Visual Hierarchy Lesson 4: Whip Your Designs Into Shape

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In our fourth and final look at the visual hierarchy of design, we’ll be examining shape. Shape is a relatively intuitive concept because our minds are already trained to break things down to their most basic forms. Many of us grew up playing with blocks and other geometric toys, and we see shapes every day – from octagonal road signs, to square windows and doors. It’s this deeply ingrained familiarity that makes shape such a powerful component of design.

I’ve already discussed some of these concepts in the alignment section, but it’s worth repeating:

Diagonals tend to create a sense of movement and activity.

example1

…As do curvy unpredictable lines.

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Visual Hierarchy Lesson 3: Here’s Some Straight Talk About Alignment

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We’ve been talking about the visual hierarchy of design, and so far we’ve covered size and color. This week we’ll be looking at alignment. Alignment is essentially a method of arranging text or shapes in such a way that they’re aesthetically pleasing while also being easy to understand from an organizational standpoint. Imagine ten people standing in line. If someone stepped to the side, you’d notice them right away. The same rule applies to paragraphs. So far you’ve read several lines of text. If all of a sudden a line of text was centered…

You’d notice that line. It stands out.

That’s because humans like structure and stability, and almost everything in our daily lives reflects this. Our square houses are filled with box-like rooms. Our streets are made up of grids. Our newspapers are compromised of countless columns. We like square and rectangular shapes because they’re predictable and easy to understand. Straight lines tend to feel at rest, while squiggles and curves feel like they’re in motion. Continue reading

Visual Hierarchy Lesson 1: Why Does Size Matter?

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The key to successful marketing is successful communication. Of course, the words and images you choose are important, but did you know how you display them is just as vital?

In a series of blog posts I’ll be exploring a concept known as the visual hierarchy. Simply put, it’s how we make people see what we want them to see, and in the order we want them to see it in. And we do this by understanding and applying the four main components: size, color, alignment, and shape.

it’s how we make people see what we want them to see, and in the order we want them to see it in.

Today we’ll be talking about size, the most frequently utilized and easiest to understand principle. Headlines in newspapers are a prime example. They’re big and designed to grab your attention. Think about the countless advertisements you’ve seen where FREE is the largest text on the page. There’s a reason for that… they know you’re going to see it, and with any luck, respond.

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Embracing Weird: Advertising’s Shift To The Odd And Unusual

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There’s a reason Super Bowl commercials are funny, and there’s a reason they cost millions of dollars: Witty works. Humor had long been an effective tool in an advertiser’s arsenal, and no matter how daring or risqué an ad was, it always had a concrete connection to the product or brand. The punchline was tied to the messaging. Now? Now things are starting to change.

If you’ve been watching television, reading magazines, or surfing the web, you may have noticed a trend – advertising is getting a little weird.

Old Spice ad

Okay, scratch that. Advertising is getting very weird.  But why?

Well first of all, advertisers are becoming aware of the power of social media and sharing. Viral is their new favorite word. And for good reason: a well-executed campaign can yield millions of impressions, now and for years to come, and at no additional cost.

However, execution is tricky because consumers are not easily tricked. They’re bombarded by advertising more than ever, and as a result they’ve developed natural defenses. They’re tuning out, changing channels, and filtering e-mails. If it smells like a pitch or looks like a promotion, their eyes glaze over and they look the other way.

It’s these factors that have created the perfect storm for the odd and unusual. Marketers are minimizing the what, as in what they’re selling, in favor of maximizing the what? As in what the heck was that, I have to show my friends. It’s hard to ignore the people that are important to us, which is precisely why advertisers are so keen on using them.

 

Burger King - The King

Remember The King? The creepy Burger King mascot that tormented us from 2004-2011? He was arguably the start of all this madness. And while creeping out your hungry customers hardly seems like the best idea, here’s the thing… it worked. People were talking about him, people dressed up like him for Halloween, The Simpsons spoofed him, and most importantly – Burger King profited.

He didn’t look like a fast-food ad. He wasn’t the perfect mouthwatering burger being grilled in slow motion, he wasn’t a waterfall of cola cascading over idyllic ice cubes, he wasn’t the imagery pretty much every other fast-food joint was using. He wasn’t a coupon or an offer. He was just…weird. The perfect thing for people to talk about around the water cooler without feeling like corporate shills. He was so intentionally disconnected from the product and typical messaging that Burger King was able to penetrate the average consumers’ defenses.

The creepy king was a carefully crafted promotional Trojan Horse.

And there’s countless examples of this strategy. Geico television commercials frequently feature short nonsensical skits that have next to nothing to do with their actual product. A pig at a football stadium? Really? GoDaddy has also switched from sexy and provocative to surreal and head scratching.

Geico Pig

Best of all, this approach isn’t limited to video. Print ads can be just as odd. The key is to be memorable, and to have your brand somewhere on the page or the screen so they’ll always associate your brand with that memory.  That’s it.

 

So as you develop your marketing strategy, consider doing something a little out there. No risk, no reward, right?

 

I’ll leave you with one of the strangest and most unnerving commercials I’ve ever seen. An advertisement for Totino’s Pizza Rolls that’s nearing 1,000,000 views. From mere word of mouth.

Do I want Totino’s after seeing that? I’m… I’m not sure. Am I ever going to forget the name?

Not a chance.

Urgent Care Marketing

Photo by Adam Ciesielsk

There’s a new business model that’s finding its way into almost every community: the walk-in urgent care clinic.

Today there are over 8700 urgent care centers in the US alone, according to the profession’s association.

And since urgent care clinics are usually small, local and privately owned, they are much more entrepreneurial than their big hospital counterparts.  Where a non-profit hospital might be able to get along with minimal outreach efforts, an urgent care clinic couldn’t survive if the community didn’t use its services.

For the doctors who run these centers, effective urgent care marketing can be the difference between withering or prospering.

As anyone who’s been involved with a neighborhood business knows, there’s a short list of effective ways to build awareness in a community.  But attending Rotary Club functions, co-sponsoring soccer car washes, and managing the chamber of commerce open house will only get you so far.

Sure, there’s something to be said for making an investment to assure a prominent spot in Google, under “local urgent care.”  But even the all-powerful Google Search would likely not connect with most potential patients when it was time for urgent care.

What the urgent care doctor needs is the clinic’s phone number, street address, and maybe a web address, to be posted in kitchens and workplaces throughout the community.

The clinic could really use imprinted magnets in those homes and offices.

And that’s where our postcard magnet mailers come in.

urgentcare-magnet-mailersYou see, our postcard magnet mailer is a jumbo, full-color, laminated postcard, with a magnet attached. We mail them to a mailing list you provide.

Think of it as a delivery-vehicle with a mini billboard that finds its way into the kitchen or workplace, for the cost of a postage stamp.

And done effectively, the magnet positions the urgent care clinic’s message in full view, for weeks, months or longer, for less than the price of an iced tea.

At magnetbyMail we handle the details: printing, laminating, assembling, addressing, bundling and even the postal paperwork.  We can even help with the design and the mailing list.

This leaves more time for the clinic to tend to its patients.

And even though we’re a bit biased about our love for these magnet mailers, we think you could might come to agree that it’s pretty much the vitamin C of direct mail marketing.

 

Another practical marketing idea from magnetbyMail.com,  where healthy results are what it’s all about.

What is Good Design?

Original photo by Tomasz Piskorski

What is good design, exactly, when it comes to direct mail marketing?

The short answer is:  the design that achieves the results you need.

And with that you’ll note good design is above all, results-oriented.  The entire reason for good design is, not to make the world a prettier place, but to maximize the impact of the message.

Good postcard design

The longer answer is more helpful perhaps, although no more precise:  good design is using visual elements of form — space, lines, shapes, color and textures, along with function — a compelling message — that achieves an action or some goal for the marketer.   Often, it’s about finding an appealing balance between form and function — that is, a pleasing presentation;  but this is not always the case.

There’s no single design that is the perfect design.   Further, a design that works for one type of message may not work for another.

And a design for one audience may not work for another.

When it comes to postcard magnet mailers (what we do at magnetbyMail) we’ve seen all types of designs for all types of messages and audiences.

The designs that work best seem to be the ones that:

  1. get your attention, either through imagery, a few words, or both;
  2. draw you in to explore and learn more details;
  3. change your emotional state — make you angry, curious, intrigued, excited, etc.;
  4. and lead you to a next step — to a website, a phone #, a donation, etc.

Personally, I like simple layouts.  Grab the attention, give a message that’s succinct, and ask for action.

The design philosophy for this is “less is more.”   The principle is that unessential elements are distractions. So if an element isn’t necessary to your core message, consider doing without it.

Where do you find good ideas for good design?  I suggest starting on the Web.

For postcard designs, check out BestPostcardDesign .

On a future post, I’ll provide a list of my favorite websites that are helpful for design inspiration.

Until then, I suggest:  less is best.

 

Another little marketing nugget from magnetbyMail, your source for postcard magnet mailers and other nifty marketing aids.

Sending Large Files

Photography by Andreas Krappweis - http://www.krappweis.com/

How to Send Large Files for Free

Sending Large Files for FreeBeautiful art files can cause ugly problems when sent through email. The problem is their size.  Many email services restrict the sizes of file attachments, and so emails with big files can simply get bounced back.

But there are a few ways around this problem.  Here are some free large file transfer ideas you might find useful:

  • use an email service that allows big files to be sent. Google allows 25MB files and Yahoo allows 20MB files. Also, the recipient needs to be using a service that allows receipt of large emails.
  • if you have your own website, upload the large file to a folder on your website, then email the link of that file to the recipient. When the recipient has downloaded it, you can delete the online file.
  • you can sign up for a free online file sharing service. Look at SugarSync which offers 5GB of free online storage, as well as a handy routine for backing up your important files. Or consider DropBox which works like a file folder that automatically syncs on all your computers.  With these file sharing services you can upload your files and share them with one or more people.
  • use a free large file-transfer email service that takes care of everything — creates an email, attaches the files you need, sends the email.

The last of the above list is the most popular solution, since it takes care of the email and the attachment.  Here are several services that offer a free version:

YouSendIt   – transmit up to 100MB file, one file per email, Lite version for free.
WeTransfer  – a very easy process with no registration.  Email with one or more files attached, up to 2GB total, for free
DropSend    – email with one or more files attached, up to 2GB total, for free with the Lite version
TransferBigFiles  – with one or more files attached, up to 100MB total, for free.

Each of these services, although very similar on the surface, offer various ‘features’ that make each somewhat unique. Features include: size of the attachments, number of attachments, number of days that a shared file can be accessed, confirmation of email delivery, number of emails per month, and ads or promotional emails you might receive.

Because our work on postcard magnets commonly requires our clients to send large art and data files, we’re always on the lookout for good solutions for large file transfer.  If you have experience with a useful system not mentioned here, please let us know.

Another useful tidbit from your favorite source of magnet mailers, at magnetbyMail.com

Foldup: Direct Mail Goes Big

Photo by Jereme Peabody

The Next Big Idea in Direct Marketing

Late last year we asked potential customers looking at our products what they wished for.

They said, as much as they liked the idea of our postcard magnets, what they really wished for was more room to express themselves.

You see, we’ve always had our basic postcard magnets — these are jumbo postcards and custom printed magnets, one glued to the other and mailed via directmail.

But the Venti, our largest postcard magnet at 5-1/2″ x 10-1/2″ just wasn’t enough.  Some marketers want more than the Venti’s 115 square inches.

foldup postcard magnet directmail idea

So in January, we introduced our Foldup Magnet Mailer.  This a very big, 8-1/2″ x 11″ postcard, folded in half, a magnet attached to the inside, and sealed shut with easy-peel glue.  Marketers now can have over 200 square inches of printing area.

The fold provides lots of benefits.  The standard postcard format has two sides or ‘facings.’  But the Foldup Magnet Mailer has three facings: the front, the back, and the inside.  This gives marketers more space and flexibility to develop their message.

Another benefit of the Foldup is, because the folded piece is thicker than our regular magnet mailer, and the magnet is held securely inside, we don’t need to use poly laminate to keep the mailer as rigid for mailing purposes.

Saving poly laminate saves time and reduces costs. (We still provide a UV coating for shine and protection.)

Our customers can receive a Foldup Magnet Mailer for about the same price as our smaller postcard magnet.

A final benefit is that we can enclose custom shaped magnets with the Foldup.  (Our standard postcard magnets could use only rectangle shapes, mostly.)

Foldup Magnet Mailers make sense for any marketer who wants all the benefits of delivering a magnet to a home or office, but who needs lots of space to convey their message.

One thing we should mention for designers: the positioning of the Foldup’s magnet is more restrictive than for our regular postcard magnets. The magnet needs to be attached on the ‘inside’ of the folded postcard, and ‘behind’ the area where the mailing address is to printed.

But if your design can work with that location, the Foldup Magnet Mailer may be the perfect way to deliver your message. You can deliver it with a 200 square inch format, and provide a custom magnet to help keep your message in full view for weeks or months.

 

Another innovative marketing device from your friends at magnetbyMail.com, your source for magnet mailers and other ingenious communications tools.

 

Running for Office

[ …Without Going Broke ]

vote by liberaltees

Poster at Zazzle

Every two years, political campaigns spring to life throughout the US.  Incumbants work to keep their seats against an onslaught of indignant wannabes.

If you’re running for office, you’re focused on the issues that are important to your voters.

But what are campaign managers focused on?  The same thing, right?

Not really.

Campaign managers are focused on issues like:  fund raising, scheduling, disclosure filing, and building name recognition.

If you can picture the circus entertainer who keeps a dozen plates spinning atop a dozen poles, that’s basically what a campaign manager looks like.

The biggest challenge for a campaign manager?  Making sure the candidate’s message is reaching voters.

Even if a campaign has lots of money to spend, which it probably doesn’t, getting out the message is not that easy.  In a matter of months, voters are bombarded with thousands of messages from candidates, local and national.

For example, in just one of the days leading up to the Iowa Caucuses in February 2008,  there were nine hours of TV commercials to promote the various Presidential hopefuls.

How does a campaign get its message out through all that?  What can campaign managers use to sleep at night?

Political postcard magnet mailers.

political campaign postcard designs“Oh, sure,” I hear you saying in disbelief.  How can something so small and simple do so much?

A postcard magnet mailer is an oversized laminated postcard with a magnet attached. And because its small and simple,  it’s become a useful tactical device for political campaigns…

  • each one is sent by US mail so it bypasses spam filters, and TV clickers
  • with the right design, it contains a useful and informative magnet, which can be kept in voters’ sight — on the fridge
  • the recipient is usually appreciative, which is good for the candidate
  • a magnet mailer costs under a dollar, and in many cases under 60 cents, including postage

So while opponents spend big bucks for a 30 second TV spot, a candidate can spend less than a dollar to receive coverage all day and all night.

That’s another tip from magnetbyMail.com — making campaigning affordable for all.  Check out our political postcard magnets online.