Portfolio Hosting Review: Behance

The most important tasks required of a designer or illustrator to publish a promo site are becoming easier thanks to new portfolio web products. Many of them are free to join, and offer great benefits to the creative professional.

As with any web development, the most important work begins before you join a portfolio site. It’s critical that you put your best work forward, write creatively, persuasively, and honestly, and edit your content to generate a great impression. But from there, much of the work is getting faster and easier, especially for those creatives who don’t specialize in web development and coding. We are exploring several of these sites right now at Zachary Creative, and we begin with one of the best.

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Behance is a free portfolio website for creative professionals, and it has many excellent features that make it attractive to both the new designer and the seasoned veteran.

Behance is free to join, and the interface guides new users through the process and gives tips on how to improve your content and make your profile more complete. Uploading, publishing, and sharing your profile is very fast, and if you have content ready to upload, you can publish an attractive collection of work in a matter of minutes.

The site is targeted at creative individuals and companies, and no distinction is made between types of portfolios which are shown by default in the “Discover” tab.

Behance is a large community and it is getting larger, so to narrow the range, there are several operators in provided in tabs. These include type of creative work, date uploaded, geographic region (including country, state, and city), and an item called “most appreciated”. This is part of a function featured on Behance built around the idea of other users’ “apprecation”. At the bottom of each project page is a button that enables users to “appreciate” the project. Merit thus measured builds contributors’ reputations, which incentivizes them to feature their very best work.

behance-example

Some of the other features include integration with social media sites, and a section called “Galleries” with curated portfolios, similar to Groups in Flickr as a way to feature work according to user-created themes.

These are great resources, but perhaps the most admirable is the effort to include a “Jobs” board. This same network that features your portfolio can also help get you hired, and Behance encourages people seeking designers to participate with a “Post a Job” button in the top menu.

From the Behance website:

“In 2006, we set out to put control into the hands of countless creative professionals suffering from inefficiency, disorganization, and careers at the mercy of bureaucracy.

“…Behance is a rapidly growing design centric
technology company based in New York City. Our talented team of designers and developers work hand-in-hand, leveraging the latest technologies and design thinking to create revolutionary products that empower the creative world.”

Overall, Behance benefits from its ease of use and friendly interface for new users, and it provides attractive portfolio pages with little trouble. In addition, the potential for cultivating a network through the site seems promising, with the possible drawback of a large user base cluttering the view of both prospective employers and creatives. Those wanting to establish a portfolio with high visibility and individual character may find it insufficient as a primary portfolio site, but may consider it as a secondary channel for showing their work.

Daily Letters: Dürer Latin and Goines Roman

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The Zachary Creative logotype is an original lettering design derived from these classic capitals. The principals for their construction was devised by the famous Northern Renaissance polymath Albrecht Dürer. They are deceptively complex, yet elegant and subtle models of the sturdy foundation of western typography. Here are some more of the good products derived from this work:

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Of the Just Shaping of Letters by Albrecht Dürer, translated by R. T. Nichol from the Latin Text of the edition of 1535. Free edition from gutenberg.org.

Dürer Latin, a free font from l’Abécédarienne.

The work of David Lance Goines is inspired by the intensive study of classical typography, and his seamless conjugation of aesthetic and geometric principles culminates in A Constructed Roman Alphabet, a beautiful volume expanding the concepts of Dürer.

Article on Goines from Codex 99.

A Constructed Roman Alphabet, electronic version at goines.net.

Decorative Sign Writing – Fileteado Painting

A product of the lively culture and beautiful setting of Buenos Aires; a vivid, florid, electric painting style with embellishments that seem to dance with Latin rhythms.

I love the tight brush control and quick strokes. The first two are from Buenos Aires, the last is from Brooklyn, NY.

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Social Media for Business Series – Part Five

In this final installment of our five-part feature on making social media work for your business or organization, we look forward to the lasting benefits of cultivating your community through utilizing feedback.

Part Five: Getting Results; Growing the Community.

In our previous post, we looked a little further into SEO, and featured a primer on some of today’s most popular social media sites.

The effects of social media on well-crafted messages in successful systems are amazing. When you tailor your messages, people take note. And when they re-post and re-publish them, it can multiply the effectiveness many times. Those consumers who take the time to re-post have become promoters. Not expert promoters, like creative and SEO professionals, but consumer promoters. And once given the right message, they become valuable agents.

Just how valuable are these many agents? The most effective way to manage a large network is the most important aspect of any marketing campaign: measurability. You will want to measure feedback. It all starts with targeting your message and building the foundation according to your system. And from there, you should remember to use tools that help you track and tally your viewers and followers as you build and build. The enormously successful business model built by Google is a great example of this; the frequency with which users become consumers of information, the more success for both the producer and the promoter. This mutual exchange of product and promotion puts the right information in front of the consumer, and all parties reap the rewards.

The process is not linear, however. You can’t expect the entire structure to just build itself brick by brick. The design needs to develop as you go. Don’t just create a message, choose your environment, and expect to sit back and watch it develop. The process should be continuous, free-flowing between Concept and Creative and SEO and Feedback. Some parts of the system will be more successful than others. Some will need tweaking, and at any of the stages. Knowing how and when comes from experience, and collaborating with experts.

Remember also that the effect of consumers re-posting as promoters is not exponential.  This term is often used to describe the development of technology, but It would be better to view the process of growing your network as multiplication. The reason is that these consumers of your messages must be supplied with more good material to continue to have this multiplying effect. If not, the curve of your attention will taper downward. To keep your star and your traffic curve in the ascendant, you will need to keep generating content, and measure your results. If you do all of these things, you might see near-exponential results.

There is another math principle to keep in mind. As long as you stick to your solid business plan, the law of large numbers should do the rest. If one out of every ten who click then decide to buy, then by multiplying your clicks, you will multiply your sales. One out of ten will scale up to ten of one hundred, twenty out of two hundred, one hundred out of one thousand, and so on.

In summary, success in social media for your business is the product of knowing a little about how the environments work, and developing messages with experts who know how to adapt your messages and build your systems. If you’re ready to start building, don’t go it alone, contact us today for some expert help in laying a firm foundation and building your community.

Zachary Creative Studio. Brooklyn, New York Graphic Design.

Social Media for Business Series – Part Four

Part four of our five-part feature on making social media work for your business or organization.

Part Four: Laying the Foundation.

Search Engine Optimization gurus know that you must have a broad base to build a solid system for getting your message seen and heard. This means teaming up with more Experts to seek out and populate all of the little hiding places where your information should be turning up.

These SEO Marketing Experts are not all created equal, and they may promise much, or little. Recognize right from the first stone laid on your foundation, though, that it needs to be laid according to the system you developed with your Creative Professional. The Yellow Pages may be great for you, especially if your business relies on customers in a particular geographic area. If not, perhaps an online community that shares your interests would be a better fit. Remember, choose your environments carefully, and understand that you need to build a broad base, but always according to the system.

In the previous segment, we gave a few examples of what type of environment you might envision when you think of Twitter or a blog read from an RSS feed. Here are a few more pointers on the nature of each beast:

Facebook: Like the Serengeti, Facebook is a famous site for mass migration. And as a business person, you need to behave like a lion, staking out your claim, or else you’ll be swept along when the herds move from this item to that, grazing on whatever is convenient. Like the African plain, Facebook is ever-changing, and personal timelines, page customization, and paid advertising make the environment different this season than it was at this time last year. To make a lasting presence, you need to traverse the landscape by staying aware of the new functions and integration. Your blog, online store, and vendors might already be integrating with Facebook, while you may be unaware that you have a following in the form of a Fan page created by someone outside the company or organization. It’s time to step up on the high outcrop and spend some time surveying your domain. SEO and marketing pros can help you learn where and how to look.

Pinterest: This community has developed organically along fashion, travelogue, craft, and brag-book lines. You guessed it: it’s predominately women and people with ties to fashion and craft that use it. I’m short of an animal reference here, because the gender role is the most obvious thing. So, if you want to find a ready female-friendly market, this may be a great place to build your clique. Pinterest is a fancy show-and-tell with sophisticated, sexy, and stylish written all over it. If you don’t look as good as a typical Pinterest home page, you may need to step up your photography and design game. Check back at Part Two for more about working with Creative Professionals to help you look your best.

LinkedIn: I’ll migrate to human metaphors here, too. If Facebook is at heart by and for the college community, then LinkedIn is the older brother, the grad and professional community. Avoiding polishing your resume? With LinkedIn, there are no more excuses. Creating a Profile on LinkedIn will guide you by the hand as you protest and procrastinate into digging up the details on your education and work history. It’s a healthy exercise to be this thorough in sharing your credentials, and your peers and prospects will appreciate the information when a project comes around that has your name written all over it.

YouTube: It’s popular, and great for perusing Mystery Science Theater 3000 episodes about long-lost alien races as well as History Channel programs about long-lost alien races. But the balance of the videos on YouTube tend to be… amateurish. There are some good resources, but they get bogged down in a user community that spends a lot of free time on the site, instead of a potential client base or colleagues looking for creative energy. The next option may be better suited for you:

Vimeo: Many serious film students and creative professionals of other stripes post interviews, tutorials, reels, and much more on this trendy counterpart to YouTube. The audience is smaller, and not as broad, but this may be a help because it is also more targeted at creative people. The most important difference we have found is that YouTube posts suggested results that are often wide of the mark, and frequently parody, comedic, or polemic. And if your site sells Acme Widgets, you may not want the suggested video that pops up to be some smart-aleck prank involving your product. Vimeo tends to return much better results, most of which are above the belt.

Building your structure according to the system will help guide you through the rewards and detriments of each community. But above all, they will help ensure a strong presence that will cover every area and give you a wide base.

In our final installment, we will examine the result when you put it all together: a community that helps promote your message.

Social Media for Business Series – Part Three

Part three of five on our feature on making social media work for your business or organization.

In our previous post, we examined how collaborating with experts helps you craft messages that serve your audience and grow your community. This process takes time, and it takes persistence.

Part Three: Developing Systems and Adapting Messages.

Rome wasn’t built in a day, yet it became the greatest society in the ancient world. One could argue it was because what made Rome great was systems. Their roads, aqueducts, and government structure were all sophisticated systems. And many components of them stand to this day.

Building lasting systems starts by teaming up with Promoters, like Creative Professionals, who can craft your message in a way that makes it relevant, timely, and memorable. These experts help you see different media as different environments, and they understand that messages are like different animals, each best suited to those environments.

In effect, cheetahs are built for open plains, birds for air and perching in trees, fish for oceans, rivers, and streams. These animals are developed to inhabit vastly different elements, and your messages need to be developed the same way.

For example, Twitter is a channel that offers topical, timely, short, interactive messages in the form of “tweets”. These are appropriately named, as you would observe in a blossoming tree in springtime. The trees are full of song, with birds tweeting with excitement. By extension, you might say that the goal on Twitter is to have the right tree to tweet in! And your messages are the tweets.

As another example, some blogs, especially in RSS readers, behave like rivers of information, so a certain type of successful blog post looks a lot like a school of fish. A single “best resources” or “top 50” post is actually made up of many little bits of information about a certain topic, moving all of the information in the same direction at once.

You don’t have to limit this to an example of environments and animals. It could be vehicles and highways, tracks, and runways. The important thing is to have your messages designed for each media environment. And an expert knows how to do just that.

Once you have a system based on messages adapted to environments, you can use this system to build your structure.

In our next installment, we will stake out the points for your social media foundation.

Social Media for Business Series – Part Two

Part two of  a five-part series on making social media work for your business or organization.

In our previous post, we examined how social media operates by grouping members of the community into producers, promoters, and consumers. Now we look to answering the question: What does it take to utilize social media, and we examine the value of expertise.

Part Two: Crafting Your Message. The value of expertise.

The first stage in making media work for you is always to seek out the help of experts. This article is an example of a free service provided to you, the reader, to aid in your successful use of social media. What makes this article different from so many other free resources on social media, however, is expertise.

You may say, “Why do I need to hire an expert? I am a good business person, and good business people understand what customers want.” And you are right; the principles of quality, honesty, fairness, uniqueness, and relevance are at the heart of any successful business plan.

And let’s say you have all of those well in hand. You know that you offer a great, unique, timely product, offer fantastic service, and deal fairly. You have an honest business, and a proud track record. You know all of that. But many other people need to know it, too. There’s strength in numbers, and social media can be a superior way to reach more people that need and want what you’re producing.

Now, you could stand on the street corner and shout about how great your product or service is. You might be good at shouting, and you might have a really good product. But, after a while, even if it’s a great message, the shouting gets monotonous and annoying for the listener, and your throat gets sore from all the yelling. After a while, you can’t shout your message any longer. You lose your voice, and perhaps worse, your audience begins to turn deaf to the sound.

What is the problem here? You are only one person, but it takes a community to build a business. For some business owners, this is a tough lesson, not least because of the many struggles facing small businesses, and the need for approbation for one’s hard work in order to stay motivated. But to be truly successful, you need to grow and develop the community of people that will ensure continued success. They are the only way to establish a reputation, and they need a little help from you and your core team of experts to develop beneficially.

The old saying that “a satisfied customer is the best advertisement” is true, but it is an incomplete idea. Without the language, without the message, and without the picture in their minds, the community may have an incomplete picture, and only a little to say about your business. Providing the community with the right words and images makes the difference.

Experts in this craft, also known as Creative Professionals, take the time to understand what makes your business great. They partner with businesses like yours to form a more complete picture, and tell the whole story. Then, from this body of knowledge, they craft words and images that truly serve your audience by distilling the best information about you and what you do.

Collaborating with experts sets you on the right path.

In Part Three, we will explore developing systems and adapting messages for their environments.

Social Media for Business Series – Part One

A five-part series on making social media work for your business or organization.

The popularity of social media sites entices small business owners to utilize them for growing their customer base. But getting results from this fast-paced and ever-changing system of networks requires dedication, resourcefulness, and most importantly, consistency to develop and utilize a great platform for success in marketing your business.

The sheer amount of social media resources available today, as well as the rapid growth of new and different sites may cause anxiety in business owners. If you’re among those intimidated by it, don’t worry, you’re in good company. Even top-level executives and marketing professionals face the same challenges. But they equip themselves with a few tools that can help anyone develop and manage resources to get a bigger audience for their messages, and in turn, generate better results.

Part One: It’s a Jungle Out There.

Understanding the world of social media.

Social media is community, and it operates by segmenting this community into three groups:  producers, promoters, and consumers.

A person, business, or group could occupy one, two, or all three of these roles. But for purposes of discussing business, let’s assume for now that they are distinct and separate.

Producers are those who create content. They are the companies who manufacture and distribute goods and offer services, the politicians and organizations who take a stand on issues, people who are social movers, popular entertainers, and so on. They are the focus of much of the chatter in social media.

Promoters are those who publish content, and aid its distribution through different media. In a free market at its most basic, producers typically dominate this role. A bazaar or today a farmers market might be a good example. But in order to make the leap from the basic use of media to a more sophisticated and successful utilization, a producer must develop a team of promoters. We’ll examine this more in our next installment.

The third group, and by far the largest, consists of consumers. We’ll consider anyone who hears your message a consumer. One of the most important tasks in utilizing social media is to turn consumers into promoters.

There is nothing intrinsic to social media that will cross this divide for you. Social media is almost never a quick fix for marketing the small business. But, there are ways to build that all-important bridge, and this process is what makes social media really work.

What does it take to bridge this gap and really utilize social media? In our next segment, we will explore the benefits of expertise in using social media.

 

Best Free Graphic Design Programs

Many students and designers new to professional graphic design are surprised to discover the high costs of design software.

Design firms can usually expense software as part of the cost of doing business, but for independent and beginning designers, sometimes these costs can be prohibitive.

Programs like the Creative Suite from Adobe are considered the standard in the profession, and rightly so, with many features and plugins that make them versatile, powerful tools for many tasks.

But if you don’t have a budget of thousands for software purchases, or ongoing fees of hundreds of dollars for subscriptions, there are other stable, feature-rich programs to consider. Here are just a few of the best:

Image Manipulation
(Alternative to Adobe Photoshop)

GIMP — GNU Image Manipulation Program

GIMP

An entirely free, open-source project, with good features, including layers, masks, customizable brushes, color balance, histograms, and more. From the gimp.org website:

GIMP is an acronym for GNU Image Manipulation Program. It is a freely distributed program for such tasks as photo retouching, image composition and image authoring.

It has many capabilities. It can be used as a simple paint program, an expert quality photo retouching program, an online batch processing system, a mass production image renderer, an image format converter, etc.

GIMP is expandable and extensible. It is designed to be augmented with plug-ins and extensions to do just about anything. The advanced scripting interface allows everything from the simplest task to the most complex image manipulation procedures to be easily scripted.

GIMP is written and developed under X11 on UNIX platforms. But basically the same code also runs on MS Windows and Mac OS X.

For users who prefer the Photoshop interface, a product called Gimpshop is a nice alternative. A release of GIMP with most of the functionality, menus, and workflow of Photoshop. Download GIMP. Download Gimpshop.

This program is currently being tested by our team, and we will hope to post a walkthrough once we complete our review process.

Vector Design
(Alternative to Adobe Illustrator)

InkScape

InkScape

Powerful vector design and manipulation program, with some interesting differences, including tools for etching and line hatching. From the inkscape.org site:

An Open Source vector graphics editor, with capabilities similar to Illustrator, CorelDraw, or Xara X, using the W3C standard Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) file format.

Inkscape supports many advanced SVG features (markers, clones, alpha blending, etc.) and great care is taken in designing a streamlined interface. It is very easy to edit nodes, perform complex path operations, trace bitmaps and much more. We also aim to maintain a thriving user and developer community by using open, community-oriented development.

Running InkScape requires the X11 platform. Mac OS X users with Lion or Mountain Lion will need to install XQuartz. Download Inkscape.

The major issue with InkScape so far is that it doesn’t run natively in the OS, so font management can be a problem. I have yet to find a full compatible font program for use with InkScape.

Font Management

Linotype FontExplorer X (Free)

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A solid, easy to use font management program with quick response and clear organization. From the Linotype FontExplorer website:

FontExplorer X sets a new standard for font management software. After several relatively sad years for all font users who were looking for a professional font manager, Linotype is pleased to fill the gap with the new FontExplorer X.

Font management has never been so simple, and font sorting, font shopping and font discovery are now more fun than ever.

FontExplorer X will give computer users all the font functions they could need, and will allow them to decide how deeply they wish to dive into various font themes.

Some key features of Linotype FontExplorer X include powerful font handling, detailed font information, font management with sets and toggling switches for activation, auto-activation of fonts embedded in documents, and decent system integration. As mentioned above, this does not resolve the issue with InkScape, so alternatives or patches might be necessary for full functionality. Download the free version of Linotype FontExplorer X at softpedia.com.

Zachary Creative Studio. Brooklyn, New York Graphic Design.