If you use email, you know how much spam rubbish and general clutter floods into your inbox. Some estimates place the amount of unwanted email traffic at 95% (fortunately most of it is filtered out before it afflicts you). Yet despite this white noise, email is still one of the most powerful marketing channels, social media notwithstanding. Most people still maintain an email address, and most still read their email. If you have clients and potential clients you'd like to reach, email is a very good place to start. But beside coming up with attractive, interesting content, you will want your email communications to look professional, and you will need to track the metrics of your various email campaigns. Vision6 and MailChimp offer users a low cost and easy-to-use entry to the world of email marketing. MailChimp in particular offers an absurdly generous free service to users generating less than 12,000 emails per month. Plus they have a cute monkey avatar that dispenses cheerful backchat.
Fascination with combinations of repeating images/symbols and colour seems to span cultures and appear in every historical period. The Mayans, the Egyptians, the Persians and Victorian-era Britons were obsessed with pattern, whether applied to walls, monuments, clothes or jewellery. Those similarly afflicted in the 21st century can use programs like this. While they may not be designing a grand tomb, they could at least generate a nifty wallpaper for their mobile phone or PC...
Sometimes a client might give you a file saved in an exotic format. You don't have the program required to open it, nor are you inclined to install it for this one instance. Now you don't have to — Zamzar allows you to upload your file and save it as something openable. In my case, I tested the service by uploading a Microsoft Publisher file and saving it as a Word Doc. Seconds later, the converted file was in my inbox. The basic service is currently free, with a paid service allowing online file storage and faster processing. The name of the service derives from the protagonist of Franz Kafka's The Metamorphosis.
Designers love to hate Word for Windows. They are accustomed to layout packages that do as they are told. Word is packed with features that are rarely used and hides those which should be front and centre. It tries to think for the user (applying styles automatically, for example) and loads documents with unwanted character and paragraph level styles. Precise placement of an element on a page is often difficult, if not impossible. When imported into layout packages such as InDesign, a designer's first task is to clean out all of the crud. This includes removing unused styles, special effects, embedded objects and images and more, while taking care not to disturb necessary items such as footnoting, italicisation, bolding and indents.
In short, the best Word document is one constructed with simplicity in mind. Just the essentials and nothing more. For the daring, Google's stripped down cloud based word processor might be a good alternative way of achieving this end. For those utilising Track Changes, Indexing and Footnoting, perhaps Open Office might be another option.
Ebook and web evangelists have plenty of unpleasant things to say about Adobe's Portable Document Format (PDF). They say it is proprietary, a semi-closed system and antithetical to the freewheeling nature of the web. This is partially true (though PDF documents can be viewed via plugins in most browsers). Yet PDFs are a peerless way of preserving the intricacies of a print design layout for other viewers (without adding an extra layer of cost). The PDF carries with it typefaces and graphics and recreates the original design on other machines with almost perfect fidelity. The postscript language used by PDFs is the universal language of printers the world over. It is true that for web purposes, html5 would be a friendlier and more open road. Combined with new font hosting services, web designers may be able to assemble typographically sophisticated documents that display equally well on all browsers and for all users. Even the rather clumsy ebook formats may become more graphically capable. For the moment, however, PDFs remain the format of choice for print designers wanting to put content online without using code.
- tweet news of your latest products/services to your clients (assuming they 'follow' you -- something that you can encourage)
- tweet interesting links/information in your business field (don't just promote yourself relentlessly)
- encourage informal feedback from your customer base, or from potential customers
- listen to leading thinkers/businesses in your field, follow up on some of the suggested links/hints.
- Programs like TweetDeck can help you keep track of everyone you find interesting in the world of Twitter.
- Writer: Word
- Calc: Excel
- Impress: Powerpoint
- Base: Access
- Draw: Visio
- Math: Equation Editor