Flipping E-Cards for the Holidays—Ditch the Same Old Greeting Card

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

What a better way to reach your client base and to thank them for their support this year than an innovative and interactive e-card.  Don’t waste time running to buy cards, writing messages, addressing envelopes, purchasing postage and driving to the post office. Why not create a new and innovative solution?  Try an e-card that includes flipping pages, animation, audio, video and/or music. It’s not only a great way to send holiday wishes but it’s a great way to reach your contact list and to highlight your skills in promotions. You might even just foster a chuckle or a smile from a contact that has never used your services or it might provoke a client to call you with a new project or a desire to create a similar card for their client list.

Here’s a sample of a card that we created for our holiday greeting. We mixed some fun infographics that we developed along with some fresh imagery for the holiday season.  We placed this in the framework of a flipbook and added a holiday jingle at the front and back of the booklet.  We also created a responsive design format so that our card works properly on all mobile devices.


Click the image above to see an example of an interactive e-card.


Revel in the festivity.  Create your own holiday card and break out of the mold of the same old tired greeting cards and white elephant gifts.  It’s about time.  Enjoy!


If your company or organization needs an innovative or unique solution for a promotion or marketing campaign, 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 nearly 30 years and has designed and art directed hundred of publications for both print and online purposes. HWDS and Associates, Inc. has been in business for 26 years and is an award-winning creative firm.

Charting a New Course for Your Publication

Why not add credibility to your publication with some great visuals?  Indeed, charts and graphs offer great ways to increase the effectiveness of your publications. Through the use of data, charts and graphs support the arguments or positions that you are advancing. These graphic enhancements are commonly used in corporate annual reports for the financial section or to illustrate services, accomplishments or goals.

Infographics are graphical representations that are used to make complex data easy to understand. The idea here is to make the data user-friendly by distilling it down though the use of simple graphical symbols rather than lengthy technical texts.

Here are four ways to make effective charts and graphs:

1) Build elegant charts and graphs. Go beyond the usual.  Add depth, color and shape to your charts and use colors consistent with the rest of your design.  The three samples below shows a very cleanly designed chart that we created for the State of Commute Report for the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments.  We created nearly 150 charts and tables for this lengthy report.  All these graphics had the same font, same color scheme and same dimensions.  This definitely makes for a more harmonious design and hence a successful corporate communication. Continue reading

A Few Shades of Grey: Adding Graphical Portraits to a Publication

boomer-living-1 Creating an effective corporate communication involves lots of creative experimentation to make your publication fresh and inviting. The graphics play an important part in making the publication visually intriguing. Adding special visual effects can make the publication more exciting to read and to follow.

We developed a special effect that involves converting portraiture to just a few shades of grey or gradations of one or two colors. It get away from the standard photo treatment and takes your publication one step further into the creative realm.  But it needs to be the right audience for a slightly more creative approach.

We used close-up portraits, especially of people with lots of character lines or distinctive features. This effect works great for newsletters about people, healthcare, living styles, baby boomers, seniors, authors, artists, and performers, to name a few.  It also works great for biographies.

Pictured above and below are some samples of newsletters using this effect.


To find out more about how we can help create an effective newsletter, e-publication, or invitation for your firm or organization, contact HWDS at hwdesign@west.net.

A Silhouette Can Shape Your Newsletter

A silhouette is a single color image that is featureless in the center but which has the outline of a person, place or thing being depicted. Indeed, the dark silhouette of a building in a city skyline can stand out boldly against the early morning sunrise or afternoon sunset.

Silhouettes used in publications make great elements for wrapping text around.  We add color and texture to give these graphical elements extra character and to go one-step beyond being clip-art. Here’s some examples of effective newsletter designs that use silhouetted images.

Newslettersamplesilhouettes1 Newslettersamplesilhouettes2-1

Here’s some examples of silhouettes that we have used in our client projects.

The first is a county bikeways map we designed and printed for the Ventura County Transportation Commission (VCTC). HWDS created these silhouetted illustrations of cyclists and landmarks for the Ventura County Bikeways Map. The distinctive landmarks can be seen throughout the county while riding on the bike paths. This map was printed using a series of fluorescent inks.



The second is a promotion for the Library Foundation of Los Angeles. HWDS created the illustrations and layouts of newspaper ads, brochures, posters, banners and premium items as part of a campaign to promote teen filmmaking and reading through the Los Angeles Library.  In this case, we created silhouetted illustrations but then went a step further and added back in some minimal elements to help provide definition and to add depth.


So go ahead and shape up!  You’ll be glad you did. After all, silhouettes can draw the reader’s eye to your publication and can shape up a newsletter or other publication, either online or for print.


To find out more about how we can help create an effective newsletter, e-publication, or invitation for your firm or organization, contact HWDS at hwdesign@west.net.

Let’s Face It—Testimonials Add Great Buzz

Testimonials are terrific additions to any newsletter. They add credibility and allow for that special personal touch where readers can relate to one another and feel “connected.”

Chit Chat1

Chit Cha2

Chit Cha3

Simply add some illustrations of people chit-chatting about the publication.  They can comment on the publication’s benefits and what it offers. It can take the form of a single column or pull quotes scattered throughout the publication. The “talking heads” should be drawn in a whimsical style to give a lighter touch and to make the publication more user-friendly. We drew these illustrations by hand, digitized the art and added color using various software packages.

Below you will find a sample of a column treatment in a newsletter layout.


Adding a testimonial column can help gain the interest of the audience. Indeed, people enjoy reading compliments and little snippets about how things are going in the lives of people with similar interests. What a great way to create some positive buzz about your publication!

You can also gather feedback from tweets from Twitter.  Just stay connected on social media and you will have plenty of content to use.

Here’s an example of a book cover that I illustrated using “talking heads.”  Talk Your Head Off was published by Pearson Education and can be ordered online. This publication teaches good conversational skills to people learning English.

"Talk Your Head Off", © Pearson Education. Written by Brana West and illustrated by Harlan West.

“Talk Your Head Off”, © Pearson Education. Written by Brana West and illustrated by Harlan West.

So go ahead and up the chatter.  You’ll be glad you did.  After all, compliments usually reap great benefits.


To find out more about how we can help create an effective newsletter, e-publication, or invitation for your firm or organization, contact HWDS at hwdesign@west.net.

Try Pinning It

You may think that “pinning” is only for Pinterest. Well, think again.

“Pins” make great promotional items or give-aways to honor anniversaries, celebrations, or facility openings. Pins can also be created to commemorate the start of a new program, to celebrate the opening rail or bus line or to recognize employees for years of service.  Pins are also great morale boosters.

People love pins. Pins come in all sizes and can be made from cloisonné hard enamel, die struck gold enamel, die struck soft enamel or etched metal pins. The most interesting pins have an unusual shape and graphical treatment. Indeed, some pins are very elegant and can be worn as jewelry.


Pins can help kick-off a successful promotional campaign.  Over the years, our clients have hired us to create some unusual pins which have are often distributed when invitees arrive at an event. These clients include Metrolink, Kaiser Permanente, Norwalk Transit and the Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA), to name a few.

Pins can have custom cut-out shapes.  For example, several of the pins that we produced for the Norwalk Transit Bus Roadeo have shapes which follow the curvature of a whimsical illustration. In this post you will find samples of these pins.

A pin emblem can also be used as a graphic marque for a newsletter.  The art can be placed in a masthead or in a footer as a special commemorative emblem such as the 10th anniversary of the actual newsletter, or the 25th anniversary of a medical center.


To find out more about how we can help create an interesting pin,promotional item or custom give-away item for your company’s anniversary or special event, contact HWDS at hwdesign@west.net.

So next time you next a great promotion, try pinning it with a custom pin design.  Pins make great event promotions—just don’t pop any balloons on the way.

Music to Your Ears

Music-to-may-EarsMusical instruments are wonderful visuals for a newsletter or magazine. Try increasing the beat with stylized illustrations of musical instruments. Scattering iconographic elements throughout a page layout helps to visually breakup text and add a decorative theme to an otherwise static page.

Here, we sprinkled three custom illustrations of orchestral instruments along the left margin of the page. We created these illustrations in Adobe Illustrator and then filled each drawing with solid black. You could actually fill these with any color.  We then found an image of a violin on Fotolia. We tilted the image, knocked out the background and wrapped the text to give a dynamic page layout. We even added green burst shapes behind the icons to heighten the color.

This effect is great for newsletters published for orchestras, symphonies, university music programs, music stores and musical instrument manufacturers.

So, get going with your page layout and move to the beat.  Create some harmony in your newsletter!


If you’d like to talk about the creation of iconographic illustrations for a newsletter, website or other communication, please drop an e-mail to hwdesign@west.net.

On the Lighter Side—Pets as Mascots


Pets can lighten up an employee newsletter.

Let’s try something new…Try drawing a cartoon character from your pet. It’s easy—just draw a quick sketch, add some bright color, exaggerate a feature, and add motion or gesture. You don’t have to be an animator to try this.

Have fun animating your dog, cat, pet turtle, hamster or pot belly pig. The character you create can be the new mascot for your animation project or a way to add a character to otherwise drab content. Then bring them to life with some gestures, thoughts and words. Add speech and thought bubbles to allow the animal to comment on the article or topic. Who knows? Your readers may even want to adopt your animated character as the new company mascot.

Then add the character to your corporate communication for a lighter feel. Of course, don’t try this on an annual report or a letter to the Board of Directors. An employee newsletter might be a great place to start.

In the sample above, I created these characters from two of my former dogs, Shoogie and Cotton, an akita-chow mix and a pure breed samoyad.

Lighten up and so will your audience!


If you’d like to talk about an animated character illustration for a newsletter, poster, website or other communication, please drop an e-mail to hwdesign@west.net.

Help the Earth—You’ve Got it in the Bag

Grow Life.  Harlan West's Reusable Bag Art Contest Entry.

“Grow Life,” Harlan West’s Reusable Bag Art Contest Entry

Creating artwork for reusable bags is a great way to help the environment and your community. These bags are daily reminders of how we can help the earth and are great promotions for Earth Day.  The nice thing about this type of project is that the art can be more free-flowing and whimsical than most graphical treatments.

I recently submitted an entry to the Ralph’s/Kroger Design a Reusable Bag Art Contest.  Here, I created a whimsical rendition of a tree sprouting out of an apple core. I wanted to show “reuse” in a very fun graphical way.

The style consists of a very graphical cut paper style that uses flat wedges of color to make beautiful shapes of brilliant color. This style actually works quite well with silkscreened art for apparel, especially for cloth bags.

The theme of the art is “Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.”  I added the tagline “Grow Life,”  to show the positive impact of one’s commitment to using reusable cloth bags.

If you’d like to vote for any of the entries, you will need to sign in for an account with Ralphs or any of the participating Kroger stores. The entries are arranged by first name. If you’d like to vote for my entry, you can find it by pulling down the menu in the upper left to search by name. Mine is listed under the “H’s,”  under “Harlan W.” of Westlake Village.  There are two entries—one with apples in the tree and one without.  Please vote for the one you prefer.  Or you can vote for both.

If you’d like to talk about an environmental design for a reusable bag, poster or online communication, please drop an e-mail to hwdesign@west.net.

Congratulations to all the wonderful contestants who submitted art to help the environment. Its admirable that you have all thought of creative ways to help the earth.  Thank you!  You’ve done more good than you can imagine.

You’ve got it in the bag!

It’s time to Saddle Up–Commemorating an Event with a Graphic Emblem

The 2013 Conejo Valley Days took place last weekend, May 3-5 in Thousand Oaks, CA.  This commemorated the 57th year of an event which honors the Conejo Valley’s rich cultural heritage and volunteer spirit. Wristband sales were used to raise funds for non-profit organizations including schools, PTAs, religious and social-service organizations.

On a historical note, I was reminded of my 1994 award-winning logo for Conejo Valley Days. A sample of the pin is shown below. Here, I created colorful hand cut-outs of a western boot and a cactus as the design for the award-winning emblem. It was great fun to be a part of the rich cultural history in the Conejo Valley.

If you’d like to talk about a poster for your event or fundraiser, please drop an e-mail to

Saddle-up partner!

1994 Official Conejo Valley Days Logo and Pin, designed by Harlan West

1994 Official Conejo Valley Days Logo and Pin, designed by Harlan West