Friday, December 17, 2010

Pantone Announces 2011 Color of the Year

As you probably know, Pantone is the global authority on color and the provider of professional color standards for the design industries. These include paint, wedding, fashion, home furnishings, printing and more. Yes, that's right -- the world listens to Pantone on color. Earlier this month the color of the year for 2011 was announced as PANTONE 18-2120 Honeysuckle - a vibrant, energetic hue of reddish pink.

Leatrice Eiseman is the executive director of the Pantone Color Institute and the global authority on color. Eiseman has been called "America’s color guru." She is author of six books including the Pantone Guide to Communicating with Color. While the 2010 color of the year, PANTONE 15-5519 Turquoise, served as an escape for many, Honeysuckle emboldens us to face everyday troubles with energy and strength. A lively reddish pink, Honeysuckle lifts the spirits. It elevates beyond escape, instilling poise, valor and strength to meet the challenges of everyday life.

In Pantone press release, Eisenman had this to say about Honeysuckle. "In times of stress, we need something to lift our spirits. Honeysuckle is a captivating, stimulating color that gets the adrenaline going - perfect to ward off the blues," explains Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute. "Honeysuckle derives its positive qualities from a powerful bond to its mother color red, the most physical, viscerally alive hue in the spectrum."

Eiseman continues, "The intensity of this festive reddish pink allures and engages. In fact, this color, not the fragrance of the flower, is what attracts hummingbirds to nectar." Honeysuckle is guaranteed to produce a healthy glow when worn by both men and women. It's a striking, eye-catching hue that works well for day and night in women's apparel, accessories and cosmetics, and in men's ties, shirts and sportswear. Add a lively flair to interior spaces with Honeysuckle patterned pillows, bedspreads, small appliances and tabletop accessories. Looking for an inexpensive way to perk up your home? Paint a wall in Honeysuckle for a dynamic burst of energy in the family room, kitchen or hallway.

For more than a decade, Pantone's Color of the Year declarations have influenced product development and purchasing decisions in multiple industries including branding, marketing, fashion, home and industrial design. The Colors of the Year for the last 10 years include:

- PANTONE 15-5519 Turquoise (2010)

- PANTONE 14-0848 Mimosa (2009)

- PANTONE 18-3943 Blue Iris (2008)

- PANTONE 19-1557 Chili Pepper (2007)

- PANTONE 13-1106 Sand Dollar (2006)

- PANTONE 15-5217 Blue Turquoise (2005)

- PANTONE 17-1456 Tigerlily (2004)

- PANTONE 14-4811 Aqua Sky (2003)

- PANTONE 19-1664 True Red (2002)

- PANTONE 17-2031 Fuchsia Rose (2001)

- PANTONE 15-4020 Cerulean (2000)

Monday, November 22, 2010

Cool Tips for Your Cell Phone

This cool tip is just in time for the holidays when many people will be traveling and away from their everyday environment. How many times have you been out somewhere and needed a phone number? Gone are the days when pay phones were on every corner. When was the last time you used a pay phone someplace other than the airport?

This cool tip allows you to avoide the typical $1.50 surcharge most cell phone companies charge for 411 directory assistance. If you need a phone number and you're not close to your computer or a phone book, use your cell phone!

Just text message a Goggle search from your cell phone! Text 46645 along with a few words or numbers about what you’re looking for, like 19107 restaurant. You’ll get a message back from Google within seconds with the results.

To get information from Google text access code 46645, from Yahoo text access code 92466 and from 4INFO text access code 44636. Don’t forget to include some information about what you’re looking for. Including a zip code or city and state can help narrow your search.

You can find more cool tips for shortcuts from Google at There’s tons of tips on how to grab all kinds of information on the run, like updated flight information or local movie times.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Picture This: Using Images in Documents

Photographs with action, emotion, real human drama grab attention.

Imagine a page of text describing a product offered for sale. Now imagine that same page with images of the product added. Even in your imagination there’s a difference – the image adds interest to the page and  improves its appearance.

That’s the power of images, whether they are  photographs, clip art, illustrations, charts, graphs or symbols. To attract attention and improve reader comprehension, nothing beats an image.

An image has maximum effectiveness when it satisfies these four criteria:
      the image is worthy of being printed.
      it is of good quality.
  it is relevant to the text.
  it is consistent with the design and layout of the document.
In this article, we will focus on what makes a good quality digital image for print.

What is a digital image?
A digital image is an image stored as one of two types: vector or raster. Vector images are lines created from mathematical calculations while raster images (also called bitmap) are created from numerical values – ones and zeros – organized as a fixed number of rows and columns of picture elements or pixels.

Vector images are created by illustration or drawing programs such as Adobe Illustrator or Corel Draw. Raster images are created by digital cameras or scanners and are edited by image editors or paint programs such as Adobe Photoshop or Corel Paint Shop Pro.

Color in images
The simplest images, called binary images, contain only two colors. Each pixel is stored as a single bit (either 0 or 1). These images are sometimes referred to as black and white or monochrome. In a grayscale image, each pixel is a shade of gray that varies from black to white. Sometimes called a monochromatic image, grayscale requires 8 bits of storage for each pixel where each bit represents 256 possible levels of gray.

For a full color image, each pixel has 24 bits of storage and can display 16 million colors, shades and hues. This explains why files containing color images are so large.

The two most common color models are RGB (red, green, blue) and CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow and black). RGB color is the color model for computer monitors and the web, while CMYK is the color model for printing. If you are working with your images in the RGB model, you must convert them to CMYK before placing them in your document.

Image resolution
Image resolution is the amount of detail an image holds, expressed as the number of pixels in the image. Resolution for digital cameras is often expressed as the number of pixel columns (width) by the number of pixel rows (height), such as 640 x 480. For printing, resolution is expressed as dots per inch (dpi), meaning the number of pixels in a linear inch. The more pixels per inch, the higher the resolution.

The most important thing to understand about resolution is the relationship between an image’s resolution (dpi) and an image’s print size (actual width and height). For a photograph to reproduce well in print, it must have a minimum resolution of 300 dpi in its print size. Such a file is termed high resolution (hi-res). In some cases we may be able to use a 200 dpi image, but we almost never can use a low resolution (lo-res) file (resolution is below 200 dpi) because there are not enough pixels to adequately represent the image.

Even if a file’s resolution is high enough, it still may not reproduce well if the image resolution doesn’t match the print size. If you ask us to enlarge the image to print in a bigger size than it was originally, the pixels that make up the image will move farther apart. This changes the number of pixels per inch,  reducing the resolution. If the enlargement is significant, individual pixels may become visible, creating jagged edges in the image. This effect is called pixelation.

File size
The size of a file is determined by whether it is a vector or raster file and whether it is binary, grayscale or color. File compression is a way of reducing file size without compromising image quality.

There are two compression methods: one (called lossless) keeps all the pixels of the original image but finds more efficient ways to represent recurring patterns of pixels in the file; and one (called lossey) eliminates pixels that aren’t needed to maintain quality.

File formats for printed images
The best file formats to use for images that will be printed are:
      For vector images: .eps (Encapsulated PostScript)
      For raster images: .tif (Tagged Image File Format)

Recall that vector images are constructed from mathematical formulas. This means that they are resolution-independent and can be scaled (resized) and manipulated (flipped, rotated, stretched, cropped, colorized, combined) with ease using programs like Adobe Illustrator and Corel Draw. This is an ideal format for initial design of logos and illustrations, and for clip art.  

Raster images are composed of rows and columns of pixels (sometimes called a bitmap). Because raster images are hard to resize and manipulate, they are best used at the size and orientation of the original. Raster images can be cropped, colorized, converted to grayscale or monochrome using image editing programs such as Adobe Photoshop or Corel Paint Shop Pro. All photographs are raster images.

The .tif file format usually produces the best quality image from a digital camera. The other choice is .jpg (Joint Photographic Experts Group), a file format that has been optimized for continuous-tone full color photographs by incorporating file compression. 

JPG compression looks at blocks of 8x8 pixels and selectively reduces the detail in each block. This maintains the physical size of the image, reduces the amount of space required to store it, but sacrifices the quality of the image. The extent of image degradation depends on the degree of compression (it is adjustable).

If you are editing or manipulating digital photographs, work in .tif format rather than .jpg since each new save in .jpg compresses the file. By contrast, a .tif file uses lossless compression, so there is no loss of pixels. 

The file formats .psd (Photoshop), .psp (Paint Shop Pro), .ai (Adobe Illustrator) and .cdw (Corel Draw) are proprietary. They are good to use while editing images in order to have access to all the editing tools in the program. However, after the image editing is complete, save raster images as a .tif file and vector images as an .eps file. 

Use images successfully
For maximum effectiveness, any image you use in a document must reproduce well. This requires attention to the file format and adhering to production standards. When you are deciding among possible images to include in your document, call us for assistance. We will be happy to help. 

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Developing Successful Newsletters: The Three C's

A newsletter’s design has a big impact on reader reaction and many times will be the reason a reader is attracted to read in the first place and it can also determine whether a reader will continue reading or move on. To be sure your design is successful, remember the Three Cs: Consistent, Conservative and Contrast.

Consistency addresses the format of your newsletter. If printing in black with an accent color, select a color palette and maintain it throughout each issue. If it's an e-newsletter, use consistent color choices and don't create a masterpiece of your own. Color is used to emphasize the message, not the message itself. Use an underlying grid to organize each page, story or section. If your newsletter is short (4 pages/stories or less), use the same grid for each page. Use templates and style sheets to control headlines, subheads and body copy.

Be conservative in the use of fonts and graphic elements, especially in a short newsletter. A good rule of thumb is to limit the number of photos, graphic accents or clip art to one or two per page. Pick a photo that means something. Random handshakes rarely say anything at all except "I'm here to fill space". Select one font for body copy and another for headlines, and use these exclusively. Stylize the two fonts with italics, bold, and condensed, but do not introduce additional fonts.

Use contrast to direct the reader’s eye and to establish the hierarchy of importance. Headlines should contrast with body copy and with subheads. Drop caps, extra-large initial caps, or an illustrated capital will draw the reader’s eye and create graphic interest. Use white space in the form of gutters and margins to lighten up dense body copy.

Improving the design of your newsletter will pay dividends in reader interest and accessibility. It can enhance the perception of your company in the community. And it is one of the first things you can do as the leader of your company to start developing your reputation as an expert in the community. A well designed newsletter with interesting current topics is often passed along to colleagues or taken home to give to family and friends. My clients tell me they post Printips, Creative Characters newsletter, on the breakroom bulletin board. Clients tell me they keep a file with every issue tagged for topics of interest. The more you can provide relevant content that's current and interesting, the more prospect mind share you gain.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Newsletters, Email and Mail Statistics

An ICR and Pitney-Bowes survey revealed:
73% of people prefer receiving newsletters by postal mail.

In a study for ConAgra Foods, MarketingSherpa found:
Consumers subscribed to e-newsletters generated 34.25% more product sales.

A recent Nielsen Norman Group Usability Study found:
The average person spends 51 seconds reading an e-newsletter.

According to the USPS Mail Moment Study:
98% of people bring in their mail on the day it’s delivered.
77% of people sort their mail immediately.

A small businesses study by Bredin Business Info states:
40% of small business execs want to see “how-to” type of content in e-newsletters
64% of small business execs said they decide whether or not to open the e-newsletter based on who it’s from.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Top 10 Things to Write About When You Don’t Know What to Write About

  1. Interview an expert. Find someone within your company or from the outside to provide an expert opinion on a topic of interest. Ask the president of your company.
  2. Use guest articles. Ask an expert in a complementary field to write an article. 
  3. Share your knowledge in “how-to” articles. Write about topics that will help others succeed in using your company’s products or services.
  4. Generate a numbered list. Everyone loves a numbered list. Use any number you want, from small to large. 
  5. Answer reader questions. Invite readers to submit questions or topics of interest.
  6. Simplify a technical issue. Explain a technical topic in simpler terms so it is easily understood by the reader. 
  7. Case study. Describe a customer problem and show how your product or service solved the problem. 
  8. Community service. Describe a community project or donation made by the company or organization and its staff and members.
  9. Employee profile. Provide information about an employee that shows why he or she is outstanding in their job performance. Demonstrate how their unique skill set enhances the team.
  10. Letter from the Editor. Write a column about writing the newsletter this time. Tell about funny things that happened while researching the stories.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

10 Do’s and Don’ts for More Professional Emails to Prospects

What happened to complete sentences?  Email communication has become fragmented with misspelled words, punctuation errors and capitalization faux paux's everywhere.

In our daily communication between co-workers, friends and customers, sometimes a fast response is more important than proper grammar. In fact, after establishing rapport, most people allow themselves to become careless in their written communication. 

With emails to prospective new customers, this casual negligence can be disastrous. The ideal prospect email communicates that you are professional, intelligent and articulate. It says you are worth their attention and response. Misspellings, grammar and other errors make you look unprofessional and unprepared.

Here are 10 tips for creating an email message that will leave the prospective customer with a positive impression of you and your company. 

1.    Limit paragraphs to 3-4 sentences.
2.    Leave a blank line between paragraphs instead of indenting.
3.    Write in complete sentences that include a subject and a verb.
4.    Use commas. And use them correctly.
5.    Look up the definition of a questionable word before using it. Use words correctly.
6.    Don’t write words in all capitals. Just don’t do it.
7.    Use standard formatting including salutation, body, valediction, and signature.
8.    Ask someone to proofread it before sending.
9.    Triple check your punctuation, spelling and grammar.
10.    If necessary, use common emoticons to help communicate your intended inflection in an email.

Don’t frustrate prospective customers with short, choppy messages. Get a better response from prospects by using these professional communication techniques. You are guaranteed to see more signed proposals and more productive sales with better communication.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Let the blogging begin!

Dear Readers,

This is the first post in the Creative Characters blog from Creative Characters. My goal is for each post to be easy to read, short, informational articles that focus on marketing your business. I hope this will be fun and provide you with ideas for ways to grow your business.

To grow your business, you'll need to connect with others. One of the best ways to connect with others is through personalization. Dale Carnegie once said that the sweetest sound to a person’s ears is the sound of their own name. Is that ever true today! Personalized printing and one-to-one marketing are extremely hot technologies that continues to gain momentum due to high success rates. And since it packs an ROI that can’t be beat, there are no signs of this trend slowing down.

Best of all, you don’t need to be a database or marketing guru to leverage the advantages that personalized printing offers. I hope you find this information useful and don’t hesitate to contact me to learn how a personalized print campaign can benefit your business.

To your success—
Brigid Kaye 
Strategic Business Development Officer
Creative Characters Inc