MWL'16 - Image courtesy of Marketing Week

What I learnt from Marketing Week Live ’16

It’s a fair trek, London and back in a day – especially from Cannock.  I made the trip south to visit Marketing Week Live ’16 – a two day event held at Olympia that I previously attended back in 2013.  It’s described as the leading event on the calendar for marketers in the UK and a few things occurred to me during a jam-packed day of presentations, training sessions and shuffling from exhibitor to exhibitor, so I figured I’d share them here.

1. Marketing’s all about data in 2016

Most marketers worth their salt would read this and think “It’s always been about data” or certainly it has been for several years.  But the recurring theme – regardless of whose presentation you were watching – was that extracting data from any marketing activity is crucial if you want to truly understand that activity’s effectiveness.  It’s hardly rocket science – if you place an advert in a magazine and you get a surge in sales, you can reasonably assume the advert has been successful and you’ll run it again.  Conversely, if it doesn’t trigger any additional sales then it’s hardly likely to be a marketing activity you’ll repeat.

Waldstein @ MWL16But it’s clear that marketers are getting more savvy.  Whether it was Paul Mitchell & Rebekah Miller of trnd discussing branded communities, David Chalmers of Cvent outlining the blueprint for successful event marketing or Thiago Oliveira of E-goi telling us about multi-channel e-mail marketing (aided by his intriguing presentation character Waldstein – the gruesome lovechild of Einstein and Wally of Where’s Wally fame!), data was high on everyone’s agenda.

Insight is crucial.  And there’s so much can be automated these days that you can make incredibly well-informed decisions about your next marketing campaign.  If you’re not already using data to drive marketing activity in your business, you should be.  If you’re not sure where to start, I can help – get in touch for a free 1 hour consultation.

2. Quirky rules ok at exhibitions

The award for the coolest stand at this year’s event goes to The Headshot Guy, whose free professional headshot for anyone who wanted one not only provided hundreds, if not thousands, of visitors with the aforementioned headshots, but gave us all a chuckle as we pulled our best business poses while a queue of strangers watching on laughed – only to the realise they were next!  I’d be amazed if they came away from Marketing Week Live ’16 with less than 1,000 new e-mail addresses on their database, and I’ve already had a couple of follow-up e-mails which shows they’re getting their digital marketing right.

3. Next time, wear in-soles!

Ok, I can’t level this criticism squarely at Marketing Week Live ’16 –  it was standing room only on my train from Birmingham New Street to London Euston (despite me having reserved a seat – I couldn’t get anywhere near it until 40 minutes into the journey, thanks Virgin!).  But having scheduled a full day of presentations, many of them back-to-back but in different locations within the conference hall, the whole day was pretty breathless and, after a while, painful as well.  Cramming so much information into a day’s schedule looked terrific on paper, but practically speaking, if you don’t want to be stood up all day, you had to leg it to the next presentation as soon as the one you were watching finished in the (often vain) hope there’d be a spare seat left.  By the end of the day, my legs were in bits, and nothing’s quite so deflating at a conference as arriving at the presentation you wanted to attend more than any other with your feet killing, only to discover it’s standing room only in the walkways around the theatre where you’ll struggle to hear every third word the speaker says!

4. In some ways, less is more, but in others it’s not!

Following on from my previous point – many of the presentations were so bite-sized there was barely any useful information or practical advice to glean from them.  Halving the number of presentations but doubling their length to allow speakers to get ‘under the hood’ of the topic at hand would provide far better value, in my opinion, not to mention cut down on the amount of dashing around like the proverbial fly with the blue posterior!

At this point, it would be remiss of me not to mention there was a centre stage programme of events with keynote speakers from the likes of John Lewis, Moneysupermarket, Spotify, Marie Curie and lots more.  But frankly, following Marketing Week Live’s decision to charge an exorbitant amount for admission to centre stage (back in 2013 it was free and we had terrific deliveries from the likes of Facebook, Daigeo and Twitter, among others), I wasn’t prepared to pay for this after travel and lunch/refreshments had already set me back around £150.

It was noticeable that Marketing Week Live ’16 was in a much smaller conference room compared with 2013’s event, held in the Grand Hall at Olympia.  A quick scan of Olympia’s website shows the difference in capacity being some 8,000 persons!  While I found the event worthwhile attending, during the day itself it was hard to escape the nagging feeling that this was an event in decline and I found myself deliberating why that might be…

5. Are promotional items dying a death?

Thinking back to Marketing Week Live ’13, much of the Grand Hall in Olympia was taken up by promotional item vendors.  I must have returned with several carrier bags full of mugs, pens, notepads, cleaning wipes for iPhones and enough brochures for a week-long barbecure!  This year, they were virtually non-existent.  I think maybe I saw three or four, but that was it.  Working on the assumption that Marketing Week canvassed its readers as to what exhibitors they wanted to see at the event, it would appear that marketers are viewing branded merchandise and giveaway items as a bit old hat these days.

From my point of view, I’ve never spent big money on promotional items wherever I’ve worked.  The odd batch of pens, the occasional box of mugs, but little more than that – I want to spend my marketing budget in areas where I can clearly see the return on investment, be that an increase in sales leads, social media following, inbound enquiries or brand awareness.  Promotional merchandise, for me, does little other than assist brand awareness.

 

So, that’s my two-penneth after attending Marketing Week Live ’16.  Were you there?  What did you think?  What was the most useful piece of information you took from the event?

Marketing in your car

Marketing in your car podcast

Ok, I confess, I’m not keeping the CWDmedia site as updated as I should.  Kinda embarrassing given my day job’s website is kept constantly up to date without too much trouble!  Encouragingly though, the neglect of the CWDmedia site is principally down to being busy tackling a string of really cool commissions for a mix of new and existing clients.

The reason I decided to pen this blog, however, is to share a podcast I’ve been listening to a lot of recently by a chap across the pond called Russell Brunson.  If you can get past the awfully cheesy but annoyingly catchy jingle, the 200+ episodes of his Marketing in your Car podcast is full of really great content that’s as applicable to business owners and entrepreneurs as it is to sales and marketing folk.

Find it here: www.marketinginyourcar.com

Emma Scott Presents... / Pluggin' Baby | CWDmedia

CASE STUDY: Emma Scott Presents… / Pluggin’ Baby

Emma Scott is a radio presenter turned live music promoter and manager turned author and radio plugger.  Well known for her popular shows on both Kerrang! and latterly Heart FM, her time as a live music promoter saw her work alongside major selling artists (such as The Automatic, Skunk Anansie, Therapy?, Ben Folds Five and Sylosis) and up-and-coming underground bands alike, leading to a spell managing The Whiskey Syndicate.  Since diversifying into writing, Emma has published two ‘self-help’ style books for aspiring bands – ‘Break Your Band’ and ‘If It Was My Band‘.  Her newest venture, Pluggin’ Baby, has seen her assist numerous artists with gaining commercial and independent radio airplay.

Challenges faced:

Emma Scott Presents… hosted as many as eight live gigs a month across Birmingham, Wolverhampton and Stourbridge in the West Midlands.  To support the promotion of each show and to build the Emma Scott Presents… brand, an impactful and instantly recognisable design for flyers and posters was required, and the turnaround of designs for the shows needed to be fast.  Often performing artists would provide poor quality logos, so the designs needed to overcome this while retaining a look and feel that reflected the quality of the brand.

Logo and stationery design was required for the launch of the Pluggin’ Baby brand.  The logo had to reflect both the radio airplay aspect and the typical rock n’ roll nature of Pluggin’ Baby’s expected clients.

How CWDmedia helped:

CWDmedia effectively interpreted the brief to consistently produce eye-catching flyer and poster designs for Emma Scott Presents… shows for several years, adhering to branding guidelines set out by the venues in use.  In this time the style of the design was refined to freshen up and strengthen the brand and increase interest in the shows themselves.  On the occasions where bands supplied sub-standard logo files, CWDmedia recreated them to large format print quality standards.  Some 150+ events were designed for in total.

After developing a strong and productive working relationship with the client, CWDmedia was later approached to create the logo and cover artwork for the ‘Break Your Band’ book and the brand identity for Pluggin’ Baby.  Business stationery including business cards and compliments slips followed, and CWDmedia liaised with Emma Scott’s website partner to supply graphic elements suitable for web use.

Emma Scott said: “For anything involving graphic design, I contact CWDmedia.  Business cards, compliments slips, flyers, you name it – Steve has designed it for me.  I love his work – it’s always top-notch and done with a smile.  He’s down to earth, polite, friendly and professional.  I’ve lost count how many years we’ve worked together, but it’s a long time – and I don’t see this ending soon.  I’ve found that once you have found someone you trust and work well with, it’s always best to stick with them!  Build the right team around you and you will go far! His rates are great and he’s now a good mate – long may that continue!”

Emma Scott Presents... flyers | CWDmediaServices provided (design and print):

  • Flyers & posters
  • Website graphics
  • Corporate stationery (business cards, compliments slips)
  • Logo designs
  • Social networking site graphics
  • Flyers & posters
  • Magazine adverts
  • Web adverts
  • Roller banners
Links
Martyr de Mona | CWDmedia

CASE STUDY: Eagle Two Records

Eagle Two Records is an independent record label that was set up to cater for the management and PR of UK-based rock band Martyr de Mona. It is an all-inclusive record label and management company that manages every aspect of an artists’ requirements from booking studios & concerts to handling all releases of music & video and liaising with external booking agents and PR companies on the bands behalf.

Challenges faced:

Eagle Two Records needed a complete graphic design package to advertise and promote Martyr de Mona’s ‘Impera’ album release to industry standards and set a brief for the supply of a professional, high quality album cover along with supporting merchandise and advertising designs.

How CWDmedia helped:

CWDmedia worked closely with Eagle Two Records and Martyr de Mona to provide full album artwork including a roll out 8-page sleeve which included images, photography & calligraphy text. In addition, CWDmedia produced a full suite of advertising designs for social media and physical flyers to aid the marketing effort supporting the album’s release.

Chris Hale, owner of Eagle Two Records, said: “CWDmedia was a pleasure to work with and was able to carry out the complete brief with a focus on cooperating with the label and the band in artistic terms whilst offering expert advise and maintaining a professional approach. CWDmedia delivered top quality designs to a deadline and at an affordable rate. We couldn’t have asked for more.”

Martyr de Mona - Impera - CWDmediaServices provided (design and print):

  • CD cover & 8-page booklet design
  • Website graphics
  • Social networking site graphics
  • Flyers & posters
  • Magazine adverts
  • Apparel design (t-shirts & hoodies)
  • Web advert designs
Links
Steve Braund and Farmer Phil

What a weekend at Farmer Phil’s Festival!

Well that was some weekend!  As the dust starts to settle in the sleepy folds of the Shropshire countryside, a couple of thousand live music enthusiasts (myself included) are reflecting on a terrific weekend at Farmer Phil's Festival.  I can honestly say that's the first time I've ever seen a field full of people jumping up and down, generally going bananas to a song called 'Portaloo'!

Sadly I only made it to the final day of this year's event, arriving only to find that I'd missed all the action, including Farmer Phil himself arriving on site on Saturday by paragliding in from the Long Mynd (this after turning his ankle on Friday night) and then upping the ante by flying in on Sunday by gyrocopter, narrowly avoiding the electricity lines overhead!

I did arrive in time to watch a triumphant set from The Bar Steward Sons of Val Doonican which was every bit as bizarre as it was entertaining and funny, while "Rock n' Roll's Greatest Failure" Jon Otway was just plain bizarre for the most part and as for Lost the Plot, well their name is delightfully apt but what good fun they were too.

What struck me the most, though, was the terrific atmosphere throughout the festival site.  Everybody relaxing, enjoying the weather, the surroundings and the wide variety of live music on offer, not to mention the excellent cuisine laid on by a plethora of vendors.

I felt immensely proud on Sunday to have played a part (albeit a small one) in the success of this year's festival through the re-design of the Farmer Phil's Festival website, and I'm looking forward to bringing news of next year's event as and when it's released.

Rock n' roll!

 

The Bar Steward Sons of Val Doonican

8 things you need to know when starting in business

8 things you need to know about starting your own business

A lot of us fantasise about sticking it to the man, knocking the day job on the head and starting our own business. The idea of being your own boss is seductive and most of us will have thought about it at one time or another, indeed for some of us it’ll be something we dream about daily.

So if you’ve been dreaming about the ideals of going it alone, what do you actually need to do in order to turn it into a reality? There’s much to consider, and the decision to wave goodbye to the guaranteed monthly income of your day job is a big one. In truth, it’s something I’ve never had the bottle to do myself, although I’m lucky enough to really enjoy my day job and the work I do there complements the freelance work I do through CWDmedia.

But I got to thinking. If I was to go full-time with CWDmedia, how would I go about it? How different would it be to running the business part time like I do now? So I did some research. A lot of research, actually, and found plenty of good advice mixed in with a lot of flannel. So here’s my eight steps to starting your own business. This isn’t a bible, I’m not Richard Branson, and if you’re thinking of giving it a try then you should certainly do your own research as well, but this quick and simple guide should help you – it’s certainly helped me.

1. Get an idea (a good one)

It doesn’t have to be an original idea – I wasn’t the first graphic designer on the scene and I won’t be the last. But you should definitely come up with an idea that a) suits your skill set, b) fills a gap in the market, and perhaps most importantly c) will provide you with sufficient income that you can still pay your bills – if not immediately then within a realistic period of time.

2. Decide on a name

Not as easy as it sounds. Speaking as somebody who, along with three other musicians, couldn’t decide what to call our band for over six months, believe me when I say this isn’t always straightforward! You For a start, you want to be sure you’ll like the name in five years’ time. Make sure it isn’t too long winded unless you’re happy to abbreviate it with an acronym that rolls off the tongue – nobody wants to be constantly answering the phone saying “Good morning, British Broadcasting Corporation” when “BBC” works succinctly. Alternatively, a good rule of thumb is the fewer syllables the better.

3. Have a plan

To quote Daniel Craig in Layer Cake, “have a plan and stick to it”. It’s extremely important you spend time putting together a cohesive business plan. Not only will it serve as your route map when you put your wheels in motion, but it will be vital if you decide you need to secure funding from the bank or a private investor to help you expand further down the line.

4. Branding

Xtreme Fitness, Cumbria
Image courtesy of Xtreme Fitness, Cumbria

Too many people believe that a company’s brand starts and finishes with its logo. Wrong. Getting your logo right IS massively important, but the corporate colours in your logo should be carried throughout everything else you, from your business card to your brochure, your website to your workwear. Your brand is your identity to the outside world, so make it count. Enlist the help of an able graphic designer (nudge nudge, cough cough) and have them look after everything from your signage to your letterheads. This way you guarantee consistency across everything you put in the public eye. A great example of this is the Xtreme Fitness gym in Cumbria. They came to me a few years ago, before the gym had opened, looking for logo and leaflet designs. When it came to kitting out the gym, all the equipment was branded with their logo and corporate colours so when a customer walks in they see a really strong and impressive brand. The rest is history – within 18 months Xtreme Fitness was voted the number one gym in the UK by users of GymBuzz and it continues to go from strength to strength.

>> Looking for a graphic designer, or someone to provide sound advice on building your brand? I can help – get in touch today.

5. Marketing

Once you’ve got your brand sorted, you can start to think about how you’ll take your product or service to market. Who are you selling to? What are they looking for? What challenges are they facing in their jobs? How can you help them? Who are your competitors? What do they charge for the same products or services? How are your products or services different? Why should your customers buy from you and not your competitors? How should I promote my business and my products or services? What should my message(s) be?

These are just some of the questions you need to have answers for if you’re serious about making an impact, and they’ll require some research before you can answer them comprehensively. One things for sure though, you’ll certainly need a website. If I get a call from somebody trying to sell me something, the first thing I’ll do is check out their website. If they haven’t got one, the alarm bells start ringing!

6. Accounting

You’ve probably heard of Sage accounting software. Well here’s a tip – check out www.quickfile.co.uk. It’s free, and really easy to use. You can send quotes, invoices, payment reminders, link it to your business bank account, and loads more besides. You can even use their smartphone app to photograph your receipts while you’re on the move to ensure your expenses get logged.
Stay on top of your transactions and keep them logged as you go to avoid the headache of re-tracing your steps the week before the tax submission deadline!
Should you decide to hire an accountant to organise your end of year accounts, you should ensure they are qualified in ACA, ACCA or CIMA. You’ll also need to register the business with the HMRC.

7. Open a business bank account

Having a business bank account makes your accounting much simpler further down the line, saving you time and money, particularly if you elect to appoint an accountant to organise your end of year accounts for you. It also makes it easier for you to borrow money from the bank, should you need to in future.

8. Create a fanfare

How are you going to launch your business? Just because your website goes live, it doesn’t mean you’ll suddenly be inundated with enquiries – generally it takes a while. But you want business straight away, right? So you need to create a pre-launch buzz. Get on social media. Engage a reputable PR company who understands your business, your market AND is well connected with key publications through which exposure of your brand can drive traffic your way. Is it worth considering an introductory offer to encourage customers to spend?

Hopefully the above points have given you some food for thought. Remember, if you need help with branding, graphic design or marketing, I can help – get in touch today!

Top 10 Reasons your Business NEEDS a Website

Before I start, yes - I know this is 2015 and not 1995... the benefits of having a website for your business should be apparent to most people.  Amazingly, I find some companies I talk to still think a website isn't necessary for their business and that they've "managed alright without one so far".

To them, I say this: you're wrong!  There are umpteen reasons why, if you don't have a website, you NEED to get one.  And the same goes for those of you who do have a website if it's five years old or more.

Here's my top ten reasons why YOUR business NEEDS a website:

1.  24/7 coverage

When you lock up at the end of the day and head home for a well-earned rest, your website is still online showcasing your products and/or services and selling the benefits of your business to potential customers.  With more people viewing websites on the move with smartphones and tablets than ever before, it's a no-brainer!

2.  Business perception

If you look the business, think the business and act the business, people will think you're the business.  NEVER underestimate the importance of your image - nobody wants to buy from a website that looks like a five year old did it (no disrespect to five year olds!).

3.  Yourname@mywebsite.co.uk

As much as you may like your mrtickle69er@yahoo.com e-mail address, you'll be taken far more seriously with an address that originates from the same domain as your website.

4. It's your online brochure

It's great having a snazzy, professionally designed brochure.  Ok, I'm bound to say that as I've designed loads of them for many different clients.  But one area your website can succeed where your brochure may struggle is in personality.  Everything from the subjects you blog about to the way you talk about your products or services and the tone of voice you use throughout.  People buy from people, and your website provides a wonderful platform to show that not only do you do great work, but you're human like the rest of us as well.  Oh, and you can update your online brochure anytime, which you can't with a printed version!

5. Downloadable content

Want to grow your mailing list?  What simpler way than to provide your visitors with useful, meaningful content?  Ask them to provide you with a few details in exchange via a simple form and hey presto - your mailing list will expand before your eyes.  And better yet, they're all opted in so it's fine to send them promotional mailshots!

6. Market reach

As soon as your website goes live, it's accessible to anyone around the world connected to the Internet.  There could be a market for your work somewhere you least expected it, and your website is your gateway to finding it... or it finding you.

7. Establish credibility

Similar to point (2).  A well-structured and beautifully designed website, coupled with quality, meaningful content will define you as an authority in your field and result in business coming to you, reducing the amount of time you need to go out and find it.  Post enough useful content and you can even influence the market(s) you operate in!

8. Promote your offline presence

Even if you don't sell your products or services online, you can bet your last fiver that people will still be searching for them online.  Think about it - if you're looking for a plumber, do you still reach for the Yellow Pages?  Of course you don't - you probably go straight to Google like the rest of us.  A website is essential for picking up that business, even if someone is just looking for a number in order to give you a call.

9. Good customer service

Tired of answering the same questions from different customers all the time?  A Frequently Asked Questions section enables you to provide this information up front, putting your customers in a position where they're ready to make an informed purchase.  You can provide loads of information on all kinds of topics, all of which will reduce your customer service costs too - bonus!

10. Press releases/news

We live in an instant world.  When I was growing up, I was told "today's news is tomorrow's fish and chips paper".  These days, today's news is today's fish and chip paper... or at least it would be, if it wasn't for more and more people consuming their news online.  Take advantage of this and publish your latest business news on your website.  Circulate it to local, regional, national and industry press and let it drive the traffic back to you... then just wait for the phone to ring!

As I said at the start of this piece, there are many many reasons why you NEED your own website and those listed above are just a small selection.  If you don't have a website for your business yet, my question to you is: why wait?

 

Get a website quote today!

If you'd like me to design a website for you, get in touch and let's get started!

Printing Glossary

All the jargon used in the printing world can be confusing. So here’s a breakdown of the most common terms you’ll need an appreciation of whether you’re a designer just starting out or a marketeer providing your agency with a job spec.

‘A Series’ Paper

The standard system for paper sizes (A5, A4, A3 etc), using these measurements always ensures that paper is cut proportionately and to industry standards.

Bleed

The colours you have on your design literally bleed over an extra 3-10mm around your design layout to allow for cutting. This also makes sure no part of the design sits too dangerously close to the edges.  If you want a colour, or an image going right to the edge of your design, you use a bleed area so those elements ‘bleed off the page’.  If you don’t use a bleed area, you risk a thin white stripe running down an edge if the printer hasn’t quite lined up his cut accurately.  The bleed area is quite literally a margin for error!

CMYK

Refers to the 4 basic colours used in colour printing; Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Key (black). Mixing CMY inks results in black but sometimes doesn’t result in true black, so K is added.

Foil Finish

Adds a metallic finish to a specified area of your finished work to help make your logo or design stand out.

Folds

There are many ways to fold your designs and these all have to be thought about before going to print. Go for a standard half fold or three fold where the paper is folded to sit on top of each other when closed. Or opt for the Z fold, which allows your document stand upright thanks to its ‘Z’ shape (like a menu). Remember – print area guides are needed for folds too.

Gloss Laminated Finish

A very shiny finish that can be added single or double sided.

Gloss Spot UV Finish

This option allows you to add shiny gloss to specific areas of your work like photos or logos.

JPEG

Is the most commonly used file format for sending pictures. This option is ideal for saving pictures, as it creates the smallest file size for an image but it is known for being ‘lossy’, because it looses some of the original image information in this process.

Kerning

Is the process in typography of adjusting the spacing between characters, so the spaces look even and closer together. In a well-kerned font, the two-dimensional blank spaces between each pair of characters all have a visually similar area.

Leading

Leading or ‘line spacing’ refers to the distance between sentences on a page. You can keep text quite close together or give it a little more space to allow for easier reading.

Lithographic (or Offset) Print

Sometimes abbreviated to ‘litho print’, this is the largescale printing press method ideal for high print quantities. The word comes from the lithographic limestone that was  originally used to print on by the Greeks.  Litho printing also enables you to use specific pantone colours (see below) and utilise gloss or matt finishes for added texture.

Matt Laminate

This finish adds a matte-like feel to your printed work to give that extra feel of quality.

Matt Spot UV

A matt finish card with selected areas highlighted with an additional UV gloss. This gloss look against the matt finish catches the eye and adds that little something extra to your design. It is applied using UV light, which seals the varnish into the card.

Pantones

A system for matching colours, used in specifying printing inks. Always use a Pantone reference when specifying colours to your printer to prevent wrong ones being selected.

PPI

Pixels Per Inch. This is the resolution of your Pixel based image. A computer displays images at 72 pixels per inch but a printer requires much more to produce a high quality image, so printer settings are always higher.

Print area guide

When setting up your document you need to set a print area margin so that nothing is cut off & consistency remains strong. The standard margins are: A4 = 10mm from all sides, A5 = 8mm and A6 = 6mm.  That said, for jobs up to A3 in size, 5mm is generally fine.

RGB

The colours used on computer screens (Red, Green and Blue). This is why colours often look different on computers than what they do on paper (as paper uses CMYK). Bear this in mind when choosing colour palettes for your work.

Serif & Sans Serif

Sounds like something from another language but Sans Serif actually refers to fonts, which have little flicks (or extensions) at the end of each letter (like Times New Roman). Serif refers to fonts without that feature, just rounded off letters (like Arial).

TIFF

A tiff allows you to save larger files without losing image information. You do still have the option to reduce size via LZW compression, which protects the image quality of your work.

Type Point

Type is measured in points (8, 9, 10 etc) the point is measured by the height of the capital ‘H’ letter.

Vector Format

Vector formatting is ideal for printing this is because it always retains the same crisp quality no matter how much it is resized.

Widows and Orphans

Avoid having these in your work. A widow is a paragraph ending line in your document that falls at the beginning of the following page or column. An Orphan is a word or a very short line that appears by itself at the end of a paragraph.

CWDmedia, Skunk Anansie, bleed area

Designing for Print: What is the Bleed Area and why is it Important?

Throughout the whole designing process you have to always think one step ahead. This helps you to minimise the risk of errors in your work. So a crucial factor to always keep in mind, when putting your business card or brochure design together, should be to include an additional bleed area around your work.

What is the bleed area?

Think of the bleed as a protective border around your designed layout. It’s there, so that when the product is cut, all of your important information remains safely within the frame you wanted.

It makes sense to think that if important images and features are positioned near the edge of a layout, there is a risk that they may accidentally get cut off. You don’t want that and neither does the printer.

It is also used to avoid strips of white paper showing on the edges of your print, should the batch be misaligned when cut to size. This is because the ink is allowed an extra space to literally ‘bleed’ over the edges.

Why is it Important?

Somebody clearly had to learn the hard way, at some point, that not having that extra space there, led to some costly mistakes. You don’t want that worry. So that’s why the bleed area was invented, to save clients and printers from major errors and headaches.  It offers you peace of mind, so always use it. It is there to help.

So How Much of a Bleed Area Do I Need to Leave?

3mm is the general recommendation. You can easily add this extra space in applications like Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign.

But if you want to get specific with print area margins, it’s recommended you leave at least 10mm from all sides for A4 documents, 8mm for A5, 6mm for A6 and 4mm for business cards.  Personally though, I’ve always stuck to 5mm on all sides and have never had an issue – most printers I work with only ask for 3mm as a minimum.

To give you an idea of how this extra room will affect your work we recommend you adding a ‘crop mark’ around your design to indicate to yourself and the printing company what the finished product will look like.

The Bleed is there to Help You

These requirements are there not to give us more work but to help minimize stress, so don’t forget to add that breathing space, because that’s exactly what it is.

Photography: Positioning and the Rule of Thirds

When taking photographs we are all aware that there are tricks for getting great shots. Pointing and shooting works for some people but the majority of us are looking for something better than that. That’s where the rules of positioning comes in. But although we call them ‘rules’, they’re not strict, they are guidelines to help you get those great shots you see in magazines, galleries and on mantlepieces.

So what is the rule of thirds?

When you look through your lens, imagine 2 horizontal and vertical lines splitting up the image in front of you. Then try to position your image along these lines.  Why? Because it makes your photographs consistent, professional and definitely more pleasing to the eye.

How to use the rule of thirds?

You can imagine the lines are there for yourself or you can set them up to show as you shoot, on your digital camera for ease.

The horizontal line helps you line up the camera with the landscape in front of you (for example the upper line could line up with the sky and the lower with the ground). And the vertical lines help you determine where to place your subject.

Avoid ‘Mugshots’

You would think a centralised shot of a person would be a great way to shoot a portrait, as it makes it symmetrical, but more often than not it creates more of an uncomfortable ‘mugshot’ style. But by placing your subject off-centre you can create a much more natural image. This also gives you the opportunity to get creative with the surrounding empty space.

Tips for Shooting

  • Like we said before, it’s not about hard rules here. The guidelines don’t have to be perfectly aligned to your image. As long as you get your subject and horizon is close to these lines, you will still get a great shot.
  • If you are going to take a picture of a horizon, try to incorporate another subject into the frame – like a person or a tree. This will act as an anchor for the image and will provide a more interesting focal point.
  • If you are going to try to capture a vertical subject, like a person or building, take it slightly off centre so the image doesn’t appear split down the middle.
  • We are drawn to people’s eyes, so place eyes near one of the intersections of the guidelines.
  • Give a subject ‘breathing space’ when taking a few portrait shots, put them slightly off centre, it’s much more aesthetically pleasing and natural.
  • When doing a close up, it’s also good to provide some empty space. The whole frame does not need to be filled up. As long as you line your subject up with the guidelines, the image will look great.
  • Leave more space in front of moving subjects so that you can capture the direction they are travelling in. Your picture will then be able to tell a story.
  • Even if you didn’t capture the image right in reality, you can still use the rule of thirds when editing. On software like Photoshop, you can use built in crop guide overlays to help you see the lines as you crop.

But by all means play around with your images. The rule of thirds won’t work for everything, experiment with other styles but use it as an idea of how you can make your photos more pleasing to the eye and less conventional.