Header image: Getting your piece set up correctly from the beginning makes all the difference in the world. If you’ve got your sizing, pagination, layout, folding schemes, colors, etc. all in place before you send it over to the printer, the odds of your work coming off the press looking perfect increase exponentially. Here, we’ve got a six-page brochure set up for print in Adobe InDesign.

Print – frequently utilized but seldom understood.

Despite the on-going misconception that print is a dead medium, print and paper sales continue to grow year after year. People may be less inclined to pick up a newspaper than they used to be but when even tech giants like Google and Amazon use mailers and print media, you know they’ve gotta be on to something.

So let’s put that debate aside for the time being and get into the nitty gritty – you’ve got the funds and you’ve got a great idea but how do you translate it over to paper? Where do you start?

Well first off, get yourself a great designer [insert obligatory self promotion here] and then just skip the rest of this article because any good print-maker should know all of this by heart.

However, if you’re new to print media or if you’re just looking for ways to make your local prepress technician happy, then get your mock-ups ready and read on to get my checklist on getting that perfect piece into print.

1. Choose the right program

This one might seem ridiculously simple but you would be surprised at how many issues print shops run into because someone made an 8.5×11″ poster in Photoshop at 72 dpi and then wants to blow it up to 24×36″ – yikes. You can actually count the pixels on the finished product when that happens.

I use primarily the Adobe Creative Suite so each project usually involves InDesign, Illustrator, Photoshop, or a combination of the three. With these and all design software, it is crucial to know your vision before you even start on a project. If it’s going to be text-heavy, use InDesign. If you’re making a logo, it absolutely must be done in Illustrator or another vector program. If you put raster images in Illustrator, you end up with needlessly huge files sizes and text in Photoshop loses any vector aspects when you save it as an image.

Know the specialties and weaknesses of each of your programs and choose the appropriate one from the very beginning. And seriously, stop laying out 8-page brochures in Photoshop.

2. Think about folds

If your project does anything other than cut to finished size and lie flat, you absolutely need to think about folding schemes from the very beginning.

For example, if you’re designing a self-mailer (if it dumps right into the mail with no envelope) you have to be very careful about the placement of your mail panel. If you design your piece and neglect this portion until the very end, it will cause problems on-press and at the post office. God forbid you put your final fold at the top of your mail piece instead of the bottom.

Whether you’ve got a tri-fold, a gate fold, a letterfold, or whatever, you need to consider the layout and final orientation of all the art from the very beginning.

3. Make it the right size

Again, this one seems very simple but I guarantee you that print shops get files that are incorrectly sized each and every day.

As soon as you create a new document, you set the page size and orientation. This defines everything you do going forward so you must be certain that you type in the correct dimensions from the beginning or you will suffer for it in the end.

One of the most common errors printers see is a mail piece that doesn’t fit in its envelope. Sounds silly, right? It happens all the time – people get excited about their beautiful 5×7″ invitation and completely forget that they ordered A6 envelopes (4.75×6.5″). If you’re making a 12×18″ poster, then don’t create your art on an 8.5×11″ sheet; it won’t scale properly and it just costs everyone time, frustration, and ultimately money.

Most paper size errors are at least fixable but why not just get it right from the beginning?

4. Make it bleed

This tip always sounds so gruesome but it’s not as bad as you think. “Bleed” is an extra bit of artwork – usually .125″ on each side – that gives the person cutting down your print job a little bit of slack when they’re trimming your piece to size.

Print shops almost never run something at finished size because that’s just not very efficient and it would be nearly impossible to get images to go all the way to the edge of the paper that way. Instead, printers run several of each piece up on a larger sheet of paper and then trim them down to final size. This allows them to run jobs in a cost-effective way that also results in better-looking pieces.

Because of this, you need to build bleed into your files. On the set up screen for programs like InDesign and Illustrator, there is a bleed option just after you type in your document size. From there, all you need to do is make sure your images go all the way to the bleed line but keep any text or crucial elements at least .125″ away from the edge of the paper – remember that the bleed will be trimmed off so don’t put anything pertinent in there.

5. Think about color

Color is one of the easiest aspects of document set up because for the most part, the design software takes care of all of this for you. However, don’t get too wild with your colors and pay attention to the types of colors you’re adding in.

For example, avoid using RGB swatches for print pieces. Print uses the CMYK color spectrum so, while the colors can be easily converted from one to the other, they never look quite the same. You don’t want to select the perfect color only to be very disappointed by its CMYK counterpart.

Also avoid using too many spot colors. They slow the process down and confuse your prepress technician. They’re alright for logos and such but can cause issues down the road so keep them to a minimum if possible.

Lastly, use 4-color text very sparingly. If you’ve got 8-point text that is 60% cyan, 60% magenta, 60% yellow, and 100% black, your poor pressman has to try to get all of those tiny dots perfectly aligned on press, which is simply not going to happen. Make all small text 100% black if at all possible.

And stop using the ‘Registration’ color swatch. Period.

6. It’s all about images

Photos and illustrations are probably the most important and yet most overlooked aspect of any print piece. Invest the time and money into getting good images. Color-correct them so that no one in your photos looks orange or green and keep them from getting too dark or too washed out. And, above all, check the resolution of each and every photo you use.

Nothing says ‘I know nothing about print design’ quite like an ugly, pixelated image. One of the reasons I love InDesign so much is because of its handy ‘Links’ panel, where it will give you a host of details about each image, including its actual and effective resolutions. I check this panel relentlessly as I design because nothing spoils a piece like a fuzzy image.

Invest the time in finding good images for your pieces, whether you cruise through stock photo sites or go out and snap a few of your own. It is worth it.

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There you have it! There’s always more to learn and more ways to improve but these basic tips should at least get you started on the right foot. Still think you need some assistance? I know someone who can help with that.

How to Invest in the Right Things

Header image: Our recent social media post featured a work-in-progress commission for someone that really loves Mumford & Sons. In their song Awake My Soul, they sing the line found on the image – a line that I believe has resonated with many people in the years since the song’s release.

Where you invest your love…

I actually sat down today to write a post about the five biggest printing mistakes designers make, but I suppose you’ll just have to wait with bated breath for that one until next week (in the meantime though, please Google ‘how to add bleed to your print files’).

But as so often happens in life, I got too caught up in humming this song as I drew the piece in the header and my thoughts drifted so far away from print mayhem that I find myself uninspired to rant about the topic today. So instead, as I bravely (or feebly, somedays) work toward a life bursting with fulfilling moments, I thought I would share the tips that I have gathered so far in my limited experience about how to make the things you love – whatever they may be – a bigger part of your life.

Where you invest your love, you invest your life

1. Make your passion marketable

This may seem a little easier for some interests than others. If you love working with cars and getting grease on your hands then it seems quite obvious that you need to devote yourself to doing just that – become a mechanic, a tech, a one-make specialist, etc. But what about our more abstract passions? Our green-thumbs, book nerds, introverts, adventurers, and whoever else, whose path to daily personal happiness lies in a talent that seems, for lack of a better term, useless in an office.

Artists, for example, fall into this rather ambiguous grey-area where you could end up getting very famous and painting an Obama portrait, or you could end up nearly-homeless in your shabby loft, sitting idly with your three cats and wondering why no one will acknowledge your art for the masterpiece it so clearly is. I myself had no idea that art was a legitimately marketable skill until I’d spent four years and more money than is proper to mention in polite company on a degree that had very little to do with my passion.

The moral is this – if you love to do something, there is a way to sell it. Maybe you need to refine your talent first to make it sellable – so be it! Take courses and become incredible at it. Maybe you need to find the right audience – many crafting talents especially have found a home on the internet on sites such as Etsy. Or maybe you take it slowly at first and make a hobby out of it, showcasing your abilities to friends and family. You’d be surprised at how much interest you can garner in something just through word-of-mouth.

Whichever path you choose, incorporate more of your passion into your daily life and find a way to at least supplement your 9-to-5 with it; investing more of yourself into this passion will help you not only hone your skills, but will also allow at least a piece of your income to be something that you can truly be proud of. We all have to work to make a living so why not spend some of those working hours in joyous self-fulfillment?

2. Learn to invest in people

This has to be one of the most difficult lessons that I’ve had to learn throughout my life. Many people will course through our inner and outer circles as we traverse life’s highway and there are few skills quite as important as learning which people to cling to and which to let drift away.

I can’t of course tell you which person to ditch and which to keep, but I often find myself asking two simple questions when in doubt: do they make you better in some way and do they care about you as much as you do for them?

Drop the people that never call you first, that always demand too much of your time with their selfish rantings, and that seem to drain the life out of you with each interaction.

Instead, invest yourself in those few people that buoy you up, that believe you can be better and encourage you, and that are there when you need them. Invest in real friends and genuine colleagues and stop wasting your time on people with no interest in being good to you.

3. Make that one purchase that will really change your life

An article with ‘investing’ in the title would be a little bit of a let-down if I didn’t include at least one money tip, don’t you think?

Now, I’m not suggesting that you go out and buy the new Corvette, or spend a bundle on some impulse electronic, but don’t be afraid to buy that thing you’ve always wanted and that will help you in your quest for happiness. Think of it this way – in a year, will you still be glad you purchased it? Will it make your life better in some way, no matter how small, each day?

For me, my big purchase was the computer I’m currently typing on; man, I love this thing. Not only is the solid-state hard drive impressive and the graphics card top-of-the-line, but it enables to me live my dream each and every day (see point 1). It was a very big one-time expense but over a year and a half later, it’s still one of the best purchases I’ve ever made.

Maybe some of you are thinking that the new 72″ flat screen OLED TV that you saw at Best Buy would help you find your zen – and you may be right! My husband bought his dream TV almost two years ago and still finds happiness in it daily. Your dream purchase doesn’t necessarily have to be ultra-practical but make it something that matters deeply to you.

Whether you buy a camera, a really nice new set of knitting needles, a new backpack for your climbing adventures, or maybe just that book you’ve been wanting to read for a while, don’t be afraid to invest money in your own happiness.

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Above all, remember that each day we are given only so many hours and so many minutes to carve out our time in this world. Invest in your passion, your family, friends, and colleagues, and occasionally in Target, Best Buy, or Bass Pro Shops. Invest in what you love and you will grow to love your life as well.

The Power of Reciprocity

Header image: Isn’t it amazing how a simple note can really change your mood? We featured this one on our Instagram because we have have a weakness for print – but there are literally thousands of ways to give back to the people you value.

rec·i·proc·i·ty

Noun – the practice of exchanging things with others for mutual benefit.

We’ve all had that friend – or perhaps occasionally been that friend – who always takes more from the relationship than they give.

They call you up late at night asking you to solve their problems for them but then can’t seem to make time for you when you need them. They drink all the beer in your fridge but never seem to have anything to offer when you go to their house. They call themselves a friend but you’re left wondering if they even know the first thing about you.

Sooner or later, the friendship suffers because no one wants to feel like they’re constantly being drained by the people around them. Eventually, you just get tired of giving so much and receiving so little.

As with most things, I find that this lesson can also be applied to the business world.

Clients and partners come to you looking for a service and expecting to receive something worth their time, capital, and energy in return. You – of course – deliver an exemplary product and then go about your merry way. For most of us, that’s the end of the interaction.

But, doesn’t this sound very similar to our part-time friendships? The real trouble with many of these false friends is that they are both reactive instead of proactive and they lose themselves in the security of a relationship that they never bother to properly maintain.

And, as with these uneven friendships, when your business is reactive to the needs of its clients and you allow the relationship to suffer, your clients end up feeling rather like you’ve only come by to drink all of their Bud Light.

So how do we ensure that our clients know how much we value them? Well, as with any human interaction, there are thousands of ways to go about it but – because that would be one hell of a blog post – I’ve decided to just bump that number down to my top 5. So here it is, my top 5 ways of reciprocating the faithfulness and attention that my clients give me.

Be proactive

There’s nothing that makes you feel valued like receiving a random text from a friend who is just checking in on you. Knowing that someone is thinking about you even when you’re not staring them in the face is such a nice feeling – so why should the business world be any different?

Ok, maybe don’t text your clients to tell them that you’re thinking about them – a little too much – but occasionally send an email asking how their quarter is going, make sure their new offices are working out for them, or checking on the latest contract they acquired.

You don’t even need to try to sell them anything in these messages – just putting yourself in front of them and humanizing your company is a great way of subtly saying that you value them.

Find excuses to tell others how awesome your clients are

I love talking about my clients. Design is, at its center, a very intimate endeavor because you need to get to know the core of a client’s vision and dreams for their business. Because of this, I develop a very sincere passion for each company I work with – their success becomes my success.

Because of this bond I feel with them, I cannot stop myself from praising their works and proudly shouting about their accomplishments in face-to-face conversations and social media.

Sometimes, word of my enthusiastic rantings will get back to my client who appreciates the hype and my loyalty – but most times, I’m happy to talk about them just because I know that I can only do what I love to do because of their faith in me. If you’re not excited about your friendships, then you’re friends with the wrong people.

Send them something ‘real’ just because

In spite of what all modern media seemingly wants us to believe, print and paper still have a very real impact in our lives each and every day.

Say what you want about the digital age but aren’t you just tired of receiving so many emails? Don’t you secretly (or, in my case, very obviously) love getting something permanent that you can hold and be proud of?

Send your clients something meaningful with a note inside that just reminds them of your gratitude. Thank you notes or Christmas cards are great ways of giving something special, something that took a little bit of extra time on your part, to show your gratitude.

Offer them something special for their loyalty

Everybody loves a discount and your clients are no exception.

I personally offer a referral discount for my clients – you refer someone to me, they get a nice discount on their first project and you get a discount as well. My clients can refer as many folks as they like and continue to accrue discounts because I think this is a system that benefits everyone.

You can offer a discount for every tenth project, send them a free gift after their first purchase, or do a punch-card discount when they accumulate rewards for loyalty. Whatever route you take, it gives people an incentive to keep coming back.

Always reciprocate

Give your clients as much (or more!) as they give you. They trust you with their brand, their company, and their passion. In return, trust them to be an ambassador for you, to do the right thing for you, and to come through on their promises.

You won’t always be rewarded for your faith – that’s simply the nature of the world we live in. Sometimes you will spend all of your energy on a client that will give you almost nothing in return. Sometimes, you end up with a false friend that doesn’t have your best interest at heart.

But, as a business, you can never be that friend. When a client needs you, give them your full attention. Commit to the people you choose to do business with and remember that each of us is looking for someone to treat us fairly and kindly. If someone is good to you,  be even better to them. Always reciprocate kindness.

And buy your own beer.

Getting Started

Header image: my first round of Antares logos, which some may recognize and which were retired after only a few short months of use when I finally took the hint because I got tired of people saying, “oh, it’s some kind of fox?”

 

Make no mistake – I am fully aware that this post will go largely ignored by the overwhelming majority of people out there. Since I am fresh out of the box, the only people likely to see this are my ever-faithful cheerleaders: my parents (hi guys!).

But, despite that, here we are. One day, this archival post may prove useful to someone just starting out who is inspired by my work, wit, and success (one can dream, right?). So I’d like to take a minute to look back over the last year of my journey, when this whole endeavor started out as a vague fog in the back of my mind and has slowly grown into something real and almost-tangible.

It takes a lot of time to rearrange the puzzle pieces of your life to accommodate a dream that you never even thought possible so don’t let slow progress deter you. At the end of the day, patience and exactness really pay off when you’re fumbling your way through those first couple of months.

So here it is, my top three tips for those poor souls that are furiously Googling how to branch out on their own for the first time, feeling lost, a little afraid, and really, really excited.

Get yourself a good lawyer.

In all seriousness, this was one of the biggest steps for me, not only in terms of legal viability but also for my own peace of mind. I got a recommendation from a local business relation of mine and decided to take the leap into becoming a ‘real’ company.

Don’t get me wrong, those guys and gals are not cheap. Expect to pay a good deal of your hard-earned – and very often meager – income for their time, advice, and services. However, I have found that the amount I invested in my lawyer was well worth it in the end because I no longer wake up in the middle of the night fretting about the looming potential of losing my dream to some legal nightmare.

I especially recommend a lawyer to help you get your business ‘on the books’ with your state, such as becoming an LLC, corporation, or any of the other wonderfully confusing entities that you can classifying yourself as.

At least do yourself a favor and have them look over any contracts you use (or write them for you if – heaven forbid – you’re not already using some sort of legal shield).

Get your finances in order.

This is a pretty broad to-do so I’ll try to just touch on the highlights. One of the biggest fears that a lot of new start-ups have is just earning enough money to stay afloat financially.

However, try not to be daunted by the yearly salary number and just take it a week at a time – how much do you need to earn each week to stay at your current level of income? When you break it down this way, it’s much easier to set realistic goals and I think you’ll find that the dollar amount is surprisingly low.

Next, keep track of literally everything that you buy for your business. New computer? New desk? A small business class at your local community college? Keep track of all of it using an organizational system that makes sense for you and that will be easy to reference. One of my biggest expenses each month is the software I use but lovely Adobe makes it very easy to keep track of the amount of money you spend with them. If you work from home, you may be able to even mark down things like electricity usage as an expense for your business.

Remember how I said you need to keep it all organized? It’s always the right time to invest more in your business and get some serious accounting software. I use QuickBooks myself and, while I’m not advocating them specifically, they do have some excellent features that I found to be essential for my business. First is the ability to keep track of all those expenses we just talked about. Second is the ability to generate quotes through them, which I can then magically turn into invoices. These invoices allow people to pay with a credit through a big ‘ol button right there in the email and I cannot get over the simple beauty of that. Finally, QuickBooks organizes everything for me – income, expenses, tax write-offs, etc. – in a fancy quarterly statement that I can plug into my tax documents and move on with my life. I cannot stress how important it is to keep track of and stay organized with your money.

And, if all else fails, I’ve got a lovely CPA that I call from time to time with questions that likely seem silly to a veteran but are things that newbies have never even thought of until someone casually mentions it at a luncheon and you have to awkwardly giggle and pretend you know what they’re talking about. We’ve all been there and your CPA understands.

Get in the right mindset.

I know the prospect of launching off the edge into worlds unknown is incredibly daunting – so much so that many people fear that they could never do it. I know this may seem like a cliche piece of advice but at some point you’re going to need to take the leap and decide to believe in yourself and your capabilities. I’m not saying it has to be today or next week but at some point, all of the planning and thinking and budgeting and seminars will all fall away and you’ll have to rely on your own personal capabilities.

Don’t let this scare you. This is the moment you’ve been waiting for. If you’re anything like me, I spend a stupid amount of time thinking about my business – how can I market, expand, keep the fabulous customer I already have, and thrive in an ever more competitive world. Keep your mind in the right place and remember the reason you started on this journey to begin with.

It’s not an easy road by any means but every mistake is a chance to learn and every challenge is a chance to grow. Seize these chances and get out there! Go live your dream.

Welcome to Antares!

Here at Antares Arts & Design, we not only pride ourselves on the quality and integrity of our designs, but also the content we post. We will be posting on our blog with some vague regularity with helpful tips, insights into the design life, and thoughts on anything and everything that may or may not be relevant.

Check back from time to time and see what we’ve got going on!