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  Creative Solutions
Planning and Achieving Goals
Through Design and Strategy

Welcome to Creative Solutions, your guide to planning and achieving goals through design and strategy. Get inspired by new ways to think about your own project and read about trends. Sign up to receive the newsletter and get updates on Design for the Arts special offers.
  Postcard Mailing & Design Regulations
Custom QR Code
Brand Your Twitter Page
Affordable, Easy-to-Manage Newsletter Campaigns
Creating Relationships in Social Media
Monitor Brand and Track Trends in Social Media
Paper: The Most Important Little Detail
10 Ways to Stay on Budget
The Art of Marketing—For Artists
Writing a Biography or the Creative Professional
Standard Sizes, Direct Mail & Self-Mail

Designing a postcard? These simple little marketing initiatives can be a little tricky when it comes to postal regulations. The following guidelines will help you sort through some of the basics of postcard design and pricing.

First Class Standard and Large Postcard Sizing & Pricing

Be sure to confirm size and pricing at the official USPS website, since this changes from time to time.

Standard Postcard Maximum Size
6" long x 4.25" tall x .016" thick
$0.29 / Nov. 2011

Large Postcard Maximum Size
11.5" long x 6.175" tall x .25" thick
$0.44 / Nov. 2011

Self-Mailed Postcards

If you are self-addressing postcards with labels, you'll need to know the size of your labels, so that the designed area can support the label visually. The bottom of the address side of the postcard typically needs at least a 5/8th inch "clear area." When self-mailing, it is ok to have ink in this area, but no text. It may be ok to have ink on the right (the address label area). The best way to determine this is by taking a mock up of the postcard with address label adhered and bringing it to the post office where postcards will be sent from. Or, design with a white background to be totally safe.

Twitter Branding

Direct Mail Postcards

If a service is addressing postcards for you, you'll need to provide a link to the printer you're using to fulfill this service. (Your designer can make recommendations, and will have some great ideas for quality, affordable digital printing.) The clear area regulations are more strict for the address side of the postcard in direct mail, so that the printer has plenty of room to print addresses and leave room for barcode and postal markings.

Here is an example of Modern Postcard's standard 4.25 x 6 postcard address-side regulations.

Twitter Branding

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Custom QR Code
Mobile Code for Websites, Business CardS & More

Widely used in Japan, QR code (Quick Response) is a growing trend in the US for sharing information. This digitally-generated code allows mobile device users to scan and store information. For example, a person or business can generate QR code that auto-fills contact information into the scanner's contact list. With the QR code, adding contact info by hand becomes a thing of the past, and anyone can generate it. (Scan the QR code below to see my contact information.)
Twitter Branding

Think of it as your own personal barcode. Ok, maybe that is a little creepy (I fully expect to see QR code tatoos showing up soon), but it's also pretty cool, because you can do a lot more than share contact info. You can digitally generate QR Code to share:

• Event Details
• Website or Social Media Links
• Specials or Coupons
• Geo Location and more


Your QR code can be branded, colorized or personalized. Use the QR code below to email me for more information on customization of your QR code.

Twitter Branding

Get Creative With Your QR Code

• A t-shirt with "Add as Friend" QR code (links to Facebook profile)
• A QR code scavenger hunt that leads people to a restaurant to cash in on a free drink
• Use QR code to direct users to an email subscriber sign up page
• Print on a product that prompts scanners to visit your Twitter page
• Put QR code on product signs that show detailed information about how it was made

Scan the QR code below to visit my Twitter page.

Twitter Branding

Generators & Scanners

After much research, these are the best of the best QR code generators and scanners I've discovered.

QR Code Generator
ZXing Project
  QR Code Scanners (Free)

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Brand Your Twitter Page!
A QUICK & FUN Solution to Maintaining Brand

Twitter Branding

Branding your Twitter page is a quick and savvy way to create impact in your social network. It creates instant recognition for followers, and because it looks great, people want to hang around. This is a fast-turn around project that can be completed within a couple of days. Contact Design for the Arts to learn more about working within your budget to:

• create a branded background image with impact that works well on any size browser
• choose a photo or image that stands out in a sea of tiny faces
• convert an icon into a favorite bookmark icon for your website

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Affordable, Easy-to-Manage Newsletter Campaigns
Connect With Clients and Measure Results

Affordable Newsletter Campaigns

Send effective emails and measure results that will help you refine print and online initiatives. Design for the Arts is offering an all-in-one special on online newsletters through January of 2010. To see an example, sign up at the top of the page for the Creative Solutions newsletter.

What's Included?
• A clean, professional email template, branded to match your Website or marketing materials
• Design and integration of a sign up form on your Website
• Newsletter management set up with an easy-to-use online interface
• Forward to a Friend capability
CAN-SPAM compliant set up
• Import of names and emails when you provide an excel CSV doc
• A half-hour tutorial on how to create and send email campaigns

• Create your own email newsletters and send to subscribers at your convenience
• Offer specials to your clients or promote services
• Direct users to news, events or other important content on your site
• Prompt your clients to read your latest articles, newsletters or blog posts
• Track results to see what users are clicking on

Contact Karen to learn more about the newsletter campaign all-in-one special.

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Creating Relationships in Social Media
Make it Meaningful. Make it Interesting.

Creating Relationships in Social Media

Social media tools and e-newsletter campaigns are a cost-effective way to keep your brand relevant and get the message out immediately when the timing is right. There is an art to strategic marketing through social media. Rule #1: Don't make it all about the marketing. Rule #2: Have fun.

Social Media
Use Twitter and YouTube to create potential to go viral, Facebook to get the work out about events and LinkedIn to stay in touch with your professional connections. These are all relevant uses of social media, but let's take it down a notch for a moment.

The more you interact with colleagues through social media in an interesting and meaningful way, the more likely you are to develop real relationships. Strategic marketing is in the mix, but think of it as having a conversation at a party. You would never open with, "Hey - here's what I'm working on." It might come up naturally in the conversation at some point, and that's when strategy comes into play. It's all about timing. Read on for some basic tips on how you can add value, rather than taking the "me, me, me" approach.

• Post articles or tips about your area of expertise
• Comment on blog posts related to your industry
• Offer help to someone looking for advice or recommendations
• Ask others for recommendations

Who says marketing can't be fun? Contact Design for the Arts to find out more about how social media tools can become a fun and meaningful part of your brand.

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Monitor Brand and Track Trends In Social Media
Instantly Track Blog Posts, Tweets and Comments About Anything

Monitor Brand and Track Trends in Social Media

If you've ever Googled yourself and found surprising results, imagine what you might find gathering information about your brand from blog posts, tweets and comments.

5 Ways to Track Trends, Follow Hot Topics and Monitor Brands

1. Twitter Search
Track trending topics or enter keywords to see who has been tweeting about your company.

2. Google Alerts
Google Alerts allow you to track keywords and topics and receive emails when results become available in Google. Create an alert to follow news stories or track trends.

3. Technorati
Search for blogs and posts or browse through the most popular videos. If you want to know what the hot topics are in entertainment, politics, fashion, film, living green and more, this is your site. Technorati is also an excellent resource for learning how to create social media success.

4. Filtrbox
Filtrbox has an online folder interface to efficiently monitor your brand, your competitors or trending articles on any topic. A free version is available that allows tracking for the last 15 days and ability to track 5 article topics at a time.

5. Trendrr
Track 10 trends at a time for free, or sign up to track more topics and receive reports and alerts for a monthly fee. A search field on the homepage allows you to enter keywords and receive immediate results on articles.

Clever Ideas for Monitoring and Tracking

• Search for local or national grants in your field
• Search for "calls for submission"
• Search for local job posts

Know Your Twitter Lingo


Twitter posts are limited to 140 characters, offering the ability to create compact updates that can be viewed instantly online or on mobile devices. Of course, URLs are often lengthy. For a shortened version of any URL, visit Type in a URL to receive a shorter URL to post on Twitter.

Twitter Hash Tags | #artjobs | #healthcarereform

Placing a hash tag directly in front of keywords allows you to tag words and phrases in a tweet. Hash tagged posts are filtered via an aggregator so that users can search for keywords via hash tag. Opt in at All hash tagged posts are filtered at and other social media aggregators.

The @ Symbol | @someonesname | @brandname
The @ symbol allows Twitter users to directly communicate with (or about) specific users. It creates potential for communication between users who may or may not be following each other. The user receives notification that another user has tweeted directly to them, via Twirl or Tweetdeck. The @ symbol is also used to specify brands, for example @designforthearts, or to credit a link posted by another user.

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The Most Important Little Detail in Your Print Project

There are hundred upon hundreds of paper brands, sub-brands, textures and styles to choose from. Gloss versus matte is just one of the decisions that can affect your brand, your design and virtually every decision that has been made with your project's success in mind. Your designer may have helped shape your business identity, designed your marketing collateral and helped gather quotes from a trusted bank of print presses—probably saving you hundreds of dollars in the process.

With the money you save on print solutions negotiated by your designer, don't miss out on that important final step by collaborating with your designer to choose the right paper. He or she can help you make choices that will uphold the quality and expert decisions that have gone into making each specific project sing.

Quality Paper for Any Budget—Sustainability Included

Neenah Environment®
Though one would never be able to tell by its sophisticated appearance, Neenah Environment® is a 100% recycled paper (30% post consumer). This beautiful archival paper is made with 100% green energy and certified by the Forest Stewardship Counsel (FSC). A clear choice for any organization or company that aligns with sustainable or green initiatives.

Press: Offset or Digital
Recommended for: Stationary and business cards, brochures, booklets, posters, fliers, direct mail
Price point for letter size, white, 80 lb cover (cardstock), 250 PK: $33.32

Domtar Cougar® DigitalChoice™ Super Smooth

If you're looking to maintain high-quality standards and get the job done on low-end budget, Cougar® DigitalChoice™ Super Smooth is your paper. This archival paper is certified by Rainforest Alliance, Forest Stewardship Counsel (FSC) and Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI), and it's recycled content uses 10% post consumer.

Press: Digital
Recommended for: Stationary and business cards, brochures, booklets, direct mail
Price point for letter size, white, 80 lb cover (cardstock), 250 PK: $18.90

Paper Help for DIY Printing
Printing at Home or at FedEx Office

Purchase at a Local Paper Warehouse

is a paper warehouse that sells many of the papers I recommend, including Neenah. This is a very affordable way to buy bulk quality paper and matching envelopes, for you renegade DIY printers.

Purchase Online has virtually any paper you can imagine. Buy online, and remember to leave plenty of time for shipping.

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10 Ways to Stay on Budget
How to Get the Most Value Out of Any Design Project

1. Clearly outline your project needs and budgetary limits.
2. Know which tasks can be cut, if necessary, to stay within the project budget.
3. Think your project through from the client/consumer point of view.
4. Send final content for your project in one Word document or email, whenever possible.
5. Spell check.
6. Keep emails to a reasonable number.
7. Use brevity when defining tasks and sending revisions, always include a url if the revision is online. Download the Web Tips & Maintenance PDF for more info on sending updates.
8. When multiple pages are involved, begin each revision request with the URL or page number, followed by paragraph location.
9. Don't explain... show. When copy changes are needed, send the entire sentence or paragraph with the change, rather than attempting to explain the change.
10. Meeting scheduled deadlines helps projects flow smoothly and efficiently, and allows your designer to stay focused on your project.

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The Art of Marketing—for Artists
Art Smart + Visual Artist Kathryn Stemwedel

There is a wide-spread misconception that artists spend all of their time creating. (And I know this because the same misconception exists about designers.) Nothing could be further from the truth. This is not to say that we do not feel fulfilled (and lucky), but the fact is we are running businesses. While 9 to 5-ers leave at the end of the day (usually) and have their benefits taken care of, artists and freelance designers are forever concepting, planning, doing research, writing proposals, writing grants, sifting through paperwork, learning the art of scheduling, becoming project managers, meeting with gallery owners, adding up deductions, worrying about insurance and retirement and, oh yeah, being creative. At least that is what we are doing if our endeavor really is a business.

Even musicians have a handle on the art of marketing, due to the competitive nature of their industry. Most musicians have a bio, press kit and a one-sheet that lets radio DJs and other industry people know what label they are on, the songs that should be played, when the tour is, and so on. Artists need this same kind of organized structure, in order to efficiently update industry people on their accomplishments and projects, but unlike musicians, an overwhelming number of artists do not have this system in place.

Design for the Arts began working with artist Kathryn Stemwedel to help establish goals and strategy. Designing a Web site that highlights her fine art and her interior décor has become an excellent tool for her to refer to during discussions with potential clients. In particular, photographing and posting the numerous frescos she painted in a prestigious Minneapolis mansion has added a lot of depth and interest to her site. Highlighting her many experiences, including her education and teaching experience in Italy, helps build credibility. Since the launch of her site, her artwork has been featured in the Twin Cities Gallery Guide (30,000 distributed throughout the Twin Cities), she has participated in the Rake's Gallery Grooves series and we've created and updated documents for press, biography, statement, past exhibitions and CV that can be printed or emailed to galleries, media or adapted for the purpose of grant writing.

By providing materials that help artists organize their goals and their materials, it makes self-promoting more manageable. Success is not tied solely to talent, although it helps, and Kathryn has no shortage of it. Many artists who continue to grow in popularity and prosperity do so because, in addition to their skills, they are connected and consistently follow up on possible opportunities. By consulting with artists about their goals, strengths and triumphs—and also addressing issues that deter successes—a plan can be developed for helping artists reach their full potential.

Check out

Kathryn Stemwedel

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Writing a Biography for the Creative Professional
Creative's Field Guide + Articles by Experts
Originally Published in Mental Contagion

The creative professional’s biography can be a valuable tool, a quick guide to factual information that lends a deeper comprehension of professional experience and expertise. A well-written biography is informative and engaging, and will always be clear and easy to read.

The biography is often the reader’s first detailed introduction to the subject. For both the green and seasoned professional, it plays an important role in setting tone and moving objectives forward.

The Basics

If your biography is not working for you, it is working against you. Readers appreciate not having to work for the facts or having to wade through obvious statements and irrelevant information. Unclear or rambling biographies often determine a specific outcome: immediate transfer to the trash can.

Some basic rules for writing style follow:
• Write in the third person to create a professional and objective tone
• Write for clarity—beware of abstract or overly-clever statements
• Stay positive and orient content toward information that support goals
• Lead the reader with facts, rather than opinion or conjecture
• One to three paragraphs is often sufficient in length; always write less than one page
• Use short paragraphs
• Be succinct and remove or rework unclear and redundant statements
• Keep consistent tense

Each and every person who reads a creative professional’s biography is a potential candidate to assist in achieving goals.

• Consumers, collectors, fans, clients

Financial Supporters
• Investors, benefactors, sponsors, donors
• Decision-makers in awarding grants, scholarships and travel-study programs

Professional Liaisons
• Publishers, publicists, agents, art buyers
• Galleries, theaters

• Media, critics
• Professional peers, social networks, bloggers

• Team-workers, associates, advocates
• Potential partners

The “I” Environment: A Basic Overview of What to Include

• Name and profession
• Goals, works in progress (be succinct)
• Education and/or experience
• Subject matter, professional focus
• Objective-related accomplishments
• Extraordinary or unique experience
• Contact information and Website (this can be a follow or precede the biography)

• Resident location
• Hobbies or special interest
• Family

Where Do I Start and What Have I Done?

Read biographies by professional peers and mentors in your line of work. It’s a good way to spark inspiration and can serve as an information trigger.

A few things to look for, while reading:
• Composition and information flow
• Style and tone
• Content

Make a list, before you compose. Not all of the items listed will make it into the biography, but this process is useful for content organization and can often trigger relevant details otherwise forgotten. Tip: a résumé can be an excellent resource in the list-making process.

• Professional affiliations and organizations
• Education, training, experience
• Press: reviews or interview by newspapers, magazines, radio, TV and online media
• Awards, grants and recognition
• Publications and articles; include authored articles or art or writing published in books, magazines, anthologies or other media such as ads, cds or brochures
• Leading or assisting roles in workshops or panels
• Related and notable volunteer or pro-bono work
• Prestigious exhibits

Keep It Real, Keep it Relevant, Keep It Updated

Create action statements that are relevant to the objective of the biography. It is a common mistake to truncate the importance of a statement, or to run on for sentences without relaying any actual information. The aim is to achieve balance in how much information is revealed.

No: “Jane is passionate about art.”
No: “Jane has always loved art made by women.”
Yes: “Jane’s work reflects her life-long relationship with women in art.”

Update the biography biannually or annually with new information as accomplishments build. Outdated or less relevant information can be removed as new accomplishments are achieved.

Proof and Have Proofed

A seamless biography conveys attention to detail, an asset to any professional. Ask a trusted colleague to read the biography. An objective party can often catch an important detail that was left out. An informational disconnect can occur after sentence structure has been repeatedly changed or rearranged.

Things to consider while proofreading:
• Spelling, grammar and errors
• Flow and coherency
• Reader engagement

When applying for a grant or a project with guidelines, be sure to note if there are specific instructions regarding the length or content of your biography.

Good luck!

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