Create a more polished image

So, you’ve been doing business and have some printed pieces: a brochure, a business card, an ad. Maybe even a web site. But nothing seems to be working together. It’s time to create a more polished image.
Here are some points to be aware of when developing your image:

  • Photos draw the most visual attention.
  • Photos of children, babies and puppies are the most compelling.
  • Fonts need to be kept to a minimum and different fonts should complement each other – for example, a flowing script headline with a traditional serif font.
  • Headlines can use decorative or traditional serif/sans serif fonts.
  • Body copy needs to use legible fonts, usually traditional serif/sans serif fonts.
  • Color sets the mood. Colors mean different things, for example, yellow denotes joy, red- passion, blue-stability. Choose a color palate and use it across the board.
  • Be sure the image works with your logo. Don’t have a logo? Hire someone to develop one.

Finally, put together a style book, one that shows correct logo usage, your palate of colors, fonts, and some sample layouts with copy. Make sure everyone who is working on your company communications gets a copy, and uses it.

What if you don’t have an in-house marketing department with designers and writers? Hire professionals. There are small companies and freelancers who specialize in copy writing, marketing, graphic design, photography, web site development, video and radio spots. It will be an investment, but will pay off in the long-run, giving your company polished, professional and effective communication tools.

Maribeth Conard is owner of Conard Creative Group LLC, a small design house with a lot of muscle. She has been in advertising design since 1991 and has won awards for her graphic design and fine art pieces.


On Logo Design

On Logo Design

Why design a logo? A logo is a symbolic representation of your company. It’s instant recognition of your company in print, in ads, on web sites. Consistently brand your company with your logo and your company’s name will automatically leap to mind when people see your logo (think of the golden arches).

A logo also helps to establish credibility. Its use gives your company a professional appearance. It differentiates you from other similar companies, or companies with similar names. It needs to be unique, and not like any other logo. (See Bullet-Proof Logos: Creating Great Designs Which Avoid Legal Problems by David E. Carter)

The cost of your logo will vary with who is designing it for you. There can be a dramatic difference in what an on-line logo factory, a freelance designer, and a full-service agency will charge for logo creation. Which you choose will depend on your budget and desired outcome. There is a lot to be said for meeting face-to-face, so that the final art reflects your personality and that of your company. It will be important for your designer to research the competition, what are they using, what shapes, what colors? How is your company different? How can all of your company be represented in one small symbol? The final effort will need to be used consistently throughout your literature and communication pieces.

Points to consider:

  • Keep it simple. Simplicity of line will allow it to be used easily across a spectrum of media, from business cards to promotional pens and mugs. It will also be more readily scaleable, fitting the usage from very small (the pens) to very large (billboards).
  • Color for printing. One-to-two colors work best for print, keeping print costs down. Generally, it’s best to design the initial logo in black, and add color later. If it works in black, it will work in color.
  • Color choice. If there is a color your company already uses predominantly, whether in communications or interior design, consider using this in your logo. But also consider changing color, based on what works well in your industry. People relate to colors differently, for example, warm colors increase appetite, cool colors are calming. To learn more about the psychology of color, check out Pantone’s article, The Psychology of Color.
  • Consistency. Set up a style guide for the use of your logo. What exactly does it look like, what specific colors and fonts are used in it, how are graphics and fonts combined for a horizontal version? A vertical version? Or will there be one version? What colors can the logo be printed in, in a one-color piece, two-color, four-color? How does it look reversed out of color or black?
  • Have your designer create logos for the different uses you need: fax, web, business card, etc. in Mac and PC formats.

Should we change our logo? One rule-of-thumb is that when a company has used a logo for five or more years, it’s an established brand and is best left alone. Think of the brands that have been around for years – Coca Cola, Arm & Hammer – the high recognition of these logos precludes them being changed. That said, updating your logo can give you a fresh image, and a reason to do a press release. If your brand is established in peoples’ minds, if they recognize you by your logo, then it’s best to tweak your logo and give it a mild face lift. Be wary of fads. Today’s grunge font may date your logo tomorrow. Keep it timeless, and again, simple.

Visual Branding to Bring Unity to Your Image

Start with an idea…

I’m listening to Leo Kottke as I write this. Each piece is different. Yet it’s all guitar (OK, except for a few crickets). It’s all (almost) music without words. Every note is his. Kottke’s style is distinct. There is no mistaking his music. It has a common feel to it, a common “thought”. That is branding.

To brand visually, it takes an idea first. What is the idea that the company wants to communicate to the audience? VISA’s new ad campaign starts a conversation with the customer about life. What does life take? The print, billboard and video portions of the campaign all carry out this thought. The look and feel of the mediums is similar, and it’s obvious in the print – same font, same font and logo placement, large photo. The “thought” rather than put into a lot of words, is communicated visually through photos. Words clarify it, or maybe I should say start the process. Yet an effective ad may also have more copy, but carry the same thought and feel.

It’s important to bring unity, visually, to a campaign, so that the customer recognizes it as yours. Yet is it necessary to have every ad look the same? In Cutting Edge Advertising by Jim Aitchison, Guido Heffels says “Everything you create for the brand should be driven by the same thought, the same idea. A few constant design elements may be helpful for a major brand to build up global presence, but if that’s all you’ve got, you will end up with a series of ads, not a campaign.”

Use similar elements – font, color, logo (of course) – to bring continuity to all of your visual marketing. But also vary the creative enough to capture the interest of the customer. You are creating a dialog with the customer, and good dialog means variety and inflection, and shuns monotony. In presenting a campaign, it’s the thought that counts.

Typography – or – How to Keep Your Layout Clean

Typography – or – How to Keep Your Layout Clean

I learned a long time ago that the rule of thumb is to use up to three fonts in a layout, no more. As clarification, consider that a font is a specific size and style within a typeface. A typeface is a family of a typographic design, it could include different sizes and styles such as italics and bold. Here is an example using three fonts:

The Quick Brown Fox

The quick brown fox jumped over the fence, landing on top of the chicken coop. The moon shone in the starry night sky. Could anything be so perfect?

Using more than three fonts can be visually distracting and even confusing. Consider this:

The Quick Brown Fox

The quick brown fox jumped over the fence, landing on top of the chicken coop. The moon shone in the starry night sky. Could anything be so perfect?

There are several ways to choose fonts for your print piece. You can choose all from the same font family, for example you might choose Times New Roman 24 pt for a headline, Times New Roman 10 pt for body copy, and Times New Roman 10 pt bold for items you’d like to have stand out. Another option is to choose fonts from different font families, such as Arial Black 24 pt for a headline, Times New Roman 10 pt for body copy and Arial Black 10 pt for the pieces you’d like to have stand out. When using the latter option, it’s imperitive to choose fonts that are dramatically different from one another. Times New Roman is a serif font, and Arial Black is sans serif, plus Arial Black is very bold compared to Times New Roman, and these two things make Arial Black quite different, visually, from Times New Roman. You would not want to use Times New Roman and Garamond as your two different fonts, because they are both serif fonts of about the same weight, much too similar to each other, and would look more like a mistake than purposely chosen fonts. There are also some great decorative and script fonts, like those used in the Bridge to Health brochure seen here, left, that can be paired with a simple serif or sans serif font in your layout.

The main copy of your piece needs to be easily read, and therefore a plain serif or sans serif font will look the best. Some say to use serif fonts because the serifs make reading easiest, however you’ll notice that many web sites are done in sans serif fonts like Arial and Helvetica, because screen resolution can blur the details on serif fonts like Times. (See I like using sans serif fonts for the main copy in print pieces as well, it gives it a clean look, and I find it very legible. In this brochure for Sound Solutions, the sans serif font ads a nice modern feel to the piece, enhancing the product line.

It can be a lot of fun to check out type at web sites like and Adobe. Not only can you look fonts up by name, and style, but you can also type them into a “type generator” that will allow you to see what the font will look like for your particular use. If you like it, you can purchase it on the spot. Sigh, I could do that all day.

Remember to match the font style to your project, like the nice rough-and-tumble font used in this hockey ad, and to choose the format that works with your computer and software.

Until next time. Happy font hunting!

Make Your Ads Unique

Make Mine Like Theirs

Quite often I’ve had people show me a design or an ad and tell me that they like it, and if it worked for that company, it will work for them. I suppose it’s similar to seeing someone wear a hairstyle I love, I’d like to wear it too. But the last time that occurred, I happened to be with my hair stylist and she said “Your hair won’t do that. She has very thick hair and she can carry layers. You can’t. But you can do this…” Aah, crushed. Yet it was the truth. And really, even if all styles are based on one premise – the cutting of hair – they look different on each head, and because of different textures, colors, waviness, diverge of necessity from each other.

Which brings me to a book I’m reading called The Origin of Brands by Al & Laura Ries. In this book, they compare brand divergence with the theory of Darwin. Just as lions, tigers, jaguars and cheetahs are all divergent species of cats, so do brands differentiate from the other brands around them.

When developing a product or service, discover what you can do that is different from other companies. What can your business do better? What can you do that’s unique, that there isn’t a market for – yet? That is where you want to be, out in front, with no competition, the first to do something. That is what will give you an edge, and keeping it fresh and changing will help you keep that edge and stand the test of time.

So, when you come in for a logo, a brochure design, an ad layout – let’s talk about what you’ve seen, what you like. This will help me get to know you, what your vision is. I may say “Your hair won’t do that …” and it’s OK. Then let’s talk about your business, your ideas, where you came from, where you want to go. And let’s do something different. Something unique to your goals, your new brand. That is where the visual story comes in, that is what Conard Creative excels at – telling your story, visually.

Donating Your Talent

Start from the Heart

Several years ago I started donating my time working on the design for the American Cancer Society’s Breast Cancer Awareness Run/Walk in Green Bay, Wisconsin. I did this because one of my dearest friends had breast cancer and this was one way I could walk with her and do something helpful. When I began this, the designs for the poster and brochure were bright and eye catching, and I continued in this vein. As you can see, the design had movement, was simple and colorful. The tagline, however, was powerful. There was something missing in the design.

Then one day, I was at the YWCA looking at some black and white photos that caught my heart. They were taken by a local photographer, Mary Harrison, and each reflected the spirit of her subject. This, I knew, could capture the emotion of our Breast Cancer Awareness tagline, in a visual. So I took the idea back to the walk/run committee, and they agreed. Our 2003 campaign was begun.

We asked a woman who is a breast cancer survivor, and her family, to pose for our first photo. Because of Mary Harrison’s personal touch in using black and white photograpy, we kept the entire campaign in black and white, with pink as an accent color. This gave it seriousness, drama, with the pink bringing in a soft, human touch, as well as underscoring the breast cancer theme.

This theme was used on the posters, brochures, t-shirt, and Web site design. Not only was it visually attractive, the color scheme stood out among all the other events and billboards around. And best of all, the look of the pieces reflected the depth of the subject, and it became personal. Which is as it should be.

Each year, more courageous survivors and their families have agreed to be a part of our campaign, and each year our contributions have increased. I like to think the way we carry the message has had something to do with that. This year, 2007, we have six people portrayed, and their stories are on our Web site at

Once again, with the help of ACS, volunteers, and our sponsers, we’re striding toward breaking our goal, and ultimately helping to pave the way for a cure for cancer. Perhaps you’ll join us.

Bright Color Adds to Theme

A Bright Future for Our Youth, and Therefore, for Everyone. I’ve been intrigued with The Einstein Project since I first read about it when my daughters were young – and trust me, that was a long time ago! In 2000, when I started in business, I also made some choices to become involved in different community programs that were important to me. Leadership Green Bay, City Planning, and The Einstein Project all fell into place.

With Einstein, my intention was to be paid for my design work. I kept calling on them, until finally, Kristine Schuetze, who was their marketing person at the time, said “Why don’t you just donate your design to us.” And she invited me to become a board member. Now, I didn’t have any income to speak of at the time, but I knew two things, that these pieces would be highly visible and that I was passionate about the hands-on science that The Einstein Project is all about. So I said yes.

Here is the result of that collaberation. The colors are bright and say “Children”, “Fun”, “Play!”. The photos visually tell the story, a child’s hand (bringing the wonders of the world to the fingertips of children), a frog, a butterfly, a fern to represent various Einstein kits and science education. They are all “peaking through” the color, as if the viewer is discovering each. The fonts were chosen for their contrast to each other, one visually playful and decorative, the other more serious, readable, yet with an elementary quality about it.

We made sure the different pieces all used the same color, art and fonts, to brand them so that every time someone saw a brochure, or an invitation, or a newsletter, they would know that it came from The Einstein Project. When Einstein decided to begin Butterflies on Parade, they hired me, at a reduced rate, to design their logo and collateral pieces. I kept the bright colors the same, to tie the Butterflies pieces back to Einstein.

Each year, The Einstein Project’s Butterflies on Parade has changed a bit, including a year we did balloons. But the colors, the fonts, and the basic layout remained the same, to build recognition. As my business has become busier, I’ve brought interns in to help me out. And because of the consistency of layout, they have been able to jump in and keep the overall Butterflies look and branding. This year, with Einstein’s Butterflies and Friends on Parade, we used a softer version of the same color. We also added a nice “wallpaper” background of the butterflies, dragonflies, and frogs, to add depth and interest to the pieces. You’ll see that while the fonts remain the same, their use is new, with a nice, playful curve added by intern Dan Vieaux.

Butterflies and Friends on Parade is intended as a publicity tool and fund raiser for the project. The Einstein Project provides hands-on science kits to schools, which are partially school funded, partially privately funded. If your child is in the Green Bay school district, chances are he or she has studied butterflies using an Einstein kit. Studies show that hands-on learning is successful, and what better way to get children excited about science than for them to see and touch it as they learn! Because of my work schedule, I have resigned from some of the committees I’ve been involved in for the past 5-7 years. Einstein is one of them. While I won’t be there in person, I will continue to support them. Julie Paavola, Einstein’s director, in tandem with Connie Greenawald and the rest of the staff, volunteers and board members at the project, has been moving Einstein forward most admirably. I encourage you to check them out at to learn more.

And remember the Butterflies and Friends auction, 7 p.m., October 9, 2007 at the KI Convention Center. Whether you attend as a spectator or as a bidder, it will be great fun! See you there.