What you're making. Yep!
What you’re making. Yep!

Ideal Conditions

A white/neutral background: This will make tracing the garment much easier.

Red Garments: Red is a great middle value color, which means it shows relatively equal amounts of shadows and highlights. * If you’re not shooting a red garment make sure there is enough contrast between shadows and highlights. In the end, we’ll want to be able to change the garment’s color while keeping it’s natural look.

Sharpness of Image: Sharper images will contain more pixel information. This is crucial editing shadows and highlights.

Duplicate your background.

This is the layer that you’ll be working on. Right click on your background layer to duplicate it then double click to rename that new layer. Once you’ve done this, hide your original background layer.


Photo Cleanup

This will save you time later. Clone tool out any unwanted fuzz, spots, creases, or tags.

Tracing Garment/Subject

Using the pen tool “Paths”, trace just inside the edge of the garment to ensure that you’re not including part of the background. Tracing every detail/fold in fabric will keep it from looking stiff. This is one of the most important steps, and it can take some time. Be patient.


Once you have traced a garment, it will automatically be saved in your “Paths” palette as a “Work Path” – double click to rename it to something more specific. this will allow you to add more paths to the garment later.


Right click on your path and “Make Selection” (click OK on the dialog box that opens). I’m a firm believer in keeping as much of the original photo in tact as possible. To do this I use “Layer Masks”. Ultimately it will make your file size larger, but will save headaches if you need to change something later.


Layer Masking

Now that you have your garment selected, go back to your layers palette and click the layer mask button at the bottom of your layers palette to isolate it. If you ever need to show or hide parts of this garment you can do so in the mask layer without actually deleting any pixels. Add a solid color background to be sure you didn’t miss anything. I usually stick with a middle value gray.



Shadows & Highlights Setup

Duplicate the garment layer twice. These will act as your shadows and highlights. Rename the layers accordingly “GarmentName – Shadows” and “GarmentName – Highlights”  It’s good to get in the habit of organizing your layers. At this point I’ll create a main Garment folder, in this case “Jacket” as well as “Shadow” and “Highlights” folders.


After that, move the layers into their respective folders. Select the Shadows layer and change its blending mode to Linear Burn. This will set your shadows to show a good amount of contrast and vibrancy.


Adding Hue & Curves Adjustment Layers

At the bottom of your layers palette, click on the black and white circle  to add a Hue & Saturation adjustment layer. Change the Saturation to “-100”.


Add a Curves adjustment layer above that.

Currently these adjustment layers affect the entire document. We will need to make them only affect the shadow/highlight layer they’re above by creating a clipping mask. Hold shift to select both the Curves and Hue adjustment layers then right click and “Create Clipping Mask”. You’ll see two arrows appear next to the adjustment layers to indicate that they’ve been clipped into the layer below.



Next, move onto your Highlights Layer and change its blending mode to “Screen”. This will knockout the shadows of the garment and allow you to focus on the amount of highlights that are visible

Repeat steps 4-6 to create the Hue and Curves adjustments for your Highlights Layer.

Optimizing Shadows/Highlights

One of great uses a mockup template is the ability to change the color of the garment. These next steps will ensure that shadows and highlights are consistent no matter what color you apply.

Our next step is to add a White color adjustment layer and clip it into the original garment layer. (you can also apply a color overlay blending mode to get the same result)

*Photoshop automatically adds a mask to that layer – this will come in handy should you need multi-colored sections.

Make sure your Highlights folder is hidden then move onto the Curves adjustment layer that is clipped into the Garment-Shadows layer.

On the left side of the Curves palette, click the button with the exclamation point to get a more accurate view of the histogram. This will show you the brightness values of the image.


Plot points around the three highest values in an arch as shown. From there you can adjust each point to optimize the amount of shadows will appear. Shadows will become lighter the further away from the brightness values you are. If the points are plotted too far away, you run the risk of the shadows looking pixelated and blown out.


 *Every garment’s brightness values will be different, but this arch will serve as a general guide to plotting points.

Once you have the shadows to a place that looks natural, hide your Shadows folder and add a Black color adjustment above the White layer. The same rules apply to editing the curves of the highlights only they’re opposite of the shadows.


Once your shadows and highlights are set up correctly, any color you apply to your base garment layer will look natural.


*If the amount of layers you have is overwhelming and you’re confident with the shadows/highlights you have set – you can always select the Curves, Hue, and Garment layer – right click and merge those layers.


If you’re looking to customize a whole outfit just repeat all these steps for each garment and you could create your very own hamster jumpsuit.


-or clip your artwork into the base garment layer to make some wicked snowboard gear!


Great job!

Hard work, huh?

Pick your pleasure

Check out the hundreds of templates we’ve created on our sites Shirt Mockup, Mockup Everything and the Arsenal.


Shirt Mockup is a free tool used to realistically mockup your designs on tees. The Pro Version is available, offering you a larger variety of t-shirt templates. It’s super easy. Upload your art, receive a jpeg snapshot of your design. Try it free for 7 days!


Mockup Everything, similar to Shirt Mockup, provides designers with an easy-to-use platform for applying graphic designs to a growing variety of print products in multiple categories including technology, apparel, print, outdoor and food & beverage. Also like Shirt Mockup, both free and Pro versions are available. Mockup Everything is similarly super easy to use and designers receive jpeg snapshots of their designs. Try the Pro version free for 7 days!


Want the very best in Mockup Templates, wrapped up in neat and clean Photoshop files just like you saw Aaron create above? Look no further than the Arsenal. Our Mockup Template packs come in all varieties, from tees to hoodies, posters to tanks and more.

How to Create Your Own Vector Pack – and sell it!

So you’ve seen all the crazy vector packs we sell over at the Arsenal. Today I’m going to teach you how to create your own stock vector pack and show you how you can sell it online with Gumroad!

Come up with a theme

Before you start coming up with a stock vector pack, you have to think about what would be useful for other designers. What can you make that will save them time? What are you skilled at making? A selection of cool textures you made or a set of birds? What about a set of skulls, heraldry, or ornaments? Vector patterns even zombies? Whatever you fancy, there are two or three primary ways of creating it. I will walk you through each of them.

Option 1: Live Tracing Photos

Note: You shouldn’t work with photos you do not have permission to use. You should either buy the photo with the proper rights off a stock photo website, shoot the photo yourself, or ask the photographer for permission.

The first option is the easiest. It can be as simple as taking a photo and using the live trace command in Illustrator. But often it requires some tweaking and masking in Photoshop before you run the ole vectorizer on it. This option works best for textures, abstract images, or a raw “photocopied” look. The idea is to create a usable element someone else can use in their design. In my experience, converting the photo down to just black and white is best, but of course you can do whatever you think would be most useful.

For example, take this texture for instance. We shot this photo for one of our texture packs.


Open up your texture photo in Photoshop and desaturate it by pressing Ctrl+Shift+U. Then invert it by pressing Ctrl+I. Then you end up with this:


This is getting close to be able to vectorize. But we want to boost the contrast a bit. So press Ctrl+L to bring up the levels and adjust them accordingly:


Then copy/paste or place the image into Adobe Illustrator and click the “Live Trace” button in the upper toolbar.


Then click the “Expand” button. You’ll also want to use the Magic Wand tool and select the “white” background that Adobe Illustrator had converted to vector as well. You don’t need the white part, just the black shapes.


This is the final texture:

Here is an example of how the vectorized texture will look once applied to background:


Here’s another example of placing the photo directly into Illustrator and running the live trace filter.


The final texture is below. Pretty useful for backgrounds!


Option 2: Drawing off Reference Photos

I would highly recommend reading this tutorial by William Beachy on Frankensteining several photos together. To save you some time though, I will share the most important bits relevant to creating your own vector pack. Essentially you want to find good source photos (take them yourself or get permission to use someone else’s) and then draw/trace on top. The idea is to get a simplified vector version of the photo.

Go Media New Document

In the example above, Bill uses the pen tool to illustrate directly on top of the photo. It gives it sort of a highly polished look with just a few colors. The skull below is an example of illustrating directly on top of a photo.


If you want to go for a more grungy look, then take a look at the images from the popular Gigposter Tutorial from 2007.  This photo below  is just an example to show you the process:


Cut out the subject from the background using the Pen Tool or your favorite masking procedure. I have seen ClippingMagic.com but haven’t tried it yet.


Here are two different settings for contrast. In this case, it was done to give you two different levels of color. One will be used for the lightest shade, a medium shade, and the full silhouette will be used as the darkest shade.


See below how each version was live traced:


Now look how each one was given a different color:


And then they are finally arranged on top of each other to complete the three color look. If you’re interested, I made a free Photoshop action quite some time ago to instantly give you a three color effect in Photoshop.


Option 3: Drawing from Scratch

Finally, if you’ve got some drawing skills, you can always draw your vector shapes by hand on paper like below:


And you can see those drawings by Dave Tevenal for our Ornate Vector Pack were Live Traced directly in Illustrator without much editing.


It’s really important to make sure your drawings have a clear distinction between black and white. Pencil drawings do not live trace well. Neither does ball point pen. We recommend using Micron pens or something similar.

Keep in mind when you scan your drawings, they should be fairly high resolution so the Live Trace works well. You might need to clean up any stray dots or mess around your image.

Here are other examples of drawing from scratch:


And the final vector version you can find in our Ornate Patterns vector pack:


Selling Your Vector Pack

Once you have a finished vector pack, you can sell it on your own website or blog using Gumroad. We are huge fans of Gumroad and they make the process extremely easy. You just upload your product and preview image, set a price and you’re done. They give you easy embed codes to copy and paste the button right onto your website.

Gumroad will handle all the credit card payments. The downside is they don’t take Paypal, but that’s ok.


I don’t really need to tell you step by step how to use Gumroad, they already do it quite well. But I’ll give you some tips – the preview image you use goes a long way in showing off your product. You only get one big image, make sure it shows off the benefits of your vector pack!  Another tip is trying out the “Pay What You Want” feature for freebies!

In fact, you can see how Go Media uses Gumroad by checking out our profile page.

Another place you can sell it is on a marketplace. We are close to launching the Arsenal Marketplace which will become a curated collection of some of our favorite resources designed by us and fellow artists. Another great option is Creative Market.

Examples of Finished Vector Packsgma_vector_set05_flames_prv_all gma_vector_set09_abstracthalftones_prv_all gma-set-11-all-prv-birds gma_vector_set08_arrows_prv_all

If you make your own vector pack, post a link in the comments to where people can buy or download it!

Go Media’s 100+ Must Have Design Resources

One of the top questions we’ve been asked recently is: “What tools, resources and programs do you use in your everyday lives over there at Go Media?”

Our creative studio here in Ohio City is filled with awesome, handy tools that keep us cranking out creativity, programs that keep us organized, and treats that keep our energy pumpin.’

Here’s a list of our favs.


Physical Tools

Windsor and Newton #2 Paintbrushes and Higgins Fountain Pen India Ink: Bill’s go-to tools for work like this.
Wacom Intuos 3 Tablet: Gotta have it.
Microns: Awesome for detailed work
Strathmore Bristol Vellum paper and
Staedtler Mars technico mechanical pencil with HB leads: paper and penning
Canon Rebel T3i: Photo and video of the days of our lives
Dell Optiplex 9010 and Dell Optiplex 980: our PCs
Dual Dell Ultrasharp 24″ Monitors
Dell mice and keyboards
Targus Lap Chill Mat: Laptops stay cool with the help of this and two USB powered fans and elevated air circulation
Cisco phones: chatting with clients
Murphy Chair Co. Swivel Office Chair: vintage sweetness
Urbanears Forest Green headphones: Chris‘s favorites
Logitech h800 with customized vinyl ear pads: All of Wilson’s tunes and calls are delivered via Bluetooth or Wireless USB via these headphones
Sony MDR NC7 Noise Cancelling Headphones: When the office gets out of hand…
Field notes: Filled with brilliant ideas…
Post-it notes

We <3 WordPress.

Gettin’ Shit Done

WordPress: For every site we produce that will be updated on a semi-regular basis
Zurb Foundation: Greatest HTML/CSS/SASS/JS Framework ever
Notepad++ with various plugins: for all coding and writing needs
Netbeans: Preferred IDE of our VP Wilson Revehl
TortoiseSVN: Super easy to use
XAMPP: Free, super popular PHP dev package
FileZilla: A free FTP solution
MySQL GUI Tools: Integrated tools environment
Google + WP Codex + Stack Overflow: Used at least 50x per day. Takes up majority of our browsing history.
Chrome and Chrome Developer Tools: See bugs, fix bugs, in browser
Rackspace Cloud: For hosting applications and websites
Beanstalk: Code hosting
Amazon Web Services: Durable, reliable
Adobe Master Collection CS5: We get asked this a lot and yes, Adobe is our go-to
Final Cut Pro 7: For making nonsense like this: Make It Bigger

Audacity is to thank for the smooth sounds of the Go Media Podcast. (Bryan, too)

Audacity: for all audio editing and recording of our Go Media Podcast
Pipedrive: our #1 sales tool!
Smartsheet: For anything and everything: general project planning and organizing our lives in general.
Outlook: Our email solution
Google Calendar: Super helpful for scheduling client reviews, keeping track of deadlines
Google Hangouts:  For inter-office communication
Trillian: Inter-office communication choice 2
Google Drive: This is where we hub all of my client meeting notes, proposals and more. And, it allows for easy collaboration with team members.
Google Keep: For organizing lists, notes and photos

Hello Wilson!
Hello Wilson!

Skype: For chatting with our Arsenal guest artists and other friends
Dropbox: Sharing is caring.
Proof Lab: For assigning projects, sharing designs with clients, & logging time (Exclusive to Go Media)
Open Office: the rival to Microsoft Office. It’s free folks!
Hightail: For file-sharing goods like Drawn to Business and Thread’s Not Dead
TeuxDeux: a great to do list app!
Quickbooks Pro: The best in bookkeeping
Basecamp: Project Management, great to-do lists
Stamps.com: Super easy postage printing
Primo PDF: PDF converter
Mailchimp: Huge fans of these guys. All of our emails are created here.

Gumroad is super easy, super awesome.

Gumroad: Super easy way to sell our products
PayPal: Easy exchange of money

Daily Vices

Flickr  The Go Media User Showcase Pool

Flickr: Where we go to check on our Go Media User Showcase (so much inspiration!)
Design Cuts: Amazing dudes. Awesome deals.
Feedly: All the feeds we need
Sidebar: The 5 Best Design Links of the Day
Blog.Spoon.Graphics: Check in daily to this one just because we love Chris Spooner.
IFTTT: Have a recipe that any post I save to Feedly is emailed to, so I’m reminded to go back and read it.
Tweetdeck for Chrome: Allows for the seperation of @mentions, lists and important search queries
Google Now: For quick access to set reminders, check the weather and see traffic

Learn Web Design  Web Development  and More   Treehouse

Team Treehouse: For those of us in the office learning code
Hootsuite: The dashboard of a social media manager’s dreams
Buffer: For scheduling posts. As easy as 1 – 2.
Shirt Mockup: A Go Media resource we love
Mockup Everything: Avoid design disaster. Mockup your designs and send them over to clients in seconds.
Go Media’s Arsenal: We’re working on the Arsenal V3 daily. Making it better, smoother, sleeker. What do you think?
Behance: We not only update our page, but check out all the talent and often grab some to showcase on our social media channels and the GoMediaZine
Social Media: We love talking to the community, so we have to mention: Go Media’s Facebook | Arsenal Facebook | Twitter | LinkedIn | Instagram | Google+ | Pinterest, all of which are monitored by Google Analytics


Favorite People and Places

Jakprints: Our go-to printing company
Kelley Green Web: Sales and marketing gurus
Muse Content Group: Brand positioning and content strategy
Sharon Toerek: A reliable lawyer is an absolute must.
Straight Shooter Photography: Dan Morgan is our favorite photographer. #highlyrecommend


How to Draw the Marvel Way by Stan Lee
Logo Lounge by Catherine Fishel and Bill Gardner
Drawn to Business by William Beachy
Thread’s Not Dead by Jeff Finley
Making and Breaking the Grid: A Graphic Design Layout Workshop by Timothy Samara
Logotypes and Letterforms: Handlettered Logotypes and Typographic Considerations by Doyald Young
(for more of our favorite references, purchase Drawn to Business)
Lean Startup
Book Yourself Solid by Michael Port
Authority Ebook by Nathan Barry
Trust Agents by Chris Brogan
Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel Pink
How Pleasure Works by Paul Bloom
The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz

Design Currency by Jenn and Ken Visocky O'Grady
Design Currency by Jenn and Ken Visocky O’Grady

Design Currency by Jenn and Ken Visocky O’Grady
The Voice of Knowledge by Don Miguel Ruiz
Getting Things Done by David Allen
The Art of Non Conformity by Chris Guillibeau
Mindfulness in Plain English by Gunaratana Bhante Henepola
Rework by Jason Fried
Brains on Fire by Robin Phillips, Greg Cordell, Geno Church and Spike Jones
The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle
A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle
Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon
The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg
How to be a Graphic Designer Without Losing Your Soul by Adrian Shaughnessy
Good to Great by Jim Collins
Built to Sell by John Warrillow
Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey
Hiring the Best by Martin Yate
96 Great Interview Questions to Ask Before You Hire by Paul Falcone
The Talent of Edge by David S. Cohen
Accounting Made Simple by Mike Piper
How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

To Get Us Through:

A wonderful problem to have.
A Go Media addiction.

LastFM: Jams
Spotify: Bryan‘s daily routine: every day, I grab new albums from Pitchfork’s Review app and add them to a “Listen Today” playlist. Slowly building a “Garvin in your ear” playlist.
And Kim has been working on an electronica playlist.
Rhapsody: Heather and Bill’s chosen music player
Numi Savory Teas: For keeping warm during these freezing afternoons
Campbell’s popcorn: We did the logo for this delicious Cleveland sweets factory and now we’re addicted.
Keurig: Keeps us trucking!
Nutella: Breakfast, lunch and dinner
Thermos Vacuum Insulated 18-Ounce Hydration Bottle: Gotta keep hydrated!

We love eachother.
We love eachother.

What tools are in your everyday arsenal? Please share with us in the comments below!