Avoid Milk Toast Marketing for the Masses

harlanwestblogphotoBy Harlan West, Design and Marketing Professional with more than 25 years of experience designing materials for major healthcare organizations, municipalities and large corporations.

Why be boring when you can be exciting?  Effective design should be a means to creatively stand out from the crowd.

Do you often wonder why everyone has to drive basically the same mass-produced car and wear the same mass-produced clothes?  Cars, for instance, have become so blazae, with everyone driving basically the same milk-toast 4-door sedan. Even luxury vehicle manufacturers copy each other and offer little variation from the competition.  Milk Bottle,Glass, Egg and Bread on white BackgroundIt’s too bad that we don’t have more stylish models like the big finned cars of the 1950s or the sleek muscle cars of the 1960s.  Let’s face it, there are fewer and fewer choices today. Indeed, it seems that nearly every time I discover a unique product it is not there when I return to the store. Unusual and slow-moving products end up in the marketing graveyard. In short, there is little room for anomalies and variety. Continue reading

The Benefits of Press-Checking a Printed Publication

harlanwestblogphotoBy Harlan West, Design and Marketing Professional with more than 25 years of experience designing materials for major healthcare organizations, municipalities and large corporations.

Today, press checks are often overlooked due to the better software and printing equipment which pretty much make the process “What You See Is What You Get” (WYSIWYG). There are fewer surprises on press than 20 years ago and proofs are much better. Yet, any surprise, unless it has an uncharacteristically positive impact, is usually something to avoid. I especially recommend press checking those jobs that are not the Fotolia_14739158_XS“run-of-the-mill” type of print project. Annual reports, press kits, automobile brochures, magazines, corporate reports and sales kits should be press-checked.  Generally the more expensive and the more complicated the job, the more important it is to do a press check.

Why it is important to attend a press check:
1) A press check provides for quality assurance. It’s the designer and the project manager’s last chance to check for color density, trapping and registration issues, as well as color consistency. During the press check, it is also a good opportunity to check crossovers, the application of tinted varnishes and the legibility of type against colored backgrounds.  Sometimes just a small shift on press can make a world of difference in terms of legibility of the type or how “plugged-up” a photo may appear.

2) A press check allows one to verify proper PMS color matching, bleeds, smooth gradients, and to check for paper “see-through.”  PMS matching is critical especially where a specific corporate color is required.  This is essential for corporate branding. Don’t be afraid to have the pressman make several “moves” on press to ensure that the color is “spot-on.” It is also the time to check the bleeds. While standing at the press, ask the printer to trim down a sample of a press sheet.  Make sure that the inks are fully saturated to the end of the sheet.  Make sure that gradients are not banding.  Finally, you will want to check for see through of image from one side of the sheet to the other.  Obviously it is too late to change the paper stock once the job is on press.  But you could have the pressman hold back or run lighter on the ink to help minimize this issue. Continue reading

The Value of Transit Industry Newsletters

harlanwestblogphotoBy Harlan West, Design and Marketing Professional with 25 years of experience designing materials for major healthcare organizations, municipalities and large corporations.


Let’s get moving!

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Let’s face it, transit projects can fuel an economic engine by bringing new jobs, ameniites, business and impetus to otherwise depressed areas. Transit newsletters are a great forums for discussing the great public benefits of new transit projects. Indeed, transit newsletters serve many valuable purposes and help transit agencies, bus companies and rail authorities to:

1) connect with riders. On buses and trains, there’s a captive audience with little more to do than to look out the window or to send texts or emails. Onboard newsletters tend to have a very high readership rate. For 17 years, we designed Metrolink Matters, the onboard passenger rail newsletter for the Southern California Regional Rail Authority. It has a very high readership rate, largely due to the fact that passengers like to read what is in front of them. It’s similar to reading the magazine in the seat pocket of the airliner.

2) keep riders informed. This is a great way to keep passengers up on the latest developments which may include updates to passenger rules, bus fares, safety standards, park and ride lots, transit schedules, as well as upcoming events along the lines.

3) inform employees. They, like riders, need to be up on what’s “shake’n.” New regulations, laws, company policies, and fare restructures are great tidbits of information to include in a newsletter.

4) build morale. Featuring articles on exemplary employees can be quite a morale builder. Try including photos of staff at company events or busy at work. This sends a positive ripple effect through the entire company.

5) provide important information on connecting transit.  This might include new construction, line extensions, fare restructuring and transfers. Newsletters are a great way to connect with riders and to allow them to connect along the line with other modes of transportation as well as other service providers.

6) offer incentives. Special promotions such as coupons, contests, and advertisements can be easily publicized through a transit newsletter. Advertisers can also help subsidize the cost of the newsletter.

7) provide commute options. Transit newsletters are a wonderful way to disseminate information about various rideshare modes and alternatives to typical drive-alone commuters. Check out CommuteSmart News, a monthly online e-newsletter which we have been designing since 2005.

Get onboard and ride along with a transit newsletter!

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If your company needs an innovative transit newsletter, e-publication, or promotion, please contact HWDS at hwdesign@west.netWe make beautiful things happen. To find out more please visit westdesign.com

Harlan West is the author of successfulcorporatecommunications.com and has been working as a creative director and design professional for more than 25 years and has designed and art directed hundred of publications for both print and online purposes

How the Printing Industry Has Become Environmentally-Friendly

By Harlan West, Design and Marketing Pharlanwestblogphotorofessional with 25 years of experience designing materials for major healthcare organizations, municipalities and large corporations.

Printers have moved from being detrimental to the environment to being very supportive of the recycling movement.

RollsofpaperpaperWhile at a press check this weekend for a job on the web press, I was actually reminded of how much large commercial printers do to promote recycling and sustainability. In fact, the printing industry is one of the biggest adherents to recycling. First and foremost, most printed products today are printed on paper stock made from recycled paper pulp. In addition, the printing industry has moved away from using colored papers due to the difficulty and added cost of recycling these papers. Today, the large amount waste created from printing during the make-ready stage and bindery stage is typically collected, baled and compacted into a block and then sold to companies that make products from paper and printing waste.

Paperpaperon-pressIndeed, the printing industry gets an undeserved bad wrap for being environmentally unfriendly. In all actuality, most printers today print on papers that are made of recycled fibers and they send the waste from the printing process, otherwise known as “make-ready” as well as the used metal plates off to be recycled.  Nearly 60% of printed publications today are printed on paper made of recycled fibers. By using recycled papers and planting new trees, the printing industry is taking essential steps to reduce the deforestation of our earth.

The great thing to keep in mind is that paper is not only biodegradable but it is also recyclable and reusable.

As stated in our blog post, Paper Adds Weight to Your Marketing, there are a wide range of recycled, environmental paper choices. Using these papers helps to demonstrate a commitment to our environment. webpress3There are 100%, 80% and 30% post consumer fiber choices as well as 50% alternative fibers/50% consumer fibers. These papers are Processed Chlorine Free (PCF), FSC® Certified (meeting the mark of responsible forestry), Green Seal™ Certified (a minimum of 30% post consumer fiber with mill processes and packaging that are environmentally preferable) and Carbon Neutral Plus (helping to reduce carbon emissions with a commitment to conserving the environment).

Printers also help the environment by:

  • Eliminating excess ink use by performing precise calculations
    to reduce the amount of wasted ink
  • Using soy-based or vegetable inks
  • Using more digital printing presses instead of offset lithography
  • Recycling rags and clean-up materials
  • Complying with Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
    mandated regulations

So next you visit a large commercial printer for a press check, ask to see how they are reducing their carbon footprint. You’ll probably be pleasantly surprised.

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If your company needs an innovative newsletter, annual report, creative consulting or print management, please contact HWDS at hwdesign@west.netWe make beautiful things happen. To find out more please visit westdesign.com.

Harlan West is the author of successfulcorporatecommunications.com and has been working as a creative director and design professional for more than 25 years and has designed and art directed hundreds of publications for both print and online purposes.

Paper Adds Weight to Your Marketing

harlanwestblogphotoBy Harlan West, Design and Marketing Professional with 25 years of experience designing materials for major healthcare organizations, municipalities and large corporations.

While at a Santa Barbara paper event this past week, I was quickly reminded of the importance of paper. In the digital world we live in, we, too often, overlook the fact that humans are tactile beings. We respond better to communication messages if there is a tactile component. The best solution for effective communication is a campaign that includes both a print and a social media component.

Rotolo di carta colorataThe choice of a paper is as important as choosing a particular design or color treatment. Paper choice is so important because depending on the texture, weight, brightness, opacity, color and trim, it can enhance a design and increase the effectiveness of the message. High-grade papers can portray strength and importance. Vellum sheets, for example, can show elegance and can act as a “window” to other pages.  Paper comes in coated and uncoated stocks.  Coated stocks can have gloss, silk, satin or matt finishes. Uncoated paper stocks come in felt, velvet, velum, silk fiber, smooth, linen, and laid finishes. Papers come in an extensive range of basis weights, shades and finishes. Adding foil stamping or embossing can add dramatic effects to a report cover or annual report.

The brightness and opacity of a sheet of paper are factors in determining the cost of the paper. Generally the higher the opacity and brightness, the higher the cost of the paper.  Brightness is one of the characteristics used to determine a paper’s grade. A no. 5 paper grade has the lowest brightness (less white and uniform texture) while a grade no.1 has the highest brightness. Opacity is the degree of show-through of printing on the reverse side of the sheet.  Complete opacity is at 100% and complete transparency is at 0% in terms of the percentage of reflectance, a measure of opacity. Economy sheets generally have a grade of 3 or lower and have a lower rating of brightness.

Today, there are some wonderful low-cost, short run options for printing on the digital printing press. The HP Indigo® press, for example, can print beautiful short runs of large format posters using a process of wet ink using a CMYK dot configuration similar to conventional offset printing.   It uses liquid ink rather than toner and a six-color ink system, including light cyan and light magenta, to produce photo-realistic colors and tonality. Since there is no make-ready (the wasted sheets needed to get the press up to speed and quality), there is substantial cost and time savings. What you see is what you get (WYSIWYG) and there is little need for a press check. This is important for clients who have tight budgets as well as tight deadlines. Even more exciting is the ability to print with white opaque ink, something not previously possible with traditional offset CMYK printing. Other benefits include unique bookbinding options where pages are hand sewn and gathered for the binding, using a technique that allows the page to lie flat when the book is opened. This works in place of perfect binding.

Due to consolidation in the paper industry, much the result of non-print solutions such as online non-printed communications, there are now fewer paper houses and paper stocks to choose from. But that does not mean that a project still cannot be printed on an elegant paper stock.

When deciding on a paper stock, it is best to determine who is the audience for the piece and what is the shelf life. If a piece has multiple uses and a longer shelf life, it might be worth it to spend extra money on the paper stock.  If the intended use is an invitation for an elegant affair where image is important, a high-end stock may also be warranted.  But when a mass mailing is involved and the piece has a shorter life-span consider a more economical paper stock. A good rule of thumb is not to spend more on the paper if the ultimate purpose does not warrant it.

The are literally hundreds of choices when it comes to printing. I have distilled these down into 6 simplified categories:

1) Premium papers for offset printing jobs.  This is reserved for or those high-end jobs when the client is not on a shoe-string budget. Some examples include annual reports, automotive brochures, restaurant menus, jewelry boutiques, high-end coffee table books, lithographs of art and photography and beautiful paper sample books. These papers capture fine details, print with cool and crisp blue tones, and have unparalleled readability and clarity.

Many premium and environmental papers are also often acid-free. Acid-free papers are manufactured in an alkaline environment. This helps prevent the paper from discoloring and deteriorating over time, thereby adding to the longevity of the printed piece.

2) Mid-range quality sheets.  These are less expensive than the premium sheets and are commonly used for newsletters, brochures, posters and collaterals with a longer shelf life and small press runs than direct mail pieces or catalogs.  Here, paper quality is important but the job does not warrant a premium sheet.

3) Economy stocks.  These papers offer excellent print performance at a reasonable price. They allow you more bang for your buck.  These are generally used for projects where the budget is tight and quality is not as big of an issue.  Some examples include quick print flyers, direct mail pieces, news magazines, advertisements, seat drops and mailbox stuffers.

4) Web press papers. These jobs are printed on from a huge roll of paper that is fed through the printing press. Typical web fed jobs consist of newspapers, park district/recreation catalogs, newspaper inserts, magazines, direct mail pieces, class schedules and large catalogs with large runs, often 10,000 or larger. Some web presses print at speeds of 3,000 feet per minute or faster. Different options are available for the web press but usually these are not the top of the line, premium papers. The web press usually runs grade no. 2 or lower paper stock and has a high dot gain, usually around 20%.

5) Environmental papers. There are a wide range of recycled, environmental paper choices. Using these papers helps to demonstrate a commitment to our environment. There are 100%, 80% and 30% post consumer fiber choices as well as 50% alternative fibers/50% consumer fibers. These papers are Processed Chlorine Free (PCF), FSC® Certified (meeting the mark of responsible forestry), Green Seal™ Certified (a minimum of 30% post consumer fiber with mill processes and packaging that are environmentally preferable) and Carbon Neutral Plus (helping to reduce carbon emissions with a commitment to conserving the environment).

6) Digital print papers. These papers are made specifically for use when an alternative is needed to conventional offset printing. Typical digital print jobs have short runs  or consist of on-demand printing. Digital printers require exceptionally smooth papers, guaranteed for digital offset and production laser print equipment. These papers are also optimized for dry toner presses, color laser, HP Indigo and offset digital printers.

To find out more information on papers, I have included a link to a wonderful guide, Paper Basics, from Mohawk Papers. Be sure to review at page 8 which includes a list of questions to ask, when selecting a paper. In a nutshell, these include the following topics:

  • intended use
  • perception
  • printing process
  • finish
  • type of images
  • availability of envelopes
  • opacity
  • mailing costs
  • environmental concerns
  • deadline
  • budget

The touch and feel of paper can add substance and bulk to your message. Use it to get in touch! 

Paper—the message that endures.

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If your company needs an innovative newsletter, annual report, elegant event invitation, recreation guide or just plain creative consulting, please contact HWDS at hwdesign@west.netWe make beautiful things happen. To find out more please visit westdesign.com.

Harlan West is the author of successfulcorporatecommunications.com and has been working as a creative director and design professional for more than 25 years and has designed and art directed hundreds of publications for both print and online purposes.

Marketing Lessons to Be Learned from the Government Shutdown

harlanwestblogphotoBy Harlan West, Design and Marketing Professional with more than 25 years of experience designing materials for major healthcare organizations, municipalities and large corporations.

With the government shutdown, we see Republicans and Democrats failing to communicate. Stalemates are no fun and they certainly are unproductive, costly and demoralizing.  shutdownonlyRemember, it is not which party you are in. Rather it is about keeping the party going…

Here’s some helpful tips to make us all better marketing communicators and to keep the party going:

1.  Find a microphone and get on the soapbox. Communication is the key to reaching your clients, target audience, suppliers and employees. Don’t do what Congress did, namely, to stop talking. It’s not a bunch of relatives having a typical family spat! Instead, do the opposite.  Your medium is really the microphone. Use it and blast the message out regularly.  And don’t skip issues of your publications.  It is always best to keep the communication regular and flowing. Turn up the volume; keep it colorful; keep it lively. The tide will eventually turn.

2)  Shake hands with your competition.  Never overlook who may be your future allies or business partners. Putting heads together and cooperating can help you better deal with emerging trends and might be an opportunity for sharing equipment, information, promotions and skills that could benefit both entities.

Quote3)  Find compromise with the client.  Don’t be a prima donna who is married to every word or graphic as if it is a masterpiece. Make the client your partner.  It’s not a game.  It is simply a process to deliver a successful marketing package, newsletter promotion, collateral or advertisement.  There’s no need to feel defeated even if your vision is not brought to life in full regalia. Continue reading

Why Companies Need to Nourish a Passion

harlanwestblogphotoBy Harlan West, Design and Marketing Professional with 25 years of experience designing materials for major healthcare organizations, municipalities and large corporations.

Just as kids need an “outlet” to keep them busy and out of trouble, companies need to nourish heir strengths and what they believe in.  This is not just what they specialize in, but something more. It is something they truly believe in and care passionately about.

Take, for example, the desire of a cable company to help connect millions of disadvantaged children with Internet service. Or, take, the desire of a marketing firm to create publications which help promote recycling, and therefore, ultimately benefit the environment. nurtureyourpassionOr what about the desire of a large grocer not only to provide healthy organically grown fruits and vegetables but also to lead the fight to label genetically engineered foods?  It is not enough that a company is good at what it does. It must feel passionately to help differentiate itself from the competition. That passion resonates throughout the organization and helps to invigorate employees, boost morale and provide a positive corporate image.  Here’s some ways to cultivate that passion in a company:

1) Hire employees that believe in the company and want to help make the company move forward. Your employees are the front line soldiers and they need to spread the message, not just wholeheartedly, but passionately.  If they don’t believe in the product or service, who will? Continue reading

The Ultimate Checklist for Marketing Materials

harlanwestblogphotoBy Harlan West, Design and Marketing Professional with 25 years of experience designing materials for major healthcare organizations, municipalities and large corporations.

Catch your breath. Stop before you click send to the printer. There’s some things to check first. These are all part of quality control.

  1. CheckboxProofread.  Have another set of eyes review all the content.  Sometimes the most glaring errors are the  most obvious and the hardest to catch. It is best to have an outsider who has never seen the content check it over with a fresh perspective.
  2. Client approval. We always make sure that our clients have signed-off on the final artwork before it goes to the printer.  NEVER skip this step. Too much finger pointing can occur later without proper sign-off from the client.  Also, it is good idea to save all e-mails and time sheets so that you have a paper trail of documentation.  Just in case… Continue reading

Don’t Make Your Clients Wait

harlanwestblogphotoBy Harlan West, Design and Marketing Professional with 25 years of experience designing materials for major healthcare organizations, municipalities and large corporations.

So much of what we do in today’s fast-paced world involves standing in line and waiting… In every store that I go into, I discover the presence of long lines at the cashier with no one to help you. There’s an important  lesson to be learned here. Building great corporate communications means catering to your clients, not keeping them waiting unnecessarily.  In short, it means giving them the service they deserve.

Stressful people waiting for job interviewAnticipation is not what you want. You want to deliver confidence and trust in your firm so that the client knows what to expect.

A good marketing firm…

1) excels at communication.  It ensures that the client is kept up-to-date on all the latest edits and that concepts are approved at all stages of development. Including the client is as a partner in the decision-making is very critical to the success of the project. The marketing firm should also return all phone calls and e-mails promptly. Staying connected is staying communicated. Never leave your client hanging. If you do, they might hang up!

2) knows how to meet all deadlines.  In advertising land, everything is due yesterday.  But the experienced marketing firm, design group or ad agency should know how to properly plan for the unexpected.  During its 21-year history, our firm has never missed a deadline. Missing a hard deadline is the death knell of any firm. Proper planning and trafficking of all jobs will ensure that all deadlines are met. Continue reading

How Our Innovative iMags Can Save Your Company Thousands

harlanwestblogphoto By Harlan West, Design and Marketing Professional with 25 years of experience designing materials for major healthcare organizations, municipalities and large corporations.

We have developed a service whereby we convert your newsletter into an interactive, flipping page online publication. The ultimate result are iMags,  Below, we have included some demo videos that how iMags work.

iMags are dynamic publications which can save your company thousand of dollars in print, mailing, fulfillment and distribution costs. Here’s how:

Skip the printer.
Fire your printer and save a forest. Let’s face it the average 4-color newsletter, 1,000 copies, 4 pages, 8.5 ×11″ can cost $1,000 – $1,300.

Skip the post office.
Stamp out costly postage charges.  You could be paying $460 to mail 1,000 pieces at a 1st class rate. A bulk rate permit might save 20-30% but why not save the carrier pigeon?

Continue reading