This week features an amazing and beautifully designed package, Nexa. It is easy to get lost for hours playing and experimenting with this versatile font, or rather, fonts.
Nexa Rust was created by Fontfabric designers Radomir Tinkov, Svetoslav Simov, Ani Petrova and Vasil Stanev. These creator describe it as a”multifaceted font system consisting of font sub-families Sans, Slab, Script, Handmade and Extras. Each of these sub-families contains a number of font weights which have a characteristic warm, rough look and display a few degrees of saturation.”
This font would be great for creative advertisements and would work well for headlines and taglines. It is a lot of fun mixing and matching as these fonts work incredibly well together.
The fonts featured on www.rthr3e.com are their authors’ properties and at time of publishing are known to be free. Please take note of any pertinent readme files and license details available with downloads. If no license is indicated it is that information was not readily available.
Your homepage is prime real estate and can be a make or break a visitor’s experience of your company or business. There are different terminologies for a “homepage,” including “landing page” and “splash page.” Splash pages tend to be very simple, and often don’t have a lot of content but rather are intended as eye candy. In reality, splash pages often frustrate visitors because of lengthy load times and few navigational options (the most common one being to enter the site). Let’s instead focus on a landing page, which can still be visually stunning, but also has a clear purpose.
What’s The big deal?
Why do I need a great landing page? According to some research, the average attention span of an online visitor is right around 8 seconds. So first impressions have never been so important. If you can’t connect with a visitor immediately, they are moving on. Additionally, landing pages are highly valued by search engine rankings. As much as 93% of business to business (B2B) buyers start their hiring or contract work by doing a search. If you are a business, you absolutely need a compelling landing page.
Of course not every business (or website) is the same. There are all kinds of companies and organizations that have different purposes and services, but whether you are a designer, a tech company, or have tangible products you are selling, some basic marketing principles can be applied. Ultimately, an effective landing page means greater conversion, and more bang for your buck .
The backdrop to a fantastic landing page are beautiful design, and an easy navigation, if you have include one, but preferably a call to action. Let’s look more specifically at what else makes for a great landing page.
So what basically makes a good landing page then? In a word – simplicity. Make sure to use simple language. Use a simple layout. Have a simple call to action. There is such great power in simplicity.
There are of course occasions in which you might need different calls to action or may want to highlight a different feature or service of your company. You might consider building out some different templates, but the key is to always keep them simple, focusing on the call to action, remembering that distractions kill conversions. Also, note that simplicity does not mean boring or generic. There are ways to infuse your personality into a landing page.
2. Lists and Bullets
MarketingSherpa, a well know market research company has conducted some studies that have shown that most people visiting landing pages will do three things.
Read the headline
View bullet points (i.e. this list!)
Read a bio, if available
That really eliminates the bulk of the words you write. Keep this in if you have a lot of text on your homepage.
How many times have you heard it? A picture speaks a thousand words. Visual interest is key. Remember to include your logo somewhere visible, though not necessarily dominant on the page. Trending right now are “hero shots” or mock ups of white papers or site layouts. Stay away from Googling images or really popular stock. There are great free image resources out there. Whatever you use, it is always good practice to make your graphic clickable in addition to having a button. By now, most people know and have been conditioned to click on graphics.
While it is not part of the landing page, I can’t neglect mentioning the importance of saying thank you. Consider it a part two of your landing page. Whether you are offering a deal, having someone sign up for a newsletter, or are actually hiring you, if there was any call to action that was clicked on, make sure and say thank you. Everybody likes good manners.
When starting or growing your business, your website is a powerful way of gaining more clients or customers. You might be a small shop and be your own marketing team in which case managing your time is a major battle. Though your time is precious, it is worth experimenting. All of the top B2B marketers test everything, and I mean everything — offers, web copy, headlines, different types of forms, colors, layouts and on and on. Testing is important as it gives you piece of mind in know what works and what doesn’t. Your landing page is the most important thing to test on your entire site. It is the first impression, and could be the last.
This week’s Fantastic Free font is “Bisurk” created by Logan Mata of Hollow Font Studio. Bisurk features 73 glyphs and an ultra light weight.
Light weight fonts have become very popular not only because the are often very elegant but also because they can save space in a design, allowing for more information in a limited space. Light weight font can also can be tricky because of readability, so sizing up would be a good idea for this type of font. This font would be suited for headlines and taglines in websites, posters, postcards and other print media.
The fonts featured on www.rthr3e.com are their authors’ properties and at time of publishing are known to be free. Please take note of any pertinent readme files and license details available with downloads. If no license is indicated it is that information was not readily available.
How much for…? Believe it or not, designers need to know as much as clients do! You might be hard pressed to find specific price points published by many design firms. The reason is simple; no project is the same and every client differs. Everybody, including me, wants to get a good deal when buying a product or services. However, it must be stated that it is almost impossible to give an accurate quote without an initial conversation.
For artists and designers, pricing can be one of the most frustrating parts of the creative process. To varying degrees, the creative process can be quite mystical and a final result somewhat subjective. This is also what makes this fun!
It is completely reasonable (and the norm for most businesses) to know how much something costs. Can you imagine walking into a clothing store and instead of reading a number on a price tag, it just said “talk to the manager”? With web and graphic design however, there is a bit of a process. You may have started your quest with Google:
“How much does a website cost?”
“How much does hosting cost?”
“How much does a logo cost?”
“How much should a website/logo cost?”
I will venture to say you did not come away with definitive answers. I want to give some background on why, and though I lay out some concrete prices, they are merely guidelines as every situation is different. You may have heard of the principle of “Fast, Good or Cheap — Choose Two.” This certainly applies in the world of design.
Hourly Rates, Fixed Rates and Package Deals
It is very common for designers to charge by the hour, though rates vary wildly depending on the experience, location, and many other factors. In hard numbers, this could mean anywhere from $10/hr to $500/hr for high level consultants. Most designers, myself included, offer different pricing structure as there is no one size fits all solution for every project. There can be a myriad of factors in determining a fair price, including the complexity of a project, type of project and mid-project direction changes.
Two designers charge the same rate, let’s say $50/hour. One designer works much more quickly than the other, completing a project in 10 hours, while the other designer takes 20 hours. Their final products might be comparable, but one designer is much more efficient and the client could end up paying double for the “same” work.
Two businesses, one a small start-up (the mom and pop type), and the other large company with national reach, both create and sell custom T-shirts. By chance, they both hire the same designer at the same hourly rate to create designs for them. Is the designer being fair? Who is really getting a better deal?
Basically, there is no exact formula. This means that a conversation is the best place to start. I as the designer, need to know what exactly you are hoping to achieve in order to most effectively reach those goals. As a client, the important thing to remember that you most often really do “get what you pay for.”
It is possible to acquire a very inexpensive logo, but that often means it is cheap. There is a difference. There are several websites that allow a client to submit “contests” and choose a favorite design submitted by many designers. This is also known as “spec work,” short for speculative work. This may seem like a bargain, but there is a reason that it is in fact so cheap. It also isn’t very fair, for the designer or the client. Aside from giving clients the impression that design doesn’t have much worth, it also penalizes the clients themselves. Contests do not allow designers to do the proper market research that a serious project requires. In turn, the client doesn’t not receive the most effective outcome and instead often subjectively selects “the prettiest design.” The following video explains this further.
Not surprisingly, getting a great logo can be a quick and easy process or a very arduous and painfully expensive one. There are plenty of high profile examples that demonstrate this. How can it be that BP paid $211,000,000 for a logo, while Twitter paid $15? Ouch!
Designers commonly price hourly and with package rates as well here, depending on what a client is looking for. Logo package rates can include multiple versions of the logo, different files types (raster and vector format), different resolutions, grayscale/black and white versions, etc. With package deals, there may be a base price and additional services, such as branding consultation, stationary design, and so forth, can be added on.
With websites, even more so than with logos, there are many more unpredictable factors that will determine a final product. Quotes are incredibly subjective. There are a whole host of ways of getting a websites, and the price range can range from next to nothing with certain services to tens of thousands of dollars. That is a bit insane isn’t it!?
With websites, besides just having some basic pages, there are several things to consider that could also greatly determine a final price tag. These features might include (among others) :
Stock images/Image formatting
I have read that pricing a website is a lot like pricing and building a new home. This is because there are seemingly infinite factors involved, and many changes can happen in the middle of the process. Additionally, a website is not just a product, but simultaneously a service, one that can be ongoing depending on its nature. Just as you might have upkeep and repairs and even remodeling with a house, a website often requires ongoing care.
Ultimately, what you budget for a website, logo or any other design services should be based on what your business needs are. So, how much for a website then? Let’s talk some more and we’ll both find out.
These days almost everybody is on a budget, but inexpensive doesn’t have to mean cheap. When it comes to great photos, many assume that this will cost a pretty penny. Not always the case! In fact, there are a whole bunch of sites that offer low cost and very high quality images for your blog or other design projects.
Many novices will turn to everybody’s best friend for searching, Google. But before you just start “Google image searching” your intended subject matter, take some time to peruse some of these sites. I guarantee the results will be much more aesthetically pleasing than what shows up in the Google results, but better yet, you won’t need to worry about the copyright infringements that can easily happen when using Google.
The Conventional Stock Image Sites
Many of said Google results will point you to the big stock sites, such as iStock, 123rf.com, Shutterstock and the like. These sites have great pictures no doubt (even though some will feel very corporate and formulaic). The trouble is that unless you are fortunate enough to have a big budget (or a budget at all), you won’t be able to get too many photos here. Not surprisingly, the watermarks a a big giveaway of expensive images. Getty Images, one of the world’s largest photo repositories, recently made headlines regarding their decision to release millions of free images, in their attempt to combat copyright violators. They have done this by using an embed tool, making millions of its images available to consumers for use on blogs, social media channels and websites.
If you have some cash to burn, go for it, but there are excellent alternatives, that will likely meet any photo need you might have.
The Biggest Bang For Your Buck
Here are eight great websites that can likely meet the large majority of your image needs. The best part is that they are are all free, a few only requiring attribution.
This is one of my favorite photo resource websites which I happened upon accidentally. While there is no way to search, the vibe is great. The images here are all very high quality and have a very artistic feel. You can sign up to receive images in your inbox weekly. One drawback is that there is no way to search images, but it is certainly fun to just scroll down the page of eye candy.
This site is quite similar to Unsplash in its look and feel, and structure and features. The site allows you to sign up to get hi-res images emailed weekly to your inbox thereby prompting you to keep checking out the collection. While there is also no search function on the site, they do employ tagging which can help in your search.
PicJumbo is the brainchild of Viktor Hanacek, a photographer and web designer based in Europe. Seeing the need, he decided to offer high quality photos in full resolution for free. The selection is somewhat limited, but there is great stuff here, and the subject matter continues to become more and more diverse.
Much like PicJumbo, Splitshire was put together by a photographer and web designer in Europe, Daniel Nanescu, who was always looking for some great photos for their projects and often had difficulty finding them. The result was this site.While attribution is always appreciated, it is not required and SplitShire offers awesome free stock photos for personal and commercial use.
I recently discovered this one, but I am sure I will be back a lot. Once again, many of the images are very artsy, and I am struck by the excellent composition in just about every shot. Gratisography allows its images to be used on personal and commercial projects and new images are added weekly.
If you are looking for great vintage images, this is your destination. New Old Stock features vintage photos from public archives that are free of known copyright restrictions. There are times where a historical photo is exactly what you need and this is a good place to find it. Other images that are free of landmarks, or other historical markers, such as landscape photos can be used in any situation.
This site announces the obvious fact that “finding free images of high quality is a tedious task, – due to copyright issues, attribution requirements, or simply the lack of quality.” Thus we have Pixabay, a repository for excellent public domain pictures. They also offer free vectors and drawing in addition to photographs. Freely use images in digital and printed format, for personal and commercial use, without attribution required.
If you need to search something and want a more traditional “stock image,” check out SXC. Here you can browse a huge image gallery containing over 350,000 quality stock photos by more than 30,000 photographers. In their own words, “SXC is a friendly community of photography addicts who generously offer their works to those who need them free of charge.” This is a well known free resource among graphic designers and photographers alike.
The best things in life are free! But all cheese aside, it is a great time to be a designer. These online libraries are growing and there are already a myriad of high quality images of all kinds of subject matter, at very affordable prices. When possible, it is good form to attribute. You might also notice that several of the individuals who have thrown up their own personal libraries are at most asking for a cup of coffee. That is a deal you can’t really beat.
Ok, this will be the first, and unfortunately, probably not the last, post dedicated to time management. More specifically, one where I talk about finding time. I suppose another word for this is discipline. Honestly, I have trouble with discipline. It is hard. I eat too much sugar. I don’t meditate. I am very irregular at the gym. I am not as consistent as I think I am. Unless we’re talking about being consistently inconsistent with discipline in my life.
I want to say that much of the difficulty is due to a crazy stage of life. My wife and I have two young ones, a three year-old (we call her our “threenager”) and a one and a half year-old. Both are absolute joys; both are high energy. This makes for long days. I am usually up by 5:30 a.m., reporting into work by 7:00 a.m., home by 11:30 a.m. to feed my kids lunch and put them down for a nap, and then work for a few hours until they wake up, feed them dinner, clean up, have a bath, and then begin the night time routine. My wife, who works just about full time, comes home by 7:30 p.m. and we then get a few hours in the evening to decide whether we want to veg/hang out, do logistical items (like meal planning, laundry or house cleaning) or spend quality time together. We are usually both pretty exhausted knowing that in a few hours we do it all over again. Who knows if and how many times they will wake up at night.
So, some weeks I feel energized, some weeks I feel more like I should be on an episode of Walking Dead. All of this to say is that this is my attempt at being consistent. I have talked about not setting goals for 2014. For example, I am not trying to write X number of posts this year. I do, however, aim to be more consistent. More consistent in my work, family life and personal growth.
You’ve got your new site all set up and are now wanting to populate it with more content. If the text on your site is main course, the images you post are the dessert, or at the very least, the spices. Consider carefully what photos you choose to post. It should be relevant, good quality and formatted properly. This will be one of the the highest impact aspects of your website, and will reveal much more than you might think.
Getting Web ready
Once you have selected an appropriate image, most inexperienced web content managers make the mistake of just uploading whatever pictures came off of their camera without doing any prep. In other words, the pictures are not “web-ready.” What do I mean by web-ready? Primarily, this means resizing and optimization. This is so an image can fit properly on a page and also load quickly.
Shrink vs Crop
The two main ways to resize an image are to shrink it or crop it. Properly framing an image is an art form in and of itself, but at the very least, you should consider what is happening inside your picture. What is the focal point? Are there “unnecessary” things going on in the background (does the ceiling really need to be visible above the group shot)? For more details on image composition, check out these pointers from Digital Camera World. Be careful when resizing to make sure you keep the size ratio intact.
Image distortion can make your entire site look amateurish regardless of how well built the rest of it is.
Consider a Naming Convention
For those familiar with WordPress or other CMS systems, a folder directory is surprisingly absent. Many media library functions under a search paradigm, so naming conventions become extremely important if you want to stay organized. Even if you are going a more conventional HTML route, having a good naming convention is a best practice your pictures. One common way to help organize your library is to lead the name of all your files with the date and then have some sort of description in the file name as well, though finding the right balance between description and file name length can be tricky. A good example might be “20140101_fireworks” — and is certainly much more helpful than trying to remember what “IMG_1034″ is.
Most images will be .jpegs though .gifs and .pngs are also common. The latter two allow you to have transparent backgrounds in your image, which is often helpful, but often not necessary. There are a whole lot of other image file types, but most of the web runs on these file types.
Here are several services (all free!) you might consider if you do not have access to Photo editing software. There are of course many others out there that may work better for you. Feel free to comment with your favorite.
Canva: The best of the bunch with a simple, drag-and-drop interface and over 10 million users
Pic Resize: has a batch function, allowing you to resize multiple images at once.
Resize Your Image: features a simple interface that gives you dimensions of your image.
Web Resizer: has an optimization function and the rounded corners feature is a nice addition.
Besides web based tools, there are also free downloadable software programs.
GIMP: a well known, freely distributed piece of software for photo retouching, image composition and image authoring.
We’ve all seen a “wow” image but unfortunately, we can’t all produce them. However, using these simple tools and guidelines will help give your web site a fresh, professional and attractive presentation.
One of the catalysts with taking R3 Design to the next level has been my involvement with LaunchPad. What is LaunchPad? Essentially, it is a business incubator that aims to fill the gap between the coffee shop and the leased office space for entrepreneurs. Last year, the Goshen City Chamber of Commerce opened up LaunchPad in order to stimulate the economy and help local businesses thrive. An excerpt:
LaunchPad is the newest addition to the city’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. Over the past ten years downtown Goshen has been quietly attracting entrepreneurs who are drawn to the vibrancy of the downtown commercial district and its unique and creative environment. Many of these entrepreneurs started their companies in the local coffee shop or at Goshen College, located just outside of downtown. But it took a while before their companies were ready to occupy storefronts and second floor lofts.
This morning a local news station, WSBT stopped by to feature a story on this burgeoning enterprise. There was definitely some excitement in the air, though everyone remained characteristically calm as well. It is just how people roll at LaunchPad. At least the current tenants. The space is great, and functions very much like a cafe/study hall/business area. Folks come in with their laptop, find an open desk and get to it. There are resources available, webcam enabled conference rooms, mentoring, but mostly, I love being able to have a dedicated workspace and I love the collaborative atmosphere. There will likely be some future work done with fellow tenants, so be on the lookout!
I was never the kid who knew exactly what he wanted to be when he grew up. In fact, I do believe I wanted to be many different things at many different points… hockey player, astronaut, fireman, robot. I don’t think I ever thought about being a designer. I always loved to draw though, and excelled among my first grade peers. Admittedly, the competition wasn’t that fierce; perhaps most kids didn’t see art as a viable career choice, but even as I got older, as much as I loved it, art was always a hobby.
When it was time to make some career choices, I was advised to “do what you love” or “what you find interesting.” Sadly, my soccer skills were not quite world class caliber and I needed a fall back. In college, it was Psychology. I was fascinated by the human mind, by our amazing capacity for greatness and dysfunction, sometimes simultaneously. I wanted to know why people did they things they did, and I wanted to help people along the way as well.
Post college, I bounced around a lot, but slowly and steadily I began cultivating a deep interest in graphic design. It started with creating promo materials for a band I was in, then a website, then some marketing materials and websites for friends, and more and more I began integrating these skill sets into my repertoire and into my job choices. Without really realizing it, my twenties were refining me into a graphic designer.
So after finally taking the plunge and making a career choice of it, I have much more intentionally been contemplating what makes a good designer and have been voraciously slurping up as much knowledge and inspiration as I am able. There are several opinions out there as to what makes a good designer and while there will certainly be overlap, there will also be a fair bit of disagreement. Design, like much of art has a subjective component, after all. Brianne Radtke, of design firm Ashworth Creative breaks a good designer down into six characteristics: Education, Artistic Ability, Knowing Your Tools, Knowing Your Industry and Market, Enforcing a Responsible and Honest Work Ethic, and Designing Smarter.
You can read the details on that but what immediately jumps out to me is that a good designer has to be widely knowledgeable, is constantly learning, not only about their craft, but also about the world around them and all of the people they interact with. What used to drive me crazy when I was trying to decide on a career is what in fact may be my biggest asset.
My biggest leap in terms of personal growth in the area was seeing myself as enough of an entrepreneur that I would actually start my own business. I was recently reading an article in WIRED where the author, Jessica Alter, pointed out that the conventional wisdom is that, “Designers want to design. Most entrepreneurs, in contrast, are actually not amazing at any one thing.” I had always seen myself as jack of all trades — could I actually be sharing this major characteristic of an entrepreneur?
At face value, being a good designer and a good entrepreneur seem to be at odds. That is, an entrepreneur must be flexible, figuring things out as they go since their business is not just about their passion but the passions of their market. They, in fact, must balance the needs of themselves, their customers, but also their teams and investors. So, viewing this paradigm through the eyes of a designer, there is a remarkable overlap in skill set and interest. For designers, they must also be acutely aware of what the market wants in addition to their own passion. They too, walk a fine line between their audience, customers, and colleagues. And, much like entrepreneurs , they are ultimately problem-solvers.
This is in fact, where I feel I excel. Let me be frank. I am admittedly, not the most skillful in programming or image manipulation. I am not the best artist in any medium. There are tons way better. But the instances in which customers need the best of the best with a very specific skill is next to nil. Most would gladly trade a technological wizard for a good listener who can put their ideas into action and help articulate a vision. Someone who has a good understanding of human nature and can breathe life into their dreams. This translates to good design in user experience, interaction design, usability, all psychological facets. I see now how that Psych. degree is really paying off.
Addendum: Infographic by London industrial designer Robert Bye
Infographic by London industrial designer Robert Bye
But in all seriousness, I start the year thanking my wife who has been a huge support for me in so many ways. This is not to be taken for granted peeps! A good woman is in fact priceless. She forwarded me an article on the differences between goals and systems. The author of the article argues that a systems approach is much more effective “when it comes to actually getting things done and making progress in the areas that are important to you.”
He then outlines the traps that people can sometimes fall into when setting goals and how they can actually be counter productive. They can induce stress, are often short-sighted and suggest that we can can control the uncontrollable. Systems, on the other hand, provide a mechanism for ongoing progress that is both measurable and satisfying. When focusing on the practice instead of the performance, it is in fact much easier to enjoy the ride while getting better at what you do. To me, this is essentially talking about discipline, an area where I often feel lacking, but it is just different when you are doing what you love.
Ultimately, he concludes saying “Goals can provide direction and even push you forward in the short-term, but eventually a well-designed system will always win. Having a system is what matters. Committing to the process is what makes the difference.”
So, it looks like I can just do what I love, design. Also, did I mention I love cheese?
The year ends and so begins the next chapter of R3 Design. If you are a first time visitor, let me back it up.
2013 was the year that I formally launched this venture. For nearly a decade, I had “traditional jobs, ” freelancing and doing design on the side, mostly for fun. I loved it, and the more I did it and learned about it, the more I loved it. After getting pregnant with our second kid, my wife and I began thinking about being closer to family. I had been working at the University of Virginia for five years, eventually becoming “Assistant Director for Engagement Communications” for our office. I did a lot of marketing and copy editing and while I had some room for creativity, a job switch seemed a perfect opportunity to dive head first into the world of design.
In the fall of 2012, we moved back to northern Indiana. Memories of my high school years and college days flooded back, though Goshen had changed. I had changed as well, and with growing confidence, I was hungry to try something new.
I found myself in a difficult market, and the search seemed endless. When a part-time opening for an office job crossed my path, I saw the opportunity to launch my own business and minimize the feast or famine dynamic of freelancing, and having some stability while building up a client base. Not a full year later, I am pleased to have made some wonderful new connections while maintaining previous ones.
I remain uncertain of where things will go exactly, but that is part of the adventure. Regardless, I am thankful for what has taken place, for how far I have already come, and am so excited to see what 2014 brings!