Holiday Illustration Inspiration
We’re all about getting into the holiday spirit here at our Cleveland design studio. From stockings to Secret Santa, we’re surrounded by Christmas cheer. But our love of the holidays isn’t limited to the office. It, of course, spills over to design.
(You could have guessed.)
We’ve collected a host of designs on our Pinterest page that make us smile, inspire us, too. We hope you enjoy.
Make sure to Follow Us on Pinterest year-round to stay connected to all that we love.
Paper & ink are woven into the fabric of Go Media. Dreamers and doodlers, our Cleveland Graphic Design staff believe illustration is one of the quickest, deepest, most meaningful ways to convey your message to the world.
Until then, we thought we’d blow the dust off of our old portfolio and share some of our favorite early illustrations with you. We hope you’ll enjoy.
Vintage Go Media Illustration
Show off your own designs at our Flickr Pool Showcase. If you used a product from our Arsenal, you have a chance to win a monthly feature in our ‘Zine as well as a $50 Arsenal Credit. More details here.
For more information on Go Media and all of the services we offer, head to gomedia.us!
The Man Who Knew It All Illustration Tutorial
Today’s killer tutorial comes to us from Weapons of Mass Creation Fest 5 Designer Daniel Nyari. You’re sure to appreciate his thoughtful process. Enjoy! – Heather, Go Media’s Zine editor
Today I’m going to be sharing the process I usually go through in creating my illustrations. Not the conceptual process but mostly the technical process. For this tutorial I will be working on a recent illustration for a book on the subject of “The Man Who Knew It All”. I was given this brief and told I have carte blanche to do whatever I wanted. I thought this would be a neat chance to play around with the process itself and use that as the subject matter. In short, peeling back the creative process as the concept of knowledge.
Before I begin, I would briefly like to talk about my general design philosophy so you can get a sense of why I make the decisions I do in the creative process. Firstly it’s largely based on my neurosis-inspired appreciation for logo design and its systematization of form with an emphasis on equal importance on every element, big or small. Secondly, my continuing fascination with innovation in digital technology and rise of the web as a new visual language, and the idea of its amalgamation with traditional illustration.
I like to give myself limitations in which to create and this is more of a personal choice as I’ve always been more successful in generating ideas when I feel like I am up against the wall or in this case am limited graphically.
- Follow the rule of eighths and create everything from it. (more below)
- Reduce elements to their essence. Only show what you need to show.
- Only use flat shapes.
- Never use gradients.
- Create depth from contrast of hues and colors only.
Rule of Eights
This is the root of my approach. It holds everything in place. Without it everything else would crumble. It’s based on the idea that every general shape can be created from the circle. We can naturally split it into infinite angles but because I like to limit myself and reduce elements to their essence, I settled on a convenient enough number of eight and ended up calling this my Rule of Eights. It’s very straight-forward. I take a circle and first divide it into quarters, then simply rotate it 45 degrees so we have broken the circle up into eight parts of equal size. Its angles will determine the foundation for every shape created.
Sketch to Digital
I create almost everything in Adobe Illustrator so I begin by opening up a new document, choosing a tabloid size and making sure it’s set to CMYK color mode because it will be used for print. I create a basic circle with outline mode on from the toolbar and start dividing it in eights. Using the scissor tool I cut along the intersections so we get the three basic shape generators; the ⅛ circle, the ¼, and the ½ or half circle. I make sure to leave these next to my art board and have them handy as I digitize my sketch.
Next up, I import my sketch. For this project I created my composition based on Andrew Loomis’ informal subdivisions which allow you to break up the page in order to more creatively imagine an interesting composition that doesn’t feel repetitive. This is purely a conceptual endeavor and won’t automatically give you a great composition. You still have to envision the image and play around with it until you see a composition that works for you. I recommend trying multiple compositions and don’t be afraid to fail. I slightly tweaked this guideline in order to accommodate my rule of eights. In red, I laid out the structure of the informal subdivisions grid that will help me lay down the digital inks.
I begin digitizing by applying the aforementioned rule of eights shapes along the pencil lines using the red grid as a relative guide. This can look a bit cluttered and took me a while to get used to but it works for me. I lay down strokes instead of shapes to avoid any further visual clutter. In the image I highlighted the individual shapes in bold red to show how they will be placed. I repeat this process until I am done laying out the outlined part of the illustration using the pathfinder tool along the way to cut, trim, subtract, add, and merge various shapes to get as close as possible to the sketch.
Because this process can be very tedious and time consuming I try to be careful about how efficiently the strokes are laid down in how they will help serve when they are converted to shapes. There can’t be any major overlaps and since these are placed in layers, I try to make sure they are all relatively close to each other.
When I am finished the final “ink” or “stroke” stage looks like this.
Next stage is taking the strokes and converting them to shapes one by one using the stroke to fill option in the bottom left corner of your tool bar. I usually start converting everything to grayscale because I usually don’t have a set color scheme in mind but it also allows me to lay down values and determine what areas should be emphasized. Since this piece will feature fill and outline portions in the final image. I collected the area of lines that will be strokes in one group while I convert everything else.
After that I begin to think about a color scheme. In this case I wanted to go for something simple and create three areas of interest. The subject sitting in the chair, the background, and the “unfinished” area around the subject’s head. I wanted to make this piece feel colder as if it’s set at night even though it’s indoors and it’s dark. As usual I make my Mike Mignola influence too overt.
Sometimes when I am not satisfied with the final color scheme, I export the image into Photoshop and apply some adjustment layers. In this case I actually ended up going a bit too cold and wanted to warm the piece up a bit by warming up the darker areas playing around with the Color Balance Adjustment Layer. Similarly I brightened the piece up with the brightness/contrast and Selective Color Adjustment Layers. I know I mentioned no gradients earlier but a trick I like to use is subtly apply a gradient layer, usually on lighten to further brighten the piece or overlay, then later bring it back into Illustrator and select a flat color from the gradient patch to give the illusion of a gradient. You can see the subtle but noticeable difference before and after color adjustment.
Finally I always like to line up the image with its original subdivisions grid and outlines overlayed.
To learn more about Daniel and his process, head to http://iamdany.com/
Interview with Robert Carter of Cracked Hat Design
As you all well know, the Cleveland pride is bursting through the walls of Go Media, where we sit only 2 miles from Quicken Loans Arena, new (and old) home to LeBron James.
On July 11, we sat with bated breath, awaiting the news of his possible return to our great city.
Then there it was.
Sighs of relief filled the office. (Particularly mine). He was back.
Saturday came and we were in for a different treat, this a designer’s dream.
While folks say print has come and gone, this, the LeBron coverage in the Plain Dealer proves to us yet again otherwise. With something so moving and electric in your hands, it’s hard to say print will ever be irrelevant. Nothing like it.
Josh Crutchmer’s post on snd.org reveals the painstaking process the folks at the Plain Dealer went through crafting up these 20 pages I read, then reread with intensity last weekend.
The story starts with the mindset of any Clevelander: some hope filled with a lot of doubt.
As he notes in the snd post, “Even as buzz built and rumors swirled that James might be serious about a return, we kept it at arms’ length.”
With more information gained, including “open speculation that there was no backup plan for James,” Josh and the team realized that it was time to get serious. T-minus 60 hours.
At the 60-56 hour mark, the concern to Josh and team was The Plain Dealer cover. What would it be and how would it get there?
They immediately decided that the cover stray away from a simple remake of the iconic 2010 cover, “Gone.”
Enter Robert Carter:
Once the 2010 cover was out of the picture, Josh and the team decided that instead an illustration might suffice. They called upon Robert Carter of Cracked Hat design to see if he might be up for the task.
He reflects, “I like to think my style is why they hired me in the first place. I think really for any artist it’s their unique signature that a client or fan is drawn to and the reason they want to work with or purchase or be part of that person’s art. It always blows my mind when every once in a while I’m asked to paint or illustrate something and they’re like ‘We really love your work but can you do it in ‘this’ kinda style.’ Style didn’t come into discussion with Josh, he knows the kind of work I do, and expects to see that. Nobody wants to hire you based on your established style only to be surprised by something completely different.”
After a quick email back and forth, Carter was in. Now the Plain Dealer had to wait for word that LeBron was, too.
Still, time was of the essence, and Carter wasted no time getting to work portraying one of basketball’s greatest. “I think even more so than his likeness (which is usually the main concern in portrait work) in this case it was to get the right feeling of impact, drama, that this was something big! The iconic pose and stark black backdrop, those are the elements that sold the piece more than anything I think,” he says.
“After being contacted by Josh and talking back and forth a bit about the piece, I got to work on the rough around 1:00pm. I sent it over for approval around 6:30pm, which thankfully it was. As they didn’t know exactly when James would make the announcement, Josh asked if I could have the final to a point where they could use it if absolutely necessary by 10pm! Scrambling to get as much done in that time as possible I sent them what I had. It was missing a lot of detail work like his tattoos and other things but it was enough that in a pinch it could have been used.”
“Thankfully they didn’t need it that night so had until 6:00 pm the next day to take it to completion. I was pretty burnt out by that point so I called it a night and picked it up again in the morning. By 6:00 p.m. I delivered the final piece.”
The Final Hours
In the final hour, the unbelievable happened. Word came in: he was actually coming home.
With only a few hours to go, and the final illustration in place, the Plain Dealer team cranked out the print piece I thought would never be.
Read Josh Crutchmer’s story, 60 Hours in Cleveland: The Plain Dealer’s LeBron Section
LeBron Illustration courtesy of Robert Carter, Cracked Hat Design
More about Robert:
Robert Carter is a multiple award-winning full time professional freelance illustrator. Born in St. Albans, England, he moved to Ontario, Canada, at an early age. Robert began his journey into the world of art from the get-go, constantly doodling and sketching anything and everything. Robert went on to study Art and Illustration, graduating from the prestigious Sheridan College School of Art and Animation.
Robert has been working constantly as a professional illustrator for more than a decade. Combining a strong foundation in portraiture with a unique sense of visual and conceptual problem-solving Robert creates striking, vibrant, and textured illustrations and portraits with subjects ranging from the realistic to the surreal. With a background in traditional oil painting Robert applied those skills to the digital realm and taught himself the digital painting medium, which is now his preferred method of working for it’s speed and flexibility.
Taking a short hiatus from illustration in 2013 Robert went back to Sheridan College, this time to study Computer Animation, graduating with honours.
Robert would like to continue to explore and expand his work, continually striving to improve himself and his art. Robert now lives and works as a professional freelance illustrator in Baden, Ontario, Canada.
Looking to deliver your client design filled with character and an organic quality only achieved with hand lettering?
Lacking the tools or time to do so?
You’re in luck.
Calligrapher Laura Di Piazza’s first Arsenal product, Hand Drawn Lettering Elements: All American Words, delivers you all the goods you’ll need to bring the human aesthetic you (and your client) desire.
Open up this new product and in moments you can add beautifully crafted words into your work, taking your design from awesome to awe-inspiring and emotive.
Say hello to Hand Drawn Lettering Elements: All American Grit
The pack includes 130 following words in various styles and scripts: work hard, craft, rugged, u.s.a., industries, brotherhood, america, american, craft, pride, honest, genuine, superior, quality, tough, vintage, goods, handcrafted, handmade, original, est., magic, fine, custom, trademark, union, blue collar, artisan and supply.
The lovely lettered words are available in an organized, layered Photoshop document.
As a bonus we’re throwing in three paper textures from our Paper Texture Pack.
Here’s a little bit about the pack from Laura herself!
“This lettering pack is all-American! It includes words that we associate with America’s strong work ethics and American-made pride. During my recent travels to Germany, Italy, Switzerland and Austria I encountered some people’s opinions about American-made products and the general impression was that American-made is usually equated with ‘well-made’.
As a calligrapher I mainly engage in non-modified lettering, where the first go is the only go for a word, sentence, paragraph or page. And if it doesn’t come out the way I intended I either accept the results or do it over. The lack of editing has helped me to relax and embrace a certain flow when I letter.
The tools I used for this pack include the Japanese-made pointed pen Nikko G nib (originally designed for Anime artists), German-made Haff ruling pen (originally an architectural tool) , homemade cola pen (yes, the writing tip is made out of a small piece of a Coca Cola can), various square edge brushes and the beloved American-made Sharpie.”
Let’s take a peek, shall we?
Creating the perfect logo takes a lot of time and skill. It also takes practice – and one of the things that I find really interesting are the sketches of a logo before it’s been finalised. There are some extraordinarily talented designers out there who are as skilled at sketching out a logo as they are at creating one in Photoshop, and I wanted to bring together a post that showed off some of the best examples of their work.
I’ve always had an admiration for illustrators, and being able to combine calligraphy and beautiful lettering with logo design on paper is something that I’d love to be able to do myself. I hope you find these logo sketches inspirational, and that they get you thinking about practicing sketching too. As always, if you know of any other examples that deserve some recognition, I’d love to hear about them in the comments.
Click on each image for its source:
Are there any beautiful logo sketches that you’d like to share? I’d love to hear about them in the comments.
Jon Burgerman is not just an everyday artist. Armed with Amsterdam paints, Posca pens and Sharpies, Jon can be found at the spot where art and improvisation collide. On any given day, you can find Burgerman on the streets of New York City, doodling, drawing and delighting in art and life. Recent works including Hot Girls and Hot Dogs, Tumblr Girls, and I Want To Eat Myself illustrate a sense of humor and talent as sprawling as his imagination.
I chatted with Burgerman, of whom I am a huge fan, about life, craft and the adventure of art.
Comfort Kills Creativity
Burgerman recalls with fond memories his studies of Fine Art at University, where he was encouraged to create without limitation. Experimenting with different forms of media, Burgerman integrated performance based art into his vocabulary.
“When I graduated, laden with debt and little idea what I was going to do with my life, I started making a variety of work which had to be quick to make and cheap. Some of this work was performance based. As my art career started to pick up I dropped out of working with my friends on events and performances. I’ve always liked the immediacy of live work and it’s something I’ve retained through-out my career. I consider my murals and drawings live works and performances even if there’s not an audience around to see them. The artwork being a documentation of the creative act.”
“Recently, for a few years with my band Anxieteam and some works I’ve done on my own, I’ve purposely put live action and intervention into my practice. Live work, be it a performance, a mural, a talk, a workshop or a gig all require some degree of improvisation and fast reflexes, the great and awful thing about the ‘moment’, is not knowing what might happen next. This is equally good and bad for the performer and audience and invites a special degree of excitement to the event.
I think the live works sharpen these responses and and keep me ‘creatively fit’.”
Comfort is the killer of creativity!
Live works invite participation (although it can be unwelcome participation at times) and that connection can be really interesting. You can never really predict what people will come out with, and that can be an adventure all of its own. Comfort is the killer of creativity!”
“If I’m not having fun overall with a project, the project will no doubt suffer as a result. I can’t help that, it just shows in the work. When I’m inspired and have great energy the work benefits. I’m in a super lucky position where my work, my job is fun. I’m in that position because I tried as hard as I could to make it happen. There’s plenty of room for improvement, of course, but I want to have fun and live a fun life, as much is possible.”
“Play is a bit of a gamble. When you play you’re not 100% certain of the outcome. There’s parameters you have to go up against to achieve whatever it is you want to achieve, it could be a defined goal or just the act of playing. I have this in my work. When I draw there’s a number of limitations such as paper size, pen, ink, time, surface etc. I then do everything I can to achieve my invented goal. During the act of play obstacles may arise or unpredicted ‘ferret events’ may occur. Maybe you spill your paint, or someone calls your phone and interrupts you. Perhaps you run out of a certain colour, maybe you smudge a line, or the paper reacts to the ink in a certain way… Who knows, often it’s pretty subtle things, but they all influence the work, and you adapt and navigate around them. The game starts to change as you play it. I like playing, there’s no guarantee of a particular outcome, there’s always the chance of surprises and disappointments.”
Passion and play hasn’t come about easily, Burgerman admits. As with any career, there come challenges.
Don’t become an artist to earn money.
“The competition to be successful in the arts is really tough. You face many years without any sort of guaranteed income. And even if you get some sort of critical acclaim that doesn’t mean you’ll be financially any better off. So one hurdle is paying your way. Don’t become an artist to earn money.”
“It can be tough carrying on when you feel like you’re not advancing. I feel this all the time but the only solution is to keep going. You become stronger because of it. You have to push yourself. It’s exactly like exercising. Each time you have to go a little further or lift a little more weight to eventually push on to the next level.”
The reward for pushing is the way Burgerman feels every time pen or brush touches paper.
How does it feel, I asked? Burgerman answers quite vividly.
“The great Kurt Vonnegut wrote in a forward of one of his books that when he went swimming he felt beautiful, as opposed to when he was going about his day to day life. I think when I’m drawing and completely submerged within that process I feel weightless and transparent and happy. I cease to be a body, flesh and blood and grease and kneecaps, I feel like a lovely perfume emanating above a flower bed.”
Now that, my friends, is an adventure.
Jon’s Burgerman shares: Supplies I Use
Amsterdam paints – I use these for quick, fast painting and even have used them on walls and the pavement in Manhattan.
Edding – I like these little pens, perfect for stowing away in your pockets for drawings on the go.
Krink – Krink go on anything, leaving a heavy, thick, gooey trail where-ever they go. These are great, a bit stinky and come from Brooklyn.
Sharpie and Pilot felt pen – These are my go-to pens for drawing in my sketchbook. Nothing is better than writing with a fresh felt pen on a blank page. The sketchbook is the place where all my ideas are born.
Posca – It can be hard to find Posca pens in America, I shipped a whole box of them over with me from Europe when I moved here. The colours are flat and solid. I use Poscas in a lot of my work, including my project Tumblr Girls
I sketch in Muji plain paper sketchbooks and have done so for over 12 years now.
Hi Go Media faithful! Bill here! I’m back to talk about beating busters, a topic I discuss in my book, Drawn to Business. This week’s piece deals with one simple fact: in business, you’re going to get ripped off. Get used to the idea. Over time, luckily, you will learn how to spot what I like to call busters, or bad clients. Here is a list of the different types of busters I’ve come across over the last 15 years in business. Hopefully my bad experiences will spare you the same headache. Look out for these guys!
For more about busters, and all I’ve learned growing my own design firm, pick up Drawn to Business.
Types of Busters
1. The Promoter.
The promoter is probably my favorite type of buster simply because they’re so entertaining (and easy to spot). A promoter is full of energy, and everything with them is bigger than life! I think of a carnival barker: “Step right up! Step right up to the greatest design project on earth! Wealth and fame beyond your wildest imagination are just behind this curtain!” They feed off your emotions, pump up your ego and make outlandish promises. They also operate with a constant sense of urgency. They’ll promise you part of their “can’t-lose” business, but there are never any contracts or lawyers, just empty promises. There is always one more problem, one more project, one more step.
Fortunately, the deposit first policy works very well with promoters. They will never give a deposit, or pay a dime. But one funny thing is that they’re so damn persistent. Even after you tell them your policy…it’s likely they’ll say something such as: “Great! No problem. I’m happy to pay a deposit. I just need this one little project done before I’ll have access to cash to pay that deposit!” Don’t get sucked in! Stick with your policy!
2. The Delegating Entrepreneur.
The Delegating Entrepreneur is also deflected easily by a deposit policy. They are a little like The Promoter except the main crux of their pitch is that you will be a part owner of the company. They will also play on your emotions and hype the dream of “your” business. But here are the problems with these types of busters.
First, “The Company” is mostly just them giving you work. They don’t do much themselves other than daydream about how amazing the company is going to be, then pile up more work on you. Second, they’re not necessarily good businesspersons, they just happen to be arrogant and overconfident, so it’s easy to believe in them. Third, if “your” company ever does start to make some money, this buster will surely keep it himself or sink it into other people to build the business more—after all, he already has you working for free.
This is not to say that there aren’t good, honorable entrepreneurs out there who need a business partner. But taking on a business partner is a serious undertaking. In my experience, nine out of ten people who will quickly offer you a portion of their business in exchange for free work are busters
3. Mr. Add-On
Mr. Add-On is the first type of buster who slips past the deposit policy. He or she will pay you for the services that they have you quote. Here’s their trick. They won’t tell you everything that they need done. Then at some point during the design process, they’ll start asking for a little more. They try to play-down the amount of work something will take and try to make it seem like it’s part of the current project. You might hear something like: “Now that you’ve finished my business card, can you just slap that information onto a letterhead? That should only take a second, right?”
If the designer in your company is not the salesman, Mr. Add-On will exploit the situation by telling the salesman as little as possible, then trying to trick the designer into doing extra work for free. It’s important that your staff knows exactly what’s been paid for when dealing with this slippery buster.
4. The Slave Driver
The Slave Driver. The slave driver is similar to Mr. Add-On with one critical difference. Mr. Add-On is at least pleasant in his approach. The Slave Driver is merciless and hard to please. He may not add-on to a project, but he’s going to squeeze every ounce of effort from you that he can. The Slave Driver is incredibly picky. He’ll make you feel like you’ve made a mistake, done a poor job or misled him in some way. He’ll lay heavy guilt trips on you. The difference between a high-maintenance client and a slave-driver is that when you’re done with the project for the slavedriver you never want to work for them again.
5. The Long-Con-Artist
This type of buster has a long term plan. He’s trying to get design services for free, or for a greatly reduced rate. Here’s his plan: pay for services, get most of my work done, then act like something is wrong, set the designer up for failure, then demand their money back. This type of buster starts out all sweet and loving, but the closer you get to completing his or her project the more difficult and demanding they’ll become. At some point they’ll start shifting deadlines or making demands that are virtually impossible to accomplish. Near the end, this con-artist will start acting inappropriately upset, start claiming that you’ve somehow hurt his business. He or she will invariably ask for a refund, refuse to pay his balance or even threaten to sue you. All of this is done as a way for him or her to steal your design services for as little as possible.
I’m sure there are many other types of busters out there, but these are the most common ones I’ve come across over the years. It takes time and experience to know how to identify and deal with these sleazebuckets. Good luck and stick to your guns!
Disclaimer: Boasting Ahead!
We have to be honest with you.
We are gushing!
Our President, Bill Beachy, has just made us very proud.
So please excuse us while take a moment to tell you about what Bill’s been working on, head down, nose to the grindstone, for the past 2 years…
Introducing Drawn to Business!
Drawn to Business is a brand-new book by illustrator, designer and lifelong entrepreneur William Beachy; it’s an insiders guide into how he built and runs Go Media, our graphic design firm here in Cleveland, Ohio. Bill details his experiences working as a one-man firm from a bedroom in his father’s house and guides the reader through each lesson learned that allowed him to build Go Media into an internationally recognized 15 person firm with clients including Adobe, Progressive Insurance, Pepsi and Nike.
Well, have you ever wondered how design firms, like ours, start, stumble, and become successful?
Want to learn how to:
- Raise money?
- Charge for your design services?
- Find the perfect business partner?
- Take the appropriate legal steps when starting your business?
- Track your company’s performance?
- Hire the best employees?
- Organize your company’s files?
- Implement effective marketing strategies?
- Land projects and stay profitable?
- Battle burnout?
- Deal with ebbs and flows?
- Retain clients?
- ….just get started???
You’re in the right place.
Everything You’ve Always Wanted to Know about Business But Have Been Too Afraid To Ask
In Drawn to Business, Bill simply gives it all away.
Chock full of Bill’s anecdotes, real-world practical guidance, business principles, inspiring design and legal and accounting advice, you’ll learn to increase profits while doing the work you love.
Let’s Do This Thing!
A variety of Drawn to Business packages are available, so choose your own adventure.
1. The Pro Package: $397 – Buy Now
Includes EVERYTHING you need to transform your design business. You get a physical and digital copy of Drawn to Business plus bonus PDF content and videos, the Business Plan Workbook, 3 design-focused video tutorials, Thread’s Not Dead: The Designer’s Guide to the Apparel Industry, and all the goodies inside the Freelance Survival Kit.
2. The Plus Package: $197 – Buy Now
Includes a physical and digital copy of Drawn to Business, plus a collection of advice docs, videos, and a business plan workbook.
3. Just The Book: EBook and Paperback options
What Are You Waiting For?
Grab your copy of Drawn to Business now! Once you’ve purchased the book, leave a comment below for your chance to win a free upgrade to the Drawn to Business Pro Package! Winner will be announced on Friday, October 18! * Winner must have purchased a copy of Drawn to Business by 5:00 p.m. ET on 10/18/2013 to be qualified.
Extracting a Budget from your Client
It’s a commonly held belief that giving a vendor your budget upfront is a fool’s approach. Because of this, many clients will play dumb when you ask them for a budget. That’s fine. Don’t be a jerk. It’s still important to have a money conversation early on. You need to qualify your clients before you spend a minute working on a proposal for them. In those cases where a client doesn’t give me a budget, I’ll give them my ballpark pricing. This starts with me asking enough questions to get a general sense of their project. Then I might say something along the lines of: “OK, Bob, this sounds like a fairly typical website design: Homepage with slideshow, About, Services, Contact Us and the whole site to be responsive, correct? Great. Obviously, we’re going to need to get into the nitty-gritty details about your website in order for us to provide you with an accurate time and cost estimate. However, just so I can make sure our firm will be a good fit for you, my very rough estimation on a website like this will probably be somewhere between $15K and $30K. Does that sound reasonable to you? I just want to make sure we’re not wasting each other’s time.”
This approach works almost every time. If this ballpark is significantly more than they were expecting, they’re going to let you know. They might say something like: “Whoa. OK. Yeah, I was hoping to get a website built for about $2K.” Well, there ya go—you just got their budget! It’s funny how they will suddenly give you their budget after they said they didn’t have one. Or they might say something like: “Well, that’s a little higher than I was expecting, but I think we can get something done.” I would interpret that to mean that their budget probably starts lower than my range, but definitely is within the lower part of my range. Maybe their budget was $12K to $17K.
Of course, if they say that they’re comfortable with the range, I will proceed. If the client falls out of their chair and/or faints, I know I need to adjust the options I offer. Hopefully, I do have a solution for them if they cannot afford me. My follow-up with a client whose budget was well below my range might sound something like this: “OK Bob, I certainly understand you’re on a tight budget. Many clients don’t fully understand the work that goes into building a website. We have a few options here. I have a pre-built website template that can be customized for you at a fraction of the full cost. Or we could break your website development into phases and just scale back the project scope of the first phase so we’re within your budget. If that doesn’t work, I know a few freelancers you can talk to. How would you like to proceed?” Obviously, this is just one possible response.
You don’t want to be thinking of solutions and writing proposals in the dark. Get that financial conversation going early. It’s perfectly OK to talk money. Just make sure you do it in a very friendly way. Take the time to explain that you have website options that range from $10K to $100K, and you just need to know what’s going to be a realistic range. You’re still going to do your due diligence and present a complete solution and pricing upfront before they will have to make a decision. There will still be an opportunity for them to negotiate with you if they feel the need.
Hi Go Media faithful! Bill here! I’m back to deliver another teaser article from my book, Drawn to Business. One of the most common questions I get from young designers who are either freelancing or starting a firm is “What should I charge for my design services?” Today we’ll cover one aspect of the Go Media pricing model. I like to call it the Responsive Pricing System.
The Responsive Pricing System
When I started Go Media, it was just me. I had a set list of prices I wanted to charge, but I was frequently desperate for money. When times got lean, I dropped my prices to secure enough work to pay my rent. In effect, I had a responsive pricing system. When I was slow, my rates went down. When I was busy, they went up.
As Go Media grew and I had other members in the company selling with me, our pricing became very rigid. Under any circumstances, we charged exactly XX dollars an hour.
Here’s why we learned that being extremely rigid on your pricing can be a problem:
If your pricing is too low, you’ll soon find yourself swamped. Despite being swamped, your pricing remains low, which means the work piles up. When the work is piled up, you start falling behind. You’re not capturing the maximum amount of profit for the time you’re working. The quality of your work suffers and clients start to leave.
If your pricing is too high, then you’ll be too slow. While you’re capturing good money for the hours your staff is working on paying projects, they’re also sitting idle some portion of each day. That’s also leaving money on the table.
What you’re shooting for is to keep your staff as busy as possible while collecting as much money as possible. You accomplish this by having your price points respond to the current situation.
It works like this
If our staff is booked solid for:
- 12 weeks or more, we offer no discounts and will only sell projects that are worth $5,000 or more.
- Between 8–12 weeks then we’re willing to discount our rates by 20% and we’ll take any project worth $2,500 or more.
- Between 4–8 weeks, we’re willing to discount our rates up to 40% and will take any project worth $1,000 or more.
- Less than four weeks, we’re willing to discount our rates up to 50% and take any project worth $500 or more.
*Note: these are example metrics only. You will have to experiment with discount rates, minimums and time ranges that work for your particular situation.
This formalized responsive pricing system allows us to always stay busy and ensures that we’re capturing as much money as possible.
1. First, don’t share this information with your potential clients. This is for your eyes only.
2. Always present your potential clients with your full retail rates first. Only AFTER they tell you that they cannot afford your normal rates do you start to negotiate down.
3. Ask for their budget upfront. If you know what they can afford, you’ll tailor your solution to their price.
4. Follow up. The simple act of following up with clients after you’ve sent them a proposal can frequently spark a conversation that will lead to a negotiation.
5. Be enthusiastic about the project. Sometimes, if a customer knows you really want their project badly, they’ll assume that you’ll be willing to come down on price.
6. Keep your retail rates high enough that they will allow you enough profit margin to quickly grow your company.
7. Keep a system in place for knowing how far out your team is booked. This is one of the fundamental metrics that drives this system.
8. Lastly, the minimum order portion of this system does not apply to existing customers. Obviously, a current client who calls with a need, even a very small need, should be taken care of immediately.
Want to learn more about becoming the greatest design firm you can be? Buy Drawn to Business, a nuts and bolts strategy guide to building a thriving design firm!
Hi Go Media faithful! Bill here! I’m back to deliver another teaser article from my book, Drawn to Business. Today we’ll cover a topic vital to operating a thriving design firm: Customer Retention.
Take good care of your customers. Nothing will replace good service. No amount of holiday cards, phone calls, discounts or anything else will make up for poor service. When a client brings you a project, you need to treat them like royalty. Be nice and supportive. Hit your deadlines. Do amazing design work. Stay on budget. Follow through. Say thank you when they pay. Give them legendary service with a smile on your face. If you do this, you’ve at least ensured that they’ll trust you for future projects.
Make a good first impression. Take particularly good care of your customers at the beginning of the relationship. Getting off on the wrong foot can ruin a good relationship. How you perform on the very first project is absolutely critical. More specifically, your first set of proofs will establish in the mind of your customer whether they can relax and trust you to do great work, or if they’re going to have to look at everything you do with a critical eye. If you’re working with a new client, the first project is the most critical time in that relationship.
Resist the urge to over-promise. Establish reasonable expectations with your customer then out-perform those. Under-promise. Over-deliver. If you think delivering what you promise makes a good impression, just wait till you see how your customers respond when you give them a little bit more.
Be an advisor to your customers, not just an order taker. An order taker is dispensable, but an advisor is invaluable. Of course, it takes more work to be an advisor than an order taker. You certainly can’t just upsell your client on a bunch of services they don’t need. You have to get to know them, understand their business and know which services you can provide that make sense for them.
Stay in touch with your customers. Nothing else will give you as big a return on your time than doing something simple like dropping your client an e-mail or giving them a phone call. This is one of the simplest and yet most powerful ways to generate ongoing business. Just stay in touch. It’s so simple. Don’t pester, don’t annoy, just make sure you stay on your customer’s mind. Make sure they know that you’re ready and eager to help them with their design needs.
Offer cheaper rates to your best customers. For almost the entire existence of Go Media there was only one pricing model. Our prices were broken down hourly, based on service type. We charged all our customers the same amount.
To qualify, the customer has to have completed enough projects with us that we feel comfortable with the way they work. They can’t be a customer that meanders off-scope, pushes our hours over budget and then complain about additional costs. They have to be easy to work with and they have to pay their bills on time. This strategy is one I learned from a peer who works at a much larger corporation. They have great success with it.
Want to learn more about becoming the greatest design firm you can be? Buy Drawn to Business, a nuts and bolts strategy guide to building a thriving design firm!
Hey Go Media faithful! Over the next few months I’ll be posting five excerpts from my forthcoming book Draw to Business as a series of teaser articles here on the GoMediaZine. So, without further ado, here are seven tips on writing winning design proposals.
Regurgitate back exactly what your clients tell you. Writing a good proposal starts with listening. Ask lots of questions and listen carefully; your potential client is going to tell you exactly what they want to read in your proposal. Your first job is to listen and write down everything they say. Then you’re going to write that back to them in your proposal. If a client says: “We want a highly interactive website.” Your proposal should say: “Our solution for you is a highly interactive website.”
Create templates and refine your message. When you sit down to write your first proposal, think of building a template. You’re not going to want to write every proposal from scratch. Try to keep most of the sections generic enough so that you can reuse them with other clients.
Design your proposal. You can file this under the “duh” category. Your business documents are a representation of you! They should embody all the skills you have as a designer. This includes your proposals. So take the time to make sure that the design of your proposal will sell your potential client as strongly as the content within it. Your proposal is your portfolio! Make sure it looks amazing!
Customize the design for your client. For larger proposals, we will swap out the colors and images in our proposals to match the client’s brand. In some cases we invest quite a bit of time and effort to make our proposal look like THEIR proposal. It’s amazing how impactful delivering a custom designed proposal can be. The client feels like: “They just ‘get’ us.”
Give them a few exciting ideas. It’s a well-known fact that people buy on impulse. There is a lot of emotion involved in why people buy. One way to sell a client is to get them excited. This can be easily accomplished by sharing a few of your ideas with a client. This should be done in just a sentence or two. Describe something exciting you want to do with your client’s design. A clever idea can make the difference between you and your competitor.
Ask for a budget upfront. Knowing a client’s budget up-front is critical to writing a winning proposal. Ask your potential client for a budget during your very first interaction with them. If they act coy and won’t give you one, there are ways of extracting it. (These tactics and many more in the forthcoming book).
Don’t underbid the project. Another critical reason for asking for a budget is making sure that you’re not underbidding the project. Believe it or not, underbidding a project is as bad as overbidding it. When you severely underbid a project you’re communicating that you’re either an amateur or that you don’t understand the scope of the project. Both of these will scare off a customer.
Want to learn more about becoming the greatest design firm you can be? Buy Drawn to Business, a nuts and bolts strategy guide to building a thriving design firm!
Who doesn’t love vintage? Not us! There has been a growing trend of vintage inspired designs. From packaging to typography, from posters to web designs, the vintage look is pervasive in the graphic design field right now. This is a showcase of the best vintage illustrations we could find on the web! Some are from yesteryear and others are inspired by those retro designs. You will see everything from packaging, to posters, to book covers, so checkout the showcase below for inspiration for your next design project.
This post is a revealing walk-through behind the design, illustration, and sticker printing process. I’m proud to show off the new artwork I created for the upcoming Weapons of Mass Creation Fest 4 event. The artwork below is going to be used for stickers, t-shirts, posters, etc. In this post I’m going to show you how I created it and how I set it up to become a die-cut sticker. I got these custom die cut stickers printed at Sticker Robot and they did a great job! Let’s do this. Strap yourselves in, this is going to be a fun ride.
Related: Check out this other article I wrote about how to design custom Kiss Cut Stickers for your Band.
Step 1: Sketches!
Way back when I started WMC Fest I used the phrase “defy the hand you’re dealt” quite a bit. I wanted to bring that back this year. A couple years ago Brandon Rike created an image for WMC that featured a hand stuck with two arrows. It’s a clever way of illustrating the idea behind the phrase. I wanted to expand upon that and combine it with images of friendship, togetherness, and community. Those are frequent ideas people have when they think about WMC. I started sketching and I came up with a pair of holding hands with a sword through them. You know, like we’re fighting this struggle together!
Step 2: Photoshop Prep
Since this artwork is going to be used in lots of ways, I created my Photoshop document at 18″ x 24″ at 300 DPI. Why didn’t I use Illustrator you ask? Just personal preference mainly. This design could have been done in either program to be honest. Since we are setting up the files for CMYK sticker printing, I chose the CMYK color mode. Once I got my new document set up, I copied and pasted my sketch in the document and sized it accordingly.
Step 3: Gathering References
Before I start illustrating, I need to find a reference image for my holding hands. While my sketch is OK, I want the proportions to be accurate. I asked Bill to shoot a photo of my wife and I holding hands. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but I want to at least get the pose correct so I can manipulate and illustrate it in Photoshop to my liking. Here is our reference photo:
Step 4: Blocking it Out
After I placed my reference photo into my document, I rotated it and cut out just the arms and hands. The rest of the photo is unnecessary. I also went ahead and blocked in some additional reference like perfect circles, real fonts, starburst lines, and framing for the die-cut sticker.
Step 5: Start Illustrating
I reduced the opacity on my reference to something like 25% so I could start drawing on top to create the illustration. I use my Ye Ole Wacom Intuos 3 tablet and my brush settings are below. There are better drawing tablets out there, but this has served me well since 2006!
Step 6: Hand Lettering
Once my outlines are created, it’s time to start drawing the type. Now it took me many tries to get the letters correct for “Defy the Hand You’re Dealt.” My sketch itself wasn’t detailed enough so I had to improvise a lot. I knew I wanted “defy the hand” on the left arm and “you’re dealt” on the right arm. It was just a matter of making the letters fit! It was a lot of trial and error. Some tips for your own lettering would be to block in the letters first. Try a rough draft and get the letters in there how you want. Then you can turn that layer’s opacity down and draw it again over top while being more creative with the letter forms. Since I don’t have a very steady hand (often a little jittery from coffee and anxiety) my letter forms are not perfect. They’re a little wobbly, which is ok considering my entire design will be slightly imperfect.
The rest of the lettering was easier because I had a font to base it off of. For the words Cleveland, I set my reference type up with ITC Caslon and warped the type and got it into place. Then I drew over top of it my own custom version of it. For the dates, I loosely based my letters on the font, I drew it in rather quickly. Check it out:
Step 7: Shading and Stippling
Once the drawing was complete, I printed it out and used a good old fashioned light box. I placed my outlined drawing down first, then placed a blank sheet of paper directly on top. The light box allowed me to see through the paper so I can have precise detail when stipple shading. I used a set of fine-detail Micron pens. There is no shortcut to stipple shading, believe me I’ve tried! I actually tried using my Wacom tablet to do this, but I didn’t get as natural and consistent results. So I went analog for this! To be honest, stipple shading is much easier using Micron pens and doing it on real paper than trying to do it digitally. My intention was to scan my shading into Photoshop onto a different layer. Then I could do whatever I wanted with it!
One trick to note: I did a separate scan for any stippling that would be “highlights” or “distressing” on my image. For example I did the stipple shading on my text on its own piece of paper and scanned it separately. That way I could change its color easier. I did the same for all the abstract dots that fill the background. In the end those were going to be lighter than the background, but it is still nice to have it on its own layer.
Step 8: Coloring!
Now that I had my outlines and shading complete, it’s time to fill it with color! I knew I wanted to go with my tried and true WMC Fest color palette. With my outlines and shading layers on top, I made a new layer underneath everything for each element. I started with the left arm first and colored it with the WMC pink color. Then I made a new layer and started coloring the right arm an orange color. By having the outlines on a layer above your colors, all you have to do is get close and color between the lines. It doesn’t matter what kind of brush you use, I’m just painting in solid colors. To make sure I’m using the same consistent colors throughout the design, I use “color overlay” layer style on each layer.
Also, since I made my background dark, notice how I changed the colors of “we are weapons of mass creation” and “until the end” to something brighter. Also, take a look at how I colored the little flag in the middle and the rays shooting out from the center. I just selected those layers and changed the “color overlay” setting to the color I wanted. No additional coloring needed.
Here is what our design looks like without any outlines on top.
And here is our finished design when we turn back on the shading and outline layers. Note: you might see some subtle distressing on the type. What I did for that was duplicating some of my stipple shading layers and placing them strategically on top of the type. Since the shading layers are the same color as the background, I was able to achieve a slightly distressed look.
Step 9: Prep for Die-Cut Sticker Printing!
The design is done! Now I just need to send it to print! But before that I had to make sure I was adhering to the specs that Sticker Robot calls for on their website. They actually screen print their stickers, but use a CMYK simulated process print. They literally screen print tiny dots of Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black to get the exact colors in your design. So all I had to do was send them a high res CMYK .tif file and they did the rest. No complicated color separation work for me!
The trickiest part in setting this up for print was creating the die-cut layer. This was just a single color outline that on a separate layer that tells the printer where to cut the sticker out from the background. Since we aren’t going for traditional square-shaped stickers here, you need to specify the shape of your sticker!
It’s pretty easy. See below:
One thing to note was that there should be at least a 1/8″ safety area separation from your artwork to your die-cut line, and an additional 1/8″ bleed area beyond your die-cut line. This will ensure your sticker has enough room to move around slightly on the press.
Another cool thing with Sticker Robot is they are one of the few sticker printers that allow you to print a grayscale design on the back of your sticker! To set this up with my custom shape sticker, I mirrored my sticker shape horizontally and designed the sticker back. I used a collage background I designed for the festival last year as my background and added our website URL. The only catch is the design had to be black and white. Check it out:
Step 10: Print up the Stickers!
The design was sent off to Sticker Robot and here’s a few photos they took of the sticker printing process, from film to packaging:
Film for the black plate.
Film is printed for each color. Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black. The film will be used to expose the screens.
The film is exposed.
A bright light is used to expose the film through the emulsion to the silkscreen itself. Each color will have it’s own screen.
Silkscreen Sticker Printing
A squeegee pushes ink through the screen onto the vinyl substrate, one color at a time, one sheet at a time.
Cyan and Magenta Ink
The cyan and magenta ink have been laid down. Next will be yellow, then black and finally 3 coats of clear UV protective ink.
Silkscreen Quality Ink
Silkscreen ink is notoriously thick and durable, typically 10-20 times thicker than digital ink. This is magenta:
Magenta, Cyan and Yellow
The basic colors are coming together… we’re just missing the final color, black.
Black ink is laid down…
Now it’s starting to look like a sticker!
This is a tedious process, where each sticker sheet is literally cut one at a time – a truly custom sticker. See the video below that shows the process on creating die cut stickers.
Here are the final stickers. WMC here we come!
So there you have it, that was how I created the artwork for the 2013 Weapons of Mass Creation Fest and how the stickers were created. You can get your own screen printed, die-cut vinyl stickers created with your designs through Sticker Robot. If you want to attend the upcoming WMC Fest and see a ton of great bands, speakers, and designers, tickets go on sale soon at http://wmcfest.com.
Go Media & Illustration
I bet some of you out there didn’t know that Go Media started out doing mostly illustrations and t-shirt designs. We realized that to pay the bills and become a lucrative design firm, we would have to branch out and begin diving into the web development waters. Now so many years later, our business primarily focuses on web design, but we could never forget our roots. Our designers are still adding hand-drawn elements and digital drawings to our designs and these illustrations takes them to a whole new level. There is a human and personal touch that elevates these designs. Check out the images below for inspiration for your next illustration project or just how to infuse hand-drawn and digital illustrated elements into your work.