10 Marvelously Modern Free Fonts for Graphic Design

A guest post by Brian Morris who writes for the PsPrint Design & Printing Blog.

Your choice of font can make or break your design. A great font helps the rest of your design set a mood, elicit emotion, and motivate action; while a poor font distracts from your message and can ruin your entire design. If you’re creating a design that has a decidedly modern tone, the following 10 fonts can usher your artwork into modernity marvelously. Best of all, each modern font listed here is free to download!

1. Sansation

This versatile font can be used for headlines, subheads, and even body copy on both print and digital media.
www.dafont.com/sansation.font

sansation

2. Magalopolis

Your poster can’t be ignored when you use this bold, heavy, and exciting font.
www.smeltery.net/fonts/megalopolis-extra

magalopolis

3. Quicksand

Quicksand is clean and modern, with evident rounding on heavier weights, which means it will work well in print and digital designs, either as a headline or body copy.
www.typophile.com/node/50437

quicksand

4. Carbon

Want to add a splash of elegance to big, bold headlines? Carbon is the solution. It’s perfect for large web sales headers!
www.urbanfonts.com/fonts/Carbon.htm

carbon

5. Tondu Beta

If you’re seeking a bold, modern alternative to Helvetica, Tondu Beta is a great option that combines classic elements with modern touches.
www.fontspace.com/jonathan-hill/tondu-beta

tondu

6. FoglihtenNo04

Choose FoglihtenNo04 for style; it’s perfect for event announcements, greeting cards, and posters that must include a certain level of sophistication without sacrificing the fun factor.
www.fontspace.com/gluk/foglihtenno04

foglighten

7. Ice Cream Soda

Ice cream soda combines a retro feel with modern touches and is distinctive enough to be used as part of a brand logo.
www.fontm.com/ice-cream-soda-font/

ice-cream-soda

8. Wireframe

Any web designer will understand the basis for this font, but its use isn’t limited to designs that feature the web. Clean, modern, and bold, the Wireframe font would make a great headline typeface, but should be avoided for body copy.
www.fontm.com/wireframe-font/

wireframe

9. Joe Hand 2

Many designs incorporate handwritten fonts to convey a sense of a personal touch. Joe Hand 2 is a perfect font for adding those personal accents to your websites, brochures, and even business cards.
www.dafont.com/joehand-2.font

joehand

10. Pincoya Black

Pincoya Black is a fun, bold font that could be used for poster and web-based headlines. It’s attention-getting and energetic, memorable and entertaining.
www.behance.net/Gallery/Pincoya-Black-Typeface/496023

pincoya

Have you used these fonts in any of your designs? If so, share them with us in the comments below! We’d love to see how you applied styles to modern fonts in your own graphic designs.

Author’s Bio: Brian Morris writes for the PsPrint Design & Printing Blog. PsPrint is an online commercial printing company. Follow PsPrint on Twitter @PsPrint and Facebook.

5 Tips for Creating Engaging Infographics

A guest post by Luke Clum

Infographics are an extremely potent tool in internet marketing. Easily shared, infographics use visuals to convey interesting information. ‘Data Viz’ (that’s data visualisation) packs a powerful punch by conveying information in a way that creates a lasting impact. Infographics are all about dissemination, and when done well, can be extremely powerful. But wait! Don’t jump on the data viz bandwagon without stopping and thinking first. Take these tips into account and you’ll be creating compelling infographics that spread like wildfire.

1. Think Purpose

Some of the worst infographics are those that seem to lack purpose, and are simply a poor attempt at creating something ‘worth’ sharing. Think before you begin. What questions are you trying to answer? What information are you trying to convey? Sometimes, no matter how you look at it, written content will do the best job, so trying to ‘force’ an infographic will just look like an over-reach.

infographic 1

Versus

infographic 1B

Look at the above images, which works better? Here, Travel Match’s written information gets the message across far more clearly than the infographic – which shows that data visualisations aren’t always appropriate.

Brainstorm your ideas and think about your question from the perspective of your visitors. What would they want to know? You want to leave them feeling satisfied yet intrigued. Your infographic should be good enough to share whilst also encouraging them to dig deeper into your site.

2. Do Your Research

A badly researched infographic looks just as terrible as poorly edited written content. It’s unprofessional and sloppy. No one will share an infographic that’s full of errors, so do your research. Fact based infographics are the most successful, so try not to use opinion based data as you want your infographic to appear reputable, just like your business. For example, look at this infographic on internet networks and bandwidth. Notice how it uses bandwidth statistics to visually display which sites/software hog connection speeds – the numbers speak for themselves.

infographic 2

3. Keep It Clear

Use engaging colours, and images that are simple but effective. Too many colours or graphics can crowd your infographic, making it harder to understand. You want to avoid confusion, conveying your information in a way that requires very little effort from your visitor.

You don’t need custom illustrations to create an engaging infographic. Using icon images avoids complicating your design.

infographic 3

Here, part of Brightcove’s Making Video Content Work infographic uses icons effectively to get their message across—without overdoing it.

4. Try Visual Metaphors

Using visual metaphors to represent an idea is an effective way of turning ‘dry’ information into something engaging and memorable. What’s more, when done well, visual metaphors can be understood by a wide variety of people. Grant Thornton’s Race to Economic Growth is a great example.

infographic 5

5. Use Visual Comparisons

Sometimes when creating an infographic what you’re really looking to achieve is impact. Visual comparisons are a great way to get a message to really hit home.
Frugal Dad’s The Weight of Walmart infographic uses visual comparisons over and over again to give the viewer a real sense of perspective on the issue at hand.

infographic 6

The illustration shows us what 10x larger looks like…

infographic 7

… and how $421 billion compares to $19.8 billion.

The main thing that you should take away from these tips is that infographics are all about making data user friendly. You want to increase interest and comprehension in a way that supersedes the use of text alone.

Luke Clum Luke Clum is a graphic designer from Seattle who specializes in print and web development. He loves coffee, hiking and alpine climbing in the mountains. Follow him on Twitter @lukeclum

Licensing Cute Art with Designer and Illustrator Kathy Weller

Kathy Weller illustrator and designer who licenses her workI am really excited to have an interview with Kathy Weller from WellerWishes.

I must have contacted Kathy a year or two ago and asked if she would consider doing an interview about licensing her cute design and illustrations. As it was still early days for Kathy licensing her work she told me she would be happy to do an interview when she had a bit more experience behind her.

So for any designer or illustrator looking to license their work, read on to get some great advice on how to go about it.

1. Please could you tell me a little bit about yourself, your background and what you do now?

My name is Kathy Weller. My studio is called WellerWishes. I am an illustrator, designer, greeting card writer and artist, and product thinker-upper. I specialize in creating characters, making them the stars of my busy, “big scene” illustrations, and also writing humor for them.

I work with manufacturers, and I create art and product ideas for their products. I also maintain my own online portal site / shop / blog called WellerWishes World of Cute Art. (www.wellerwishesworld.com). My biggest dream, goal and wish is to spread my Cute Art all over the world! (I’m getting there!)

Kathy Weller recycled paper greetings

2. Please could you tell me when and why you decided you wanted to license your work?

Well, I have had a unusual awareness of product art from a very early age. It was on my toys, stuffed animals, Hello Kitty mini-stationery, sheets and pillow cases. Lots of art and lots of character. I just remember being very aware of it and being a little obsessed with it. But also, I drew all the time as a kid. Drawing was just my world. I even made up my first cute character at age three or four, complete with a style sheet on how to draw him. I know, very odd!  So all of that is sort of an early clue that points directly to my life now.

As a grown-up, I’ve worked in a number of creative fields:  sales + marketing design and illustration, freelance children’s illustration, custom pet portraiture, and earlier on, my first foray into self-employment was a tiny greeting card company. But I was always fascinated by product art, character art & humor, and the greeting card industry. (And, I continued to dream about doing cards on a larger scale, long after I closed shop on my indie card company.)

There is much more information and guidance available on how to break into various niche illustration fields these days. But, with art licensing, it was basically shrouded in skeleton-key mystery until the mid-2000’s (when the web hit a new phase of mainstream saturation). In fact I only discovered that the terminology for this industry was “Art Licensing” in late 2005!  But when I did, I instinctively knew that I had to find out how to start working in it.

Kathy Weller movers and shakers

So I made plans to attend the 2006 Surtex/National Stationery Show and Licensing International. At both shows, I walked the show floors, and I took tons of seminars. During this time, I was working full-time as a graphic designer and illustrator, had a busy custom pet portrait business, and was also in the process of finally breaking into children’s publishing illustration. So, I had a lot going on. For the next few years, I juggled these various activities while my licensing goals were still alive, but on the back-burner.

Then in 2009, my mother had a devastating stroke. This horrific event led me to reprioritize everything, pretty immediately. It turned out to be the wake-up call I needed to refocus my creative energies, put my foot down and stop spreading myself so thin doing a million different things. I needed to be honest, get real, and focus on what I really wanted to do, be brave, get in the mud and pursue it! Life is short and nothing is guaranteed. If you’re lucky enough to have solid dreams and goals you want to build, there is no time to waste. My mom’s stroke snapped me awake to this fact, loud and clear. So, I made a decision to wrap up other activities by the end of 2009 so 2010 could be all about art licensing. I spent 2009 mostly with my mother in the hospital and rehab, doing the occasional craft show with my sister (which was a really necessary, and fun, distraction at the time), and wrapping up my pet portraiture business. The last thing I did was resign from working with my children’s illustration agent in early 2010. Since that time, I’ve been focused on my art licensing/character art/greeting card/social expressions goals.

Kathy Weller Swirly Cakes Illustration

3. How did you first start trying to license you work – what was the process?

Well, I had gained a lot of insight into the process by attending those shows in 2006, so I put a lot of the advice I’d learned to use. I also hired an art licensing consultant in 2008 to gain more one-on-one insights and more individualized feedback. I then started creating work that I thought would be appropriate for the areas in licensing that I thought were right for my style, and I started approaching manufacturers as well as agents.

Kathy Weller Towntails Illustration

4. What did you do right and wrong in your early licensing endeavors?

A ton! I am a work in progress, as is everyone. No mistakes? You’re a robot. You just have to find your way on an individual level. There is no one-size-fits-all Playbook. There is a ton of information out there these days, though—  lots of e-books, and the ones I’ve read have been mostly very helpful, and some I’d heartily recommend. But ultimately, there’s only so much learning that happens from reading other’s experiences and how-to’s. There comes a time when you have to live your own.. You get to where you just have to do it. I will admit that I got stuck in the “learning cog” for a little while. It’s safer and more comfortable to learn and read and study and dream then it is to daringly jump in with both feet and just do it. I was nervous and scared! But, finally, I sucked it up and jumped in. And once I did, it felt really amazing. I was immensely proud of myself, and it was so empowering!

Kathy Weller Bracelets

5. How do you present work to a potential company you wanted to license to? (how many pieces, how many styles, by email? etc)

If it’s a company I want to work with, I will usually email them first, provided I have the right person and email address. If I don’t, I need to make an initial phone call to obtain that information.

I do like to do a first intro through email as opposed to over the phone though, because people are so busy. Email is far less intrusive and way more flexible for people to digest. The flip-side is, you can get lost in the email shuffle. You just have to use your best judgement on how and when to follow up with them. If I get a positive response from my email, a phone call usually follows in short order!

There is no denying that cold calls can be extremely effective though. I am just careful about the who, what, when, where, and why. If I make a call as first contact, I just make sure I am as prepared as I can possibly be. 🙂

What you send out as samples is really wholly dependent on the specific client and their needs. They will usually share what they need with you, if you ask. Sometimes they’ll be more specific, sometimes more vague. Then, I will see what I have that fits. Depending on their deadline for samples, I will then decide what else I can do to accommodate them further. This is usually gets to be a smoother process the longer I work with a client. Once you know your people well and have your system down, it’s easier to anticipate things before they come up, and to accommodate them when they do!

I love to meet people in person. I know that is not always possible, but usually manufacturers will attend at least one show a year. Trade shows are great for meeting up with people who you’d like to work with, or, who you already are working with, or people you’ve been emailing with and submitting work to. Nothing beats face-to-face meeting! So keep the relationship alive, whether or not you’re actually working with them yet. If there’s good potential and you really like each other, invite them to your booth to peruse your latest and greatest designs, and to see what new product lines they have going that you might be able to help them with!

Kathy Weller bunnies illustration

6. Do you use, or have you used an licensing agent and why? What are the pros and cons of this?

I currently have a licensing agent in Japan. In all other territories, I represent myself. In licensing, I’ve worked non-exclusively with a couple of art licensing agents sporadically over the past couple of years, and before that, I had an agent for my children’s illustration work from 2007-2010.

I think having an agent can be extremely great! But  it has to be the right place, time, overall fit. The agent/artist relationship is a serious one. Licensing agents generally earn 50% so you truly are partners. You want to be sure it will be a mutually beneficial and rewarding relationship!

Before you sign with an agent, get to know their business. Understand the markets they serve.  Learn which companies they tend to work with, the markets they serve, and the aesthetic + thematic genres they specialize in. Does their work favor specific demographics?

Now, turn the tables. Would THEY be a good fit with YOUR brand, as your brand stands today? Where would you hope to go together as partners in your brand?

Kathy Weller Puzzle

Talk to other artists in their roster. (If they have a problem with this, run, don’t walk, in the other direction.) Would your work + style be a compliment to their overall group? Would your work offer variety and a spark of fresh, new ideas, while still fitting comfortably into the genres they serve? Or, is your work, just a little too similar to another of their current artists? An agent might cultivate a roster that offers a lot of variety within a pretty specific art genre so keep that on your radar when looking at potential agents, but don’t get too bogged down in the details.

Ultimately, there are a million reasons why you may or may not a great fit for a particular agent. They are the only ones who can tell you that. But I will leave you with this: if you hear or read a “No”, please pay attention to the entire paragraph, not just that one word. A “No” today may not mean “No” forever. Sometimes it does, but sometimes it doesn’t. Are they telling you something else, too? What else are you picking up from the rest of the message?

Turn over every rock you feel you need to. It’s integral to do a lot of back-and-forth and get to know each other before partnering with an agent. And… go with your gut.

Kathy Weller Iphone Cases

7. Can you remember the first designs you licensed, what were they, and how did it feel?

I don’t think it was officially my first, but still, receiving the first pieces of my Jive Cats fabric collection with Northcott Fabrics was nothing less than thrilling. I’d always wanted to do fabric, and here it was, complete with my very own kitty cat characters, that I created. It was magic!

Kathy Weller Jivecats

8. What is your favourite bit of work you have licensed?

The Jive Cats puzzle I did for Andrews + Blaine sticks out in my head as true symbiosis of art, product and function. It’s a 1,000 piece jigsaw puzzle, and the puzzle art is mind-boggling, eye-crossing puzzle perfection. It’s a super-challenging puzzle— easily the hardest jigsaw puzzle I have ever done—and I did the art!. But, I love how it turned out, down to the packaging: a sturdy, well-made slide-out box with a satin ribbon pulley! Too cute! (http://www.thejivecats.com/ )

All work featured above is copyright © Kathy Weller

Find out more about Kathy and her work at WellerWishes, on her blog at www.wellerwishesworld.com, on Twitter @wellerwishes and Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/pages/WellerWishes-Illustration-Design-Kathy-Weller

Made By Oomph! Competition with Graphic Design Blog

oomph plastic cards

Plastic card printing company Oomph! are offering a giveaway to 1 GDB reader for 500 of Oomph’s plastic cards! If you’ve not come across Oomph! before, they are a design and plastic card printing company based in the UK.

A Little More About Oomph!

Mediocrity is not in the Oomph! vocabulary. They’re passionate about delivering plastic cards of distinction through nothing less than the best possible service, at a price that delights. You can select one of their designer templates or upload your own artwork to create truly unique products. Oomph! also print membership cards and contactless cards, check them out at www.madebyoomph.co.uk to try out a free sample.

Competition Prize

500 Plastic Cards – one lucky winner will win a set of 500 plastic cards from Oomph!

How To Win!

To win one the prize, all you have to do is leave a comment below and tell us, what’s the most creative use you can think of for a plastic card? Be creative, fun and most importantly unique! If you make us smile you’re in with a great chance of walking away with some great prizes.

Winners will be chosen from the comments below. Please remember to enter a valid email address so we can send you your prizes. Closing date for comment entry 31st January 2013.

oomph logo

10 Killer Die-Cuts for Design Inspiration

A guest post by Brian Morris who writes for the PsPrint Design & Printing Blog. 

Die cutting is one of the best ways to make your printed marketing tools and packaging stand out from the crowd. For your inspiration, check out the following 10 killer die cuts.

1. Epson Packaging by Ali Prater

This clever design by Ali Prater not only has a cool look, it’s also functional in that it indicates which type of printer cartridge is in the box. The splash of color underneath adds another dimension to an already-awesome die cut.

espson diecut packaging

2. Super You by Matthew Hawkins

Matthew Hawkins’ die-cut creation makes the perfect attention-commanding point-of-sale flyer.

Super You diecut packaging

3. Brand Card by Brand-It

When you have an outstanding logo, there’s no better way to put an exclamation point on it than with a die-cut business card.

Brand card diecut packaging

4. Big 6 by Tim Hansen

Forget bland white envelopes; brand your company with powerfully designed die-cut stationery.

Big 6 diecut packaging

5. Super Happy Times by Jordan Metcalf

Make your greeting cards more fun and memorable with die cuts.

Super Happy Times diecut packaging

6. Mos Burger Calendar by Andrew Wong

Die cuts help these cool calendars stand up to the competition!

Mos-Burger Die cut packaging

7. Smiley Business Card by Driv Loo

Simplicity sells. This die-cut business card isn’t complicated, but it is attention-getting and memorable for powerful branding.

Smiley Die cut packaging

8. Generation Green Card by Pei Ru Chang

This super-cool business card features a unique die cut that makes it impossible to ignore – and presents an opportunity for guerrilla marketing. Excellent design, all the way around!

Generation-Green Die cut

9. Shirt Business Card by Lemongraphic

This fun-yet-serious business card die cut ties in perfectly to the unique theme.

Shirt-Business card die cut

10. Christmas Tree Card by Steff Geissbuhler

This creative greeting card die cut interacts with the recipient – when opened, it forms a pop-out Christmas tree.

Christmas Tree diecut

Author’s Bio: Brian Morris writes for the PsPrint Design & Printing Blog. PsPrint is an online commercial printing company. Follow PsPrint on Twitter @PsPrint and Facebook.

Some tips for managing freelancer finances

A guest post by Finance and Business Writer, Mark James currently works in-house for small business accountants Crunch

freelance finances

Image – by Images_of_Money

I’m guessing that as a freelance graphic designer, doing your accounts doesn’t tickle your fancy much. I know it didn’t for me whilst I was a freelance Writer. It was rigmarole I put off and off foolishly, leading to an amalgamation of calculations, frantic form filling and debilitating stress come tax return time.

Now though, working in-house for an online accountancy firm, I’m a little more clued up on all things financial and savvier when it comes to managing finances. So, if like the old me you’re a bit suspect when it comes to managing your cash, here’s a few tips that should see you right….

Get up to speed with the tax facts

Tax is taxing. Legislation is constantly changing in line with new political regimes and frankly, it’s difficult to keep track of.

That said, if you’re without an accountant, it’s worthwhile attempting to get up to speed with the various tax return deadlines and trying to get your head around what or what you may not be liable to pay. Here in the UK the HMRC have recently introduced ‘webinars’ to clarify all of this, so that’s well worth checking out if you’re UK based and a tad clueless. Nobody wants a nasty tax fine.

Establish a routine

To those not accountancy inclined, sorting through your finances can prove unrepentantly dull and a bureaucratic nightmare. Even more so if you’re uninitiated in the process.

The longer you put it off though, the worse it’ll be later down the line. I can vouch for that personally. It’s therefore wise to put some time aside for some bookkeeping every day or at the very least once or twice a week. Subsequently, this should help keep some of the stress at bay.

Organise your paperwork

It’s important to develop some sort of system, especially where paperwork is concerned. Chuck all your documents into a disorganised draw or shoebox and you could end up struggling to find that important document when you need it most.

Establish a filing system, with different sections for invoices, bank statements and the like and you might spare yourself some financial grief come tax return time.

Embrace technology

Online accounting has made things easier regarding the management of freelancer finances, reducing the complexity that’s often involved in using a DIY software package and a separate accountant.

This software can reconcile your outgoings with your bank statements, work out tax and produce clear graph visualisations all in a nice little package. Essentially, it provides a tidy and easy to use online environment from which to do all your accounting rigmarole.

Budget, budget, budget

A fact of the freelance life is that there’s going to be periods of feast and equally, periods of famine. This perpetual circle will obviously have an impact on your finances.

With that in mind try to keep to a budget and elsewhere, embrace financial tools like cash-flow forecasting. This should provide you with a better picture of your finances, whilst helping you to legislate for any lean periods.

Hopefully that’ll be enough to help you get your financial affairs in order. Taking control of your finances will do your mental well-being the world of good. Trust me.

A Finance and Business Writer, Mark James currently works in-house for small business accountants Crunch. You can find him on Twitter @MarkJames891.

10 Vexing Vexel Designs

A guest post by Brian Morris who writes for the PsPrint Design & Printing Blog

Can you tell the difference between a vector and a vexel? Without zooming in, it’s almost impossible to tell. But while vector artwork employs geometry to retain image quality at any size, vexels are just like pixelated images; that is to say, they become pixelated and blurred when zoomed. Vexels are essentially pixel-based raster art that is made to mimic vectors.

Vexels have become popular among some designs due to their ease of creation: A cursory knowledge of Photoshop’s layers is all that is needed to create a stunning vexel. At the same time, vexels aren’t often given respect by those who believe they’re below true vector art. I say the end result is what is important, and when a graphic will only be a specific size, who cares? To the casual viewer, a vexel is every bit as good as a true vector, as demonstrated by the following 10 vexing vexel designs.

1. Clay Aseo by Vincent Rhafael Aseo

vexels 1 illustration

This vexel employs a glow effect to showcase the headphones and wires. It might have been made from a pre-existing photo, sliced and layered.

2. Jack by Orlando Abarca

vexels 2

Vexel art is a quick and easy to way to accentuate prominent features, as evidenced by this vexel of Jack Nicholson.

3. Bliss by Kimo Rama

vexels 3

With vexels, distinctive lines and custom colors can be easily added to a closeup.

4. Seducing Vexel by Zareena Ayoub

vexels 4

Shading with similar hues is a hallmark of vexel art, such as with this vexel design featuring seductive lips.

5. Stop and Sing by Lina Garzon

vexels 5

That same layered shading effect can make a vexel mimic a painting in appearance.

6. Face by Ed Favila

vexels 6

This example demonstrates how vexels can be employed to add a touch of surrealism to a face.

7. Lemon by Emilie Gourmanel

vexels 7

A picture might be worth a thousand words, but too many colors can be distracting. This vexel art shows how a few simple hues can be used to create a distinctive design.

8. Vexels by Kat Craig

vexels 8

Heavy strokes can be applied to vector layers for an illustrated outline or sketched appearance.

9. Arla Project by Dennis Salvatier

vexels 9

This vexel appears highly-detailed at a glance, but closer inspection reveals that just three colors were used to create it.

10. Bubblegum by Jestoni Santella

vexels 10

This vexel reminds me of the 1990s, a period in which the artwork was featured on everything from posters to CD covers.

Author’s Bio: Brian Morris writes for the PsPrint Design & Printing Blog. PsPrint is an online commercial printing company. Follow PsPrint on Twitter @PsPrint and Facebook.

Using Mood Boards and Everyday Images for Inspiration

I have talked about mood boards a couple of times on this blog because I love them and I think they can really help boost creative inspiration. I probably don’t use them in the traditional sense of the word, but more as a massive source of inspiration, so maybe I should call it an inspiration board instead?

How to create an inspiration board / mood board

An inspiration board is simply a collection of imagery. This could be done manually (my preferred method) whereby you rip things out of magazines, print things out you find on the web and then paste them up on a large sheet of paper. You could also collect together your imagery digitally by using a photo editing program or a website like Pinterest.

Inspiration board created using images pasted onto a large sheet of paper

create a moodboard

A couple of ways you can use your inspiration board:

Use a mood board get a feel for your target market

A mood board is hugely adaptable for use in different ways the first and probably one of the common ways I use them is to get the feel for the target market of whatever I am designing. So for example say you were designing something for music lovers in their late teens then you would want to collect together imagery that might appeal to them. So you might go out and buy a selection of music magazines and look online a music sites and collect all this imagery together on a board. This will give you a big insight onto what might appeal to this target market might.

Mood board created to get a feel for toy company logos

toy logo inspiration moodboard

To get inspiration to break you out of your normal way of thinking

Imagine that you are designing something, be it a leaflet, product, piece of jewellery or character design. Chances are if we try and design it, we will fall back on styles or ideas we have used before or emulate things we see. Try this instead – whatever your current project, take a walk around your home or around your town and take photos of random things you see. So for example if I was walking round my house I could snap a photo of a guitar, a desklamp, a fire extinguisher etc etc. Collect together all these images and look how you could apply them to you current project. Perhaps the 6 strings on a guitar could form an interesting graphic on a leaflet which you link your graphics to, perhaps the twisty shape of the desklamp bulb could influence the shape of a piece of jewellery, perhaps the red of the fire extinguisher could become the dominant colour of a character design.

Inspiration board created using everyday images for character design inspiration

moodboard character inspiration

Do you use mood boards or inspiration boards? How do you use them?

Learn to Design a Letterhead – Free Beginners Course

If you are just starting out in design or are thinking about learning, you might want to check out my FREE – Learn to Design a Letterhead Course.

In this free letterhead design course you will learn about

  • Common positioning of letterhead elements
  • How to sketch out your letterhead ideas
  • How to add small details that add that extra something to your design
  • Some tricks of the graphic design trade
  • How to get your letterhead ready for print

You will also get a downloadable pdf with each section that you can keep and use for reference.

By the end of the course you will be able to design a letterhead from sketch to sending it out for print

Visit http://nobulldesignschool.com/free-design-courses/learn-to-design-a-letterhead-course/ to get free access to the course.

20 Top Promotional Tips for Freelance Designers

20 Freelancer Designer Tips

A guest post by Ben Fellowes,a design and marketing professional and chief blog writer for NextDayFlyers

1. Be Active and Get Seen

Shrinking violets don’t succeed as freelance designers. You have to “get out there” and get yourself noticed. Attend meetings and seek out local professionals to inform them of your business and services, i.e., the Chambers of Commerce, gallery shows, and local business events. You should also go as many business trade shows as possible to network with potential customers (if you’re a designer, every industry trade show has customers that need your services.) Social gatherings are also a great place to network and get seen and heard (you’re not going to get customers sat at home watching the TV) bookstores, schools, churches, coffee shops, etc, are necessary destinations for meeting and greeting potential clients. You don’t have to pester anyone! Natural conversations always turn to, “what you do for a living!”

Depending on your knowledge and experience, you may also consider contacting colleges and organizations about classes or seminars that you can speak or teach at – great word-of-mouth exposure for your business!

2. Cross-Promote

This is a biggie! I’ve got so much design work business through cross-promotion. Be direct and convince a contact or business associate to cross promote in their on or offline promotions, i.e., a print designer could promote themselves via a web designer, photographer, or copywriter, etc.

3. Referral

Offer your clients and customers a referral fee or discount for referring customers to you. It works for big companies and there’s no reason why it won’t work for you!

4. Buddy -Up With Other Graphic Designers

Make friends with other designers online in networking sites, and other online design communities and make design friends in the real world at expo’s and conferences. It’s one of the easiest ways to get collaborative work, referrals, or hired!

5. Sell Online

There is a whole online world of shopfronts and other places like etsy and threadless to flog your design and artwork in which you can sell or receive royalties for original designs. Avoid the 99 designs and crowdspring style of competition sites as they’re a total crapshoot!

Here are 5 of my personal favorites (that I’ve actually made money from):

  • graphicriver.net (templates and designs)
  • graphic leftovers (photographs, vectors and designs)
  • brandcrowd.com (logo design)
  • artsprojekt.com (t-shirt, mug, iphone case, etc)
  • society6.com (poster prints, t-shirts, etc)

6. Blog Away

  • Okay! Don’t all shout at me at once! I know I am being totally obvious with this tip but how many freelancers blog effectively? There are a few essentials to creating your own blog that you might have overlooked:
  • Your blog should not be on a separate domain with a different URL! I have seen so many freelancers with separate portfolio and blog site. This makes no sense. All that lovely content that you may be writing about your designs and experiences will go to waste if you create a separate “blogger” site (I’ve seen this done so many times.) Your blog must be tied to your own domain and URL! Make a separate header for it on your website which should be a one-stop-shop for ALL your design and business information
  • Fully utilize SEO tactics like title tags, meta info, and H1 tags – you should also tag every image and post with relevant terms, i.e., if you write a post about a logo design for a butchers shop, tag the post and the image with every keyword surrounding “logo design” and “butchers shop” you can think of!
  • Make sure you include the following share tools – RSS feed, digg, facebook, stumbleupon, pinterest, twitter buttons (displayed prominently)
  • The other alternative to creating your own blog is to “hit-n-hope” by creating interesting, madcap, funny, or bizarre video or online blogs for sites like tumblr! You never know, you might start getting thousands of visitors and a mass of business opportunities!

7. Old School Business Listings

As a freelancer, I would hope that you’re already rocking a thousand graphic designer job listing and directory sites but I would also suggest looking into an old school marketing technique that is much ignored and often overlooked. I worked as designer for yellow pages for a year of my life, creating ads for everyone from the local pet stores to major ad agencies. You’d be surprised how many businesses still use offline trade directories. It’s really cheap to advertise too!

A similar old-school strategy would be to post in the local newspaper listings. Print is not quite dead (yet!)

8. Coupon Coding

Include a discount coupon for your design services on the back of your business card, flyers, etc. However ‘old-school” this may seem, nothing resonates more with other businesses than the thought of getting your services for cheap!

9. Magazine Pitch

You have to be a serious design expert to get published in magazines such as Advanced Photoshop and How but you will get a cavalcade of links and business interest in your work. Plus, you will be seen as an expert in that field. What a lot of freelancers may not realize is that these magazines rely on graphic and tutorial input from designers and freelancers (such as yourself) for their content. Digital Arts Magazine, for instance, has a whole section devoted to new and upcoming designers that needs your design work! Don’t be shy…get pitching your tutorial ideas and portfolio work.

10. Give Free Design Consultations

I can sense some freelancers getting very hot and angry at this suggestion but it makes sense in the long-run. I’m a firm believer that when a client meets with you, they are also giving up their time and effort! And anyway, you’re not a doctor or a lawyer – you should design consult for free. It’s worth the time and effort (even if you don’t get their business, there’s always the chance of a referral for a different project!)

11. Wear Your Business like a Badge of Honour

Put your coolest, hippest and most commercial design on a t-shirt and turn yourself into a walking advert for your company. It’s pretty inexpensive to do and worth it for all the “where did you get that shirt” questions you’ll receive. At worst it’s a good exercise in company branding (give them out free to all your friends and relations so that they too become walking advertisements for your business!)

12. Guest Blog

If you’re a good writer and can write interesting content about freelancing, design, and other industry related topics, then contact relevant site administrators and guest blog. Ensure you get a link back to your own web pages from specific design-related keywords or personal brand keywords.

13. Send a Press Release

If you’ve created some brilliant design work for a local charity or a piece of design work that you think is truly original or groundbreaking, send a press release about it. Press releases get widely distributed and may even get picked up by a local or national news organization. (A paid for press release is way more effective but there are free press release organizations out there, such as, free-press-release.com)

14. Always Send Follow-up Emails

Always thank customers who hire you, friends who refer you, and people who have helped your business. It’s just poor business practice to not email a client after delivering a project? Personally, I go one-step-further and write a hand-written note rather than an email. Keep in regular contact with clients after you’ve finished a job (you are NOT being a pest, it’s just normal business practice!)

15. Email Promotion

An online newsletter, or e-promotion has become an essential way to promote any business, big or small. It’s also a great way of getting contact information from potential customers. Ensure that you create a subscription button with your promotions.

16. Actively Seek Out Poorly Designed Print Materials or Web Sites

When you notice bad print promotions or you come across web sites that are poorly designed, don’t ignore them or turn your design nose up at them! The likelihood is that the client is fully-aware that they have inferior promotions. Contact the business owner immediately and offer your design services (be forthright but tactful)

17. Submit to Others!

You will get a lot of traffic if you get your work listed on popular design and design resource sites. You may also want to think about creating some freebie design backgrounds, vectors, brushes, or web templates (drupal, wordpress, etc) to draw attention to your work and website. Target popular design sites that rely on free resource materials for their own web traffic to get a truckload of new visitors to your site and your work. Something that I’ve recently done that you might want to consider is designing your own font as a giveaway to some of the major font websites as a means of getting some great link and design exposure (make sure you get your links displayed prominently with all your resource submissions.)

18. Find and Approach New Businesses in Your Area 
Do some serious web research.

Look at the local papers and make a conscious effort to find out about new start-up businesses in your area. You could also simply drive round your locale to see if there are any new shops or restaurants that need design or print services. New businesses need design materials.

19. Send Your Work to Agencies

Don’t let anyone convince you that you shouldn’t cold-contact agencies and clients! Make a CD, postcard sampler, or mini portfolio and send it to ad and design agencies, or other relevant businesses. It’s way more likely to get you remembered than a typical email shot-in-the-dark!

20. Google AdWords

This doesn’t occur to most small businesses and freelancers but ALL businesses who have an online presence should consider at least testing the waters of paid search out. Create a small ad campaign on Adwords and see what happens! What have you got to lose? It will cost you usually about 5 cents per clickthrough.

Ben Fellowes is a seasoned design and marketing professional from the UK who now lives and works in California. He is currently the chief blog writer for NextDayFlyers – a major web and print company that provides flyers, business cards, and other prints.