Google is Going Social: Search Ranking Won’t Matter Any More

23 Feb

Every business wants to be in that #1 spot on a search results page and plenty of companies pay big bucks to get there. It’s well known that unless your business pops up in the first or second pages of a search it won’t get a significant amount of traffic.

Until now that is.

Google has recently announced that it will be re-defining search as we know it. Google will be offering customized search results that take into account personal preferences, search history, and especially social media connections. If 10 people searched for “flower shop” those 10 people will each see different results pop up.

Google’s website states….

“Google Social Search helps you discover relevant content from your social connections, a set of your online friends and contacts. Content from your friends and acquaintances is sometimes more relevant and meaningful to you than content from any random person. For example, an online movie review is useful, but a movie review from your best friend can be even better.”

Google’s social search is still in the testing phase but you can try it out by logging in to your Google account. For more information and instructions for making the most of your social search click HERE.

Texas, here we come!

22 Dec

I know I’ve been lax on writing blog posts for the last month and here’s why… JT Design Studio is relocating to Keller, TX over the holidays. I’m looking forward to the warm weather and getting to know the local businesses owners in Keller. Please be patient, I’ll be back to blogging in a couple weeks and in the meantime Happy Holidays!

Hiring a Graphic Designer: 8 Top Questions to Ask

4 Oct

Question Mark GraphicSo you have decided to upgrade your marketing pieces and you’re in need of a professional graphic designer. How do you determine which one will be a perfect fit? Here are 8 questions to ask….

1. How much experience do you have with this type of project?
The designer you’re interviewing may have 10 years of experience designing business cards but that doesn’t help you much if you’re in the market for a vehicle wrap. Find a designer that has at least two recent successful projects under their belt that have very similar specs to yours.

2. Do you have samples of your work that I can review?
Samples may be presented in the form of physical printed pieces or may be available as an online portfolio. When looking over the samples be sure to ask lots of questions about the execution. Did the designer just slap a logo on top of a stock photo? Or was that logo custom designed by them and the background photo retouched and special effects added to make the piece more dynamic?

3. What are your rates and what is included in my quote?
First of all you should always receive a quote in writing that includes a breakdown of each fee. Most designers charge an hourly fee for their design time. In addition to the hourly fee there may be charges for additional proofs (most designers include two proofs in their quote but ask to be sure), reimbursement for stock photo purchases, a rush fees, etc.

Black Clock4. What is your turnaround time?
If you need a brochure designed for an event that takes place in two weeks, and it takes a week for it to be printed and delivered, you need someone that can get an initial proof to you within 2-3 days. I recommend getting the estimated turnaround time included in your written quote.

5. Who owns the original files?
This is a big one. Most people don’t realize that when they hire a designer to create something for them, they do NOT automatically own the copyright to those files unless they have specifically been granted full copyrights from the designer in writing. When you pay a designer to create a logo for you for example, even after you have paid them in full they still retain the rights to that image, what you paid for is just usage of it. If you truly want full control of the original files you may need to negotiate a separate price for full copyrights to be transferred. Make sure you get it in writing if this is the case.

6. When is the payment due? Is a deposit required?
Payment structure often depends upon the scope of the project. A 300 page magazine that requires hours and hours of design work would most likely require a 20% deposit before the project begins, whereas a quick business card design would probably be billed in full upon completion. If the project is on-going you may want to set up a monthly payment plan. Each designer and each project is different so be sure to always check before you contract the work.

7. How is the printing handled?
Printing is usually handled one of two ways: Either the designer provides you with a print-ready file which you can then take to the printer of your choice, or the designer subs out the work themselves. If you’re not familiar with printing methods and paper specs I strongly suggest allowing the designer to order the printing for you.

8. Do you have references?
The designer should be able to provide you with at least two recent (within 6 months) references that you can contact. Preferably these contacts should be customers that had projects similar to yours, however for unusual projects this may not be possible. The important thing is to find out whether these contacts were happy with the services they received and whether the final product fit their needs.

Professional Networking Basics: Building Business Relationships

27 Sep

Networking can be an invaluable tool for small business development. Contrary to popular belief, networking isn’t about racing around the room handing out business cards and trying to close deals – networking is about building solid business relationships that are mutually beneficial. To accomplish this you have to focus on what you can do to help the people you meet. Can you refer them to someone in need of their services? Can you recommend a new supplier? Can you give them suggestions to increase their sales? If you make a sincere effort to help others they’ll most likely be happy to do the same for you.

Business networkingMost groups will allow you to attend one or two meetings before joining. Networking requires a regular time commitment so you’ll want to check out several different groups to get a feel for which one best fits your objectives. Take notice of the group dynamic, do members go out of their way to support one another? Is it a casual meeting over coffee or is it highly structured? Is there someone clearly in charge? To make the most of your time you’ll most likely want a well organized group that is small enough to foster relationships.

Here are some additional networking tips for those just starting out…

1. This is a no-brainer, bring lots and lots of business cards and promotional pieces to hand out. Give your new-found contacts some tantalizing materials to bring home and they’ll be more likely to remember you when need arises. It’s sometimes tough to get to everyone in the room and you don’t want to simply walk around handing them out. One of the events I attended this week handled the flurry of promotional items very nicely by designating a specific are where everyone could leave their items for later perusal.

2. Prepare a 5 minute speech about who you are what your company has to offer. Include specific information on the type of clients you’re looking for. For instance, although I cater to businesses of all sizes and types, I’m targeting new businesses that are starting from scratch with their marketing efforts.

3. Small talk. After everyone has introduced themselves and their company it’s time for the one-on-one conversations, this is where you get your leads. Ask questions! Show that you’re interested in others’ businesses and they’ll reciprocate. Preparing questions and some information about your industry ahead of time will ensure that you come across as professional and knowledgeable.

4. Be sure to collect a business card from each person you speak with so you can send a follow up email later. I would aim to have your emails sent out within 2-4 days of the networking event.


21 Sep

I’ve decided to update the look of my blog to a cleaner, easier to read format. Please bear with me over the next day or so as I work out the new layout. Thanks!

Put Your Creativity to the Test: Fall/Winter Design Competitions

20 Sep

The Fourth World Biennial Of Student Poster
Entry Deadline: October 10, 2010

The Fourth World Biennial of Student Poster, organized by the University of Novi Sad and the Academy of Arts in Novi Sad, is open to all undergraduate and graduate students of art colleges where the discipline of poster art is a part of the curriculum. All posters must represent the student’s work performed within the last two school years and verified by the professors’ signature. All received posters will become a part of a special Biennial’s collection at the Academy of Arts in Novi Sad and can be used in didactic purposes.

IdeaMI International Creative Contest
Entries Deadline October 10, 2010

IdeaMI is the contest which puts creative talent (in graphic design or writing) from all over the world, whether professional or amateur, to the test. Participants must depict Milan through a slogan, or through a t-shirt design. The contest is open to people of all nationalities and ages, and there is no participation fee.

Communication Arts Annual Typography Competition
Entry Deadline: September 24, 2010

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Image by Hannah Fowler via Flickr

This inaugural juried competition celebrates the best use of typography as the primary visual element in design and advertising, plus new typeface designs, calligraphy and handlettering. Chosen by a jury of leading design professionals, the selected entries will be distributed worldwide in the Communication Arts Typography Annual and on, assuring important exposure to the creators of this outstanding work.

Less Waste More Rights Design Competition
Entries Deadline October 30, 2010

To meet the European Directive 2010, which called for action against forms

of global poverty and social exclusion, manifested Utilities / design for social Launches Design Contest “Less Waste More Rights” to imagine and rethink how to design rational consumption and use of resources.

Graphic designers, industrial designers, undergraduate and graduate courses in graphic design and industrial design, are called upon to design a poster or an object culturally sensitive claim “Less Waste More Rights” that produces real change and improvement in compliance with the existing fundamental rights.

HOW Magazine hosts several excellent competitions every year, here are some of the upcoming ones. For more information go to their website at

HOW Poster Design Awards
Entry Deadline: October 15, 2010

HOW Logo Design Awards
Entry Deadline: October 15, 2010

HOW Promotion Design Awards
Next deadline: March 2011

HOW In-HOWse Design Awards
Next deadline: April 2011

From Designer to Saleswoman in 5 Steps

16 Sep

Now that my kids are back in school I’m faced with the need to get out there and sell, sell, sell.

Like most designers, selling really isn’t my cup of tea. I’m perfectly happy sitting in my home office in peace and quiet, diligently working on my designs. Since work doesn’t just miraculously appear on my desk however, this week I will be working on developing and implementing a sales strategy.  The following are the steps I plan to take over the next couple of weeks to kick start my transformation from graphic designer to saleswoman extraordinaire.

First things first, now that my website is up and running ( I can move forward with ordering updated business New Business Cardscards. (See images at right.) It’s important when designing business collateral that the look is uniform throughout each piece to help create brand recognition. In addition to being handed out at every opportunity, I’ll incorporate the business cards into a promotional sales packet that I have in the works which will list my services and include work samples. I’m also planning a variable data (personalized) postcard mailer to small businesses in the area. Specialized New Business Cardsmailing lists can be purchased for as little as 5¢ a name. Variable data pieces typically have a 15% higher rate of response than static print pieces.

Networking is essential for building any new business. I’ve recently joined several local networking groups that I hope will introduce me to potential clients and get my name out there. The first meeting is next week, I’ll be armed with my new business cards and portfolio. My goal is to leave with at least five new prospective clients that I can follow up with once I’m back in my office. I’ll let you know how it goes. One excellent source for networking groups is

Social networking sites have become an integral part of business. I currently have accounts set up with LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and of course this blog, to help promote my business. When potential clients see your name and message on a regular basis it creates “top of mind positioning” and social networking sites help you accomplish this easily. Not to mention it is extremely cost-effective compared to traditional advertising. Since I already have these set up my next step is to increase the number of contacts, the frequency of my posts and become more familiar with search engine optimization.
Here’s an article I found that explains how 6 major companies have used social networking to increase their sales:

I have many former clients that I’ve worked with over the years that I would like to reconnect with in a fun, but professional, way. I think a well-designed e-newsletter would be the best approach to let people know what I’ve been up to and showcase my style. In the past I’ve used MailChimp quite successfully but I may experiment with a few others. I want a program that allows as much creative freedom as possible and that easily integrates with my contact list.

I have a small notebook that I keep with me at all times in which I take note of businesses that may need my particular area of expertise. My intent is to spend at least one day each week on the road visiting these businesses in person. My goal at this point isn’t to rattle off a sales pitch, but rather to simply introduce myself, find the appropriate contact and set up a meeting with them. It’s a no-pressure approach that respects the clients time and allows them time to look over my website and printed material before we sit down to an in-depth marketing discussion. Regardless of how the meeting goes I consider it good manners and good business to follow up with a thank you email or call. Even if the person I met with isn’t interested in my services they may know someone who is in need of a good designer. It’s important to come across as professional every step of the way.

Sales is a constantly changing landscape, a business needs to be flexible and adjust their strategy as the market changes. I’m sure it will take time for me to discover what works best for my business but I’m looking forward to the challenge, and I always welcome suggestions!

Coming Soon!!!!

12 Sep

After becoming extremely disgruntled with I’ve found a new website provider – Believe it or not, the site allows you to create and host for FREE! It’s completely user friendly and unless something unexpected crops up over the next few days I should have my website up and running very soon. The one draw back is the templates aren’t as customizable as I would like but beggars can’t be choosers. I’m in the process of learning both Flash and CSS so hopefully in the near future I will have a better handle on the web design process. I’ll post a notice for everyone once my site is up, in the meantime wish me luck!

Must-Read Magazines for Graphic Design Inspiration

4 Sep

I’m a lifelong magazine junkie and I was fortunate that in my last design job we were given stacks – yes stacks – of reading material to go over at our leisure. In addition to work supplied material I also have a couple of long-standing subscriptions to the design magazines I can’t live without. Here is a list of the best ones (in my humble opinion). Many of these are wonderful sources of inspiration not only for designers but for anyone in a creative field.

HOW Magazine IssueHOW Design Ideas at Work

I’ve been reading HOW since 2001 and I consider it one of the best design magazines out there. The articles in HOW mainly cover the business side of design and ways to stay creative without the burnout that so many of us experience. Being creative on demand is a tough job. HOW is chock full of useful tips that will make your life easier, interesting interviews with successful designers, and lots of beautifully designed pages. I keep all of my back issues and when I’m stuck on a design I’ll flip through them for inspiration. HOW also hosts several large events each year such as the Mind Your Own Business Conference.

In their own words… “HOW magazine’s goal is to help designers, whether they work for a design firm, for an in-house design department or for themselves, run successful, creative, profitable studios.”

Layers MagazineLayers The How-To Magazine for Everything Adobe

I’ve had a subscription to Layers Magazine off and on for several years and what keeps me coming back is the tutorials and tips. Every issue features multiple step-by-step tutorials, covering a wide range of Adobe software with descriptions that are clear and concise.

Another regular highlight is the Design Makeover section which takes three separate designers/design teams and gives them the same assignment – to redesign a provided promotional piece from a real-life company in need of an upgrade.  It’s amazing how each designer comes up with wildly different solutions to the same project. Accompanying photos of the finished designs is information about each designer and what processes they used to come up with their concepts.

PRINT Design For Curious Minds

Print Magazine CoverEver since it was founded in 1940 Print has been the gold standard in graphics publications. The first time I picked up an issue of Print was in my Communication Arts class in high school. I must have spent hours pouring over that issue and many of the pieces I found in its pages became the basis for paintings and design projects.

In their own words… “Print is dedicated to showcasing the extraordinary in design on and off the page. Covering a field as broad as communication itself—publication and book design, animation and motion graphics, corporate branding and rock posters, exhibitions and street art—Print covers commercial, social, and environmental design from every angle. Engagingly written by cultural reporters and critics who look at design in its social, political, and historical contexts, Print explores why our world looks the way it looks, and why the way it looks matters.”

The three above are my top picks but here are links to some additional magazines that I recommend….

Graphic Design

Before and

Step Inside


There are dozens of magazines that I read but I can’t list them all here, these are simply the ones I turn to first when I’m in need of inspiration. I’m always looking for fresh ideas and new techniques to learn so if there are other magazines that you feel is noteworthy please let me know!

The Social Print Experiment

30 Aug

A Unique Approach to Business Transparency

Ink TanksI recently discovered a California-based printing company that has launched what they call “The Social Print Experiment”. Their intent is to take all the mystery out of starting a print shop by posting EVERYTHING about their business online for one year. When I say “everything” I mean all their expenses, income, processes, machinery, even going as far as posting videos of their meetings and sales strategies. At the end of the year if they have succeeded in turning a profit they will continue running the print shop. If they fail to make a profit the company will be dismantled and everything sold off.

Here’s the introduction they offer on their website….

The Social Print Experiment was an idea developed by Andrew Simmons as a way to chronicle the startup of a digital printing company using tools widely available now that are free or nearly free, tools like Outright for bookkeeping; or social marketing tools like Twitter, Facebook and Linked In. The pages herein detail the results of that experiment, with an interesting twist in that everything the company does, from best practices to the books of the company, are completely viewable. “Too often, we hear of companies that made their first million dollars in their first year, but how they got there is never detailed,” says Andrew Simmons. “We’re bringing focus to that, and with it, best practices for increasing sales in other printing companies.”

While the concept of financial transparency within companies isn’t new, it is rare. Typically when a company adopts an open policy it is to serve as motivation to their staff to meet targeted goals. The information isn’t shared with the public. The Social Print Experiment has taken a fresh approach to this concept by exposing every aspect of their business to the world via social networking sites and their website. I believe they are also relying 100% on social networks and word of mouth for their advertising.

Having just spent two years working in a small print shop I’m curious as to how they will approach each challenge. Even if they don’t turn a profit I believe this is a great way for anyone contemplating a career in printing to learn what to do – and what to avoid – when starting out.

So here’s a question: Do you believe that it benefits or harms a company to have financial transparency?

To find out more about the Social Print Experiment you can visit their website at

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