Types of Designers to Avoid

There are innumerable reasons for not hiring a particular designer, but these we can reduce to warning bells which can typically warn an employer (or contract employer) that a particular designer will be more trouble than he, or she is worth. LUCKILY, Hotcards doesn't have any of these types of designers, which means you're pretty much assured an awesome experience if you hire us to handle your next design project! (Shameless plug ;)

The Deity - designers of this type simply can't do any wrong. Everything that they do is like manna from heaven, regardless of what your impression of it is. Arrogant doesn't quite cut it, as that's a personality flaw that can be overcome if there's adequate talent on display.This is more akin to a kind of deluded arrogance that is inexplicable. Certainly not someone who you'd like to collaborate with given a choice.

The Safe-player - These are designers who don't stand out much. They have basic skills and usually produce okay work, but they're not likely to engage in much risk-taking. Clients often avoid hiring such designers because they'd rather hire a designer who has the ability to produce something we haven't seen before.

The Perfectionist - Perfectionist designers tend toward being obsessive about their work. And while this can be an admirable quality in a designer, it can prove to be a challenge in working with them. They sometimes ignore instructions and prefer to do things according to what their will tells them to do, and their flawless style can also lead them to believe that they're superior to other designers. Worst of all, they have a hard time ever finishing a project, because it's never perfect!

The Turtle - designers of this type are generally nervous wrecks who envision negative feedback from clients before they've even presented. Designers like this completely lack confidence in their abilities, and as a result, frequently hide underneath their shells, like turtles. Their lack of self-esteem deters employees from hiring them.

The Hoarder - This type of designer collects multiple projects at the same time. They forget to set priorities and often have many work-related, freelance and personal projects at the same time. These designers have no balance and need to work on their time management. They tend to deliver projects late and the quality of their work is often dubious due to their lack of focus.

The Copycat - A designer of this type tends to surf the net for inspiration. Everything that he or she does marks the stamp of looking brutally familiar. Perhaps not all lifted per se, but at least heavily borrowed. You want to avoid such designers as complete originality is not in their bag of tricks.

The Pretentious - Designers of this type are show-offs. They love bragging about skills that they don't actually possess, but they can "talk the talk" and "dress the part" even if they can't produce high quality work. People often avoid working with this type of designer because they're essentially poseurs.

The Slug - These designers are the "lazy" type. They tend to get very sluggish, and this is the main reason why their projects are often delayed. The opposite of a "flash" designer who breezes through projects without missing deadlines or even finishing ahead of time. Being a slug isn't so bad as long as good work is ultimately produced, but clients often avoid this type simply because of their inability to meet deadlines and their tendency to waste money.

The Soloist - Designers of this type are lousy collaborators, although working on a collaborative project. They generally see their own work as being superior to that of other designers, and they usually don't listen to feedback. Instead of attracting clients, they tend to drive them further away.

The Flash - A designer of this type is a fast worker. They deliver projects quickly, often ahead of deadlines and present to clients on time. Although being a fast worker is generally a plus, clients often avoid hiring them because in their rush to completion, they often produce substandard work.

Logos with a Stench of Ripoffery

It's a sad day indeed when individuals purloin the hard work of others and present it as their own work.Call it desperation, a lack of pride, or cases of shameless hackery on parade - but the net result is the same: Representing another's work as your own. For shame, I say. Why did you get into this line of work to begin with if not for the satisfaction of work well done? It kind of makes one's skin crawl a little, but now, without further ado, shameful logo rip-offings, courtesy of the logo rip off catchers at

It was noble of the offending sushi bar designer to white out some details in the sushi bar design they ripped off. The logo is testimony to the lack of freshness in the place, however.

Sushi logo

 There's just no way in heck that two people pull this visual image out of the atmosphere. Sometimes great minds do think alike, but this ain't one of those times. Pure, shameless, ripoffery.

harrolds logo 

Maries. Aventino One in English. The other in Italian. You can say one good thing about the Maries logo: At least they purloined it from a disparate culture. You almost have to wonder who the habitue of both spots is who noticed this blatant rip off:

Maries logo


Hey, at least the purported rip off artist in this instance put the logo on an angle and added a star. So they tried to make it their own, even though anyone who glances at both logos know exactly what they did:

z logo 

This could be a case of great minds thinking alike, but it ain't very likely, plus, it's much more fun to point the finger at people for stealing. So, stealing. Stolen. Ripped off design. For shame:

car logo 

This image is so dreadful that it's a minor miracle that anyone bothered ripping it off. But they did, so take a bow schlocky coffee image thieves:


 And what to say about this one? Someone horked their turdblossoms! It's hard to deny the similarities here, though to these cynical eyes, the ripped off version seems like an improvement. And as a general matter, that's not what one usually looks for in judging rippoffery:

 rip off logo


They're Weird, But These T-shirts Actually Have a Point, Usually.

The world is positively swimming in people who see themselves as t-shirt designers/ illustrators. Ads for their puntastic-abominations are everywhere on the internet, and in most cases, the stuff is pretty much... well, you get it. One exception is a chap from Malaysia by the name of Chow Hon Lam aka Flying Mouse, who lets people have it with both barrels when he unleashes a t-shirt design. There's an element of absurdity as there pretty much always is with this stuff, but the concepts and illustrations go farther than the usual pun stuff. They're pretty funny!


 Tshirt 1


Tshirt 2


Tshirt 3


Tshirt 4


Tshirt 5 


 Tshirt 6


 Tshirt 7


 tshirt 8






A Traveling Retroprospectus of Poster-Like Objects

It's time once again to ooh and ahh at the lovely posters that designers hath made. Yes, the National Poster Retroprospectus is here. Well, maybe not where you are, but it is worming its way around the country. No word on just how many of the posters were fabricated simply to fish for such acclaim, but does that even matter? They've been made, and now they're being celebrated. In all, there will be 300 posters on display crafted by luminary artists and designers. (Who do you consider the most famous poster designer? Maybe Shepard Fairey?) Here are some of the posters that will be on display at the NPR.


 Poster 2


Poster 3


Poster 4


Poster 5


 Poster 6


Poster 6 







Top Ten Green Printing Practices

As much as possible the use of recycled paper and ink for printing should be strictly followed. Although recycled paper may not be always available in all the possible sizes, renewable inks are readily available in the market.

FSC Certified and Recycled Paper - Which is Better to Use?

Millions of trees are cut every year to make paper. Deforestation poses a threat to the environment in several ways. Rise in temperature, increase in levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and soil erosion are some of the more evident effects.

Frequent flooding due to the lack of trees to absorb excess rain water is also a real possibility. We cannot stop using paper despite the usage of electronic tools and devices having become popular but we can surely work towards minimizing the damage. You can contribute by using recycled paper. In addition, you also have the option of using FSC certified paper when not using the recycled one.

Top 10 Redesigns logo of 2012

Logos are the expression of a complex idea in simple terms which immediately strike the attention of the onlooker. There are many logos that we associate with immediately; however, many such logos have presently undergone redesigning to give it a modern touch while keeping intact the original design. Here are ten such top redesigns of logos in 2012

Political Printing for 2012

Political campaigns utilize a variety of printed sources to spread their message.

The idea is to introduce and popularize the candidate across the mass audience. Political printing is extensively used in campaign promotions. It includes direct mails, pamphlets, stickers, door hangers, T-shirts and other merchandises. Many companies specialize in printing campaign material, which get more and more active falling elections. Predicting the trends for 2012, political printing is likely to be used more extensively this year.

3 Reasons Print is a More Effective Advertising Medium Than the Web

The world the internet has ushered in has brought with it plenty of ways to make our lives easier.

Whether that's doing our grocery shopping or discovering our new favorite band, it's quite amazing what we've been able to achieve. But it's not all good news. Thanks to the sheer number of advertising methods the web offers, it's actually making certain promotional methods less effective, simply due to over-saturation. When everyone is advertising with web banners, everybody starts to ignore them: it's simple common sense.

Design, Design, Design

One designers take on the current state of graphic design and the common shortcomings of many new designers.

I’m going to start this by giving the definition of Fundamentals:

Forming or serving as an essential component of a system or structure

Notice, if you will, the word ESSENTIAL. In relation to the design and print world, you can not achieve a printed piece without the essentials... unless of course you just get lucky.

Don't Forget Graphic Design Fundementals

One designers take on the current state of graphic design and the common shortcomings of many new designers.

I’m going to start this by giving the definition of Fundamentals:

Forming or serving as an essential component of a system or structure

Notice, if you will, the word ESSENTIAL. In relation to the design and print world, you can not achieve a printed piece without the essentials... unless of course you just get lucky.

Long-Format Print Advertising

…and a new Design Idea of the Week!

A recent article in AdAge looks at the growing popularity of the long-format ad. "Branded content," in the form of short films and music videos created by advertisers are the sexiest, if not the newest, high-end promotional tool going these days. People want entertainment, not advertising, so why not provide advertising entertainment?

In response to commercials and online ad spots becoming increasing brief and punchy, many advertisers have recently gone in the opposite direction, producing 3-minute, 10-minute, and even 30-minute film-style commercials. The products being advertised act as props or storytelling elements in these long-format ads, which advertisers say are engaging consumers on whole new levels.

All of which got me thinking, why can't the same principles of long-format, narrative-based advertising be applied to print? A brochure could be a novella. A catalog could be designed as a comic book. The difference in production costs should be negligible, if anything, so stop advertising and start entertaining!

Check out a brand new Design Idea of the Week for tips on how to create your own long-format print ad.

Apple to Launch New Mobile Advertising Platform?

Will "iAd" be the end of print, or the beginning of the end for mobile advertising?

We're only days away from the launch of the iPad, an event that some say will determine the future of the magazine and newspaper publishing industries. But wait, there's more. Only days after the iPad's release, rumor has it that Apple will be unveiling what the speculative geek circuit is calling the "iAd." And you thought they were gonna let us poor ol' printers down easy!

Bright Lights! Big City! Poster Printing!

The intricacies of campaigning on Broadway…

Poster design is a complicated process, and the higher the stakes, the more complicated it gets. Sometimes, a client simply needs one great image for a short-run print campaign that's not going to involve any other elements. Other times – whew! – things get a bit more serious.

For example…

The New York Times recently published an article on the process of designing a poster for a Broadway show. They spoke to Drew Hodges, chief exec over at SpotCo. Entertainment Advertising (recently in the news for their racy portrayal of Miss Piggy). SpotCo. created the print ad for a new run of the famous musical, La Cage Aux Folles, on Broadway.

The criteria for the poster? Where to begin….

Recession-Conscious Postcard Printing

Share space, save money!

When business is slow, owners and managers are faced with an inevitable quandary: They should advertise to pique consumer interest, but how can they afford to when business is slow?

Luckily, at Hotcards, we're kind of experts on low cost printing. Why? Because it doesn't matter how good the economy is or how great business is going, print buyers always want an unbeatable price – especially in the era of gang-run, go-digital-or-go-home, web-to-print mania.

So what's to be done when even the $108.00 price tag on a run of 1000 postcards sounds way over-budget? Cut the cost in half by sharing the card with another business!

Over the last year, many small businesses have been combining forces and sharing ad space. Because two-sided, full color postcard printing is the norm, it's easy to design a mailer or club card with a unique ad on each side. Take, for example, this card, advertising vegetarian dining in Barcelona, Spain:

Why Bother To Redesign Print?

There's a right way, and a wrong way, of posing the question…

At a time when the print industry is supposed to be either fading gracefully or balling up – turtle style – in the hopes of coming out of this recession alive, Fortune Magazine is doing the unthinkable. It's – gasp! – redesigning.

One of Time Inc.'s major newsstand players, Fortune is coming out this month with a whole new look, and we're not talking leaner, meaner, and cheaper. The Fortune redesign involves the addition of relevant new sections, as well as heavier paper stock, and a matte, rather than gloss finish, for the cover. To wit, Fortune has redesigned up, creating a more expensive-to-produce magazine...

Vancouver 2010 Olympic Print Ad Gallery

Adventures in brand diplomacy.

Through cold, through ice, through recession, the tradition of epic Olympic games print advertising prevails! The Olympics is always a hugely busy time for printers, as print advertisers – often with very different agendas – compete for attention on the world stage.

First, there’s the official Olympic committee stuff – the mascots, the slogans - but most of all the carefully designed winter Olympic poster, from which springs all other print collateral and represents the very soul of a nation.

This winter in Vancouver, the green and blue maple leaf, shot through with scenes depicting the Canadian wilderness, has fans and critics. For some, the symbolism is too obscure, while others criticize it as being overworked.

It seems that at the Olympics, as in advertising, you can't please all the people all the time, and if you try, the result may be that nobody is satisfied.

Will the Hollywood Sign Become Ad Space?

Just when you thought it couldn’t get more po-mo.

One of the most famous pieces of typography on the planet earth is the Hollywood sign. The giant block letters in the hills above Hollywood are iconic, but apparently, that doesn’t make them indispensible.

Turns out the owners of some of the land around the sign, Fox River Financial Resources, have been trying to sell the land for two years. Luckily, the whopping $22 million price tag has kept the property on the market, and out of the speculative gazes of developers.

Now, Trust for Public Lands, a conservation group in California, has struck a deal with Fox River to buy the land for $12 million, turning it into a nature preserve safe from condo builders. Apparently this whole recession? Bad for developers, good for non-profits (at least when it comes to buying at sympathetic rates).

Still, $12 million is no small potatoes. In an effort to raise money for the purchase, Trust for Public Lands will apparently be covering the Hollywood sign up tomorrow with a giant banner that reads, "Save the Peak." Cahuenga Peak is the name of the hill adjoining the sign, which the TPL is endeavoring to protect.

Christmas Card Controversy 2009

Gossip, scandal, and holiday printing.

Usually, at this time of year, I put together a post about Christmas card design by creating a gallery of celebrity holiday cards and critiquing them. But celebrity cards aren’t at the center of the card printing gossip this year.

What does have our interest in 2009 is cards that are stirring up controversy. British comic Ricky Gervais sent out an e-card effectively chastising his fans and mocking fellow celebrities for the shameless commercialization of the holidays. And that was one of the least gossip-worthy moves of the season, largely thanks to bloggers who love to get their scandal on:

e-Cards for Christmas – Really?

There are plenty of times to save paper. This is not one of them.

We all know that the holidays have become a little…commercialized. The relentless marketing, the no-holds-barred spendfest, kicking things off the day after Thanksgiving with an event as grimly-titled as 'Black Friday.' It's not exactly the season grandma remembers from when she was a little girl.

This year, however, budgets are tighter, and it's not gonna hurt anyone to do a bit less spending and a bit more loving. All over the world, handmade gifts are still a standard part of Christmas, so go ahead, bake some cookies, make a wreath, sing some carols, there's lots of fun you can have for free around the holidays.

The one place you should not settle when it comes to the holiday season is on your greeting cards. If you're feeling tempted to send out e-cards this year, don't succumb!

The only time an e-card should ever be sent is when the alternative is a big fat load of nothing at all, because an e-card? It's one step up from nothing, and two steps left of those delightfully amusing forwards your tech-savvy great aunt sends you featuring internet memes from five years ago.

The e-card can get as funky and personalized as it wants, featuring animated photos of you and your family smiling and waving, Harry Potter-style. In the end, however, it is not, and will never be, as nice to receive as a real greeting card, especially around the holidays.

Ever since people lived on isolated farms a million miles away from the nearest post office, the holiday greeting has been a special point of contact – maybe the only one between friends in the course of an entire year. The holiday greeting card represents a moment to pause, catch up, and reflect on relationships, which is what the season is all about, right? You don't get that from an e-card, especially if it ends up in your spam folder, or if the graphics don't work on your email client.

Holiday greeting cards also become a part of the festive household decorations. My mom always displays cards strung together over doorframes, where visitors see them and they become a source of conversation. "Did Uncle Joe address his card to the dog again?" "Did you see how big Sarah and Marty are now?" "Look at the Bensons' card, it's got their new house on the front. I hear they got them printed at…"

Okay, okay, that was a bit overboard. But you get the idea. These tactile, visually evocative points of communication can't be replaced by an email, so cut out the week in Barbados this year if you must, do a secret Santa gift exchange and make dinner a potluck – heck, that's what the Christmas spirit is all about. But don't send e-cards, or I promise you, tonight you will be visited by three ghosts…

Using Elevators as Print Advertising Vehicles

It's like an inside-out wrap – in print!

Vehicle wrapping has been a popular advertising vehicle for a while, but it's only in recent years that elevator wrapping has become a trend. In many ways, it's like a newer, better form of vehicle wrap. Just a few of the perks include:

Scary Halloween Print Ads

Just kidding! Halloween isn't scary anymore!

When I was a little girl, my Halloween costume choices were governed by a basic principle: it's gotta be scary. The point of Halloween, my dad explained, is not to channel your inner princess or sugar plum fairy, it's to channel your inner witch, ghoul, or mad scientist.

But then, those were the good old days. According to reports, over the past decade, kids' costumes, and concomitantly, Halloween print advertising, have become progressively less scary. Despite what the latest SAW movie would have you believe, the average consumer just isn't that interested in being scared, and Halloween is now more about living out fantasies than giving ourselves a good fright.

News stories on the subject point to everything from post-9/11 anxiety to increased consumer alarmism for the de-scary-fication of Halloween print advertising. However, a look at some vintage ads tells a different story, and begs the question, "has Halloween advertising EVER been scary?"

Check out these print ads from yesterday and today and judge for yourself:

What's Wrong With My Business Card?

10 signs that you might need a new one.

Business card printing is an investment, which means that you must be anticipating a return. But for some reason, you're not making new connections. People just aren't following up. Here are the top ten reasons why your business card isn't doing its job.

You don't have a business card.

"I had something designed, really I did. I even found a printer! I just…got busy, or something…"

That thing you give out? It's not actually a business card.

"It was the day before the conference! I panicked and wrote my name on a bunch of playing cards/matchbooks/post-it notes."

It has your pager number on it.

"So what if I've been using this card since 1995? All my information is still basically the same…"

It's shaped like a star, a heart, or a turtle.

"I wanted to stand out from the crowd! Sure, it doesn't fit in your wallet, and yeah, maybe it looks like a kindergarten project, but that's just my style…"

Smeared ink/crooked type/visible pixilation.

"Hey, my desktop printer can do anything a commercial printer can do. Then I got my mom to cut them. She's got a real steady hand, see…"

It's not the card, it's you.

"Not every person I give a card to is completely drunk. Sometimes, I just leave one on the table after a meal, or I slide it into someone's pocket when they're not looking. Creepy? Nah, I don't think it's creepy…"

It's got dirt on it.

"It's not dirt! It's just…dusty…and creased. I guess it's been in my wallet for a while. Hey, these things take time. You can't just hand out your card to every person you meet…"

You wrote all over it.

"We moved from Seattle to Jacksonville. But I'd just had 1000 cards printed. I wasn't going to waste that $60.00! So I got my husband to change the address on every card. So what?"

It's about as thick as a gas station receipt.

"I go to order cards, and this salesman's telling me I need to break the bank on some 16 point premium card stock. Ha! I know a guy who'll do it for me in his basement for half the price…"

It's not your card.

"When I started to work for BigMax, they gave me fifty company cards with my name and number on them. Sure, I don't work for BigMax anymore, but the card is still good, right?"

Wrong, wrong, wrong. These bad business card printing mistakes may sound ridiculous, but they happen all the time. And in this case, the old "anything is better than nothing" philosophy does not apply. If you don't have a business card that makes you look professional and on-the-ball, it's time to start printing.

Should There Be A Law Against Digitally Altered Images?

We were just trying to have a good time, Photoshop, but you went too far!

Weren't we just talking about how to avoid designing controversial print ads? Ah, if only more of you would read the hard-hitting editorials I put up here (Ralph Lauren, I'm looking at you).

The designer's label is increasingly under fire due to a recent print ad that had been photoshopped to show a model so freakishly thin that her head appeared larger than her body. There was an enormous outcry, of course, as people who viewed the ad were reported to have fainted, become ill, gone completely mad, and in at least one instance, slipped into a coma.

And the uproar is only getting worse, as the Ralph Lauren label fired the model in question. Jilted beauty Filippa Hamilton chose today – Lauren's 70th birthday – to reveal that she lost her job for being "too fat."

You have to wonder if the graphic designer who committed the Photoshop offence was impelled to excess by a little yellow sticky note on the original image: MODEL TOO FAT! WE FIRED HER AND WE'LL FIRE YOU, TOO!

Meanwhile, the New York Times reports that in Britain and France in legislation is being passed to curb such image-altering tactics in print advertising, or to at least ensure that they come with some sort of disclaimer, a la These thighs are not real, do not attempt to imitate or duplicate.

According to European lawmakers, altered photos depicting unrealistically thin (or attractive) people are bad for the self-esteem of girls and young women. For shame, design community, for shame! And to think you started out with a degree in Fine Arts. Tsk, tsk.

But seriously, folks, what do you think? Does there need to be a law protecting consumers from manipulated images? It wasn't long ago that the portrayal of smoking was banned from many forms of media. Does digitally altered beauty fall into the same category?

10 Ways to Avoid (Or Create) Controversy With A Print Ad

Cautionary tales and how-tos.

Recently, WebDesignerDepot put up a great post of the most controversial magazine covers of all time. The list was presented in chronological order, and it got us here at Hotcards thinking about a few different things. Like, what used to be controversial in print, but just isn't anymore? (women in bikinis). What used to be a non-issue, but is now a huge problem in graphic design? (photoshop disasters) And finally, what kind of problems have stood the test of time?

To answer that last question, we put together a list of 10 things you can do in a print ad which are guaranteed to generate controversy. For some of you, this will be a list of what to avoid. For other, a list of how-tos. The choice is yours.

Best Disney/Marvel Mashup Galleries

Now your childhood IS just one big jumble of images!

As my many thousands of readers know, I like to keep things fresh around here, so while yesterday we discussed the future of the printing industry, today we'll have a look at some hilarious graphic design awesomeness brought to you by yesterday's announcement that Disney acquired Marvel Entertainment and the 5,000-or-so characters of the Marvel Universe.

Intending to write a little post speculating on the design of a Disney/Marvel logo, I was blown away to discover that the web is already awash with hundreds of pieces of Disney/Marvel mashup art.

Smart Car Vehicle Wrapping

From business promo to style staple.

There's nothing like seeing a really huge, crazy vehicle roaring at you down the street, dressed in a full, color-rich vehicle wrap. Vehicle wraps are used by businesses on their company vehicles as a promotional tool. They're also adored by car-lovers who just want their rides to be utterly unique. You can find vehicle wraps on everything from city buses to Hummers, but lately, the favorite vehicle to dress up in a wild design seems to be the Smart Car.

Smart Cars are usually bought by drivers who are comfortable with making a statement, whether it's one of economy, eco-consciousness, or style. The unique, distinctive shape of the vehicle instantly conveys a message about the attitude of the driver, which is why they're such a popular tool for small, green-minded businesses. Maybe it's no surprise, then, that Smart owners love to take their cars personality to the next level with wrapping.

Check out these great Smart Car vehicle wraps. Click on any of the links to find out more about the owners, artists, and pros behind the wrapping:

Mad Men Season 3 Key Art Production

From another era? Or is a great ad always a great ad?

If you're a designer, if you're a printer, if you're involved in the advertising industry in any way, chances are you're getting pretty stoked for the beginning of Season 3 of Mad Men, a great show (if you've somehow managed to miss it so far) about the advertising business as it played out in 1960s New York.

AMC, the channel running the show, knows it's design-nerdy demographic. To promote the new season, they just released a little 'making of' the season 3 promotional imagery, which is going up on billboards and in magazines as we speak.

The Best Artistic Printing Websites

Oh, for the glory days…

The design community has been abuzz over the last few weeks with the launch of The Handy Book of Artistic Printing, a tasty volume by graphic designer Doug Clouse and writer-designer Angela Voulangas. The Handy Book looks back on an era of print history when the line between printer and designer was blurry, and the exploration of what could be done with embellishments and typefaces was an exciting new frontier.

Although I've yet to get my paws on a copy, the book looks great, and brings to mind some of my favorite blogs about the art and artfulness of print. While you wait for your copy of The Handy Book, enjoy these, some of the best spots online in which to indulge an enjoyment of printera obscura...

Michael Jackson Album Covers

Designing a life on the front.

The king of pop, Michael Jackson, died yesterday of a heart attack. And the passing of such a larger-than-life icon inevitably draws the mind to consideration of loss not only as it applies to living, but to art, music, and our relationships with the things that define us.

Even Newer Design Idea of the Week!

The Album Cover Ad

The days of vinyl records may be long gone, but that doesn’t mean album cover artwork can’t still come in handy. Next time you’re working on a promotion, consider replace that boring old flyer with a print design that rocks…

Print / Design Posts of the Week 10

Energizer Monday edition.

Usually, I like to put up cool links to the best print design stuff around the web on Fridays, but a bleary Monday morning seems like as good a time as any for it. At your desk? On your sixth cup of coffee? Sit back, relax, and get inspired by some of the best of print/design from around the web:

Hotcards & the Beanstalk – new print ad from one of in-house designers, Glen Infante. So preeeeetty! And it proves that you don't need tons of $$$$$ to have beautiful print collateral.

If you're a fan of the epic web of blogs run by ImJustCreative, check out TypePosters72, where typography nerds can regularly ogle new poster designs built around type.

Stuart's Critical Printing Blog – Faculty member of the Leeds College of Art applies critical thinking to print media. Don't be dissuaded by the unfortunately tiny and oddly formatted images on the front page. Click on the full blog posts to get a good look. Well worth it!

Artist/writer/creator Rivkah has begun writing and art-ing on LiveJournal about printing, promising of series of 20 posts including very lovely comic panels about our favorite subject. So far, SO good! Scroll to the bottom of the post for the comic.

Head on over to GoogleBooks to take a look at Elizabeth L. Eisenstein's book, The Printing Press as an Agent of Change. For hardcore printing fans only, but a great read on the connection between printing, politics, human thought, and revolution.

If Eisenstein's text is a little dry for you, visit Metalmother for a fresh, funny, easy-to-enjoy wedding invitation that puts all other wedding invitations that came before it to shame!

Hopefully the above blend of inspired typography and heavy reading is just what you need to get your week off to a great start! And if you have any favorite links to post, put ‘em in the comments! Happy creating, readers!

New Logos, New Print Design…

…are we headed for a new, web-wide world?

There seems to be little point in fighting it. Every day, web design and print design are coming closer together. Elements are jumping the fence, experts in one field are being asked to design for the other, and any printer or advertiser claiming to provide a 'complete' service has to create collateral that transfers effectively over both media.

And perhaps this Vulcan-esque design meld is never more obvious than when we look at logos. A recent feature in The New York Times points out that many major brands are redesigning their logos in favor of a "friendlier, more approachable" style.

Great Summer Festival Poster Printing

A.K.A. Fun with Typography

Although it's not official, there's something about June 1st that just feels like the start of summer. All the big summer movies are coming out, BBQ season is in full effect, and music-lovers are planning for one of the best parts of the season – summer music festivals.

Woohoo! Dozens of bands, sunshine, happy people, cold drinks, and of course, awesome festival poster printing! Although many festivals sell out before you get a chance to hear about the lineup, poster ads are still a must for any festival. Here are some of the best of the summer (and spring, if you want to get all technical):

Artwork and Design Inspired By LeBron James

Stay inspired, Cleveland!

Sunday night was rough. As I hope you all know, Hotcards is based in Cleveland. We're also hardcore fans of the Cavaliers. And after Friday's insane win, we were feeling pretty hyped. Then came Game 3. There's nothing harder than watching your team fail to do what you know they can do.

That being said, I'm not one of those who believes that after the third game in a series, it's all over but the cryin.' LeBron James' massive 3-pointer at the end of Game 2 proved that anything is possible, and moreover, it got me thinking about what an incredibly iconic, inspirational figure James has become in just a few short years.

Not only can LeBron James be found on magazine covers, in ad campaigns, and on apparel printing, but somehow, a lot of the print advertising surrounding him ends up being as gigantic in size as its subject.

A perfect example of this is a side project one of the designers at Hotcards is working on—a campaign to raise money for a giant billboard in downtown Cleveland, asking LeBron to stay with the Cavaliers once his contract is up.

With today's signing of a 15% ownership contract of the Cavaliers by Chinese investors, the prospects, and the billboard, for keeping LeBron around is becoming more and more of a reality. Translation: anything can happen!

And in honor of that sentiment, and for your enjoyment and inspiration, I've put together some of the best to be found in print designed around LeBron James. Enjoy. Go Cavs!

Can Print Be For the Web and Survive?

Check out For Print Only to find out!

Life is funny. Just a couple of years ago, it was hard to find information about printing online. Web-to-print services were just starting out, and there were only a handful of real 'print authorities' contributing to a web-based print discussion on anything like a regular basis. Most interestingly, there were very few print designers talking about and showing off their work on the web.

Today, as print struggles against the looming threat of extinction (and I mean threat not so much in the 'impending' sense as in the 'receiving death threats on a daily basis' sense), all of a sudden, everybody's online. And all of a sudden, printers and print designers are using the very medium that menaces our future to communicate the enduring vitality of our craft. Like I said, life is funny.

As a perfect example of this emerging trend, take a look at the fabulous new branch of UnderConsideration – FPO (For Print Only). Each post on FPO features a print design project and examines its creation process in detail. Print method, paper stock, production time, and even project cost are detailed in usually well-photographed entries.

So far, FPO is welcoming submissions from anyone who's got a cool print design project in the works. What qualifies as cool? Letterpress, silkscreen, hand-finishing, embossing, engraving, scoring, die-cutting, things that fold up into cool 3D shapes…the list goes on, and should be a great source of inspiration and cross-industry dialogue as the archives grow.

The question is: will print's increasingly robust online presence help it grow? What happens when a piece of print design is seen more on the web than in print? Will the concept of print-and-print-design-for-the-web cancel itself out, like a time travel story about a future self meeting a past self and creating a rip in the fabric of the space-time continuum? Can we design print for the web without falling into an anachronistic black hole? Keep watching FPO et al. and find out.

Good Print Design Isn't Always Pretty

And event promotions are most at risk.

I was just reading a post on designing collateral for small businesses over at Orange Envelopes. Author John Heaney made the point that pretty much all designers can create things that are pretty. The problem is that pretty doesn't always equal effective print design.

In design, it's too easy to become dazzled by style, and to forget about substance. No matter how good-looking a design is, it can be a fail if, as Heaney lays it out, it:

  • Doesn't support the brand it represents.
  • Doesn't gel with the end-goals of the company.
  • Doesn't actually get a message to the audience.
  • Doesn't fulfill the project brief.
  • Doesn't contain anything of substance, despite being incredibly sexy.

Hocards Design Work Shows Up On Kanye's Blog!

Just another kick*ss mixtape cover…

In case I haven't mentioned it enough lately, the design talent we've got at Hotcards is AMAZING! It's easy to think that at a printing house, design maybe comes second. Maybe our designers just do the occasional bit of touch-up work? Nothing could be further from the truth.

Our designers bring unique style to the table that is blowing up. Better get your project request in soon before the waiting list gets too long!

Meanwhile, check out this amazing album artwork (after the break) created by graphic design maestro Glen Infante for Cleveland wunderkind Kid Cudi's brand new mixtape. It was featured yesterday on Kanye West's blog (aw yea!).

And have a look at the comment thread where many commenters give mad respect to the rockin' artwork. That's right. Our design team – kind of a big deal.

PS - Don't forget to check out the mixtape, too. It's pretty right on.

Using Print to Sell the Image of a Hip Hop Monster

…and not just an image, an entire mythology.

Call me a trend geek, but I rarely leave the house in the morning without checking out, just to make sure I'm not missing anything crucial to my indie pop identity. And, of course, to check out the latest in album cover designs...

Print / Design Posts of the Week 9

The Easter Bunny goes down the rabbit hole.

It's been a while since my last 'best of.' What can I say? Things have been busy around here. But with this gorgeous long weekend shimmering all around us so pleasingly, I figured it was high time to hook y'all up once again with some of the best in print on the web.

The theme this week is…thought-provoking...

Future-Proof Your Recession Print Promotions

Low cost shouldn't mean low quality!

During a recession, brands and businesses don't quit advertising, they just change their print advertising strategy. Right now we're seeing a lot of print design that focuses on coupon-cutting, two-for-one deals, and rock-bottom pricing strategies. In short, our printers are pumping out a lot of hyphenated buzzwords.

But according to market experts, price-slashing strategies run the risk of hurting businesses over the long term. Sure, they help us cope with the current crisis, but when the market evens out again, brands will be left with hastily altered reputations that will stick for a long time.

Two separate editorials in Ad Age this week warn marketers against positioning brands as 'cheap' just to weather the recession. Low prices and cheap product alternatives may help you stay afloat now, but are far from future-proof. Cheapen your image today, and once things readjust, the world will move on, and you will still be that cheap product that people bought when they couldn't do better.

Al Ries points to a 1930s recession-era story as proof of this eventuality. Before the Great Depression, Packard was THE name in American luxury cars, according to Ries. But during the Depression, Packard came out with a cheap model to help weather the downturn. Cadillac, on the other hand, maintained their luxury status. Result: after the Depression, people were scooping up 'lacs left and right, and Packard disappeared into that dry river gulch where un-notice-worthy mid-priced brands go to die.

Ad Age contributor Jack Neff agrees with Ries. Brands that try to get away from a high-end rep right now won't be able to restore their image in the future, he writes. According to Neff, a devalued product today won't be able to reintegrate as a quality product later, and I have to agree.

Get To Know Our Print Designers…

This week: Glen Infante!

Browsing around Inkd the other day, I couldn’t help but notice that they've got some great space for designers to share details about themselves, and I thought, why don't we do this on

Because you knew we had an awesome design team, right? The question is, who ARE the lovely people who create your business cards, brochures, posters, and album artwork?

Inkd – A Place For Print Design

Print designers – check this out!

Inkd is a new online marketplace geared specifically towards print designers and businesses seeking print design.

For designers, Inkd is a great, FREE forum in which to display and sell their wares, much like, the company itself says, Etsy. For businesses, it's the place to go when you don’t have the time or the budget for developing your own unique print designs or hiring a design team.

Print Design Posts of the Week 7

Less gloom, more pretty colors.

Last week was pretty grim, so this week I put together a list of links that focus more on how awesome the print and design industry is. It's spring. The sun is shining, the birds are singing (maybe not in Cleveland, but somewhere). Enjoy a nice, relaxing weekend, folks!

Print Design Posts of the Week 3

Inaugural printing, old stuff, etc.

We've got a good collection of links this week. Don't forget to submit anything interesting, informative, or surprising that you'd like to see on this list!

Death of the Brand, or a New Age of Sustainable Branding?

Intangible value doesn't equal no value.

During a period of recession, there are always two schools of thought on print advertising.

Number 1 – More print advertising is needed as a cheap way to communicate with consumers during this thrifty period.

Number 2 – Dang print advertisers all to hell. They're the ones that got us in this mess by convincing us all to overspend.

More and more, the trend amongst pundits on business and culture is to blame advertising and it's evolutionary progeny – branding – for a myriad of social woes, and then to declare it way past its prime. To be replaced, I'm assuming, by their particular flavor of b-to-c communication that is absolutely nothing like what has come before it.

The way some of these writers are spinning the situation seems to imply that the very concepts of 'marketing' and ‘branding' are nothing more than trumped-up get-rich-quick schemes devised by a printing and design industry with delusions of grandiosity.

Print Design Posts of the Week 2

Cool stuff.

This week, we're sharing awesome links to poster printing, design tutorials, socially-conscious advertising, and some things that just look crazy. Enjoy!

McDonald’s Rebrands All Print Collateral

Movin' on from 'I'm Lovin' It' to 'It's good for you' ???

There are a lot of companies out there worrying about the economy right now, but McDonald's is not one of them. Because what happens during a recession? Fewer people go out to eat at fancy restaurants, and more people eat fast food. Cheap, fast, greasy, salty - who could ask for more?

The only thing standing between McDonald's and an even larger drooling customer base is its reputation for being, well, incredibly bad for you. The task of McDonald's branders has always been to distract attention from this fact, however, the fast food giant has still suffered long and hard for having a reputation for being synonymous with 'bad for you.' Hence, while other major ad-spenders are cutting back, McDonald's is undergoing a major rebrand of all its print collateral – from packaging and placemats, to billboards and vehicle wrap printing – it's all changing to send a fresh, healthy message to consumers.

Check out the website of design agency, Boxer Creative, for a walkthrough of all the new McD's print packaging and advertising. The goal of the project, according to the company, was to “challenge outdated perceptions about the quality of McDonald’s food, engaging consumers in an honest conversation about what makes McDonald’s.”

The result, displayed through a great interface on the Boxer website, is a pile of print collateral that evokes the feeling of taking a trip to the local market. Big images of natural ingredients combine with a color scheme and font choice clearly imitative of recent trends in branding organic and eco-friendly health food lines.

Print Design Posts of the Week

Because you don’t waste enough time on the internet…

Every week, I do my best to read everything published anywhere online about printing and print design. A lot of stuff doesn’t make it onto the blog however, and some of it’s pretty interesting. So to help get you through those last few hours of the workweek, I’m going to start posting them here on Fridays. Enjoy!

The Effectiveness of Print-to-Web Advertising

We can do better.

Did you know that the effectiveness of print advertising is very scientific? Yup. There are whole companies out there devoted to studying and compiling the data involved in figuring out what exactly makes a great print ad.

Take MRI Starch Communications, for example. They specialize in gathering 'market intelligence' on print ad effectiveness. That makes them something like the CIA of the printing industry.

Unlike the CIA, however, MRI doesn't mind sharing information. They just published a list on AdAge of the 10 most effective print-to-web magazine ads of 2008, and some of the results are surprising.

Celebrity Christmas Cards 2008

Design decisions of the rich and famous.

Over the last couple of months, we've been doing just a little, tiny bit of greeting card printing. Businesses, charities, and even the occasional family send out, oh, bazillions of cards during the holiday season, some designed by spirited individuals, some carefully assembled by crack design teams.

But, of course, the most important cards sent out every year are those sent by celebrities. In 2007, we showcased the best, and the worst, of celebrity greeting card printing, and it was such a hit we're doing it again in 2008.

Google Me Business Card Design

Badass printing inspiration.

It’s not often that I come across business card printing that really catches my eye. Maybe it’s because all those online galleries that constantly show up on my favorite news sites like somehow I might be able to eat them for breakfast have put me into business card overload…but I’m not trying to point any fingers.

The point this Monday morning is to bring you a little innovative design inspiration courtesy of artist Evan Roth. Check out his cool new business card!

Explore The LIFE Photo Archive

For design inspiration and a history lesson rolled into one.

I know this happened a few days ago, but I’ve only just had the chance to check out the LIFE Magazine photo archive on Google, and I’m impressed. It’s nicely laid out and the search function is excellent. I believe it does limit you to two hundred results per search, but for some of us obsessive-compulsive types, that can be a good thing.

I wouldn’t check it out if you’re randomly searching for some print design inspiration, but if you’re trying to develop something specific, it’s a great guide. For example, if you wanted to create an old-timey cowboy scene, but you weren’t sure how to get the clothes right, you could search “Cowboys” and basically get a visual history of the culture over the last 80 years.

This is a great resource for print designers looking for classic or iconic images. Not that you can steal them now, folks, but as a guide to creating a particular style or evoking a feeling, this archive is well worth bookmarking.

LIFE photo archive hosted by Google

Print Design Inspiration

Eye candy for a chilly Monday morning.

I have to admit that when designer Erik Baker’s cool-pic-email-forwarding became a regular feature on Design Observer, I didn’t think too much of it. After all, most emails you get from people wanting you to check out a cute picture of a dog or a video of crazy stunts are just a huge, annoying waste of time.

But over the weeks, I’ve been won over by Baker’s selection of images. Each image tends to be pretty interesting from a design perspective, and loosking through them actually seem to be a good way to get those creative energies flowing.

So if your Monday morning is gearing up a little slowly, and you need some design inspiration, check out Baker’s posts on Design Observer. It’s a nice way to start your day.

Capitalizing Titles And Headlines In Print And On The Web

What your copy choices say about you.

A common debate came up around the office today. We were working on some mockups for a web design project (Yes! Hotcards does web design!), and when it came to putting in the page headers, no one could agree on what words should be capitalized.

A Google search shows that this happens all the time. And according to various sources, there is no one right way to capitalize a headline on the web or in print. The important thing for a copywriter is to be consistent with capitalization, both within the body of a single document (i.e. a blog post or article) and throughout a publication (i.e. an entire website, book, or magazine).

However, each different style of headline capitalization sends a different vibe about its author. Once you become consistent in your capitalization, you're going to be sending a strong message, kind of like your favorite cologne, your vintage sport coat, and your Incredible Hulk underwear send a message. So before you get locked in, let's have a look at the most common forms of headline capitalization and what they say about you:

Poster Ad for Photoshop CS4

"As Real As It Gets."

Burnt out on election campaign printing? Looking for something to restore your faith in the true lighthearted, brilliant beauty of full color print design? Check out this piece of poster printing, created to advertise Photoshop CS4...

Creating Universal Sign Systems

…and how it could improve the effectiveness of print design.

I read an old interview with sign and symbol expert Mies Hora where he was describing the ideal sign system.

And I'm not talking about astrology or any other esoteric art here. Sign systems, for our purposes, are things like road signs, the signs that direct us around public areas, and signs that provide warnings. Hora says that the ideal sign system includes no words, and can be standardized universally.

For example, if we wanted to create a set of symbols that could be used to direct people around every airport in the world, it would have to use no words, so that it superseded language barriers, AND include images universally relatable enough so that anyone can understand them.

Creating sign systems is kind of like the science of creating effective communication. I wonder, how difficult would it be to communicate using only images, and no copy or words of any kind in print design? This is done occasionally in advertising, but it’s certainly not the norm.

Often, this style of image-focused print design is used by multinational companies that don’t want to produce unique print collateral for every country they have stores in. Businesses like IKEA, for example, take customers from A to Z of the consumer experience using a blend of symbols and print featuring happy people shopping, largely without using any words. This allows them to print and ship the same collateral to the Netherlands, Romania, and Canada.

Would print design and print advertising be improved by finding ways to communicate without written language? Would a standardized system reduce a designers creative opportunities, or would it just present us with new opportunities to be creative?

Print Design Parallels With Airport Signage

It’s all about leading the way!

When you’re traveling, it’s always stressful to worry about how you’re going to navigate a new and unfamiliar environment. How will you make your connection at the airport or train station? How will you get to your hotel? And once you're settled in, how will you get around from place to place?

Success and failure in these departments generally has to do with the quality of signage we encounter on our travels. And part of the responsibility of printers and print designers is to develop signs and other printed materials that clearly present information to the confused, disoriented, and otherwise adrift.

But how do you go about assembling a collection of print materials that will be displayed throughout a large area? You need to know the lay of the land, pay attention to the small differences required by each piece, and imagine how to best connect each piece visually, one to the next.

If these types of sign displays do their job REALLY well, they’ll also funnel traffic in such a way that they reduce operating costs, and increase profits. Think about how a store like IKEA funnels traffic with signs and arrows, creating a complete shopping experience that leaves you wondering, at the end how you could have possibly spent so much money.

Print Design For Web Designers

Is it one of those things that's just not done?

Even ten years ago, it was unheard of, but nowadays, there are a ton of graphic designers out there who have almost zero experience with print design. People work with web design and motion graphics, not with inks and textiles.

In the past, the challenge has been for print designers to transition to the web, but now the tables have turned. Web designers need to be able to work with print media, but the transition can be difficult.

Not only is print a whole other medium, there is a serious shortage of information about print design on the web. As I've mentioned before, I think this has something to do with a far-flung conspiracy amongst print designers, who are reluctant to give up their ideas and trade secrets to the webosphere that so rudely took their place in the spotlight.

But that's just me.

I'm bring this subject up again because I recently ran across an post by Max over at Design Shard talking about designing for print, and he got a great response from web designers who seem to agree that there should be more discussion and crossover between web and print.

Too often, I think, print design gets lost under catchall titles like ‘design' – which can be about anything from cutlery to architecture, or ‘graphic design' – which usually ends up in a discussion of web design. Even on sites like Design Float, there's no specific category for print design. It fits in somewhere between 'graphic design' and 'advertising,' and comes with tags like 'freelancing,' 'Photoshop,' and 'typography.'

Sometimes (back to my far-flung conspiracy theory), it seems like print designers are afraid to actually talk about what they do. Unless it's about something extremely boutique, like hand illustrated wallpaper or extremely palatable, like this weeks 100 best business cards, the gritty everyday world of designing brochures, postcards, billboards, and banners, seem to go largely undiscussed.

Why is this? Is it because print design has a reputation for being too often about the tackiest forms of advertising? Is it because print designers feel relegated to the past by the new school?

Either way, it seems to me, and the post on Design Shard goes to show, that the reticence is more on the part of the print community than the web community. But as there's truly no reason to hold back, I don't see why we can't all come together over CMYK. How about it?

Hotcards Ad Appears On Award-Nominated TIME Cover

Print design coincidence? Or copycat?

Last week, on September 22nd, the annual finalists in the American Society of Magazine Editors’ Best Cover Contest were unveiled. As usual, the top spots went to a handful of big names, like Vanity Fair, New York Magazine, and Time.

I browsed through the nominees, as I’m always interested in award-winning print design, but there was one cover that drew my attention in particular.

In the "Best Concept Cover" category, Time magazine has a nomination for their cover of April 28th, 2008, entitled, "How To Win The War On Global Warming."


It's no surprise that covers with an eco-conscious theme would dominate the "Best Concept" category.

What did surprise me was that Hotcards' designer Glen Infante created a nearly identical print design for an ad in HOW magazine, and he did it over a month before this issue of TIME hit the stands...

The Ultimate Political Print Design Challenge: Design a Flag

And oh yeah, make sure it represents the whole world.

We've seen a lot of print designers putting their skills to the test over the past months, designing political printing for the White House hopefuls. And it's been a good reminder of graphic design’s ability to do amazing things. Ready for an even bigger challenge?

The uber-subversive advertising critics over at Adbusters are asking designers to really put their political print design skills to the test by developing a flag intended to represent the whole world. "The One Flag" contest is all about acknowledging our role as global citizens, and designing not to create something marketable, but to create something that people all over the world can connect with in a meaningful way.

It seems like the flag can be just about whatever you want, although Adbusters emphasizes that it should be a SYMBOL (shhh, don't say anything as commercial as 'logo'). They also encourage designers to stay away from "language and well-worn cliches," so obviously, there are a few guidelines.

The winning flag will be produced, I'm assuming not for free, but for all citizens of the world able to make a visa payment to Adbusters.


This isn't the first time Adbusters has pulled a publicity stunt thinly veiled as a stand against commercialism. In 2004, they tried their hand at apparel design, producing a line of shoes that looked like Chuck Taylors, except they were made of recycled material and produced by union workers in Portugal as a statement against sweatshop manufacturers.

And of course, Adbusters made a couple bucks selling their ultra-trendy, anti-establishment shoes.

However, what's drawing the most fire about "The One Flag" contest is not the ads-are-bad-unless-they're-our-ads angle. Rather, it's Adbuster's selection of a seven-person jury made entirely of white, English-speaking men. Translation: they basically assembled a good ole boys club to determine what flag design would best represent the entire world.

Of course, I'm sure all the judges are qualified. However, the selection makes Adbusters seem less subversive, and WAY same-old-same-old.

Actors Slam Movie Poster Printing

We're living in the age of the armchair designer. Adapt or die.

When there's a failure of communication between the creators of a product and the folks in charge of promoting it, look out! These days, it's not good enough to just sell the product, you also have to appeal to the design sensibilities of your client who, lucky you, happens to know a thing or two about good design.

Take, for example, the movie industry, wherein there's a long-standing tradition of punching up ad campaigns to make a movie appeal to the largest possible audience.

That means doing stuff like making a trailer for a courtroom drama that features the movie's one and only blammo explosion, and a sex scene that didn't even make it into the final cut.

It also means creating poster print designs that make a romance look like a sex flick, a drama look like a thriller, and a political thinker look like pure action-adventure.

Why does this process so often involve pretending that a movie is something it's not? Advertisers might say they're just doing they're jobs, but lately, actors have started to fight back at bad movie poster design.

Calling Card Printing

Two words: Slick. Very.

Business cards are great for business-y types, but what about the average person that's constantly writing their info down on napkins, receipts, and cell phones already crammed with names and numbers? Networking is all-important, but if you don't want or need a business card, how are you supposed to stand out and really make a connection?

That's where calling card printing comes in. Not only is it ultra-stylish, it's cheap, and anyone can do it. Professional printing services aren't just for big companies anymore.

Calling cards were originally popular during the 17th century. Because there was zero communications technology back then, people would ask if they could stop in for a visit by leaving a calling or visiting card at your door. To show that you were open to a visit, you would, in turn, drop your card off at your friend's place. It was the rough equivalent of really, really slow text messaging.

Unlike texting, however, calling card printing makes an impression. It's tactile – high quality card stock and embossing make calling cards very nice to touch. It's also more personal – a number can be punched into a phone and forgotten, a card shows that you're interested in engaging with someone.

These days, all kinds of people are using calling cards to build new relationships:

  • Bar and club goers use calling cards as a classy pick-up tool.
  • Parents use calling cards to organize play dates for their children.
  • Travelers use calling cards to stay in touch with friends they meet on the road.
  • People attending large events use calling cards as an informal way to make an impression on acquaintances, or to reconnect with old friends.

Five Beautiful, Functional Calendar Print Designs

Yes, we're still printing calendars.

What makes a great print calendar? It’s different for every individual. For some, calendars are something that grandmas use to remember when to take their ear medicine. For others, having a calendar that suits our needs perfectly is deeply, well-nigh-on cosmically important.

For me, a successful calendar must have three well-designed features:

  • Space: enough to write notes in, while acknowledging that my day planner can do most of the heavy lifting.
  • Visual appeal: It’s part of my environment, so my calendar has to be pleasing to the eye, and ideally, bring something fresh with every fresh month.
  • Functionality: I’ve seen designers do a lot of really cool, strange things with calendars, but if it gets too complicated, you’ve lost me.

Here, for your organizational pleasure, are five beautiful, functional printed calendar designs that will keep you smiling on-schedule, all year round...

The Table of Contents

An often-overlooked element of print design.

I was just reading an excellent post over at Smashing Magazine that brought this subject to my attention. The post makes the point that although Tables of Contents are often skimmed over in the design process, there are a lot of beautiful, creative things you can do with that space.

Tables of contents grace the first pages of magazines, catalogues, booklets, and annual reports. Usually, they’re designed with a font and style that subtly shows compatibility with the rest of the printing, without drawing undue attention to itself. But why not draw attention to the table of contents?

Elsewhere in the print design world, we emphasize the importance of catching our audience’s attention immediately. Our goal is to do something that pops out and draws the eye almost against the will of the reader.

In catalogue and report publishing, the table of contents can be that attention-grabber. By putting in the time to create something unique, you have the potential to effectively sell the rest of the print offering.

What Happened to the Classic Business Card?

And does the gimmick card work outside of the online photo gallery?

FYI: I don’t need your business card to take me on a journey of the imagination. I don’t want it to require high-maintenance on my part. I just want to remember your name. And that's going to be hard enough.

Business card printing isn’t what it used to be. We’re not simply trying to communicate basic information anymore. We’re trying to get noticed, to shake ourselves out of our unshakeable apathy. Today, the business card is, it seems, required to entice, titillate, and often, provide a uniquely interactive experience.

If you’re a reader of the user-moderated news scene, a frequenter of sites such as Digg, Reddit, and more recently, Popurls, then you’ve already seen your share of 'amazing business card' design galleries.

These galleries tend to feature not so much business card printing, as metal-punched cards, cards that fold into fun shapes, ribboned cards, jeweled cards, cards with puffy 3D shapes, flaps, folds, and even seeds that will sprout into a garden with proper care and attention.

These cards are funny, creative, daring, and often surprising, but the more wild they get, the more I wonder: what’s happened to functionality? The business card itself, like much of print media, was originally conceived to serve a single, extremely functional purpose, that is, to introduce, connect, and remind us of a business that we are interested in working with.

Certainly, an innovative card serves as an excellent reminder. I’ll never forget a business card printed on a balloon that I had to blow up to read. But will I remember the business, or just the extravagance of presentation? And furthermore, where am I left when that balloon pops, when my mini-garden has disintegrated into mulch, or when my folded paper business card boat has sailed off into the sunset?

The more I look at beautiful business card design galleries, the more I wonder if these unique designs don’t actually have their real strength online. They take a great picture, they look great in a gallery, but how will they survive in the real world of wallets, purses, cluttered desktops and crammed filing systems?

As much as presentation matters in business card printing, I have to argue that functionality matters more. If your business card doesn’t fit in my wallet, if it crowds my datebook, or if it leaves fluff in my pocket, I’m going to be impressed by the hassle, but not so much by your business.

Beautiful things can be done with full color printing, and all the scoring, die-cutting, and rounding that comes with it, but don’t forget to focus on the few essential bits of information that really need to stand out on that little card.

It might be a dated philosophy, but the more subtle taste and style required to pick the card stock, the font, and the presentation for plain old black-and-white business card printing still says more to me about a business’s character than all the glam, glitz, and gimmicky presentation in the world.

Making Stock Photography Work For You

Finding great images for your full color printing

Here at Hotcards, we do a lot of design work for print and for the web. But all this full color print and web design pretty much has just one thing in common: it all requires stock photography.

A lot of designers might cringe when they hear those words, and with good reason. Stock photography tends to bring to mind images of grinning telemarketers and laughing families that look so phony they set your teeth on edge.

Particularly when it comes to web design, we’ve all been exposed to a seriously tasteless crop of stock images, most of which, for some strange reason, depict a blonde woman with glasses, speaking on a blue-tooth headset and looking super ready to help you with your customer service questions.


But stock photography doesn’t have to get this ugly. I’m going to tell you about a few simple strategies we use at Hotcards to keep our full color print design looking like we set up a photo shoot for every brochure and poster that comes our way.


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Converse Celebrates 100 Years With Iconic Ads

Check out these gigantic print ads!

Over the last month, Converse launched a massive print campaign with collateral throughout 75 countries worldwide. The campaign is part of the company’s centennial celebration, which is, apparently, being celebrated on a massive scale.

Although the campaign is following print, outdoor, and online streams, the truly notable examples are thusfar gigantic billboards featuring counter-culture icons from the worlds of music and sports. The black and white images of twelve individual superstars, dead and alive, sporting the classic Chuck Taylor, are spread out across the giant canvases. Each icon is connected by his or her shoe to their neighbor, demonstrating that all kinds of edgy celebrities from all walks of life have worn Converse runners.

Vinyl/CD Cover Printing and Artwork

15 great sources for album eye candy, inspiration, and discussion.

I’m one of those suckers who truly believes that there will always be a place in the world for vinyl. A lot of people believe this because they say the sound quality is unmatchable, but for me, it’s all about the artwork.

I was looking at a collection of album cover art over here the other day, and it got me thinking. At Hotcards, we do a lot of DVD cover printing and CD cover printing, as well as album artwork designs. But would album cover design be such a major artform if recordings had originally come out as tapes, CDs, or MP3s? I strongly doubt it, and yet, largely because of the amazing work of album cover artists, the worlds of music and art have always been intertwined.

The post I was reading that got me on to this topic was suggesting album artwork as a source of design inspiration. I started doing some more research on the subject, and I was amazed to find how much album covers have influenced the design AND printing industry.

For example, I’ll be you didn’t know that the gatefold, which is used all the time in not only cd cover printing, but brochure printing, flier printing, and even business card printing, was originally invented for vinyl packaging. In the 1960s, musician and producer Enoch Light developed the gatefold so that MORE art could be included in record packaging. Super cool!

The world has changed a lot since MP3 downloading became effortless, but prior to this, many people made their music purchasing decisions based on album artwork. Of course, that’s what those of us involved in DVD cover printing and CD cover printing still hope goes on, but the question today is – is the album cover a dying artform?

For those of you who’d like to do some research or eye candy-goggling of your own, here are some of the best resources on the web for checking out and discussing album cover artwork:

Print Design in Pill Form

Welcome to the internet, where anything that can’t be absorbed instantly, isn’t worth knowing.

When it comes to print design, I like to stay on top of the scene, to whatever degree that’s possible. In the mornings, I check the mainstream media for half-mentions of printing, tucked away in pieces that are largely about politics or media or business.

I go on to browse through my favorite social media sites, then my favorite blogs. And if I’m lucky, somewhere amongst the architecture and the web 2.0 debates, the soliloquies on the beauty of found objects and the mediations on modern contemporary furniture design, I find some awesome little gems about print and print design, and my day is made.

But with all the content out there on the interwebs, it amazes me more and more how I continue to slog through the same old themes. The three that seem to pop up the most are:

  • Numbered lists of Photoshop brushes/tools/tutorials
  • ‘Best of’ logo design galleries
  • ‘Best of’ business card design galleries
  • Now, don’t get me wrong, I love these design snacks as much as anybody. They’re print design fast food, easy to skim through, consume, digest, and move on. The problem, as I see it, is that they are so palatable that they’ve become a standard tool with which any blog may gain some traffic and notoriety.

    Logo love tops Digg

    So it happens that not only is every second print design post online about one of these subjects, but that they also lack, in my opinion, a certain degree of depth, creativity, and willingness to explore deeper into the world of print design. Details are important, small things like brushes and logos and business cards are important, but their not 90%-of-the-whole-print-design-game important.

    Poster Printing and Designing

    A roundup of some eye candy.

    It will come as no surprise to this blog’s many avid readers that I am something of a poster nut. To me, posters are the ultimate intersection of fine art and advertising. The low cost of poster printing allows anybody who loves art to have great pieces in their ‘collection’ without the often inaccessible expense that comes along with buying original artwork.

    If you love posters as much as I do, you’ll love these sites, each of which boasts a great collection of poster artwork of all styles:

    Designing for the Youth Market - Does Such a Market Even Exist?

    Are we print advertising to little adults?

    Since everybody LOVED my perspective on iPod ads last week, I thought I’d follow up with the controversial subject of advertising to children. I came across a great article in Ad Age today about marketing MP3 players to kids that got me thinking.

    You Suck at Photoshop

    A Tutorial

    Even if you don’t suck at Photoshop, these videos can be very instructive.

    It’s not often that graphic design genius of this caliber comes along…

    Continue reading to see more videos…

    iPod Ads and Print Design Philosophy

    Printing ethically, designing ethically…

    Is it possible for a print design campaign to be TOO effective? That’s what some critics are claiming in regards to the consistently acclaimed advertising created by Apple for the iPod.

    Bizarro 'has it really been that long?' moment: Apple has been using the same, distinctive advertising style to promote the iPod for almost a decade. Print promotions usually involve giant-sized banners, billboards, or vehicle wraps featuring a bright, candy-colored background, and a black silhouetted figure rocking out on an iPod.

    The print ads are beautifully conceived, colored, and executed. Often, iPod TV commercials will feature the posters or billboards as a central element of the advertisement.

    So…great. Everybody’s favorite gadget has consistently cool, appealing print collateral. What’s the problem? According to designer Cheryl Towler Weese, these almost perfectly tuned print ads could be contributing to the tidal wave of theft and even violent crime surrounding the iPod.

    Celebrity Christmas Card Designs

    Diamonds might be forever, but they’re not exactly clever card design.

    Elizabeth Taylor’s 2007 greeting card design:

    A Liz Taylor Christmas

    Famous people have long Christmas card lists. I’d guess that many celebrities send out a few thousands cards during the holiday season. And with a sleighload like that to contend with, you’re not gonna use…ugh…desktop publishing to design and print your cards, right?

    Design + Politics = Huge Turnout of Young Voters?

    To begin, a rambling aside.

    When I was a younger person, filled with lofty, creative enthusiasm, and surrounded by edgy, creative people, said people and myself would put on events – open mics, gallery shows, multimedia productions, etc. Of course, we always put up posters and handed out flyers for these events, and at first, we created the designs and printed them out at home.

    But as our production skills, and our design skills improved, the charms of desktop printing faded. Printer paper, even nice printer paper, tore easily, turned to pulp in the rain, and more often than not looked like we were advertising a yard sale rather than a high-concept art event.

    Eventually, we found an extremely low cost printer, and we started to advertise using glossy, full color posters. Not only did we see great turnouts at our wacky events, but to this day, I sometimes walk into a totally random party only to find one of these fondly-remembered prints displayed on the wall. Sometimes in a frame. Wicked cool.

    Today, I was reminded of this early experience with the world of printing by Design Observer. According to this illustrious design blog, at the AIGA Design Conference last month, an elimination-round-based design competition was held. The final challenge was to design a strategy to get voters between the ages of 18 and 24 to turn out on Election Day.

    Full Color Print Advertising Outdoors

    Learn more about investing in outdoor ad space.

    This morning, I came across a great example of exactly why it’s important to have access to low cost printing, and why top-notch full color print design is a necessity. This video, from the excellent folks over at GOOD Magazine, takes you on a virtual tour through the cost of buying outdoor ad space in New York City.

    To summarize the video: it’s not cheap.

    Of course, the cost of outdoor advertising varies depending on the city, the demographic, the population density, and your marketing vehicle of choice, but one constant remains: when advertising outdoors, the cost of design and printing with be far less than the cost of buying ad space.

    Conservatives Commentators Challenge Google Logo Design

    Logo controversy impacts the entire design community.

    Where would we, as a design community, and particularly as a design blogging community, be without the fascinating and time-consuming pursuit of logo controversy? In recent years, it has become impossible to unveil a new logo, particularly for a high profile event like, hmm, say, the Olympics, without drawing the ire of graphic designs and social/political critics alike.

    Even the seemingly benign doodles that occasionally grace the Google homepage have come under fire. Conservative critics have long been irked by the uber liberal company’s failure to commemorate Memorial Day or Veteran’s Day with a specialized homepage logo, and apparently, the situation is just getting worse.

    A Moment in Union Printing History

    The first in a series of explorations into the history of great printing and print design.

    What comes to mind when I say “Rosie the Riveter?” Either an image has instantly popped into your head, or you have no idea what I’m talking about. If you’re in this second group, don’t worry about it, because one of the most famous pieces of full color printing in history isn’t famous because of its name. It’s famous for what it represents.

    Full Color Printing Affordable for Nonprofits

    Tips for organizations with small budgets and big imaginations.

    Just because you’re a nonprofit organization, doesn’t mean you have to settle for advertising with black and white flyers, two-color direct mailers, or brochures printed on thin, flimsy paper. The cost of high-quality, full color printing has gone way down, making gorgeous, compelling print ads accessible to even the most strapped nonprofits.

    Print Design Hotness: Adorable Little Animals

    What is it about the cuteness?

    I thought I’d take a break from searingly insightful political printing commentary today to discuss a design trend that’s as baffling as it is compelling. That is, the use of cute animals in advertising campaigns.

    The Delicate Art of Font Selection

    When it comes to font selection, a designer has to have a sense of history, psychology, and an eye for matchmaking.

    If an analysis of election campaign print designs proves anything, it proves that font selection plays a critical part in successful (if not good) design.

    Graphic Design of Yesterday and Today

    As it turns out that artists through the ages have a lot in common…

    Whether we’re working with paints and brushes, or computer programs and tablets, the creative impulse is always to push our medium to the furthest reaches of our imagination, which turns out to be…a land where beautiful women frolic in fantastic settings? Wow, who'da thunk it?

    Design Idea of the Week

    Check it out!

    The Design Idea of the Week is just one of the great new features on the Hotcards site.

    Hot on the Campaign Printing Trail

    Election campaign printing is on the rise even as summer heats things up…

    We’re getting close to the middle of this hot, rainy summer season. If we were kids, we’d probably all be lazing around in the backyard, haunting friend’s pools or the mall to beat the humidity. But now that we’re all grown up, every summer we get to relearn the tough lesson that business doesn’t stop for the heat!

    Seven Great Sources of Inspiration

    Every artist needs stimulation once in a while.

    If your art form happens to be graphic design, advertising, marketing, copywriting, or anything else that puts food on the table, it’s important to have fast, efficient ways to break down that creative block and get back to work.

    Daily Blogging from the HOW Conference!

    The annual HOW Design Conference runs from the 10th – 13th at the Hyatt Regency in Atlanta.

    The big event is almost upon us, and around here at Hotcards, we’re almost ready to hit the dusty trail for Atlanta. The HOW Design Conference is always a great time, but this year, we’re extra excited because we’re going to be blogging daily from the conference!

    Ten Truly Simple Tips For Taking Great Pictures

    It's not just about pointing and clicking.

    If a Digital SLR camera sounds like a hefty business expense, then you're just going to have to become a good photographer.

    Taking Great Pictures for Use in Print Design

    At Hotcards, we do a lot of design work for the customers we print for. Photography, on the other hand…

    Getting your designing, printing, and even mailing (if you’re running a direct mail campaign) done in one place is a relief for many people, but coming through with high-quality images that are specific to your product, service, or event.

    Great Resource for Print Designers + Haiku Advertising

    Stay up to date on advertising trends for around the world. And yes, there is plenty of print ad stuff posted here!

    In my never-ending quest for cool resources and sites of interest to printers and print designers, I came across Ads of the

    Building a Texture Library for Web or Print Design

    "It's not what you look at that matters, it's what you see." - Henry David Thoreau

    If you’re a designer, you might say it’s not what they look at that matters, it’s what you can make them see. Texturing invites the viewer to look deeper into a design, to spend more time with it. In this sense, texture plays a large role in the success of visual communication, and maybe even in the realization of a design’s purpose.

    Functionality in Print Design

    There is a line between success and my design, and that line is made up of service people who have neither the time nor the energy to deal with my crap.

    The other night, we were down at the local watering hole, indulging in sundry libations, when my eyes trained, all of a sudden, on the uniquely shaped beer coaster positioned beneath my pint of brew. This was no common circle of soggy pasteboard. It was a large, thick, intricately cut maple leaf, a marvel, we all agreed, of advertising design technology.