Archive for January 2020

6 Ways to Speed Up Your Next Print Project

January 31, 2020

Do you have a print deadline that needs the fastest possible turn-around time?

If speed is of utmost importance, here are several ways you can improve efficiency as you take your project to print:

1. Plot Your Course and Communicate Early

Early planning and communication are vital when starting a print project.

When possible, get your printer’s input early regarding design, project checkpoints, and final editing. Setting a schedule with your printer regarding design, estimated turnaround, and print presets can directly impact the speed with which your project is finished.

As soon as you coordinate these details, you’ll establish a timely framework that both parties can stick to.

2. Ask Questions Upfront

When partnering with a design professional, be sure to clarify the contract at the get-go.

Will you be paying a project fee or an hourly rate? What services are included in this fee? Clarify how long the project will take, how often you’ll review the work, and how many revisions are allowed in this agreement.

3. Allow for More Margin on Larger Projects

Professional printers are very efficient, but big projects still take time.

Designing one piece can be quick, but re-branding or crafting large-scale exhibit pieces can take a significant amount of time, especially if there is confusion about the parameters or design presets for a particular project. One costly mistake can disrupt an entire campaign, so allow extra time for big projects, and both parties will have leeway to handle hiccups in the most efficient, cost-effective way.

4. Assemble All the Elements

Attend to the precise details of copy, timeline, and photography at the get-go, and be sure those in authority have given these elements the green light before the task proceeds.

Your project will involve many pieces, and when they are aligned from the start, it will allow your design dollars to be maximized with fewer delays. While you may not have precise details ironed out, clarifying project parameters is key to finishing on time and on budget!

5. Err on the Side of Simplicity

Creativity is cool, but if swiftness is your goal, you should keep designs simple.

Don’t go overboard. If you’re short on time, design something that is easy on the eyes and uses very basic graphics, fonts, and materials. If you have templates on hand (from previous projects), consider whether you can adapt or edit these for the fastest possible output.

If you are pressed for time, consider using an online design tool. Or your professional print specialist may be willing to combine a pre-ordered template with the custom design you want. This may be the simplest (and cheapest!) way for everyone to get a project across the finish line.

6. Avoid Alterations Once a Design Has Been Sent

Check your design before sending it to the printer.

Proof everything with multiple editors before it leaves your office. Every alteration or edit can cost you valuable time. Once the design has already been received by the printing company, there should be no need to make changes unless it is vital to do so.

Better Together

Want to save on time, labor, or unnecessary stress?

Whether you need high-level graphic design or full-service printing, our capable team is dedicated to providing you with prompt, knowledgeable, one-on-one service, and bringing you carefully printed materials you can be proud of.

We’re here to make things flow as smoothly as possible!

Beyond Fitness: 5 Ways to Foster Well-Being in Your Workplace

January 28, 2020

According to the World Health Organization, health is central to human happiness and well-being.

Healthy populations live longer, are more productive, save resources, and make important contributions to sustainability, a better world, and economic progress.

But well-being involves more than just fitness. It includes physical comfort, mental stability, and emotional connectivity. In short, well-being is the “feel-good factor.”

5 Workplace Well-Being Factors

Companies that prioritize safety, work environment, and the emotional well-being of employees will improve morale, reduce absenteeism, and be more productive in the long run.

Aside from fitness incentives, here are five factors that contribute to well-being in the workplace.

1. Physical Comfort and Safety

Do you do your best work when you are shivering or dripping with sweat?

The physical comfort of employees has a significant effect on company outputs each year. The design and “unwritten rules” of a workspace are key factors in meeting employees’ most basic needs – including everything from temperature control, air quality, access to daylight, ergonomics, noise control, and safety risks.

Allowing for discussions about problem areas and individual control for the adjustment of conditions can be critical to overall well-being.

2. Autonomy

Difficult co-workers are hard, but micro-managing bosses can be harder.

When managers are too controlling, employees fail to excel in their collaborative environments. This disengagement has high costs over time: studies show that apathetic workers have rates of absenteeism 37% higher than average, and they work with a dampened sense of creativity. Strategic leaders need to keep a close eye on how company managers are encouraging or squashing employee morale.

3. Remote Work Options

When autonomy is given full expression, there is a permissiveness for working off-site.

This may seem insignificant, but allowing employees to flex their schedule, work around a sick child, or extend family vacations with remote work days can do wonders to keep people motivated. When there is a greater balance between office and domestic life, conflict is reduced, and productivity grows.

4. Positive Culture

Do you work well when you’re having more fun?

Workplace well-being spikes when social connections are strong. The Harvard Business Review found this so necessary that they identified six characteristics of a supportive work culture:

  1. Caring for colleagues as you would friends
  2. Providing support and compassion
  3. Avoiding blame and forgiving mistakes
  4. Inspiring one another
  5. Emphasizing the meaningfulness of the work
  6. Instilling trust, integrity, and gratitude across all levels of the organization.

Whether it’s monthly lunch cookouts or goofy employee awards, strong companies prioritize transparent relationships from the top down.

5. Collaborative Competition

Why are shows like The Amazing Race or Dancing with the Stars so engaging?

Maybe it’s because watching teams work toward a common goal fosters community – even between reality TV stars and their audience!

When companies encourage supportive competition, it can build bridges between employees, generate untapped creativity, and spark engagement or support that wouldn’t exist otherwise. Whether you post department “step counting” challenges or have people compete for the best new marketing hook, collaborative competition is one of the easiest ways to boost the physical, mental, and social environment at work.

The Long View of Well-Being

The core of every strong well-being program is behavior change.

If you launch a well-being initiative, identify a long-term impact that you are targeting as well. The best programs are good at helping people adopt AND maintain healthy behaviors, including how they feel about work, and if they’re giving their best each day.

Addressing all levels of well-being optimizing company potential and allows each individual to be personally fulfilled.

Add Color and Charm with 3 Unique Banner Options

January 24, 2020

As a small business owner, you need ways to cultivate curiosity and look your best, and business signage is your foremost advertising tool.

Grab attention and set your business apart with gorgeous custom banners!

Banners are an inexpensive substitute for a permanent sign, allowing you the flexibility to change and move your materials as needed. Plus, banners are eye-catching, sophisticated, and fun.

Distinct Banner Options to Get All Eyes on You

Whether you want to highlight a promotion, organize your sales floor, or increase foot traffic at a trade show, consider some of these imaginative banner options for your next display.

1. Pole Banners

Pole Banners are vertical banners made from sturdy vinyl material and can affix to almost any type of light pole, street post, or sidewall mounting.

Pole banner advertising offers an excellent medium to market to pedestrians or drivers in locations with heavy traffic. Because they are located at or above eye level, they are easily noticed from a distance and offer an excellent way to strengthen your brand.

Use pole banners to display school colors, mount core values in your department, or promote community events. Enjoy easy, breezy visibility with this durable, colorful signage.

2. Tabletop Banners

Think banners have to be huge to be effective? Think again!

Tabletop banners are a compact, portable option that can easily travel with you to any trade show or event. With retractable stands included, tabletop banners stretch anywhere from eight to 17 inches in height, which is perfectly formatted to dress up any presentation with minimal hassle. Use them for conventions, boutiques, banks, restaurant tables, point-of-purchase displays, and more. Though small, tabletop banners can make a big impact for your business!

3. Step and Repeat Banners

Looking for a fun way to build a social media presence for your business?

Try step and repeat banners and offer people a creative photo op they can hashtag!

Step and repeat banners are a publicity backdrop used primarily for event photography. They are printed with a repeating pattern or branding design that makes its design very visible in the photographs of the individuals standing in front of it. From red carpet events and concerts to galas and company parties, step and repeat banners give a “celebrity-like” experience for your guests to engage with.

For every picture taken in front of the banner, you can count on more people to see your logo once the photos are released to the press and social media. This builds word-of-mouth marketing and spreads your image far and wide!

Flex Some Marketing Muscle with Extraordinary Custom Banners

Whether you go big and beautiful or nifty and portable, banners are a superb marketing tool that can help attract more customers to your business.

Want to talk options? No matter the display size or budget, we’ll help you find the perfect banner for your business. Contact us today about promoting your business professionally and elegantly, so you stand out!

Design Trends to Look Forward to in 2020

January 21, 2020

2019 was a year where taking risks in design was considered normal.

What design trends can you look forward to this year? As we round the corner into a new decade, we may see a softening of some of 2019’s more abrasive trends and a shift toward simplified contrasts when designers want to be bold.

Here’s a sneak peek at five design trends to watch for in 2020:

1. Beautiful Flowing Shapes & Lines

The last few years have brought an abundance of geometric, rigid, proper shapes.

In the new year, these designs will be replaced by more flowing shapes, patterns, and lines. Flowing shapes can convey a natural, abstract, peaceful feel on a page. Whether you use a soft speech bubble to surround text or place images overflowing water or lava currents in your backgrounds, this shift toward flowing lines brings a down-to-earth, creative, and authentic tone.

2. Neutral, Natural-Looking Stock Photos

Several years ago, bright, colorful stock images were all the rage.

Graphic artists were boosting saturating and enriching color contrasts, to the point that some photos didn’t even look real. But as color trends have relaxed, audiences are embracing more muted palates, colors similar to what you might find in a soft sunset, a misty morning, or the corner of a woodworker’s craft shop.

As stock photos follow, this year, you can expect to see more muted, genuine, and neutral stock photos. This includes a focus on candid faces, shadowed silhouettes, and seemingly unfiltered photos. A step back from air-brushed perfection, look to use stock photos that seem more reserved, harmonious, and real.

3. Textured Bevels and Chisels

While designers seek to bring a more authentic vibe in 2020, one way they can do this is through texture.

By creating 3-D forms like buttons, icons, or coins, bevels and chisels create a 3-D effect on a 2-D (flat) surface. Typically, this is done with tight layering, shadowing, and some degree of opacity. Look for beveled knock-offs of real-life objects. The result will be a flat image that looks tantalizingly real enough to touch.

4. Creative Typography

Creativity is just not limited to vibrant designs and unusual color combinations.

Font choices also play a prominent role in the tone and personality of every design.

Whether it is a paper coffee cup, a wild banner, or a funky poster, sometimes creative typography is all it takes to drive home your message. And while typography can stand alone as its own design (like this), it can also be woven into the image itself to give unique expression to the artwork (like this). With great font selection, sometimes the words are the graphic, and just a small amount of creativity can truly spice up the project.

5. Bold, Clean Colors

Finally, with a move toward expediency, simple, bold colors are taking the stage once again.

We’re not talking about 80’s neon vaporwave, but dreamy, vibrant, full colors like enchanting blues, tomato reds, and radiating purples. Colors are a key driver of attractive designs, and 2020 will see an emphasis on gradient blends replaced with things like filled color canvases with no white space between hues.

As you play with bold shades in your graphics, avoid using too many bright colors that make designs hard to read. Instead, use bright, energetic colors with simple, clean design to create contrast.

Stay Ahead of the Curve

Ready to kickstart the year with a new style?

To do so, it’s helpful to reflect on the past and decide what you’ll do differently in the future. Stay ahead of the curve with these design trends and let us know if we can help you infuse your designs with a fresh look in the months to come!

4 Small Adjustments that Bring 5-Star Customer Service

January 17, 2020

Did you know it only takes seven seconds to make a lasting impression on new people that you meet?

If this is true in personal relationships, how significant are the impressions your business makes with customers? Great entrepreneurs know that if you want long-lasting, loyal clients (who spend AND who voluntarily advertise your excellent service by word of mouth), then you must prioritize customer relationships and consistently offer superior service.

Going From Good to Great

What does five-star service look like from a patron’s perspective?

Here is a snapshot of where a business moves from average to above-average:

3 — Service is average, fair, "the usual" satisfactory, expected, etc.

4 — Customer is very satisfied. Service is average, above average, exceeded expectations, etc.

5 — The client is delighted and amazed. Service is extraordinary because employees "walk on water" for customers.

To elevate your customer experience, you have to be proactive, not reactive. Five-star customer service gives extra attention to the smallest of details and does this with an authentic care for each individual you serve.

Here are four areas of focus to grow a culture of excellent service in your team:

1. Be Visible

Whether you respond to clients through e-mail, phone, or live service, be accessible and prompt in every response.

Let clients know they can always reach out to you and where you can be reached if they need anything. Never break communication – whether clients are pleased, waiting, or upset, don’t leave any attempt to communicate unanswered. Acknowledge the feelings behind the communication, and – in difficult situations – offer creative customer reparations (refunds, replacements, bonus items, etc.) if possible.

2. Anticipate Unexpressed Needs

Five-star service providers seek to surprise and delight their clients.

Here employees deliver not only “at” the level expected, but above and beyond what is promised. When you check in with a client, what do you expect they MIGHT need (i.e., help navigating your new software)? Can you have the solution ready before they ask (i.e., a tutorial video attached to your check-in e-mail)? Seek to bring solutions, even if the client is at fault, and your business will be more memorable and responsive.

Anticipating needs is a way you tangibly care for people, and when you do this, it touches emotions. One general manager with five-star hotel experience put it perfectly:

“It is the small, simple, special moments that we create through personal engagement with each guest that they will recall when they return home. To accomplish this type of sustainability, we carefully and methodically select our employees, and then continuously train. It’s not about the tactical as much as it is about speaking the language of the guest.”

3. Train Your Team to Employ Creative Problem-Solving Skills

Five-star service includes the ability to think outside the box and create unique solutions to problems.

Customer service is primarily about problem-solving, so train your team to embrace problems rather than dreading them, and you will shift the culture in your business. A great team member isn’t afraid to come up with creative solutions. Give them the authority to do this and see what happens!

Publicly commend employees who do, and you’ll reinforce this attitude for everyone.

4. Use the Feedback You Receive

Five-star teams are never satisfied with the status quo.

Teams that excel in service are ruthless about gathering feedback and doing something with it. Do you collect customer comments? If so, how do you review it and identify areas for improvement? Companies that make specific changes in response to feedback are strategic, dynamic, and are genuinely customer-focused.

Build “Every Day” Excellence

Excellent service is something that happens consistently, so challenge your team to create memorable experiences that are repeatable every day.

Be visible, creative, and proactive, and challenge everyone on your team to take ownership as they follow through on guest requests every time.

Build a Lasting Legacy Through Thought Leadership in Your Industry

January 14, 2020

Looking to increase your strategic visibility, gain exposure for your ideas, and change the world in meaningful ways?

Everyone is following someone. Maybe it’s time to engage others, so they follow you!

Facebook GROWs with Print

What does thought leadership look like from an industry perspective? Here’s one example:

In 2018, Facebook launched a thought leadership campaign (GROW) to help leaders grow businesses and networks while challenging the status quo. To communicate complex ideas, the social media empire developed a quarterly print magazine and marketing program aimed at business owners in the United Kingdom and Northern Europe. GROW is sent directly to marketing clients and distributed at select airports and train business lounges to reach top professionals:

“We know that business leaders have limited time for long reads at work, so we’ve also created a physical version with journeys in mind,” said Leila Woodington, Facebook’s head of business marketing in northern Europe.

Facebook’s goal is to position itself as a dominant thought leader among corporate executives or government leaders to grow marketing influence. Facebook understands that combining hard-hitting print with a steady drip of digital content is an especially effective strategy.

People Influencing People

The term “thought leader” is more than a buzzword; it’s a dynamic reality.

People influence people, and thought leaders are those that others respect and follow. Do you want to shape trends, spark movements, or voice unique ideas? Informed individuals can add tremendous value to their field of expertise!

Your ability to shape perspectives will grow as you show yourself to be relatable, engaging, and consistent in three specific ways:

1. Building Connections

Build your engagement quality by cultivating regular contact with close friends and family, with current and former colleagues, or with analysts, writers, or industry leaders.

Engage and follow others through face-to-face networking, regional training opportunities, social media, or online discussion groups. Gain traction as you contribute, follow, share, or add your own commentary to material relevant to your industry. And – as often as you can – share your picture with printed pieces or online content. Matching a face with your voice makes you more memorable, credible, and real.

2. Growing Your Name and Niche

Thought leaders are people who fully immerse themselves in the needs and concerns of their audience. ­­

To stand out from the crowd, concentrate on a niche market or seek to communicate with a specialized group of people. Write, speak, share, and comment on the things most relevant to this area. Think of yourself as a translator (explaining the concerns at hand and interpreting their meaning) or a tour guide (predicting trends, forecasting effects, or helping people interpret what they see). Here you’ll maximize impact, giving people “Aha” moments, or making them think, “Wow, I never thought of it like that!”

Grow your influence by writing articles for publications, requesting to share on panels or policy boards, publishing via social media and printed newsletters, or inquiring about opportunities to speak at events.

Once you establish credibility, you’ll naturally become part of bigger and better opportunities.

3. Educating and Empowering Others

Leaders who inspire loyalty are those who empower others.

Thought leaders don’t just impress people by how “smart” they are – they teach others to produce fruitful results as well. Your focus may be building educational tools, helping people with decision making, or establishing yourself as a one-stop resource with scalable models that bring answers people need.

As you grow your influence, you will advance your career, access new industry opportunities, and create top-of-mind awareness for your business.

How Successful Entrepreneurs Overcome Self-Doubt Each Day

January 10, 2020

Diane von Furstenberg is a Belgian fashion designer who has built her namesake company into one of the most recognizable in the world.

Furstenberg has been listed as the world’s 68th most powerful, received an honorary doctorate, and been president of the Council of Fashion Designers of America for years.

Confidence should come easily to someone like this, wouldn’t you think?

But Furstenberg does not see herself this simply. She believes she’s a constant work in progress and says successful people (like herself) probably feel like losers at least once a week.

Furstenberg said she feels self-doubt continually. What does that look like in her life?

“Oh, just, you know. You feel like a loser, you wake up and you doubt. So my trick is, I look in the mirror and say, “If you doubt your power, then you give power to your doubts.”

Squash Doubt to Bring Your Best Work to Life

Can you relate to Furstenberg?

You’re not alone. Even successful business owners grapple with self-doubt. Sometimes this can be a good thing, keeping you humble and helping you soberly evaluate limitations.

But for the most part, self-doubt is a form of sabotage that keeps you from fulfilling your potential. Successful people aren’t immune to uncertainty, but they refuse to let it derail their goals. Want to overcome doubt and achieve what you’ve set out to accomplish?

Here are several ways to combat that accusing voice:

1. Stop and Reset

When inner doubts creep in, deal with them immediately.

Don’t let paranoia spin out of control or imagine worst-case scenarios. Talk back to that doubtful voice with phrases like these:

“No. Stop. I’m not listening to this.”

“I know where this train of thought leads, and I’m not getting on!”

“I’ve been successful in the past, and I will be again.”

As Steven Pressfield says in Do The Work! Overcome Resistance And Get Out Of Your Own Way,

"The enemy is our chattering brain, which, if we give it so much as a nanosecond, will start producing excuses, alibis, transparent self-justifications, and a million reasons why we can’t/shouldn’t/won’t do what we know we need to do."

2. Deal with Anxiety Triggers

One way to squash doubt is to deal with it straight on.

What personal deficits or situations trigger your insecurity? If it’s a lack of skill, seek specific training. If it’s uncertainty about a decision, get counsel from other experts in your field. If it’s fear of the unknown, find coaches or mentors to walk you through this stage of uncertainty.

3. Avoid Comparisons

If you compare yourself to others, you will usually lose.

In today’s connected generation, usually your perspective of others is only the highlight reel, and certainly not the struggle or discipline it took to build success. Instead of comparing yourself to others, compare yourself to YOU. Look at how far you’ve come, the progress you’ve made toward current goals, or how you’ve overcome obstacles in spite of hardship.

4. Don’t Depend on Validation

While the input of others can be helpful, confident leaders trust their own instincts.

We all like a pat on the back, but in seeking continual validation, you erode vision and weaken faith in yourself. When tackling a big project, get input initially, then trust your gut and make decisions that feel right to you.

Move Forward With Confidence

Having confidence in yourself is the best way to sharpen your unique voice.

Say no to accusation, confront anxiety triggers, and avoid putting too much weight in others’ opinions. Overpower doubt so you can maximize your potential.

How Re-Purposed Malls Can Teach Entrepreneurs a Lesson

January 3, 2020

Have you been to a dying mall lately?

It can be pretty depressing. Empty storefronts litter the hallways like missing teeth in a hockey player’s mouth. Dim lighting seems to permeate each corner, and mall walkers bring more energy than any hint of retail activity. What was booming 30 years ago now feels like a bust.

With consumers shifting more of their shopping from physical to online spaces, young generations have a different perspective on what a buying experience should bring. This explains why some malls are dying, while others are thriving. What’s the difference?

In Maryland, one mall is renting space to a theater company while, in Michigan, one mall is now home to a cultural association that sponsors Chinese festivals. Some malls have transformed parts of their space to offer thriving art schools for walk-in shoppers. Others have created customer-centric experiences, like combining fashion consultants with on-site purchasing options.

Like most other sales venues, there is still a future for brick-and-mortar businesses. But this requires companies to sell strategically to young generations through methods that resonate.

What lessons can we learn from our friends in the mall?

Engaging, Experiential Shopping

There are numerous definitions of experiential purchasing.

Generally, this idea refers to stores where “extra” things happen in addition to selling, and where shoppers do more than just buying. As an entrepreneur, how can you offer people a chance to buy an experience or a memory rather than just an object or service? This may include massage chairs at the gym, in-store skills classes, or lifestyle opportunities (like art galleries in malls) that can be combined with a shopping experience.

Added Online Convenience

If you want people to visit your business, can you ease their journey by adding online convenience?

Like store pickups for pre-ordered groceries, merchants that simplify the purchasing experience will have more success. One business took orders for online samples then had three options ready and waiting when the customer came to preview them in the store.

Digital Campaigns with On-Site Flash Sales

One benefit of physical stores is strengthening emotional connections between consumers and brands.

While it is nice to order things online, sometimes swooping in to nab a deal brings a huge adrenaline rush (think Black Friday!). Can your business combine timely print or digital ads to promote 24-hour flash sales on the hottest items in your store? This creates the opportunity to lock in a client while potentially up-selling other products when people visit in person.

Lively, Professional Environments

People don’t just crave convenience; they crave connections.

When asked why people choose physical stores over online retailers, the number one response was a “need to see, touch, feel, and try out items.” How can you offer people better opportunities to interact directly with your products? When you do this, the physical shopping experience provides a tactile experience that simply can’t be matched online.

Your displays are a huge part of this. From oversized banners and full-panel window displays to music, lighting, and even scents, the environment you create must be better than ever. And with today’s print and digital technology, everything can be customized to immerse your clients in the most authentic brand experience possible!

The Definition of Success

While online shopping has re-written the rules of purchasing, buyers still crave experiences that can only be delivered in person. Remember, a successful space is one that people want to visit, so give people a reason to be there.

When they’re spending their time somewhere, they’re more likely to spend their money as well.