Category Archives: Ask the Experts

We love hearing from our readers. If you’ve got questions, queries or quandaries, write us a note. We’ll be sure to answer your questions with a friendly email, and if your question addresses a topic we think would be useful for other people to know about too, you might just find it posted in this section!

Your business card. The most commonly used communication tool in your arsenal of promotional weapons? Your only chance to make a great first impression? Perhaps! However, if your only goal is to create maximum impact with a small space, you’re approaching this the wrong way. Save maximum impact for your next sales presentation, the business card design is all about simple professionalism and saying more with less.

So how do I design a nice business card you ask? Excellent question, let’s get started.

Make the Logo… Better

Resist the common urge to make the logo as big you as can. Keep it as the main visual element but don’t over do it. You will never improve your brand through physical size alone. It should be the only graphic element on your card and people won’t have problems seeing it at reasonable size. By denying this urge, you’ll be preserving your professional dignity and subtly displaying your marketing prowess.

In addition to paying close attention to sizing, ensure your logo displays clearly without any sign of stretching, pixelation, blurriness, or other factors that detract from a pristine appearance. Don’t substitute your logo with clip art, especially if it’s a real photo.

To get off on the right foot, use the right file format. If your logo was professionally designed and you are using a layout software program like InDesign or Publisher, always use an EPS file for your logo. If you are working in a Microsoft Word template, try asking your graphic designer to create your logo in a file format called WMF.

Moo.com is a great option too. They have tons of great looking templates and easy to use tools, but to get a good result, you’ll need to use an EPS file.

If you’ve exhausted your options and your logo remains blurry. It’s time to throw in the towel and hire a graphic designer.

Text Sells

Please choose your fonts wisely. Instead of getting creative with Comic Sans or Papyrus, keep your wits about you and a font from respectable family. If you are worried about choosing wisely, first try matching with a font that might be in your logo. If that font seems professional to you, and it should be if your logo uses it, stick to what you know.

If you can’t rely on your logo for guidance, Quicksand, Open Sans, and Museo, are all great free sans-serif choices. Or, if you need something more serious, why not try Afta, Calluna, or EB Garamond.

Remember, just use one font. Two fonts makes the quiet suggestion that you are trying too hard, more than two fonts screams un-professionalism. Keep your text small but not too small. 8 point type is usually perfect. Any larger and you are asking for a cluttered look that may cause people to be see right through your DIY handiwork.

Example of a bad business card

Example of a nice business card

Stack, Space, and Spare the details

Organization is key to a nice business card. Balanced information that lives in harmony with your logo and a good amount of white space, especially around the edges of the card, is the perfect recipe for success. Keep the details simple. Phone, e-mail, website, name and title are common components. Long URLs to your many social media profiles are not necessary. Unless you can make a printed Facebook icon clickable, leave it off.

Your marketing efforts should flow smoothly from your card to your website to a transaction. Leave people a trail to follow and provide pertinent information along the way. Your business card is a simple welcome mat to your business.

The less information you include, the more room for valuable white space that will help attract attention to your logo, make your information easier to read, and make the jump from home-made and visual excellence.

Proper Printing

The finishing touch is the paper you choose to print on. Avoid at home printing kits – nothing says cheap junk like perforated edges. Instead, drop by your neighbourhood print shop (this one’s in Texas) or an online printing service with your finished design and choose or a nice, thick stock. Don’t settle for something flimsy. The money you spend on quality printing will come back to you in profits once you start impressing people with your nice business cards.

Follow these simple guidelines and you’ll be in business in no time! If I’ve missed anything, let me know in the comments.

Tips for putting the finishing touches on a business proposal. Advice for dealing with a perilous relationship. Walkthroughs on how to build a fence on your particularly sloped backyard. Questions like this can sometimes be solved with a quick Google, by asking your friends, or by taking an old-fashioned trip to the library. Sometimes, though, your question is a little too precise, a little too obscure, or a little too convoluted for those sources to solve.

Thanks to the web, there are now countless services that let you put willing experts and helpful strangers to work answering your unsolved riddles. Below is a brief tour of some of 2009′s best sources for crowdsourced answers.

For non-profits: try Urbantastic

Founded by Vancouverites Heath Johns and Ben Johnson, Urbantastic is breaking new ground for micro-volunteering. If you want to help your city become “a more friendly, more lively, more benevolent place,” you can volunteer from home by completing tasks posted by local charities. As of mid-April 2009, there is now an “Ask a Question” feature, where you can help non-profits find answers to questions ranging from marketing advice to event planning.

Sample question: Where should we get our 2009 t-shirts printed?

On the go, from your phone: try Cha Cha

ChaCha describes itself as “mobile answers.” Call 1-800-2ChaCha from your mobile phone, tweet to @chacha, or text your question to 242242, and “you’ll receive the answer as a text message in a few minutes.” It’s not as new or crazy as you think: just last week, ChaCha officially answered their 100,000,000th question (that’s one hundred million). Questions submitted by you are routed to a subject-matter-expert (a “guide”), and within minutes, you’ll have your answer.

Sample question: Who is responsible for preparation of the president’s budget?

For a business angle: try LinkedIn Answers

Since LinkedIn is the go-to social networking site for business professionals, it means you’ve got thousands of pros gathered in one place eager to establish reputations for themselves. It also means you’ve got a ripe crop of potential question-answerers ready to help you out. LinkedIn’s Answers section lets you tap into the crowd to ask any question you like, receiving multiple answers from multiple perspectives.

Sample question: Which personal finance / budgeting / money tracking / money management software do you prefer and why?

For everything from relationship advice to technology tips: try AskMetafilter

AskMetafilter is one of the web’s mainstays for crowdsourced queries. Since 2003, AskMetafilter has been providing the “hive mind” perspective on countless issues, from personal dilemmas to business propositions. You can post anonymously or with your own username, and the result is a selection of opinions, ideas and opinions that will help you make a well-informed decision. Or, just find some really, really obscure info.

Sample question
: I need advice or a good book to read on how to (i)not let my career and continuing education take over my life and (ii) keep myself from being negatively transformed through stressful experiences.

For live help from a real person: try Skype Prime

Receiving advice from somebody on the phone can be a much more reassuring experience than just blasting a question out into cyberspace and twiddling your thumbs while you wait. Skype Prime connects you in real-time to somebody whose background relates to the help you need, and lets you talk via Skype to walk through your issue. It is a paid service, though, which might be a deal-breaker for people looking for easy online answers.

Sample question: Can somebody show me how to use the clone stamp tool in Photoshop?

For in-depth research and oddball inquiries: try Wikipedia’s Reference Desk

If you can’t make it to your local library, the next best option is Wikipedia’s Reference Desk. Think of it as your opportunity to ask a helpful, diligent expert the weirdest questions you can think of. Although Wikipedia often gets a bad rap in academic circles for being a little too lax on its fact-checking, the fact is that anybody who is dedicated enough to pour hours of effort into editing a public encyclopedia is likely a smart, diligent person.

Sample question: What’s a word meaning misplaced nationalism?

For well-researched answers you have to pay for: try Uclue

Uclue calls itself “a professional, fast, and inexpensive research service.” Name your price (how much you’re willing to pay for an answer), and you’ll have yourself a crew of researchers out looking to earn that bounty. Staffed by former Google Answers Researchers, Uclue specializes in digging up the details on any topic imaginable.

Sample question: How to change your identity (UK)?


Of course, your first go-to source for any questions you may have relating to creative strategy, graphic design, communication arts, branding & identity, web development, marketing & advertising and anything else that needs the creative touch, is us, your friends at Elbowruminations. Send us a note anytime and we’ll be happy to help you out.

When it comes to year-end lists, the topics of choice tend to be films, music releases and news stories. Since our own field of interest is often overlooked, we wanted to usher in 2008 with exactly 8 perspectives on what made the past year significant for graphic design. So, we’ve asked a smattering of designers and creative professionals from all across North America to contribute some concepts for our year-end post. Kindly taking time out of their Christmas crunch, our friends submitted their thoughts on what design pieces stood out as memorable, catchy, excellent, significant, or just plain fun. It is with much Christmas merriment and New Year anticipation that we present to you our favourite eight design innovations of 2007, as decided by the friends, staff and affiliates of Elbowroom Design — alphabetically, by first name, of course.


Interactive Bread: the campaign from Tribal DDB for First United Church

Arcade Fire, with milk & toast

Chosen by Adam Neilson, Co-founder & Director of Production
Burnkit Creative
Vancouver, BC

1. Arcade Fire’s “Neon Bible” music video
Such a simple idea, but totally unique, and because of it Arcade Fire gets exposure they could never hope to with a traditional music video (and on a much slimmer budget to boot).

2. Get the Glass
I spent 40 minutes on this the first time I saw it, and a few 30 minute sessions at other times. And, through them all, my 4 year old daughter was just as compelled as I was. This is an incredible creative and technical feat, to occupy my attention for that long.

3. Interactive Bread
A really smart, cost effective interactive idea that didn’t need the internet.


Behance action book

Behance Action Book

Chosen by Alan Houser, Chief Creative Officer
Creative Component
Sheridan, Indiana

You would think when asking a Web Designer to tell you his favorite innovation of 2007, he would respond with something technical, or even his favorite web site example. While I’ve added thousands of great links to my del.icio.us account, my favorite design innovation is the BEHANCE ACTION BOOK. The Action Book is part of Behance’s Action Method product line, the first in a series of Behance projects to help creative professionals boost productivity and make ideas happen. It’s not only saved me from forgetting important things, it’s also made me appear organized and cooler than I actually am.


Authenticity

Authenticity

Chosen by Andrea Bonilla, Communications and Promotions
Mount Hermon Camps
Santa Cruz, California

My favorite design innovation from 2007 cannot be pinned to one piece or advertising campaign, but more as a trend I experienced time and time again. We all agree that the words of our culture are becoming increasingly more dependent on images. However, I feel that the images that have become popularized are those which communicate with authenticity. It’s not so much a focus on the glossy and glamorous, but rather, a straightforward focus on reality. Whether it be a campaign for real beauty, or to save the environment there is a newfound craving for a frank look at the reality of the present situation, and a reflection asking “Who are we, now?” The pursuit of authenticity has been my favorite design trend of 2007. It has invited me to not only gaze upon a well-constructed design, but enter in, to participate and to respond.


London 2012 Olympics Logo

London 2012 Olympics Logo

Chosen by Kevan Gilbert, Web & Technical Administrator
Union Gospel Mission
Vancouver, BC

The London 2012 Olympic logo was a thoroughly reviled specimen, decried worldwide for its over-priced ugliness. While its reputation has not improved during these past few months, the logo was able to achieve a remarkable feat: it got the general public excited about graphic design. Non-designers around the globe gleefully engaged the topic, discussing everything from its colour usage to its cost. Legions of wannabes tried their hands at re-doing the logo, and thousands of laypeople voiced their thoughts on the brand, in newspapers, radio shows and blogs. It was as if the masses willingly dove into a spontaneous, educational round table meeting on the subject graphic design, all thanks to London.


Rosa Loves: Designed for good

Rosa Loves

Chosen by Leah Albertson, Marketing Intern
TOMS Shoes
Los Angeles, California

Designers are really owning up to a global responsibility to do good for others, and not just aesthetically. Rosa Loves creates t-shirts for causes: a family in Bangladesh, victims of a housefire, holiday meals for the homeless, a walker for a woman who couldn’t afford one otherwise. These “love projects” provide a tangible and immediate way to provide real help. All the proceeds from each shirt sold go to the family/persons/cause after whom the design was created. “Rosa Loves is less about charity and more about awareness,” reads the website. “Awareness that we are all apart of something greater and are therefore joined by common threads.”


Saskatoon: Blades of Glory

Saskatoon Blades logo

Chosen by Neil Gilbert, Owner & Lead Designer
Elbowroom Design
Calgary, Alberta

One could argue that my selection for this list was a motivated by patriotism; an effort to showcase some quality Canadian content. I may have also selected it just to be different. Although none of these motivations lack validity, I am proud to present the Saskatoon Blades logo for your consideration. The simple construction of the logo combined with layers of meaning is what I think makes it great. To have the vision to associate the “S” and the “B” with a 3- dimensional skate blade and combine it with the powerful imagery of the hilt and blade of a dangerous looking knife is uncommonly clever. The combination of three simple colours is effective and clean. The precise vertical balance of the elements used, makes the threat of being sliced up abundantly clear. (Click here to read more about this logo…)


Apple’s CoverFlow

Cover Flow

Chosen by Wendy Yuen, Web Engineer
Marqui Inc.
Vancouver, BC

With just over 50 years of history, the future of album art was starting to look precarious. What happens when people don’t need to buy “albums” anymore? In the age of iPods and digital delivery of music, the extinction of cover art was definitely possible. Thanks to Apple (the folks who might have had a hand in starting the end of album art), things are looking up. With Cover Flow technology being introduced in third generation iPod models, the genre of cover art may be heading for a dramatic change (small pixel packaging that can potentially be animated) but it isn’t going to be obsolete any time soon.


Going green

World Wildlife Fund ad campaigns

Chosen by Zach Bulick, Editor
Pillar Yearbook at Trinity Western University
Langley, BC

In 2007, being green was just as cool as being deemed hipster in 2005. Daily, the terminology and helpful tips to be more eco-friendly were talked about in the media. Though many of the things being communicated were good for the environment/world, when inundated with the same message constantly, it just makes it easier for viewers to block it out and become immune to it. The World Wildlife Fund had some outstanding ads this year that not only presented their messages clearly, but also left a lasting impression on the viewer because of their connection to the average, everyday life. These ads did what many ads aspire to do; connecting the actions of the everyday consumer to the effects those actions have on the world around us.

Paper Dispenser
(Agency: Saatchi & Saatchi, Copenhagen, Denmark)
Plant a Tree (Agency: Ogilvy & Mather, Bangalore, India)
Ocean Levels (Agency: Saatchi & Saatchi, Copenhagen, Denmark)
Toilet Roll (Agency: Fcb, Shangai, China)
Black Cloud (Agency: Ogilvy & Mather, Beijing, China)


In Closing…

It seems that 2007 marked a clear shift towards design with purpose, art with heart, and advertising with a social conscience. While perhaps this supports our observation from earlier this year, there is also overwhelming evidence that creativity in all areas of design is alive and well. From the breakthrough album art viewers to small-town Canadian hockey logos, designers are sharper and more relevant than ever. If this is what 2007 gave us, we can’t wait to see what comes in 2008.