I’d like to take today to talk about one of my favorite clichés-that you can’t judge a book by its cover. When you’re talking about getting to know the people around you, you’re absolutely right. When you’re talking about whether or not to pick up the book sitting on the shelf…well, that can be a different story altogether.

Not all books with dull or poorly done covers are bad books. There are a number of them populating my bookshelf whose covers don’t do justice to the stories inside. But most of these were published 15 or 20 years ago. Long before technology opened new doors for cover graphic design.

These days there are so many options for book cover designers that when I see a book with a poorly designed cover (or even worse, no cover at all, just a solid background and a title) I think, “Off the cuff self publishing.” And in all honesty, I’m not likely to pick it up. Why?

1) Because an author who takes the time and effort to create (or hire someone to create) a cover for their book takes pride in their work. That makes me think that they took that pride, contacted an editor, and turned it into a quality product.

2) A book with a cleverly designed cover catches my eye on a crowded shelf. Dull covers get shuffled to the background.

3) Covers allow your reader to visualize your characters and the events therein. Sometimes it’s a visual representation of the characters themselves; others, it’s a mood. An atmosphere. Do you want dull, uninteresting or uninspired to be the first impression your reader has of your book?

The bottom line is, your book cover sets the tone for your reader. Clever book cover=clever book in their minds. Is that always true? No. You can have a horrendous book with a fabulous cover (and many do). But you have a better chance of convincing your readers picking up your book is worth their time if you’ve proven that attracting their attention with a clever book cover is worth yours.

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10 great print design posts from graphic designers around the web.

1)      20 Awesome Inspirational Logos from 2010, from Design Shard. I think the title says it all!

2)      Orkin Pest Control, from adgoodness. This site spotlights the best in advertising and showcases Orkin’s new (and really cool) design for their print ads.

3)      Business Classes for Freelance Designers, from All Graphic Design. A look at the business of going into business for yourself for today’s freelancer.

4)      Psychology and Graphic Design, from All Graphic Design. A look at the human psyche and how you can use your artistic talents to make it work for you.

5)      How to Make Text “Pop” without Spot Colors, from designer Andrew Kelsall. Using text and imagery to generate the greatest impact.

6)      2010 Printmaking Roundup, from COLOURlovers. A look at some of the top design and printmaking techniques for 2010. (I particularly liked the balloon…)

7)      Valentine’s Cards, from DesignMuse. A peek at the new line of Valentine’s Day cards from Rifle Paper Co (and some great ideas for designers already thinking about what they’re going to do next year…).

8)      10 Useful Logo Design Tips, from Dzine Blogs. The Do’s and Don’ts of Logo Design.

9)      Stop Thinking Like a Print Designer!, from Garth Hagerman. While intended for web designers, graphics artist who do most of their work on the web will find it easy to take his advice and apply it in reverse.

10)   Birthday Cards for Business: Making Them More Special for Clients, from My Postcard Printing Blog. A look at how to create birthday cards your customers will cherish (instead of ones they’ll toss in the trash.)

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“The imagination imitates. It is the critical spirit that creates.” Oscar Wilde

We’ve all stared in awe at amazing 3-D sidewalk art, or a breathtaking photograph, or a building that’s obviously off the beaten path. Way off the beaten path. Envy abounds. Who are these creative geniuses?

They’re you.

All right, so they’re not really you…but they could be. Everyone has deep, untapped wells of creativity. All you have to do is learn how to get to them and, once you’re there, how to make the most of it.

1) Don’t Self Edit

Think before you speak. Did your mother ever tell you that when you were growing up? I know mine sure did.

When tapping into your creativity, speak first. It’s called brainstorming. Let all of your ideas, no matter how crazy those ideas happen to be, flow out. Don’t censor, don’t edit.

There’ll be time to do that later.

2) Do It for Yourself First

Channeling your creative streak into someone else’s vision is hard. Really hard. When you’re creating you need to do it for yourself first. Let your own vision flow out onto the page, even if your vision isn’t always the same as the guys you’re creating for.

Many a book or marketing piece has been born not from the mind of the CEO that ordered it, but from the artist that created it. Your vision might not be as far off as you think. And if it is? Don’t throw out what you create. You never know when you’re going to want it later.

3) If You Restrict Your Creativity to Work, You’ve Already Lost

Making your passion your career is hard. Really hard. If you love to write, it makes sense to write for a living, right? If you’re an artist, why not let graphic art win the day?

The problem is, what you create at work isn’t necessarily exactly where your passion lies. Creating ad copy is a long way from painting landscapes, and brochures aren’t the great American novel.

Restricting your creativity to work is going to restrict your creativity, period.

4) Branding Isn’t the End All/Be All to Your Creative Summons

I toss this in because one of the coolest marketing pieces our graphic artists ever put together didn’t look like they should have anything to do with our brand. But it was snappy, it was sassy, and we decided to use it anyway.

We haven’t regretted that. Don’t let your brand restrict how creative you can be.

5) Creativity Only Takes Up Time If You Let It

If you have forever to work on a project, you’re going to overthink it. Period. If you’re stuck on something, give yourself five minutes and just do it. Let your brain do what it’s going to do. When you’re in too much of a hurry to get in your own way what you create can be something spectacular.

6) Daydream

Your teachers, parents and yes, your boss have effectively dedicated their lives to getting you to stop daydreaming and start doing. But when you daydream is precisely when your imagination gives you the tools to create.

The next time you’re working on a project I want you to take at least 15 min, lay back, close your eyes and let your mind drift. Think about the project, but don’t force your mind to go where you want it to go. (This is great for writing and film projects, by the way.)

What you come up with will be the epitome of your creativity.

7) Sleep!

When you’re exhausted your brain has all it can do to keep your lower functions rolling. Basically, your body’s so busy worrying about how to keep breathing and walk without walking into the walls that it doesn’t have any energy to spare for the art of creativity.

Make sure you’re getting 8-10 each night. You’ll be amazed what your creativity will do.

8) Leave Fear Behind

Do you know why we all aren’t writers, or artists, or video game designers? Because we’re afraid. We’re afraid we’re not going to succeed, so we don’t even try. We look at what we create, immediately assume it’s not good enough, and throw in the towel.

Tapping into your creativity is like learning to walk. You’re going to fall down. It’s going to hurt. You can decide whether to give up, spend the rest of your life crawling and never reach your full potential, or you can get back up and try again.

I know where my money would be.

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Why would you spend the time and energy to launch a direct mail marketing campaign? Because you love sitting around designing materials? Because it makes you smile to know you’re in every mailbox across town?

Because you want to attract new customers?

If you’re leaning toward option 3, show them what you’re selling!

A Picture’s Worth a Thousand Words-Literally

You can spend all day telling someone about your products. If you can get them to stand still that long. You’ll catch their interest faster, have fewer sore throats and be more likely to secure the sale if they can actually see them.

penguin guitar marketing

Visual stimuli can capture any customer's interest-even his.

There’s a reason it’s called show and tell, after all.

**On an interesting side note, a study into consumer buying habits showed that customers are willing to pay more if a product is right in front of them. So brick and mortar stores may still have the advantage after all.**

Design Your Postcard Back to Front?

Here’s a thought for you. How do you create your postcards?

Conventional wisdom tells us to make the front bright and brilliant to catch their attention, then put our information and the address on the back.


Your friendly neighborhood mailman is more interested in getting the right mail in the right box than he is about which way your card is facing. If the address is on the back, that’s the first thing your customers are going to see when they take it out of their mailbox.

Where am I going with this? If the first thing your customers see is the back of the postcard, the back of the postcard needs to be where they “see” your product. Design the back with the same zealous attention to detail you showed on the front. Hook their attention. Lure them in.

It takes a little more time and effort than you may have put into your direct mail marketing campaign before, but your increased ROI is more than worth it!

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A strong brand should be present both online and off.


What would you say if I told you having visually appealing emails is just as important as having visually appealing direct mailing materials if you want your customers to actually read what you’re trying to send? Surprise, surprise! Today we’ll take a look at successfully blending the design of your online and offline marketing materials to establish your brand, catch the eye of your clientele and get the best results possible for both. 

Breathe in. Now breathe out. You don’t have to be a graphic design whiz kid to design a good online email marketing campaign, especially if you’ve already got an offline direct mail marketing campaign in the works. Take a look at the direct mail marketing materials you’ve been sending out for the past 6 months. What’s consistent about them? Do they all have the same cover/header? Do they have a similar color scheme? Is your logo prominently featured? Do you start or end each one with your slogan? 

Take all of those design elements that tie your offline direct mail marketing materials together and put them into your email templates. This is called branding, and yes, it really is just that simple! You want your customers to associate all of your marketing materials with your company (and no one else) and using similar templates, headers, design formats, fonts, logos, copywriting trends and color schemes is the very best way to do that. 

Speaking of which… 

Tune in tomorrow to dig deeper into the ins, outs, ups and downs of copywriting for your email marketing campaign and your direct mail marketing campaign to cement your company’s image in the minds of your customers! 


*My apologies to everyone who tuned in yesterday, we’re still working out the technical details on some of our social media management tools. We’ll figure out eventually!*

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