Author Archives: Kelly

About Kelly

Kelly is a web/graphic designer with The Simons Group. She enjoys Fridays, beautiful design and meatball subs.

5 tips for better brainstorming

blocksBrainstorming is an excellent tool when it comes to generating creative ideas and solutions. Below are a few of our top tips for successful brainstorming:

1. Set the scene. When deciding where to hold your next brainstorming meeting,choose a comfortable, well-lit environment. Remove all distractions and ask that you not be interrupted.

2. Gather a diverse group. Like-minded people are less likely to generate a broad range of ideas than people with different thinking styles. If possible, include people you wouldn’t ordinarily invite. A fresh point of view is extremely valuable. If people aren’t used to working together, try a warm-up exercise to help make everyone comfortable.

3. Use a visual tool. Before starting the meeting, appoint one person to write down ideas. Use a whiteboard or large sheet of paper to write down any and all suggestions. Use diagrams to connect and arrange ideas. As brainstorming slows, revisit and develop popular themes.

4. Encourage wild and half-baked ideas. Be sure to keep an open mind, even when it comes to ideas that may seem silly. These ideas are often the most creative and you can always scale them back to fit the project. Withholding judgment also allows everyone to feel free to participate.

5. Build on the ideas of others. Brainstorming isn’t just for generating new ideas. More importantly, it’s about combining and extending ideas. When discussing emerging themes, encourage the group to flesh out the ideas and build on what the participants suggested.

Good luck with your brainstorming! What prompted your most successful brainstorming sessions? Let us know in the comments below.

New project: Justrite’s product catalog

Last month, Justrite, the leading source of quality storage, handling and security products, came to us with a new project. After making recent acquisitions, the company needed a catalog that included both legacy and new products. Justrite provided three existing catalogs, and from those, we were tasked with creating one 48-page catalog.

The biggest challenge was consolidating these three different catalogs into a cohesive product. It was really important that the copy was uniform throughout the catalog. To do this, we reviewed all of the provided copy and decided on one format to use across the board. From there, we rewrote and edited the product descriptions to align with the approved format.

In terms of design, Justrite needed a fresh, new look that also worked with the company’s current branding. We gave the existing look a slight face-lift, which was just enough to make it feel shiny and new while still keeping it in line with the brand.

Does your company have a product catalog? How often do you update it? Let us know in the comments below.

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New project: A bright newsletter for Samuel Strapping Systems

TSG-139-SSSEarlier this year, Samuel Strapping, an international manufacturer and supplier, came to us with a new project. They wanted to create a newsletter for their employees. Internal newsletters are important because they motivate employees and build loyalty for the company. Internal newsletters are also great for keeping employees up to date on policy changes and company news.

We created a design that complements Samuel Strapping’s established brand. The existing brand primarily used yellow and dark gray, one of my favorite color combos. We decided to use dark gray throughout and yellow for bright design elements. The result is a friendly design that maintains a professional feel.

We also wrote the copy for the newsletter, keeping the stories interesting and informative. With a letter from the president, employee spotlight, and birthdays, readers can get to know their colleagues on a more personal basis.

Does your company have an internal newsletter? If not, how do employees get company news? Let us know in the comments below.

Ad analytics: What you need to know

question-markMany online publications have ad space for sale. If you do it right, advertising in a popular publication can be a great opportunity to increase your business.

Before buying ad space, be sure to ask the publication the following questions:

  1. How many subscribers do you have?
  2. On average, how many people open the email?
  3. How did ads in that position perform in the past?
  4. If people click on my ad, will you provide their email addresses and/or other contact information?

Use this information to decide if the publication is right for you. For example, if you find out the pub in question has only 32 subscribers, you may want to look elsewhere.

After you purchase a spot and run an ad, it’s important to know if your ad is working effectively. To do this, the publication should provide you with accurate, reliable analytics. Be sure that you receive the following:

  1. How many people opened the email?
  2. How many people viewed your ad?
  3. How many total clicks did the ad receive?
  4. How many unique clicks did the ad receive?

These are the numbers you really need to gauge how the ad is doing. For example, if you are receiving a high amount of views, but a low number of clicks, you may want to realign your strategy.

It’s also helpful if the publication reports the best-performing ad, as well as how many clicks that ad received, so that you can gauge how your ad is performing compared to others.

Have you advertised in online publications? If so, what was your experience? Let us know in the comments below.

Gobble, gobble!

Roasted stuffed holiday turkeyWe have a lot to be thankful for at The Simons Group (TSG). We have wonderful, loyal clients, interesting work to keep us busy, and a comfortable office.

In honor of Thanksgiving, we’d like to take a moment to really appreciate the outstanding moments, things and people in our lives:

Lee: I’m grateful for the wonderful staff at TSG — for the creative work they produce — and I’m grateful for the peace of mind I get by knowing that no matter where I am in the world, everything is running smoothly.

Lis: I’m thankful for the support of my work family this year as I figured out the right balance between my work and being a new mom. I’m very fortunate to work for such a flexible, accommodating company!

I’m also thankful for a few days off this Thanksgiving to relax with my family and see my daughter, Lucy, try my mom’s legendary cinnamon rolls for the first time.

Chris: I’m thankful for the great clients and opportunity to work with them. I’m also thankful for friends and family, and that my dog is behaving better.

Dina: I am thankful for the wonderful professional relationships I have built with my clients and various media outlets. I am also very grateful for my amazing family and friends who continue to surprise me and bring me lots of laughs.

Dawn: I’m thankful for the clients who put their faith and trust in us for their marketing needs, and who rely on our expertise to help them be successful.

I’m also grateful for my friends. They bring me great joy every day, and provide encouragement and support, even in the face of their own difficulties.

Matt: This year, I’m thankful for all of my great friends at The Simons Group and for my wonderful family.

Sandy: I’m thankful for having such a fun, talented group of people to work with at TSG. I’m also thankful for the health of my loved ones.

Kelly: I am thankful for the diverse work that we have at The Simons Group. Every day is something different! This year, I am also grateful to be able to host a big Thanksgiving dinner for close friends and loved ones.

From all of us at The Simons Group, we hope you have a safe and warm Thanksgiving!

Prezi is the new PowerPoint

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Let’s face it: PowerPoint presentations can be boring. They’re static and routine, and don’t always look appealing due to design limitations.

But now there’s an alternative to PowerPoint: meet Prezi.

Prezi is a U.S.-based software company that produces cloud-based presentation software. They describe the application as a “storytelling tool for presenting ideas on a virtual canvas.”

These are the features that make Prezi special:

  1. The capability to zoom in and out of the canvas, creating a spatial experience.
  2. The ability to move freely through the presentation as you present or react to the audience’s reaction.
  3. Presentations are shareable online with a simple link.
  4. Prezis are mobile-friendly and can be shown on an iPhone or iPad.

Using design software, we can create the backdrop and images for your Prezi. That means the look and feel of your Prezi is limitless and will truly reflect your brand.

For an example, take a look at this Prezi that we created.

The next time you need a presentation, skip the PowerPoint. We’re looking forward to creating an engaging Prezi for you and your audience.

Have you created a Prezi? How did your audience respond? Let us know in the comments below.

A fantastic printer makes all the difference

In a few weeks, Morrisey, one of our favorite clients, has a big trade show in Chicago. In preparation for the show, Dawn and I have been even busier than usual tackling all the collateral that Morrisey will distribute there.

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We wrote and designed one eight-page brochure, one four-page brochure and six one-page sell sheets. After dotting the i’s, crossing the t’s and Photoshopping the stock models to look their best, it was time to print.

When it comes to printing a large job like Morrisey’s, it’s really important to have a good and reliable printer. You need to keep so many things in mind, such as making sure brand colors are consistent, images are crisp, folds and crops are in the right places, and that you have the perfect paper and coating.

Here’s what we look for in a printer:

  1. Excellent response time. Prompt responses to emails are a must, as well as delivering the final product on (or ahead!) of schedule.
  2. Quality. It’s important to have rich, full colors, crisp folds and straight cuts.
  3. Attention to detail. We always check proofs thoroughly, but it never hurts when the printer is also familiar with our projects, and watches that things are running smoothly on press.

With a great printer on our side, we can ensure that Morrisey — and all our clients — will be extremely happy with their final printed collateral.

Despite rumors to the contrary, print isn’t dead. So how do you prepare for a big print job? Please share your tips in the comments below.

Behind the scenes: An inside look at design

Earlier this year, The Simons Group had the opportunity to work on materials for three award galas. I love working on award materials because they are a chance to celebrate honorees and each organization as a whole.

Below are two of my favorites from 2013: an elegant trifold program for BOMA Chicago and a fun twist on IABC’s Call for Entries for the Chicago Bronze Quill Awards.

Edward Bury, our contact at BOMA Chicago, was a pleasure to work with. He had a clear vision of what he wanted, but left the creativity to us. It was important to him to have a sophisticated and classic program. He also wanted to include categories and names that weren’t included in past brochures. Space was a challenge, but with just the right organization, everything fit nicely. For the cover, I chose a striking photo of Chicago and tied everything together by using the yellows in the photo to create a subtle gradient on the inside spread.

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I always enjoy designing multipage layouts, so the IABC Call for Entries was a treat. Alex Mitchell, our contact at IABC, asked that we incorporate a quill to tie back to the show’s title. To do this, I drew a few different quill silhouettes and created abstract designs by layering and varying their opacities. I carried this design element throughout the entire piece to create a uniform look. Overall, this two-color design is very clean, open and easy to read.

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Good luck to all of this year’s nominees! I’m looking forward to next year’s award season.

Have any designs inspired you lately? What elements appealed to you? Tell us about them in the comments below.

 

Master Graphics site helps printing company stand out

Last spring, I had the opportunity to design the new Master Graphics logo. Shortly after I created the logo, we completed a new brochure that helped to establish a new look and feel for the printing company. Now, I am proud to announce that the new Master Graphics site is live.

The website design is clean, bright and eye-catching. The bold colors and imagery complement the brochure and the logo. Though Master Graphics is a small company, it often competes with larger printers. It was important to Master Graphics to have a site with a professional-looking design so the company can outshine its competition. Let us know what you think of the new site in the comments!