A few Dilbert Pick-Me-Ups

When things get busy, I’m so thankful for my Dilbert Desk calendar.

The Basics of Branding (Repost)

Learn what this critical business term means and what you can do to establish one for your company.

Branding is one of the most important aspects of any business, large or small, retail or B2B. An effective brand strategy gives you a major edge in increasingly competitive markets. But what exactly does “branding” mean? How does it affect a small business like yours?

Simply put, your brand is your promise to your customer. It tells them what they can expect from your products and services, and it differentiates your offering from your competitors’. Your brand is derived from who you are, who you want to be and who people perceive you to be.

Are you the innovative maverick in your industry? Or the experienced, reliable one? Is your product the high-cost, high-quality option, or the low-cost, high-value option? You can’t be both, and you can’t be all things to all people. Who you are should be based to some extent on who your target customers want and need you to be.

The foundation of your brand is your logo. Your website, packaging and promotional materials–all of which should integrate your logo–communicate your brand.

Brand Strategy & Equity

Your brand strategy is how, what, where, when and to whom you plan on communicating and delivering on your brand messages. Where you advertise is part of your brand strategy. Your distribution channels are also part of your brand strategy. And what you communicate visually and verbally are part of your brand strategy, too.

Consistent, strategic branding leads to a strong brand equity, which means the added value brought to your company’s products or services that allows you to charge more for your brand than what identical, unbranded products command. The most obvious example of this is Coke vs. a generic soda. Because Coca-Cola has built a powerful brand equity, it can charge more for its product–and customers will pay that higher price.

The added value intrinsic to brand equity frequently comes in the form of perceived quality or emotional attachment. For example, Nike associates its products with star athletes, hoping customers will transfer their emotional attachment from the athlete to the product. For Nike, it’s not just the shoe’s features that sell the shoe.

Defining Your Brand

Defining your brand is like a journey of business self-discovery. It can be difficult, time-consuming and uncomfortable. It requires, at the very least, that you answer the questions below:

  • What is your company’s mission?
  • What are the benefits and features of your products or services?
  • What do your customers and prospects already think of your company?
  • What qualities do you want them to associate with your company?

Do your research. Learn the needs, habits and desires of your current and prospective customers. And don’t rely on what you think they think. Know what they think.

Because defining your brand and developing a brand strategy can be complex, consider leveraging the expertise of a nonprofit small-business advisory group or a Small Business Development Center .

Once you’ve defined your brand, how do you get the word out? Here are a few simple, time-tested tips:

  • Get a great logo. Place it everywhere.
  • Write down your brand messaging. What are the key messages you want to communicate about your brand? Every employee should be aware of your brand attributes.
  • Integrate your brand. Branding extends to every aspect of your business–how you answer your phones, what you or your salespeople wear on sales calls, your e-mail signature, everything.
  • Create a “voice” for your company that reflects your brand. This voice should be applied to all written communication and incorporated in the visual imagery of all materials, online and off. Is your brand friendly? Be conversational. Is it ritzy? Be more formal. You get the gist.
  • Develop a tagline. Write a memorable, meaningful and concise statement that captures the essence of your brand.
  • Design templates and create brand standards for your marketing materials. Use the same color scheme, logo placement, look and feel throughout. You don’t need to be fancy, just consistent.
  • Be true to your brand. Customers won’t return to you–or refer you to someone else–if you don’t deliver on your brand promise.
  • Be consistent. I placed this point last only because it involves all of the above and is the most important tip I can give you. If you can’t do this, your attempts at establishing a brand will fail.
Read the original article: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/77408

What character was removed from the alphabet but is still used every day? (Repost)

Johnson & Johnson, Barnes & Noble, Dolce & Gabbana: the ampersand today is used primarily in business names, but that small character was once the 27th part of the alphabet. Where did it come from though? The origin of its name is almost as bizarre as the name itself.

The shape of the character (&) predates the word ampersand by more than 1,500 years. In the first century, Roman scribes wrote in cursive, so when they wrote the Latin word et which means “and” they linked the e and t. Over time the combined letters came to signify the word “and” in English as well. Certain versions of the ampersand, like that in the font Caslon, clearly reveal the origin of the shape.

The Ampersand

William Caslon, London, 1728

The word “ampersand” came many years later when “&” was actually part of the English alphabet. In the early 1800s, school children reciting their ABCs concluded the alphabet with the &. It would have been confusing to say “X, Y, Z, and.” Rather, the students said, “and per se and.” “Per se” means “by itself,” so the students were essentially saying, “X, Y, Z, and by itself and.” Over time, “and per se and” was slurred together into the word we use today:ampersand. When a word comes about from a mistaken pronunciation, it’s called a mondegreen. Find out why here.

(The ampersand is also used in an unusual configuration where it appears as “&c” and means etc. The ampersand does double work as the e and t.)

The ampersand isn’t the only former member of the alphabet. Learn what led to the extinction of the thorn and the wynn.

Read the full article: http://hotword.dictionary.com/ampersand/

Social Media Slip? Make It Right.

How To Responde to a Social Media MistakeEveryone is excited about the benefits and opportunities that come with Social Media. Especially for small business and Non-profits. Suddenly, we feel empowered – like we’re able to compete on the same level as “the big boys”. “We can do a blog…”, “I can make a Facebook page…”, “Twitter – Done”.

Not only can multiple posts be submitted, but also from a workflow perspective, we can have several people within the organization creating and posting content, updates, event information, etc. This allows for less of a chance for a bottleneck related to the information – yet another benefit. Suddenly, you’re starting to hear that famous line, “If you build it, they will come”.

But what if they DO come… but on the wrong day because the post on your Facebook page said “Thursday” rather than the “Thirteenth”?

How do you handle the situation when the Facebook post has wrong information or the Tweet has incorrect details?

The following was my response to a Social Media Slip with the non-profit I work with.

Step 1: Fix it. It does not matter who or why or how, just fix the information. But this brings up an important second question. How do you fix it?

Step 2: Remember this is “Social” media. In our case, the person who made the post, went in and the information (Good) and then deleted the comment from an individual frantically asking if the information was correct “…the meeting is TONIGHT?!?” (Bad).  In social media, we have the opportunity to not just “fix it” but “make it right”.

“Fix it” is Joe Friday, “Just the facts ma’am”, where “Make it right” allows us to turn a mistake (or complaint) into an opportunity to engage the member/supporter/customer.

Step 3:  Talk with them and be honest. By simply explaining the error, making the correction and apologizing, it would have resolved the matter (the facts) but also would have created a conversation between our customer and us. One that would have been received well, but also brought additional attention to the event being promoted (and extra bonus).

When we just go all Joe Friday on it and then “hide the evidence”, it begins to compromise the integrity of the organization. (“What else are you deleting or not telling us?”) True, in our situation, the post had just gone up. True also, there was “just one” comment. But really, does that matter? No one likes to make a mistake – especially a public mistake, but you can always work towards the “lemons to lemonade” idea.

This is even more important in our situation since there had been a history of lack of communication and miscommunication with no follow through or correction. Folks were left frustrated and confused. Engaging, correcting and making it right are even more critical to show how things are different now. Reputation can be a two-edged sword. If you have a good reputation, if you make a mistake, folks are quick to forgive and forget. If you have a poor reputation, the smallest mistake can elicit a knee jerk reaction, “here we go again”. When you are trying to rebuild a reputation, folks will watch your every step.

Step 4: Education. Make sure you and your staff knows how to respond to these types of mistakes. Talk about them ahead of time. Have a plan. Do not respond to the emotion (or with emotion for that matter), rather, just go make it right.

What suggestions would you make? How do you handle social media mistakes?

8 Simple and Useful Tips for Kerning Type (Repost)

WRITTEN BY , PUBLISHED ON 31ST AUGUST 2011.

Kerning is fun! All right, unless you’re a serious type nerd like me, that’s definitely not going to be a true statement. However, it is an absolutely essential part of your typographical education and implementation.

If you’ve been ignoring kerning or simply aren’t sure how to do it properly, take a look at these eight quick tips and get started on the road to becoming a kerning master.

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Introduction

The past few years have seen an explosion of type on the web. It used to be the case that web designers were faulted for not having a strong sense of typography, but nothing could be further from the truth these days as web designers lead the art of typography to new heights of popularity and respect.

Designers have a newfound appreciation for both typographic art and the practical ways in which typography complements and even drives a strong design.

There’s still at least one major topic that web designers tend to miss out on though: kerning. The truth is, kerning on the web is still a nightmare. There are a few options for making the task easier but on the whole, we just sort of ignore it.

As a result, many web designers neither think about kerning nor do they really even understand how it works on a fundamental level. Fortunately, it’s not rocket science. The largest factor involved in learning to kern type is to make yourself aware that it often needs to be done. Below we’ll go over some basic and useful tricks to get you started.

#1 What Is Kerning? Think About Blocks

The first thing you should know about kerning is, well, what exactly it is. There are a lot of funny sounding typographical terms and it’s easy to get confused quickly so it’s necessary to make sure we’re all on the same page.

Once upon a time, there were no computers. Type was set, get this, by hand. It’s a crazy concept but believe it or not, the process of bringing a design to life used to be a pretty laborious task, unlike the cushy desk jobs that we now all enjoy.

Back then individuals letters were set onto physical blocks made of wood or metal. Obviously, the nature of the blocks meant that you could only squish two letters together so far, to the point where their edges hit. As a solution to the problem, typographers created sets of notched blocks that fit together like puzzle pieces, thus allowing the letters to move closer to one another when needed.

Photo credit: Joel Gillman

The reason that I tell you this is that it gives you something real to picture when you think about kerning. This helps you remember what it is and distinguish it from other typographical terms. Now when you hear the word “kerning,” you’ll picture woodblocks with notches in them and remember how it works.

Obviously, these days the art of manual typesetting is a novelty. Instead, this is all handled in the digital realm, right on your computer screen. However, the core concept here is identical. Kerning still refers to the adjustment of space between two letters.

The goal is simple: to equalize the appearance of the whitespace between letters. This gets tricky because you really have to feel it out. Sometimes uniform spacing between letters won’t look like uniform spacing and you have to tweak and tweak until the word looks like you think it should. There’s really no magic formula, you just have to eyeball it and decide what looks right.

#2 Kerning ≠ Tracking

One thing that trips up most new designers is the difference between kerning and tracking. Don’t make the mistake of mixing these two terms up, old school print designers love to point and laugh at people who do that.

The difference between the two is simple: tracking refers to the uniform spacing between all the letters in a given selection of text and kerning refers to the spacing between two specific letters.

Leading

Now, to add even more confusion to this equation, we can throw leading into the mix. Leading (“led-ing”) is the vertical space between lines of type. In CSS we use a similar adjustment called “line-height”.

In The Type Palette

While we’re on the topic of adjusting all of these values, here’s a quick reference so you know how to spot them in Photoshop, Illustrator or InDesign.

Note that the “Option” key (Alt) is your best friend when adjusting any of these, in conjunction with the arrow keys of course. Which one it adjusts depends on your selection and cursor. Place the cursor between two letters and Option+Left/Right adjusts kerning, or with a larger text selection the same commands adjust tracking. Similarly, Option+Up/Down with a text selection will adjust leading.

#3 Letters to Watch

Once you start making it a regular practice to kern your headlines and other important type, you’ll notice that certain letters are more problematic than others.

To get a feel for how this works, let’s open up Photoshop, set our kerning to “0″ and type a few words with Times. These results haven’t been tweaked by me at all, they’re genuinely this horrid right out of the software.

All caps type definitely tends to be quite problematic so as a rule of thumb keep a close eye on it. However, we find similar problems when we start mixing uppercase and lowercase letters.

Looking at this, we see a pattern start to emerge. In general, the less a letter conforms to a block shape, the more problematic it becomes. Letters with strong slants like the uppercase “A” and “W” are bound to case some issues, whether they’re mixed with uppercase or lowercase letters. Also, notice how the overhanging bar on the “T” and the arm on the “Y” cause problems when used as initial caps. Here, the lowercase letters that follow are being spaced relative to their block outline, but we need to notch the blocks just like the old typographers:

You can find big lists of specific letters to watch, but as a rule of thumb, I generally keep a close eye on letters with diagonal lines like “A” and instances of initial caps (especially when a “T” is involved), no matter what the pairings. Also, though lowercase letters tend to play fairly nicely together, you’re not off the hook with them. Notice the how the “ly” in the example above differs greatly from the “ry” spacing.

#4 Kern Upside Down

The reason kerning is so easy to miss is because your eyes tend to ignore the spacing in pursuit of reading the word or sentence. After decades of reading, adults don’t see letters anymore, we see words.

To help account for this, some designers suggest the simple trick of flipping your type upside down before kerning. It’s a brilliantly simple technique that really helps you focus on the letter shapes and how they fit together instead of getting distracted by the words.

#5 Don’t Kern Before You Decide on a Font

Obviously, letter spacing is going to differ drastically on a font to font basis. On a practical level this means your process should be to choose a font first, then kern.

Easy right? We tend to forget this step though when we change our mind on a font at the last minute. At this point, you can’t bank on the kerning that you’ve already done but instead have to pretty much start from square one and treat each font as unique.

#6 Watch Word Spacing

We’ve discussed tracking, leading and kerning but there’s one more area of typography spacing that you really have to watch out for: the spacing between two words. This essentially boils down to the size of a “space” in a font.

One thing that has really been bugging me lately about free fonts is how many of them tend to have really awkward amounts of space between words.

In general, kerning in free fonts can be a pretty bad, but the word spacing tends to be a specific problematic point that you want to keep an eye on. A font with really poor word spacing becomes super high maintenance when you start actually working with it so it’s best to use them sparingly or avoid them altogether.

#7 Don’t Trust the Software

As I outlined in a recent article on general typography tips, Photoshop and Illustrator have a few built in auto-kerning modes. These are great to use, but use them in conjunction with manual kerning, they’re simply not smart enough to handle the task on their own.

#8 Use Kern.js to Kern Online

All of these tips are great if you’re designing for print or turning your headline into an image, but what about live web type? As I mentioned above, kerning on the web is a pain and many designers suggest just living with poor kerning where web type is concerned. However, recently some great JavaScript tools have been created to make the job a little easier. One of the best I’ve seen thus far is Kern.js, an extension of the excellent Lettering.js.

Conclusion

To sum up, kerning isn’t the hardest thing you’ll ever do in design, but it can get a little tedious and tends to be something that you flat out forget to do.

Make it a point to keep kerning in mind and to always analyze your letter spacing. Sixty seconds of kerning on every headline you create will improve your typographical competence by leaps and bounds.

Read the original post here: http://designshack.co.uk/articles/typography/8-simple-and-useful-tips-for-kerning-type/

Fear of Global Calamity (Repost)

“Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.” (Matthew 24: 4-8 NIV)

Things are going to get bad, really bad, before they get better. And when conditions worsen, “See to it that you are not alarmed” (v. 6 NIV). Jesus chose a stout term for alarmed that he used on no other occasion. It means “to wail, to cry aloud,” as if Jesus counseled the disciples, “Don’t freak out when bad stuff happens.”

Jesus equipped his followers with farsighted courage. He listed the typhoons of life and then pointed them “to the end.” Trust in ultimate victory gives ultimate courage. Author Jim Collins makes reference to this outlook in his book Good to Great. Collins tells the story of Admiral James Stockdale, who was a prisoner of war for eight years during the Vietnam War. After Stockdale’s release Collins asked him how in the world he survived eight years in a prisoner-of-war camp.

He replied, “I never lost faith in the end of the story. I never doubted not only that I would get out, but also that I would prevail in the end and turn the experience into the defining event of my life, which, in retrospect, I would not trade.”

Collins then asked, “Who didn’t make it out?” Admiral Stockdale replied, “Oh, that’s easy. The optimists. . . . they were the ones who said, ‘We’re going to be out by Christmas.’ And Christmas would come, and Christmas would go. Then they’d say, ‘We’re going to be out by Easter.’ And Easter would come, and Easter would go. And then Thanksgiving, and then it would be Christmas again. And they died of a broken heart.”

Real courage embraces the twin realities of current difficulty and ultimate triumph. Yes, life stinks. But it won’t forever. As one of my friends likes to say, “Everything will work out in the end. If it’s not working out, it’s not the end.”

Though the church is winnowed down like Gideon’s army, though God’s earth is buffeted by climate changes and bloodied by misfortune, though creation itself seems stranded on the Arctic seas, don’t overreact. “Be still in the presence of the Lord, and wait patiently for him to act. Don’t worry about evil people who prosper or fret about their wicked schemes” (Ps. 37:7 NLT).

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From Fearless Copyright (Thomas Nelson, 2009) Max Lucado