Add Drama and Depth with Custom White Balance

Have you ever struggled to take a classy (yet natural) family picture?

Or photographed an incredible wilderness scene, only to be sorely disappointed by flat results? If the world has so much wonder, why is capturing that majesty so tricky?

Many photos are simply too dark or too light, with awkward shadows, blinding background rays, or glaring reflections (think Grandma’s glasses!). The color can seem artificial or just washed out. But photos with proper lighting come alive, creating a drama and depth that resonates with viewers on a heart-stirring level.

Whether you adjust your camera on the front end or edit the photo later, here are some tricks to getting the photo balance just right!

Adjusting Your Digital Camera Settings

Different sources of light have varying color hues, so a picture taken with a normal white balance under artificial lighting conditions transmits low heat to the camera’s sensor, resulting in dull yellow or orange shades in the photo.

Though human eyes can automatically adjust lights and color temperatures to “sense” the right color, a camera needs to be adjusted to different lights for accurate color reproduction. By adjusting the white balance setting of your digital camera before you start shooting, you can produce the most accurate colors in your image.

Most upscale digital cameras include presets like these:

Tungsten: Best for indoor shoots under a little light bulb.

Fluorescent: Grabs brighter, warmer shots while compensating for cool fluorescent tones.

Cloudy: Warms up a subject and its surroundings when natural light is limited.

Shade: Useful for warming up the surroundings that have a cooler, bluer tone.

You can also adjust your camera manually by setting a white object as the reference point.

To manually set the white balance in your image, take a photo of something white in the same location (and under the same light) you intend to shoot. Then go to your camera’s shooting menu, choose white balance settings, and select the image you just photographed by pressing the “set” or “Ok” button. This will enable you to customize a white balance setting for your next round of photos, resulting in more neutral, natural shades and less post-production editing.

Mastering Post-Production Tints and Temps

Suppose you get the perfect photo, but the colors aren’t quite right.

Adobe Lightroom can help!

Adobe Lightroom is an inexpensive post-processing program used by designers worldwide. In the past, developing exquisite images required excellent photos, nuanced darkroom abilities, and expensive equipment. In contrast, Lightroom allows even beginners to normalize light tones they weren’t able to land in-camera.

When you’re ready to edit the balance in a photo, here are three methods:

Option 1: In Adobe Lightroom, adjust white balance with the eyedropper tool or use the preset menu that best describes the lighting conditions you shot in.

Option 2: Using the white balance drop-down list, manually drag the “temp” and “tint” sliders in the WB panel to adjust how warm or cool your image is.

Option 3: Select the “White Balance Selector” tool in the White Balance Panel (or for a shortcut, press “W” and scan across your image to locate an area that has a neutral grey color to serve as a reference point). Once you click this grey or neutral area, the appropriate white balance settings will be applied to the entire image.

If you don’t like the result, simply use the reset button to remove all adjustments.

In the Eye of the Beholder

Sound tricky?

Don’t sweat it. There is really no “perfect” white balance because the best contrast is what looks pleasing to YOUR eye. In the end, learning and experimenting is half the fun! Reach out to us if you’d like to learn more about adding the perfect white balance to your next piece.

Ideas for Paying Employees When Finances are Tight

The coronavirus has rattled the world, and while the health consequences are dire, the economic fallout could be worse.

In just one week, from March 7 to March 14, initial unemployment claims jumped by a third, rising from 211,000 to 281,000. And while we don’t know whether workers have been laid off or furloughed, we do know that lost jobs are bad for families, employers, and the nation.

Job losses translate into increased federal spending and a slower response to unemployment claims, and those businesses that have to hire or train new employees down the road will undoubtedly take a financial hit later. Even if it’s difficult, your business can benefit by keeping employees on payroll and by modifying your business plan.

What might this look like? Here are some options to consider:

Lower Overhead Expenses

The most effective response to financial pain is to freeze spending wherever possible.

This may mean holding off on new investments, eliminating projects where costs exceed value, or re-proposing previously rejected cost-savings ideas. Want a more comprehensive guide to cutting costs? Check out this article from the Harvard Business Review.

Consider Alternative Financing

While borrowing may not have previously been in your plans, the Small Business Association is working directly with state governors to provide targeted, low-interest loans to companies that have been severely impacted by COVID-19.

The SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan program may provide the vital support you need during this temporary loss of revenue. Other options to consider are family borrowing, hard money loans, or seeking a float loan from a customer or an external “angel investor.”

Liquify Assets or Discount Existing Receivables

How can you attain missing funds to pay employees in a crunch?

“Beg, borrow, or sell whatever you need in order to come up with the funds,” says Rod Jorgensen, the director of counseling at the Nevada Small Business Development Center. Whether you sell vehicles, buildings, or equipment, put every option on the table for consideration.

Donald Todrin, founder of the Northhampton, MA-based Second Wind Consultants, says taking as much as a 50 percent hit on your outstanding receivables may also be a wise strategy:

“If I’ve got $25,000 out on the street that I’m owed, I’d slash it down to $10,000 on a promise [that vendors] wire me the money today,” Todrin said. “Pay me half [of what you owe me] and I’ll wipe [the debt] out. And you raise cash instantly and overnight. Now you pay a price for that because that’s your overhead money, but you cover your payroll. You got to play for another day.”

Be Resourceful and Keep Employees in the Loop

If you know you are unlikely to make payroll, it’s essential to be honest upfront.

Proactive communication is crucial during a crisis. If finances are tight, tell people up front, starting with the natural hierarchy of company leaders and involving them in the process. Allowing leaders to inform their teams can soften the blow and make it easier to gather feedback.

And be creative. Teams that want to retain employees in extremely tight situations may consider shrinking paychecks across the board or ask the highest paid, top-level staff members to (electively) forgo paychecks for a short time so lower-level employees can still be paid. This spreads out income and grows confidence and unity in your staff.

People First

Though you may not be closing shop, many businesses will experience shortfalls in this season. Creative, sacrificial entrepreneurs will work hard to protect their most valuable asset: people.

Master Font Psychology to Bring Personality and Purpose

If you wanted to make a splash at a spring gala, what color would you wear?

If you wanted to be known for your edgy personality, what kind of car would you drive?

Just as your personal appearance creates emotion or impact, your design choices will too. While we often undervalue text in designs, every font has a unique personality and purpose. A little font change can go a long way.

With that in mind, take a look at font psychology and see how using it well can win customers through print!

How Fonts Influence Emotion

What is font psychology?

Font psychology deals with the impact fonts have on the thoughts, emotions, and behaviors of readers. For example, when you use a Bookman Old Style headline, it’s going to carry a very different tone than a Brush Script or a fanciful Curlz font. When you feature Tempus Sans in primary body copy, it will bring a more contemporary vibe than Franklin Gothic. Once you understand the associations a font carries, you’re on your way to using fonts to create the emotional impact you desire.

Fonts contain features like line, weight, size, and orientation. When you see a font, your brain disentangles those components and associates them with characteristics from the real world. For example, italicized fonts mimic movement (like a runner leaping off the starting blocks), and flowing scripts convey creativity (like a dancer spinning across the stage). Fonts mimic visual characteristics from the real world, so if you want to choose an appropriate font, choose one that visually resembles your context.

Keep it Simple with This Font Cheat Sheet

When you think of the vibe you want to convey, what adjectives come to mind? Basic or bold? Gentle or hardcore? Elegant or gritty? Once you’ve identified the tone you want, here is a cheat sheet you can use to craft corresponding messages:

Slab Serif fonts (or “Egyptians”) are perceived as important, bold, impactful, or attention-grabbing. Great slab serifs include Sentinel, Adelle, Clarendon, Linoletter, Archer, and Amasis.

San Serif fonts are perceived as simple, sensible, straightforward, neutral, and easy to read. Popular selections include Apercu, Futura, Avenir, Verdana, and Avant Garde.

Simple Serif fonts are seen as stable, respectable, timeless, formal, or traditional. Classic serif fonts include Garamond, Times New Roman, Georgia, and Palatino.

Bold or weighty fonts are seen as dominant, commanding, gallant, significant, and reputable. Have fun with bold fonts like Qanelas Soft Typeface, Nevis, Municipal, or Andor.

Condensed or ultrathin fonts carry a professional, forward-thinking, logical, or influential quality. To sharpen your image, try fonts like District thin, Antipasto pro thin, or Cocotte ultralight.

Vintage fonts come across as old school, retro, stylish, and remarkable. Type outside the box with six different Zing Rust fonts and carefree fonts like Palm Canyon Drive, Parker, or Lovelo.

Script fonts bring a sense of femininity, elegance, connection, and indulgence. Fun script fonts include Allura, Mistral, or the Segoe family.

Decorative fonts are seen as casual, cool, unique, or high-spirited. Stretch the limits with The Bomb, Circus, Cute Notes, Keep on Truckin’, and more!

Mono-spaced fonts can bring a techy, sophisticated, or smart vibe. To sell your credentials, try Courier, Inconsolata, Maison Mono, or BP Mono.

Display fonts bring a chivalrous, quirky, friendly, or eccentric tone. Use fonts like Amadeus, Anudaw, Bearpaw, and Collegiate to make design twice as fun!

Keep Fonts Front and Center

While fonts are sometimes an after-thought, text is an integral part of your branding and emotional impact. And many online resources are available to help you find fun, free fonts.

Use your font choices to shape perceptions, streamline messages, and project your intent.

Why Custom Notepads are a Perfect Promotional Tool

Want to give your business a gift that keeps giving?

You can do this by giving gifts to other people. According to the ACI 2019 Impressions study, promotional products bring some of the highest rates of return on advertising, trumping all other forms of media. Consumers surveyed said they were nearly 2.5 times more likely to have a favorable opinion of promotional products compared to online advertising, and consumers under 55 preferred a promotional product message over EVERY other advertising medium (including print, online, or traditional mass media).

Data shows the average household in the U.S. owns 30 promotional items, which means if there are 120 million households in America, over three billion company logos are floating around at any moment!

Looking for a fun but practical promo gift for your clients and prospects? Custom printed notepads are a great, economical option. Notepads are designed for utility and flexibility, meaning people can take them anywhere and will certainly use them. Since notepads are durable and easy to distribute, they’re great for trade show giveaways, sales rep gifts, presentation folder inserts, or fridge magnet marketing.

Making the Most of Your Custom Notepads

When you are ready to maximize the ad potential of a custom notepad, here are some ideas for making the most of your design:

Define Your Key Concept

Not every notepad is created equal, so you should decide upfront what your design concept will be.

Do you want a stand-alone desk pad with a hilarious 3D appearance (like this hilarious “hair thinning” tearaway Pantogar notepad)? Perhaps a vintage cover or a sparkly flip pad? Whether you want simple sticky notes or an artistic journal, defining your concept will clarify details about paper selection, line guides, and binding.

Strive for Consistent Branding

Because clients will use your notepad over and over, this is a very tangible way to build brand awareness.

Consistent color schemes, fonts, and logos all build your brand and strengthen the associations people have with your business. While you may be tempted to stray from your standard branding guidelines for a promotional pad, this can be unwise.

Put Them to Work Yourself

While many professionals give away notebooks, many fail to use notepads for their own needs.

Notepads can leave lasting impressions on your associates. Not only can they be used for notetaking or strategizing, but they are great for casual correspondence too. Think about how often you jot notes to send internally or externally. Why not do this with your own customized marketing tool? Notebooks offer a subtle strategy for increasing brand credibility.

Consider Custom Photo Options

What is more memorable than a photo?

When you want to add extra personalization, consider a photo banner on top or a transparent full-page photo backdrop for each page. People resonate with pictures, and when they connect to an image, they’re engaging with your business.

Overcome the ordinary and try something unique with image-oriented notepads!

Keep Your Name at Their Fingertips

When you want to grab hold of customers, make it easy for them to grab hold of YOU with a pocket-sized promotional notepad.

Notepads are economical, memorable, practical, and fun. Build on-going exposure as you keep your name at their fingertips with this helpful, handy tool. Contact us to learn more today!

Spark Creative Solutions with Four Ideation Strategies

Creativity.

It’s something we long to unleash. Some seem to do this effortlessly, with work that carries a distinct, resounding voice. Others labor tirelessly and produce merely a weak echo. Where some of us once flourished, now we flounder.

The good news?

It doesn’t have to be that way.

What does it take to beat back the ordinary and to release fresh, gripping, or exciting ideas continually?

4 Ideation Strategies to Spark Creativity

When you want to break out of creative ruts, ideation strategies offer a useful tool for challenging your habitual (a.k.a. BORING) ways of thinking.

Want to give it a try? Here are four exercises to enhance imagination for yourself or your team.

1. Green Lighting

Green lighting (or free-flow brainstorming) is often used in creative strategy sessions because the lack of censorship allows participants to generate a high quantity of ideas in a short, synergized session.

During a green light session, any wild or wacky ideas are welcome to be jotted on a group think board. Participants restrain from analyzing or critiquing options and instead try to build momentum by generating a large quantity of ideas or by collectively building on others’ ideas.  Green-light thinking sparks solutions you might otherwise overlook, releasing your team to much higher levels of creativity and productivity.

2. Mind Mapping

Mind mapping is a graphical technique used to build a web of relationships.

Begin by writing a problem statement or a key phrase in the center of the page. Now encourage people to say solutions or ideas that come to their minds next. As new ideas are put on the board, participants connect their keyword “branches” by curves, lines, or vectors. Mind mapping transforms dull or tedious information into colorful, memorable patterns that can help flush out ideas, articulate hidden options, or generate collective solutions.

3. The “Anti-Problem” Exercise

Sometimes looking directly at a problem makes it harder to solve.

This ideation strategy encourages teams to turn the tables by defining an “anti-problem,” or a challenge that is the opposite of the real problem at hand. After articulating this concept, teams work together for a set amount of time to solve the anti-problem. Here teams may find inspiration by generating ideas still relating to the problem space, solutions than can then be “re-flipped” to bring them back into the realm of the true problem.

4. Mindset Spacing

Sometimes using physical space to reflect different thinking methods can propel your team to breakthrough.

For example, Disney’s creative team used to label four parts of a room for separate mindsets: imagining, planning, critiquing, and stepping outside a concept. Teams then gathered in each space with one target objective: perhaps an innovation to brainstorm or a process to improve. While dreamers practiced green-light thinking, planners tried to define the specs, timeline, etc. Meanwhile, critics and concept overseers analyzed weaknesses, defined missing elements, or addressed obstacles.

Challenge your team members to physically rotate between these “mindset” spaces and see if it brings new ideas to light!

Collectively We are Genius

Time to teach an old dog new tricks? They say that “collectively, we are genius,” so try out ideation techniques with your team and awaken imagination today!

Ideation strategies allow you to flow in a life-giving, streamlined environment, releasing ideas that are imaginative, strategy-driven, and smart. Need help with coming up with your next great idea in print? Reach out to us today.

Embrace Originality with 4 Unique Marketing Options

Want to sculpt an eye-catching identity and bring your print projects to life?

You dream it; we’ll print it! With today’s technology, you can print concepts as varied as your ideas and as rich as your imagination. Ready to toss the template and try something a little different? Here are a few ideas to push the boundaries in your next design.

Foil Postcards

Time to rise and sparkle!

Raised gold or silver foil will take any printing to the next level. With a tactile, metallic shine, foil postcards bring a “wow” factor that can’t be matched. Foil can be added to logos, lettering, die-cut shapes, outlines, borders, and more. You can foil on one of both sides of your postcard, or combine your foil with velvety coated paper to make your product shine.

Whether you want eye-grabbing handouts or incredible invitations, foil postcards are guaranteed to make a stunning impression.

Pearlescent Flyers

Looking for a quality that suits your style?

Add an extravagant touch with metallic, pearlized, and pearlescent papers for your next flyer. With a smooth feel and a glittery finish, pearlescent print pieces bring a modern, pristine look your customers can’t miss. Thick, shiny, and metallic, these paper stocks offer a gorgeous option for announcements, service menus, invites, and more.

For a rich, warm finish, go for antique gold, champagne cream, copper, or flaming reds and oranges. Or, for a refreshing and royal tone, try aqua tropics, blue vistas, botanical greens, and deep violets. And remember, pearlescent and metallic coatings require larger fonts and extra white space in your design.

Super Business Cards

Looking for something super impressive and super fun?

Super business cards are for you! Cut from premium paper that’s durable (yet lightweight), these non-bendy business cards bring a bold impression that LASTS. Customize them to your preferences, with round corners, shiny finishes, raised spot gloss lettering, and more.

Whether you want a muted matte feel or a sleek sparkly vibe, super business cards are guaranteed to be as unique as you.

Creative Rip Cards

Want to keep them thinking of you after they walk away?

With posters or publicly displayed marketing materials, prospects may quickly see you . . . and forget you. Rip card printing offers an effective tool for marketing that sticks.

Did you know you can attach rip cards to posters, flyers, and mounted displays? Like a long-lasting calling card, rip cards offer your clients a point of contact they can follow up with later. Many businesses combine rip cards with discounts and incentives, whether it’s a “Buy One Get One” offer or a 10 percent discount on an upcoming service or treatment.

Whether you attach rip cards to rack cards, displays, or door hangers, this creative option ensures you’ll be seen, remembered, and contacted.

The One and Only You

You’re not like anyone else, so brand yourself with a unique voice and creative marketing options.

When you print locally, design and print come to life in ways that can’t be matched elsewhere. Ready to own YOUR niche through our collaborative design process? Visit our website to get started today!

Demystifying the Paper Selection Process

Paper is essential in the design and cost of your publications.

And while paper seems like a basic element, often the print terminology and project specs can be confusing. That’s ok! You don’t have to be an expert to make smart decisions, because we’re here to guide you.

Perhaps a peek at these frequently asked questions can help you understand materials, compare costs, and weigh options for your next project.

Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Paper

1. How does the “grade” of a paper affect its appearance?

Coated paper is categorized by grade levels, with a premium being at the top. Grade levels are determined by brightness, and here are several basic grades (or types) of commercial printing papers:

BOND OR WRITING = Typically used for letterheads, business forms, and copiers. Typical base weights are 16# for forms, 20# for copying, and 24# for stationery.

BOOK = The most commonly used coated and uncoated papers for printing. Ranging between 30#-110# depending on coatings.

TEXT = High-quality sheets in a variety of surfaces and colors. Used for quality printings with a lot of surface texture.

COVER = Used when greater bulk/thickness is required, such as book covers, postcards, business cards, or inserts. Available in a wide variety of surfaces and colors, typically ranging from 60# to 100#.

TAG, BRISTOL, AND INDEX = Smooth surface papers mostly uncoated, except for bristols. Often used for displays, file folders, and tickets.

Remember, paper products come with three specifications: brightness, gloss, and opacity. Typically, the higher the grade level, the higher the brightness and gloss will be.

2. Why does the paper “weight” matter?

The higher the weight, the heavier the paper.

In general, heavier papers are bulkier and sturdier, allowing fewer pages per inch. They also have greater opacity (i.e., less show-through), which offers a higher quality but also an increased mailing expense.

3. When is lighter weight helpful?

Publications with larger page count (like magazines, booklets, or projects using a significant amount of paper) can use lightweight stocks to reduce bulk, weight, and cost.

Lighter weights can also bring a more playful, casual feel to your brochure or booklet.

4. What is the difference between coated and uncoated paper?

Uncoated paper is porous, cost-effective, and is typically used for such applications as newspaper print and basic black-and-white copying.

Coated stock paper, by contrast, is made of higher-quality paper with a smooth, glossy finish. Coated paper works well for reproducing sharp text and vivid colors.

5. What finishing options are available for my project?

A paper’s finish can have a considerable impact on the final appearance of your printing.

Gloss finishes are sophisticated and eye-catching, with a smooth surface that allows for more precise reproduction. Matte (or dull) papers have a softer, subtle feel, and can be easier to read. Spot or foil varnishes are also available if you want to highlight some aspects on your page.

How to Choose the Right Paper for Your Next Printing

Print is beautiful, tactile, and memorable.

More than just ink on a page, the weight, texture, and sheen of your printing can tell an emotional story. Paper plays a significant role in the tone you want to communicate, but also in your bottom line. When you increase the grade or weight, you will improve quality but increase expense, so choosing between paper selections is a delicate balance between image, functionality, and cost.

Want to chat more? Give us a call to see some paper examples or discuss your options today!

Avoid “Grammatical Embarrassment” by Sidestepping 3 Common Errors

Can you spot the mistakes in this paragraph?

Melissa was excited about her son’s swimming ability. This fall, she asked, “Would you like to join the swim team”? Sammy was thrilled about the idea, accept for one thing: the tight swimsuits. “Why do I have to wear spandex”, he complained, “I’m all ready the fastest swimmer in the pool”!

Grammar can be painful.

Make A Fresh Start

Even after years of writing, there are grammatical errors that impede us all. For some, it’s punctuation. For others, it’s word selection. And when you repeat the same mistakes, bad habits get harder to break.

This year, make a mental note to dodge those potholes! Here are three mistakes to avoid in your writing:

1. Incorrect Apostrophes

Apostrophes indicate possession for nouns and letter omissions in contractions.

Generally, singular possessive apostrophes come before the ‘s’ and plural possessives apostrophes come afterward, like this:

Singular Possessive: Jim’s hat or Mike’s coat

Plural Possessive: Several years’ work or many students’ books

Apostrophes do not indicate possession for personal pronouns, so it is incorrect to add an apostrophe to “it” or “who” when designating ownership.

  • Incorrect: Who’s bike is this?
  • Correct: Whose bike is this?
  • Incorrect: The flower lost it’s petals
  • Correct: The flower lost its petals

When contractions are used, apostrophes replace the missing letters. For example:

  • Correct: “It’s looking like great weather for planting flowers.”
  • Incorrect: “Its looking like great weather for planting flowers.”
  • Correct: “Who’s going to help me prep the soil?”
  • Incorrect: “Whose going to help me prep the soil?”

Punctuation and Quotation Marks

Do punctuation marks go inside or outside quotation marks?

This one can be tricky because British and American English have different rules (which is why you sometimes see discrepancies). Here are two basic American guidelines:

1. Sentence-ending commas and periods always go inside quotation marks.

Remember, if you are INSIDE the U.S., commas and periods go INSIDE the quotation marks. Like this:

  •  “I fell asleep,” Paul said.
  • Paul awoke and complained, “I had a bad dream.”

2. Question marks and exclamation marks can vary.

If they apply to the quoted material, these marks belong inside the quotation marks. If they apply to the whole sentence, they go outside.

Each of these sentences is correct:

  • Mary asked them, “Where should we eat?”
  • Do you think Mary is hungry enough for the “Impossible Whopper”?
  • Chandra texted Michael, “Should I bring dinner?”
  • Chandra looked in her purse and exclaimed, “I have a $50 gift card!”
  • The dog leaped off the couch when he heard Chandra say, “I’m bringing pizza”!

Words That Are Easily Confused

Words that are commonly misused include these pairs:

Affect/Effect

Rule of Thumb: “Effect” is usually a noun, while “affect” is typically a verb.

  • Incorrect: The text had a negative affect on my mood.
  • Correct: The test had a positive effect on my grade. This positively affected my mood!

They/Their

Rule of Thumb: “There” refers to a place, while “their” indicates possession.

Example: We’re going to love it there—I heard their breadsticks are the best!

Accept/Except

Rule of Thumb: “Accept” typically includes, while “except” usually excludes.

Example: I was proud to accept an award (though everyone except the dog received one).

Assure/Ensure

Rule of Thumb: To “assure” is to make someone confident of something; to “ensure” is to guarantee that something actually happens.

Example: Though Mike assured me that the dog would not escape, I locked Scout’s kennel to ensure he stayed put.

Farther/Further

Rule of Thumb: “Farther” refers to physical distance and “further” denotes metaphorical (or figurative) lengths or advancement.

Example: I want to run farther next time, but need to progress further in my training to grow my endurance.

While grammar debates can make your head spin, hopefully, these tips can alleviate confusion. Do small things with excellence, and you’ll make big strides!

Design Trends to Look Forward to in 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

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.