Kicking A** in Kickoff Meetings

Participating in a Successful Kickoff Meeting

Any great project starts with a great kick-off meeting. For this reason, designers must know what it takes to participate in a successful one, including how to dress, look, act and express themselves. Today, we’re sharing some tips we share with young designers about kicking a** in kick-off meetings. We hope they help you, as well.

1. Be Prepared. A designer must read through the proposal, creative brief and do research on the client. You must come across like you KNOW about the project. If a client tells a sales person all about their business, then the designer comes in and asks all the same questions – the client is going to get angry and feel like we’re not communicating internally! This is a bad way to start a project off!

2. Have a list of questions ready to go before the meeting. Whether you’re selling or having a kickoff meeting – it’s easier to participate if you’ve pre-written a bunch of questions. Coming up with good questions on the spot is hard. Hopefully, as you do your research and read through the creative brief some questions will come to mind. Fortunately, Go Media has been doing this for some time, so we do have a boilerplate document filled with common questions. So, we never have to go in cold, but this is no excuse to not do research. The more detailed your questions, the more it will show the client you give a damn and will help your design process. This is your BEST OPPORTUNITY to start brainstorming design ideas and to pick the customer’s brain about what they want. So, take this opportunity and do it RIGHT – because it’s easier to get your designs right in the first place instead of having the client displeased and have to do them again!

3. Make them like you! This is a VERY powerful design tool. Did you know that if your clients like you, they are more likely to like the designs you send them? So, how exactly do you get a client to like you? Be friendly. Look for opportunities to connect with them on common interests. If you like fishing and they like fishing and that comes up during the meeting – awesome… talk about fishing for a while! Tell a joke. Show them pictures of your kids… whatever it takes. Get the client on your side!

4. Match the client’s body language and energy. This relates somewhat to the previous item. You want to make your clients comfortable! A great way to do that is to match their personality. If they are stiff and all business, you should be too. If they’re laid back and want to talk about their kids for an hour – do it. If they talk fast and have high energy, you should talk fast and have high energy.

5. Watch your own body language! You are subtly communicating to your clients based on your body language. Are you focused on them or staring off into space? Are you biting your nails or playing with your hair? Are you slouching in your chair? Sit upright, be alert and LISTEN CAREFULLY. Your body language should be saying: “I care about you! I am alert and listening intently. THIS is important to me.”

6. Dress the part. Show your client that you care and kick it up a notch for the kick-off. This is just another way to show your client that you have an interest in their project.

7. Take detailed notes. Unless you have a photographic memory, you’re sure to forget something was discussed. Even hand-written notes are unreliable. If you do prefer to hand-write notes go straight to your desk after the meeting and transcribe them onto your computer.

After the kick-off meeting is done, don’t forget to sincerely thank your client for their time. Throughout your working relationship, continue to connect with them and show them you care, carrying these tips with you even if you’re not face-to-face with your client. Good luck everyone!

On Building Brand Consistency

Hey Newbies: Here are 6 Effective Ways to Improve your AI Skills

Adobe Illustrator is a vector drawing tool meaning you can easily create unlimited amazing rasterized artwork or graphics with compromising on ideas and quality. It is an amazing tool that provides with a variety of tools that can help you design logos, mascots or any complex graphics. However, its true potential will be kept hidden unless you really learn how to utilize those tools. At Miami SEO, you will get an absolute training to hone your illustrator skills also providing you with link building services.

Here are some amazing tips that you can use turn your ideas into reality.

1. Get hang of Bezier:
Bezier is one of the trickiest and not the most favorite of most people. However, if you learn the tricks it is the most effective and powerful tool. Manipulating points and curves, click on the conjunction next to pen tool of press keywords Alt/shift. Keep on clicking the curve to make more control points to help you define your figures and turn them into the shape you want.

2. Strokes and paths:
Illustrator automatically strokes your path (if it’s formed using the Pen tool or a shape tool, etc.) with a 1pt black (and by default fills the shape with white if the points are connected). You can easily change the color using the swatches as desired.The small stroke and fill tool underneath the main tool pane lets you swap between the two selected objects.

3. Appearance panel:
If you want to have a quick view of the strokes and effects you have applied you can easily check them on appearance panel anytime. You can also quickly modify the stroke and fill type and color from swatches. If you’ve applied any effect that you want to change then you can easily write its name and click the name of it to go back and twist it. Extremely useful.

4. Easy brushes:
You can easily get natural media effects through illustrator. Illustrator offers a huge range of brush library. You can easily go to the brush panel on the left and apply the desired brush, for instance, you want paint strokes to your lines. Also by double clicking on the brush enables you to edit it which will by default reflect on your illustration.

5. The symbol tool:
Symbols are an easy way of making complex artwork quickly. Imagine you want a flock of birds. Simply draw one bird, then click it and using the Symbols board arrow menu, you can make it into a symbol. Then, select the Symbol Sprayer from the tool panel on the right and spray it around your page.

There are other tools that you can resize your symbols, color or rotate them giving a more natural look to your design or artwork.

6. Easy wrapping:
If you have objects that are looking a little uniform, illustrator provides you with effects tools to warp, roughen, pucker, bloat and normally subtly change their look. Use one or each tool (they are brush-based) to moderately warp and tweak your object. By double-clicking on each tool in the flyout, you can play with the options.

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”?
Pitching.
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 Branding and Logo Design Can Instantly Transform Your Brand Identity and Recognition

Shell, Nike, Coca-Cola, Apple, Adidas. What do these four brands have in common apart from that the fact that they are behemoths in their respective industries? Distinct and instantly recognizable logos. These are just some examples from a plethora of instantly recognizable logos associated with brand names. How many times have we seen a similar image and have been instantly reminded of a famous brand?

Do you think this happens by coincidence? Absolutely not. These brands, as well as countless others, have worked diligently on the design elements to ensure a subconscious connection with their target audience. Yes, it’s true that they are huge names and have the business potential to back this up. But we can agree that some project a much deeper visual connection, and that is because they have worked consistently on the most striking feature of their brand identity, the logo.

One might argue that “the logo doesn’t make the brand, the brand makes the logo.” But there are many benefits your brand identity can achieve if you work on your logo and your visual branding.

Reasons Why You Should Focus on Your Branding and Logo Design

  • Brand Identity
    The business logo is the primary visual representation of your identity. Before anything, your customers and potential customers will see your logo and other aspects of your branding and even judge your brand on it subconsciously. Granted, some businesses have a distanced logo but most of the successful ones have a design which resonates deeply with the brand identity.
  • The effect of color on buying decisions
    Colors can garner strong feelings from the audience regarding your business and the value it adds to their lives. Similarly, using the appropriate color in your branding can influence buying decisions in a positive or negative way. The graphic below shows how different colors can prove to be major influencers for prospective buyers.


Source: http://www.shortstack.com/the-psychology-of-color-how-it-affects-buying-decisions-infographic/

  • Your Presentation Matters!
    According to a research, 45% of a brand’s image can be attributed to what it says and how it says it. In this digital era, where corporations cannot hide anything from its clients, entire reputations can be made and destroyed in a single click on social media. For this very reason, it is essential that you reinforce your corporate image with a logo that projects strength and positivity. A logo is effective when it’s aligned with your brand’s vision and message.

Source: https://www.bopdesign.com/bop-blog/2015/10/15-crazy-branding-stats/


Is There More To It Than Just Visual Upkeep?

Definitely yes. Premium design helps high-end brands stay ahead of the curve. With the popular market saturated with competitors, the industry leaders need to be seen as current and on-trend. When a brand achieves a certain stature after years of maintaining the superior quality of service; all it needs is repetition and reinforcement of its identity and perceived value to the customers. What better way to do that than with design? Therefore, the elements in your logo need to reinforce the perception that consumers already have in their mind about your brand.

To Cut a Long Story Short:

A brand’s style guidelines go a long way beyond what colors go into its website or the styling of the corporate brochure. It is a unique feature by which a brand can truly distinguish itself from the rest of the market; and what better way for a brand to do that than a cutting-edge logo which can turn out to be the very essence of its brand identity.

Don't Quit Your Day Job - Advice for Young Creatives on Making Ends Meet

Don’t Quit Your Day Job – Advice for Young Creatives on Making Ends Meet

In this article, we’re going to tell you, in no uncertain terms, “DON’T QUIT YOUR DAY JOB!”, but we promise not to be cynical about it. We offer this advice because we understand that, for a lot of creative professionals, sometimes you’ve got to take that crumby day job in order to fund your broader aspirations.

Juggling the demands of your day job with your long term goals is an art in and of itself. It takes tenacity, some level of stubbornness, and a heck of a lot of faith. You certainly develop a kind of dual lifestyle, and for some, even a dual personality. This, too, has its rewards depending on how you let this weird dichotomy manifest itself in your art. Sometimes you find yourself working at the right place but under the wrong title. Sometimes, the title suits you, but the pay doesn’t match. Sometimes, it’s all wrong, and you literally feel like a stranger in the wrong house.

Many a brave soul have succumbed to the temptation to pack up their tent and throw in the towel when faced with this professional dilemma. To those of you out there on the brink of folding, we’re here to tell you that you’re not alone. Sure, things seem pretty rotten right now. You come home at night feeling pretty let down, uninspired. Your true calling feels light years away, and so you end up surfing Snapchat all night instead of dedicating time to your art. To those of you out there struggling with this sinking feeling, remember this: Holding a crappy day job is simply a means to an end. It’s a tough gig, but sticking it out has its rewards. In the words of the great Ringo Starr, “You’ve got to pay your dues if you wanna sing the blues. And you know it don’t come easy.”

We recently asked a group of successful creative professionals to share with us some of their own remarkable horror stories of doing time in a lousy day job while chasing big dreams at night. How low can you go, you ask? There’s no telling until you hit rock bottom. And so, for those of you out there currently stuck between a rock and a hard place [creatively speaking], we’d like to share with you three inspiring stories from the artistic trenches.

Andre Espinosa, Exhibitions Designer, Cincinnati, OH:
I design exhibitions for a well-known museum, and I’m pretty happy with my job these days. But it wasn’t always like that. I’ve worked at this museum for seven years, but I spent the first five years here slogging it as a security guard. It wasn’t my dream job, but I kept at it and worked hard, day and night. Eventually, I figured it would serve me well in my long-term goal to work in the Exhibitions Department. It was a long road, I was the low man on the totem pole, and I almost quit on a number of occasions. I bumped into an awful lot of trouble along the way and had my pride hurt, and my head chopped off on a number of occasions. But I never quit. I watched people get promoted ahead of me, but I just kept working. I watched them bring in people from the outside to fill positions instead of promoting from within. Ouch! Still I kept working. I even watched as they implemented some of my ideas around the museum without a single nod of acknowledgment. I was never bitter. I just kept working.

Perhaps my darkest hour happened on a lonely Sunday afternoon in December a couple years back. My nine-year-old daughter was performing in a local production of the Nutcracker and, try as I might, I just couldn’t get the day off. [That’s another story altogether. You’d put in a time off request and, like a game of roulette, hope for the best. Sometimes you’d win. Sometimes you’d lose. I suppose I could’ve called in sick, but, remember, I had big aspirations. I was no deadbeat. I wouldn’t call in sick unless I WAS sick. It’s just not how I’m built.]

There was only one thing left for me to do, short of quitting, and that was to request early dismissal that afternoon. Early dismissal was an honest alternative, and harmless enough. It happened during the changing of the guard, between the first and second shifts, and only if the museum was dead quiet. Well, it was late in the afternoon on a Sunday in early December, and the museum was completely abandoned. You could hear a pin drop. I thought I was a shoo-in to head home early. But still, I was denied. So, with no other option available, I went to the floor supervisor and put in my request. I beseeched, petitioned, pleaded, and practically begged him. But he wouldn’t budge. I felt betrayed, though I didn’t hold it against him. I knew that someone else was pulling the strings.

I was eventually set free that day after a hair-raising stand-off between myself and the powers that be. I made it to my daughter’s recital by the skin of teeth. But the damage had been done. The next day I was called into my boss’s office and reprimanded. I was treated like a real troublemaker. It stung, but I held my tongue and took the beating, trying to toughen up for better days that surely lay ahead. After all, I figured, it couldn’t get much worse.

Time passed, and I weathered many a storm – including a complete shake up from top to bottom within the organization. I guess I just outlived them all.

Eventually, a position would open up in the Exhibition Department for an Exhibition Designer. I jumped on it and got the job. It’s all good now. I’m doing what I love, and I’ve got most weekends off too. I hung in there. It was bleak, it was humiliating, and I almost gave up. But, today, I’m glad I didn’t.

Shirley Matusak, Graphic Designer/Poster Artist/Punk Rocker, Rochester, NY:
I took a job as a junior Sales rep at a big corporation, selling software to car dealerships. It was a lot of cold calling, fact finding. Lotta hangs ups. Pretty grueling stuff. Hours were 8 to 5, Monday through Friday. On the job, I was buttoned down, conservative. I never betrayed a thing about my secret artistic life, or at least that’s what I thought. On the clock, I felt like a different person. Sometimes I’d catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror in the bathroom, and I didn’t even recognize myself. But as soon as five o’clock rolled around, I’d transform into a bold, prowling punker. I sang lead in a local band, The Sh*ts. We gigged around town on the regular. It was great. My day job bankrolled the whole thing. I’m grateful for that.
The fact that I had to keep my true self under wraps, that was challenging. It started to feel like a Jekyll & Hyde routine. Juggling these two personalities would eventually take too much effort, and teach me a very valuable life lesson. The more attention I gave to my art, the less I could give to succeeding at my day job. I had to strike a balance, and, when the time was right, strike out on my own and pursue my dreams.

It all came to a head one year when after the Christmas holiday I came back into the office and discovered that my entire department had flown to Orlando for the annual Sales & Marketing retreat. I was told to answer the phones until everyone got back. That hurt like hell. I hadn’t been invited to the party. I felt like a loser.

The chips were down, and I was tempted to quit. But thank God I didn’t. I needed that job to finance my art, to keep me sane, more so than I needed a trip to Orlando, watching clips of Braveheart, doing “breakout” sessions” with a bunch of ex-football players in pleated pants and Brylcreem. The whole experience taught me that the only one you can trust in life, no matter what your path, is yourself. I was an oddball, and no level of covering up my true self during the day was gonna work. The artist inside me needed to show through, and, eventually did, in spite of myself. I was an outcast by nature, and it was time to come to terms with that.

I eventually left that place altogether and said good riddance to those squares. The coast is clear. My true self is now allowed to come out and show itself, day and night. I still sing in bands, but I now work for an advertising agency as a designer, and I also make my living designing gig posters professionally. My clients are mainly people I met while leading the dual life of a junior sales rep/corporate lackey by day, and punk rocker by night. That job forced me to fight for what I love, to have faith in what I believe in, and to appreciate the true person lurking beneath the phony exterior of a lousy day job. I’m glad I didn’t give up.

Maintaining a dual lifestyle wears you down. If you’re not true to yourself, eventually you’re going to crash, one way or another. But if you remain true to your dreams, no matter what life throws your way, your true self will eventually make its big debut. Be true to you.

Brad Castille, Marketing Director/Web Entrepreneur, New York, NY:
I worked for five years at a local nonprofit as an Administrative Assistant to the Marketing Department. My hope was that I would eventually move up within the ranks.

This particular organization was known for holding high profile events, and these events offered a great opportunity for employees to prove themselves. Lots of media and celebrities were always in attendance. But never one to be star struck, I could usually be found on my feet working the night away. I kept things very professional and never got distracted by all the glitz and glamor. But one year, my professionalism was questioned, and I nearly cracked under the pressure.

It all happened during one particular fundraiser when we hired an outside PR firm to help manage the often delicate world of media relations that surround these kinds of events. The PR firm sent a group of mostly young, college-aged girls, and I was partnered with them for the evening. Everything seemed to go down without a hitch. We spent the entire event hustling between the press box and backstage, seating guests, playing gopher to whoever needed a hand, you name it. Everyone worked tirelessly and gave one hundred and ten percent. No star gazing. No partying. We kept our noses to the grindstone.

But come Monday my boss called me into his office. He said that one of the undercover police officers who had also been assigned to help with security that night had reported that I (or someone closely matching my profile) had been spotted bringing “girls” out onto the floor during the event, and spending much of my time “entertaining” these girls. I informed my boss that these “girls” were in fact members of the PR staff that we had hired that night, and everything was strictly business. After a lengthy interrogation, I was let out of his office. A number of the regular staff vouched for me and even went on the record to say how well I’d done that night. But something fundamental between my boss and I had been breached, and we never fully recovered one another’s trust. It sucked.

I weathered this storm, and eventually found my way out of this situation altogether. Most of my off hours are spent these days focusing on my lifestyle/ecommerce website which I launched thanks to money from my day job. I still hold a day job, too, working as the Marketing Director for a well respected creative firm where I enjoy the trust and support of my coworkers and my boss. It’s a charmed life, and sometimes you just never know how things are going to turn out.

——

So there you have it, folks. What doesn’t kill you, only makes you stronger. Never giving up, and not giving in, only serves to sharpen your creative edge. Hang in there!

Note: This blog post is a combination of facts and certain embellishments. Some names and identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals.
Furthermore, names, dates, places, events, and details have been changed, invented, and altered for literary effect. The reader should not consider this blog post anything other than a work of literature.

Where Can I Learn Graphic Design? – A Newbie’s Guide

Where Can I Learn Graphic Design?

Are you new to the world of graphic design and wondering where you can find resources to further your knowledge on the subject? You’ve come to the right place. Today, we’re sharing some of our favorite online resources with you. Some of them are free, others require payment. We hope you find them helpful as you begin to develop your career as a kick-ass graphic designer. We believe in you!

Learning graphic design online

What this will entail: this will include one-of-a-kind artwork – including business stationery, brochures, packaging, illustration, infographics, typography, posters, prints, t-shirt design and more. Skills needed: Adobe Creative Suite, illustration, communication skills, understanding of printing practices, business prowess. How? Learn the technical skills through online sites. Have the opportunity and funds to learn in a classroom setting? We highly recommend it! But you can learn a wealth of information on the web. Here are some places we recommend checking out:

Read Blog Posts:

Watch Documentaries / Movies / TED Talks:

Design is One: A movie about Lella and Massimo Vignelli, the famed couple who brought us their New York subway map and other numerous graphic design projects.

Helvetica – a feature length independent film about typography, graphic design and global visual culture

Milton Glaser: To Inform and Delight – Glances into the everyday moments of Milton Glaser, the brain behind the iconic I <3 NY logo and New York Magazine.

Sign Painters – Sign Painters explores the history of the time-honored craft of sign painting.

Start Learning Online:

Adobe – Where better to learn Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator?

Go Media’s Arsenal – We can’t go without mentioning our tutorials! Do not miss our best-selling series on Adobe Illustrator, including Adobe Illustrator 101 a Tutorial for BeginnersAdobe Illustrator 102: Illustration Using Vector Art, and Adobe Illustrator 103: Texturinzing Vector Illustrations, Modifying Type, T-Shirt Design

Creative Live – Creative classes, inspiration, and tips in photo and video, art and design, and more. Classes priced individually.

Skillshare  – “Bite-sized” classes in not only design but business, technology, photography, film, writing, crafts and more. Classes are $12 billed monthly or $8/mth billed annually.

Lynda  – Courses in business, technology, and creative skills taught by experts. Free trial available. Starting at $19.99/mth.

Udemy – Course in development, business, IT and software, personal development, design and more! Check out the platform’s biggest and most popular PS course by Manfred Werner.

Phlearn – Aaron Nace’s site is a lively and engaging place to learn about all things design. Check out his free tutorials or head directly to his YouTube channel.

Proko – Beef up your illustration skills over at Proko’s YouTube channel.

Ledet – Offers 2 to 5 day hand-on Adobe training classes (in person). Watch and enroll for them here on their site.

The Illustration Academy – intense, immersive illustration experiences. Online workshops available.

Skillcrush – Becoming a better designer means learning to communicate with your colleagues. Hit up Skillcrush’s 10-day bootcamp and become better friends with your developer. If you like the course, you can further explore the world of web design throughout Skillcrush and on sites like Code School.

Online Courses Review – Lists some great online resources

100 Best Photoshop Tutorials (from Basic to Advanced) – by our friends at PSD Stack

eBooks, Books and online resources on design and business:

How to Draw the Marvel Way by Stan Lee
The Elements of Graphic Design by Alex White
Designing Brand Identity: An Essential Guide for the Whole Branding Team by Alina Wheeler
Thinking with Type by Ellen Lupton
Logo Lounge by Catherine Fishel and Bill Gardner
Type Matters by Jim Williams and Ben Casey
Drawn to Business by William Beachy
Thread’s Not Dead by Jeff Finley
Graphic Designer’s Pricing Toolkit by Go Media
Making and Breaking the Grid: A Graphic Design Layout Workshop by Timothy Samara
Above the Fold: Understanding the Principles of Successful Web Site Design by Brian Miller
Logotypes and Letterforms: Handlettered Logotypes and Typographic Considerations by Doyald Young
What to Do When It’s Your Turn (and It’s Always Your Turn) by Seth Godin
All Marketers are Liars: The Underground Classic That Explains How Marketing Really Works — 
And Why Authenticity is the Best Marketing of All by Seth Godin
Package Design Workbook: The Art and Sciences of Successful Packaging by Steven DuPuis and John Silva
Lean Startup by Eric Ries
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
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
SEO Quickstart Guide by Go Media
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
The Advertising Effect: How to Change Behavior by Adam Ferrier
Decoding the New Customer Mind: How and Why We Shop and Buy by Kit Yarrow
Growth Hacker Marketing: A Primer on the Future of PR, Marketing and Advertising by Ryan Holiday
Free: The Future of a Radical Price by Chris Anderson

What resources have you found helpful in your journey to becoming a graphic designer? Please share with us in the comments section below!

How to Launch an Online T-Shirt Business

Keys to Launching an Online T-Shirt Business

How to Launch an Online T-Shirt Business

Here at Go Media, we receive many fantastic emails from fans and friends who are creating their own online clothing businesses. They write with many questions for us – everything from how to get started through how to launch with a bang. We thought we’d take this opportunity to address some of these great questions and give some advice to the best of our ability. Ready? Let’s get started!

Brand, brand, brand.

To have a successful business, you need to build a strong brand. You need to come to understand what you offer that is unlike any other apparel line, who your target customer is and what makes you stand above others. Keep in mind that there are millions of apparel lines out there. Until you have a compelling story line, you’ll be on a road going straight to nowheresville.

Once you have gotten real with yourself, identified your brand and developed your vision, you can begin to create the assets needed for your business, including your mark, logotype, truly unique apparel, ad material, etc.

Pick your pleasure.

Do some research and choose a site (or multiple sites) where you’ll post and sell your designs. Sites like Teespring, Fabrily (Teespring Europe)FreshMonk, Gooten, GearBubble, Teechip and Teezily are ready-to-use platforms that will help you launch your own web-to-print ecommerce business.

Teespring

Prefer to run your own store? Try to create your own eCommerce website through sites like Shopify, Wix, Squaespace or Weebly. Fulfill orders through a trusted printer (like Jakprints) or fulfillment sites like Printful.

Another option is to work with marketplaces such as Big Cartel, EtsyRedBubble, Amazon, Cafe PressSociety6 and Zazzle. The benefit of this is that the marketplaces have not only tools set in place to get you going in a jiffy, but pre-existing customers who are ready and waiting to take a look at (and hopefully purchase) your work.

You can also try submitting a design to a site like Cotton Bureau, but understand that the acceptance of rejection of your design is solely at the discretion of the site.

Email Marketing Platform MailChimp

Set up all of the accounts.

Stake your claim on all of the social media accounts associated with your new brand. Yep, a Facebook page and Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, Snapchat accounts, a blog – you name it. You will need these to advertise all of your awesome designs and connect with your ever-growing community, so set them up now and get to work on them when the time is right. Depending on which platform you use, you will also want to set up a Mailchimp account. This will be vital in collecting information from and keeping in contact with customers. Email marketing, after all, is free and one of the best, most targeted ways of marketing available.

In order to keep your finances in order, you may need to get set up with accounts such as Stripe, Square or Paypal.

Nail your photography and copywriting.

Should you need to take your own product photography, make sure it’s on point. Do your research on where it’s being sold, as many retailers will ask for your product to be shot on a plain background. Make sure that you shoot all sides of your product (front, back, various angles and close up shots as needed), so that your customer gets a real life, intimate view of it. Not a professional photographer? iPhones work miracles these days, especially when partnered with time and care.

Template_HeroIMG_Arsenal_Mockups-Pullover-Hoodie

Better yet, use pre-existing professional, high resolution mockup templates from the ArsenalMockup Everything or Shirt Mockup, to ensure that your customers are seeing your designs displayed on the best of the best.

When writing product descriptions, know your stuff. Order the apparel you’ll be selling and give it a test run. How does it feel in the real world? Is it true to size? Does it shrink after washing? What does your design look like on a classic tee versus a tri-blend tee? Do they fade differently? Is it truly something you’d want to wear?  If not, start from scratch until you find the perfect t-shirt. You know, the one just like your favorite tee you can’t help to wear over and over again.

You’ll need to test your product on family and friends of all sizes and shapes, so this is a great opportunity to get some modelshot photos in. We suggest taking these photos on both white backgrounds and out in the real world.

Do your research! This will take time, but will pay off in dividends.

Once you’ve nailed the best product and understand how it feels, you’ll really need to sell it in your product description. Read other product descriptions until you’re blue in the face. What do they include that appeals to your senses? Include not only a detailed description of your product, but what makes it unique, how it will benefit the user and how it will improve their life. American Giant is doing a fantastic job of this with their “World’s Best Hoodie” campaign. Consider using testimonials here as well.

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Ship it out, keep in contact.

If you’re responsible for shipping out your own product, do so without hesitation. We suggest using a scale and label printer from stamps.com, where you can also print labels. This makes things incredibly simple and allows for the shipment of product immediately. Should you have any difficulty with fulfilling a product or need to delay shipment for any reason, get in contact with your customer immediately and be honest. Customer service is key.

While we’re on the topic of shipping, consider adding your own personal touch when your product is on its way out of the door. Write a personal thank you note to your customer and stop and take the time to make your packaging something to remember.

Get your work out there.

While you’re getting up and running, get your gear out in the real world. Share samples with friends and hit the streets with your designs by participating in flea markets, art shows and other community events where you can sell your merch. Getting your name out will start the momentum you need and can give you some immediate feedback as well.

Be relentless.

Starting any new venture takes tenacity. Instant success isn’t guaranteed. You may fall more times than you’ll step forward. The more you count your failures as learning moments, the more you keep pushing towards your goal, the greater the chance you’ll become known. So keep narrowing in on who you are, what unique gifts you can bring your audience and put your best foot forward always. We believe in you!

Tips for Cold Calling

In Defense of the Dreaded Cold Call, Part 2: Get On The Horn

The Eccentric’s Guide to Cold Calling in 5 Simple Steps….

Last month we discussed the oft forgotten virtues of peddling your wares door to door, a daunting enough task to be sure. In this installment we’ll explore the redheaded stepchild of marketing, the black sheep of self promotion, the dreaded cold [phone] call. They don’t call it the COLD call for nothing either. It’s true. Everybody dreads it. You do. They do. I do (And I love to “BS” with people).

There’s something about the process that feels unnatural for both persons on either end of the line. It’s cold, indeed. Cold enough to give both the caller and the person being called the shivers. It’s the Mt. Everest of sales tactics. You could be the most outgoing, confident person in the world, but picking up that phone and finding the strength to dial that number takes some doing. Here at Go Media, Cleveland’s premier Design firm, we believe in you. Your will is strong, and you’ve already got the know-how. You just need some motivation. So here we go…follow our lead!

Today we’re going to add warmth and personality to the cold call process in 5 simple steps. We’ll debunk some of the mysteries behind it, get the skunk on the table, look it in the face, and overcome our fears together to help you get your foot in the door and grow your business.

Fear is the optimum word here, people. More specifically, fear of rejection. It’s at the core of our collective dislike over cold calling. That, and it just seems unnatural. No one likes to have their day interrupted with a phone call from someone they hardly know. Being the person who has to make that call can be intimidating. If you’re like me and you hate being solicited, then you’re going to hate being the solicitor. You’re bound to feel some bit of self loathing, maybe even self hatred. To this I say, resist the temptation. Keep your chin up. You’ve got something valuable to share. And, besides, it has to be done. You can hide behind a smokescreen of emails forever. But pretty soon you’ll find that your business is suffering. There’s always room for some good old fashioned one-on-one conversation with people to perk things up a bit. We’re only human after all. It’s okay to feel some trepidation with the process. But it’s that personal touch (the very humanity of it all, if you will) that makes it such a reliable form of communication.

Step 1: It’s all about overcoming objections. Cold calling is a contact sport. You’re going to run into a lot of resistance. Just remember that you’re not a shyster, and you’ve got something important to offer.

Q: How does one overcome objections?
A: With confidence.

Q: How does one gain confidence?
A: Well, you either got it, or you don’t.

But if you’ve got it, and it’s hiding under a layer of uncertainty, then do your homework. Learn as much about the company you are attempting to reach before you make that call. Seek to understand what it is that the company does. Get to know them inside and out. Identify possible needs that they may have, and fill in the gaps with the value that you bring to the table. This will help build confidence. And nothing thwarts resistance more than exhibiting confidence.

Step 2: Develop a personal approach. Conversation is an artform. You can talk AT people, past people, or wait until the other person is done talking, so that you can start talking too. None of this makes for good conversation. Be prepared to let people speak. Learn to savour the silences and pauses in a conversation. They’re gifts. In a world full of noise and distraction, it’s nice to let things fall naturally. Resist the temptation to fill in the gaps, and don’t worry if the person on the other line is about to interrupt you or dump you down the booby hatch. Throw caution to the wind. You’re not a snake oil salesman. You’ve done your homework. You understand their business, and you’ve identified a need. Share it, naturally. And, by all means, let the other person have the last word.

[Note: Here’s an extra bit of oddball advice for further instruction…Check out some old Youtube videos of the great talk show hosts, like Johnny Carson, Dick Cavett, or Tom Snyder. This may sound highly unorthodox, and it may even strike you as being a bit silly. But, fact is, these were three of the world’s’ greatest conversationalists, able to naturally shift gears and effortlessly follow the rhythm of any conversation with just about anyone. And how did they achieve this? By being genuinely curious about other people. So open your mind. Get over yourself. And get ready to do more than just talk. Get ready to listen, learn, and share. Before you know it, you too have become a brilliant conversationalist.]

Step 3: The yogic approach. No kidding. One of the biggest hurdles to the cold call is physical tension and nervousness. Nothing calms the nerves more than simple breathing. And nothing jumpstarts breathing more than a little physical activity. Try doing some stretches before you call, some forward bends. Get the blood flowing, and let it rush to your head. If if helps, and you have the mobility, get up from your chair, and walk while you talk. It’s more natural than sitting at a desk with a phone glued to your ear.

Step 4: Get passed the gatekeepers. You will encounter them over the phone. Some of them are downright suspicious of everybody. Most of them, however, are ordinary people just doing their job. Don’t be discouraged. And, for goodness sake, don’t be rude. Talk to them the way you yourself would like to be talked to. Show them the same courtesy you would to the receptionist at your dentist’s office. Chances are they’ll warm up to you.

Come clean with who you are and why you’re calling. You’re seeking a moment of someone else’s time. Be up front about it. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. The gatekeepers are trained to sniff out the sneaky ones. Don’t be sneaky. And most importantly, always remember, before they connect you, to ask for the direct extension of the person you are trying to reach. That way, next time you call in, you can bypass the gatekeeper entirely. Unless of course you hit off. If so, more power to you.

Step 5: So you’ve had a nice brief chat with the gatekeeper/receptionist, and it has been determined that you do not pose any imminent threat of wasting anyone’s time. Congratulations! The finer attributes of your personality have really shown through! “I’ll connect you now,” says the receptionist. And just like that, you’re in.

That went well. Before you know it, you’re on the air. And it’s not a voicemail, but an actual person you’re speaking with. Remember to pace yourself. Your cold call is getting warmer. Speak in a manner that reassures the person on the other end of the line that you’re not a kook. Tell them upfront, right out of the gate, who you are, why you’re calling, and ask them if now is a good time to talk. Regardless of their response, this is your cue to provide a little bit more detail behind who you are and the purpose of your call. The person on the other end of the line is listening. You’ve got their attention. Deliver a short pitch, ask a question or two about their business, and settle in for the conversation.

At this point the conversation could go just about anywhere. If they insist on speaking with you at another time, accept it. Be prepared to offer a specific alternate date & time to follow up with them. In the meantime, offer to send them more information on your business. This will illuminate your next conversation.

So there you have it. You’ve cleared the biggest hurdle in the process – finding the motivation to pick up the phone, get passed the gatekeeper, make that personal connection, and establish familiarity with your clients. The rest is up to you. Good luck!

How CTAs Boost Your Revenue and Increase Business

The Importance of Calls to Action

An effective call to action, or CTA, can have a resounding impact on revenue while also expanding customer reach.

CTAs are common throughout the web, from social media to blog posts, but the most successful speak for themselves with profitable results.

CTAs also possess an enjoyable versatility, both in regard to platform usage and actual content, that makes their usage recommended for business in all niches. When digging deeper into why and how successful calls to action work, while also looking at examples of poor calls to action, several things become clear:

1. CTAs Can Exist Anywhere

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The early age of the internet saw a fairly limited number of areas ripe for calls to action. Since CTAs can exist anywhere content can, today presents a wider range of opportunities than ever for businesses to take full advantage of CTAs. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and other platforms all present ample opportunity for calls to action, whether in the form of conventional text or even a video or photo making the call to action. As the example above shows, platforms like Instagram even provide accessible call to action options.

This versatility aids in increased revenue because it allows for more creative opportunities. Audiences vary between the platforms. Viewers of a blog, for instance, are fully expecting to digest content, making lengthier calls to action appropriate. Meanwhile, viewers of Instagram are more in the mode of quick digestion. In this case, a quick video or photo with a concise call to action seems more appropriate.

Using the versatility of CTAs, while analyzing which CTAs are a fit for the particular medium, can result in a business seeing extreme increases in revenue. Reaching out to the entire user base via blogs and social media can ensure a wider net is cast than ever before.

2. They Serve as the Finishing Touch

One could convey a brilliant marketing pitch and be faultless in their delivery and content delivery, yet still fail to capture business if they don’t finish well. Summarizing all the benefits of joining a service or purchasing an item at the end of the pitch is integral to closing things up. Calls to action have the power to do this.

Aligning CTAs correctly is part of the art. Ideally, for a blog post, successful CTAs are placed at the end, with the preceding content leading into it and the CTA summarizing the beneficial points. A question like, “So what are you waiting for?” or “Ready to join?” is commonly included.

Prematurely placing a CTA can cause readers to forget to undertake the action entirely. They may get so swept up in your beautiful content that the CTA can be forgotten. That’s why placing it at the end is a better strategy — it can leave a more resounding impact and result in more conversions.

3. CTAs Can Reinforce Established Expertise

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Users are unlikely to respond to a call to action if they’re skeptical about you or what you’re offering. As a result, great calls to action are preceded by content that establishes a legitimate reputation and knowledge on the topic. For example, this guide to better landing pages from Hubspot includes eleven great tips. By the article’s conclusion, there is no question as to whether Hubspot is an expert on the subject.

At the article’s conclusion, they ask users: “What other landing page tips would you share with marketers taking an interest in landing page optimization?” This causes users to stop and think, reflecting on what they’ve read so far. With many at a loss for what to respond with, Hubspot cleverly includes right below that a very effective CTA: “Want more lead generation tips and tricks? Download your copy of The 30 Greatest Lead Generation Tips, Tricks & Ideas today.”

Asking readers a concluding question and then following that question up with a relevant call to action can work wonders in terms of increasing revenue and grabbing a reader’s attention. It’s generally a three-step process that entails capturing the reader’s interest, immersing their newly learned knowledge with an applicable question and using that question within the CTA.

4. Non-Specific CTAs Can Work, When Incorporated Intelligently

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Content-tailored calls to action can work wonderfully, though the power of CTAs is also evident in their ability to be placed anywhere regardless of topic. An entirely irrelevant CTA won’t work well, such as pitching an eBook about aviation in an article about pest control, but more general CTA tasks — like subscribing to the entire site’s newsletter or following them on social media — can be pushed regardless of the topic being presented in the blog or social media post.

Hubspot does this well, too, placing a call to action box at the bottom of many blog articles that give viewers an option to subscribe to their newsletter. After some time on their page, a pop-up also appears with the option to “Get expert marketing tips straight to your inbox, and become a better marketer” above a box where you can enter your email address.

The box only pops up after a minute or two on a page, with the site assuming you’re reading and interested enough in the content to consider subscribing. Using time-based pop-ups like these, as opposed to just popping up immediately, can be the difference between being perceived as a nuisance and a helpful suggestion.

5. Harness the Power of Testimonials

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In addition to strong content, testimonials can be a difference-maker when people are wondering whether to go through with a presented CTA. LinkedIn knows this well, dedicating an entire page to endorsements and testimonials from respectable figures. On their various product pages, where CTAs are used to get people to sign up, these testimonials are visible on the page.

This is a particularly wise method for businesses not as dependent on substantive blog content. If users aren’t going to gain good judgment of your reputability or success from content alone, have others reinforce that notion. CopyBlogger uses endorsements nicely in their call to action, with various endorsement quotes evident right below their “Take the Tour” CTA.

6. Establish Urgency! CTAs Love It!

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Effective calls to actions can vary in their content and tone, though they generally all do possess a relatively urgent quality. Creating the impression that something is limited or very timely can prompt users to make the action, as opposed to simply telling themselves “I’ll do it later” before forgetting about it entirely. The call to action on Leadpages’ weekly webinar is a great example of this, telling users to “Click Here to Claim Your Spot,” with a countdown timer below that. While the timer may be a bit much for some sites, it’s certainly an effective tool to tell potential leads “this won’t be here forever!”

CJ Pony Parts’ homepage CTA also successfully uses urgency. They offer a 10% off sale, while noting “this is your only chance all year to purchase select Cobb items on sale!”. Again, this informs users how much time they have can create a productive anxiety of sorts, with them opting to take care of it now before forgetting later.

Calls to action clearly possess a great ability to generate revenue and expand a business’ reach, as long as they show urgency, are implemented appropriately on a platform-specific basis and are uplifted by shrewd placement and copy. All businesses should be taking advantage of CTAs in our very social media and blog-active climate.

Lexie Lu is a freelance UX designer and blogger. She enjoys researching the latest design trends and always has a cup of coffee nearby. She manages Design Roast and can be followed on Twitter @lexieludesigner.

The Elements of Great Poster Design

Great Poster Design Tips:

Recently, we received an email from a Go Media friend asking a simple, yet incredibly complicated question: “What are the qualities of a good poster design?”

And while we’ve done many a blog post about posters that inspire us, we haven’t covered why they have done such a great job of doing so.

So today we are going to do our best to answer that question – as simply as possible.

As we all may know, a poster’s job is often three-fold; it serves to advertise and communicate information while acting as a piece of artwork.

A great poster communicates a message clearly.

Of those three tasks, the poster absolutely must deliver a message as clear as a bell, so that it is as digestible in as little time as possible.

To accomplish this, make sure your poster flows well to do that:

  • make sure it is easy to read from a distance
  • grabs the viewer’s attention with a main image or headline, then
  • answers the questions who, what, when, where and how and
  • leaves the least important details to the fine print

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A great poster is simple.

In order to communicate your message, your poster should be relatively simple. If you bombard them with too much information, they’ll leave overwhelmed.

Remember:

  • Less is more.
  • Let it breathe! Leave enough white space so that the viewer can absorb the information.
  • Choose complimentary color palettes

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A great poster captures your attention.

When designing your poster, certain elements will capture the attention of your viewer above others. These include playing with:

High contrast

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Dominant images

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Bold and/or playful typefaces

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Extreme minimalism

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Bold color palettes

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A monochromatic theme

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A great poster motivates your viewer to take action.

Many posters serve to advertise shows, concerts, movies or other events. Your goal is to entice the viewer to respond to your art in some way, shape or form – by making a call, hitting up a website or heading to a show. Can you think of an out-of-the-box way for them to take action immediately, such as with a coupon code, QR code or by enticing them to enroll or sign up by a certain date for some wonderful reason?

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A great poster knows where to call home.

When designing, it’s vital to keep in mind where it will call home. If it will exist in one environment only, you can cater its size and color to that environment. If not, make your choices understanding that this poster could live almost anywhere. Picture it both living in a dark dingy club or a on a bright red gallery wall.

A great poster starts a conversation with your viewer.

Most folks are on the move when they encounter a poster. If it’s clever in concept, they will be more likely to take time to interact with it. So, take the time to start a conversation with your viewer. Evoke an emotion in them. Make them laugh, think. Take them on a journey – if only for a moment.

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A great poster is just plain lovely.

Yes, posters serve to communicate and call your viewer to take action, but they also serve as pieces of artwork. This only helps to reinforce their message. Enjoy the process!

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Follow us on Pinterest for more posters we love!

Advice to Young Designers

How to Get Better at Graphic Design – Go Media’s Creative Advice to Young Designers

Advice to Young Designers

The Creative Kids Academy visited Go Media to gain some insight on what makes this great multimedia company great, advice on starting a company and some one on one brainstorming with some good ole drawing. Go Media talked to the young creatives about developing your skills as a designer, being able to adapt to your client needs and how to stay relevant in this ever so changing market.

The overall vision of Creative Kids is to provide disadvantaged at-risk youth with the beneficial resources to develop the necessary skills that will introduce them into the creative field. We provide a solid visual educational experience by guiding youth in developing the capacity for challenging their sense of imagery and creativity, systemic critical thinking, and preparing them for client-based practices. They also learn about social awareness, marketing, branding, promotions, and present their portfolio on Behance. Youth are engaged through educational social media platforms, interviews on their creative process, speed art tutorials, and field trips. Creative Kids are encouraged to think as business-minded individuals, and realize that entrepreneurship does not have to wait until the completion of a higher education.

Best Web Theme 2016

Meet Go Media Designer Sites

Go Media Designer Sites – The practical, affordable web solution with the Artist’s touch. Beauty made simple.

This is the epic tale of Designer Sites, the agile, accurate, utterly gorgeous, and affordable new web solution from your friends at Cleveland Web Design firm, Go Media.

Go Media has always maintained a keen eye for quality design. We built our reputation on it, and it remains at the core of our business. But years ago, when we first set out to build websites, the results were mixed.

Like our designs, our early websites were handled with the utmost care. And, true to form, they looked beautiful. But with this attention to detail came a price. Each site to go live from our Cleveland based Design studio was fully customized and looked as if it had been meticulously handcrafted. Gorgeous but inefficient.

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We had to find a sweet spot between beautiful designs and affordability. A little less Elon Musk, a little more Henry Ford – strange bedfellows indeed, but if anyone was capable of bringing the business acumen of these two giants together in spirit, it was Go Media.

So we went on the hunt for pre-built web themes, and found that the internet was littered with them. That was part of the problem, and probably should have raised a red flag early on. But this was years ago, and the internet was still a little bit like the wild west. The landscape was punctuated by one gold rush town after another. Some were built to last AND pretty to look at, while others were abandoned almost as quickly as they’d been settled. The market was just beginning to pick up steam, and already moving at a breakneck pace. Things were happening fast.

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We soon learned that websites are a perishable product that require regular maintenance,  and an awful lot of pre-built web themes spoil fast. The world of pre-built web solutions seemed to us like a clandestine, nether region where orphan themes – created by deadbeat developers who’d long since flown the coup – were left to die on the vine. Every time we’d pick a theme, the thing was obsolete within a matter of months.

It seems that the authors of these web themes – maverick web developers – approached their work with nomadic conviction. As a result, these web themes didn’t get the support they needed. This ultimately led to a bonanza of web solutions with very short shelf lives.

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So we decided to build our own. Sure it needed to cost less, but not at the expense of a beautiful user interface and an intuitive user experience. We had to achieve a balance between agility and accuracy for all of our clients, big and small. There were allegiances to support. And it had to have integrity.

Long story short, we did it! Have a look. Go Media Designer Sites. More a ‘65 Mustang than a Model T. Not so much a Roadster as a Tesla Model 3. Beauty made simple, and built to last – everything you’ve come to expect from Go Media at an affordable price.

Contact us today to learn more.

Creating Typography Animation Using Photoshop

Typography Animation

Web designers, creative artists, creative directors, and graphic artists, use the art of typography to create digital art. Photoshop is one application by Adobe that is widely used to create high quality works of art for print as well as the web.

Typography fonts are used in advertisements and promotions of brands as they attract attention. This can include creating metallic effects, 3D or 2D effects for the fonts. Movies, television, and many other visual platforms can use these effects to display animated text. Typography is an intricate art of designing letters that beckon attention of the viewer. An artist must know the nuances of typography to be able to create effective word art. You can create umpteen effects of the word art using animation and filters in Photoshop. Many tools and layers work together to form a final output that looks stunning and is eye catching. You can blend backgrounds, pictures, and brush strokes in letters using Photoshop.

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Some examples of how Typography is used in Photoshop

For instance, if you want to create a word that reflects the vintage or the Victorian era, the colors, patterns, and text style must also represent that era. To get started, you can cut and paste the text in Photoshop. Before getting started, you can sketch a rough combination of these words to get an idea about the font style and other detailing. Photoshop is filled with many tools and layers. You need to have basic knowledge of Photoshop and know how to navigate and use these tools. This is the best visual tool you can have to create animation text for television, internet, or any other visual platform.

Creating moving text can be simply defined as animation text. You can make letters fly, shrink, move, laugh, or give them any expression that is human like, using animation in Photoshop. You can use any background, color, pattern, or design to create an animation text. To convey the emotion, the choice of animation can be used on the text. It gives emotions to letters and characters, helping television, web, and the visual broadcast produce emotional content through text.

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Open Photoshop and create a new document choosing the dimensions of this new document. Fill the background with the color or pattern of your choice. Choose a font style and type any word you want. Also, choose the size of the font. Depending upon the types of animations you want to apply, create that many layers for that word. Select the work and go to filter and choose a filter of your choice. There are various choices of filters that you can experiment with.

You can also use brushes that come with symbols and predefined artworks. You can create layers for the brushes of your choice above the text layer. Create different patterns for each layer. Now the final step is to animate the entire word that is designed and textured as per your requirement. Go to the Windows menu and click on the animation option. Create three or more frames of the same text. You can choose the time frame and also the style of animation for different frames. You can cut and paste text and create layers, backgrounds, and animate them too. Finally, you must save your work to a gif format of the file. This is the format for animation files. You can now use your imagination and work on any text and word styles possible and animate them.

You can use these styles for the web creating visual styles for businesses, or individual artists. This type of text also expresses the personality of the individual as well as the business. It makes the copy of advertising and promotion more attractive and readable. It is professional as well as a creative way of displaying the brand to the world.

How to Master the Art of Visual Web Design

Specialization in Graphic Design

Not getting noticed? Try narrowing your focus.

Specialization in Graphic Design

As entrepreneurs, we often have lofty goals. We want to be all, do all, achieve all. However, when we concentrate on fulfilling everyone’s needs, instead of becoming experts at our craft, we need to take a step back. Though we all may have a variety of skill sets, we should ask ourselves: What is it that I do best? Where do I shine? What can I bring to the table to truly impact my client’s business?

Narrowing your client focus can give you an edge over your competition in our increasingly competitive market. This is also a unique way to brand yourself and a way to begin to develop a unique personal style that clients will come to recognize and seek out.

We sat down with Gary Irwin, founder and creative director of the boutique design agency, Variant, who has found that specializing has been the key to growing his firm organically. Irwin’s particular client focus is the independent film industry and finds him spending the majority of his day partnering with distributors and filmmakers to create one-of-a-kind posters, packaging, and digital art. Concentrating on this market also fulfills both of his passions: filmmaking and graphic design. Win, win.

Ready to narrow your focus? Here are some tips to set you up for success, paired with Gary’s wisdom.

Decide where your efforts will be concentrated

If you’re ready to narrow your scope, take time to focus on where you’ve had past success and where your passions lead you. Do the majority of your clients come to you for packaging design versus hand lettering? What creative endeavors do you find yourself engaging in outside of work?

With over 15 years of design experience and leadership under his belt, Irwin found it a no-brainer to put all of his energy into the independent film world and specialize in what he did best. “I just knew,” he said, “this was my path, and I was ready to take the leap.” Variant was born.

Once you’ve made the decision to specialize, set up camp and get to work, but proceed knowing there will be hurdles to jump from the start. The unique challenge of choosing to narrow your focus is building a solid client base from a smaller playing field and selecting projects from a tiny portion of your portfolio.

As Irwin notes of his decision to specialize, “Knowing you want to do it and actually doing it are two different things. I think one of the most intimidating aspects of specializing in a particular offering is getting started. But while it’s challenging to get into the rotation and get your name out there (I went through a lot of stress early on, I still do), the rewards of becoming a go-to creative in a particular vertical market are ten-fold.”

Autism In Love Theatrical one-sheet & digital poster for Matt Fuller and Carolina Grooper by Variant Creative
Autism In Love Theatrical one-sheet & digital poster for Matt Fuller and Carolina Grooper by Variant Creative

Create your mission statement and follow through

Once you’ve established your focus, it’s always a good idea to take the time to sit down and ask yourself some foundational questions to plot out what’s to be a successful journey. For example, why did you get into design and why are you in this business? Who are your favorite clients and why do you love working for them? What is your mission? Your vision? Your purpose?

Irwin carved out a mission statement to keep himself on track. “What I didn’t want to do was constantly hustle without moving towards something, so I spent a lot of time early on crafting my philosophy and launched Variant with a very specific mission statement.” In this statement, Irwin addressed his passion to work on key art for independent film, his drive to constantly improve his craft and his desire to narrow in on his vertical market.

The Blackout Experiments Sundance Poster for Ferocious Entertainment by Variant Creative
The Blackout Experiments Sundance Poster for Ferocious Entertainment by Variant Creative

Create great work and the clients will come

Though your initial road to landing clients once you’ve narrowed your focus may be bumpy, hard work, hustle and great work are always best. Have patience while you build your portfolio with examples of the work you want to do. Concentrate on making sure it’s the best it can be.

“Creating compelling work is my mantra. The work helps get the bigger fish to come. It will start to snowball into the attention you’re looking for. Use all of your typical marketing methods, of course. Blast as many people as possible. But the constant is making sure your work is solid,” Irwin suggests.

Ballin' At The Graveyard Theatrical, festival Posters & Box Art for Dugway Pictures | Virgil Films by Variant Creative
Ballin’ At The Graveyard Theatrical, festival Posters & Box Art for Dugway Pictures | Virgil Films by Variant Creative

Constantly hone your craft

As you work on narrowing your focus, the clients will come and in turn, you’ll find an easier time identifying them. With more work will come more opportunity to become better at what you love to do.

“Because of a narrow focus, I know the market. I know who my customers are and I know how to find them, Irwin reports. “This has helped me tremendously in getting my name out there.”

“On a personal side, this is what I enjoy doing the most. I get to become an expert at what I love to do and it helps me stay sharp. Everything comes back to Variant moving forward in becoming the best at what we do.”

Thanks to Gary of Variant Creative for all of the great information he provided us in this post! Learn more about the work he does by visiting his official site, or get social with him over at Instagram, Facebook, Tumblr, or Twitter.