Category Archives: Graphic Design

Photo Retouching and Restoration


Before after 2

Our experienced graphic designers are happy to clean up, smooth blemishes, color correct, and alter backgrounds for digital photographs so your ads and print pieces look beautiful.  However, we can also do creative work to restore and retouch antique photos.

Collective Design Works will carefully scan your old or damaged photo and digitally repair wrinkles, rips, and time damage so you can have a fully restored memory.  If you prefer, you can purchase the new digital file, or we create custom sized prints for you to take home and frame immediately.

We recently completed this photo restoration of a treasured family photograph.  Now the original can be kept safely and family members can all have their own copy of the photograph as it was originally meant to be seen.

Pantone Café: Taste the Color


When nutritionist recommend eating colorful foods, this may not be what they are thinking.  From July 14th to September 9th you will be able to eat Pantone-hue colored foods at the Grimaldi Forum in Monaco.

Founded in 1963, Pantone became the most innovative system of coding exact color hues in the graphic design and printing world. Since then, Pantone has collaborated with makeup brands, fashion houses, technology companies, and many other industries.    Now they have moved on to their latest adventure – food.

The Pantone Café serves eclairs, ice cream, coffee, ice cream, all tinted with precise shades of pantone colors.  Don’t worry, only high-quality all natural ingredients are used to obtain these colors, the food is does not contain artificial dyes.

Check out the Pantone Café website or follow them on Instagram to get regular pictures of their colorful treats!



4 Characteristics of a Good Logo

logo progressionWhat your business needs in a logo may be very different than another business in a separate industry.  However, there are certain characteristics any good logo should have.

  1. Unique
    If there is a current logo trend, you do NOT want to jump on it! Your logo is the identifying mark of your business, its needs to be distinct and easily recognizable.  Another reason to buck the trends – they quickly become dated.
  2. Emotional Connection
    If you are going to invest in logo to represent your business, makes sure that it conveys a clear message about your brand.  A bland, indistinct logo is not adding to the value of your business.
  3. Useable in Black and White
    Don’t forget about practicality in logo design.  There will be a time when your logo is represented in black and white.  It is necessary to ensure that your logo still looks good and is still easily identifiable as your brand even when represented without color.
  4. Scalable in Size
    Your new logo may go anywhere, so it needs to look good at any size.  Will it still look great if it is shrunk down in size, tiny, in the corner of a website displayed on a small smart phone? That is particularly important, because mobile website viewing is how most people will see your logo and branding for the first time. How will it look on a billboard?

At the end of the day a logo can be as simple, complex, funky, or professional as you make it.  It’s good to keep these guidelines in mind but the most important requirement is that your logo needs to represent your business’ personality and values.

Locally Printing Your Online Wedding Invitation

IMG_5172While our graphic design team here at Collective Design Works is happy to create a completely custom wedding invitation set, we know many of you have already fallen in love with one of the thousands of stunning online invitation design available in online stores like Etsy.  We are delighted you have found the perfect invitation for your wedding!

Often the most cost effective option is to purchase the design from the online store and have the invitation printed locally, completely circumventing shipping costs.  Not only is this option cost efficient, but it also allows you the opportunity carefully select the perfect paper and to review and approve a printed proof in person.

Contact Collective Design Works for personal assistance with your wedding or special event invitation. Call (423) 591-8656.

How to Stand Out in a World of Pocket Folders – A Case Study

Hickory Valley Senior Living Community approached Collective Design Works about updating their pocket folders.  Like most of the senior living communities and apartment communities in the region, Hickory Valley has always depended on a pocket folder with several inserts detailing different amenities and rates.  Linda Shriver-Buckner, the Hickory Valley Sales Director, was searching for a new look that would create a lasting impression.


Our design team had an idea – get rid of the pocket folder!  Instead, we will design and print a book to encompass all of your marketing material in a high end yet cost-efficient format.  The book format would also allow more personalization and  more photos.  It also addresses a common complaint from the community about the pocket folders that , “many times the inserts from the pocket folder would fall out or get lost.”  After discussion, one compromise was made to the book format.  The book itself would contain an interior pocket to hold rate cards.  This way the books could be ordered confidently in large quantities as a permanent piece, and yet still allow for rate changes.


The end result is a spiral bound book with a luxurious feel due to the linen textured cover.  The colorful pages full of pictures highlight the community.  Sales director Linda Buckner adds, “The books have been a creative alternative to the standard pocket folders used by other communities.  They balance our need to stand out and share important information about our community to our prospective residents. ”



How to Provide Constructive Feedback for Design

Design is rarely perfect the first time, despite their expertise, graphic designers are not mind readers. Whether you “just don’t like it,” or the design is “almost perfect,” most likely there will be some changes to be made.  Designers have thicker skin than you may think and are happy to approach any and all changes. Hearing what you want changed is not at all frustrating, it’s not understanding the issue that causes difficulty.  So step up and be honest and be clear, we want to hear your feedback.

Sometimes the changes you need are simple, e.g. “swap the picture, “make the text bigger,” “take that out.”  Other times, it can be difficult to explain what is not right.  Unfortunately, “It just doesn’t feel right” is not easy for the graphic designer to interpret.

If you are not sure what to say, try looking at these statements and see if any of them strike a chord:

  • It does not match my brand
  • It feels too geometric, or, there are too many straight lines
  • It looks too soft, fluid, or organic
  • I don’t think my target audience will connect with it
  • I wish it was simpler
  • It is too minimalist, I want to fill more of the space
  • I worry about how it will translate to print or other mediums
  • The colors are not my favorite
  • There is not enough color
  • There is too much color
  • The font looks too formal and fancy
  • The font does not look as professional as I would like
  • The design is too business-like
  • The design is too relaxed and casual

The more specific you can be, the more easily the designer can create your vision!

Color Systems in Design

When using color in digital design the first decision that must be made is what color system to use.  Are you going to use RGB (Red, Green, Blue), CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black), or PMS (Pantone Matching System)?  The easy answer is that when designing for digital such as websites or television ads then RGB is the preferred choice, you should ideally design in CMYK  for digital printing, and Pantone is often the first choice to achieve true-color in offset printing. The reasoning behind this is, of course, complex.

The RGB color system is based on the emission of red, blue, and green colors through a screen.  Like in traditional color theory the absence of color would be black and the full emission of all colors is white.  While it might seem as if RGB should always be used when designing on a computer so you can accurately judge while designing on a screen, it’s important to choose the color method that will work best with your final product, which is why CMYK is often the color system of choice for anything printed.

CMYK is based off of pigments instead of colors.  Pigments work by “subtracting” or absorbing light instead of emitting it.  A complete lack of pigment is the white paper, and full layering of pigments is black.  Cyan, Magenta, and Yellow are the building block primary colors of pigments and the digital printing process.  While 100% CMY will produce black, it is difficult to achieve and so black toner is added, standing for the K (key) in the CMYK name.    While CMYK does produce an incredible number of color options, it is more limited than the full RGB spectrum. Digital printers, whether they are your home desk printer or an industrial sized machine, use CMYK in their printing process, so digitally printed material should be designed in CMYK.  It is always a good idea to look at a final printed proof of a project designed in CMYK before printing as the color may appear different than on the screen. Not only can computer monitors be calibrated differently, but the screen is simply showing an RGB interpretation of CMYK, it can get close, but not perfect.

PMS stands for the Pantone Matching System, which is an industry wide color standard produced and monitored by Pantone.  Pantone has created thousands of colors, named them, and produced swatch books showing how those colors should appear on different types of paper.  When using an offset printer the Pantone ink is mixed per Pantone’s instructions to match the desired color and the final product can be compared to a swatch for perfection. Pantone even requires printers to submit color samples to ensure they are producing colors correctly. This enables printers around the world to achieve the exact same end color results from the same files.  Whereas printing using CMYK on an off-set printer will produce good results through multiple different printers, you will never get you the EXACT same results across machines.  Because of its reliability, it is often used in logos and across industries as a definitive color guide.

Graphic Design: Coherence v. Consistency

While consistency may be a good quality in life, in graphic design it can definitely cross over into the category of too much of a good thing.

While a certain amount of repetition to create visual consistency is important in establishing an identifiable brand identity, it is not necessary for every single element of your stationary and marketing materials to follow the exact same design.  This overly templated approach grows visually boring if a person is looking at multiple pieces, and is less likely to draw attention to the content.

Instead, look for a core set of brand elements that you can draw upon and apply creatively across your branding.  Your business identity should establish cohesiveness, or a feeling of unity throughout all of your pieces instead of sameness.

Analyzing Your Own Business Card

Is your business card effective?  It can be difficult to assess, as long as your business card looks professional and your name and important information are easily identifiable then it performs its basic function.  But does that mean its effective?

Try this test.  Ask a friend (or even better – a stranger) to look at your business card.  Give them three seconds to take in the card, and then have them turn it over.  Then quiz them.  What stood out, what do they remember best, was anything at all memorable, what is their overall impression?  This feedback can really help you tell what is and what is not working with you cards.

Your goal is to have a business card that not only has all of your information in an easy to read format, but also stands out from the wad of business cards in everyone’s drawer, and is also consistent with your personal and business brand.  That’s a lot to expect in a 2 by 3.5 inch piece of card stock.

When designing a new business card, or re-assessing an old one, the most important mantra is less is more.  Business cards that are crowded or confusing can reflect negatively on you and your professionalism.  Do not overload your card with information, just stick to the basics – name, title, and contact info.  For most people, phone and email are enough contact information, but others may need to include physical address of retail location or website.

While you don’t want to overload the person reading, your company logo should be prominent.  It should not be so big it overwhelms the card, but it needs to be well placed and large enough that it is easily read and remembered.

Font, color, and materials can be outlets for the tone of your brand – they speak for you when you are not there.  Be aware of your industry while picking a really cool fun font – accountants have less leeway than playground designers.  Think about color choice and how color suits your brand and style.  Too many colors can be noisy, but a clean (not boring!) two or three color card can be eye-catching and elegant.  Choose high-quality materials, you do not want your business card to say “cheap”.  Avoid the fringe trend of using crazy materials, like stretchy business cards. The concept seems awesome, however it is not only expensive, but also makes it impossible to write on the back of your card, a common practice that could hurt you in a networking situation.

Speaking of the back of your business card – don’t leave it blank!  Yes, leave some space so there is room to write if necessary, but it’s completely wasted space if you do nothing with it.  You could use this space to include a slogan, a short description of your business, include a promotion or discount, even include a QR code.

The Call to Action: A Design Perspective

Note: Remember to read the previous blog The Call to Action: A Copywriting Perspective

The design of a call to action statement or button ensures a visual focus on this essential piece.   In a well-known test, Hubspot conducted a simple A/B test of two online call to action buttons.  One was green, one was orange.  The orange button outperformed the green button almost 2 to 1. Many people walked away from this well-known case study saying orange is better than green for conversion rates. When making a choice- make your call to action button orange.  This is wrong.

Taking an actual look at the websites used leads to slightly different conclusion.  The primary color in use in the test website was green.  Orange provided a high contrast and made the call to action button stand out from the rest of the page, making it much more effective.  So while this study does not tell us that orange is better than green in every case, it does tell us that the color choice of a single button can have an incredible impact on your website conversion rate.

Obviously, the specific graphic format of a call to action statement or button is an incredibly important factor.  It is absolutely worth it to spend time finessing and testing different styles. Taking advantage and grabbing more of the consumers who are already viewing your web page or reading your direct mail is a wise investment that is considerable lower in cost than paying for new marketing.

Factors to Consider:

  1. Color

Make it pop, don’t be afraid to contrast the rest of your page.  If you must have two competing calls to action, use color to indicate the more important one.

  1. Position on page

Guess what? People don’t read all of your copy.  They really don’t.  You are doing really well if your readers are reading through an average of about 60%.  Putting your call to action at the bottom of all of the copy that people often don’t scroll through isn’t a great idea.  Try testing it out in different locations and see how your response rate varies.

  1. White space

In a busy design scheme a perfect call to action can simply fade into the background. Above anything else on the page, your call to action must stand out.  Use white space effectively to make sure it doesn’t get lost in the crowd.

  1. Make it big

Seriously, make it big.

  1. Have the same call to action available in multiple places

While a single call to action is fine on a postcard, on bigger spaces don’t be afraid to repeat.  Don’t just have the call to action on your website home page, it’s okay to use it throughout your site.  Printing a newsletter?  Have a call to action in the interior as well as the front page.

  1. Make it easy to read

Avoid ornate or small fonts and visual clutter.

  1. TEST

Test everything!  It can be very hard to predict what visual representation people are most likely to respond to.  So stop trying to use sorcery and instead find out by testing.   Test button size, box color, use of white space, number of colors, content, page position, everything you can think of in simple A/B tests with a single controlled variable.


The Essentials of Newsletters

Newsletters can be an effective marketing tool, establishing your business’ reputation and opening up a stream of regular communication between you and your customers.  They can also be junky, obnoxious pieces of self-promotion that customers throw in their trash or delete from their email as soon as the newsletter is received.  Try out these Dos and Don’ts for a successful newsletter that your clients and customers will actually value.


  1. Include Relevant and Informative Content

Talk about what’s coming up at your business, recent successes, highlight your employees, discuss implications of industry news, and offer helpful tips.

  1. Use a General Template

Your newsletter, as representation of your brand, should be professionally designed and follow a general template so it is easy to read every issue. Your logo, slogan, and business information should be clearly identifiable so there is no doubt who sent the newsletter.

  1. Focus on Visual Appeal

The average person’s inbox is full of junk mail as is their physical mailbox, you only have a few seconds to make sure your newsletter is not ignored. 90% of information transmitted to the brain is visual, use this.  Integrate beautiful pictures and infographics, on your e-newsletter, don’t be afraid to include video.  Have a definable personality and use visual elements to make it pop.

  1. Allow People to Unsubscribe

Include links or instructions to unsubscribe from your newsletter.  Don’t force people who don’t want your content to receive it, that is the fastest way to make a bad impression.

  1. Provide a Copy on Your Website

After spending time to make beautiful and informative content, don’t restrict it to the select few.  Have an easily accessible copy available on your business website, always post it in the same location.


  1. Use it as a Sales Piece

A newsletter is not a distribution of coupons or upcoming sales.  To create brand loyal customers who trust you as a source of industry information, you must first prove that you are after more than just the next sale, don’t waste this opportunity.

  1. Require More Steps

Do not make your readers go to your website for more information or fill out forms to get what they need.  It’s okay to provide links or further resources, but your newsletter should be able to function as a standalone piece.

  1. Focus on Me, Me, Me!

It’s not bad to talk about yourself or highlight your employees, it is bad to talk ONLY about yourself.

  1. Include Irrelevant Content

It does not make your newsletter look clever and fun or even caring, it makes it look unprofessional.

  1. Have a Long Newsletter

You have competition, there are other newsletters, emails, and flyers out there.  People don’t have time to read everything.  If you want people to return and open your NEXT issue, keep your newsletter short.

Data and The Infographic

Pinterest, Twitter, and Facebook are at least partially responsible for the current demand for beautiful representations of data.  In an effort to keep their data competitive with the elaborate and colorful infographics that often circulate the social media world, companies demand that information and graphs have first and foremost instant visual appeal. This is often accomplished at the expense of readability.

The main purpose of a graph is to create a form in which data is recognizable and easier to comprehend its scope. Data visualization allows readers to easily see trends and simplify complex numbers into understandable stories.  Overly elaborate infographics that are meant to be shared on Facebook feeds or featured as posters on break room walls are pretty but not particularly useful.  Despite busy space and complex designs, they often simplify data until it is practically useless, providing instead little “factoids” that are memorable, but fail to represent a complete picture.

Informative and well-represented data can be beautiful, but these representations  often rely on striking simplicity free of distractions and embellishments that take away from the meaningfulness of the data.  The reality is, outrageously complex and pretty graphics cannot hide terrible data and bad copy, but they can obscure interesting data.  If you are providing interesting information in the correct setting, your audience will be interested, will study your data, and will appreciate the new knowledge.  The reason The New York Times relies heavily on simple bar charts and line graphs is because they communicate data effectively and clearly, and that has a beauty of its own.

It is, of course, sometimes necessary to consider the setting. If your goal is to gain the attention of teenage girls, then maybe pretty graphics and funky typography should take the lead, but in most business settings, infographics should aim to inform, not dazzle with rainbow colors.

Shades of Branding

Book Printing Chattanooga
BrightSpace Senior Living Branding


Shades of Branding

The most iconic brands in the world don’t even need a logo to bring them to mind, only a color or two.  Coca-Cola, Tiffany,  even Best Buy are so represented by their colors that it’s hard to think of anything else when faced with those colors.   As the battle for consumers continues, more businesses are recognizing the role of color in being instantly recognizable.  With so many products on the shelves or even on the web, it becomes essential.

Major corporations such as Apple and Google reportedly spend thousands of dollars a year in color research to discover what colors consumers respond to and what they believe will be the upcoming color trends of the next year or two.  When consumers interact with a new product or brand, their initial evaluation of logos, image, and packing is over in less than 90 seconds. In a study called The Impact of Color on Marketing, researchers found that up to 90% of these snap judgments are based on color alone.

Because every person evaluates color differently based off of their own personal experiences, colors cannot be universally translated into specific feelings, despite popular opinion.  However, there are broad messaging patterns that can be observed in color perceptions –  whether it is the undeniable vivid excitement of red or the calm competence of blue.

There are two major factors to keep in mind when choosing colors for your brand.  First of all, studies show that the brain prefers recognizable brands.  It is therefore necessary to make sure your branding is distinctly different from the competition to ensure differentiation and increase the likelihood that your brand will be remembered and recognized.  Secondly, purchasing intent of consumers is related to the perceived appropriateness of the color being used for a brand. In other words, people judge whether or not the colors used “fit” the brand or company.  For example, one would expect Nickelodeon to use fun and energetic colors – if their bright orange logo was replaced by a logo with balanced neutrals or dependable brown, there would be a disconnect with consumers.

2015 Pantone Color of the Year

Last week, Pantone announced that the color of the year for 2015 is Marsala.  After 2014’s vivid purple, Radiant Orchid, Marsala’s brownish red presents a more muted and yet strong choice.   In the announcement the Pantone Color Institute executive Director, Leatrice Eiseman stated that “Marsala is a subtly seductive shade, one that draws us in to its embracing warmth.”


Every year the Pantone Institute of Color announces a “color of the year” which is embraced across industries.  Pantone originally began as a printing company in the 1950s, but its fame comes from its Pantone Color Matching System which is a standardized color reproduction system.  Pantone’s color forecasts are used in printing, graphic design, interior decorating, comsetics and many different industries, meaning their declared “color of the year” is highly important.

Pantone says that Marsala is already popular in clothing and handbags and goes well with warm neutrals such as umber, warm taupe and gray, and golden yellow, as well as with a surprising pop of turquoise.    Many designers are already embracing the color, imagining bohemian décor and warm, earthy toned clothing.  Still, there has been a distinct backlash to this year’s choice. Some complaining of its distinct resemblance to rust and others despairing over a perceived throwback to the eighties.  As 2015 begins we will soon know whether Marsala is a color to be celebrated, or to be quickly and purposefully forgotten.

The Downfall of the Serif

When I typed out my first assignments in school, my teacher gave me exacting instructions.  “Use size 12 font, only Times New Roman, remember to double space.”  Over the years, it seemed like every teacher repeated the same instructions and as far as I was concerned, Times New Roman was the only legitimate font.   More prestigious than Arial, and immensely better than Comic Sans.  However, over the past few years, serif fonts have fallen out of style, and with them, Times New Roman.  The default font for Microsoft Word documents is now Calibri, a sans serif font.

Serifs are the pretty finishing touches on any character or letter, the flourishes.  While there are multiple types of serifs, the conversations distinguishing those types are really only interesting to typography nerds.

Serif Graphic

While Serifs are considered purely decorative touches, they actually serve a legitimate role for the reader.  Historically, people have claimed that the use of serifs increases the readability and reading speed of long passages of print due to their ability to help the eye travel across a line.  Serif fonts tend to be chosen most often for specifically long printed texts due to their classically perceived readability and also in more professional pieces, where their flourishes add  a sense of formality.

However, serifs have fallen out of favor, mostly due to the rise of the  Internet.  The average printed piece has a resolution of at least 1,000 dots per inch, whereas computer monitors typically display somewhere in the neighborhood of 100 dots per inch.  The lower resolution makes it more difficult to distinguish the small flourishes and tails on the characters, making words both harder to read and less aesthetically pleasing.  As more people struggled to make it through text heavy sections of Times New Roman on web pages, more  pages chose to switch to sans serif fonts.

Readers have quickly grown accustomed to the clean minimalistic look of sans serif fonts, and brought the new preferred “modern” aesthetic back to print.  While serif fonts are certainly still used regularly in print and even on the web, their popularity is waning.  When choosing a font for your project it is important to always keep in mind readability, who you are trying to reach, and the “look” you are hoping to achieve.  Above all else, remember that the best font choices are the ones where readers do not notice the font, but the message.