Brochures: Thoughts

My newest client has hired me to design a multi-page brochure.  When the project was described to me I imagined a simple brochure but after meeting with them it turned out that this project is more complicated.  The project has me excited as I’ve told them my vision for the project and that has excited them more.

Begin with an idea and build on it.  I think it’s important to listen to your client carefully and test the waters with them early.  For me my idea to implement the theme in the brochure seemed a little risky.  My first thought was that they might have wanted a typical corporate design, which to me is boring.

My first thought about brochures is that they are boring. Most of the designs I’ve seen have not caught me eye.  It’s a challenge in any design to capture the viewer’s attention and even more of a challenge to keep that attention.  In the matters of brochure design you must effectively guide the viewer to the appropriate information from beginning to end.

Don’t just stick to the norm.  In the modern world almost everything is integrated with something else.  Print refers you to a website, facebook, a phone #, address, and to every other media out there.  Integrate whatever you can into any medium.

It’s important as a designer to keep your creativity, after all you got into this business because you want to do what you love right?  Always tell clients your ideas no matter how crazy they  might seem, who knows, maybe your clients are just as crazy as you.  Always listen first and then go crazy.

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Postcard Flyers

Postcards.  They seem to be everywhere and have become a staple of any business’s marketing efforts.  I see them at restaurants, at the local coffee shop, and stuck to my windshield.  Recently I was hired to create a postcard design for a local yogurt shop and it wasn’t till then that I gave this medium more thought.

The Pitfalls of Postcards
Too often I see poorly designed postcard advertisements.  What makes them bad?  Here’s a handy dandy list:

  1. Pixelated photos.  Ok, if you’re a graphic designer rule #1 of Design Club is that you do not have pixelated ANYTHING on any designs.
  2. Too much information soooo little space.  Part of the challenge in any design is making everything flow.  When a client gives you tons of information to place on a postcard advert it is your job to get their message across in the most aesthetically pleasing way possible.  Spare the details and stick to the points.  Also see rule #1.
  3. Fonts and badonka donks. This goes with basic design rules but if you see 5 different fonts being used chances are the design will not look very nice.  You must put thought into the fonts you use.  If their logo uses a certain kind of font you may want to use that on some of the design.  You don’t have to have a word sized up 3 inches just to make a point.  You can use headline fonts that stand out more.  Use your space wisely.
  4. Space.  Sometimes you may have a lot of info to convey but make good use of your space. Balance out your negative spaces, negative space is not your enemy.
  5. Photos can speak 1000 words.  Depending on what you’re advertising, sometimes a good photo can do all of the selling for you.  Yes, it’s your job to make the advertisement look good so make sure you use everything that is available to you.

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I hope that this has been helpful and entertaining.  If you follow basic design rules you should have no problems in creating a tasteful postcard.  Always listen to your clients carefully as they can give you important clues to creating a successful design for them.

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Magazine Start Advice. Getting a team together.

It’s been a while since my last post but a lot has happened since then.  I am now past issue #2 and working on issue #3.  Doing a monthly magazine is hard work.  There never seems to be a day where I’m not worrying about a deadline.  And to think we almost considered doing a weekly magazine!

If you’re just starting your magazine and don’t have a lot of capital then you must find ways around that.  Any good company needs great employees to make it successful and the magazine business is no different.  As a start up you might not be able to afford the best of the best but there are plenty of resources available if you take the time to look for them.


I had formed my group of writers when I had an online publication.  My writers volunteered their time and their work for free.  I still had deadlines and back then we were actually a bi-weekly publication.  On average we’d publish about 8 articles every 2 weeks.   You might want to start out the same way, with people who are willing to donate their time and talent.  You can start at colleges and with students that are English majors or students who are studying in the areas that are particular to your magazine’s subject matter.  Colleges and universities are a great source of talent that won’t cost you much.  They are as hungry to get exposed and published as you are in need of talented writers.


For your sales team you can also dig into the college pool and find students who are majoring in business or marketing.  They have the energy and drive to work for that commission.  And yes, have commission.  Offer bonuses for the top seller or for whoever sells the first add for that month. Pre paid gas cards are also great to give out.


Again, colleges are a great place to find some talented designers.  Find people who are interested in designing lay outs.  This type of work can be done for free or for little money.  Students need work for their portfolio and what student wouldn’t want to have a magazine as part of their portfolio. Who knows, you might even be able to hire them once you get going.

I guess the overall point of this is to go out and find some talent at your local college or university.  This is a mutually beneficial relationship that will allow you the space to save some capital and invest it in other areas such as marketing or promotions.

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More magazine tips.

Lately I’ve been so busy I haven’t had time to post anything up here.  I’m at the tail end of getting the magazine published. We are about to send it off to print real soon.

Things I’ve learned 2.0 ( don’t remember what I posted last time so if some of these repeat, oops)

1.  Business owners are less likely to place an ad because you don’t have a sample of what your magazine is about.  A lot of the business owners I’ve talked to like the idea and concept of my magazine but want to wait till the 2nd issue to jump on board.

2.  Appointments.  When you drop by a business for the first time they usually don’t make a decision right then and there to place an ad.  They need time to review your information or discuss it with their partner or even spouse.  So it is important to schedule an appointment for when you can come back and review things with them.  This way they are expecting your return and make it a point to review the information by the time you meet again.

3.  If you have an inexperienced person you are training as a sales person tell them to sit back and observe. We made the mistake of allowing ours to speak and it may have cost us a few ads.  It’s better for them to sit back and observe.

4.  Sell your dream.  Be enthusiastic about your product. Have some passion.  People feed off of your energy and if you are real excited about what you are selling then it gets them excited.

5.  Create a buzz. Your magazine is unheard of because it’s brand new.  Find a way to create some buzz.  Use facebook, twitter, and youtube.  Sometimes you can get lucky and something buzz worthy happens in your town.  Use that event and find a creative way to get yourself some buzz.  In our town we had a woman post a youtube video which basically bashed the town in a racist way.  The video made the news and even the mayor went on tv with a response to the video.  It had gone viral.   We made a funny parody of this video and plugged in our website and company name.  Our website hits spiked and we had over 11,000 views in just a couple of days.

It’s been extremely hard getting out our first issue.  I’ve designed the magazine and have put countless of hours of work into this.  I’ve gone out and have done sales and have organized our writers.  I can’t wait to finally publish our premier issue and for a brief minute, breathe easily with a sense of accomplishment.  I hope all of your endeavors go your way and remember never to give up on your dreams.

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Selling Magazine Ads, hooray

Last time I talked a little about what it took to start up a magazine and let me tell you it’s a lot harder than it sounds (if that didn’t sound hard enough).

What is the thing you need to be able to print your magazine?  That thing that you need to be able to pay your staff?  What’s that thing that makes going into business a little sweeter?  Money! yes, it sucks.  You need to sell ads in order to print a magazine don’t you?  Unless you plan on pumping in your life savings, which I would not advise.

It seems we’ve started selling ads at a bad time.  Most businesses are doing their taxes right now.  They have to pay taxes, do the W2’s for their employees, and all of a sudden they do not feel like writing more checks.  I can’t blame them.

So what do you do? What do I do?  I keep trying.  Somewhere out there there is somebody that needs your ad?  Why do they need your ad?  Good question.  The truth is they don’t need your ad but you have to convince them that they do.  I’m not sure where to get this voodoo Hogwarts magic but I need some and I need some fast.

My first two days have been a little discouraging but I have yet to get a “no” .  I’ve gotten a lot of interest. Our magazine is an entertainment magazine that explores the city of Laredo and what goes on in town.  I guess that sounds pretty generic but I’m not trying to sell you so I’ll save my pitch.

I’m finding out things we did do right with our pricing and packaging.  We’ve created value in ways no other competitor offers. If you create value in what you’re selling then people will see it.  People also find value in different things so explore different ways to instill value in what you offer.

Today is day 3 with about 21 days left till we go to print.  I feel a little bit better and more motivated.  My wonderful girlfriend helps a lot with that.  So having good support on those days when you feel a little defeated will pick you up, dust you off, and prepare you for the next day to do battle.

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Bad design and so I whine

Nothing irritates me more than seeing something poorly designed. Whether it be an app on my phone, a car, graphic or web design.   I know that I am no professional but every time I see a local website or graphic that was poorly produced by a competitor or some unknown it irritates me even more.  I’m left with the feeling of not only could I have done better but gotten paid for it too.


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Magazine start up? Why not.

So things have been picking up here.  We’ve been busy planning for the launch of Drink Laredo the magazine.  We’ve also been having meetings with potential clients. We’ve picked up a local bar. I designed their new menu. It’s quite nice if I do say so myself.  Now we are building their website with a shop in it.  Hopefully it gets us more clients through referrals or word of mouth.

I haven’t had any time to work on more t-shirt designs for my Cafe Press shop.  I still have so many ideas I need to see through.  I haven’t been selling as much since Christmas passed.  It’s slowed down dramatically.  Ah well, I think the more designs I have the more chances are I will sell.

I’m really excited about our up coming magazine.  We’ve started the hiring procedure.  At times I get nervous because, well, I’ve never ran a magazine before.  I didn’t go to school for it. I’m just doing my thing.  I know there’s a lot to learn and if I knew where exactly where to look I’d be reading or learning.  There are so many different aspects of setting up your local magazine.

  • You have to set up distribution points. Where are people going to be able to pick up a copy of your magazine?
  • You have to talk to all of the businesses/locations and ask for permission.
  •  There is printing. Where are you going to get your magazine printed? What kind of paper, size, and how many copies?
  • You have to organize your writers, photographers, sales, and distribution people.
  • How is your magazine going to print without any sponsors? You must sell ads.
  • Now that I mentioned ads you must also price them. Do some research and find comparable magazines and try to find out what they charge.  You might want to start with introductory rates since you are a new start up magazine.
  • You have sales people, they want to get paid.  What is the percentage of commission that you will pay them?  Will you be out selling ads?
  • On that subject, you will most likely have some employees right? You can’t do it all on  your own.  How much are you going to pay your graphic designer, intern, secretary, accountant, or any other person you might need in your team?

These are just some of the things I’ve recent had to ask myself and answer.  I’m sure there are a whole lot  more things that will come up.  I do this because nobody tells me that I can’t.  I do it because I’ve set my mind to it and because I believe I can do it best. Come March we’ll have our own magazine printed. I just might blog about my journey there.  If there is anybody in the same boat, has questions, or suggestions please comment. Thanks!


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