Flyer Design Variations Over the Course of 2 Years

by Danny Cruz| Follow Danny @sixstringsensei on Twitter HERE

This is what happens when you stick to a flyer template and adjust it every time there is a price or product change over the course of 2 years. The template works and it has been producing sales, so the saying goes, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Just change the colors and the pricing a little bit! A new design should be in the works soon nonetheless. This is a legal sized sheet of paper and it actually adapts well to email marketing at 700px wide. In other words, even though the design is quite busy and complicated, at 700 pixels wide it is still readable. Not that you can read the tiny examples here, but then again, that was never the intention of this post. I just wanted you to see the array of colors and variations that went into this flyer design over the course of 2 years. -DC

Flyer Design Variations


QR Code Marketing and Design

by Danny Cruz| Follow Danny @sixstringsensei on Twitter HERE

Secret Page QR Code

Scan it! You know you want to!

What are QR codes? Let me clarify before we begin: Take a look at the image to the left. That’s what a QR codes looks like. There are other types of similar codes in use today that look similar, but QR codes are the most used. A user with a smart phone (iPhone, Android, Blackberry and others) and a code scanning application, will scan the code with their phone’s camera.  A quick search for QR code Android or iPhone will reveal a good number of popular scanning apps.  The application will then reveal the information in the code scanned and will trigger an action. These actions might be to take the user to a website or a YouTube video among many other available functions. QR codes can be used in advertising to help the advertiser communicate information to consumers. Musicians can also connect with their fans sending them to YouTube videos or a website were they host their music. Artists can hand out business cards with QR codes that can direct readers to their online portfolios. People who distribute media with QR codes on it can track how many people are actually scanning the codes. Think about it for a second… The possibilities are endless!

Lately I’ve been experimenting using QR codes on various advertising design projects. Needless to say, I’m very excited about the technology. While paging through magazines at Borders and Barnes & Noble (my 2 favorite places in the world) I’m coming across QR codes in advertising more and more. At the beginning of every month, when my batch of magazine from different industries start trickling in, I continue to see that more companies are jumping into the QR code bandwagon. I’m not sure how long this is going to last, but for the looks of it, quite a while! Looks like this technology is only just starting to take off. The future looks bright.

I recently designed 2 different ads in 2 major cycling publications, VeloNews and Mountain Bike Action Magazine. Both include a QR code that takes you to the product’s web page. Additionally, I just submitted another ad, this time for a book. The book has only a 5% ad percentage vs informational content and is published by an Australian company. The nice thing about the book over the usual magazine advertising is that the longevity of the book will be quite much longer. While a magazine is usually scrapped or put away after a month or two, many books are kept for much longer. All the QR codes I’ve placed in ads so far are tracked, both by Google Analytics and Another cool feature is that I created custom short URLs for the QR codes that also include the name of the product. That way, when the user scans the code they can see right away the name of the product in the URL generated and feel more comfortable continuing. The VeloNews issue that has one of the ads is only starting to arrive to subscribers now and the QR code in the ad shows 77 scans already. Not bad. The insight one can get from using these trackable codes in advertising and marketing is just awesome. I’m totally in. It’s a perfect feature than can easily been incorporated into full marketing campaigns where feedback is key.

Next up, QR codes are going on my own business cards as well as customer’s cards. I can see usefulness for them in shop window stickers and POP stands. Since QR codes can be set to do various things, the usefulness of them is amazing. Since people are starting to get used to them, they are now fashionable and cool. There are plenty of artist using them for the sake of art alone.

Below is a short list of some of the things QR codes can be set to accomplish once the user has scanned it with their smart phones:

  • Go to a website or webpage
  • Bookmark a site
  • Post on Twitter
  • Navigate to a YouTube video
  • Take you to an address on Google Maps
  • Create a vCard for your contacts list
  • Send SMS or Email
  • Make a phone call

QR codes can actually do a lot more than what is listed above, but those are some of the most common usage trends. If you have a project where you think using QR codes would be ideal, or if you are considering organizing an QR code marketing campaign, feel free to contact me here. I can help you get on your way to using this great new technology for your company or product’s benefit. You can start tracking scans today!

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Brochure Design Ideas – How to Best Accomplish the Design of a Brochure.

by Danny Cruz| Follow Danny @sixstringsensei on Twitter HERE

Brochure Design Ideas

Just about every serious business person who’s marketing a product or service must develop a brochure to help sell that product or service. Even if you are not doing the design yourself and hiring somebody to do it, it’s your job to understand all the ins and outs of development. This will ensure that you end up with a professional product that’s properly targeted to your market or niche. The design must be simple enough, yet carry all the information necessary to help connect to prospects. Notice I mention “simple” first. Most people have no problem filling every white space available on a piece of paper when planning brochure printing. It’s being able to restrain from that what is difficult.

Brochure Design Ideas…

Before you tackle the design process you need to study every angle related to the brochure. Don’t just start putting stuff on paper. First of all, you need to consider 2 things: form and function. Form would be the actual design, colors, fonts and how you want the design to look. Function will include the content, text, diagrams and photos and how these elements are supposed to interact with the consumer. The bottom line is that you want your brochure to tell a story in the most concise manner possible. Function also involves the shape, position and folds of the final product. Plus, there’s a grey area where both form and function will meet harmoniously. If you can successfully achieve this, your design and content will merge seamlessly. Your final brochure will look professional and well thought through. Most importantly, it will convert readers into buyers. If you miss the point of the brochure in the first place you’re simply going to end up with a pretty piece of paper than will yield little to no sales. People don’t want to know every single feature of your product or service. They simply want to be engaged, satisfied and confident in what they are getting. If you get too technical and speak in language they cannot relate to or even understand, you are going to lose trust and ultimately a good customer. So remember, always speak in terms your customer can easily understand.Brochure Cover

Here are some technical details that will help with your design:

  1. Don’t necessarily base your brochure design around an 8.5 x 11″ piece of paper. Also, don’t immediately opt for a tri fold brochure design. If you are printing large quantities in a proper printing press, you have more flexibility for sizing and folds. Plus, for a professional looking brochure you will likely want bleeds (where the ink goes all the way to the edge of the paper) so the printer will have to print on a bigger sheet of paper anyway and then cut to size. There are certain final sizes that yield the least wasted paper so you can always ask your preferred printer to offer some size recommendations.
  2. Think about the paper type. Do you want a thinner, more lightweight paper? Do you want a thicker material that will hold it’s shape better? The latter will probably look best and last the longest, but it will be more expensive, take more space and be heavier and more expensive to distribute. Keep all that in mind and try to find a good balance. Also consider the paper coating. You can choose between dull or gloss coating, or even no coating at all. Keep in mind this will all affect how your ink and photos look. For even more flexibility, all types of paper can be re-coated after printing with an entire array of options such as aqueous coating, super high gloss UV coating, spot varnishes and one of my favorite “soft-touch” coating.
  3. Decide beforehand how you will distribute the piece. Will you mail it? If so, you must leave space for an address and postage. You probably also need to consider how to tab it to keep it closed while in transit. If you are only going to hand it out at a store for example, you might not need an address area. Having one anyway, even if it’s small, can allow for more flexibility in the future.
  4. Pick up a few of your competitor’s brochures before you start conceiving yours. The worst thing you can do is shoot completely in the dark. You want to have a good idea of what others are doing in order to be able to compete accordingly. It doesn’t mean your are going to copy. You can create an original piece nonetheless. But at least you are aware of what your competition is doing so that you can develop a better marketing strategy.
  5. Be careful with time sensitive material. If you are going to put dates or other information that will deem the brochure obsolete after a certain amount of time, make sure you have a realistic timeframe for distribution and conversion into sales. Otherwise you’re bound to throw away money. In many cases, creating timeless material can be best unless the brochure is designed specifically for a certain time-sensitive event. Be aware of other things that can yield your brochure obsolete. Things like phone numbers, addresses and employee names. If there are high chances that any of these might change during the time you expect to use your brochure be very wary about the way you use them in your final print.
  6. Don’t skimp on the photography. There’s a very good reason behind the saying “a photo says a thousand words.” Because it does! Avoid saying your product is crap by using crap photography. Taking good photos is best left to a professional product photographer. Trust me, even if you spend a lot of money on good camera gear, unless you have someone that can operate it properly, you’re going down a very expensive rocky-road, downhill, with no brakes.
  7. Measure twice, print once. I can’t stress this enough. Make sure that all your measurements throughout the design are spot on. Make sure all the text is perfect and there are NO TYPOS. There is no room and no excuse for typos in professional design. Even if you think it’s not your fault there’s a mistake, trust me, it is your fault. If you are the designer, even if your client signed-off on a project as approved, if you find they made a mistake, even a small one, contact your client and get it sorted out. They’ll appreciate you for this.
  8. Always have your projects quoted by at least 3 different printing companies. That’s the only way to really arrive at an average price. Plus, even if you have somebody that you work with most of the time, nobody can focus on every single area of printing. So, depending on the project, the person who usually gives you the best price might not necessarily always be able to. Unless you enjoy paying extra, quote with various companies.

There’s no real magic to designing a good brochure. It just takes planning beforehand. Then, a good amount of thinking during the design process. If you are planning the design of a brochure for your product or service, please feel free to contact me by clicking here. You can discuss the project further with me for valuable guidance and information. All this with no obligation. I’d be thrilled to develop your professional brochure, but if in the end you decide not to hire me… No hard feelings!  However, you’d be glad if you do.  I guarantee it!  :)

Have a good one! -Danny C


Mountain Bike Action Magazine 29er Hardtail Carbon Fiber MTB Ad

by Danny Cruz| Follow Danny @sixstringsensei on Twitter HERE

Mountain Bike Action Magazine May 2011 CoverHere is a beautiful magazine ad design piece for the biggest craze to hit the mountain biking market in recent years.  I’m talking about…

29er Mountain Bikes

This ad was released in the May 2011 issue of Mountain Bike Action Magazine. It garnered quite of bit of attention and generated a large number of inquiries. The ad features a clean design concept with copy that flows with the shape of the bicycle. The name of the product plays an important role. It follows the color scheme perfectly and the shape accentuates the fast nature of the bike.

29er Mountain Bike Ad in Mountain Bike Action Magazine

Road Bike Action Magazine RavX CNC Parts Ad

by Danny Cruz| Follow Danny @sixstringsensei on Twitter HERE

Road Bike Action Magazine RAVX Ad

Road Bike Action Magazine May 2011 Ad Layout

Half page ad layout. The location of the advertisement is in great company. It sits inside a Campagnolo editorial article.

What can I say? Very happy with the turn out of this ad. I wrote more in detail about the design process in my blog post Rush Jobs Make the Day Shorter here.  However, one thing I did not mention in the design process post is the location of the ad. When the final printed magazine was sent to me I realized the piece was featured within editorial content for a Campagnolo article.  I’m very happy with the positioning as well!

Product Graphic Design – Professional Bicycle Racing Saddle

by Danny Cruz| Follow Danny @sixstringsensei on Twitter HERE

Saddle Graphics Main Top ImageDesigning graphics for product is one of the facets of design that I enjoy the most. The design process is more 3-dimensional. I greatly enjoy that. The concepts are put together on a flat art board in 2 dimensions but the thought process requires you to consider the shape and area where the final design will be. The wrapping around of objects creates additional requirements to consider. The design needs to be done slightly larger than the flat plane might suggest as it needs to wrap around a larger area. Such is the case with this design.

Let me tell you a little more about the object. This is a high end bicycle racing saddle by RAVX Inc. It is an expensive product for serious competitive cyclists. It is very lightweight and has very impressive features such as carbon fiber rails, ultra lightweight padding and top-of-the-line Lorica® leather covering. The rails are an upgrade over the already lightweight titanium allow rails, and a huge upgrade over lower-end chromoly or steel rails. The nature of the product requires a design that projects the same fast, high-end, racing image.


In 2008 I designed the XRD® logo that graces the saddle. XRD Racing® is a registered trademark.

The budget for this kind of project is pretty high therefore there are a number of design options at my disposal. First of all, I was not limited by ink alone. The design uses a combinations of inks, clear gloss spot UV coatings and de-bossing patterns. In other words, the final design in a combination of layers that yields a very intricate piece. The challenge comes in translating these details to the manufacturer. In order to guarantee the manufacturer stays true to my design, after the final artwork has been created and approved, I proceed to break it all down into color-coded layers. The layers are kept together on one end of the artboard, however, to the right of the board I divide the layers individually and space them out evenly. This ensures the manufacturer can see and understand each process individually. Take a look below to see an example of the final layout and how it’s divided. Each of the layers has a unique cyan, magenta or yellow color that is then replaced with the proper ink color, embossing or spot UV pattern. In fact, I even have separate color keys for outline-only debossing and full debossing. This further ensures the manufacturer interprets my design correctly.

Saddle Graphics Original First Mockup

First mockup of the design. This one was scrapped.

Saddle Graphics Final Colorways

Saddle graphics - Final colorways of the design.

Saddle Graphics Final Black Colorway

Final artwork, black colorway example.

I started off with a more traditional, yet complex design. I laid out all the patterns and lines in such a way they would flow with the shape of the seat. After a few hours, I was happy with the overall concept and laid it out as an example colorway in both black and white. You can see the initial mockup in the example to the right. Darren, the product manager, thought the design was good but he wanted to see something completely different. Instead of redesigning the current file, I decided to scrap it and start from scratch to force myself to come up with something completely different. The result is the design pieces you can see to the right and bottom.

For the new design, I went with more aggressive lines and racing styling. The artwork emphasizes length and sleekness and gives the impression of speed and movement. The sharp triangular shapes towards the back of the saddle were originally solid black. They are bold and sharp so some people weren’t sold on them. We decided to keep them but tone them down slightly using clear gloss coatings instead of solid inks. Upon close inspection, you will notice some of the printed sections sit inside de-bossed patterns, in other cases it does not. Some of the de-bossed patterns are also accentuated with glossy UV clear coatings. To make the design even more interesting, the solid printed sections are actually embossed only as outlines, keeping the center fill intact. The large solid spikes towards the back are all de-bossed completely, not simply outlined.

Saddle Graphics Final Layered Layout

Final layout. Example shows a layered separation of each print, embossing and gloss coating layers.

Saddle Graphics Final Product Photo - Black
Saddle Graphics Final Product Photo - White

After the design was ready, the final product was completed in a few stages. The factory sent us a blue line sample of the design and how it fits the base of the seat. Then a final sample was created. We changed a few things here and there, so the final photo does not look exactly like the final design on paper. That’s just part of the refining process.

RavX Cycling Products Catalog 2010

by Danny Cruz| Follow Danny @sixstringsensei on Twitter HERE

RAVX 2010 Catalog Cover ThumbnailRavX makes quality cycling accessories and components that rival the world’s best. I’ve put in a lot of time creating high-end designs for them since early 2007.  This particular catalog is one of longest and most complicated projects I have worked on.  Not only was I in charge of conceptualizing the design, but I also had to orchestrate all the photo shoots and prepare the entire design.  The book features 80 pages + cover and holds a number of design details that I’m quite proud of.

First of all, I designed 10 different signature background spreads to be switched out throughout the book.  This is intended to keep the reader interested and avoid a feeling of monotony.  I also created an additional 3 spread designs for the high-end product section that stand out from the rest of the catalog.

RAVX Catalog 2010 Inner Cover Spread

Sample of inner cover spread layout with printer registration and color marks.

Reviewing Catalog Proofs

Reviewing final pre-press proofs before production.

When I design books, I have to take into account the size and girth of the project and choose materials and production techniques accordingly.  This catalog is intended to be shipped around the world, so I also have to choose materials that keep the book structurally sound but do not make it unnecessarily heavy.

Other standout features are the color coded sections, perfect-bound build, metallic Pantone 877 5th color and spot UV coating on the outer and inner covers.  This catalog does a perfect job of portraying the high-quality image of the product it showcases!  Based on etiquette, I can’t reveal the final production numbers but let’s just say enough were printed.  This is number 4 of the 5 RavX, Inc. catalogs I’ve designed thus far.

See below for the “race section” page spread which features some of the high end performance saddles.  Further below there’s a photo of the book alongside others I designed.  Click to zoom.  If you look closely  you can see the spot UV coating over the product photos on the cover.

RAVX Catalog Race Spread Sample

RAVX Catalogs

Velauno Surfing, Kiteboarding & Windsurfing Promo Card

by Danny Cruz| Follow Danny @sixstringsensei on Twitter HERE

Promo Card Back I produced this promo card for Velauno in 2007 to help promote the sale of surf, kite and windsurf products by Dakine, Bic Surf, Thule, Cabrinha, Best Kiteboarding and Surftech.  The cards were printed on thick stock cover, full color on both sides.  These were handed out at races, beach events, malls, and also sent out with mail orders.  The success of this promo led to the creation of other similar cards soon after.

At the time I designed these, the surf industry was big into grunge art.  There is a lot going on in this piece which is characterized by busy visual elements and the lack of clean straight lines.  It’s a lot harder than it looks to get this style of artwork right.  The thing I like most about grunge is the vast amount of possibilities.
Promo Card Front Side

Full Page Ad in Ride Cycling Review Magazine Australia

by Danny Cruz| Follow Danny @sixstringsensei on Twitter HERE

Ride Magazine Cover

I created this advert back in December 2007.  It appeared in Ride Cycling Review in Australia, issue #39 Jan/Feb/Mar 2008.  A few other versions of it were featured in magazines in USA, South Africa, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.  The concept for the other ads was basically the same but promoted different products.  The ad was eventually adapted for use as a half page ad.

Magazine Ad

Dakine Ads for Mundo Rad Magazine

by Danny Cruz| Follow Danny @sixstringsensei on Twitter HERE

Mundo Rad Ad Issue 55Mundo Rad Ad for DakineThese are two of a series of ads I created for Velocity, Dakine Hawaii distributor for Puerto Rico and the Caribbean.  These were featured in Mundo Rad Magazine.  Apart from Dakine, Velocity distributes other prestige brands such as Thule Car Rack Systems, Oxbow, Bic Surf, and most recently Surftech Surfboards.

These ads were mostly laid out in Adobe Photoshop using elements and photographs provided by the Dakine ad resource.  I used the available elements plus created some of my own to develop the quality visual impact the company was looking for.  Some final details were added in Adobe Illustrator before being exported.