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Picking the Perfect Paper

June 24, 2016

The Perfect Paper

You’ve created the perfect design for that brochure, newsletter, postcard, or getting-the-band-back-together-because-we’re-on-a-mission-from-God announcement. Great. Now, it’s time to select the right paper to complete the package. Paper selection is a very important element in printed projects; it affects both the cost and visual appeal of the piece you’re creating.

In addition to choosing a specific weight, opacity, and brightness, the finish of your paper plays a big role in the overall appearance and feel of your printed product. Here’s a quick rundown of common finishes and how each effect is achieved:

  • A smooth finish results from paper passing through sets of rollers during the papermaking process.
  • Bond paper is a relatively high-grade paper stock with a rag content ranging from 25 percent to 100 percent.
  • Vellum has a subtle roughness.
  • An embossed finish provides a molded appearance on the paper’s surface.
  • A linen finish resembles linen cloth. (Imagine that.)
  • Cockle is a texture similar to homemade paper.
  • Metallic paper is coated with a thin film containing metal or plastic whose color and gloss simulate metal.
  • Coated paper has a coating applied to give the sheet a better appearance.
  • Cast coated results in an exceptionally glossy coated finish, usually only on one side.

Now that you know a bit about finishes, let’s use that knowledge to help you pick the perfect paper for your project. (Try saying that five times fast.) These selections are sure to please, no matter how divine or ordinary your mission may be..

Paper Type Characteristics Finish Type of Project
Bond Comes in a range of pastels, neutrals, matching envelopes, and matching cover weights Smooth, cockle Fliers (like that mission-critical announcement), forms, copies
Writing paper Comes in a range of colors and flocking options that match envelopes, plus cover and text weights Smooth, linen, vellum, cockle, etc. Stationery
Uncoated book Comes in a range of colors and is thicker and more opaque than bond or writing papers Smooth Direct mail, newsletters, catalogs
Text Comes in a range of colors and flocking options that match envelopes, plus cover and text weights Smooth, linen, vellum, cockle, etc. Letterhead, annual reports, brochures
Coated book Matching cover weights limited to cream and white, although specialty lines exist in a range of colors Dull, gloss, matte, cast-coated Magazines, catalogs, direct mail
Cover Heavier and more durable counter-part to coordinate with text, book, and writing papers Smooth, linen, vellum, gloss, matte Business cards, report covers, brochures, tickets, postcards, pocket folders, greeting cards
Index/Bristol Comes in a range of colors and finishes Coated, vellum, smooth Postcards, file folders, tickets
Translucent vellum Semitransparent stock comes in a range of colors and weights plus matching envelopes Smooth, grooved See through envelopes and overlays
Newsprint Inexpensive, light-weight, white/manila only Vellum Newspapers, tabloids
Label Comes in gummed, pressure sensitive, and self-adhesive backing and in a range of colors Smooth (uncoated), matte, glossy, cast coated

Paper Shifts Color: Orange is the New Red

May 31, 2016

 

Have you ever been to a restaurant and all you wanted was a simple breakfast? Just when you thought you had your order all planned out, your waitress hits you with a rambling of options. Would you care for white, wheat, rye, or pumpernickel bread? Do you want those eggs fried, scrambled, poached, green, with a side of ham? Sometimes, the choices seem endless.

When it comes to printing, sometimes your options can feel a little like that, too. Take spot colors, for instance. Any colors that fall outside of the normal range of CMYK inks are commonly called “spot colors.” Where CMYK colors use a blend of four specific inks – Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black to create a wide range of color, spot colors are actually pre-mixed using a unique formula to create one, specific color. As you start to learn more about spot colors, one of the things you’ll notice is that just like your breakfast options, there are a number of different acronyms and options that you’re somehow supposed to be able to keep track of. Would you like coated, uncoated, or matte? Huh? Thankfully, they have pretty straightforward explanations.

C vs. U and Beyond

The acronyms C and U refer to “coated” and “uncoated.” The key thing to remember here is that when used in reference to spot colors, they’re actually talking about the paper and not the ink. Ink is made up of pigment (the color) and the carrier, which is usually oil. The oil part of the ink soaks into the paper and dries. The pigment sits up on top of the mineral or clay coating with coated papers, but soaks into the fibers with uncoated papers. Because the type of paper you’re using can have a pretty significant impact on the way the ink color appears in real life, it’s something you’ll want to try and keep track of.

Here’s an example of what coated versus uncoated paper would look like. You can see how the coated paper provides some extra “shine.”

Coated PaperUncoated Paper

That “shine” will affect how spot colors are displayed, so keep that in mind when making your paper choice.

Furthermore, if you were to compare the colors PANTONE 185C and PANTONE 185U side-by-side, for example, one of the first things you would notice is that PANTONE 185C looks a little brighter and a little more saturated than the PANTONE 185U version. You’re still talking about literally the exact same ink, but the difference between coated and uncoated stock changes the way that ink ultimately looks when printed. Pretty fascinating, and pretty important to remember when making your decisions!

Pantone comparison

“M” stands for matte. Matte coated or dull coated papers are still coated with a mineral coating, so the ink colors typically look closer to the C or coated version, but keep in mind that these papers are not as bright and tend to make the color ink look a little more subdued.

Pretty simple, right?

Two other acronyms that you might encounter are CVU and CVC. The “CV” letters stand for “computer video” and are largely used to reproduce colors on a computer screen. Adding a “U” for uncoated or “C” for coated indicates which paper type is being simulated on the computer screen.

Hopefully, by now you’ve realized that your options aren’t nearly as hard to work with as you thought they were. Remember that these options, even though they’re used in conjunction with the ink are actually talking about the paper. The ink, for the most part, is the ink is the ink, but the paper is a whole different story. Select your swatches in any way you see fit, but remember, ultimately the type of paper you choose can make something darker, less saturated, more saturated or something else entirely.

Ways To Make Your Design More Printable

May 10, 2016

There are lots of tips to help make a design work best for print. Here are 10 good ones from Printernational.

1 –Remember to bleed

The bleed is the part on the side of the document that gives your printer that small amount of space to move around paper and design inconsistencies. No matter what guidelines they have on their site, the printer will use anything you throw at them. A 3mm bleed on all sides is a safe standard for the work.

The settings in InDesign are right there in the new file dialog… but hidden! You need to hit the ‘more options’ button before they become visible. If you already have a document open you can find them in the file > document setup dialog. Read more in the article What is bleed.

Print DesignBleed settings in Adobe InDesign

2 – Overprint is fun

Is your budget limiting you to only 2 Pantone(PMS) colors? No problem. Try to experiment with overprint options to get a look with more depth with a limited color palette.

You can even work with photographs with only 2 Pantone’s, just do them in duotone or monotone.

3 –Think outside the paper

The human mind fills in gaps and will see the bigger picture if you aim for it. Using the border of your paper can be great fun and another tool to work with.

 Thinking inside…Think outside the box in print designThinking outside…

Obviously, this is not the final solution to all your design problems. It should help you to see that your work doesn’t end at the edge of the paper.

4 – Paper size standards are great, but don’t let them hold you back

Square booklets, for instance, make for a more interesting reading experience, while smaller sizes (A5 for example) are much easier to take with you. Fly away from that standard A4 and take some risks.

5 –People read

In conflict with some designers of the last 5 years I still think form follows function. This means in print design: If you’re working on something that contains textual content concentrate on the content.

You should use typography as a element in your design, however you should always aim for optimal readability.

6 – Amount of content: less is more

If you have some kind of idea that there’s too much on your page; there is indeed to much on your page. Define what’s really necessary and remove any visual noise. It may sound cliche but it’s true: less is more. If the client makes you cram too much content on one page, tell them.

7 – Stick to the grid

Working with grids is the key to good design. Using its proportional relations, composition guidelines for the base of your design is a good idea.

Print DesignA simple but well excecuted 3-column grid in a magazine

Don’t always go for the standard 3-column setup. A 7 column setup offers a lot of playful combinations… 2 column overlaps, a 3/3/1 setup with a sidebar and so on…

8 – Typography is king

If the typographical setup is bad, no amount of lines or other elements will fix it. The fonts you use the most in your project set the voice for its overall feel: don’t pick the first font you like; think about what voice it should have and the best way to communicate this to your target audience. You can have a lot of fun with the basic well designed fonts: Helvetica, Swiss or Akzidenz Grotesk will save you from the worst typographic horror-scenario’s.

It takes a while to get to know a font. A good way to get good with a particular font is to pick a list of 5 to 8 fonts you think could work for you and concentrate on those. That’s also a good way to find out which fonts mix and which won’t.

9 – Invert

Need to give a bigger impact to a quote or logo? Invert it. White on black (or on any dark color for that matter) will always give your design or typography more strength.

Less impactNormalMore impactInverted

Be careful with smaller type sizes (8pt. and lower) as these will be possible problems for your printer as ink always flows around a little when just printed. This effect is called trapping. Of course this all depends on what kind of paper you’re printing on, printing speed and other factors. Ask your printer about exceptions.

10 – Be demanding about photographic content

You should always demand high quality source material to work with. When working with photographic content for example the “trash in, trash out” rule applies. A good photo can take your work to another level, a badly lit low resolution photo will ruin the work. Most clients will send you what they have for grabs… most of the time they don’t understand quality or image resolutions. Bug them a bit and they’ll magically come up with better material.

 

~Source: Printernational

You Name It And We Can Print On It

April 29, 2016

When you can print on anything the only limit is your imagination.  So when we were trying to decide if we needed to paint our roll-up warehouse door, we decided to print a cover for it instead. And to add a little fun to it we made it look like you were looking into a warehouse full of barrels.  We certainly have had some double-takes when people have pulled up to our dock doors.  FullSizeRender

The Spread Of Printing

April 18, 2016

In about 1400, more than six centuries after its invention in the east, the technique of printing from wood blocks is introduced in Europe. The name of Gutenberg first appears, in connection with printing, in a law case in Strasbourg in 1439. He is being sued by two of his business partners. Witnesses, asked about Gutenberg’s stock, describe a press and a supply of metal type. It sounds as though he is already capable of printing small items of text from movable type, and it seems likely that he must have done so in Strasbourg. But nothing from this period survives. Have you ever wondered how it grew from there?

IODP now brings you a graphic that can visually show you the “Spread of Printing”.  From birth to the 1900’s. Enjoy!

The Psychology of Color in Marketing and Branding

March 25, 2016
Eye seeing color

The psychology of color as it relates to persuasion is one of the most interesting–and most controversial–aspects of marketing.

The reason: Most of today’s conversations on colors and persuasion consist of hunches, anecdotal evidence and advertisers blowing smoke about “colors and the mind.”

To alleviate this trend and give proper treatment to a truly fascinating element of human behavior, today we’re going to cover a selection of the most reliable research on color theory and persuasion.

Misconceptions around the Psychology of Color

Why does color psychology invoke so much conversation … but is backed with so little factual data?

As research shows, it’s likely because elements such as personal preference, experiences, upbringing, cultural differences, context, etc., often muddy the effect individual colors have on us. So the idea that colors such as yellow or purple are able to invoke some sort of hyper-specific emotion is about as accurate as your standard Tarot card reading.

The conversation is only worsened by incredibly vapid visuals that sum up color psychology with awesome “facts” such as this one:

The Psychology of Color in Marketing and Branding

Don’t fret, though. Now it’s time to take a look at some research-backed insights on how color plays a role in persuasion.

The Importance of Colors in Branding

First, let’s address branding, which is one of the most important issues relating to color perception and the area where many articles on this subject run into problems.

There have been numerous attempts to classify consumer responses to different individual colors:

The Psychology of Color in Marketing and Branding

Image credit: The Logo Company

… but the truth of the matter is that color is too dependent on personal experiences to be universally translated to specific feelings.

But there are broader messaging patterns to be found in color perceptions. For instance, colors play a fairly substantial role in purchases and branding.

In an appropriately titled study called Impact of Color in Marketing, researchers found that up to 90% of snap judgments made about products can be based on color alone (depending on the product).

And in regards to the role that color plays in branding, results from studies such as The Interactive Effects of Colors show that the relationship between brands and color hinges on the perceived appropriateness of the color being used for the particular brand (in other words, does the color “fit” what is being sold).

The study Exciting Red and Competent Blue also confirms that purchasing intent is greatly affected by colors due to the impact they have on how a brand is perceived. This means that colors influence how consumers view the “personality” of the brand in question (after all, who would want to buy a Harley Davidson motorcycle if they didn’t get the feeling that Harleys were rugged and cool?).

Additional studies have revealed that our brains prefer recognizable brands, which makes color incredibly important when creating a brand identity. It has even been suggested in Color Research & Application that it is of paramount importance for new brands to specifically target logo colors that ensure differentiation from entrenched competitors (if the competition all uses blue, you’ll stand out by using purple).

When it comes to picking the “right” color, research has found that predicting consumer reaction to color appropriateness in relation to the product is far more important than the individual color itself. So, if Harley owners buy the product in order to feel rugged, you could assume that the pink + glitter edition wouldn’t sell all that well.

Psychologist and Stanford professor Jennifer Aaker has conducted studies on this very topic via research on Dimensions of Brand Personality, and her studies have found five core dimensions that play a role in a brand’s personality:

The Psychology of Color in Marketing and Branding

(Brands can sometimes cross between two traits, but they are mostly dominated by one. High fashion clothing feels sophisticated, camping gear feels rugged.)

Additional research has shown that there is a real connection between the use of colors and customers’ perceptions of a brand’s personality.

Certain colors DO broadly align with specific traits (e.g., brown with ruggedness, purple with sophistication, and red with excitement). But nearly every academic study on colors and branding will tell you that it’s far more important for your brand’s colors to support the personality you want to portray instead of trying to align with stereotypical color associations.

Consider the inaccuracy of making broad statements such as “green means calm.” The context is missing; sometimes green is used to brand environmental issues such as Timberland’s G.R.E.E.N standard, but other times it’s meant to brand financial spaces such as Mint.com.

And while brown may be useful for a rugged appeal (think Saddleback Leather), when positioned in another context brown can be used to create a warm, inviting feeling (Thanksgiving) or to stir your appetite (every chocolate commercial you’ve ever seen).

Bottom line: I can’t offer you an easy, clear-cut set of guidelines for choosing your brand’s colors, but I can assure you that the context you’re working within is an absolutely essential consideration.

It’s the feeling, mood, and image that your brand creates that play a role in persuasion. Be sure to recognize that colors only come into play when they can be used to match a brand’s desired personality (i.e., the use of white to communicate Apple’s love of clean, simple design).

Without this context, choosing one color over another doesn’t make much sense, and there is very little evidence to support that ‘orange’ will universally make people purchase a product more often than ‘silver’.

Color Preferences by Gender

Perceived appropriateness may explain why the most popular car colors are white, black, silver and gray … but is there something else at work that explains why there aren’t very many purple power tools?

One of the better studies on this topic is Joe Hallock’s Colour Assignments. Hallock’s data showcases some clear preferences in certain colors across gender.

It’s important to note that one’s environment–and especially cultural perceptions–plays a strong role in dictating color appropriateness for gender, which in turn can influence individual choices. Consider, for instance, this coverage by Smithsonian magazine detailing how blue became the color for boys and pink was eventually deemed the color for girls (and how it used to be the reverse!).

Here were Hallock’s findings for the most and least favorite colors of men and women:

The Psychology of Color in Marketing and Branding

The most notable points in these images are the supremacy of blue across both genders (it was the favorite color for both groups) and the disparity between groups on purple. Women list purple as a top-tier color, but no men list purple as a favorite color. (Perhaps this is why we have no purple power tools, a product largely associated with men?)

Additional research in studies on color perception and color preferences show that when it comes to shades, tints and hues men seem to prefer bold colors while women prefer softer colors. Also, men were more likely to select shades of colors as their favorites (colors with black added), whereas women were more receptive to tints of colors (colors with white added):

The Psychology of Color in Marketing and Branding

Image credit: KISSmetrics

The above infographic from KISSmetrics showcases the disparity in men and women’s color preferences.

Keep this information in mind when choosing your brand’s primary color palette. Given the starkly different taste preferences shown, it pays to appeal more to men or women if they make up a larger percentage of your ideal buyers.

Color Coordination + Conversions

Debunking the “best” color for conversion rates on websites has recently been a very popular topic. They make some excellent points because it is definitely true that there is no single best color for conversions.

The psychological principle known as the Isolation Effect states that an item that “stands out like a sore thumb” is more likely to be remembered. Research clearly shows that participants are able to recognize and recall an item far better (be it text or an image) when it blatantly sticks out from its surroundings.

The studies Aesthetic Response to Color Combinations and Consumer Preferences for Color Combinations also find that while a large majority of consumers prefer color patterns with similar hues, they favor palettes with a highly contrasting accent color.

In terms of color coordination (as highlighted in this KISSmetrics graphic), this would mean creating a visual structure consisting of base analogous colors and contrasting them with accent complementary colors (or you can use tertiary colors):

The Psychology of Color in Marketing and Branding

Image credit: KISSmetrics

Another way to think of this is to utilize background, base and accent colors to create a hierarchy (as Josh from StudioPress showcases below) on your site that “coaches” customers on which color means take action:

The Psychology of Color in Marketing and Branding

Image credit: StudioPress

Why this matters: Although you may start to feel like an interior decorator after reading this section, this stuff is actually incredibly important in helping you understand the why behind conversion jumps and slumps. As a bonus, it will help keep you from drinking the conversion rate optimization Kool-Aid that misleads so many people.

Consider, for instance, this often-cited example of a boost in conversions due to a change in button color:

The Psychology of Color in Marketing and Branding

The button change to red boosted conversions by 21 percent, but that doesn’t mean that red holds some sort of magic power to get people to take action.

Take a closer look at the image: It’s obvious that the rest of the page is geared toward a green palette, which means a green call to action simply blends in with the surroundings. Red, meanwhile, provides a stark visual contrast (and is a complementary color to green).

Related: What Does the Color of Your Logo Say About Your Business? (Infographic)

We find additional evidence of the isolation effect in a myriad of multivariate tests, including this one conducted by Paras Chopra and published in Smashing magazine. Chopra was testing to see how he could get more downloads for his PDFProducer program, and included the following variations in his test:

The Psychology of Color in Marketing and Branding

Can you guess which combination performed the best? (Hint: remember, contrast is important.)

Here were the results:

The Psychology of Color in Marketing and Branding

As you can see, example #10 outperformed the others by a large margin. It’s probably not a coincidence that it creates the most contrast out of all of the examples. You’ll notice that the PDFProducer text is small and light gray in color, but the action text (“Download for Free”) is large and red, creating the contrast needed for high conversions.

While this is but one study of many, the isolation effect should be kept in mind when testing color palettes to create contrast in your web design and guide people to important action areas.

Why We Love “Mocha” but Hate “Brown”

Although different colors can be perceived in different ways, the names of those colors matters as well!

According to this study, when subjects were asked to evaluate products with different color names (such as makeup), “fancy” names were preferred far more often. For example, mocha was found to be significantly more likable than brown–despite the fact that the researchers showed subjects the same color!

Additional research finds that the same effect applies to a wide variety of products; consumers rated elaborately named paint colors as more pleasing to the eye than their simply named counterparts.

It has also been shown that more unusual and unique color names can increase the intent to purchase. For instance, jelly beans with names such as razzmatazz were more likely to be chosen than jelly beans names such as lemon yellow. This effect was also found in non-food items such as sweatshirts.

As strange as it may seem, choosing creative, descriptive and memorable names to describe certain colors (such as “sky blue” over “light blue”) can be an important part of making sure the color of the product achieves its biggest impact.

~Source: A version of this article first appeared at HelpScout.net, via March 17, 2016Design

Color Talks… Are You Listening?

February 11, 2016

Next time you want to make a bold statement, try saying it with color! Depending on what type of message or meaning you wish to convey, the color combinations you choose can support, emphasize, or contradict your message. Color stimulates the senses, symbolizes abstract concepts and thoughts, expresses fantasy or wish fulfillment, and produces an aesthetic or emotional response. According to the Institute for Color Research, humans make a subconscious judgment about a person, environment, or item within 90 seconds of initial viewing, and the majority of that assessment is based on color alone. Because color delivers an instant impression that is generally understood universally, color is very important in conveying a mood or idea where verbiage is not used or understood.

The power of color combinations can also be seen on many levels of marketing communication, including corporate identification and logos, signage, television ads, billboards, print media and packaging, online web sites, and on point-of-purchase displays.

Here is a small sampling of dominant colors and the responses they elicit:

Red: Exciting, energizing, sexy, hot, dynamic, stimulating, provocative, aggressive, powerful
Bright Pink: Happy, attention-getting, youthful, spirited, fun, wild
Light Pink: Romantic, soft, sweet, tender, cute, babies
Orange: Fun, childlike, harvest, juicy, friendly, loud
Beige: Classic, sandy, earthy, natural, soft
Brown: Wholesome, warm, woodsy, rustic, durable, masculine
Purple: Royalty, powerful, expensive
Light Blue: Calm, quiet, peaceful, cool, water, clean
Bright Blue: Electric, vibrant, stirring, dramatic
Bright Yellow: Enlightening, sunshine, cheerful, friendly, energy, happy
Black: Powerful, elegant, mysterious, bold, classic, magical, nighttime
Silver: Classic, cool, money, valuable, futuristic
Gold: Warm, opulent, expensive, radiant, valuable, prestigious

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