"May I help you?"  


If there ever was a sentence on automatic pilot, "May I help you" is it. It even has an automatic pilot response: "No thanks, I'm just looking". 


I'd even venture to say that if you're in retail and you use "May I help you?" often, that you don't take your job seriously. Why? Because you could say just about anything else and sound more sincere -- "Hi, have you ever been in before?"; "Welcome, you look like someone in need of a [product] ?"; "Hey, thanks for coming in!"; and so on. 


It reminds me of just how important it is to avoid all types of communication cliches. Just because lots of other folks are doing it, does not make it right, smart, or effective.  




Have you visited the Ideabook.com Design Store lately? 



Meet illustrator Erwin Kho


I point you to Erwin Kho because, first, his illustrations are beautiful, and second because his illustrations are absolutely unique. I just haven't seen anything like them and it's exciting when someone, out of the blue, takes you somewhere you've never been. 


In case you're curious, from what I've read, the tool he uses is Cinema 4D, a program we talked about last year (below). 


Example 1... Here


Example 2... Here


Example 3... Here


Erwin Kho's portfolio... Here


And his blog... Here


The Cinema 4D website... Here



Inspirational graphic design is often nothing more than recasting the familiar

Watch how artist Berndnaut Smilde made a compelling image by simply changing the context within which we normally see clouds. I love it. Next time you're in need of inspiration, try recasting the familiar. 


Thanks to Diane Cooke-Tench for pointing us to it. 


Example 1... Here


Example 2... Here


Example 3... Here


Berndnaut Smilde also recreated the facade of a building in Askeaton, Wisconsin in a town in Ireland of the same name. He says, "The idea is that if the Google Photocar will come by (it was recently seen in Limerick city), this image will be picked up, and the building will simultaneously exist in both Askeatons."... 


The front is here... Here


The projects described... Here


If you don't know Diane Cook-Tench, check in here... Here



What are the most popular typefaces?



Why graphic designers should pay attention to research and trends

Market research is useful though it is typically very general or highly specific and, therefor, not as useful or easily applied as the marketing research you might conduct for a client. But that doesn't mean there isn't plenty to be learned. Research points to trends, and if nothing else, an awareness of trends can keep you from heading off down the wrong roads. 


Don't get me wrong, following trends is sometimes exactly the oposite of what you want to do. But the more information you have, the better you can navigate the terrain. 


Here, in case you're new to the process, are some examples of the vast research available for the looking. 


From GfK: TechTalk, a newsletter covering technology trends and opinions... Here


From TNS: A study of online behaviors... Here


From Pew Research: Facebook social networking habits... Here


From TrendWatching.com: The current briefing... Here


The state of web design in 2012


I've thought a lot about web design this year and I see signs that we are returning to some tried and true ways of thinking. 


By that I mean we seem to be returning to formats that lead readers through material the way the author thinks they are best navigated. Why? Because, slowly but surely, the reader-driven, you-decide-everything approach is proving to be inefficient and ineffective. 


Instead offering many choices to address every possible reader scenario, we're seeing some designs fall back to a more linear model where the reader relies on the author to show the way. I'm not saying it is totally old school - user interfaces still offer lots of choices - I'm saying that (in many cases) authors are choosing to put information in the context they believe the reader will best understand rather than throwing it all out there and asking the reader to find their way through it. 


To that end I suggest reading Jeffrey Zeldman's Web Design Manifesto 2012. It talks about his approach to simplifying design. It is not, obviously, a definitive answer, but it's certainly a conversation worth having. 


Zeldman's Web Design Manifesto 2012... Here


An interview with Jeffrey Zeldman from .net... Here 

For some other examples of how Zeldman's thinking is playing out, visit his Happy Cog website... Here



A new direct mail option graphic designers (and their clients) need to know about


In case you missed it the United States Postal Service recently introduced a program for local advertisers called Every Door Direct Mail (EDDM). I spent some time recently researching it for a client that is offering EDDM as a service and I thought it was worth mentioning to other designers. 


The elevator story is it allows you to target specific neighborhoods (mail routes) and to deliver printed pieces to "every door" in that neighborhood without a street address and for a very reasonable rate - just 14.5 cents per mailbox - well below the cost of any other type of mailpiece. (The cost of printing is, of course, additional.) The only catch is that the sender must deliver the bulk, printed pieces to the local post office (or via Priority Mail). 


This is good news for small businesses that want to target very specific, local areas and reach them on a shoestring. The link below is to Click2Mail.com (my client), but (in the interest of full disclosure) there are others who also specialize in printing EDDM pieces, preparing the necessary paperwork, and shipping bulk pieces to the sender - ready for dropping off at the post office. 


If you'd like a sample of the printing quality, send an email with your name, company, and street address to [email protected] and ask for the "EDDM sample Chuck Green mentioned". 


This is my client's page describing Every Door Direct Mail... Here 


And a product sheet that describes the process (2MB PDF)... Here


And layout specifications (448KB PDF)... Here 



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My new favorite typeface: Alright Sans


I've have lots of favorite typefaces - Slippy, Minion, Myriad, Trajan, Giza, Griffith Gothic, and so on - but I found another to add to the list. It's from Jackson Cavanaugh and Okay Type and its name is Alright Sans. 


Alright Sans strikes me one of those faces that effortlessly reflects the style you pair it with. It is, to me, a 2012 substitute of something versatile and authoritative like Franklin Gothic. 


An example of Jackson Cavanaugh's lettering prowess... Here


Alright Sans... Here


A detailed specimen of Alright Sans (505KB PDF)... Here


The Okay Blog... Here


You can purchase it on MyFonts.com... Here


A web version of Alright Sans can be licensed through WebType.com... Here


Graphic designers: Now that we have tools to do anything, what shall we do?

To paraphrase John Lasseter, the Chief Creative Officer of Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios says, the tools don't create anything, it's all about what the creative person does with them. 


Here's one example of where design and animation might be headed: back to good, old-fashioned storytelling. Ryan Woodrich, a well-know animator with an impressive Hollywood resume has created the first animated graphic novel: Bottom of the Ninth. 


It reminds me that communicating in ways an audience already understands and then ratcheting it up to the next level is a valid way forward. Here's the question: What is the next level of the thing you are most successful doing?  


A preview of Bottom of the Ninth... Here


The project website includes a look at some of the many pieces... Here


Another of Ryan Woodward's pieces: Thought of You... Here


Woodward's resume... Here


John Lasseter discusses "the tools"... Here


About this newsletter

I try to remain as objective as possible about the information I share here. Unless I tell you otherwise, I receive no compensation from the organizations and people mentioned except for occasional product samples. I am an affiliate of Lynda.com and MyFonts.com -- that means, if you purchase something from them, I get a small commission. Comments? Suggestions? Write me at [email protected] -- Chuck Green