5 Ideas for Creative Facebook Videos

Who doesn’t like a great video? YouTube knows this better than anyone. From babies to cats, amazing physical feats to how to put on makeup, everyone seems to be seeking out and watching these videos.

facebookcover Patrick blogWho doesn’t like a great video? YouTube knows this better than anyone. From babies to cats, amazing physical feats to how to put on makeup, everyone seems to be seeking out and watching these videos.

Now Facebook has grabbed onto the video idea, but in a different manner — in your News Feed. So even if you are not looking, you’ll see video from your friends, advertisers and news outlets. And what’s really cool is they start to play when you get near them … but without sound. Then simply click on the video to hear the sound.

Most likely, you know this already. The question is have you USED video yet? Have you uploaded any videos? Do you have any to upload? This leads to random idea No. 1 …

1. Create a Video From Pictures

Okay, we’re not all videographers. Nor do we know a videographer. Or maybe can’t quite afford one now. So how can you take advantage of video on Facebook? Use a slide show!

Creating a video slide show is very simple. Choose “Share a photo or video” when you go to your page. Then choose “Create Slideshow” and have three to 10 photos ready for upload. Just remember one thing: They will be automatically cropped to a video size and proportion.

Next, you’ll choose the duration each photo stays on screen and if you want them to fade or cut from picture to picture. You can also rearrange the order of photos, too.

The last step: Add music. You can choose from selections Facebook has or upload your own. (Just remember, you must have rights to any music. No uploading your favorite Stones, Sting or Ed Sheeran songs.) The good news is there’s lots of “rights-free” music on the Internet.

Then all you do is hit “Create Video” and once it’s ready, Facebook emails you. Viola! You now have a video on Facebook.

You can use this for products, real estate, entertainment or just about anything where up to 10 photos will get your message across.

facebookslideshowvideo Patrick's post

This slideshow video created for Sleep Woodstock Motel was made from 10 photos and a Facebook music selection
This slideshow video created for Sleep Woodstock Motel was made from 10 photos and a Facebook music selection

2.  Add Text to the Beginning of Your Video

Wait, it’s a video. Why would I want to add text to it? The simple answer is there’s no sound unless someone clicks on the video. If you want them to get your message right from the start, add text. This could be the difference between zooming past it or actually clicking on it.

Camtasia used text in its video very effectively below.

camtasiawithcta Patrick post

3.  Use CTAs IN Newsfeed Videos

Make sure to add a call to action (CTA) to your Facebook video. Make it easy for the viewer by taking them to a Web page where they can learn more, watch more or even buy.

Examples for the CTAs include: Book Now, Learn More, Sign Up, Download, Watch More, Shop Now and as the MasterCard video below uses very effectively, Apply Now. Choose your CTA wisely as your selection can help or hurt your engagement and clickthrough rates.

mastercardblackcard_cta

4. Use the Cover Image ‘Watch Video’ CTA

Your cover image can become a powerful tool to feature a video. If you’re introducing a new product, promoting an upcoming event or featuring a new service, the Facebook CTA button on your cover image brings powerful attention to a video hosted on a micro-page or website.

HGTV teamed up with Ellen for a design challenge. The cover image CTA button takes viewers to the video on their website.

ellen-call-to-action-button

7 Email Design Must-Dos for Today

The bottom line is email can run our lives. Because this is the case for many people, we need to design marketing emails to make life easy for our recipients. Here’s my list of must-dos to make it easier to review emails, and more importantly, to get positive results.

Patrick's email blogEvery morning, I try to be at my desk by 8 a.m. The first thing I do is log in to my computer, pop open my email application and see how many emails I’ve got to review.

Some mornings, it’s not too bad. Some days I’ve been bad. I reviewed emails in the evening. I try not to do that. Otherwise, I tend to work all night. On the other hand, if I don’t review emails the evening before, I have many more to review in the morning.

The bottom line is email can run our lives. Because this is the case for many people, we need to design marketing emails to make life easy for our recipients. Here’s my list of must-dos to make it easier to review emails, and more importantly, to get positive results.

Your Layout Must Be Responsive

I’m not talking emails that get response, although that’s obviously the goal. I’m talking about email layouts that change size based on the device the email is reviewed on. Today, large numbers of people are using their smartphones to review their emails. The stats don’t lie:

Patrick's email post graphic

Responsive design results in a nearly 15 percent increase in unique clicks for mobile users from a 2.7 percent average to 3.3 percent, according to Litmus and MailChimp. 

Email designs for desktops are usually 600px wide, because 600px avoids some of the limitations of email applications and takes into account “browser chrome,” the space around email not allowing the email to take the full width of the screen.

The optimum width for mobile is 320px (640px for retina screen).

To help your design on mobile devices, stick to single-column layouts. Multi-column layouts usually appear squashed. A single-column design simplifies your layout and helps to focus your message for the recipients, makes it easier to read and makes you email cross-device compatible.

Don’t Forget the Preheader

This has to be one of my biggest pet peeves. Too many emails today still do not use a preheader or snippet and I don’t understand why.

The preheader is the first thing you see in an email application’s preview pane. You know when someone has ignored it when you see this line in the preview pane: “If You’re Having Trouble Viewing this Email …” This is also the title of a blog I wrote on preheaders and will give you more detail than I’ll do here.

Patrick's email preheader example

This example shows a preview pane with the top email not using a preheader and the second that does.

Highly Visible Call to Action

This almost doesn’t need to be said, but I’ll say it, anyway.

Call to actions or CTAs should be above the fold. Content above the fold gets 84 percent more attention. CTAs should have a lot of attention given to them and be written plainly and clearly. Also, make sure to use active language. Tell people what to do and they tend to do it.

You can learn even more about CTAs at my Design DR blog post “5 CTA Button Design Best Practices.”

Don’t Bury Your Branding

You’ve got a couple of seconds when a person opens your email to understand who the email is from. How best to do this … think about how we read. We start at the top-left corner and read left-to-right. The obvious conclusion is the top-left corner is the obvious place to place you logo or branding. It’s not a set rule, but it works. You can also consider placement in the top couple of inches (also prime email real estate) for brand placement as it works with your design.

Patrick's Converse email

This Converse email takes advantage of branding in two ways. The upper-left logo placement and logo placement on the video play artwork.

Size Matters … Font Size, That Is

Make sure you use a font size that is easily read. I usually recommend 14px as body text and 20-24px for headlines and subheads.

Remember: A large percentage of email will be read on a smartphone. I will also say the font you choose will affect the size equation. Some fonts read smaller or larger than others. Keep that in mind when you set the font size, as well.

A Picture’s Worth A 1,000 Words … Unless It’s Not Seen

Images are wonderful in an email. They ad great visual impact and deliver 1,000 words, right away. But we need to keep in mind that many email clients have images blocked. There’s nothing we can do about the blocking, but there is something that can be done to minimize the damage: Use alt tags.

“Alt tags” or “alt text” (short for alternative text) is the text that will show when an image is blocked. This is not automatic. If your designer does not program alt tags, you’ll see text where images would be displayed.

You can simply apply alt text to your images and call it a day and the text you apply will show. You can also specify the color behind the text and the text itself. This gives you some minor control of how it looks. You should always take advantage of this technique. To lean more, Litmus has a wonderful blog about the options: “The Ultimate Guide to Styled ALT Text in Email.”

You just need to keep one thing in mind: We are talking about email. Not all email applications support styled alt text. The Litmus post spells this out quite well.

Patrick's alt email Litmus

Personalization

I always make sure to personalize emails designs with name, text and images.

The easy part is using the recipient’s name. You have this info and it’s easy to implement in the subject line, in the preheader and the email body. According to Campaign Monitor, personalized subject lines are 26 percent more likely to be opened.

Also, depending on your data, you can also personalize based on:

  • Products they’ve ordered in the past,
  • Life events, like birthdays and anniversaries
  • Connections, like clubs they belong to, if the are veterans, Moms, men, women, etc.

Personalization can also be imagery. Using the list above, you can change the images used. For instance, if you know the person’s name, sex, car purchased from you and where it was purchased, you can create an email with the following things personalized:

  • Name: Place their name in the subject line, headline of the email and in the body text.
  • Sex: You can change the products offered and colors of the artwork to be more male- or female-oriented.
  • Car Purchased: You can use a picture of the car they purchased and if you have the info, the model and color of their car.

You can see the power of personalization and how it can make your email more relevant to the recipient. By segmenting a campaign, according to the DMA, marketers have found a 760 percent increase in revenue. Add a highly personalized element to the segments and who knows what the potential might be.

Don’t Forget the Footer

Lastly, do not forget the footer. They can increase your creditability. Yes, this is important. The fastest way to look like spam is to not include a solid footer. You must include:

  • Your organization’s name and your complete contact details
  • A clear, easy-to-find “unsubscribe” link
  • Include links to your main website or key service/product pages
  • Make it easy to share the email with a forward-to-a-friend link, and social media links
  • Add a line about why they are receiving the email, i.e. membership in a loyalty program or other such reasons

Patrick's forward-to-a-friend email

We’ve all gotten emails with poor footer information. My biggest pet peeve is no unsubscribe link. Right behind that is an unsubscribe link that takes me to a page that I need to log into to “manage” my email preferences. This is a bad user experience.

This is my basic list for email design. Can this change? My answer is “yes,” but I encourage you to test, test, test. There is not such thing as a hard-and-fast rule. Everything changes. Email applications, they way people respond, what’s in favor this season or addition of new technologies. Always look forward and always challenge designers and your own assumptions.

Something Marvelous Is Coming: Variable Fonts

Thin. Bold. Condensed. Extended. The variety of fonts available today are seemingly limitless – unless you want to do something like have a fast-loading website. Then you’re better off using fewer choices.

Patrick's post on variable fontsThin. Bold. Condensed. Extended. The variety of fonts available today are seemingly limitless – UNLESS you want to do something like have a fast-loading website. Then you’re better off using fewer choices.

Why? Because multiple fonts and their variations take up huge amounts of file space. Which requires more information to load into that nifty site you’re so proud of. Which makes it slowwww.

And on some browsers (like Firefox and Chrome) it may display a default font until the page is fully loaded. It might even look different on a Mac vs. a PC. Definitely not what you intended your readers to see.

Variable Fonts to the Rescue!

Like an Avengers team of typography heroes, Adobe, Apple, Microsoft and Google have joined forces to support a new standard called OpenType 1.8.

So what’s the big deal? Now you can basically stick everything into a single, highly optimized file. Instead of downloading a separate file for each font style or width, your site only needs to make ONE network request to access ONE file for ALL weights and styles of a typeface. In other words, it’s a single font that behaves like multiple fonts.

Skia Variations
For Example: Look how many variations are possible in this animation above. Normally this takes take many separate font files. But it’d take just a single variable font. a significant reduction in the number of font files and file size required.

More Superpowers: Responsive Typography

Variable fonts will also help with your responsive Web design, allowing you to adapt for the many screen sizes and devices that people will be viewing. Type will have the power to shrink, grow, gain weight or get thinner seamlessly. Kinda like Antman meets the Hulk. Which means you’ll be able to generate the exact variation you need, and respond to factors that influence readability like viewport size, viewing distance, contrast, ambient light and user preferences.
It works like this: Fonts are built on a number of axes, each one controlling a different aspect. Variable fonts give you greater control by assigning a point value to EACH axis that will affect the font’s final look — as shown below.

More of Patricks' font images from post

width axis in Patrick's font postDunbar Variable FontsAnd it’s good news for type geeks (like me) who still get excited over printed design. Now we can condense or extend glyphs (specific shapes of letters), customizing them for a specific look. We can sharpen or round a typeface, shorten the descenders, or raise a font’s x-height in our never-ending pursuit of truth, justice and the perfect layout. Because, after all, bad typography is villainous.

It’s not a perfect world. Yet.

Right now, there aren’t enough variable fonts to go around. Type designers need to make more and be sure they work on each system. And we’ll need applications called “rendering engines” that work behind the scenes to actually show the font variations. Which means browsers and design software will have to support those applications.

It’ll take time to for font developers to convert and develop their current fonts to the new format. Browsers, design software and third-party software will have to adapt their apps to the new format.

Like past font formats (EPS, TrueType and OpenType) this new format could take as long as a decade to be fully implemented. As a designer, I’m excited to see this new format come to life. The infinite, perfectly drawn font variations are very exciting and can’t come fast enough.

Yet we’re on our way. The biggest companies behind operating systems, design and the Web have all collaborated on the new format. Notable independent contributors are already refining their type standards. It’s a brave new world ahead.

Up, up and away.

Personalized Marketing: Past, Present and Future

Today, you can think of your printed materials the same as your digital materials (emails, digital ads, landing pages, etc.). That means you can personalize EVERY aspect of a printed piece, just as you do on a computer screen. Not just text, but also visuals, colors, layouts — every element on the printed page. Each piece coming off the press can be entirely different from the piece before it.

Personal.jpgIn 1996, I had this really cool idea to produce an invitation for WDMI (Women in Direct Marketing International) using 4-color variable data printing (VDP).

This was new printing technology that acted like a color copier on steroids. There wasn’t really any software to drive it, and few people knew what it was — but I was lucky. I’d always watched for new tech, and Cheryl Kahanec (who happened to be my cousin) had one of the presses producing 4-color VDP. Still, computing power was nothing like today, so we had to figure out how to create the design I’d come up with.

The concept was driven by the limited data we had for the club — their names, company and address. Next to the address was the line: “If this is your idea of personalization … ” which was followed by a headline on the inside that said: “Then you ain’t seen nothing yet!”

Below the headline was the recipient’s name in many different fonts, sizes and colors with the name overlapping and running off the page.

Ok, I’m still healing the scars from that project. We were way ahead of the curve. It took over seven days to rip the file (running the data into the file to create a printable file). It then took another seven days to print the 5,000 pieces. That’s right: over 14 days of ripping and printing.

It performed very well, even winning attention from a couple trade publications (it also gave my cousin and me many gray hairs).

Fast Forward…

Today, you can think of your printed materials the same as your digital materials (emails, digital ads, landing pages, etc.). That means you can personalize EVERY aspect of a printed piece, just as you do on a computer screen. Not just text, but also visuals, colors, layouts — every element on the printed page. Each piece coming off the press can be entirely different from the piece before it.

St. Joseph’s College wanted to encourage applicants who had been accepted to the college to commit to attend. So accepted applicants were invited to a special event at the college. To encourage their attendance, each applicant would receive an iTunes gift card when they clicked on the personal URL (pURL) to say they would attend, with a chance to win an iPad at the event.

Every image and text blurb on the piece was changed based on the degree program the applicant had indicated on the application. Their name was used throughout the piece, along with their pURL. This is the most dramatic element: The covers would feature a current student in their program of choice. A testimonial and photo of another student currently in the program was highlighted on the inside, with copy and photos regarding the program.

Each piece off the press was a one of a kind — exactly how your emails and digital marketing piece are on your recipient’s computer.

St. Joes VDPWhat’s in the Future

There’s no way to know the amazing tech the future will bring, but a more challenging element of the future is breaking down silos.

“Over the last 20+ years, variable data software and printing has come a long way. You can easily drive images and text complex business logic and embedded variables from multiple databases. Email, video and online variable data capabilities have become equally sophisticated. The challenge: They typically don’t work together. Adding to this struggle, many brands have agency’s that are digital- or print- only.

For multichannel/omnichannel and trigger programs to allow brands to have a conversation with their customers, all mediums must work together. There can no longer be silos.”

—Cheryl Kahanec, President, EarthColor, Marketing Solutions Group

As Cheryl describes above, the future will blend all communications, leaving no silos. Whether we read our screens, mail or any other marketing material, the blending of data and its capabilities is the future of marketing and communications. Who will get there first? Who’s on their way?

5 Ways to Make Holiday Email More Productive

If your email inbox is anything like mine, the recent influx of messages is overwhelming. Not only are you hearing from your direct contacts, you’re also getting a lot more partner emails and yes, spammers. Below are five productivity improvements for your own email campaigns.

If your email inbox is anything like mine, the recent influx of messages is overwhelming. Not only are you hearing from your direct contacts, but you’re also getting a lot more partner emails and yes, spammers. Below are five productivity improvements for your own email campaigns.

Opts Outs Will Increase — Here’s How to Lessen Them

As every company increases its email output during the holidays, many of us start to cull the companies we receive emails from. We opt out. Do we really need two emails a day from XYZ company? You search for the “Unsubscribe” link hidden at the bottom of most emails and click it.

The smart companies use an email preference center. An email preference center is simply a landing page that gives the subscriber options. They can update their email address, choose which type of emails they want or opt out forever. Take advantage of this page by asking subscribers about the frequency of emails, especially if you have multiple product lines or email lists; ask what products they want emails about.

When emails are pouring into our inboxes this holiday season, you can reduce your opt-out rates by giving recipients control over what you send and how often. Fifty-four percent of subscribers leave because you sent too many emails, while 47 percent say they need to decrease the number of companies they get emails from.

If you want to dig deep and improve your email preference center, HubSpot has an info-rich blog post, “28 Quick Tips for Customizing Your Email Preference Center”, that is well worth the read.

Think Mobile First

These stats from 2015 prove this point best: 76 percent of Black Friday emails and 63 percent of Cyber Monday emails were opened on a mobile device. Additionally, 56 percent of searches during the holiday season were conducted on a mobile device, according to Movable Ink. The same stats for 2016 will be even more impressive.

Remember, your recipients are weeding through emails on their smartphones and saving interesting emails to read later on their desktop computer. Design your emails for mobile (they’ll look fine on a PC), keep them short and put the most important content toward the top. Subject lines on mobile emails become even more important — make them short enough to fit in the preview of a smartphone. It’s wise to test this on multiple devices.

Target Cart Abandoners

Studies show the average shopping cart abandonment rate is approximately 73.9 percent. The good news is that 72 percent who do make the purchase after abandoning their carts do so within 24 hours. But others can take as long as two weeks.

fultzpic1Many potential online buyers purposely abandon their shopping carts. They’re looking to collect coupons or to wait for offers that are sent to try to close the sale.

To target cart abandoners, you’ll need to consider your email schedule, images of the abandoned items, offers/discounts to bring them back and lastly, adding or emphasizing a guarantee. These prospects are low-hanging fruit just waiting to be picked.

Create a Sense of Urgency

Urgency is a powerful psychological motivator — this is Direct Response 101. Deadlines work. They compel your customers to take the next step.

“One-Day Sale” or “Only Available to the First 100 Buyers” or “Sale Ends December 24 at 5:00 p.m.” all can prompt more conversions. Long-time mailers know this too well. We’ve used urgency and deadlines to great effect long before email even existed. Email marketers can learn a lot from reviewing snail mail packages from today and yesterday.

Test Your Code

Assuming your segmenting is good, your creative and offers should resonate with shoppers. Testing your code for the most popular inboxes and devices is then the last — and the most important — step. Use an email preview application like Email On Acid, Litmus and PreviewMyEmail to send your email through test accounts to see how different email applications, browsers and computer platforms present your email to recipients. If you are using an ESP (email service provider) like MailChimp, Emma or Vertical Response, you can use their pretested templates. But be aware, if you play with their code, you could easily “break” them.

fultzgif
Email On Acid previewing of code in multiple browsers and platforms

The Bottom Line

With emails, the phrase “test, test, test” is particularly pertinent. Not only do you need to test your segmentation, offers, subject lines and preheaders, you need to design for mobile, test your code and be prepared for opt-outs and cart abandoners. But do not fear — there are many people and tools to help you.

Happy Holidays!

Space — The Final Frontier 

Space. It’s extremely valuable — in offices, in homes, on the subway and bus, and sometimes even in relationships. But when it comes to design, space is critical. Or should I say your use of space. All creative and marketing managers should be aware of my top three space rules.

Space. It’s extremely valuable — in offices, in homes, on the subway and bus, and sometimes in relationships. But when it comes to design, space is critical.

Or should I say your use of space. All creative and marketing managers should be aware of my top three space rules:

1. Too Close to Edges

This is my number one space rule. It’s the first thing I look at when reviewing layouts. How close does the type and art come to the edge of the page? If they are too close:

  • The piece will feel crowded.
  • People will feel overwhelmed.
  • The type will feel hard to read.
  • People will move on to the next item they are reviewing.

Based on the size of your marketing piece, I’d have at least a  3/8” or 1/2” minimum border around the page. See the samples below.

2. Not Close Enough to the Edge

No, this is not a contradiction of my first rule. On certain items, especially letters, you need to go closer to the edge. Most copy is set flush left/rag right. Sometimes the rag on the right side gives the appearance of too much space. Or you need to fit more text on the page or letter. Set your right side border less than your left side. For example, on a letter set the left margin at 1” and the right margin at 3/4”. Because of the copy rag on the right, the appearance of the border will better match the left border space. See the samples below.

3. Space Between Lines

Also called leading, space between lines is the most important spacing on any marketing piece. Too little space and your letter, brochure, flyer or email will seem dense and difficult to read. I always try to have at least 1pt leading. But on a letter I might have 3pt or 4pt leading. The extra space helps our eyes follow the lines of text. On the other hand, too much leading can make the copy feel like it’s falling apart. Leading is a very subtle element. I’ve had projects in which adding a 1/2 pt made a huge difference in the readability. The challenge is to get the right balance between the size of the copy, the line length and the leading. See the samples below.

Space examplesThe Bottom Line

These are my three top space elements that I’ll look at no matter what the design style. In future posts I’ll give you my next space considerations.

I’ve found through the years a lack of space is usually way more of a problem then too much space. But space is an element that can be used in many different ways, and no design rules are set in stone.

So now you have permission to be spacey — never be afraid to use space.

3 Ways to Make Your Postcards Stand Out

Back in the day (yes, I was a creative back then), prior to cheap 4-Color process printing, you had to find creative, inexpensive ways to get your postcards noticed in the mail. I was the king of using two PMS colors in combination to look as if you had full color, and an expert in paper stocks. Most importantly I learned all I could about printing. Why? Because printing techniques were and are one of the best tools in my creative toolbox.

Back in the day (yes, I was a creative back then), prior to cheap 4-Color process printing, you had to find clever, inexpensive ways to get your postcards noticed in the mail. I was the king of using combinations of two PMS colors to portray full color, and an expert in paper stocks. Most importantly, I learned all I could about printing. Why? Because printing techniques have always been one of the best tools in my creative toolbox.

Today I will discuss three of my favorite printing techniques — when applied to your concept, they can help your postcards stand out.

1. Paper

This is the easiest and one of the most effective ways to make your mail stand out. There are so many paper stocks that will make recipients stop and take a second look at your mail. But in today’s 4-Color world, creatives are not considering paper as much as they should.

Consider an ultra-heavy stock, or even sandwiching two sheets together. Most mail is floppy. If your postcard is the most rigid in a stack of mail, it will receive attention. That few extra seconds your consumers spend investigating will increase your response rate.

moothickpaper
Moo doubled up stock with edge color

You should choose stocks heavier than 16pt — double it up and make it 32pt. Print one side of the sheet, sandwich two sheets together and then trim to size. Printing companies like Moo Cards offer this as a standard option.

Your stock could be particle board on which you can use production techniques like embossing, silk screening or letterpress.

Companies like Ward/Kraft are sandwiching your postcard in plastic. I know, I know: Plastic will increase your postage costs. But not with this product — they’re getting standard postage rates. This card is extremely rigid and has options for punch-out cards and tags.

Ward/Kraft plastic pop-out card
Ward/Kraft plastic covered postcard with pop-out cards

2. Texture

Texture is a wonderful way to make materials stand out. Our fingers are amazingly aware and notice anything that is abnormal. Bumpy, sticky, rubbery surfaces — anything that is not the regular feel of paper.

Use a gloss or matte varnish as a texture for sections of your postcard. Varnishes across the entire piece, like matte or glossy, will not create the unique texture you want. You want gaps for your fingers to distinguish the differences. This will also work for spot UV as well, which can create an even more dramatic effect.

Spot Gloss Varnish
Spot Gloss Varnish from tasteofinkstudios.com

A Fount of Knowledge About Fonts

Get ready, we’re going to get a little geeky here — about fonts. Specifically, OpenType fonts and how they add so much flexibility and readability to any project. What’s even better is that you don’t need the latest designer tools or applications to add interest and impact to your work.

Get ready, we’re going to get a little geeky here — about fonts. Specifically, OpenType fonts and how they add so much flexibility and readability to any project. What’s even better is that you don’t need the latest designer tools or applications to add interest and impact to your work.

Got Microsoft Word? Get set to make everything more professional and legible, while simultaneously adding that “Wow” factor. But first, a brief history of font types:

PostScript Type 1 Fonts

Introduced by Adobe in 1984, PostScript Type 1 fonts are encoded outline font specifications used for professional digital typesetting. They were not widely recognized until Apple came out with its first LaserWriter in 1985 — which at that time had fonts residing IN the printer, using bitmap outlines on the computer in different sizes.

TrueType Fonts

After the introduction and implementation of PostScript Type 1 Fonts, Apple and Microsoft developed an outline standard in the late 1980s that has become the most common format for fonts on both Macs and PCs. This generation of fonts is referred to as TrueType Fonts. TrueType Fonts improved upon PostScript Type 1 Fonts by giving developers better control of how their fonts are displayed at all font sizes.

OpenType Fonts

And finally, OpenType Fonts were developed in the early 1990s. OpenFonts improved upon TrueType Fonts by increasing readability, facilitating different writing systems more effectively, and even adding typography tricks! (That’s the simple description. The geeky one is you’ll have more powerful typographic formatting and simpler font management, with better cross-platform support and portability.)

Of course, you knew that already, right? So check out this animated GIF below, detailing some of the features of OpenType fonts:

Play with the above Demo at Ricardo Magalhães Blog
Play with the above Demo at Ricardo Magalhães Blog
  • Ligatures: Simply stated, a ligature occurs where two or more letters are joined as a single glyph. Why use them? They help keep letters from overlapping and can really improve legibility.
  • Oldstyle and Lining Numerals: The default in almost all fonts is aligning numbers perfectly with each other, which works very well in charts, spreadsheets or anywhere math is involved. But there are some Oldstyle fonts with a default perfect for if you are just using numbers within normal text. Why care? You can now choose which number format to use in any font. Lining numbers tend to stand out in body text because they all stand tall like capital letters. Oldstyle numbers look more like upper and lower case characters, creating a more blended appearance within the text. This is one of my favorite benefits of OpenType fonts, as they improve readability and aesthetics. In an earlier post — “3 Type Facts You Don’t Know, But Should“ — I explain both ligatures and Oldstyle numbers in much more detail if you would like to learn more.
  • Contextual and Stylistic Alternatives: Think of these as accessorizing your fonts, like adding cool jewelry to your type with extra letters and swooshes.
  • Fractions: Now you can choose to use true fractions actually designed for the font, instead of squishing numbers together separated by a solidus. A definite plus for look and readability.
  • Ordinals: In the same way as fractions, ordinal characters are designed for the font rather than programmatically created, increasing legibility.

Remember, these added features are only found in OpenType fonts. This means when purchasing any new fonts, it is important to pay attention: TrueType fonts are still sold. Make sure you are buying an OpenType font.

Flaunt Your Fonts

Ready to get in touch with your inner type-geek? Study this tutorial by Magpie Paperworks first on how to turn on these extras in Microsoft Word.

Whatever the project may be, OpenType fonts could make the difference between so-so and so much more impressive.

The Correct Way to Correct

Why is the Design Guy bringing up proofreading marks? Because it’s a way to quickly and accurately mark up layouts with changes, and when you use universal symbols, you avoid unnecessary confusion.

Back in the day when I was attending Parsons, we had a class with a short, buttoned-up gentleman who wore a suit. I wish I could remember his name, but his persona made more of an impression than his name. Plus, I’m terrible at remembering names.

He taught us how to create mechanicals:

  • How long a crop mark is supposed to be (half an inch).
  • How far away from the page (1/8 inch, 1/4 inch if it had to bleed).
  • Registration and bleed marks placement and much more.

Information that today’s young creatives don’t know. All they need to do is check a box that says add all marks.

He also taught us how to mark up type manuscripts for a typesetter and how to edit copy and layout using the correct marks — proofreading marks. And, he tested us on these marks. That’s what I’m going to talk about today: proofreading marks. Using these marks makes editing faster and clearer for all involved.

Proofreading Symbols
Downloadable 4-page Copy Editing and Proofreading Symbols PDF

So why is a creative guy bringing this up? Because it’s a way to quickly and accurately mark up layouts with changes. Many times we’ve gotten revisions from clients that were not clear and confusing. Using proper proofreading symbols is a way to clear up many of the changes. They are universal and all should know and use them.

At Least Know the First Dozen

I know, I know … four pages of these marks. OMG. I’m not looking for people to become professional proofreaders. That takes a certain personality that I’m sure most of us are not. But, at least learn the first dozen. These are used all the time.

Test Yourself

Want to lean these marks in a fun way? The site Quizlet.com has fun pages that will help teach and test you. Take the Scatter test and see how fast you can go. Yup, it’s timed. See if you can beat your colleagues.

Because I learned these back in the day when we had to do everything by hand, they are pretty ingrained. No matter whether you’re a Millennial, Gen X or Baby Boomer, proofreading marks are a must know.

Last Line of Marked Up Text

Look! Up in the Sky! It’s Your Next Big Idea…

It’s peak stargazing week, with the Perseid Meteor Shower set for its best show in 20 years. Which is the perfect time to imagine what’s out there, and brush up on your brainstorming abilities. After all, finding bright ideas that stand out from others can make you a star, too.

Perseids 2012
Perseid Shower Radiant: Image shows several Perseid meteors — eight in all if you look closely for faint ones. Image courtesy of Paul Beskeen Astrophotography

It’s peak stargazing week. The Perseid Meteor Shower set for its best show in 20 years, which is the perfect time to imagine what’s out there, and brush up on your brainstorming abilities. After all, finding bright ideas that stand out from others can make you a star, too.

So where do you look? How can spot them, or spark a few of your own?

Break Out Your Telescopes

By that, I mean look at problems with a different lens. Ideally, one with a long-range view. Too often when faced with a marketing challenge, we only see what’s right in front of us. Many will fixate on small details, forgetting that most customers aren’t so focused on BRCs, Pantone Matching System (PMS) colors or the metrics of SEO. (All of which are important, but first things first! Think bigger.)

Example: A creative director colleague — Jon Harcharek — was developing a campaign for Café Bustelo. Popular among Latino Americans, the brand wanted to attract a broader audience but worried they’d compromise its “authenticity” by advertising on English-speaking stations.

Cafe Bustelo adHarcharek’s solution: Air the same ad on all networks, Hispanic or otherwise. Those watching Telemundo saw promotions in their native tongue. Anglo viewers were surprised to see a Spanish-speaking commercial break during Breaking Bad, but early adopters were curious and sought out the “new” coffee at supermarkets.

See The Possibilities

Our ancestors saw bulls, rams and scorpions in the sky. One of them probably said, “This may sound crazy, but that looks like a lion to me.”

There may have also been a department manager who said “No, they’re just dots. Get back to work.” The point is to make indirect connections, not just straight-line conclusions. Look beyond the first right answer. And during the idea-generation stage, avoid “no-it-alls” — those who say no to every imaginative thought.

Think like Aristotle: As one of the world’s first astronomers, he believed “When you ask a dumb question, you get a smart answer.” Which inspired more great thinkers to ask “Why have we always done it that way?” It’s the elementary questions followed up by a dozen more penetrating ones that often yield results.

Whether you’re asking clients “Is this really the smartest way to spend your marketing budget” or “Why can’t this mailing look like it came from the government?” it’s okay to be dumb sometimes. Like a fox.

Kansas Tree SurveySeek other intelligent life: Give your initial idea to someone else and see where it goes. At my agency, we call that “brain-chaining” where another creative person takes ownership of a concept and builds on it. Then another “trained brain” might twist it, rearranging headlines or graphic design.

Try This Exercise

At the beginning of a brainstorm meeting, have everyone write down their first thoughts on a 3”x 5” index card. Just a sentence or simple sketch. Then collect the cards, shuffle and hand them out again. Whatever you get, your job is to make them better. Improvise. Suggest a different way to execute it.  There are NO bad ideas. Yet you’ll be surprised how many good ones happen.

The heavens are limitless, but your timeframe shouldn’t be: Like this week’s meteor showers, you only have a small moment when the stars and moons align. Brainstorms are the same way. They’re actually more productive when you give yourself a deadline.

So look up. Keep your eyes wide open, and explore while you can. Your wishes just might come true!