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Are you utilising the power of direct mail?

by: Neil Potter on

Are You Utilising the Power of Direct Mail?

Direct mail continues to be one of the most effective marketing tools for generating new business.

It can also be used to develop an on-going relationship with customers to maximise their loyalty, value and consequently, profitability over time. In this digital age when everyone is blogging, watching viral videos and updating social networks, why consider sending a humble postcard? Because it works. Professional marketers still believe in the power of direct mail and so should you.

  • Mailing each month creates strong front of mind awareness.
  • The more consistently mailers arrive the better the response will be.
  • It’s estimated that a prospect must see a message nine times before they will decide to purchase. That’s nine impressions to build the credibility, confidence and trust needed to make a sale.
  • Direct mail should be done alongside eshots, social media and not forgetting speaking to your customers directly, to really get your message across.

Join the thousands of different businesses who use Postcards to great success. To increase your response rate, follow this simple proven formula…

  1. Get your customers’ attention  Use a strong image or headline and our high-impact, high-gloss laminated Postcards will add emphasis.
  2. Keep their interest  Why are you contacting them? Highlight the benefits of your product or service, don’t just list features.
  3. Create desire  Think of a powerful, limited-time offer and make it hard for them to resist.
  4. Give them a call to action – What do you want them to do next? Call? Email? Visit? Tell them!

June is a great time to kick start your marketing with direct mail as Postcards are half price. Need help with design? Speak to your local studio.

Once you’ve planned out the design of the mailer, read our tips on how to Reduce Your Mailing Costs.

Colour Matters

by: Neil Potter on

So choose wisely and avoid giving the wrong impression.

Have you ever considered why that airline might have chosen their unmistakable orange? Or why blue is the colour of financial institutions like banks and accountants? Why do health food shops and supermarkets use green in their branding? These colour choices were no accident. Colour plays a vital, yet perhaps subconscious, role in how we perceive and react to a brand, so it's important to consider the colours you use to represent your business.

Red suggests excitement, warmth, vitality and danger. It increases our heart rate and encourages a passionate response from people.

Orange can make products seem less expensive. Cheerful, warm and happy. Often associated with value-led businesses. Also a popular colour used inside fast food restaurants, as it stimulates the appetite.

Brown is rich, earthy and natural. Ideal for products and businesses who want to appear trustworthy and organic.

Yellow symbolises sunshine, happiness and optimism. Apparently an effective colour to increase sales.

Green suggests health, freshness, and freedom. Ideal for products associated with health, food or activities with a strong emphasis on the environment. Dark green is known to appeal to wealthy customers.

White symbolises purity and truthfulness. Contemporary and clinical. It’s the best web background colour. Encourages us to clear clutter or obstacles.

Black symbolises power, sophistication and mystery. Shooting products on black backgrounds can make them look desirable and luxurious.

Blue represents trustworthiness, coolness, cleanliness, stability and honesty. A popular
corporate colour, especially
for financial institutions.

Purple suggests spirituality, royalty and luxury. Using purple can denote a superior product or service as it conveys gravitas and power.

Pink suggests caring, gentleness and is calming. Ideal for massage rooms and spas. Often used by charities.

Just like your wardrobe, colour tones can go out of fashion  that's why some major brands make subtle adjustments to theirs through the years.

Give us a call and we can arrange for a free and honest appraisal of your existing identity. It needn't be painful. Sometimes we can spend an hour or two on a quick facelift. Or if you can afford to invest a bit more in your identity, we'€™d be delighted to chat through some options.


Colour Theory Colour Wheel

Designing “with and not for” people with autism

by: Neil Potter on

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Blue State Digital has co-designed Ambitious About Autism’s new website by working directly with young people who have Autism.

Ambitious About Autism is a charity which offers education and support, raises awareness and is involved in campaigning and lobbying.

BSD has designed the site “with and not for” young people with autism and has looked to “not just tick the accessibility box” but “fully embrace all users”, according to BSD senior account director Ali Walker.

“Although there are other autism charities they don’t really give support to young people with autism or their parents,” says Walker. She describes the Ambitious About Autism as a “disruptive brand”, which is looking to enact change and offer support.

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The previous site engaged a small active community, but a need was identified to drive further, broader engagement and increase fundraising according to Walker who says BSD was appointed in February last year to this end.

The consultancy has taken an “action-orientated approach”, which means encouraging people who use the site to take increasing levels of action and to become more involved.

Walker calls this “moving up the ladder of engagement”, a process which encourages people to become advocates, supporters and donors.

“Many parents are time strapped and cash-poor so they are not in a position to donate but they are building brand awareness and will drive fundraising in the future.”

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One of the key sections of the site is My Voice, a forum section co-designed with and directed towards young people. Parents have also been engaged. My voice will be “an authoritative voice”.

A strong voice will be garnered through structured debate, led by stakeholders and by including the voices of the charity’s Young Patrons –who attend party conferences, meet MPs and campaign.

“There are separate forums for adults and young people. There’ll be web chats and organised things like Google Hangouts. It’s aimed at 16- to 24-year-olds and will tackle problems like employment as many young people feel they have been left on their own without advice or a voice.”

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A new topic-based “About autism” section has been created and is geared to accessing information quickly. It also integrates with the forums.

“The whole process is about lowering the barriers and increasing engagement,” says Walker.

The role of the marketing manager

by: Neil Potter on

For most businesses, there are several different organisational approaches to marketing. The duty may lie with a single member of the team, or it could be a group responsibility. The great thing about a small team is the ability to quickly instill a marketing led ethos which can become the operational soul of your business. Larger companies may require more work!

Depending on budget availability and the skills of the team, you may choose to outsource certain elements of the marketing process (such as market research) or decide to do these jobs in-house. Key responsibilities of the marketing manager / director vary according to the business but can include:

  • Instilling a marketing led ethos throughout the business
  • Researching and reporting on external opportunities
  • Understanding current and potential customers
  • Managing the customer journey (customer relationship management)
  • Developing the marketing strategy and plan
  • Management of the marketing mix
  • Managing agencies
  • Measuring success
  • Managing budgets
  • Ensuring timely delivery
  • Writing copy
  • Approving images
  • Developing guidelines
  • Making customer focused decisions

The marketing role can be diverse or focused but now we'll elaborate further on some key aspects which should be at the heart of the job.

Market research

Marketing managers need to have a good knowledge of the customer. This means building up an accurate picture using the resources that are available. It is important to take personal opinion out of as many decisions as possible – you probably don't think in the same way as a typical customer. Information can be gathered from questionnaires, focus groups, the internet, interviews, buying habits and many more sources, but it's important that the information is examined in a scientific way using proper statistical methods. Gut feel can only take your business so far.

Development of marketing strategy and plan

Marketing planning should be at the core to any business and is usually presented in the form of a written marketing plan. A consultant called Paul Smith first developed a process known as SOSTAC® which is a useful model used to structure a marketing plan. SOSTAC is an acronym for the following elements of the plan:

Situation Analysis – where are we now?
Objectives – what do you want to achieve?
Strategy – how are you going to get there? 
Tactics - what are the details of the strategy?
Actions – who is going to do what, and by when?
Controls – how are you going to measure success?

SOSTAC® is a registered trade mark of PR Smith

The marketing plan should provide direction for all relevant members of the organization and should be referred to and updated throughout the year. The main reason for the marketing plan is that it provides a structured approach that forces the marketing manager to consider all the relevant elements of the planning process which might be missed if a more rushed approach is adopted.

Management of the marketing mix

The marketing mix includes all tangible elements that allow you to market your product. This includes facilities, your employees, the product itself, the cost strategy, the process of selling, and how you promote and advertise. The extent to which the marketing manager gets involved in these elements depends on how marketing focused your business is. A product focused organization will probably start with an ides for a new product, then try and determine who is likely to buy it. A marketing focused business starts with the consumer and tried to figure out what they want to buy. Some product focused businesses are very successful but it is generally accepted that a marketing focus provides a greater chance of success.

Customer relationship management (CRM)

Customer relationship management is the process of communicating with customers throughout the various stages of the purchasing process, and this includes people who have already bought from you. It is significantly easier to hold on to an existing customer than it is to find new ones, but doing this requires all elements of the marketing mix to be run well. For example, it's no use sending out a beautifully produced customer magazine if your customer service is dreadful or the product breaks easily.

Managing agencies

It is unlikely that a small business will have the skills in-house to develop all elements of the marketing mix. Websites, brochures, and other promotional items will usually involve some form of outsourced help such as graphic design or printing. Careful management of these agencies is essential to provide an integrated marketing approach to promotion. Agency management involves the development of detailed project briefs, signing off creative work and ensuring the work is delivered on time. Depending on the volume of work which is outsourced, you may feel it is worth developing some guidelines to ensure a consistent style across different media.

Measuring success

An important element of the marketing manager's role which is often neglected is the process of collecting and analysing data on success. This can take the form of website hits, sales figures, market share data, customer satisfaction or many other metrics and it's important to record and track these as a core part of the marketing process.

Final words

Marketing managers have a diverse and varied job, and promotion should just be one element of the scope. Championing a marketing focussed business structure will provide a greater chance of success in today's challenging business environment and will lead to a more sustainable future.

9 Generic Logotypes You Should Avoid When Designing A Logo

by: Neil Potter on

One of the most crucial aspects of designing a logo is making elements reflect what the company really is.

But there are times when we as designers get influenced with current design trends. It may be caused by false inspiration, unintentional plagiarism, or just a plain result of the changing design times.

Graphic designer Giovanni Todini curated a list of logo cliches most run-of-the-mill designers use.  Logos using Trajan font cut by an arc or the use of graph icons for finance-type firms are all too familiar to us by now that we would probably mistake one for the other.

Building up on this, redditor /u/still_thinking_, moderator of the subreddit /r/logodesign, compiled logo clones reflecting popular design choices by designers.

1. Warm, multitone triangles family

2. Three lines on blue circles family

3. Flipped letter “C” family


4. Red circles logo family

5. Southeast open teardrop family


6. Orange doughnuts with triangle holes family

7. Hands and leaves family

8. Black letters with a touch of red family


9. Incorporated number “1″ logo family



The 10 commandments of colour theory

by: Neil Potter on

This infographic lays out the rules for getting your site's colour scheme spot-on.

We visited Designmantic.com and found this – one of the best infographics we've seen covering colour theory in web design. Designmantic created the 10 commandments of typography and 10 commandments of UI that you may have seen on our pages already, and now they've designed this bold graphic to help you get your website colour scheme spot-on.  

5 ways to tackle creative block

by: Neil Potter on

Stuck in a creative rut? The answer lies in mockups, explains Jerry Cao of UXPin.  

Designer's block is a downward spiral. It's a lot like quicksand – the more your struggle, the deeper you go. But what are you supposed to do, just sit there and sink?

We know what it's like, so we want to throw you a rope. Here are 8 strategies that we've found useful in unblocking ourselves, all of which can be executed specifically with mockups.  


01. Redraw existing sites

If this sounds like mindless busy work, it's because it is – but that's exactly what you need. Shifting your focus out of the problem at hand and onto something still design-related will reveal new options, whether on the screen or in your head.

Why redraw existing sites, though? As you (re)build multiple sites, you'll start to notice repetitions in structure and recognize similars skeletons behind the design. You'll see UI patterns implemented in various ways, but learn which elements are always the same, or should be. It's a practice that's always helpful in general for sharpening your skill as a designer, but when you're blocked, it could be a life-saver.

As recommended in Web UI Best Practices, first begin with skeletal wireframes, then move into detail. Each new phase reveals different elements you hadn't thought of before, and challenge your creative thinking in how to recreate them.

02. Zoom out

both literally and figuratively. Perhaps the reason you're stuck is that you can't see the forest for the trees. Try shifting your viewpoint away from the details and onto the big picture – and the best way to do that is to physically change your viewpoint.

Working in a zoomed out view of a mockup creates the proper context you need to reevaluate the problem. You'll see how each element relates to the whole, and notice layout choices you hadn't seen before.

New methods of rearranging paragraphs, columns, sidebars, menus, navigation bars – anything, really – will come to light just by changing your perspective. 

03. The Blur Test 

The blur test is a personal method of Lee Munroe, which he describes on his blog. It's used to test visual hierarchy, but can also help in designer's block by giving you a fresh outlook on a mockup.

The idea is that you view a blurry version of a screen so that, with the details obscured, you won't be distracted when analysing how the overall format fits together. Yes, visual details are the most important part of a mockup, however, these details won't matter unless your visual hierarchy is on point.
Image courtesy of UXPin via Lee Munroe

Munroe recommends taking a screenshot at blurring it with a Gaussian Blur filter in Photoshop by 5-10 pixels. Your screenshot will be reduced to colourful blobs, text will be unreadable, and you'll be able to see which blobs stand out (and which ones don't, but should).

04. Try new software

It's a poor craftsman who blames his tools… but a clever one who experiments. Trying out new design tools gives you an immediate change, or at the very least a distraction.

The excitement of a new “toy” might be enough on its own to inspire some new ideas. If not, exploring the new features and relearning your old techniques might spark something inside you previously forgotten. Equally possible, you might realise how much you miss your old software's features, and the reason why might be the inspiration you were needing. 

05. Design badly on purpose

This may seem like one of the more “alternative” strategies, but it's also one a lot of respectable designers use successfully. Often designer's block is less about not having any ideas, and more about not having any good ideas. This puts a lot of pressure on you to stop thinking up bad ideas, and designing badly on purpose alleviates that pressure.

As graphic designer Alexander Charchar suggests, try creating or recreating your mockup with a few ugly design elements. Use that creative but illegible font. Clash the colors of the icon against the background. Make the logo tiny. Indulge in any fun or goofy instincts, then still try to structure the overall layout so the design makes sense. What happens is you're still thinking critically about the design, but with a new calmness in the absence of pressure.

At the very least, you'll get those bad ideas out of your system, and have a bit of fun before a more serious fresh start.

Even the best of us are susceptible to designer's block from time to time, so it's helpful to know which ways work best for unblocking yourself.

In addition to these mockup strategies, there's the tried-and-true methods: get plenty of sleep, exercise, eat healthy, and try to distract yourself a little bit. And remember to relax – battling designer's block is a battle against yourself, and the best ideas sometimes surface in passing.



5 Minute Workshop: Creating a Customer Feedback Scheme

by: Neil Potter on

When would you rather you found out you’ve lost a customer? In a years time when they’ve built a relationship with your competitor or as soon as you’ve upset them? There’s no use delaying bad news. If you’ve annoyed them, best to find out sooner so you can put it right.

One of the best ways to get quick feedback is to run a feedback scheme. If it’s something you know you should be doing but haven’t got round to it yet, follow these 5 steps and have your scheme set up in no time.

1. What do you want to know? Sounds simple, but what do you want customers to rate you on? I’d suggest picking between 5 and 10 aspects of your product or service that you think are important.

2. How should they answer? It’s usual to give people a few tick box options to choose from like “great” or “poor”. Always have at least one question where they can write comments which they may not be able to fit into one of your questions.

3. Should I offer an incentive? Possibly. You may encourage people to fill your cards in if you offer a prize or discount. Think about whether once a month you give someone a free haircut or a free meal, picked out of the cards you’ve had returned.

4. How should it look? Keep it clean and simple an A6 postcard size is usually big enough. Your local printing.com team can help design a comment card to match your branding. Try our SmoothWove Showcards these are easy to write on, thick and bright white. Get them for Half Price when you order in February!

5. Where to put the cards? If you run a cafe or restaurant, put cards on your tables. Run a hotel or guest house? Leave cards in your rooms. Manufacturer or distributor? Put cards in your boxes. Accountant or architect? Send cards with your invoices.

It's all in the Ingredients

by: on

All Printing is the Same, Right?
Leaflets from us are the same as leaflets from that bloke your brother knows. Business cards from that little shop on the high street are as good as ours, right? Wrong. They may sound the same, but it'€™s like comparing apples with whales. We give you a business class€ product at an €œeconomy class€ price.

The Squirrel is in the Detail
(Or something like that.) That's why we print every order with High Definition Reproduction. This means your photos and text will be printed so clearly that you'll want to lick them. Have a look at the magnified example on the right. (If you're the curious techie-type, we use a patented XM cross-modulated screening technology to achieve these results).

Clients tell us that 90% of their marketing campaign costs go on distribution – postage, promo girls (and boys!) or inserts. That's why we believe it's so important for the print element to work its hardest for you. We apply a special High Impact Coating to every job (except where we can'€™t, like on letterheads). This feels beautiful and makes the colours look their best. Your recipients will notice the difference too.


How It Works€¦
You don't have to understand it to appreciate it, but here'€™s a brief explanation if you're the inquisitive type. Full Colour (or process colour) is a system which allows a multiplicity of shades to be created from just four primary printing inks  Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black (CMYK).

Full colour means you can have virtually every colour of the rainbow, without worrying that you'€™ll need the pot of gold at the end to pay the extra costs. As many colours as you want. As many photographs as you want. One price. Simple.

The size is right

by: on

If you’re supplying your own design for printing with us, it’€™s very important that you set your page size correctly. If you don’€™t, parts of your design may be chopped off, look off-centre, or have areas of undesired white space. Here’€™s what to do:

  1. Locate the product size you’€™re interested in below.
  2. Make a note of the Page Size. This is the size you should set your page on your document.
  3. Add a black (100K) Page Frame (0.25pt -€“ approx. 0.1mm).
  4. Now look at the Trim Size. You’€™ll see that this is 3mm smaller on both dimensions. This difference is known as the ‘bleed’ -€“ 1.5mm on all four sides -€“ that’€™s approximately where our automated guillotines will make their cuts. The bleed allows for any small variations in this cutting.
  5. To remind yourself where the cuts will be made, you could add some guidelines 1.5mm in from each edge on your document.
  6. See the example on the previous page. For a business card, you’€™d set your page size as 88x58mm. We’€™ll trim down to approximately 85x55mm. No objects must extend beyond the page size -€“ use the ‘€˜paste inside’, ‘€˜clip’€™, or ‘€˜crop’€™ tool.
  7. Finally, it’€™s good practice to leave a ‘€˜Quiet Zone’€™ of 4mm (10mm for Booklets and Posters) from the trim edge (that’€™s 5.5mm or 11.5mm from the page edge). The same goes for any folds or creases. Avoid placing any important objects such as text or logos within this quiet zone. This will make your job look more professional and ensure objects don’€™t look like they’€™re about to fall off the edge.

Common print sizes