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Just a thought...

Slick is not always the best marketing approach.

Example: My wife and I made a donation to a charity some time ago and a few months later, received a letter from a real person at the charity that included a couple of photographs of people in the field working with recipients of its fund.

It knocked my socks off.

I don't remember any type of slick response mechanism for making another donation or any gratuitous, heavy-handed sucking up. Just a note of thanks and some useful information.

Compare that to another donation to a different charity that resulted in a seemingly endless parade of slick direct mail pieces using every angle possible to imply a personal connection to us and to get the next check.

Guess who we responded to?

I bring it up because I was reminded today that a slick, polished image is not necessarily good -- or bad. It's the reason brand building and marketing is not a formula equation.

Every approach must be calculated for a specific audience, at a particular time, with a clear understanding of the current circumstances. There is nothing easy about it and there are no guarantees.

Be well,

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315 template files in 19 different categories -- Everything from brochures, newsletters, and direct mail to packaging, calendars, and books (one CD works with both Mac and PC). Use two or three files and you'll pay for the entire book and disc...

For Adobe InDesign... Here 

For QuarkXPress... Here

Restoration Hardware: A distinct, opinionated design and influence

Retailers of housewares and furnishings clearly have an enormous impact on the ever-changing design aesthetic. What people buy is, in large part, the vision of a designer-and the combination of decisions they make regarding functionality, materials, textures, color, and so on. People see a vision they like and adopt it as their own-and I believe graphic design is much the same.

I thought about the importance of such influences when I received the 2013 Restoration Hardware Catalog(s)-five parts, 1300-plus pages, roughly 8 lbs of highly opinionated design. Unlike some mass marketers, RH is not shy about asserting its vision, so much so that I suspect most who see it are either for it or against it.

I don't love it all, but I like lots of it. What intrigues me most about its most recent offerings is the "Objects of Curiosity" catalog. An eclectic collection of accent pieces, sculptures, and such. I don't recall ever seeing anything like it.

Restoration Hardware Objects of Curiosity... Here 

Stephen Gordon founded Restoration Hardware in 1979, "...I put together photocopied catalogues of fittings and fixtures, hung a sign advertising, 'Restoration Hardware,' outside my house, and invited people in to look at binders and order things."...

Stephen Gordon's story... Here 

In 2001 Gary Friedman joined the company and, by at least one account, saved the company from bankruptcy. It would appear that Friedman was the one to cast RH's current creative vision... 
A profile of Friedman from the Wall Street Journal... Here

Another look at Friedman's tenure at Restoration Hardware from the New York Times... Here 

The Restoration Hardware website... Here 

For contrast, this is in the year 2000... Here 

Mark Cuban offers a whopping $600 for a Dallas Mavs uniform design

Wow, here's a new low...

The Dallas Mavs are offering $1000 for the design of a their NBA uniform-$600 for first place and $400 for second.


It is pure exploitation. Hey Mavs, how about asking a bunch of players to play for a season and promise to pay the one who makes the most points a fraction of what you'd normally pay each player?

These folks clearly have no understanding of the research and work that goes into producing an identity. Nor do they respect the need of other professionals to make a reasonable return for their work.

The offer... Here 

Cuban's view of design... Here 

How to save images for the web using PNG and JPEG

I had a discussion recently with another designer about which file formats to use when saving graphics and photographs for websites. As the discussion progressed, I realized that I have adopted ways of saving images over the years, but that it has been a long time since I read anything on the subject.

So I did some looking (to support the way I do it) and I thought I'd share what I found.

I am anxious to hear if this jives with the way you handle it.

Somewhere way back I read that PNG-24 should only be used on rare occasions-it makes big files that don't really buy you anything over JPEGs unless you're dealing with alpha transparency.

Instead, I would typically use JPEG/High/60 for photographs and photographs that include graphics such as text.

Here's Deke McClelland discussing the optimazation of JPEGs... Here 

For straight graphics, such as a logo, I use PNG-8 which is, basically, a replacement for GIF. In this article about PNGs. you'll notice, in his list of "When to use what formats," that the author only favors using PNG-24 over JPEG when he needs to use alpha transparency.

Web Designer's Guide to PNG Image Format by Catalin Rosu... Here 

Finally, Tammy Everts wrote an interesting article for Web Performance Today titled, "Are we optimizing our images like cavemen?" If you're a total design geek, you might what to read through it-she offers some interesting insights.

Everts' article on Web Performance Today... Here 

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Will Yahoo kill Tumblr's brand?

As you probably already know, Yahoo purchased Tumblr this week.

A system like Tumblr is, to my way of thinking, antithetical to a large, mature concern like Yahoo. Why? Because organizations like Tumblr (i.e. early versions of Google, Yahoo, AOL, Flickr, Facebook, MySpace, and so on) were all adopted, in no small part, because they offered a somewhat revolutionary audience something revolutionary to do.

In other words, they were not just good ideas, they were wildly successful because the equipped the people who used them to be different from those around them and ahead of the ever-changing technological curve.

The problem is, by the time or at the time an organization like Tumblr is acquired, it loses that revolutionary aspect of its brand.

I'm not saying the early adopter audience is the only or most important part of the equation but it certainly is crucial to the brand.

Does it make sense for Yahoo to buy Tumblr? Who the heck knows. What we do know is the folks at Yahoo are going to have to figure out a way to make it generate a lot more income than it has to date and that, in itself, brings Tumblr into the mainstream -- exactly the LAST place much of its young, trend-setting audience wants to be.

Meet illustrator Peter Kraemer

Kraemer does an interesting riff on real. You get a sense that you're looking at something real but you know by its warm, slightly gauzy, feel that it is, instead, the artist's impression.

I've read that he started using an airbrush but has graduated to 3D digital. If any of his portfolio is old school.

Example 1... Here 

Example 2... Here 

Example 3... Here 

Kraemer's website... Here 

The illustrator's rep, Bernstein & Andriulli, has a few pieces I didn't see on the artist's site... Here 

Design: "Take things away until you cry."

That's a quotation credited to Frank Chimero, one of many from The Designer Says: Quotes, Quips, and Words of Wisdom researched and edited by Sara Bader. A few more examples:

Vince Frost said, "In hindsight, I think I've always been a designer. I was always inquisitive. Even when I was delivering newspapers I wanted to do it quickly, accurately, and make sure the paper landed on the doorstep in a nice line.

Stephen Doyle is credited with this insight: "I try to staff our studio with people who have curiosity and passion. And you must keep a constant lookout for who you might want to hire next, because often the curiosity of our team leads them on to other things. You can't keep brilliance; you let it shine, and then you have to let it go."

And Paul Rand said, "It is important to use your hands. This is what distinguishes you from a cow or a computer operator."

I found that Bader also speaks through, the mission of which is...

"To preserve the integrity of quotes by confirming their accuracy... Every entry added to this collection--whether published hundreds of years ago or today--is verified and properly sourced."

And, "To gather and expand the inventory of quotable thoughts in our conversations and cultural consciousness so we have fresh material to consider and share."

I particularly appreciate reading the insights of a number of relatively young designers.

Sara Bader's website... Here 

Preview the book here... Here
The book: The Designer Says: Quotes, Quips, and Words of Wisdom edited by Sara Bader... Here 

Bader also publishes a Flickr feed with lots of interesting signage ephemera... Here 

On her website, Bader also points us to an interesting article that discusses the attribution and accuracy of quotations in general... Here 

If you use this link to buy your type from, you won't pay any more but I'll get a kickback and will be one step closer to getting that English manor house. Here 

The graphic design of evil

In his book Iron Fists: Branding the 20th-Century Totalitarian State, author Steven Heller points to four pivotal examples of how design was used to establish and propagate horrific brands for Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, the USSR, and Communist China. Their respective leaders - Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, Joseph Stalin, and Mao Zedong - were directly responsible for the death and/or suffering of hundreds of millions of human beings.

And unfortunately, among the minions of these figures, were many talented designers. My point is simply this: Designers wield enormous power. Though I doubt many of us are thought of as powerful people, we understand the influence of story and image. We know how to present ideas with authority and emotion.

On this Memorial Day, the day the United States of America, remembers the men and women who died while serving in the Armed Forces, I want to remind my design friends around the planet that with talent comes responsibility. Let's pledge to use our talents only for what we personally believe is good.

Steven Heller tracks down the Nazi graphics standards manual... Here

A preview of Iron Fists... Here 

An interview with Heller regarding the book... Here 

Examples of Nazi propaganda... Here
Fascist Italy propaganda... Here
Soviet Communist propaganda... Here 

Chinese propaganda... Here 

When it comes to creative work, price is no gauge of quality

Design, copywriting, photography, illustration, video production, and so on, is ALL about WHO is doing the work--not how much it costs. Hence, it is not out of the realm of possibility to buy the best work for next to nothing or to spend a near-fortune on pablum.

And I mean that in no uncertain terms. When you buy work for branding, advertising, and marketing, you are buying the interest, talent, insight, and experience of the individual--that's why the creative's portfolio of work is so important.

Here's my point: We have entered a time when aggregators are working hard to convince buyers that design is more of a transaction than an interaction. They want buyers to believe that using a middleman is the way to produce high-quality work for a set price.

And they are dead wrong. Creative work always has been and always will be a complex, personal interaction between the sponsor, the artist, and the audience.

So fellow creatives, let not your heart be troubled. Smart buyers will not be fooled, they will learn that to get good work, you must seek out and work with dedicated, talented people who have a passion for the process--and that what it costs is a mere aside.


I just received an email regarding something I ordered...
You know, the standard reply you get when you interact with an organization and its website.

What comes to mind is how often we send messages that never get read. Yet it is tempting to think that if we make a particular point somewhere in the communications stream that we've done what we needed to do.

I look at if very differently. If I want to communicate a message, I know that I'll need to repeat it multiple times and that, even then, just a small fraction of folks will read it.

I think it's important to see all marketing in that context. We know the sum of all the messages we send and that often seems comprehensive, even complete. But the reality is, even the best, most popular firms break through on a very limited basis.
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 and -- that means, if you purchase something from them, I get a small commission. Comments? Suggestions? Write me at [email protected] -- Chuck Green