Sunday, November 8, 2015

Branding Guidelines with Infographics Make Easy Reference


As part of my responsibility of overseeing brand consistency in marketing materials at Bay Federal Credit Union, I developed a series of visual guides for both internal and external use. These "Quick Reference Guides" or "branding cheat sheets" could be consulted quickly and efficiently by just about anyone involved with projects that required branding consistency. These one-page publications were intended to referred to quickly and easily, be easily understood through the use of infographic-style explanations. They could be printed out and hung on cubicle walls, laminated, or put in binders for easy access.

I developed a flexible corporate color palette with just enough specificity to allow for an increased variety of materials to be produced which would maintain the corporate brand, yet be different enough as to not become stale too quickly. This color palette accommodates both print and web media by providing both CMYK and RGB alternatives in an easy to use visual guide.

Corporate color palette guidelines quick reference sheet
Along with print and web media color usage guidelines reference, we needed a reference guide to ensure proper use of the corporate logo. The visual reference below provides the guidelines for proper usage of the corporate logo in order to prevent inconsistent appearance across multiple marketing channels, media and vendors.

Logo usage visual quick reference sheet
The photographic resources used in marketing materials, ads, brochures and the like also needed some form of guidelines. In the "Photo Selection Guidelines" Quick Reference I developed, examples of typical and/or "acceptable" styles of images are shown. These styles of subject matter, composition and "mood" illustrate maintain the branding look and feel when used along with appropriate color palette and logo styles. This reference also describes the how and why of image composition when choosing images which need to be used in many different formats, sizes and orientations.

Photo selection guidelines sheet

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Good, Free Imaging and Graphics Tools


If you are on a budget and aren't satisfied with the graphics utilities that come with your computer's operating system, these offerings are worth taking a serious look at. I've used many of them myself and have looked at dozens of others. This is a short list of my favorites.

"Free" means you might have to register or sign up and provide an email address. Some applications are open-source. All of the applications listed here are fully functional with no time or usage limitations.

Graphics Utilities (Stand-Alone and Web-Based)

Pixel Color Pickers

ColorPic
Pick up the colors of individual pixels and palettes of up to 16 colors at once and use four advanced color mixers. Copy and paste RGB and HEX values.

http://www.iconico.com/colorpic/

ColorPix
Grab the pixel under your mouse and transform it into a number of different color formats. Small and fast. Copy RGB and HEX values.

http://www.colorschemer.com/colorpix_info.php

ColorZilla
This is a browser extension that assists with color related tasks - both basic and advanced. It includes a Color Picker, Eye Dropper, Gradient Generator and other advanced tools. Grab a color reading from any point in your browser, change it and paste it into another program. You can analyze the page and inspect its colors. You can also create advanced multi-stop CSS gradients.

http://www.colorzilla.com/

Web-Based Color Referencers, Converters and Schemers

ColorSchemer.com

Color Schemer
Web-based color conversion/scheming utility. Also offers several downloadable stand-alone applications.

http://www.colorschemer.com

EasyRGB.com

RGB-to-HEX conversion, color harmonies, monitor calibration and other utilities.

http://www.easyrgb.com/

Adobe Color CC (formerly Adobe Kuler)

Adobe Color CC lets you try out, create and save various color schemes. It is available in browser-hosted variants, and in desktop versions and as a mobile app.

https://color.adobe.com

Screen Capture

FastStone Image Viewer

Screen-capture and much more. Basic image editing, file browsing, slide-shows, email. Free for non-commercial and educational use.

http://www.faststone.org/

XnView

XnView Screen
A great utility I recommend to anyone who works with graphics files. View and convert graphic files, create slide shows, digital contact sheets, and much more. This application does just about everything. It supports more than 500 graphics formats.There are several versions, including one for iOS.

http://www.xnview.com/

Paint and Photo-Editing (raster-based)

Paint.net

Image and photo manipulation software for Windows. Basic Photoshop-like tools, reasonably sophisticated. Requires Microsoft .NET Framework 4.5.

http://www.getpaint.net/

GIMP

GIMP Screen
GIMP is the GNU Image Manipulation Program. It is a freely distributed program for photo retouching, image composition and image authoring. It runs on many operating systems and in many languages.

http://www.gimp.org/

Drawing (vector-based)

Inkscape

InkScape Screen
Inkscape is an open-source vector graphics editor similar to Adobe Illustrator and Corel Draw. Inkscape uses the Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) an open XML-based W3C standard, as the native format.

http://inkscape.org

Serif DrawPlus

This previous version or Serif DrawPlus is available for free (requires a sign-up process for unlocking).

http://www.serif.com/free-graphic-design-software/

Image Organizing/Viewing

FastStone Image Viewer

FastStone Image Viewer 
Screen-capture and much more. Basic image editing, file browsing, slide-shows, email. Free for non-commercial and educational use.

http://www.faststone.org/

XnView

XnView
XnView is also a great photo organization/viewer utility. View and convert graphic files, create slide shows, digital contact sheets, and much more. This application does just about everything. It supports more than 500 graphics formats.There are several versions, including one for iOS.

http://www.xnview.com/

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Birdhouse Camera Captures Nature in Action

Living in the hills means we get a lot of wildlife activity. In 2012, I set up a small bird house (nest box) and installed a miniature IR video camera. Not long afterwards, a family of Oak Titmice (perching birds) moved in, built a nest, and raised family. Together with additional video shots from outside the nest box, I created a short video telling their little story.

 It was so much fun to watch nature in action and create a semi-educational video, I did it again in 2014 when a new Titmouse pair, or some of the same individuals from 2012, moved into my "bird brother" house, and raised another little bird family.

Both videos are posted here for your enjoyment.

I made the video immediately below in May of 2014.



The video below was made in May of 2012.




Visit my YouTube Channel for more videos.