Want To Spruce Up Your Design, But Dealing With A Tight Budget? These Free Resources May Be Perfect For You

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Design is such an important aspect of online communications, yet many of us aren’t exactly experts in the field. Luckily, there are many free resources out there to help us overcome our design barriers and produce visually appealing content.

In a recent article posted on LINE25, titled 51 free Web Design Resources Guaranteed To Help You Design Better, we learn about some new and useful design resources. I will not go into all 51, but I will tackle 3 giving my user review. But, if the 3 resources aren’t enough, be sure to check out the complete list in the original article by clicking here.

Dribble

Dribble is an amazing website that allows users to up their design game by including various free images. Users can choose from photos to icons to illustrations and more. One useful feature is that, like paid licensing organizations (i.e. Shutterstock), Dribble allows users to download the image in multiple formats such as a PNG file, an Adobe Photoshop file, an Adobe Illustrator file and more. This feature is important because it allows users to manipulate the image. For example, I downloaded a bunch of icons, but I only want one. If I only received the PNG file I wouldn’t be able to only access this one icon. I need access to the original design files such as Photoshop or Illustrator to select individual parts of the downloaded image. For graphics, like photos, this isn’t as much as an issue because you can just download and use as is.

Overall, it was very easy for me to find an image I wanted, and the download process was also simple. I do suggest keeping an eye on the attribution rules because different items for download have different rules.

cosmo_free

I was able to download all these icons from Dribble, to download for yourself click here.

 

Pixel Buddha

Pixel Buddha is a design resource that has both free and premium content. The website has a nice interface and users can easily tell what content is free because the menu bar has “Freebie” listed as an option. When I selected the Freebie button, I got a drop-down menu of categories to choose from. I was surprised by how many different offering categories there were. I selected “Icons” from the drop-down since that is the category I decided to use on Dribble. I then selected from the free icon options. After making the selection I was prompted to download. One of the great parts of this site was that it told me before downloading what format the image would come in and its size (you can see this in the image below).

After download, my icons were saved in a folder to my computer. The icons could be accessed in different file formats, which was very helpful. Another impressive feature was that the icons were saved individually as PNG files. The reason this is impressive is because usually the image is saved with all the icons visible in one chart-like photo, which cannot be manipulated. With this download all the icons we saved individually and named accordingly, which was super helpful.

wegef.jpg

You can see all the download information for your selected graphic. To find out more about Pixel Buddha click here.

Overall, this resource was very easy to use, and I would recommend it to those looking to amp up their design presence. My only caution for using this resource is that there are not that many graphic options to choose from within the freebie categories. But, if you can find something that works for you, then its great because it is free!

WebDesignDev

This resource is by far my favorite. WebDesignDev is a blog that provides insight and free content. The site makes lists of top free resources to download. Some include PSD (Photoshop) templates, heading fonts, PSD payment buttons and more. To me, this site has unlimited potential because it provides a variety of resources for a range of uses.

So for the actual download process, I selected content that I wanted and then selected download. One thing to be aware of on this site is that when you download the image you agree to attribute to the author. This means you have to copy a link and feature it on your website.

This is the link I have to use to show attribution for the image I downloaded: <a href=’http://www.freepik.com/free-vector/watercolor-badges-collection_794458.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>.

You  may notice that it is a string of code that will say “Designed by Freepik” and will then link to the Freepik website. I added the code into my post to demonstrate what it would look like to attribute to a Freepik image.

As you see below, it is just text and a link.

Designed by Freepik.

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This is the graphic is downloaded from the freepik website WebDesignDev directed me to. You can download the same grapjic by visiting the site by clicking here.

Overall this was a great resource because it allows the user to get updates on free graphics that they may not have even known existed. It is important to note that the site links to websites that house free content, such as the example above: Freepik.

In Summary…

There are many free resources out there that can help you boost your graphics game. But, do remember that just because the items are free doesn’t mean they don’t belong to someone. When using these free resources, many of them still require attribution which is essential to make sure the images are being used legally. In addition, be cautious when downloading from sites that do not seem reputable. Make sure to read up on the site before downloading to make sure you do not expose your computer to dangerous malware or viruses. Now feel free to explore the world of free graphic resources and ramp up your digital presence.

Selecting The Right Marketing & Advertising Social Media Channel For You – Why Large Impressions Don’t Always Equal The Top Choice

In a recent article by Gavin O’Malley, Instagram Ad Impressions Surge, we learn about the impressive increase in Instagram ad impressions. This sparked my interest because as a marketing professional it made me wonder whether individuals would seek out these opportunities simply due to the high impression rates. As always I like to come from a small niche business perceptive and demonstrate why organizations might want to think twice before biting on the bait of sky high impressions.

In my perspective there is a lot more that goes into choosing the right social media platform than how may impressions you get, or even the cost per click figures (For another reading that discusses followers and impressions true value I encourage you to read this article by Neda Ulaby for NPR titled How Do You Measure Passion? Figuring The Value Of Social Media Followers.)

This is an extremely insightful article as it poses the question, do the numbers really matter as much as the passion those followers have for the person or topic being discussed? Do shear numbers of impressions really matter as much as really valuable ones. For instance, your business could choose to advertise on Instagram and reach an impressive amount of individuals, but are these individuals interested in your topic? Will they care about what your organization has to offer? Or are they just a follower that rarely interacts and will most likely never participate in your cause.

These are important concepts to consider before selecting the social media platform that has the most followers or impressions. You need to think beyond the large tantalizing numbers.

Here are my tips and some insight to consider before selecting the right social media channel for you:

1. Where Is Your Audience?

I can say easily that in my current line of work even though Instagram offers a lot of impressions it would not be the ideal platform for my organization. The audience I currently cater to is an older very busy group that does not really have a presence on Instagram. They are more likely to be found browsing LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter. Even for Twitter it can be a stretch to reach them. So for you, you need to know where your audience will be because a few strong impressions or better that a ton of weak ones.

2. Know Your Content

What content do you use to reach your audience? In what medium do you best describe your organizations value: a picture, a short blurb, an event posting, an article title, a news release? It can be easier to choose an ideal social media platform to focus on and advertise with if you know what content is the strongest when reaching your target audience. For instance, at my current organization we have five events tailored to a specific industry’s executives. In this instance Facebook serves as a strong platform because we can make a separate event, and post all the event photos in an album for all attendees to see. We also use Twitter for our events to promote before the event and during to keep attendees up to date. Plus advertising is effective because we can reach our speakers, vendors and attendees.

Those platforms are optimal for sharing event details but what about consulting? One the other spectrum we offer is consulting services for very complex topics. This area is hard to explain through 140 characters and does not photograph well. So for this content we turn to LinkedIn where we can post more comprehensive content and advertise specifically in a business oriented environment. The bottom line is you have to know what content you are going to produce to represent your organization and think about what platform it would make the most sense to see it on.

3. What Do You Want From The Exposure

When you start considering social media platforms what is the end goal? Do you want more followers, website traffic, fans, clients, or maybe you just want your name out there?

It is important to know what you want out of the exchange. If you are looking to network and build professional relationships than LinkedIn is probably right for you. But if you want shares and want your name or content to spread Twitter maybe a better option. Or maybe you are a professional photographer looking for more business, Instagram may be ideal. With so many options you need to know the social media platforms in and out as well as what you are looking to gain from the exposure.

Check Out These Resources For Further Reading

New To Social Media Platforms For Advertising & Marketing, Check Out This Resource: The Social Media Advertising Beginners Guide For Twitter, Facebook And LinkedIn.

Want To Learn More About Measuring Success With Social Media Marketing & Advertising, Check Out This Resource: Not All Social Media Returns Can Be Quantified – But Here Are Some Ways To Measure Your Success.

Want Help Deciding Which Platforms Are Right For Your Business, Check Out This Resource: Which Social Media Channels Should I Use For My Business?

Need Help Matching Your Content To A Social Media Channel, Check Out This Resource: Matching Platform And Content Type To Audience

 

 

Interdisciplinary Arts Major: The Breakdown

IA Outreach

This is a logo I designed for the Interdisciplinary Arts major. We are often referred to as “IA Majors.” The logo demonstrated all the different aspects of art that are included in the major.

So, I am all set to graduate in two weeks! This is very exciting of course, but with graduating comes the endless questions of what is your major? What kinds of jobs will that qualify you for? Unfortunately for my family, I did not pick a self-explanatory major that sums up itself in its title. Which, I pride myself on being a complex creature anyhow. It is amusing trying to listen to them give their best efforts to explain it to others. But, to make it easier for all who want to know what Interdisciplinary Arts is and why it is a successful major, I decided to provide a description from my university’s website as well as my own chosen path.

Description courtesy of Shippensburg University:

It is an ideal major for students with diverse interests and skills who want a comprehensive education in the arts and who like to “think outside of the box” by studying the arts along with other courses that suit their career aspirations, such as courses in education, business, and the social sciences. As a result, IA majors gain both a comprehensive understanding of the arts and the critical and communicative skills necessary to succeed in their chosen professions.

The IA Program at Shippensburg is unique in focusing primarily on the arts, and it is the only major of its kind among the 14 universities in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education. Departments participating in the IA program provide students with the latest technology, small class size, which enables individualized instruction, and professors who are among the most creative and innovative members of the Shippensburg faculty.

IA Webbanner

This is a web banner ad I created for the IA program demonstrating what IA (Interdisciplinary Arts) can stand for. It is the “I Am…” campaign where the individual can fill in the blank.

What can you focus on?

For this major there are many possibilities in what you can focus on. The major consists of 3 concentrations, two of which have to involve the arts. The third area is pretty open as long as you can demonstrate how it enhances your two other areas of study. The goal is to take your 3 areas and have them build on one another so you have a well-rounded program. Some students choose to go a more traditional route and focus on the arts and select art, music, and theatre as their areas of focus. But there are more art focuses than you may realize. A student can choose from…

  • Art & Design
  • English
  • Communications/Journalism
  • Film
  • Theatre
  • Music

As you can see there are many possibilities in the arts category, but students can also select an area outside of the arts, such as business, psychology, marketing, computer science, and many more.

My PathLong IA Outreach Banner

For my areas of focus I chose Art & Design, Communications/Journalism, and Business. They allowed me to gain the graphic design experience I needed along with the skills to write and develop my own content. An understanding of business was essential for me and gave me an understanding of how organizations function. I also was able to achieve 3 minors which include Art & Design, Business, and Technical/Professional Communication.

I was able to focus on the areas I wanted to build on. I now have design experience along with writing skills which are essential for any workplace. Studying Business allowed me to better understand the different departments of a business and also enhance my professional skills.

For me, my major was the perfect trifecta. I feel very prepared for the workforce and feel that I have a very diverse and marketable background.

To learn more about the Interdisciplinary Arts program visit Shippensburg University’s website.

Snapchat Introduces Discover

Snapchat unveiled its latest feature on the popular social sharing app. Discover is the point in the app where you can access a variety of stories from different channels. img_5039_custom-af0cf5bd1fd227539f26261c508d095391604d74-s800-c15

The key difference between this news option and other news sources is that the stories selected to the feed are chosen by editors and individuals, rather than big news channels feeding you selective information at selective times.

The feature allows you to view relevant stories in an easy to use format. The stories rely greatly on visual presence and have a specific way of entering content.

One article  titled, Snapchat Discover could be the next big thing in news since Twitter, by Kevin Roose suggests that this feature may be ground breaking for how users receive news. In the article, Roose also suggests that taking on an employee to package stories just for Snapchat Discover is wise and effective.

Since the feature is still in its infancy, it is hard to predict its longevity. If it lasts beyond the initial fascination, news producing organizations may want to consider creating content for Snapchat discover.

Following Copyright Law on the Web

A recent article I read on techsoup.org provides some great instruction for those using graphics pulled from the internet. Today, there are many rules and regulations, but hopefully this post will help to decipher the puzzle.

 What is Copyright?

It is the legal protection provided to authors and owners of originally created work whether it is artwork or intellectual work.

How do you know if an image is copyrighted?

It is better to be safe than sorry, so most of the time it is recommended to assume images are copyrighted. An obvious giveaway for a copyrighted image is the “c” trademark featured above. If such copyrighted images are used without the author’s permission, fines and penalties can be given.

As for finding non-copyrighted images, a good resource is the Creative Commons. The Creative Commons provides images that can be used with certain conditions specified by the author.

Using images without permission

The three exceptions to not asking permission before using an image:

  • When the image is found in the public domain
  • When the image is specified as “copyright free”
  • When the image is “openly licensed”

What is considered to be public domain?

If an image is considered in the public domain, it means that users have unlimited access and restrictions for using the works without infringing on copyright laws.

Here are the 3 categories of public domain works:

  • Works that are not copyrightable and enter this domain when created, such as ideas, facts, titles, slogans, government documents, and many more
  • Works that categorized as public domain by the author
  • Works that the copyright has expired

Accessing public domain works

Here is a short list of public domain resources easily found on the web:

Smithsonian Institution Public Domain Images

New York Times Public Domain Images

Project Gutenberg

Librivox

Prelinger Archives

To read the full article about public domain click here.

Online image banks

If you are trying to find images and also trying to avoid breaking copyright law, check out some of these image banks. Also, make sure that no matter where you find your images, you read the fine print and follow all procedures to avoid issue.

FreeImages.co.uk

FreePhotosBank

From Old Books

MorgueFile

National Park Service

Open Photo

PD Photo

Stock XChng

Stockvault

Unprofound.com

Visipix

To read more about copyright law view the full article here.

What is fair use?

Fair use explains the ways images can be used for certain purposes, while avoiding copyright law. There are certain situations where such image use is acceptable.

Here is how the government defines fair use:

Four factors to be considered in determining whether or not a particular use is fair.

  1. The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of                 commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes
  2. The nature of the copyrighted work
  3. The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the                       copyrighted work as a whole
  4. The effect of the use upon the potential market for, or value of, the                         copyrighted work

So, for school projects you can see the mention of fair use pertaining to educational purposes. But, it doesn’t hurt to always site your sources.

To learn more visit the government website.

Writing For The Web

To write for the web you must know how users read on the web

Studies show that readers don’t actually read on the web. Most of us prefer to skim an look for items that catch our attention. To be mindful of this evolution writers needs to try to tend to these reader needs. neilsonHere are some tips that the Nielsen Norman Group suggest in its article How Users Read on the Web.

  • Create scannable text for the reader
  • Use a “chunking” style format to break up text
  • Make sure to incorporate plenty of USEFUL heading to help guide the reader
  • Try to stick to one topic per paragraph
  • Cut down on extra words making the work more concise
  • Use bulleted and numbered lists
  • Avoid “marketese”
  • Use the inverted pyramid style meaning you place the conclusion and main details in the beginning and progress to add additional information
  • Use links to sources and quality graphics to build your credibility with readers

Try to use some of these tips the next time you write for the web.

Homepage Analysis – COACH

Having an effective online presence is crucial for any company. It is vital to have a website that engages your audience and urges them to participate on all your platforms. For this discussion I chose COACH for my analysis. (And to be clear, I mean the actual COACH merchandise site not the discounted outlet version. You can access the homepage by going to this link. Also, I am not trying to endorse any products I just want to assess the brand’s online presence for educational purposes.)

In this analysis I am going to specifically look at the homepage including navigation, structure, and layout. I am also going to assess social media engagement and communications. I will look at additional pages and features to get an overall feel for the level of user engagement.

Homepagecoach homepage

COACH’s homepage has a very clean appearance with the main navigation bar centered at the top of the site. As you scroll down, the navigation bar is always visible while different images provide different links to unique features. The structure is very logical. At the top, you can select which category or merchandise you are looking for. There is also the option to view the latest merchandise of the season.

As you scroll down, there are many different large bold images showcasing the designer handbags. It isn’t until you enter the navigation bar that you dive into the specific details of the items available for purchase allowing the site to be more visually appealing. The site’s vertical layout and effectively centered content allows for easy viewing.

In addition, the WORLD OF COACH dropdown provides a long list of items to engage the audience. You can select to look at its magazine, which includes beautiful images and captions. The magazine reports on events and happenings within COACH. One item featured the collaborated with an artist for one merchandise line as you can see in the image below.

Coach art

The dropdown also included an events section listing all the functions and outings related to the brand, including the debut of the bags featuring the artist’s work discussed in the magazine. Having an events page gives the viewer a feeling that the company is more than just a product and a store, but an impactful entity.coach event

The COACH site also has a news section where it shows off what is happening in the industry, and reaches out past the borders of its own company displaying magazine covers and other fashion featured material. By including such material it adds to the organizations reputation and provides examples of what other brands COACH would like to be compared with. coach news

Social Media

COACH also has its bases covered on the social media front. On the homepage there is an ample list of social media platforms to connect with. I was very surprised by the vast amount. You can connect with COACH on 7 platforms! In addition to social media, visitors can connect via email where once you op-in you can receive the latest news and updates. Having such features allows users to stay up-to-date with the latest merchandise and gives them a taste of the new collections.about coach

Another way COACH is involved on social media is its use of the Twitter hash tag.  On COACH’s site there are two hash tags that can drive engagement on social media platforms. You can see below how that prompt can inspire engagement even having a link to upload a personal photo. What better way to get viewers involved than incorporating his or her own accounts of using the product? It is a win-win approach.Coach hashtag

I also found the COACH’s use of film was unique. There were several places where users could watch films throughout the site.

Coach film

 

Conclusion

Overall, I thought that for a site that primarily sells handbags, it did a great job making it seems as though it does so much more. There is a definite balance between the merchandise and the additional features. The majority of the site is visually demonstrating the merchandise in action instead of listing it in a traditional format with a description and price. I think the site is very well designed and on first impression doesn’t read “handbag seller.” COACH also demonstrated that it is involved in many social media platforms and encourages users to participate with trending tools such as the hash tag. The magazine, events page, and film all build up an online personality for COACH to engage its audience.