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Michael Johnson

20 Cool Envelope Designs for Direct Mail Inspiration

Direct mail is still a highly effective form of marketing, but it’s not always as simple as writing a great sales letter and sending it off. The way that marketing collateral is packaged makes a huge difference-and for direct mail, that means creating an engaging envelope design.

Since prospects sometimes receive dozens of pieces of mail in a day, it’s important to use your design to stand out. But there’s a delicate balance between attracting attention and being overly busy in a way that confuses your recipient with too much visual information.
Here are 20 cool envelope designs that you can use to help inspire your next envelope design.

5 Tips to Branding Your Business

In any business, branding is important as it makes one’s company edgy and competitive in the markets. A brand says so much about the business, like what are the products or services being offered and what should the customers expect from them. A brand is what differentiates an individual from their competitors. One requires defining their brand and this requires a branding strategy. This article by Packwire explains what one should consider when branding their business:

1. Be unique

It is very important to ensure that you have your own identity that is discrete and makes you stand out from your competitors. Avoid mimicking the look of big brands. Try and come up with your own brand that is unique. Many consumers are attracted to independent establishments as they are looking for something authentic or original.

2. Have a “voice” to reflect on the brand

One should come up with a voice for the business that reflects on the brand. This voice should be able to speak to the customer and the consumer is very aware of what to expect from the service or product. For any written communication, this voice should be applied. Also in the visual imagery whether online or off, the voice should be incorporated.

3. Branding packaging

Packaging serves the sole purpose of attracting the consumer attention. This is very key as it can determine whether a consumer buys the product or not. The product should be packed in such a way that it compels the consumer to pick up the product and have a look at it. When coming up with branding packaging, one should stand out, be simple, trigger emotional engagement and create iconic assets. There are various tools used in packaging designs and they include logos, colors, fonts, and description. Therefore an individual should know the relevant tools to use.

4. Know your consumers

It is very crucial to know your target market as this will help you know the right way to reach them. How you convey your service or product is determined by the potential customers. Knowing your personas will help you know the kind of media that they relate to and you can use it to reach out to them.

5. Consistent social media presence

With the advancement in technology, most people spend their time online on social media platforms such as Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn. You can sell your brand easily on these platforms. Once the social media presence has been established, you should maintain it by being consistent in posting about your brand from time to time. Blogging is also an important aspect when it comes to marketing and one can reach out to as many consumers as possible.

With these few steps, one can build their brand easily. It involves creativity and being innovative. For already established business, they can rebrand themselves in order to keep up with the competing markets. For those interested in rebranding, they can read an article by Packwire on rebranding.

Featured image by Brad Neathery

5 Tips to Being Creative with a White Wall

A white wall is not as dull as we are made to believe. It’s just plain and simple. And since it’s a color like any other, it can be customized to reflect your sense of style. As a matter of fact, white walls are very iconic because they stand out when mixed with other colors. Most people assume that white walls are only found in rental houses. There are actually homeowners that insist on painting some of their walls white. The advantage of such a color is that it can’t be neglected because it’s easy to spot patches of dust and dirt. Here are tips that can help you utilize a white wall.

1. Transform it into Dry Erase Board

If there are white walls in your house, you can convert a few of them into whiteboards. Such boards come in handy when kids are studying on their own. All you have to do is buy dry erase wall coating and apply it on top of the white wall. Since most kids prefer to study in isolation, you should consider creating the whiteboard in either of their bedrooms. This type of whiteboard is durable than the portable type because there are zero chances of breaking due to accidental falls. However, you have to give the coat at least 48 hours before it can be ready for use. These whiteboards have of late become popular because they don’t limit your space. They are also easy to maintain.

2. Bring in Colored Furniture

The worst mistake that you can make when you have white walls is to add furniture of the same color. Although the furniture will definitely blend with the white walls, the interior of the house will have a dull outlook. This is because the walls will capture all the focus. It’s therefore advisable you bring in furniture of a different color. This will help in creating a balance. You can even add throw pillows that have bright colors.

3. Add Wall Hangings

A plain white wall can seem idle when it’s not complemented by artwork. It’s therefore recommended you include wall hangings such as paintings, pictures, and mirrors. However, you should make sure that the wall hangings have frames that are either brown or black in color. Mirrors work well in the bathrooms while wall hangings are a preserve of living rooms. You should also consider spreading some rags on the floor just to divert attention away from the walls.

4. Blend with White Kitchen Furniture

If the walls of your kitchen have been painted white, you should consider blending them with white tiles, cabinets, and shelves. When a white finish is complemented with fittings of the same color, it creates a luxurious impression. You can also opt to add exposed patches of the brick wall to give your interior a countryside look.

5. Bring Natural Plants

Live plants do a great job in adding life to white walls. However, you have to put your plants close to the window so that they don’t die due to lack of sunlight. Besides that, you should not put more than two plants because too many of them will congest the living room.

Featured image by NeONBRAND

6 Things Successful eCommerce Brands Have in Common

The internet has made the dream of starting a business more attainable than ever. But staking a claim in the eCommerce landscape requires more than a name, a website, and some patience. Online sellers who want to survive for the long haul must build a brand from the ground up—one that resonates with shoppers and offers an optimal buying experience.

Studying existing eCommerce businesses is one helpful strategy. Consider these six things successful eCommerce brands have in common when you’re designing your company.

Unique Selling Proposition

Anyone with an internet connection and an idea can launch an eCommerce store these days, but it also means you’ll be entering a competitive market. How are you going to set your store apart? The quickest way is to identify your unique selling proposition (USP) and communicate it clearly to customers. If you have trouble summing up why shoppers should choose your company in one to two sentences, it’s time to clarify it.

Your USP can convey premium products, low prices, free shipping and returns, eco-friendliness, 24/7 customer service or any other service you prioritize for your customers. Thinking about what sets you apart from the pack is important to properly brand your store from the get-go.

Strategies for Social Media

Social media has moved beyond an optional perk in the eCommerce world. Customers expect brands to have a dedicated online presence across their favorite platforms. Social media can help deliver responsive customer service, promote useful content and drive traffic. Consider incorporating social marketing and social shopping into your strategy—the former entails engaging with customers, while the latter allows them to complete a transaction without leaving a social media platform.

Distinctive Branding

Before shoppers even have a chance to figure out your USP, they’re making snap judgments based on what they see. How strong is your visual branding? You’ll want to design a logo capable of sparking instant recognition. You’ll also want to carefully choose colors, fonts, and visuals in line with your overall brand image. If a picture’s worth a thousand words, an entire website is worth even more.

Secure, Trustworthy Website

Consumers want to complete transactions on websites they deem trustworthy. If your eCommerce store looks unprofessional, generic or sketchy, chances are customers will pass it up for a competitor. Your eCommerce store must offer a secure, PCI-compliant payment system. You can further boost trust by displaying site security seals, which improve perceived security in the mind of the customers.

Streamlined Checkout

The more steps you place between customers and checkout, the lower your conversion rates. Simplicity is always best. Avoid forcing users to register for an account before they can complete a transaction. While mandating more work may cause shoppers to bail before paying, allowing them to check out as a guest with the option to make an account later will help streamline their experience. Convenience is especially important, as more and more users make the jump to mobile shopping.

Timely Order Fulfillment

Delivery times have sped up in the last few years, and will likely continue to do so. eCommerce stores need to figure out how to offer affordable, timely shipping to satisfy their customer base. Before working with a third-party drop-shipper, make sure they’re equipped to send out packages fast enough to reflect well on your business. If you handle order fulfillment in-house, give customers the options they need to get their goods when and how they please.

These six things successful eCommerce brands have in common will help you build a strong foundation. After all, branding, marketing, cybersecurity and order fulfillment are always going to be important when it comes to launching and growing an online store.

Featured image by Bench Accounting

How Will Digital Marketing Evolve in 2018?

It is hard to ignore the fact that it is becoming increasingly difficult to reach the target audience in today’s digital marketing landscape. It is an issue that everyone is facing. The reason behind this increase in challenges is simple; there are more businesses trying to win the attention of the audience, so you have to be willing to do more to stand out from the crowd.

For you and your business to stay ahead of the market, spotting new trends and integrating new strategies and marketing instruments are important, especially as we get closer to 2018. How will digital marketing evolve in 2018? That is what we are going to find out in this article.

Emotional Marketing

One of the biggest shifts that will be even more prominent in 2018 is the move towards emotional marketing. The most successful digital marketing campaigns in recent months are campaigns that won the heart of the audience, not those that target the audience’s reason and logic. This trend is shaping up to be very exciting too.

Campaigns that focus on compelling stories and emotions generate higher user engagement; emotional engagement on a deeper level. The audience are far more involved and marketers – and businesses – can take advantage of that involvement by delivering a series of messages packaged in a captivating story.

Digital marketing is no longer about transactions and bottom lines. It is more about interactions and building a stronger relationship with the audience. The business impacts of such campaigns will come later and the campaign will continue to produce results long after the relationship is established.

It’s a Content-Centric World

Good quality content will continue to dominate the digital marketing landscape in 2018. This is a rather unsurprising trend for two reasons. For starters, the audience is no longer attracted to short messages and cold calls to action. They are more interested in stories, delivered through articles, videos, and other visual elements.

The delivery of the content matters too. Short-form videos, dubbed snackables (meaning the video can be consumed in less than 60 seconds), will be very popular next year. On the other hand, articles are getting longer and are delivered in a more immersive way, with interactive elements and full-page visuals boosting their impacts.

“Content and social media marketing will be the highlights of 2018,” according to George Lee, CEO of Snap Agency, a leading creative agency with award-winning campaigns in its portfolio. “Crafting content that works for the medium is the way forward.”

Time to Personalize

That last remark by Lee about crafting content that suits the medium sums up the last trend to anticipate perfectly. Gone are the days of producing one content for all channels. It is much more important to tailor the content of your digital marketing campaigns to the delivery channels you want to use.

Producing vertical videos that work for Instagram Stories is far more effective than using a cropped 16:9 videos for the sake of convenience. The audience will pick up on the personalized content too; in fact, they will see badly produced or fitted content as signs of laziness in developing a relationship with them.

Prepare your business for these digital marketing trends of 2018, and you will be leading the market without hassle. There is no better time to start making fine adjustments to your digital marketing strategy than today.

Featured image by RawPixel

Really Common Logo Design Mistakes To Avoid

A logo is incredibly important for branding. It simply needs to be perfect as it shows brand personality while conveying information about a company at the very first glance. A logo should never be hard to understand or there is no reason to have one. Logos tell brand stories in an instant, non-patronizing and in a completely clear way.

Much can be said about logo design but in many cases, the first thing should be to understand what you might do wrong. This is why we will mention some really common logo design mistakes you have to avoid.

Raster Graphics That Are Resolution-Dependent

As mobile content is much more important than it used to be, we should mention this mistake first. Logos need to always correctly scale based on host device. All images should appear at a quality that is consistent, all without pixelation. Because of this, using raster graphics is a really bad idea.

Professional designers now use scaling vector graphics. They will scale really well, without losing quality. Editing vector graphics is also much easier.

Blindly Following Trends, Fads And Gimmicks

There are always some brand new emerging design trends you want to consider. However, this does not mean you need to blindly follow them whenever designing a logo. As an example, one of the popular trends is using minimalistic and flat design. Is this something you want to use for everything? When you design for a business selling auto title loans, is minimalistic design enough? These are the types of questions you have to ask.

Always think about designing a logo that will stand the test of time. Also, think about the audience you want to reach with your logo. Does that audience appreciate minimalistic branding? You basically need to think about the future when you design your logo instead of what works now.

Improperly Using Typefaces

Most designers get excited as they work with fonts and this is completely normal. However, this can so easily lead towards a very big problem: improper pairing. This would make everything look really silly. Most logos are designed with an inappropriate font in relation to a brand persona. For instance, when you design a logo with the use of Comic Sans for an attorney, the result will be something that is fun and really light-hearted.
There is a pretty good possibility the client will not like this.

Copying Highly Successful Brands


Always Together by Takahiro Sakamoto

Everyone knows the logos of the big brands like Starbucks or McDonald’s. Because of this, some business owners decide to copy the logos. It is definitely a bad idea as it shows the brand is not creative and a lawsuit is also highly possible. For the designer, aping the successful brands leads to a logo that automatically stands out as lacking creativity. You do not want to be perceived as a designer that is not creative. Also, the result will be bad for the business as clients will recognize the copying attempt. All businessmen know how important it is to be unique for success to happen.

Featured Image by RawPixel

Why Reviews Matter for Artists & Designers

Though there are times in life where other people’s opinions of you and your abilities don’t matter, if you happen to be in business, opinions could be the difference between success and demise. As an artist or web designer, your work is essentially only as good as your clients say it is. When your work of art is not presented in a manner that your clients appreciate, their negative feedback can alter your chances of attracting new business.

Kind of sucks. However, it comes with the territory. Though you can’t please everyone, it is essentially your goal to do your best work so that your customers will share positive reviews. It is through these positive words, that you are able to build your brand and credibility in the creative industry and gain new traction.

How Reviews Affect Business

Today’s consumers are more informed decision makers. They don’t make purchases or go into business with brands without first finding out who they are and whether or not they’re good at what they do. Thanks to the internet, finding out about a company is just a few clicks away. Consumers commonly make and search for reviews on products and services they intend to purchase. Here are some stats on how online reviews impact businesses:

  • 91% of consumers search online reviews before doing business
  • 84% of consumers trust online reviews just as much as a personal reference
  • 68% of consumers make a purchase decision after reading between 1-6 reviews.

So, one bad review from one dissatisfied customer will be read by thousands of online shoppers and will help them make an informed decision about your brand after reading it. For this reason, it is imperative for artists and designers to not only generate their best works but to encourage their satisfied customers to post positive reviews.
 

Finding Customer Reviews

So, how do you know where your art or design business stands in the eyes of the customers? You can easily find consumer reviews online. Though you may be aware of sites specifically designed for reviews like Angie’s List, The Better Business Bureau, and Yelp, there are other places you should look for reviews. Major sites like Mapquest.com provide a platform for consumers to place ratings and reviews on companies like Low Cost Interlock, Country Inn Suites Hotels, and more.

Making the Most of Online Reviews

Whether you find reviews of your company online or not, it is to your advantage to get on top of things before something does pop up. Below are a few tips to making the most of both positive and negative reviews found online:

  • Create accounts and/or profiles on some of the most popular review sites. This will allow you to verify your business, update the location, put business hours, and be alerted when reviews are added.
  • Provide feedback on both positive and negative reviews. Positive reviewers should be thanked for their word of mouth and encouraged to come back again. Negative reviews need to be responded to immediately with compassion. No matter how great you think your work was, apologize that they’re not pleased and offer a resolution. When it has been resolved, encourage them to go back and adjust their review and also provide your own follow-up so other readers are aware that you took care of the issue.
  • Encourage all of your customers to write reviews. The more positive feedback you have, the higher your chances are of getting more business.

Yes, when you work in the creative sector, your talent, skills, and abilities are what will help you bring in customers. However, it is the satisfaction and opinion of your initial customers that will determine whether you get new business. Though you can’t please everyone all the time, it is imperative to put your best foot forward with your performance and be active in the online community to let your customers know you hear them and appreciate their business. These steps will essentially help build integrity and credibility for your brand.

Featured image: Painting by Alp Allen Altiner

Pet Art and How to Make It

If you are an animal lover, most likely you are also a pet owner. For pet parents, our furry companions are part of the family, not just a pet. As such, pet parents are always looking for creative ways to memorialize the love they have for their pets.

Pet Paintings

One of the most endearing ways people love to create art around their critters is through portrait painting. Whether your cat is posed amidst a black background or your dog is posed in a pumpkin patch waiting for the Great Pumpkin, or your guinea pig is a popcorning Red Baron pilot, portrait paintings are permanent illustrations of your pet’s unique personality. Just be mindful of the strain an awkward pose can put on an animal if made to be in it for a long length of time. Learn to recognize the symptoms of arthritis in dogs and other pets, especially older ones, before proceeding with your masterpiece.

Coffee Cups & Mugs

Creativity is contagious when it comes to our pets. Today, there are many sites that offer the ability to produce merchandise with your pet’s photos and artwork. Coffee cups and coffee mugs can carry a print of your critter’s image so you can carry your kitty, puppy, rabbit, guinea pig or fish with you at work.

Pet Sculptures

Sculptures can come in many forms. If you lack the artistic touch but want to create a sculpture in honor of your pet, polymer clay is one way to go. You can mold your cat, dog, rabbit or even fish from little pieces of clay. And if you make a mistake, you can start over without damage to the clay.

For a more permanent fixture, oven bake clay allows you to create your pet, cook it and color it as you wish. There are many videos online that teach how to bake/cure polymer clay. It’s tricky at first because the cooking time is what determines the success of your piece. However, by following the instructions, you should have no problem.

Mixed Media Pet Art

Mixed media is one of the most creative and fun ways to honor your critter. Usually, mixed media includes a variety of materials such as quality photography, paintings, clue, cut outs, paper, and paper mache, or anything that can be used creatively. Examples of mixed media projects are picture frames, pillows, or decor for your work office or home. Holiday pet cards are among the most popular pet creations. We love cards of our animals on Valentine’s Day, Labor Day or any holiday.

Charcoal & Graphite Drawings of Your Pet

If you know how to draw, then drawing your pooch, cat, bird or mouse is a fun and relaxing way to celebrate your pet. Charcoal and graphite sets come in inexpensive beginner sets. Some sets include a drawing pad. When you draw your pet, you can let your imagination get wild. Your pet is no longer bound by the three-dimensional world. He/she is memorialized in the setting you devise. Petsmart has Youtube videos that show you how to draw your dog. Similarly, you can find may other tutorials online that teach you how to draw your specific pet.

Pet Jewelry

Just like people parents, some dog and cat parents love to imprint the paws of their kittens, puppies and other creatures. The imprints on soft non-toxic animal clay are easy and safe to use. Once you capture your pet’s paw onto the soft-air drying clay, allow the impression to dry. Once the clay has dried, you can glue a metal jewelry necklace holder and metal chain to make a necklace.
 
Step stones also make nice gifts or decorations for the garden. Milestone sells pet photo stone kits you can decorate with a photo of your pet and stunning color glass gems, number stamps and a reusable mold.

Abstract Pet Art

Abstract creativity is a visually stimulating way to pay tribute to your pet. Abstract lines, drawings, paintings or sculptures can be illustrated in any form. Yarn can be used to create a modernized, colorful design of your pet. There are many DIY sites online and videos that show you how to produce beautiful items you can hang on your wall or decorate your bed with.
 
Pet parents will always cherish their pets and pay tribute to the unconditional love their furry little-loved gives them.

Featured Image by Matthew Henry on Unsplash

Creative Videos, Creative Media and White Board Video Trends

The development of creative videos is currently an ongoing trend for today’s marketers since the evolution break out of mobile apps for iPods and smartphones. What this means is that an individual’s (i.e., teacher, marketer, consumer or people in general) thoughts, ideas, and expressions through visualization can be developed on creative videos. Creative videos are actually attracting mobile users because videos tend to be convenient and eye-catching than reading just content.

In fact, more and more people are actually watching videos on their smartphones and other mobile devices, like laptops and tablets. With social media sites like Twitter and Linkedin, streaming videos is a smarter way for people to present products and services, and to send their message (e.g., resumes and curriculum vitae) in a much more professional manner. Therefore, it’s no wonder that creative videos for education have become a growing trend for students and teachers with the use of advancing technologies, software programs and mobile apps in both online and traditional classrooms.

For people who own businesses, creative videos for mobile apps brings in more traffic than content ads because consumers prefer visualization rather reading just content, says Jane Wakefield of the Technology Reporter, Feb. 2, 2015.

Whiteboard videos (i.e., explainer video or sketched video), for example, are developed as creative videos for educational purposes to help students learn and comprehend subjects in a more creative, innovative and fun way. In addition, these types of sketched videos are being developed for employee training in today’s learning organizations. Because video presentations are effective, organizations are developing videos to explain their mission and vision (business plan) to stakeholders. Other reasons businesses create cartoon animation and design whiteboard videos are to able to explain new product development using easy understandable sketches and illustrations to educate employees and stakeholders.
Photo by Jonathan Velasquez on Unsplash

Teachers, therefore, can create a whiteboard video to help motivate students to want to learn subjects in school in a more smarter and cooler way. Audio is a great feature as well when developing explainer/sketch videos for learning, explaining and presenting any type of subjects step-by-step. Below are just nine simple steps in developing a whiteboard video effectively to meet the intended objective and purpose for presenting a subject matter:

  • You first need a well-written script to define the message that you want your audience to take away.
  • Hire a professional voice-over artist, especially if the explainer video is being presented to top executives and stakeholders in organizations and educational institutions.
  • Define and sketching the imagery.
  • Revise and arrange the imagery into an impressive and fun illustration to keep the audience’s attention to want to watch the video to the end.
  • Draw and create guidelines for eye-catching contrast effects throughout your sketch video.
  • Record the video by drawing illustrations on camera.
  • Sync the audio and video after shooting after the audio is complete.
  • Add music, but be sure to seek proper licensing of music if developing your explainer video for commercial purposes.
  • Test, and then export, present and share your whiteboard video to your audience.

“Universities, schools, other educational establishments, and even museums are realizing the potential of whiteboard animation as a teaching aid,” says Paul Lewis of eLearning Industry online, May 2, 2017. He states that most people enjoy the visualization in explainer/sketch videos because it gets the message across effectively and because visuals are entertaining. “Viewers will retain your message – which is paramount,” says Lewis.

Creative media, on the other hand, involves being able to have creative writing, game media (i.e., game design) and/or interaction design (e.g., digital sounds, images and motion, and involves people interacting and working together) skills. Other creative media skills include film and video or even art and design competencies to build and share creative works on social media sites like Facebook and Instagram. With continuous trends of creative videos and creative media, e-marketers are drawing the attention of consumers through video ads.

Featured image: By rawpixel.com on Unsplash