About the Author
Sarah is co-director of Malvolio. She brings her creative skills to the business, and loves concept development in commercial projects, illustration, and working on various self-initiated paper craft projects in her spare time.
Want your business stationery to be a little more fancy? There’s a lot of paper options out there, but you can also have extra touches, like spot UV (glossy finish), letterpress (embossing) or foil detail.
We’ve had a lot of requests for foil and glitter lately, and it’s been super fun. I don’t think I’ll ever stop loving glitter and shiny things. A lot of people seem to think foil is limited to gold and silver – but we’ve got over 20 colours of foil and glitter to choose from that we can add to print orders. There’s even black for a really subtle but classy look.
These finishes can be added to business cards, letterheads, stickers, packaging, brochures, swing tags and more. We can also add a bit of glam to signage for your shop, market stall or vehicle in the same way. Sparkle and shine everywhere!
We find that clients get stuck in a bit of a rut when it comes to brochures: they supply content and say it *has* to fit into a particular sized brochure. Sometimes this is to do with budget, but a lot of the time it’s that they just didn’t realise there’s other options.
Everyone is familiar with a piece of A4 paper. Most brochures we all see are just folded pieces of A4 paper. 1 fold, 2 folds, 3 folds…but it’s the same size paper in the end.
The thing is: a simple piece of paper can be so much more! Maybe this is my love of origami shining through. A brochure doesn’t need to “only” be A4. We can get paper in all kinds of sizes, and cut it to all kinds of lengths.
So our advice? Write up the information for your brochure first, and then work out how much paper you need to put it all onto (we can help with this). It can feel like a game of Tetris, but we love the challenge.
So what if your information takes up more than one piece of A4 paper? It might work better as a booklet, or it might just need a few more panels.
A recent example is the brochure we designed for Somerville Myotherapy & Pilates Studio. Instead of the standard 6-panel DL brochure (A4 folded into three), we did 10 panels. The panels are folded in a zig-zag (concertina) which works best for the information presented. One side of the brochure features pilates, the opposite side features myotherapy.
It was a similar story to the usual: the information wouldn’t fit on an A4 sheet, but they couldn’t cut anything out. Two brochures wasn’t suitable – they needed everything together. A booklet also wasn’t suitable – they wanted to be able to stick the brochure up on a wall when desired, like a poster.
So for all of your brochure challenges, call us. We love a little bit of an origami and information Tetris challenge – and it will help your business stand out.
One of our biggest client bases are start-ups. People come to us with their ideas and dreams, and seek help to make them look professional.
For those starting out on their business journey, it can seem really daunting. There is SO much you can get made. And then you wonder: do you really need everything that everyone else has? The answer is usually no.
For start-ups, we begin with the basics.
Registering a Business Name
Choosing a business name can be damn hard. There are going to be times you’ll come up with a name, think it’s awesome, then find out someone else already has it. But then you’ll find the one that’s for you.
The point is – we always make sure you have your business name registered before we start with branding. It can be heartbreaking to fall in love with a name, have your brand designed and then find that you have to start again. It’s worth going through the stress and bother of getting a business name first – we promise you.
Registering a Domain Name
This might seem like skipping a few steps ahead, but it’s always worth registering your domain name early in the process. This is something we do on behalf of their clients. We can show you a range of available domain names that match your business, and register it in your name. This means you can also set up a professional email address early on, and start communicating with the outside world from your new business!
Designing a Logo
We step you through our design process, where we find out as much about your business as possible. Sometimes clients want to rush the logo stage so they have something tangible/visual to show others straight away. But it’s the one part of your business development where spending that little extra bit of time pays off long-term. We don’t design “pretty” logos; each logo has a story, a meaning. You will want your logo to last at least 5-7 years minimum, so you’re only having to invest in your branding once while you get started.
We see a number of businesses go for a cheap logo service while starting out, but they end up spending more getting all their artwork redesigned. Getting it right the first time is definitely cheaper in the long run.
Designing Your Business Stationery
“What do I need?” is a good question, but the answer differs from business to business. You might only need a business card. Or you might need letterheads, presentation folders and brochures all packaged together. Or it might be a packaging design, stamps or stickers you require.
We always recommend writing out your ideas on how you plan to communicate to your customers, and how you plan to promote your business. That list you write will tell you what items you need.
Setting Up Social Media
Social media is great for getting people excited about an upcoming brand. You can start to build your following before you have officially launched, providing you have a few visual things you can show: such as your logo, product samples, etc.
We can help you brand your social media profiles, using the logo and branding we have designed.
Designing Your Website
Websites are often bigger projects than most people realise, and it can seem overwhelming as a start-up. We help by breaking it down into small steps: planning out the pages on your website, helping work out where images need to go (and what sort of images). We’re happy to read over your content and help you allocate it to certain pages, or we can write the content for you.
However small your website is at the start, it is built so you can add to it in the future. So you will have something to grow and evolve with your business.
Think of everything as a start-up as: something that will last, something that will evolve, something that will grow with me. Treat it like you’re planting a seedling to grow into a tree. We’re the ones with the tools (and water!) you need to help your tree grow.
The Pawfect Pet Foods Delivery Co are a fellow Somerville business, who came to us wanting to build an online store.
They were taking orders manually – in-store and via email – but felt there had to be an easier way. They wanted to automate the ordering process. So an online store was built. Their entire menu of raw pet foods is listed on their website, available to order in 1kg batches. The online store has also made it possible for add-ons during ordering, such as adding veggies to selected dishes.
As Pawfect Pet Foods deliver Victoria-wide, they have varied delivery prices. The checkout process automatically works out which delivery area they are within, and sets their delivery fee accordingly. Before their online store was launched, they worked this out for each order manually.
The online store also has the ability to create coupon codes for selected customers to use. Coupons can be set for single use, for only selected email addresses, selected products, and more – making them versatile. Much easier than trying to figure out a discount at the counter!
Other pages on their website include meal plans, useful guides such as meat/weight percentages, and happy snaps of their furry friend customers.
Forms come in all kinds of formats and sizes. It’s one of those things we all take for granted – we don’t really pay attention to a form until it doesn’t work. If it’s difficult to understand or complete, it becomes bothersome.
The technology available to use for forms is improving in leaps and bounds. While we used to be tied to paper forms, a lot can be done via computer now. We are regularly converting forms from paper to interactive PDF or online.
The “in-between” option from paper to online is PDF format. This gives people the flexibility of printing out the form, or completing it on their computer. In PDFs (when set up correctly), form fields can be made interactive, where they can be typed into on-screen. Buttons can even be placed in the PDF to save, print or email the completed form.
The downside to interactive PDF forms is that not all programs that open PDFs support the interactive fields. At this stage, they seem to work best in Adobe Acrobat. Opening PDFs in browsers is possible, but completing the form fields is not always an available option (such as in Microsoft Edge). We’re hoping that the support of interactive PDFs will become more common.
I personally think the biggest reason for the demand in converting to online is that payment can be completed within the form. There’s no need for someone to post a form and attach a cheque, or hope their direct deposit arrives some time after their form. Payments and form entries are easier to reconcile when they are completed together.
Online forms can use a feature called conditional logic, which is really handy for complex forms. Instead of having a paper form that tells you to skip pages depending on your circumstances, the online form does the “skipping” for the user. They won’t see all of the extra fields they didn’t need to complete – they are only shown the fields relevant to them. So what looks like a daunting form on paper can feel very straightforward when using conditional logic.
The forms can include the option to upload files, which would normally need to be sent separately.
Online forms are also easy to export data from. The details can be placed into a spreadsheet, making it easy to import the data into other programs. And no need to manually type out each entry.
I think that online forms will eventually be the only type of forms we will use in everyday life, but we’re not quite there…not just yet.
We have clients across a broad range of industries, and each industry uses graphic design in different ways. Design can be much more than just your logo and business stationery.
An example I’ll use is our client Harigon Gourmet Foods. As a supplier to supermarkets, butchers and other food stores, packaging and shelf presence have high priority. As their products are quite specialised, making the contents easy to identify at a quick glance has been important too.
Due to the different types of products, different packaging solutions have been designed. These include:
- Complete packaging, where the entire box or pouch is designed.
- Full colour labels, unique to each product.
- Generic labels, where product details can be added as an overprint.
For promoting the products, we have designed various posters and information flyers. A recent project was to design a promotional table for in-store taste tests of their products.
Graphic design can be used by businesses in many different ways. How does your business use design to improve your sales?
There is nothing like seeing our work out and about – we still get a buzz from it, no matter how many years we’ve been doing this for! We spotted the flags we designed for Pets’ Day Out in Frankston today. The event is coming up in a few weeks, on October 14.
There are numerous content management systems for websites out there. We use WordPress for our clients’ websites – but why WordPress?
Being supported by a huge community of developers, there is a lot of benefit in using a widely popular system:
- It is automatically updated regularly, keeping it secure and current with modern browsers.
- There are a lot of plugins available to extend the functions of your website. Things such as forms, online stores, social media connections, etc are easy to add.
- Those plugins are also regularly updated from their developers to keep in line with the main system updates.
- While we provide customised how-to guides and one-on-one training for each client, there is an abundance of guides, articles and forum conversations publicly accessible online too.
Easy to Update
WordPress has one of the most simple user interfaces we’ve come across. For those clients who still might feel overwhelmed, the user interface can be customised even further to the most basic set of buttons. It’s easy for anyone to maintain; I normally refer to that if you are familiar with typing a document in Microsoft Word, you’ll be able to use WordPress (there are a lot of familiar formatting options).
There are also nifty little features, such as autosave while you’re typing, a dynamic word counter, and even the ability to schedule pages and posts to publish on a set day and time.
Easy to Expand
We work with a lot of start-up businesses who don’t need a large website initially, but have plans for expanding later on. WordPress is one of the most friendly systems I’ve ever worked on to expand a website. Whether it’s adding new pages to the menu sometimes, or to the extreme of adding a full eCommerce store, the system not only makes it possible, but keeps it simple.
Good for Best Web Practices and SEO
“Best web practices” likely doesn’t mean much as a phrase to you. It’s all the background stuff you can’t see, but makes the user’s visit a pleasant one – such as a page loading quickly, or a page easy to read on mobile and desktop.
With WordPress, you’re not limited to a selection of templates. We custom build each layout, not only to keep it unique to your business, but also to keep the code neat and tidy. A well-built website also has the benefit of improving your opportunities with SEO. WordPress has turnkey SEO tools to help you make the most of your keywords and content too.
No Ongoing Licensing Fees
WordPress, at its core, is a free system. You don’t have to pay a fee to use WordPress, or to receive updates. The only part you pay for is the development/customising of your website, which is a one-off cost. Quite a few content management systems have monthly or annual fees for simply using their system – but not with WordPress. This makes it a sustainable long-term solution for developing websites.
We can convert websites from other systems into WordPress. If you’re feeling limited by your current system, you can contact us to discuss your options.
One of those “design things” that you might not realise is a thing, but can bother your eyes: actual centre versus optical centre.
What am I talking about? When an image, a heading – anything visual – is centered perfectly on a page, our eyes don’t agree. It may feel like the image is lower than it should be. If you let your computer do the centering for you, it will make it perfect centre, but it won’t look perfect. It’s also called the mathematical centre or geometrical centre.
So what position makes our eyes happy? It’s called optical centre, and it’s just slightly above the actual centre, and slightly to the right. It’s ever so slight that you won’t notice it’s not mathematically correct – but it makes all the difference. Our brains process images that are placed in the optical centre much more positively; it’s comfortable for our eyes.
Just one of those little random design tricks for you today!
Running a business has a lot of places where you need to stand out. Your service, products and communication are key factors customers evaluate when they interact with you. But what about your brand? That is important too.
The issue is, in many small businesses the owner is working in the business – not on the business – so while the day-to-day operations are working great, the higher things get less attention.
Neat and consistent branding adds a lot of value to any business, even the smallest of businesses who are run solo. But the flipside of this: if your branding is not getting the attention it deserves, you are likely devaluing your business without even realising. It’s the small things that build a much bigger picture: the image of your business. Your logo, your website, your signage, your stationery. All of those little visual “things” – customers evaluate all of these too.
But when it comes to neat and consistent branding, it doesn’t need to be complicated. You don’t need to try to be clever about it – just consistent. A really simple logo and only using a few basic colours consistently will have a much more professional impression than no logo and random colours.
Below are some lists of what to avoid, and suggestions how to improve your brand (most you can already do with your tools at hand):
Avoid having no logo at all. We suggest to even have just a basic design that is used consistently. It’s better than nothing.
On the other side – avoid having too many versions of your logo. If you have too many different designs, using different fonts and colours, it can get confusing. A single design is easier to recognise, simply by seeing it everywhere. It might sound boring but it works.
These tips are mostly for those businesses using DIY website builders, who are managing it all themselves. We build professional websites, but we completely understand that everyone has to start somewhere when it comes to getting online. And there’s a few little things that can help until you’re ready for a custom-built website for your business.
Make sure that all photos you add to your website are high quality. If they look pixelated or distorted when you upload them, then they are likely too small. The quality of the actual photo is important too. Make sure they aren’t blurry or have dark shadows on them.
Keep the formatting of your text on each page consistent – same colours, sizes and fonts. Set formatting for your paragraphs and headings that is the same on every page. This is actually a space where it’s clever to not be creative. Keeping it simple is best.
And if you need to use a DIY website builder, make sure to remove the credit link, even if you have to pay to do so. It can look unprofessional – but we all have to start somewhere when it comes to getting online. So make your first online impressions as professional as you can, even when just starting out.
Avoid using templates that use colours or images not connected to your business. It’s safer to start from scratch and stick to the colours in your logo so the look is consistent. Same goes with fonts and formatting. Everything online and in print, in an ideal world, should use the same colours and fonts, building that tidy and consistent brand. The more consistent everything looks, the more professional your business looks.
When it comes to printing – where possible, avoid the cheapest option. As an example, your business cards are an item left as a reminder of you and your business with a (usually potential) customer. If they are flimsy paper, with rough looking colours, they won’t leave as positive of an impression as an impossible-to-bend card with embossing or a gold foil finish.
Social media is where I often see businesses get a bit casual and “forget” about their brand – but ironically, it’s sometimes the place that your business is seen the most, especially relevant for micro and online-only businesses. Especially with text-based image posts (such as quotes), make sure to choose some fonts and stick to them for all posts. Use colours from your website and stationery, so when your customers interact with your business elsewhere, they feel like they’re with the same business.
Think simple. Think consistent. These will add value to your brand, and improve your business with more impact than you realise.