Archive: Sep 2012

  1. Batmans Guide to Illustration

    1 Comment 4 min read

    We all know and love Batman, the Dark Knight that patrols the rooftops of Gotham, bringing terror down on the unjust and protecting the innocent. But don’t you ever wonder how things might have turned out if Bruce Wayne had taken up painting rather than crime fighting to try and overcome the grief from his parents murder? Yeah, me too.

    Don’t you ever wonder how things might have turned out if Bruce Wayne had taken up painting rather than crime fighting?

    One thing that a lot of people often forget is that Batman is essentially a ninja using shadows as his main ally to complete his tasks. However, these shadows are not just there for cover or to hide in, he uses them to create shapes that strike fear into his enemies. Creating giant bat silhouettes on walls and ceilings. In illustration too we can use shadows to such an effect, and in a lot of ways they can make our lives a lot easier, but first you have to become one with the shadows, you have to make them your ally.

    Planning

    The first thing a shadow requires is light. You need to decide early on in your illustration which direction that light is coming from and think about how it will affect the shadows it casts. You really can’t have shadows being cast in all different directions if you want to make them seem believable. Once you have your light source, you know that every shadow will be cast in the opposite direction, so get your image drawn and start adding in potential areas for shadow. You want to be looking at protruding areas. On a face you’d have the nose and eyebrows. On a building you’d want to look for corners and windowsills. Now that you’ve identified these areas look at their shapes and imagine the shadows they would cast and draw in a rough outline. This can look a little bit odd, and it can be a little difficult to keep track of what’s shadow and what isn’t, so what I do, and what’s considered pretty much the industry standard amongst inkers is to place a simple ‘x’ in the areas that need filling in.

    Execution

    Admittedly this is a very stark way to treat lighting, but let’s face it, this is Batman’s guide to illustration so it makes sense that there isn’t much of a grey area

    The reason we use an ‘x’ and don’t just manually fill the areas in is that it takes ages and is really boring. By drawing a simple outline you’ve created a selectable area that once scanned into Photoshop can be very simply and very quickly filled in. It’s at this stage that you get to see if you’re shadows look right or not and make any tweaks you may need. When you’re using solid blacks for shadow you’re creating a very strong light contrast and if you’re scene is already a dark one, it may well be the case that this is the only shading you’ll need to do. Admittedly this is a very stark way to treat lighting, but let’s face it, this is Batman’s guide to illustration so it makes sense that there isn’t much of a grey area.

    Efficiency

    So where are the benefits to using shadows like the Bat? Well for one, take a look at the examples above, they’re almost 50% solid black and have actually added to the illustration rather than taken away from it. With half of the area buried in shadow it very simply means that you have half the area left to colour and shade which makes you twice as productive. So just like Batman uses shadows to pick off his enemies so that he doesn’t have to deal with them all at once, so too can you take some of the excess colouring out of your illustrations to help you out.

    Complacency

    A word of warning here though, it can get very easy to get carried away with shadows and in the past I myself have been guilty of overusing them. It may well have only taken me ten minuets to colour and shade my illustration but there was so much shadow going on that you couldn’t really tell what it was that I had even drawn! You also need to keep an eye on context. Obviously this method of shading works incredibly well when your illustration is suppose to be dark and dingy, but if you’re drawing a sunny field on a cartoon farm, these heavy shadows can look a little out of place. Just remember Batman, he works well in the dark because he can disappear into it, but in the sunlight he just looks a bit silly.

    If you’ve found this article useful or have any questions I’d love to hear them. If you’re actually Batman and you’re annoyed with me for giving away your artistic secrets, please let me know in the comments below.

    Photo Credit to Anirudh Koul

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  2. Do I Need a Free Online Portfolio?

    Comments Off on Do I Need a Free Online Portfolio? 5 min read

    When it comes to the most important tools a graphic designer has at their disposal, a good portfolio is pretty high on the list. It’s an absolute must have for anyone wanting to get ahead in this industry and quite frankly there really isn’t any excuse for not having one. As I’ve said before, you portfolio really needs to be available online and ideally be on your own website at your own domian name. Directing potential clients you www.companyname.com/portfolio is the very best setup to have and should be what all designers ultimately want to achieve.

    The Free Portfolio

    If you’re not covering £4.37 a month through your graphic design business, then I’m sorry to say that you don’t really have a graphic design business

    From time to time, I get emails sent to Hunting Town from other designers and illustrators looking for work, with a link to thier portfolios. I make a point of always look through the portfolio of every designer that contacts me and I’m astounded with how many of them direct me to free portfolio sites! I’ve heard designers give countless excuses for not having a domain name portfolio, like “I don’t know how to build a website” or “I can’t afford the hosting”, and they’re all rubbish. There are loads of tutorials out there on how to set up a quick portfolio website (you could even redirect the URL to one of your free portfolios!). As far as cost goes, I know for a fact you can get hosting for just £4.37 ($6.95) a month, because that’s what I get charged for this website through Bluehost, and that’s with a free domain name! If you’re not covering £4.37 a month through your graphic design business, then I’m sorry to say that you don’t really have a graphic design business.

    So with that all said and done, am I totally against the idea of a free online portfolio? Hell no, they’re a great idea.

    Eyeballs

    I have set up countless free online portfolios for Hunting Town throughout the internet, simply because every single one makes my chance of being found a little bit better. Think about your online presence as a shop window. If you have a huge, awesome display in your shop window, then that’s great, but only the people who wander by will ever see it. Now if you have lots of posters out there all up and down the high-street, and all of them pointed in the direction of your main store, you’d end up getting a lot more eyeballs.

    The idea being that visitors who like your stuff will want to see more and follow the links through to your main portfolio

    On my free portfolio sites, I don’t put every scratch of work I’ve ever done on them. I pick a few of my favourite pieces and put them up with links in the description to my main website. The idea being that visitors who like your stuff will want to see more and follow the links through to your main portfolio (which should be set up to better convert them into clients). If you think about it, it’s really pretty simple; the more links there are to your website online, the more people will find it. For free portfolio sites that’s doubly true as you know that visitors there are already interested in your industry.

    Community

    Another great aspect of these free portfolio sites is that they more often than not have a pretty strong community built up around them. No doubt enticed by the successes of Facebook and LinkedIn a lot of these website also offer commenting on portfolios and integrate methods of social media sharing, tagging and following. All of this adds up to a strong niche community of likeminded designers and artsits.

    Now you may well be thinking “Why do I want to appeal to to other artists? They’re not exactly going to hire me are they?” and you’d be right, they probably wont hire you to do what they could themselves. Connecting with other artists however does give you further methods for exposure and by tweeting links to each others works, or sharing images on Facebook you’re extending your reach to potential clients who may have otherwise not have heard of you.

    Where Do I Start?

    So where to begin with all this? Well a simple Google search for ‘free online portfolios’ will yield thousands of results no doubt, but to help try and thin the herd a little, here are a few of the websites I use and would recommend to get you started.

    1. Behance. Behance is a must for all graphic designers and illustrators out there. Even if it’s the case that you don’t have a portfolio at a domain name, this is the place you absolutely need to be showcasing your work.
    2. Coroflot. Another leader for design portfolios, this website has recently had a rebrand and is looking slicker than ever. Coroflot also has an active jobs section so you know that potential clients are passing through there.
    3. Deviant Art. Perhaps a little more directed at the hobby artist, Deviant Art is still a good place to have a presence online, if just for the community if nothing else. They actually have a very nice free portfolio feature hidden away in the menus that’s very clean and professional.
    4. Carbon Made. This website looks so cool and funky, it definately seems more directed at illustrators. The free portfolios it offers up are very clean and practically unbranded, so it’s well worth a look if you want something to redirect your domain to.
    5. Shown’d. Very similar to Carbon Made, this website offers uncluttered and unbranded portfolios. They also have a jobs section and agencies section however so it may be better suited to finding work?

    As I said, these are just a few examples and whilst I’d recommend you having a presence on all of them, I’d by no means stop there. One last slice of advice I’ll offer up is to keep a record of where you have accounts and keep track of all the passwords and usenames as they can build up very quickly. Also whenever you complete a major project that you’re really proud of, do the rounds with it and update all of these portfolios to keep them looking fresh.

    If you use any other sites you believe are vital that I haven’t listed here, or you have any questions about using free portfolios alongside your main portfolio, I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.

    Photo Credit to :Duncan

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  3. Thoughts On the New Look GoMediaZine

    2 Comments 6 min read

    The Go Media Zine holds a special place in my heart. When I was first getting started as a graphic designer Go Media was definitely my guiding light. I spent a lot of time searching around other design firms, trying to get an idea of how I should present myself, and generally how I should try and go about running my business. After stumbling upon (and lapping up) the Go Media website I quickly found myself on their sister blog site; the Go Media Zine. This website offered up not only design tutorials but real world business advice for designers. Needless to say, the Zine was an amazing find for my novice designer self, and the words of Bill Beachy and Jeff Finley quickly became (and to this day remain) gospel.

    To put it bluntly, I have become very fond of it

    So for the past four years the Go Media Zine has become one of my on-line designer haunts. I check it daily, subscribe to the newsletter and have even had one of my own articles published on it. To put it bluntly, I have become very fond of it- and I have no shame in stating that it acted as a blueprint when designing the Design Range.

    Go Rebrand

    Recently Go Media announced that they were having a total on-line rebranding to try and tie their extensive on-line portfolio together under one uniformed appearance. This initially kicked off a few months ago with the new look Go Media.us website and has now extended to my beloved Zine.

    go media

    The new look is a huge departure from it’s dark, textured and illustration heavy predecessor

    The new look is a huge departure from it’s dark, textured and illustration heavy predecessor, and features a very clean, professional white and grey look. From someone who follows the running of the company (as) closely (as I can), it’s clear that Go Media are trying to push into the next tier of design firm. Originally they began as specialists in illustration and bleeding edge graphic design, however in more recent years their portfolio has leaned toward identity creation and web development. Now this isn’t to say that they have abandoned their roots- in fact anyone who has read Jeff Finleys Threads Not Dead, or attended their Weapons of Mass Creation Fest will tell you that’s far from the truth. However it is true to say the Go Media are growing up a bit. I don’t mean to say that in a negative way, or make it seem as if their prior work was some how ‘lesser’, but it’s evident that Go Media  are concentrating less on smaller up and coming businesses and instead are putting a lot of effort into tendering for much larger corporate contracts.

    If you’ve listened to the new Go Media Podcast then you’ll have heard Bill remark about how sometimes work just doesn’t come in, and how stressful that can be for a large design firm that has  employees expecting their wages at the end of the month. In some ways I think that this new look and new approach is an answer to those concerns, and from my perspective at least, I find it incredibly exciting to watch a design firm step out of their comfort zone to try and achieve greatness.

    So What About the Zine Then!?

    Sorry- I’m getting totally side-tracked here. This is suppose to be a review of a new website design, not a company analysis!

    go media zine

    To get back to the Go Media Zine (aptly now renamed to simply ‘Zine’) it’s clear to see that the Go Media team don’t do rebrands by half. Far from a simple re-skin, the whole of the website functionality and layout has been redone to meet modern standards in web and blogging design.

    I actually went from one website to the other and back again without realising it!

    The home page greets you with a nice chunky view of the latest post with a big image and unusually large picture of the author which is nice to see. Below this, other recent posts are divided up with only the next two articles having featured images and text samples, and the remaining six being displayed only through their title. This stops the home page from feeling overly long and means that any visitor doesn’t have to scroll for too long before finding themselves at the all important footer. Go Media is using an almost identical footer to that of their main portfolio website and the links within it act as a strong bridge between the two websites (I actually went from one website to the other and back again without realising it!).

    The article posts themselves are really something to behold with a huge 1120+ pxl wide image that spans the full width of the page alongside the epic article title typed out in 43px! (in a very sexy looking FF Meta Serif Web Pro font I might add). To say that the Zine is going big is an understatement. Although all this largeness is quickly undone by a curiously narrow content body. I’ll admit that I was a little perplexed by this at first and even though the extra space on the left is well utilised by some choice block quotes, it seemed like a bit of an odd move to me. That was of course until I check out the website on my iPhone.

    iphone

    Design like this is really forward thinking

    The whole of the new Zine (and indeed the rest of the new breed of Go Media websites no doubt) is fully responsive and adapts well to any screen size. This means that when viewed on a mobile device or tablet, the website adapts it appearance to display in the best way possible (rather than just shrinking the whole thing down and have you scrolling around it). With this considered, the new narrower article body fits very well with the look of the website when viewed on a mobile device, and a very strong sense of synergy is created that is often lost when comparing a desktop website to it’s mobile counterpart. Design like this is really forward thinking and it’s something that I’ve actually implemented right here on the Design Range (try resizing this window to see what I mean). The upshot of all this is that the new Zine behaves more like a native app when viewed on a mobile than it does a website (although there isn’t yet an iOS compatible favicon to make it look like one yet- just an idea).

    The only thing I’m not 100% taken with on the new design is the lack of author bios at the end of posts. Admittedly, authors are now shown off much more prominently in their large images at the top of the page, but there is still a distinct lack of information about just who these people are. It may just be me here, but when I really enjoy an article I like to know who wrote it, and I don’t just mean their name.

    Conclusions

    All in all (as I’m sure you’ll have guessed by now) I’m totally in favour of the new look Go Media Zine and will continue to be an avid reader for as long as the team at Go Media keep posting articles.

    If you’re a fellow follower of the Zine, I’d love to hear what you think about the new design. Do you love it, or loath it? Do you long for more familiar ground or relish this fresh new venture? If you’ve not heard of the Go Media Zine before then I strongly encourage you to check it out. If you like what you read here then you’ll no doubt be just as enthralled with the offerings of Go Media, so check them out and be sure to report back with your opinions on the website design!


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  4. Why Lowering Your Prices WON’T Make You More Competitive

    4 Comments 4 min read

    It’s no secret that times are tough. The recession has hit everyone hard and everyone is looking to save money where they can. For business to business industries like graphic design this can be a real problem as design is considered by many (rather unwisely) not to be an essential component of business and is often one of the first places business are looking to save money. Just switch on the television if you need proof, and count how many of the adverts you’re seeing are repeats dug out from years gone by.

    Seems like a good idea…

    Surely the only way to be competitive is to offer comparable rates?

    With everyone seemingly looking for the very best deal they can find, it might seem only natural to think that lowering your prices is the only way to keep from going under. A lot of design work is being taken overseas to eastern countries with lower cost of living rates that can do the same work for much less, so surely the only way to be competitive is to offer comparable rates?

    How you hope your clients will see it

    If you did decide to drop your rates you have think about how your clients, old and new would see the change in pricing. No doubt you hope your current client list would see it as a favour. As a recognition that purse strings are tight and that you’re looking out for them and their best interests. New clients would look at you and realise that you’re offering outstanding value for what you’re charging and that they’re incredibly lucky to have found a real professional at such low rates.

    How your clients will actually see it

    The message you’re really sending is that you’re struggling

    In reality however this is often far from the truth. The real message you’re sending is not one of understanding and helpfulness. The message you’re really sending is that you’re struggling. You’re telling your current clients that you can’t keep your head above water and that you’re either not getting enough work in, or that you’re not very good at what you do. In either case you now have your current clients wondering if they’re making a mistake by staying with you. They may well be happy with the work that you’re doing for them, but if you’re lowering your prices then that means that your other clients aren’t happy, so maybe they know something this client doesn’t?

    Likewise new clients will look at you and see a company just getting it’s feet wet and looking to get a foot hold in the industry with it’s low rates. Once they see that your portfolio is extensive and that you’ve been working as a designer for several years alarm bells will begin ringing as to why you’re so cheap? The work looks good, so maybe you’re really slow? Or perhaps you have problems sticking to briefs? Is it really worth them taking the risk on you when something is so obviously wrong?

    Moving forward?

    Even if you do survive you’re drop in prices, what does that mean for the future of your business? Raising your rates is a very slow process done over several years, so even after we come out of the recession it may still be years before you’ve earned up the trust to get back to where you were. Your old clients will be upset that the trust and commitment they showed you in the hard times isn’t being repaid and some of your newer clients will no doubt be upset with paying more for the same level of work that they were receiving to begin with.

    What you should do

    It’s a difficult thing to get your head around, but what you need to do is stay the course. The companies that are seeing the most success throughout this recession are the ones that have kept their footing and in some cases even raised their prices. It may seem counter intuitive, but the message you’re sending out by sticking to your rates is that you strongly believe that this is what your work is worth, and that is what your clients will think too.

    You strongly believe that this is what your work is worth, and that is what your clients will think too.

    Think about it this way, if Apple needed a designer, would they look for the best deal out there? Not on your life. That’s because to them, quality is everything and they are absolutely willing to pay for it in order to keep their brand where it belongs. There will always be clients out there who want the very best, and whether it’s right or wrong, one of the key ways they will judge who is the best is who charges the most. If you’re rates are low, it doesn’t matter how good you are, the big clients that still have the money needed to grow your business will not even look at you twice.

    If you have any advice or an experience you’ve had with changing your rates, I’ve love to hear about it. I realise that rules like this aren’t hard and fast and that there can always be exceptions, so if you’ve had a positive or negative experience from changing your rates, let me know in the comments below.

    Photo Credit to giveawayboy

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  5. What is a Graphic Designers Salary?

    14 Comments 5 min read

    Graphic Designers are a multi-talented breed of professional, whilst once we were bastions of the print industry, in today’s society we’ve become a one stop shop for pretty much everything media related. As it’s so difficult to nail down exactly what a graphic designer is, it makes it all the more difficult to know what you should expect as a reasonable graphic designers salary?

    Location

    Designers primarily working in major cities like London, Manchester, New York and San Fransisco are earning more than their leafy suburban counterparts

    Another thing that needs taking into consideration when we talk about a Graphic Designers salary is location. Granted, speedy broadband internet has meant that it’s more possible now than ever before to work anywhere you like, but if you look at the figures it’s still very clear that designers primarily working in major cities like London, Manchester, New York and San Fransisco are earning more than their leafy suburban counterparts. Also you need to look at the actual country you’re in. It’s become a bit of a bone of contention in the graphic design community that designers based in countries like India and Thailand charge far far less than those in more developed countries, but that’s quite simply a fact of life. A ‘good’ salary comes down to what quality of life it affords you, if a designer can charge a lower amount than another for their services and have a comparable quality of life, then it’s fair to say that what they’re being paid is a good salary. Sure it can be irritating when you’re loosing clients who are being attracted to lower prices overseas, but you’ll find that people will generally pay a premium to work with someone close by, even if they never actually meet them.

    Experience

    What is more true in graphic design industry than in most is that experience pays. The more of it you have, the more you generally earn. Obviously I’m assuming that a person who has been designing for a long time has improved over that amount of time so the increased income can be compared to the increase in skill, but that’s not all experience brings you. The longer you’ve been working as a graphic designer the more clients you will have worked with, the more recommendations you will have received and the more impressive you reputation will be. This is more true of freelancers than of designers working ‘in house’ or for an agency, but a natural progression up the wage scale over time is standard in that kind of framework.

    Importance

    They will want the very best designers, and the best way to attract (and to keep) those top level designers is with top level pay

    The last main principle that can effect your graphic design salary is how important you are. Put simply, if you’re working for big name clients like Coke or Nike then you’re going to charge them more than, let’s say your local café or friends band. Having those big names in your portfolio is a really solid way to justify higher rates than other designers. Likewise you can see a similar pattern in design industries. If the agency you’re working for primarily deals with prestigious brands then they will want the very best designers, and the best way to attract (and to keep) those top level designers is with top level pay. (-Click to Tweet this!)

    General Salary

    So now you have an understanding of how flexible and varied the career of a graphic designer can be, you hopefully should understand that whenever you read a “what a graphic designers salary is” style article, you need to take that with a pinch of salt as any one of these factors could throw it way out of sync. However, with that said, I can VERY generally give you an idea of what graphic designers are earning in the UK and America (I’m sticking to these two countries as they’re where I primarily do the majority of my work, plus if you’re reading this in English, then there’s a good chance you live and work in either of those countries too).

    If you’re brand new to design and are trying to join a firm as an entry level or junior designer then you should be looking at around £14,500 ($22,000) upto around £25,000 ($40,000) max (any more than this and you’re more that likely to be classed as a senior designer). As a freelancer first starting out, it’s a bit more difficult to call as you may not have that guaranteed work every single day which can effect the amount you take home annually, I’d use the £14,500 ($22,000) as a good starting point and look at charging around £15 ($24) to £25 ($40) an hour.

    As you move up to senior designer levels then you really want to be hitting that £25,000 ($40,000) mark as you’re base, and in time, depending on the agency you’re working for you can expect to push that rate as high as £45,000 ($71,000). As a freelancer, moving up into the big leagues it’s not unusual to charge upwards of £40 ($65) an hour for your work, with no real limit as to how high that rate can go. I’ve heard of designers so in demand they can charge £200 ($315) an hour for their time and still be booked up for months.

    If you’re the McDaddy and actually own the design company you work for, your annual income can hover around the £65,000 ($100,000) range if your firm is enjoying a moderate success, although at this level, there are so so many factors at play it’s really tough to nail down what you should be earning. After all, you’re the boss now, you should be telling us.

    So like I said, this is a VERY general guide to graphic design salary and I’ve done my very best to explain the factors that can affect your income as a Graphic Designer. So hopefully you have a better footing now in terms of what to expect from the industry, and remember – it’s not just about how much money you take home, but how happy you are about the work that you’re doing. Being a Graphic Designer is an incredible job in any capacity, but if you enjoy more creative work then maybe you should take a hit on how secure your income is and opt for the life of a freelancer. Maybe your dream is looking out over rolling hills every morning, in which case, maybe not earning those big city wages isn’t such a bad thing. At the end of the day, it’s your call and you need to be happy, not just with the salary you take home, but with the life that you have.

    If you have any thoughts on what a designer should be earning, or any questions on the different factors that can affect your salary feel free to ask away in the comments below.

    Photo Credit to Juhansonin
  6. 10 Inspiring Quotes That Will Get You Designing

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    Every now and again we all hit that design wall. It’s like you can’t think straight. Like every concept you come up with has been done before, or is just plain old rubbish. It’s an irritating feeling and it’s one that we all have to face at some point, and simply admit the fact that for today at least, our inspiration well has run dry. Although, for the professional designer who has deadline to meet and bills to pay these days can be a real nightmare. One little trick I’ve found over the years is to look to others for inspiration. Sometimes, we may not feel overly passionate about graphic design and that’s ok, but when those days come by my way I boost my inspiration levels back up to full by reading over a few of these inspiring quotes that always get me back on my feet and back designing. (Just so you know- you can click on any of these quotes to Tweet them!)

    1. You musn’t be afraid to dream a little bigger darling”
    Eames (Inception)

    Ok, technically not a quote from a graphic designer (or even a real person) but the message rings true none the less, and perhaps even more so for designers. When we are asked to create something for a client the brief is often laid out in black and white, it’s our job to to then turn that into an all singing all dancing barrage of clever imagery. It can be tempting to look at what has come before and mimic that, but personally I always try to push myself to go one better than the best design I can find.

    2. “If you think it’s that simple, then do it yourself”
    Unknown

    This is more of a quote directed at those clients that all of us have to deal with from time to time. As in my post about 12 things to remember when designing a logo, sometimes your finished product may look very simple, but that’s not why you’re paid. You’re paid for how you got to that finished design, the fact that it’s so simple is testament to how good you are at what you do. The fact of the matter is that there are very very few people that can do what you do, remember that and remember your worth.

    3. “When you make something no one hates, no one loves it”
    Tibor Kalman

    Good design is about getting peoples attention, and to do that sometimes you need to step out from the norm. Sure, not everyone might like it and the sorry state of the matter is that you’ll probably hear about that more than you’ll hear about the people that loved it. But just remember, for every person that doesn’t like your bold design, there is another out there who thinks it’s amazing.

    4. “Good design is good business”
    Thomas J. Watson, Jr

     This is something I need reminding of from time to time and it’s useful for any designer to keep it in mind. What we do, we do for a purpose and that purpose more often than not is to do with business. If we just designed what we wanted for no other purpose than to please ourselves then we would be artists. To be a designer you have to be as mindful of your audience and the message to want to display to them as you are about what you’re actually creating.

    5. “The best way to accomplish serious design is the be totally and completely unqualified for the job”
    Paula Scher

    Don’t take it all too seriously. If you knew everything there was to know about something then doing that every day would be a very dull task. I’m happy to say that every day I learn something new about the design industry and that every day I become more creative and an overall better graphic designer. If you waited until you knew everything about something before you did it, you’d do very little.

    6. “No masterpiece is ever created by a lazy artist”
    Salvador Dali

    If you’re doing something then do it right. It may be the case that the job you have on at the moment may not press your buttons creatively, but that’s the time that you really need to kick things up a gear. Every day designers make amazing things out of the mundane, so when a boring jobs comes your way, use it as an opportunity to make something amazing.

    7. “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone”
    Unknown

    Do what you don’t know and do it often. If you want to grow as a designer then take on new challenges and keep on learning. Whether it’s a new program or a new art style, keep on pushing yourself. My personal mission at the moment is to get to grips with video editing so I’m spending my spare time learning all I can. When I get half decent I’ll maybe take a job from a client for little or no money to build up a portfolio in that area and in time it’ll be a whole new service that I can charge for.

    8. “Design is thinking made visual”
    Saul Bass

    Clients need you because they have something to show, something that cannot be said or written down. That can make your job very difficult, but that’s what you’re paid for. So when you’re designing you need to keep the idea that needs to be reaching your audience at the forefront of your mind.

    9. “Clients don’t understand their success is reliant on standing out, not fitting in”
    Don Draper

    It can be irritating when clients demand a dull design because that’s what their competitors are doing. What you need to remember is that your clients are not just paying for your creative talents, they are paying for your knowledge and advice, so if you can see them making a mistake- call them on it.

    10. “Quit slackin’ & make shit happen!”
    Very wise Unknown

    This is the most important quote of all. Just do it. If all else fails, just start and see where it leads you.

    If you have any other quotes that get your design juices revved up then please let me know in the comments below- I’d love to hear them!

    Photo Credit to Dave Makes

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  7. 12 Things to Keep in Mind When Designing a Logo

    6 Comments 6 min read

    But of course the art of it lays in the fact that ‘anyone’ didn’t did they? We did. That’s why we’re Graphic Designers.

    Designing a logo is the dark art of the Graphic Designer, they can take months of work, have the potential to cost a fortune and in the end, the product is often something that ‘anyone could have come up with’. But of course the art of it lays in the fact that ‘anyone’ didn’t did they? We did. That’s why we’re Graphic Designers. With that said though, everyone needs to start somewhere so here are twelve things that you need to keep in mind when you’re designing that next killer logo.

    1. Don’t Leech

    Be inspired yes, but never leech. The first step in logo design is looking at what other people are doing in that industry, what’s the general ‘look’ that customers expect to see when trying to find this company? It’s well known that people look more at shapes and images than words, which is why you’ll have no problem reading stuff like this.

    “Arocdnicg to rsceearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoatnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer are in the rghit pcale. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit pobelrm. Tihs is buseace the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.”

    So it’s really important that you’re logo looks like it belongs to that industry (unless you’re going for that whole bleeding edge of graphic design look where looking different is what you want). But with that said you shouldn’t just copy other peoples designs. Sure it can be tempting when you see a logo so amazing it’s hard to get your mind off it, but think of it like this- that logo has set the bar that you need to beat. So don’t be a Leech, be a designer and go beat it.

    2. Sketch It

    Get as many ideas down onto paper as you possibly can. The more I draw the more ideas I find I have

    Get scribbling! Get as many ideas down onto paper as you possibly can. The more I draw the more ideas I find I have and the more little tweaks and variations I end up doing to the designs I like. One bit of advice though- don’t show your scribbles to the client, you may know that this is just a first step but to them it can seem a bit unprofessional, and when I first started out I lost a potential client this way. Instead, pick your favourites and do a much neater sketch to show them off (also this way, you’re assuring the client doesn’t pick one of the rubbish ones!).

    3. Think About Your Audience

    Like I said in step one, your target market needs to have a good idea what industry your logo is for before you even open your mouth, so do your research. But it can go a bit deeper than that- you have to think about your audience niches. Take the music industry for examples and band logos. Metalicas logo is very different from Daft Punks. Now you can tell they’re both band logos, but it’s very clear that they’re not only from separate genres, but from what genres they belong to.

    4. Work Small

    Logo’s need to be easily reproducible. I always use the analogy of the Ikea pencil: if you’re logo can fit on the side of an Ikea pencil then it’s ok. You never know how big or how small your logo will need to be at some point in the future, that’s why we deliver them as resizeable vectors. So if you’re designing your logo in Photoshop or any other pixel based program work small. It’ll ensure that you don’t get carried away with all those fancy embellishments.

    5. Design in Two-Tone

    It doesn’t really matter what colours you choose but always work with just two tones (a design colour and a background colour). Now I’m not saying that your logo has to just be one colour, but if you make sure that it looks good, and it works in just one colour then it means that it can be used in ANY capacity. Whether it’s stamped, embossed, stitched or laser engraved, you need to make sure that it’ll work.

    6. Don’t Get Bogged Down by Fonts

    When I first started as a Graphic Designer, this is where I started my logo design, with fonts. What I should have been doing was getting sketching like in step two and worked the fonts around my design. Starting with the fonts is a bad idea if you don’t know where you’re going with your design, all you’re basically doing is seeing which font your chosen business name looks good in, which really isn’t what logo design is about.

    7. Math’s Book Cover Test

    When I design a logo, someday, somewhere a kid may just end up doodling it on his maths book.

    This is one of my personal logo tests and it harks all the way back to my school days. When I was in maths class, there was a guy sat across from me that would always be scribbling and doodling on the cover of his maths book, I mean this thing was covered. When the day came for me to collect all the books in, I finally got to see that what he had been doodling all over his cover were logos! Nike, Addidas, Cartoon Network, you name it. But looking back at it now it’s made me realise that when I design a logo, someday, somewhere a kid may just end up doodling it on his maths book. So I always do my best to not make it too complicated for him.

    8. Design In a Square

    This one comes from the world of social media we live in. However you design your logo, whatever format you use, it will always end up in a square. Why? Because it will be a Facebook profile pic, or a Twitter icon, or a YouTube icon. If your logo doesn’t fit well in that box then it’ll just look nasty.

    9. Stay Away from FX

    I design up my logos in Photoshop (before vectorising in Illustrator) and I know form experience that it’s very easy to start clicking those FX check-boxes to give you’re logo some zazzel, but don’t! They don’t shrink well, and they just look a bit generic and naff. Anyway, you can’t vectorise a drop shadow or an emboss, so be smart and keep it clean.

    10. Remember Typography

    Now I know what I said in step 6 about not getting bogged down by fonts, but you do have to pay attention to them at some point and when you do it’s important that everything matches up well and keeps the message you’re aiming for. If it’s really the case that you want your logo ‘JUST be the business name’ then I recommend you give Font: Classic Typefaces for Contemporary Graphic Design a read as this does a really good job of showing where each font type is typically used and can give you a good indicator of what your audience will assume about you when they see your logo.

    11. Kerning Kerning Kerning

    Kerning could be a tutorial all on it’s own, so I won’t go into too much depth about it here. All I will say is DON’T FORGET IT!

    12. Flip it

    Ctrl+I baby, do it and do it often. Inverting the colours on your design will let you know if it works on a dark background as well as it does on a light one. I’ll say it again, you never know where this logo will end up, your client may well have a thing for ivory business cards and black polo shirts, and guess what? Your logo needs to work on both of them!

    Hopefully this article has given you some food for thought, and a good footing for getting started with your next logo project. If you want to ask me anything about any of the twelve steps or you think there’s anything I’ve missed out, then let me know in the comments below.

    Photo credit to Hunting Town & My Fair Cupcake

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  8. 6 Steps to a Wireless Workspace

    2 Comments 8 min read

    As a designer, you’re workspace, whether it be in an office, your spare room or just on the couch is an important place. It’s not an important place, like the place you asked your wife to marry you is an important place, or like the place you learned to ride a bike as a child is an important place. It’s an important place because you spend so much of your flippin’ time there! Think about it, you work eight hours a day, five days a week for let’s say forty five weeks of the year (and if you’re anything like me, that’s being VERY modest). That’s a total of 1800 hours every year spent in that environment!  So if there’s anything that irritates you just a little now, you can guarantee it’ll be the bane of your life by the end of those 1800 hours!

    For me, two things get under my skin at work.

    1. Noise. Talking, traffic even music irritates me to distraction! Don’t get me wrong, I love music, but unless I’m listening to exactly what I feel like at that exact moment in time, there’s trouble. The radio is my number one enemy. (Click to Tweet this!)
    2. Wires. They’re either too long and get wrapped around your chair legs, or too small and you’re constantly pulling and tugging at them! That, and lets face it, they just look a mess.

    Now the noise thing is a pretty easy fix. All it requires is a heavy duty set of headphones and playlists for all occasions (I even have an ambience one of rainfall when I just need some white noise).

    The wires however are something that you’ll just have to put up and live with. Everything needs wires so the very best option out there is a cable tidy, right? Wrong. There are wireless solutions out there for almost every scenario in today’s market, so there is no longer any need to suffer the tyranny and clutter of all those stupid wires!  So here they are, six steps to getting your graphic design workspace 100% wireless.

    1. Keyboard & Mouse

    Ok, so this one’s pretty basic and most of you will probably already have this sorted but for those that don’t, this is a must! As a designer, you’re probably constantly pushing everything on your desk to one side whilst you pull out your drawing pad and scribble down your next awesome idea, so having a keyboard and mouse that can live on a shelf at a moments notice is a real help. When wireless keyboards first came out they weren’t brilliant. The receiver what a huge dome thing that sat on your computer (connected by a wire!) and the signal would drop from time to time meaning you couldn’t type anything, or worse yet, didn’t notice and just had huge chunks of text missing! Well breathe out, because I can happily say that today that’s really not an issue any more and they’re actually really competitively priced too.

    I use the Logitech Wireless Combo MK520 and I’m really happy with it. I’ll be honest and say that when I bought it, I intended to swap the wireless mouse out for a wired one so it was a bit more responsive, but I’ve been really surprised by it and am happily still using today. Plus the receiver is this teeny tiny little usb thing that sticks out maybe 5mm so if you’re using a laptop you could just leave it in there and you wouldn’t really notice it.

    If money was no object I’d have opted for the Logitech Illuminated Wireless Keyboard for no other reason that it lights up and that’s pretty cool (although it’s much more expensive and doesn’t come with a mouse!).

    2. Headphones

    Now headphones may well not be an essential design item for you, but I couldn’t work without them so I’m including them here. But even if headphones aren’t your thing you can still grab some pretty neat wireless speakers on the market today. When I was a kid and wireless headphones first came out I was all over that! Unfortunately, they totally sucked. You had to put batteries in them so they weighed a tonne, and they cut out every time you stepped more than a foot away from the stereo. Now though they’re awesome and whilst some of my sound engineer friends have told me that they mean a dip in sound quality, it’s really not something that I’ve noticed.

    Personally I use the Sennheiser NM 100 headphones. They’re not the cheapest, but they’re rechargeable meaning that they don’t have any of that weight from batteries. They’re Bluetooth, so they can connect to your phone just as easily as they can to you’re computer  plus they actually have a microphone built in so you can use them for Skype calls and stuff.

    In perfect millionaire world I’d so have a pair of Wireless Beats by Dre headphones. I had a friend who had a pair of these any they’re amazing, but he was a session drummer and got a lot of use out of them when he was playing to tracks. As a designer though, try as I might, I just can’t really justify that hefty price tag (especially when 50% of it is for the name!).

    3. Graphics Tablet

    A Graphics Tablet is an item that is pretty specific to designers and artists and I’ve always wondered how commercially viable it really is as a product?

    A Graphics Tablet is an item that is pretty specific to designers and artists and I’ve always wondered how commercially viable it really is as a product? I mean sure, you have that niche of designers cornered who absolutely need one, but it’s not very main stream is it? I mean, not like a mouse is. It concerns me that developers may just make one decent product series and then stick to that to save on development costs, surely they can’t justify the expenditure of developing a wireless tablet can they? Hell yes they can!

    The Wacom Intuos4 Wireless Tablet  is only something I’ve recently heard of but already it’s on my Christmas list! I have a Wacom tablet already, and in short, it’s leagues better than any other tablet I’ve tried. But the one I have is wired, so obviously hearing about this got me very excited! I’ve read a lot of reviews on it and apparently it’s awesome and just as responsive as it’s wired counterparts. Battery wise it works like a phone in that it has a built in battery that needs charging every now and again, but I doubt we’re going to get away from that any time soon are we.

    If you think the Intuos4 is a little bit pricey, then you’re right, it totally is (quality costs), but don’t worry because if you have one of the recent incarnations of the much cheaper Bamboo Pen & Touch Tablet (which is totally awesome as well and was the tablet I started out with), you can choose to buy one of these nifty Wireless Accessory Kits that’ll convert your wired tablet into a wireless one! Lucky you!

    4. Printer

    Printers are becoming really smart now and if you buy one that just prints you’re kind cheating yourself. The big innovation at the moment is wireless printers that connect to your computer through your wireless network (which is very cool as it means any computer in your office can use the same printer with no cables), you can even buy ones that allow you to print remotely from your iPhone and have the print out waiting for you when you get home!

    Now printer wise I’m a bit lazy. I have a Brother A3 MFC-5890CN (because I use the A3 scanner a lot) and achieve my ‘wireless solution’ by just transferring everything between my computer and the printer via memory cards. Not ideal I know, but if I need something printing, it’s usually for a client so I have it professionally done at the printers down the road. I mainly use my printer for scanning my artwork so I need to be stood next to it to feed it my work anyway. If I had to opt for a wireless printer though, it would be the Brother DCP-J315W Wireless, simply because of how happy I am with my current Brother printer, well that and the fact that it looks REALLY cool (unfortunately for me though it only scans A4, so I’ll need to wait for it’s big brother).

    5. External Hard Drive

    Now this is really smart! If you were impressed with iClouds and Dropboxes then wait till you hear about this!

    Now this is really smart! If you were impressed with iClouds and Dropboxes then wait till you hear about this! You can get wireless external hard drives that you plug into your wireless router (ok, so there is one wire) and connect up to every computer on your network! This is something that’s really great for any Graphic Design companies out there with a few employees, as it means that all of your resources and stock images (as well as all your active projects) can live on what is effectively your own personal 2TB server! That means, no more duplicate files, no more emailing textures and fonts to each other, everyone can access everything in one place. Not only that, but you can log into your hard drive from any computer with an internet connection and download the files you need, which is perfect for those “I’m going to work from home” days.

    I use the Western Digital My Book Live as it does all this stuff, it works with both PC and Macs, and it has a cool little app you can download to your iPhone or iPad so you can show clients any work you’ve done before right there in the meeting, which is pretty handy (although I’ll admit I mostly use it for watching movies in bed).

    6. Buy a Mac

    Just bite the bullet and buy an iMac. The keyboard and mouse are already wireless, the speakers are built into the monitor (as is everything else) and the only wire it has is the one actually giving it power. I mean come on, whether you’re pro Mac or not, you have to admit, those things look gooooooood. You know you want one.

    Just so you know, the product links I’ve included are totally affiliate links so I get a small commission (at no extra cost to you) if you decide to buy any of them. These are all products that I either own and use personally or have heard really good things about from several trusted sources and I’m recommending them because I find them genuinely useful.
     
    Photo Credit Seantoyer

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  9. Where to Sell Your Artwork Online

    2 Comments 6 min read

    These days a designer really doesn’t have to be an island, waiting for clients to come passing by with work. In fact, if this is the only thing you rely on to top up your graphic design salary then you’re shooting yourself in the foot. Every designer out there should be practising every single day, producing piles of work that isn’t for clients but just for you. If you’re anything like me, more often than not these practice designs can turn out pretty cool and it can be a bit disheartening when you realise that you can’t really justify the time to finish these. Well pick yourself up, because these cool little designs can still earn you some cash. If you’re a professional designer then I’m guessing you have a pretty good eye for design, so if you think a design is pretty cool, the chances are that plenty of other people would too. A few of them may even spend money on it.

    By limiting yourself to selling in your own personal online store, you’r really limiting your audience

    There are a lot of places where you can sell your designs online, or set up shops where people can fill up their virtual shopping carts with your goodies. However the tough side of this is that only the people who know about you and your work will ever know these places exist so by limiting yourself to selling in your own personal online store, you’r really limiting your audience (and your potential profits) as well. That’s why in this article I’m going to try and focus on places you can sell your designs online that have an active community that you can market to and engage with. A lot of these website are as much for inspiration as they are for sales and have plenty of people trawling them daily for cool idea, so building up a following (and with it a bunch of sales) is something that is totally achievable.

    Etsy

    Etsy is definitely the home of cute little vintage products and I have to admit that I was first introduced to it by my fiancée who suggested I come up with some cool wedding invites and sell them there. So granted it may not be the perfect place to offload your design work, as stuff there needs to be of a certain style to do well it seems, but it’s definitely worth keeping in mind. The community is really strong on here and it’s seemingly used as much for inspiration as it is for sales. On the business side of things it costs you $0.20 to list an item for four months (or until it sells) and when you do make a sale they take a 3.5% commission (which is pretty good when you compare it to other sites). Obviously the $0.20 up-front is the risk factor here, but it’s small enough to risk throwing a few things on there and seeing how they do. Worst case scenario is that you’re a few dollars out of pocket.

    Deviant Art

    I’ve said before that this was where I got my first paid work when I started out as an illustrator, however what I didn’t realise back then was that I was actually selling prints of a lot of my designs. When you upload an image to your Deviant Art gallery you are automatically taken to a page where you set up all the details for selling that piece of artwork as a print. Now I just thought this was just another part of the submission process and just clicked ‘ok’ to go through it, not realising that anyone who viewed my work could now actually click a button in the top right hand corner and purchase a print of it! Deviant Art lets you set up your pricing (the default is set up so you only earn 20% on each sale, but you can up that so long as you remember to keep an eye on the total price!) and maximum sizes for print. It’s probably not the best deal out there in terms of getting the most money from your artwork, but Deviant Art has a really strong community and it’s well worth being a part of that even if you only make a sale now and again.

    Art Gallery

    It seems a bit more highbrow than most of these other sites which are directed at a younger, more indie crowd but it’s still worth taking a look at

    This is where I sold my first artwork online, these guys take a 35% commission on sales. It seems a bit more highbrow than most of these other sites which are directed at a younger, more indie crowd but it’s still worth taking a look at. I brand myself up as Alexander Singleton, rather than Hunting Town on there as I get the impression that the customers on there would rather buy from an individual artist than a design company or internet tag. Likewise the work that I sell there is far removed from what I sell on other sites, I focus mainly on my pencil and charcoal works, selling images of nudes from my life drawing classes. I’ve made a nice pot of cash from this website over time and I should probably pay it more attention than I do, new years resolution I guess…

    Pinterest

    Whilst not technically a shop in it’s own right, Pinterest is becoming more and more prevalent as a place to look for ‘cool things to buy’ thanks to the new addition of their ‘gifts’ section. Just check out this article by Krizia on ProBlogger.net for a decent guide on how to start making some cash from there. Basically you can set up links from Pinterest to your other sites that actually sell your products. So long as you have a price in the description, Pinterest will class it as a gift idea.

    Graphic River

    They’ll vet all of your work before they allow you to sell it, (so you better make sure it’s up to scratch)

    Graphic River is one of the Envato marketplaces so you know it’s pretty good. They like to keep a high standard on there as they primarily market to businesses and other professionals rather than the general public, so they’ll vet all of your work before they allow you to sell it, (so you better make sure it’s up to scratch). As it’s much more corporate orientated, you may want to cater the stuff you’re selling there to business, so illustration wise, think cute little business man icons or things that can be used in infographics. Payment wise, if you stick to just selling your designs on Graphic River exclusively then you earn a 50% cut of every sale, which can go up to 70% once you’ve made enough sales (the whole payment scheme is available here), if you want to sell your work elsewhere then your cut will be locked in at 33% so you need to think about whether it’s worth it or not.

    Red Bubble

    Red Bubble is the newest site I’ve come across, and although I don’t have a great deal of experience with it just yet, it looks very promising. They let you sell all manner of items from t-shirts to stickers to iPhone cases and they don’t take any commission on your work. How they make their money is simple. They supply the items your work is printed on, so everything you sell already has a base price. Say for instance you want to sell a cool iPhone case, they’ll tell you want it actually costs for the iPhone case and then you add whatever you think your design is worth on top of that to get a total price. Obvioulsy it’ll take a bit of experimenting to see what prices work best for you, but it’s a pretty simple way to make sales (plus you don’t have to worry about printing and posting stuff).

    If you have any questions about how sell your work on these sites, or if you use any other websites that I haven’t listed, please let me know in the comments below.

    Photo Credit to Jackie Kever

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  10. One Secret that will Dramatically Improve your Online Portfolio

    7 Comments 5 min read

    As a designer your portfolio is absolutely you’re most important asset. It doesn’t matter if you’re this generations Da Vinci in terms of you’re design skills if you can’t prove it. Likewise having a world renowned reputation as a Photoshop wizard will only get clients to your door, unless they can see the work you’ve done before they’re not going to take a risk on you. So with that said, it’s vitally important that as designers, our portfolios are the absolute best they can be.

    Now, I’m not sure if you’ve noticed yet, but you’ve had the good fortune in being born into a largely digital age. Whilst this doesn’t mean that you can throw out that chunky A3 leather-bound portfolio you’ve been carrying around since university, it does mean that your online portfolio is probably now just as (if not increasingly more) important as your physical one.

    How a Client Sees Your Portfolio

    When a potential client is looking through your portfolio they’re trying to establish what you’re really good at, what your skills are and most importantly; how you might handle their project. But that’s not all they’re looking for, what they really want to see, what they’re really looking for is confirmation. Confirmation that they’re putting their project in the hands of someone they can trust. Confirmation that other people have been where they are right now and walked away happy with a product clutched in their hands.

    What they really want to see, what they’re really looking for is confirmation

    Think about it. If you’re anything like me, when you’re buying something on Amazon or eBay you always check the reviews section. Even if you’ve done all the research on this item in the world and are utterly utterly convinced that it’s perfect, you still read the reviews. Why? Because you want the security of  knowing that people have already made the decision that you’re about to make and that they have been happy they made it. You want confirmation that you’re making a good call.

    What So Many Designers Do

    Now when I’m looking through other graphic designers portfolios a mistake I see again and again is that they’re not providing this confirmation. Their portfolio is just a flat image or two for each project and maybe a bit of a blurb, in some cases they may have a quote or reference from the client about how happy they are, (and that’s really good) but they could be doing so so much better.

    But… wait, you don’t have an image of that printed up either? No no… It’s ok… we totally trust you

    Say for instance you put together a sweet t-shirt design for a band and you made up this crazy awesome illustration to go on it. Obviously you show your illustration off, but that’s it? I mean, yeah, it’s very good and all, but are we to just take it as read that this ever made it onto a t-shirt? Oh, it says in the blurb that they used the illustration on their CD cover too, great! But… wait, you don’t have an image of that printed up either? No no… It’s ok… we totally trust you. We don’t need to actually see it do we?

    What You Need to Do

    They’re called product mock-ups and they are VITAL! If you design a cover for a book, then show it on a book! If you design a logo for a business card, then show it on the business card! Our online portfolios suffer from a major lack of tactile response so you absolutely have to do everything you can to show your work in situ, to show that it actually exists.

    This is the confirmation the client needs, this is showing them that you have follow through. That your previous clients have had real success from working with you. That they’ve ‘walked away happy with a product clutched in their hands‘ because here is a picture of that product, and look how totally awesome it is!

    So How Do You Do It?

    Now I get that we don’t always get to see the finished product all made up, in fact, we’re lucky if we get a blurry photo from the clients camera phone of it. Even if they’re nice enough to send some examples to you through the post (which a few of my past clients have been good enough to do), we don’t all have DSLR cameras with sexy shallow depth of field lenses laying around, so we still end up with a blurry image, but just taken on our camera phone instead. Well don’t fret, at the end of the day we’re graphic designers and creating awesome images out of thin air is what we do best!

    There are actually product mock up templates available to download online. These PSD templates have a photo of a blank object (be it business card, cd cover or poster) with a smart object layer in them so you can easily insert your own designs. All the layering effects and transformations are taken care of automatically, so instantly you have a very professional image of your design all printed up and looking awesome. Now, there are a lot of these templates out there and I know from experience that some of them can be a bit naff and look really fake, so I strongly encourage you to do your research and even email the author and request some examples so you can look at them in detail before you make a purchase.

    The two best sources I’ve found for product mock up’s are Go Media’s Arsenal and Graphic River. The Go Media Arsenal has some really stunning apparel mock ups, like t-shirts, vest and hoodies (this is where all my apparel templates come from) as well as some pretty cool object mock ups if you’re working in the music industry, so stuff like CD’s and even Vinyl’s. Go Media is a really fantastic design agency and it’s only their designers that produce stuff for the Arsenal, so you can rest easy, knowing that everything is really good quality there. Graphic River is my port of call for more corporate stuff like business cards, logos and branding packs but because there are so many more authors, there is a higher risk of getting a naff product (most good authors will show you a zoomed in ‘actual pixel’ section of their mock so you can inspect the quality).

    So there you go, if you don’t already have them, product mock ups will vastly improve your portfolio and make you seem so much more professional to clients. If you have any questions about using product mock ups or about either of the websites I’ve suggested, please let me know in the comments below.

    Photo Credit to benjamin-nagel

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  11. How Procrastination Can Land You a New Client

    Comments Off on How Procrastination Can Land You a New Client 8 min read

    Ok, first of all I apologise, as this article title may have been a little misleading. You see I’m not talking about the kind of procrastination where you stare into space for an hour wondering how does the Iron Man suit fire it’s repulsor rays without any buttons to press? (-click to tweet this) Nor am I talking about the kind of procrastination where you “accidentally” watch an entire season of Lost in a day. I’m talking about a very specific type of procrastination, but one that nearly all of us are guilty of. I’m talking about Facebook. And it’s not just Facebook- in fact ANY kind of social media interaction has the potential to steal hours of our working lives away every single day! But it doesn’t have to be wasted time. There is a way you can can get your social media fix and still be working toward landing your next client.

    Get Your Business Social

    On almost every type of social media website there is an option available to set up a profile for your business. On sites like Facebook and Google+ your have ‘pages’ that can be set up and linked to your personal account. On a lot of sites you still need to set up a whole new profile but having separate personal and professional profiles is a very achievable possibility as many of them allow you to ‘switch’ accounts once you’ve logged in. By having a profile for your website on these social media sites you’re able to achieve four things:

    1. Make a personal connection with your clients.
    2. Start new connections with potential clients.
    3. Have more opportunities to show off your work to a wider audience.
    4. Provide more links back to your own website.

    Now for the purpose of keeping this article at a reasonable length, I’m not going to go through how you can integrate your business into each separate form of social media (because there are literally hundreds!), instead I’m going to focus on a few of the key websites where you can hopefully get the idea and apply it to whichever form of social media you prefer.

    Web Cards

    The whole thing about being social is that it’s a two way street. You need to listen to the people talking to you and engage with them. But you also need something to say that’s relevant to them, and that can be the kicker. People are checking their social media profiles all day long, I know I’m constantly getting updates on my iPhone from Facebook telling me when someone likes my post or tags me in a picture. The fact is that people expect to be stimulated on a daily basis by their social media. Unlike blogs or newsletters where people can get burnt out by too much content, social media specialises in bite size chunks of information that can be digested quickly and often by your audience. So here’s the main problem you’re probably going to come across with social media, “how do I get that much content?”. Well the simple option is to post about stuff that you find interesting, post links to cool articles that you’ve read online or share posts from other social media sites that relate to your business. This is good because it means you’re building your social media profile as a ‘one stop shop’ for all the top news in your field and visitors will know that by keeping an eye out for your updates they’ll be getting informed on all things design related. To stay up to date with Graphic Design news, I like to follow sites like Design Week, Serial Thriller and From up North, and when I see something I like, I write a quick post about it or throw in a link.

    I like knowing that this artists isn’t a demigod who simply ushers these amazing artworks in for a celestial realm.

    Now the down side to this is that all you’re really doing here is promoting other people, when the whole point of it was to get YOU noticed right? Well this is why I have a folder of what I call ‘web cards’. Now web cards are simply little pictures of my work (no more than 900 pixels wide) that I collect throughout the course of any project I’m working on. Now I’m not talking about finished projects here, that’s what your portfolio is for. What I’m talking about is stuff like pencil sketches, inks, logo concepts, basically anything that your audience wouldn’t otherwise get a chance to see (obviously you need to check this over with the client, as they may well not want people seeing works in progress- I generally make it a rule only to post things once the project has been completed and delivered). The idea behind this is that it means that every single project you undertake can offer you a tonne of these web cards, and from you’re audiences perspective they’re getting some exclusive content! I personally like to follow artists on sites like Deviant Art, and one of the main things I like about it is that I get the chance to see their pencil sketches. I get to see when things maybe didn’t work out for them and I like that. I like knowing that this artists isn’t a demigod who simply ushers these amazing artworks in for a celestial realm. It’s reassuring to know that they start in the exact same way I do, and I feel closer to them for knowing that. So like I said, I have a folder full of these web cards (I actually keep mine in my dropbox as it means I can update from anywhere) and try to put at least five images up on my social media profiles every week, along with a brief description and that all important link to my website.

    Facebook

    Facebook is brilliant for businesses as they let you create a specific page for your business and link it to your personal account. What you can also do with this business profile though is like other designers and design news pages and create a newsfeed for your business that is a constant source of information that you can repost to your followers! Another cool feature on Facebook is the ‘apps’ that you can install on your pages. On the Hunting Town Facebook page I have a couple of really cool apps, one called Network Blogs, that automatically updates my profile when I publish a new blog post and a Newsletter Signup app that lets visitors sign up to my mailing list! You can also sign back into your personal profile and then tag any uploads you’ve made to your clients profiles so that all their contacts will be able to see the work you’ve been doing for them (but make sure you get permission first!).

    Twitter

    Twitter is very much based in the now, and doesn’t really offer much by way of a back catalouge of images that followers can breeze through, but it’s still worth using. A cool trick I use for the Hunting Town Twitter account is including hash tags (#) to anything that may be relevant to that particular image. It may not be something that’s trending at the moment, but you never know who it may end up reaching.

    Pinterest

    Pinterest is still pretty new, but it’s audience is getting bigger and bigger and the fact that it’s heavily image based really lends itself to showing off your design work. This is really where the procrastination element comes into play as one of the best ways to gain followers is to repin interesting stuff. For the Hunting Town Pinterest account I have a whole heap of boards for every aspect of design work that I’m interested in a spend a bit of time every week keeping them updated. I also have a board called Hunting Town Stuff that is full of work we’ve produced at Hunting Town (including the webcards). The thinking here is that people will see all the cool pins we have of everything and click to follow all boards, this way they’re getting updates on the cool stuff we’ve found, but also on the work that we’ve been doing.

    Instagram

    Instagram is something I’ve only just tried to incorporate into the Hunting Town social media network, so it’s still very much in it’s infancy. What I have found though is that it can be a massive time saver for updating to other social media websites. Before you post an image to your Instagram feed, there is an option to share the post with Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Flickr, which effectively means that if you import one of your web cards and apply no effects to it, you can post it to five social media sites at once! Although, the downside is that your image will be restricted to a square aspect ratio.

    Down Time

    You’ll have to accept the fact that some days, whether it’s due to a holiday or your mad busy with work, you just won’t be able to post

    Down time is something that will inevitably occur. If you don’t have a body of staff who can take turns to keep your social media sites updated then you’ll have to accept the fact that some days, whether it’s due to a holiday or your mad busy with work, you just won’t be able to post. A nifty tool I’ve found though is something called Hoot Suite that allows you to post to multiple social networks at once. Now it only works with a few of your social media sites (mainly Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr) but you can actually set it to post stuff as specific times. This way, if you know you’re going to be away for a week you can rack up a load of posts all at once and set them to go out once a day until you’re back.

    Me Time

    “But what about me!?” I hear you cry, “what about my profile and my friends”. Well, there’s no reason you can’t like and share your businesses posts. I know loads of business owners that do this and it’s nice to see people passionate about their work. I know I field a lot more questions from personal friends who are interested in what I do, than I do on my business profiles. And after all, at the end of the day, you’re network of friends is just as good as anyone else’s. So go ahead and post stuff of on your personal accounts as well! It couldn’t hurt to check out your buddies holiday pictures whilst you’re there though right? Ooo- look! Jon had a new baby, excuse me whilst I go take a look at the photos!

    Photo Credit to Jan Charles Linus Ekenstam