4 Modern Design Resources for Your Bag of Tricks

Looking for a few hacks to sharpen your designs?

By adding a few extra resources, the force of your talent can expand exponentially! And with new design tools being released regularly, the possibilities are limitless.

Everyone needs a few handy helps in their bag of trips. Check out these four modern design resources and up your game today!

Quick Design

Want to learn design?

Quick Design is a platform that lists free design courses available online. From 3D and animation to things like cryptocurrency and “ethical hacking,” you can select free courses for design based on your skill as either a beginner or an expert. Step-by-step practical resources are available to a wide range of 3D, CAD software, and other industry-oriented specialists.

As an additional benefit, you can follow other designers of your interest, which can help in networking or creative brainstorming.

unDraw

For quality illustrations that you can embed in your design on a moment’s notice, check out unDraw.

unDraw is an MIT licensed collection of quality open license images that can be dropped directly into your favorite design tool. These thoughtful, elegant, and functional SVG images can be downloaded and customized in three easy steps:

  • Browse or search to find illustrations you want to use for your design
  • Change the color to match your palette or through your asset colors later
  • Download the image to your clipboard and paste it wherever you want

unDraw images can be used for free in commercial or personal projects without worries, so drop some into your print pieces, mobile apps, or whatever you can create!

UI Sources

Inspiration regarding design “flow” can be hard to find.

Enter UI Sources.

Launched in 2018, UI Sources is a curated repository of motion design. To date, UI Sources catalogs around 500 interactions from apps that bring inspiration and strategic navigation options in everything from augmented reality, chatbots, in-app purchasing, and more.

UI Sources can help you with your own projects, giving you tools to analyze product flows and features and to get real design inspiration for your apps, web designs, or even big-picture schematic print designs. This resource is extensive and can be used by designers, developers, product packaging specialists, and entrepreneurs of all kinds.

Absurd Illustrations

What to play around a bit?

In a digital era, sometimes, we need to interact with something more human to make us appreciate both the beauty and the imperfection of something made by hand. Absurd.design is a project that comes with a set of downloadable, surrealist illustrations for articles, landing pages, marketing materials, and more.

High-quality images are available in a variety of formats. From here, you can craft a truly distinctive message with an illustration that’s available only to you.

Improve Your Workflow

Each designer has their own personal list of “aha” tools.

Check out these four goodies and share the love with your colleagues too. You’ll enjoy using them to increase efficiency and to dazzle your best clients!

How Multi-Tasking Can Tank Your Productivity

For more than a decade, Dr. Daniel Simons and his colleagues studied a form of invisibility known as inattentional blindness.

In the best-known demonstration, Simons showed a video and asked people to count how many times basketball players in white shirts passed a ball. After 30 seconds, a woman in a gorilla suit sauntered into the scene, faced the camera, thumped her chest and walked away. Half the viewers missed her. In fact, some people looked right at the gorilla and did not see it.

That video was a sensation, so a 2010 sequel again featured the gorilla (as expected). This time, viewers were so focused on watching for the gorilla that they overlooked other unexpected events like the changing background color.

How could they miss something right before their eyes? Inattentional blindness. Humans consciously see only a small subset of our visual world, and when we focus on one thing, we overlook others.

The Statistics on Multi-Tasking

Most people are unaware of the limits of their attention, which can cause dangerous situations (like texting and driving).

What about multi-tasking at work? A majority of people spend time bouncing between calls, e-mails, and creative tasks, believing that this plate-spinning approach makes them more efficient.

But studies suggest that multi-tasking is a problem, not an asset. Data shows that multi-tasking causes you to make more mistakes, retain less information, and fragment brain function. Here’s why.

Any time you need to pay attention, the prefrontal cortex of your brain begins working. Focusing on a single task means both sides of your prefrontal cortex are working together in harmony, but adding secondary tasks forces the left and right sides of the brain to operate independently. Scientists from the Paris Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale (INSERM) found that this “brain split” caused subjects to forget details and to make three times more mistakes.

Another study found that participants who multi-tasked during cognitive tasks experienced an IQ score decline similar to those who have stayed up all night. Some of the multi-tasking men had their IQ drop 15 points, leaving them with the average IQ of an 8-year-old child. That’s some jaw-dropping data!

So how can you avoid the multi-tasking “trap?” Here are four suggestions:

Place Lower Priority Projects Out Sight

When juggling assignments at work, intentionally stop and place lower priority projects out of sight.

Mute notifications from your e-mail or phone, send calls to voicemail, or put a sign on your door saying you will not be available for the next __ minutes. Give full attention to one project at a time and your creativity and efficiency will increase.

Use Time-Blocking

Rather than bouncing between tasks, map out chunks of time for each project. Twenty-minute blocks are a great way to schedule your most valuable time slots.

Turn Off Your Phone

Keep your phone off the table during meetings and turned off during peak productivity sessions.

Log Off Email

Studies show that the average professional spends about 23 percent of their day in e-mail.

But an Irvine study found when employees were cut off from e-mail for five days, heart tracking monitors revealed a decrease in stress and an increase in mental endurance. Employees who switch screens less often minimize multi-tasking and work more efficiently.

Consider limiting availability with automatic-reply settings like this: “I am not available at this time but will be checking messages again at 2 p.m. For immediate assistance, contact ________.”

Just Say No

The next time you’re tempted to multi-task, just say NO! You may think you’re getting more done, but you’re probably wrong.

Increase Conversions with 3 Headline Hooks

Do you ever wander through a library aisle you would normally avoid?

Perhaps you’re a fiction reader who ambles into the autobiography section. Surprisingly, a cover grabs your attention and you check out a book you’ve never heard of.

What was it that caused you to act? Just one short glimpse at the title.

That’s telling.

Fool-Proof Headline Formulas

Headlines matter. A lot.

Researchers estimate that in today’s content-saturated culture, only 8 out of 10 readers make it past the headline of most pieces. In 2016, an academic study of bit.ly links to BBC, CNN, Fox News, New York Times, and Huffington Post articles found that 59 percent of the links were never clicked.

And even if you do get readers past the front door, you still need to bring them to a point of purchase.

Which headlines best engage readers and maximize response? Here are three headline formulas to increase your conversions:

“The Best” List Headlines

Readers are selfish.

When they engage with content, they want something of value.

Think about it from your own perspective. What kind of “hacks” grab your attention? Weight loss? Easy savings? Life management tricks? Most people wish to avoid sifting through information, so “best” headlines offer fast and easy value.

Best list headlines use a formula like this: The __ Best Ways to Get ______

The trick to this headline is to be concrete in your wording and to ensure corresponding content backs up your claim. Here are three examples:

  • The 20 Best Ways to Make Money on a Side Hustle
  • The 12 Best Ways to Make the Most of Your Commute
  • The 8 Best Ways to Give a Non-Threatening Sales Pitch

Threat-of-Loss Headlines

Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) is real. Just think of how tempting some phony clickbait ads can be!

FOMO headlines are a compelling motivator because they are time-sensitive and prompt vulnerability in the reader. As an entrepreneur, ask yourself these questions when crafting a threat-of-loss headline:

     — What damage or cost can my service help people avoid?

     — How will acting today save them money or inconvenience?

     — If they forget to respond, who might they disappoint?

FOMO headlines use this formula: You’ll Be _______ if You _____________

For example:

  • You’ll Kick Yourself if You Miss This Early Registration Discount
  • Your Wife Will Be Stranded if You Cut Corners on Seasonal Auto Maintenance
  • You’ll Lose $200 if You Delay Your Renewal

You can use threat-of-loss headlines for both serious and light-hearted topics, so have fun and be specific!

Curiosity Headlines

One of the best ways to grab readers is to engage curiosity to affect change.

People are painfully aware of their shortcomings, so arouse their need to educate themselves so they can avoid danger or uncertainty. Tell them how they’re wasting time, losing money, missing out on helpful technology, or unintentionally hurting someone.

Curiosity headlines use a formula like this: What You Don’t Know About _______ Can _______

For example:

  • Here’s What You Don’t Know About Electric Cars That Could Bust Your Budget
  • Here’s What You Don’t Know About SEO That Could Harm Your Business
  • Here’s How Grain-Free Dog Food Can Increase Canine Heart Disease

Write Powerful Headlines They Won’t Ignore

Dull headlines tell consumers your content will be just as lifeless.

Do you want to elevate your headlines from mediocre to marvelous? Use the threat of loss, curiosity, or sneak peeks at the “best” options to boost curiosity, grab readers, and move people to purchase.

7 Greetings to Use in Corporate Thanksgiving Cards

Want to make the holidays happier this year?

Showing gratitude through your year-end greetings takes some creativity and planning. Maybe this would be a good time for your business to break the mold when it comes to year-end tidings!

In 2016, Mayville Engineering Company, Inc (MEC) decided to amplify appreciation through an employee-empowered kindness campaign. In lieu of traditional greeting cards, MEC created a series of fun in-house GIFs for their employees to get them smiling.

In tandem, MEC sent “acts of kindness” prompts to spur a contagious rash of goodwill. These 25 acts of kindness included both personal and professional ideas, such as, “compliment someone to their boss,” or “donate a piece of clothing for every present you receive.” Employees were encouraged to share the love in and beyond the company and to share photos on its social channels using the hashtag #MECKindness.

Share a Simple Thank You

While you may not start a company-wide campaign, perhaps you could launch appreciation in action through corporate Thanksgiving cards.

A simple thank you goes a long way, and Thanksgiving is a perfect opportunity to say it. Why should you consider Thanksgiving greetings instead of a more traditional Christmas card? Here are three reasons:

To encourage holiday sales

Thanksgiving marks the beginning of a peak season (or planning for an upcoming business calendar) for many people.

While showing your gratitude in November, you’ll also strategically position your name at a time that customers are ready to buy. While expressing appreciation, your brand and products will receive top-of-mind awareness in a strategic season.

To surprise and delight clients

Customers love to associate with companies that have human qualities.

Thanksgiving greeting cards will bring an element of human contact that is intensified by this unexpected November gesture. Appreciation cards sent any time outside of Christmas are especially memorable, so avoid the December mailbox clutter and be the first to wish them well this season.

To build brand loyalty

When you care for your customers, not only do you improve the likelihood of repeat business, you create advocates who are loyal to your brand and determined to spread the goodwill about your service.

Take advantage of the concentrated attention you’ll receive outside the holiday rush and highlight reasons your brand is worth every penny!

7 Ideas for Your Thanksgiving Card

Need a little prose for your Thanksgiving cards? Here are seven phrases to inspire your designs:

1. May your table be filled with family and gratitude this season. Happy Thanksgiving!

2. All year long, but especially during this season, we’re grateful for incredible customers like you.

3. Though we’re thankful for all of our customers, you’re especially high on our list. Thank you for being a great customer and Happy Thanksgiving!

4. With appreciation for your business and your loyalty throughout the year. Best wishes for a Happy Thanksgiving!

5. It’s the perfect time of year to send our sincere thanks for your business. Happy Thanksgiving from our business to your home!

6. Sometimes in the rush of the day, we fail to say THANKS loud enough. So today – and this holiday season – we want to express our gratitude. Thank you for your patronage, partnership, and your commitment to crafting vibrant industries here in ____________.

7. At ____, we believe that relationships are our most valuable resource, and a vibrant local business community is something worth celebrating. Thank you for the privilege of doing business with you this year!

Get Started Today

Ready to get started? This season, we’ve got you covered when it comes to customer engagement. Call today to discuss a custom holiday card or to get your design up and running!

5 Ways to Make Your Newsletters Shine

What’s so great about vacation? It’s a chance to cut loose and take a break from the ordinary!

But vacation just wouldn’t be as fun if it wasn’t anchored to the sense of consistent routine in our lives. In order to vacate, you have to have a place or a routine to break AWAY from.

A Foundation to Build From

The same is true in design.

To have the freedom to challenge the norm, some type of coherent foundation must first be established. This is particularly true in multi-page publications like newsletters. One of the most important features of multi-page publications is consistency. So, before you go rogue in design, first you need to ensure each page looks like it belongs to the whole.

How can you create this sense of cohesion? With repeating colors, icons, fonts, bulleted lists that repeat a formatting style, matching pull-out quotes, and more.

Here are five strategies for organizing your next newsletter so you compel viewers to read and respond:

1. Avoid a different typeface or formatting arrangement for every article.

Instead, create a strong, consistent structure throughout the pages and add flair with boxed photos, pull-out quotes, or just ONE free-flowing graphic per page.

2. Make headlines clear and bold.

Most people skim newsletters, so headline text should be straightforward and easy to read. Use leading questions or creative subheadings to build suspense and entice the viewer to read more.

3. Keep alignment consistent.

To build an organized page, choose an alignment and stick with it.

If everything is left-aligned, photos should be cropped to this sharp margin as well. 

Does this mean you can’t ever break the rules of the system you’ve created? No! A firm set of columns actually creates MORE space to break out of the grid. But when you do this, do it with gusto! Items that are just a smidge out of the normal alignment will look like a mistake.

4. Avoid Helvetica and Arial

If your newsletter seems drab, juice it up with heavy sans serif typefaces that create a strong visual hierarchy.

Often people default to Helvetica or Arial, but these just aren’t bold enough to create a strong contrast. Instead, invest in a sans serif family that includes a heavy bold version as well as a light subheading complement (such as Eurostile, Formata, Syntax, Frutiger, or Myriad). You’ll be amazed at the difference this contrast makes.

5. Create a Compelling Call to Action

Printed newsletters are a great way to build goodwill and reinforce brand awareness, but at the end of the day, you want readers to take action.

When scripting your text, ask yourself, “if the reader was going to act on the content in this newsletter, what would I want them to DO?” Brainstorm many call-to-action phrases and places they can be used in your design, and make this journey easy for the eyes to follow.

Ideally, there should be a call to action on each page with one very prominent “next step” CTA near the end of your piece. Here are a handful examples:

  • Subscribe Now!
  • Sign Me Up!
  • Activate _____ Today!
  • Find Out How!
  • Claim Your Discount!
  • Try it Yourself!
  • Schedule (or Book) __________!
  • Register Now!
  • Call for a Free Estimate!

Make Them Look Forward to Your Next Newsletter

Time is a precious commodity, and the moments people invest in reading your newsletter are important.

To make the most of this unique privilege, build a strong design grid with a few spectacular deviations. Create visually engaging publications with helpful takeaways, and your newsletters will be something your audience looks forward to reading!

Mastering the Psychology of Discounts to Make More Sales

What is the right strategy when it comes to discount marketing: presenting strong visuals, mystery offers, or the word “free” in your print ads?

Everyone is attracted to a deal, no matter the size. By using coupons or discounts, you appeal to shoppers in a unique way.

Incentives Prompt Action

When shoppers feel like they’re getting a good deal, they are excited and more willing to purchase.

Incentives also create urgency, build goodwill with clients, and dissuade people from looking for other offers.

Want to move more products? Experiment with discount tactics like these:

1. Dollar or Percentage Off

This discount type is the most widely used, simply offering a reduction on the original price, such as $50 savings or 40% off.

Discounts can be placed on specific products or applied to an entire order.

2. BOGO

Short for, “Buy One, Get One,” this discount type prompts customers to purchase additional items.

Examples of BOGO include, “Buy One, Get One Free” or “Buy One, Get 50% Off the Next Item.”

3. Quantity Discounts

Quantity discounts encourage shoppers to increase their order value to receive a discount.

For example, “Purchase two items and get the third free,” or, “Receive 30% off your $100 purchase.”

4. Rebates

A rebate is an amount that’s returned or refunded to customers after their initial purchase.

Often used for large-ticket items, the most common is a mail-in rebate. One example? Listing a price as, “$499 after rebate.”

5. Free Shipping

Increasingly popular among online business owners, this removes the shipping cost associated with any order.

Many merchants offer free shipping for a specific order amount, such as “Free shipping when you spend $25 or more.”

Test Discount Variations to Find A Formula for Success

Since there are so many ways to frame discounts, it can be helpful to test multiple variations of a discount to see which are most impactful.

For example, you could offer a segment of your VIP customers a percentage discount and another segment a dollar-off discount to test which discount best appeals to core customers. Or you can experiment with varying communication channels, length of promotions, or discount “add-ons” (like free shipping or store credit for a future purchase).

Here are some examples to consider:

Catherine’s Women’s Clothing: Private Offer

In an ad pitching swimwear specials, Catherine’s framed a gleaming yellow swim ring afloat a dreamy blue pool.

The overlaid text offered one of two choices: a “Buy 1 Get 1 Free Clearance Item,” or “Private Offer Up To $100 Off.” Catherine’s used imagery that transports viewers to a place they want to be, evoking an emotional fondness for swimwear. The bright floaty draws eyes to the deal, and the company wisely gave two sale options to accommodate the price points of individual customers.

J. Crew: Flash Sale

In a spread featuring outdoor apparel, J Crew positioned a yellow sailboat cruising the waves of a dark blue backdrop, using this pitch: “Smooth seas and clear skies – perfect conditions for a flash sale. Extra 30% Off & Free Shipping, Use Code: SetSale.”

For this flash sale, J. Crew took advantage of good sailing weather to create urgency and nostalgia that tied to real life. Because this ad catered to unique preferences and behaviors of a particular market segment, the piece moved beyond a sale into the emotional story of its readers. This, combined with a compelling offer (and clever coupon code), brings a winning combination.

Once you have a better understanding of your most effective offers, you’ll be a great position to mix up your campaigns and boost customer engagement.

3 Ways to Help Your Team Love Mondays

In 1966, an American band called the “The Mamas and the Papas” released a song about Monday that captured the mood of millions of people regarding that dreaded first day of the workweek:

“Monday, Monday, can’t trust that day.

Monday, Monday, sometimes it just turns out that way . .

Every other day, every other day, every other day of the week is fine, yeah . . .

But whenever Monday comes, but whenever Monday comes . . . you can find me cryin’ all of the time.”

How to Kick Those Monday Blues

It’s true. Not many of us look forward to the start of the week.

Half of all workers will be late to their jobs on Monday mornings. The abrupt transition from a free weekend to the grind makes many people miserable. But Mondays don’t have to be a drag. While you can’t magically get your team excited to head back to work on Mondays, there are a few things you can do to make Mondays a bit better.

Ax Monday Meetings

How often do you say something like, “let’s follow up on that first thing Monday morning?”

The start of the week may feel like the perfect time to reconnect and launch a new week. However, research shows that Monday mornings are actually a time when many people are at their most energetic and creative levels.

Rick’s investment team found that, when scheduling Monday morning meetings, they unwittingly drained energy levels and decreased momentum. By giving team members several hours alone to start the day, Monday morning “jump starts” made mid-day meetings much more effective.  

Team Breakfast

Pivotal, a software company based in San Francisco, believes company breakfasts are the key to building a cohesive company culture.

They actually serve breakfast EVERY DAY of the work week!

What makes Mondays better? Breakfast! Serving food warms people’s hearts and bonds your co-workers. Occasional Monday breakfasts can soften the workweek blues, build camaraderie in your team, and give people healthy fuel to launch into the routine.

A team breakfast doesn’t have to be strictly social. You can also use this time to brief people on announcements, share upcoming projects, or celebrate workplace wins for your team.

Friday Fun Days

A typical five-day workweek is a given for most managers.

But, did you know that 15 percent of companies have started implementing four-day workweeks?

Reusser Design, an Indiana Web app development company, slashed their hours from 6:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Thursdays. Founder Nate Reusser says that the policy motivates everyone to work faster and with greater focus, much like the way people work just before going on vacation.

“You wouldn’t believe how much we get done,” Reusser said.

Four-day workweeks can boost morale and increase productivity. Employees with a shorter workweek are usually more enthusiastic when returning to work, and those energy levels fuel higher outputs.

Could your business consider taking one Friday off each month, or implementing half days on summer Fridays? A happier, more productive workforce may be worth the sacrifice!

Lighten That Monday Mood

In the US, approximately 100 million full-time employees aren’t engaged at work, which means a staggering 51 percent of people are slogging through their days on the payroll.

Underperformers can have a devastating effect on your company, but often a simple remedy can transform a negative work culture.

Look for ways to lighten up the Monday mood, and Mondays will lighten up on you!