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An Update from Lori Brooks about XLDesign4U

XLDesign4U had a very eventful & enjoyable first and second quarter of 2017. From big jobs to little, our team has persevered while continuously striving for excellence. Here’s a brief run-down of what we’ve been up to & what’s going on currently.

Las Vegas PPAI Expo- In January Lori & Bre got the chance to make their way over to Nevada to experience & learn all of what the PPAI Expo had to offer. There were more than 12,267 promotional product distributors in attendance during this 5-day annual event. Featuring 1,251 exhibiting supplier companies in 3,144 booths, including 157 first-time exhibitors, the Expo showcased thousands of new and exciting products, education and events in one million square feet at Mandalay Bay Convention Center. The amount of available knowledge was immense & captivating. This was the first time ever that XL made an appearance at the Vegas show, it was also undeniably beneficial.  Numerous boxes of unique product samples were sent back to Richmond and the educational sessions that Lori and Bre attended at the Expo provided many new industry insights with an opportunity to learn a variety of new skills.  The result of attending this annual event opened additional opportunities to better serve our clients with more variety of product types and competitive new supplier relationships.  Additionally, the ability to share experiences with other promotional product distributors from all over the country proved to enhance our confidence about how we currently EXCEL and new ways to improve our services.

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Shawn’s Departure from XL- 

A member of the XLDesign4U family since May of 2016, Shawn Holt one of our creative specialist is taking his career elsewhere to expand his knowledge & experience in the creative field. We appreciate his contribution to XL over the past months & are excited to see where this journey takes him.  Also - great news! Shawn will be a new dad soon!
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XLDesign4U and EWI Richmond- 

Lori is enjoyably serving her second year as secretary of EWI Richmond.  
The Richmond Chapter of Executive Women International is celebrating its Fiftieth year in 2017! 
This national organization comprised of more than 1,400 member companies and 1,600 representatives continue to thrive and has grown to nearly 45 Chapters located in major cities in the United States and Canada. EWI is a premier organization for connecting, building community and developing both professionally and personally for today’s business professionals and their firms. EWI Richmond is currently comprised of 35 local professional member firms with 41 firm representatives.  XLDesign4U is proud to be an active member firm in the Richmond chapter of Executive Women International. During May and July 2017, EWI Richmond will be awarding educational scholarships (EWISP) to local high school seniors based on their scholastic achievement, leadership qualities, good citizenship and extra-curricular activities. Scholarship Awards range between $1,000 and $5,000. In July, the ASIST scholarship will be awarded to local adults facing economic, social, or physical challenges, who are looking to improve their situation through educational opportunities. Local Chapters partner with educational providers and social services agencies to identify potential candidates. Chapter-level winners are submitted to the EWI corporate level for the opportunity to be selected for one of 13 scholarships ranging from $2,000 to $10,000.

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Bre Marvel’s Tenure celebrating three years as a team member with XLDesign4U in July 2017– 

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Bre continues to grow as an integral part of the “XL Team”.  She has developed an excellent level of industry knowledge and exerts an uncanny capability to find qualitative products for our clients.  Her focus on detail and traffic management couples extremely well with her ability to provide genuine customer service and to assist Lori with project management.  XLDesign4U is very fortunate to benefit from Bre’s team efforts through inside customer service and her ability to provide an organized system to share delivery updates, product satisfaction inquiries and new project research.  Bre works closely with Lori to assist with accomplishing right-sized budget constraints for clients and on-time / as promised production scheduling.

Distributor Connect in Florida- 

Lori is making her way down south for the Distributor Connect  event at the Pelican Grand Beach Resort in Fort Lauderdale Florida. The goal of this venture is to make new connections in the printing and promotional products industries.  Created for the industry’s elite, Distributor Connect Meetings are by invitation only and is an exclusive relationship-building event. The conference format features pre-scheduled, one-on-one sessions between distributors and suppliers.  Each meeting session is held in an exclusive supplier suite, securing privacy and improving business opportunities. Lori will have an opportunity to meet suppliers she has communicated with through emails and phone conversations over many years as well as being in an environment to meet new suppliers and learn what they can provide for accomplishing client goals and solution-oriented project tasks.
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                          Pelican Grand Beach Resort in Ft. Lauderdale, FL 
                          Distributor Connect May 10-May 12, 2017

After the conference, Lori will visit suppliers, friends and family in the state of Florida before heading home to Richmond. She'll make a surprise visit to her mother on Mother's Day in the Daytona area too!

19 Years of EXCELLENCE-
 
In August of this year XLDesign4U will be celebrating its 19th year in operation. The company has survived through floppy disc, QR codes, 4 presidencies, the birth of social media sites, & so much more. Through it all XLDesign4U has & will continue to excel for all our wonderful clients. Old or new, we appreciate you all for being a part of our legacy & look forward to what the future has to offer.

19thBirthday

Until our next update, always know that our team of EXCELLENCE will continue to provide the best possible service levels with the best possible value.  Best Regards from the XLDesign4U Team  

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Know your design plan

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When you enter the design process with your designer, specificity is key.  Oftentimes, when business owners or creative professionals meet with their designer to outline the specifics of their project, the details are not quite clear. The reality is most clients discover what they really want through the proofing process. The challenge here is that they don’t realize the demands they are making on their designer when they ask for a change here, and a change there. In their mind, the change is minor and should not require much effort on the part of the designer, but they often do not understand the process involved in making some of their change requests. That is why clients find themselves overwhelmed at increased costs for proofing and revisions when they have requested changes to the finished product.

The best way to demonstrate how this process works from the designer’s point-of-view is to share an actual example or case study of this type of scenario.

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The image above is the original artwork for this project. We were asked to quote a list of line items for a children’s enrichment program that introduces preschool-age children to sports, dance, cheerleading and fitness with a focus on building confidence and team participation. After quoting the list, we received approval to begin work on their brochure.

To begin the project, the client provided a JPEG file of their last brochure. They wanted us to edit the image and build off the artwork they’d already created. Unfortunately, JPEG images are not editable.  To put things in perspective, it’s like trying to press backspace on a word that’s printed on a piece of paper; it just doesn’t work. This is something to always be mindful of as you provide files to your graphic designer.

The client’s first request was to remove the second sentence (the bold one) and replace it with “Try a Starz class and rest assured your child is in the best enrichment program on the market today! www.StarzProgram.com.”  They also wanted to change the color of “dance, sports, cheer, and fitness.” Again, these changes seem quite simple. But, what the client did not realize was that you need to individually erase each letter and match the spots to the existing background before you can place the new desired text.

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After making the initial changes, we went through several iterations of changing the “dance, cheer and fitness” content. In the first change, the color of the letters was changed a lighter color to make it stand out. The client wanted the words to ‘pop’ more which resulted in the changes you see in the above image. After reviewing this proof, the client’s reaction was we were getting close but not quite there. She wanted to see more ‘pop’ on those letters. In addition, they decided to completely remove the boy in the upper right hand corner and replace him with a cheerleader and a ballerina of different races to show diversity. This seems like a simple request, but it literally took over an hour to find images that matched their specific requests.

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To create the best experience for the client and designer, map out your project in as much detail as possible in the beginning to avoid tedious, trial and error changes during the proofing stage.

 

For more information about the Starz Program and how it SHINES contact Sophia Wastler, founder. www.StarzProgram.com

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What's under the hood of your graphics?

Mechanical inspection edit 

Graphic design services entail a lot more challenges than most realize.  After recently encountering numerous challenges for best communicating the true task for requested graphic design services, I have been compelled to write a series of educational articles for those who contract qualified graphic design professionals to perform creative outcomes.

This article will provide three examples of professional graphic designer challenges that most who work outside of this creative industry do not understand.  My goal is to share a series of educational subjects to hopefully instill heightened awareness of the graphic design industry and the value of their employ.

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There are many instances where the client will ask a designer to perform basic typesetting services.  Typesetting is typically construed as basically typing words, making the words look good with different font usage, proper spacing and in some instances- converting your product into a right-fit storytelling writing style.  You've communicated what you want to have typed, and may have asked your typesetter to “make it sound good” in addition to making it look good.  If your typesetting and/or graphic design service is starting from scratch and you agree to pay for that labor, your investment will be worthwhile because the work will be done correctly.  If you are providing a digital art file for editing, respect the educated evaluation of your selected designer when they review the good, the bad and the ugly with you.  It's not fair to assume you know all the intricacies of how to make your existing product different/improved.  Nor is it fair for your hired graphic professional to assume you are educated about their industry steps to achieve your request.  Bottom line is the mutual goal to accomplish the task.  Let the knowledgeable mechanic fix the problem, while you focus on the mechanics of where you are knowledgeable in your industry.

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There is an inherent value for collaboration between you and your designer before the work begins. Learn the value of what needs to be done.  Parallel this situation with your familiarity of a typical automobile oil change expense versus the expense of identifying and repairing that strange noise your car is making.  The mechanic will need to implement an investigative diagnosis stage (which someone must be paid for), then there’s the actual repair cost which may only involve labor time but might involve purchasing replacement parts.  In the case where there are a few problems you want to address, try to discuss them all at the beginning of the process.  Logically, while the mechanic is looking at solutions to fix one problem, if he's under the automobile digging around to find the issue he can save you money to look for the other issue simultaneously.  

If you change your mind repeatedly on which issue you want rectified, or you bring up a new separate issue after the first problem is solved, you may encounter extra labor costs for the mechanic to take everything apart again to find the additional problems you've addressed.

Most computers have wonderful user-friendly typesetting software programs.  You may be familiar with some of these programs such as Word, Publisher, Google Docs and there are those who even consider Excel spreadsheet program types to be typesetting programs.  The typical user of these programs can see their results not only on a computer screen, but in a hard-copy printed version.  It's so easy to create a professional looking outcome, right?  One can even insert a logo from their website (or other internet based resources), and quite frankly be made very proud of the creation.  Whether printing your work on your office printer, at a “quick copy store” or pasting it into an email, it looks wonderful!

using a printer

For the “Do It Yourselfer” who decides to employ a graphic designer to take your awesome creation and simply throw it into a newsletter, a menu, a post card or some other commercially printed product, your interpretation of their labor time is a no pain assumption, right?  Why would your hired designer or commercial printing resource need to charge a fee for simply placing your work into a digital template?  You have maybe even converted your word doc into a PDF or your spreadsheet seems easily transferable to any computer or printed document type.

WRONG!

Commercial printing of marketing pieces requires professional placement of your text with special attention given to an assortment of important “press quality” outcome criteria.  Let the mechanic do their job as efficiently as is possible and then respect their knowledgeable advice with a fair value placed on accomplishing your goal.

Here's a few examples of the challenges your professional typesetting and graphic design resource typically needs to overcome through diligent and knowledgeable labor time and effort.

The pretty Word document or PDF you made looks like this when placed into a graphic design software program such as Illustrator, InDesign or similar.  EEK!

badlayers

Those aren't words and sentences!  They are now individual letters all sitting in pretty rows.  If the rows don't fit into the press “safe zones” for press machine grip, fold or trimming margins, your designer then has to move your individual document letters one at a time or in carefully selected groups to the right place and still maintain the good sense of your creation!  Of course, you did a thorough “spell check” before sharing your creation with your typesetting professional, right?  Don't expect these dotted letters to make sense in any spell check tool.

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The image shown above is NOT press compatible. Can you clearly read the data? Kinda blurry huh? It's a resolution problem.  In layman's terms resolution is the number of (ink) dots per inch.  Newsprint is typically 150 dots per inch.  Hold a magnifying glass over a printed newspaper page to see the dots - there are 150 dots in a square inch.  For fast web image loading, most images you see on the Internet are only 72 dpi!  Crisp professional print typically requires no less than 300 dpi (dots per inch), so when your professional service asks you whether or not you may have a high-resolution art image, they are protecting your creation to insure a crisp image prints.  No one wants a blurry graph on your professionally printed marketing piece, right?

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If you don't have high resolution images, your hired professional will now have to redraw your image to ensure proper resolution at press.  There may be legal considerations regarding copyrighted logo art.  “Replacement” images may need to be purchased or recreated to accomplish your requested product completion.

Take the time to discuss with your graphic output resource what you want to achieve before you try to do the work yourself.  A professionally typeset and commercially printed piece can provide a valuable tool for marketing your business.  Be fair to yourself and allow a graphic specialist to create your printed product digital files.  The value of having this task accomplished correctly will prevent aggravating delays, additional labor expenses and professional misunderstanding of what this type of service actually requires.

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Have You Hugged Your Graphic Designer Lately?

 

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Part I

The creative graphic designer’s task to provide an appealing product is typically based on several different elements.  Sometimes they are asked to create an ideology from a blank canvas; other times they are requested to create a finished thought from images and text provided by the client. Have you ever considered the value of a graphic designer’s time to build your desired finished product?

One of the first realizations as a business owner is the fact that you cannot do everything yourself. This is the time that you employ business partners to work with you, people that are experienced and skilled in areas that you are not. The creative graphic designer is one of those partners and sometimes, in the hustle and bustle of running our business, I think we may take these valuable individuals for granted.

Whether tasked with the implementation of designing a new logo, compiling a color/image scheme that conveys a subliminal message or just a plain and simple text placement with appealing font selection, the graphic designer’s job is complex. Sometimes, to provide the best product, a designer might need to cohesively blend all of these elements together to achieve their goal. 

The creativity to implement the desired result involves “think time” for your contracted designer to plan the best outcome.  As the business owner, it is extremely important that you respect this aspect of the creative process if you want to receive quality results from your designer. “Think time” enables your designer to proactively plan your project both mentally and visually to map out the best plan to achieve your desired result. The last thing you want from your designer is a knee jerk reaction to your design requests, resulting in a poorly designed product that fails to meet your requirements.

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So, how does a business owner go about adding a quality graphic designer to their team? What resources and characteristics must they search for?

1. Past work history. Progressive business owners are hip to trends and changes going on in the marketplace. They pay attention to what their competitors and their peers are doing, and in this process, observe the work of various graphic designers. When shopping for a creative graphic designer, you may have admired their work through a peer or competitor or you may have even searched them out on the web.

2. Referrals. New graphic design partnerships are often formed simply through a referral. If a trusted friend or peer has a had a great relationship with a designer and you see evidence of their great work, this can often lead to the start of a relationship. New relationships built on referrals are great because trust is already earned through the referral relationship. However, because of this high level of trust, expectations are high, so it is important that the designer work hard to live up to that expectation and maintain that trust.

3. Existing relationship. You may also find a graphic designer through an existing relationship you have through another channel. It could be a trusted friend or family member or an old colleague you know that recently started their own business. Like the referral, trust is already there because the relationship exists, but the burden rests on the designer to preserve the relationship by providing a high quality product that meets the needs of their new client and partner.

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Now that we have established how you choose your graphic designer, it is important to review the creative process that the business owner must follow with their graphic designer to create the best product for their business. There is much more to the process than simply choosing a graphic designer, and then telling them, “go.” They do not have a crystal ball to see into your future or your vision for your product. It is a give and take relationship.

In part II of this series, I will reveal how you can embrace the creative process with your designer and work with them lock and step to achieve the results you want. In the meantime, give your designer a hug. They deserve it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Value of a Supplier Who is a Team Partner

In the beginning, it is easy to take for granted the valuable relationship with the suppliers of goods and services necessary to run your business. We typically use terms like vendor and supplier which are very sterile terms.  Consider which of your suppliers truly serve as visionary team-players.  Ultimately, all businesses desire a cohesive culture where all players move forward with the same goal.  Order-takers are just mechanical fulfillment positions.  Business partners and team members that have a shared goal to maintain and promote your corporate mission are valuable assets to maintain and reward proactively.

Conceptual Image Of Teamwork-by-cooldesignID-100196527

 

If maintained properly, the client/supplier relationship can be more than an order giving/taking relationship.  The supplying service partner can only be a valuable asset to your business if they understand your company culture and vision.  After all, the goods and services they provide typically play an integral role in the successful operation of your business. The "right-fit" supplier will be a strong team-player capable of filling your needs not only with the desired end result of the delivered product, but by having the ability to reliably assist with maintaining your branded expectations.

The right-fit service partner understands your business - its budget, it's branding message and its culture. (click to tweet) These partners stay focused on what's best for your company.  They continually look for and implement the best possible product values, functionality and creative promotion of your brand.  This desirable win/win relationship deserves as much cultivation as that of your own clients.
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Fostering and nurturing the relationship with your preferred team service partners requires very little effort, but it does require that you pay attention.

Referrals: There is no business that does not appreciate a complimentary referral. (click to tweet) If your service partner has been good to you and you truly appreciate their performance, one of the best ways to show your appreciation is to tell others about them and send them referral business. Your service partner will, in turn, reward and reinforce the integrity of your referral by providing the same level of excellent service. Additionally, they will want to thank you for thinking of their business.  You may be surprised at the impact this subtle way of saying Thank you will have.
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Small gifts of appreciation given to your best team players show that you value their efforts and will develop intangible results that will positively impact your business.

Show your appreciation for the awesome decorated t-shirts and caps your partner provided for your event. Invite your service partner to be a part of the event as a guest or better yet, as a member of your corporate family.  Give them free tickets to the event.

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Thank your service partners with public testimonials on social media -on both your platforms & theirs.  Suggest that your service partners share your success stories about completed projects with tangible examples about how the outcome of the final delivered product fostered your company's mission.
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As the mutual trust, respect and appreciation grows on both sides of the partnership, you may discover more opportunities for your service partner to help you in your business. In turn, they will go out of their way to find solutions to challenges as you encounter them and work to keep your business moving upward toward your goals. By working together as partners actively, you allow each other’s businesses to be top of mind in all business dealings, elevating each of you to new levels.

Take the time to evaluate your current relationship with your suppliers. Are they just sterile suppliers, or has their level of service been more of a team partnership that you just have not recognized or rewarded? If the latter is the case, don’t take that relationship for granted. Treat them as an appreciated team partner instead of a just a supplier, because in the end, you are sure to get out of any relationship, exactly what you put into it. 

Enjoy this excellent parody video about a client/designer relationship - note how the partnering designer keeps performing the challenging task at hand.
https://youtu.be/xwqPYeTSYng 


 Image credits: 
cooldesign and Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net; www.123rf.com/profile_aopsan

 

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Computer "Help" Scams

Yesterday I received an uninvited solicitation from a relatively pleasant gentleman claiming he was calling me on behalf of the "Microsoft Windows Care Team".  Having recently sent an assortment of "error messages" to Microsoft upon experiencing software issues, my 1st reaction was that this call might be believable - especially since the caller advised me that he was aware of my recent error reports and he was also aware of the fact that I have been enduring some system "slow downs".  But something was leading my intuition to exert caution during my phone conversation with this situation.  I'm sure you've all been there - here's my story.


My "mega computer" that carries loads of heavy graphic software was recently networked into a "share mode" within my office for a new employee where we will need to access & work on client files simultaneously.  After the network sharing was finally set-up correctly, I've noticed somewhat of a computer performance speed slow-down when I'm working with shared files.  Likewise, my 2 most often used powerful graphic software programs (Illustrator CS6 & PhotoShop CS6) tend to not play very happily together when I bring them in to the same playground simultaneously.

So when I got the call from someone who said they were with the Microsoft Windows Care Team I listened.

Why I listened?

The caller correctly advised me of his knowledge about what I've been experiencing.   Additionally, he advised me that I may loose everything on my system if I don't take corrective measures immediately... he said I have "worms" in my system and there has been and currently is malicious activity coming in to my all-important work machine.  

 

But wait a minute - my intuition told me something was not "right" with this intrusion of my busy work day.

Here's the "not right" / go with your intuition signals:

-The caller was foreign speaking with broken English.
-Everytime I questioned how he was able to determine I was having issues, he said it was "flagged" via my incoming error messages.
- When I asked him where he was calling from, he said New York - but it was uncanny how I could hear in his audible background lots of other (same foreign language-speaking) conversations going on.I could even detect some foreign yelling in the background!
When I told him I was busy and that this was not a good time, he pushed his call to action with insistance that I was in DANGER.

I then told him I would much rather have "my" computer guy discuss the issues with him on my behalf, and I requested his phone number.  Again, he pushed with the DANGER message.  I demanded his phone # & told him that I was willing to take the risk of waiting until "my" computer guy could follow back up with him while he (someone who I trusted) was sitting at my computer.  Finally, I was given the number: 760-306-4030.  I still have to look up that 706  area code to find out if it is really iin New York.

 

He told me his name was David.  Funny that's one of my sons' names.  Hmmmmm...

 

So we hung up, and I closed up my shop with a full system shut-down.  Scarely, my Windows Machine wanted to install updates at shut-down.  I acquessed and allowed the long-winded updates & didn't touch anything during that update/shut-down process.

 


 

Next day-

I did a web search for Microsoft Windows Care Team...

Yes it is a SCAM! 

Avoid tech support phone scams

http://www.microsoft.com/security/online-privacy/avoid-phone-scams.aspx 

 

In USA you can contact FBI, State Attorney General, local law enforcement and consumer

watch groups. Arm yourself with knowledge. 

 

The Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) is a partnership between the Federal Bureau of Investigation

(FBI) and the National White Collar Crime Center (NW3C), funded in part by the Bureau of Justice Assistance

(BJA).

http://www.ic3.gov/complaint/default.asp

 

No, Microsoft would not call you unsolicited. Nor would they know if any errors existed on your

computer. So those are frauds or scams, to get your money or worse to steal your identity. 

Avoid scams that use the Microsoft name fraudulently - Microsoft does not make unsolicited

phone calls to help you fix your computer

http://www.microsoft.com/protect/fraud/phishing/Msname.aspx

 

Hoaxes and Scams

http://support.microsoft.com/contactus/cu_sc_virsec_master?ws=support#tab3

 

Microsoft Consumer Support Center

https://consumersecuritysupport.microsoft.com/default.aspx?altbrand=true&SD=gn&LN=en-us&st=1&wfxredirect=1&gssnb=1

 

Microsoft Support

http://support.microsoft.com/contactus/?ws=support#tab0 

 

Microsoft - Contact Support

http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows/help/contact-support

 

Hope this helps. 

 

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