Making Sense of Some Digital Formats.

With so many acrynoms out there it can be confusing. Here’s an attempt to put some meaning to all those letters.

CMYK – stands for: Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black.
This is the color mode/standard for offset printing. Offset printing is quality color printing – like a brochure, or magazine. This is not the type of thing you print off your laser or ink jet printer. It’s not the type of printing that “Kinkos” does. Cyan, magenta, yellow and black are the actual ink colors used and put on paper. Most everything that is printed in full color is actually printed using these four colors. Look closely at anything printed, it’s made-up of tiny dots of these colors. It is the overlapping and varying size of the dots that give the appearance of all the colors that humans can see. Since offset printing is high quality printing it requires quality images and files – which translates to high resolution. Typically the minimum resolution needs to be 300 dpi (dots per inch) at 100% of the size you’re printing. I’ll explain more about printing and resolution in another article. But you should know that if you intend to have anything offset printed, your files (and all images used) need to be saved in the CMYK color mode. If you don’t do it, your printer may charge you for them to do it.

RGB – stands for: Red, Green, Blue.
This is the color mode of reflective colors. In other words these are the colors used for viewing on things like computer monitors and televisions. If you were to take a magnifying glass and look at your computer screen or TV you’d see only these three colors. Most color digital files – like the pictures from your digital camera – are defaultly saved in this color mode. Your laser and ink jet printer will print these files just fine. (Laser and ink jets will print CMYK files as well.)

Unless you are offset printing your files you don’t necessarily need to be concerned with which color mode your files are in, however, it’s always good to ask a vendor which format they prefer whenever you are having something printed – signs, digital posters, laser or ink jet flyers, logos on mugs etc – because some vendors prefer one color mode over another. As stated above, supply the wrong color mode and you may encounter additional charges from that vendor.

PDF – stands for: Portable Document Format.
Developed by Adobe, this format is a nice way to send files to anyone you’d like viewing them who may not have the software you used to develop that file. Typically Adobe Acrobat Reader is required software to view these files, but is standard software and preloaded on most computers. It’s also available for free if necessary. Most software used  – such as Microsoft Word – allow you to “save as” or “export as” a PDF document. You will have the option of quality when saving. The higer the quality, the larger the file size. If you are offset printing your document – first save everything in CMYK color mode – then save a “Press Quality” pdf document to send to the printer. If you have a lot of photos it can be a pretty large file size so only use this setting if you are indeed sending it to a printer otherwise the lower “Print Quality” settings are all fine for both viewing on a computer screen as well as printing on a laser or ink jet printer.

JPG – stands for: Joint Photographic Experts Group.
This format is named after the folks who developed it. This is a compression file format. It actually uses what’s known as a “lossy” compression scheme which means that it sacrifices image quality to lower the file size (versus – say – a zip compression). You can control the amount of compression – and thereby file size – when saving as a jpg. But remember, the higher the compression, the lower the quality of the image. An even more important thing to know – you can never regain that quality. So, although this is the current standard for saving large images – this is the default format for your digital camera images – be careful about saving at high compression.

This format is also one of the more standard formats for web use. One reason it was developed was with that intention. The slower bandwidths of years past is why it was important to get files as small as possible – even at the cost of better viewing quality – but nowadays keeping files at a relatively low compression setting (I keep mine at 10) offers high quality and fast upload speeds.

This is not a file format offset printers like to print from so if you are having your images offset printed they need to be saved as either tiff or eps files. (And don’t forget about CMYK color mode.) If printing to a laser or ink jet printer, this format works just fine.

PNG – stands for: Portable Network Graphics.
GIF – stands for: Graphics Interchange Format.
Both these files are utilized primarily for web and computer screen viewing purposes. Up until a few years ago gif was the primary format for saving flat color images. It is being used less today and being replaced by the png format mostly because gif does some compressing (which translates to lower quality) and can’t handle the depth of colors that png can. (16 million for png vs 256 for gif.) PNG files also do a nice job of feathering edges for transparent background use.

Besides it’s use when a transparent background is necessary, a png file should be used instead of a jpg file for text-as-art images on the web. For instance if you’re using art as part of your navigation. The same is true if you’re displaying any art that is made of solid colors – unlike a photograph that is a mix of colors and shades. You’ll find that the edges of your words and images are much sharper using a png format.

EPS – stands for: Encapsulated PostScript.
EPS was developed by Adobe and is a standard file format for importing and exporting PostScript files and usually contains a thumbnail image associated with it. An eps file can contain any combination of text, graphics and images. Typically you’ll save drawing program files – Adobe Illustrator for example – in this format. Many vendors still like this format for outputing logos and other line art but by-in-large this versitle format is being replaced with the pdf format.

TIFF – stands for: Tag Image File Format.
Developed by Aldus in the early computer days this format is primarily used for offset printing. It’s not a file widely supported in the web world. I save all my images for offset printing using this format. The option exists to compress the file while saving, and years ago when disk space was an issue I used to do that, but not any more. Besides, not all printers liked a compressed tiff file.

These are just a few – but most popular – of the many digital formats available to you out there. Hopefully some of this has helped. Look for more on printing and resolution issues in other articles.

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Tips on changing the color of type –in black and white.

In referring to the color of type I’m not talking about type that is printed in blue, or red or yellow or green but instead I’m talking about a block of copy where the type is all in black. If you squint your eyes and look at a block of black copy it’s really just a mass of gray color. Whether you are a designer or not you can – and should – control that color. That color plays an important design role. It also plays an important “psychological” role in any marketing material. It’s easy to do and should become routine for anyone trying to appeal to a market.

The design role.
Plain and simple, a mass of one shade of gray visually is not very appealing. In fact it’s boring and it will make your message appear boring and monotonous.

There are 3 easy ways to change the color.

First, consider creating a subheadline if relevant and maybe increase the point size compared to the body portion of your text. Secondly, consider creating more paragraphs if you have a lot of text. You definitely want to avoid long paragraphs as they create large masses of gray on a page. And lastly, use italics and bold within your text. This last tip really helps vary the look of a block of copy and breaks-up the monotony when reading it. Look closely at the sample of text below to see what I mean.

The psychological role.
Writing copy for marketing purposes is a little different than writing for other purposes. Usually the intention is to inform and probably influence the reader. You are in control of that influence and by discretely italicizing and bolding some of your text you can put emphasis on those areas where you’d like to give a bit more attention. However, as with most things related to design, moderation is the secret. Don’t bold or italicize too much or you’ll only lessen the intended effect. I like to tell people to write as if you are speaking directly to someone. Emphasize those items in your copy you may emphasize in your speech pattern.

By following just these few simple tips you can change what would normally be something pretty plain into something with a little more pizzazz, appeal and possibly a little more influence.

Below are two columns of text. Each column containing the same “greeked” words. (More on that in this blog.) One is straight copy, the other using some of the tips I mention above. The difference is noticeable. Which do you gravitate to and want to read?

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Tools of the Trade – Left Behind.

I stumbled upon some of my old tools of the trade the other day. It makes you realize just how much the computer has changed the way the graphic arts world goes about producing work today versus 20 years ago.

I challenge anyone younger than 40 to tell me what this typographic reference of numbers was used for – never mind knowing how to use them.












Oh – the lost art of specing type.


How about the smell of rubber cement. Who can forget that? Of course they came out with new technology – hot wax – to replace it. But then rather than worrying about the fumes doing you harm, you had to worry about 2nd degree burns.


Take a look at all these. Which do you remember using?

T-square, triangle, rubber cement pick-up. Dr. Martin’s ink, Design markers and ruling pen. Burnisher (for all that Letraset), compass and templates. Rubber cement thinner, X-acto knife proportion wheel,  rapidograph, mechanical pencil and small paintbrushes. These are just a few of the many items we had on, under and around our drawing boards.

What do you still have laying around your studios? It’s hard to throw away these relics. They’re all a part of our past.

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Greek History.

This post has nothing to do with the city states of Sparta, Athens or Argos. Nor does it review any mythology or empire rule. Instead it’s a review of what greeking is in the design/typographic field.

Greeking is a style of displaying or rendering text or symbols – not from the Greek alphabet –  used for the purpose of evaluating a certain typeface’s appropriateness, overall style or type color (more on that in this blog) or for displaying text as placeholders for unavailable content.

As a designer I’m constantly presenting layouts and designs to clients for creative approval, and  because a viewer can be distracted by meaningful content and miss the creative intent of a given project, unrecognizable “gibberish” is used instead of something “readable”. On many occasions I will insert actual text that is relevant to the project – that being a sentence or two of the copy thrust or theme of the piece being presented. However, the bulk of the placeholder text is “greek”. And the reason it should be gibberish is that it forces the viewer to focus on the layout and design rather than any words or phrases that may have meaning unrelated to the actual project at hand. The phrase is a reference to the phrase “Greek to me”, meaning something that one cannot understand, so that it might as well be in a foreign language.

What’s the deal with lorem ipsum . . .?

If you’re a designer or have been on the reviewing side of a creative presentation you know what I’m referring to.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

“Lorem ipsum” is simply dummy text that has been the industry’s standard dummy text ever since the 1500s, when an unknown printer took a galley of type and scrambled it to make a type specimen book. It has survived not only five centuries, but also the leap into electronic typesetting, remaining essentially unchanged.

Contrary to popular belief, lorem ipsum is not simply random text. It has roots in a piece of classical Latin literature from 45 BC, making it over 2000 years old. Lorem ipsum comes from sections 1.10.32 and 1.10.33 of “de Finibus Bonorum et Malorum” (The Extremes of Good and Evil) by Cicero, written in 45 BC. This book is a treatise on the theory of ethics, very popular during the Renaissance.

The first line “Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet..” comes from a line in section 1.10.32, however, with words altered, added and removed over the centuries the complete block of text has become somewhat nonsensical in meaning and not proper Latin. A close English translation of the words lorem ipsum might be “pain itself” (dolorem = pain, grief, misery, suffering; ipsum = itself) and a rough translation of the block might be: “There is no one who loves pain itself, who seeks after it and wants to have it, simply because it is pain…”

Although this post has nothing to do with the Acropolis, perhaps I’ve enlightened you a bit about another type of greek history here.

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Work left on the cutting room floor.

The life of a designer can at times be quite frustrating. Obviously a lot of hard work, thought and effort goes into the creative – and ultimately the approval – process. Many creative ideas, designs and options are explored and only one makes the final cut. What most people don’t see are all the things left on the cutting room floor. Most often three, four, five or more ideas are submitted for client approval. Granted not all are on the mark – that’s just part of the creative/marketing process – but more often than not some of our best work is never seen.

So, to all the creatives out there I salute you. Keep a stiff upper lip. I feel your pain. Below are just a few logos of mine that will forever remain on my hard drive.

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Beware: Free iPad Offer Scam.

Usually these offers are just a ploy to get you to a site where you are asked for a credit card # in order to receive the prize. Your information is then used for nefarious purposes. In the social media version, users take a quiz and must supply their cell phone # to receive the results. In actuality, they are setup to get fake charges on their cell phone bill.

Information supplied by Matt Geelhoed, President of Spyridon Technologies – a web hosting and internet solution based company located in Grand Rapids, Michigan.


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Inbound Marketing Explained.

As anyone with similar years of experience (25+ years) in the marketing and communications field as I have would tell you, they’ll utilized most marketing techniques that are available. And for well over half that time communicating a message probably included the use of print advertising, radio, direct mail, guerilla marketing, television, event/trade show marketing, public relations and email blasts to name a few.

This type of marketing is marketing you pay for up front but usually has a diminishing return on your investment calling for further investing to sustain brand recognition. This is known as Outbound Marketing.

It is a necessary evil and if done well helps sustain and grow any enterprise, however, it’s not the only marketing choice today.

Over the last 5-10 years with the popularity and mainstream use of the internet and other technologies, business and purchasing habits have changed. Research and information gathering by the purchasing decision-makers is primarily culled online.

Years ago purchasing mailing lists and sending direct mail or email blasts worked well. However, research shows that the average open rate for these techniques is down from 39% in 2004 to 22% in 2008 and is continuing to drop. Trade show attendance is down as is trade publication subscriptions. Trade writers are now writing their own blogs.

Today, you need to make it as easy as possible for your prospects to find you online. That means being pro-active with an Inbound Marketing strategy.

What is Inbound Marketing?

Inbound Marketing are the techniques and ways of pulling-in the thousands of prospects utilizing the Web today to your site. The thought is to turn your website into a “hub”. A destination where a prospect is brought to from another source. Some of these marketing channels include blogs, using a fan base on Facebook, creating connections on LinkedIn, getting followers on Twitter, driving traffic to Digg, being bookmarked on Delicious, or being found on YouTube.

From a business perspective, don’t think of these as “social media sites” but rather “NEW MEDIA CHANNELS”. These sites are no longer just a way to communicate to friends, but a means of YOUR CUSTOMERS finding relevant purchasing information that is important to them.

Once an Inbound Marketing strategy is in place, the costs are virtually none existent and the value is long lasting –unlike the diminishing value from Outbound Marketing. The only thing required is an effort to constantly keep interesting content in front of your potential customers. The more your brand and content is in cyberspace, the more easily you will be found and the more chances that a sale can be realized.

Get Involved in New Media Channels

All kinds of business information is gathered using a variety of New Media Channels. These channels are all used to connect, interact and to share – within all business industries.

There are well over 100 million blogs in the blogoshere. Your target audience is reading these as much as – if not more than – the trade publications. Read some. Write some. Contribute to some. Subscribe (RSS) to good, relevent industry blogs to keep on top of new content as it comes out.

Facebook (200 million users with a growing demographic of those aged 35 and older), LinkedIn (20 million users with an average age of 41) and YouTube (100 million views each day) are all becoming mainstream.  From a business’ perspective, these are all useful New Media Channels. Other powerful channels are news sites ( and bookmarking sites (

You must match the way your prospects learn about and gather their decision-making information – and today that means utiilizing these New Media Channels.

Contribute to online conversations by leaving thoughtful comments. By constantly leaving good, relevant comments the author is likely to notice and go to your blog and perhaps link back to your site. This creates authority for you, thereby creating higher SERP ranking for you.

Build a strong online brand with well written profiles and have consistent use of user names and avatar image. List your business in as many on-line directories as possible.

Develop a business page on Facebook. This allows for better engaging with your prospects including forum discussions, photo uploads, testimonials etc.

Build connections on LinkedIn. Consider building a LinkedIn Group, or get involved in an existing one.

Contribute to the LinkedIn Answers feature. (Only answering those questions you can answer well. It’s all about presenting yourself as an authority within your industry.)

Create a YouTube account and post videos.

Submit articles to Digg and use a Digg button on your blog to encourage votes. Visibility on the front page of Digg can get you over 25,000 views to your website.

Consider using the “discovery” site StumbledUpon and it’s browser toolbar on your site.

Why involve yourself with all these new channels?

Two words – MORE REACH.

To read more on the subject I highly recommend the book: Inbound Marketing. Get found using Google, Social Media and Blogs by Brian Halligan & Dharmesh Shah.


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