Monthly Archives: May 2016

4 Design Trends You Need to Know

You have a business. You’re so wrapped up in daily routines that you’re staring in awe of groundbreaking advancements in the world when you finally get a chance to breathe. It’s a hard thing to admit, but there are too many trends to keep up with in today’s world.

We want to help with keeping your business successful and as up-to-date as possible. As discussed in our previous blog, What Makes a Good Logo, your brand’s appearance has a big effect on how potential clients perceive your services. Design plays a huge part in your marketing and your brand, so we want to share some of the most important design trends to help you stand apart from your competitors.

1. Responsive Design

The most important design trend business owners should be aware of is responsive design. Responsive design refers to the size of your internet browser’s window, and a website changing its appearance to work as best as it can in any window size. Why does this matter? The majority of internet users access the web from mobile devices.

When smartphones were first introduced, the concept of responsive design was still an idea equal to that of a scientific theory. The best known method of making a website mobile-friendly was to create a separate site that had its contents designed to fit within a mobile screen.  However, it meant sacrificing beautiful website designs that were only visible on a desktop.

Responsive design came to fix that, so that anything coded to work and look best in a desktop internet browser will function the same way on mobile while still looking great. This saves development time, as well as time spent managing website content. As a bonus, the middleman (tablets and iPads) get an equally great web experience.

Also, keep in mind that Google will push your business down on its search list if your website isn’t mobile-friendly. If you do not have a responsive website, we can help you! You can find more information on our SAGE website solutions and a visual example here.



2. Flat Design 


When Microsoft began releasing Window 8 and their Windows 8 Phones, we got a peek into the new world that would adopt the flat design trend. Flat design is a minimalistic approach to design that focuses on the user’s experience and usability. The simple design is easy to incorporate into responsive projects. This was a huge shift from skeuomorphic design, which was the methodology that made design elements and patterns look like real-life objects or environments. For example, early iPhone buttons mocked real-life buttons by looking like you could actually push them to give a false sense of depth:


What makes flat design so appealing?

  • It gives more prominence to type treatment and typography (the art of styling and arranging type/words/letters).
  • It makes web design easier and cleaner when creating responsive websites.
  • It compliments white space by giving affordance to important content.
  • It looks cohesive with most approaches to design, ranging from skeuomorphism to minimalism.

3. Illustrations and Infographics

Illustrations are so versatile and can be used across your website, blog, and social media. They communicate your brand’s message in a way that is unique to your business.

If you’ve been with SAGE for some amount of time, you’ve probably seen our illustration of a stressed out little dude behind a desk, in the dead of night, working late to get his tasks done. It speaks to overworked graphic designers in need of some help from our ArtworkZone team in a relatable way. These digital and hand-drawn illustrations help to retain an audience’s attention and stands apart from other digitally-rendered art.


Infographics have become very popular because they retain only the most important text and let the illustrations do a lot of the talking. Keep in mind that visual representation will almost always be the main attraction. You only have a short window of time to speak to skimmers, so your copy should be chosen carefully in accordance with your design.


4. Original Photos

It’s becoming less and less popular to use purchased stock images as legitimate content. While there are still some opportunities to use stock photos in a relative context, we are progressing away from the use of stock photos to reinforce a statement.

Most companies now hire a professional photographer (or purchase and master a digital SLR camera on their own) to capture real situations that are relevant to their business so that the company appears more authentic and organic. Others may opt for an illustrative approach for their content instead of stock photos.

We are just beginning to scratch the surface on some of this year’s trends, so look for more marketing and design tips to come.

In the meantime, if you’re a current SAGE Website subscriber, you can upgrade to a responsive web design for free!


Top 10 Promotional Product Ideas for Real Estate

The real estate industry generates billions of dollars in revenue per year in residential, commercial, and industrial sectors. In such a vast landscape, real estate professionals have to compete for the business of home buyers, renters, and investors.

One of the most effective ways to market real estate services is with custom promotional products. The industry lands at no. 8 in the list of the top 10 industries purchasing promotional products (Source: Promotional Products Work).

We’ve collected some our favorite items for real estate professionals to give to their clients as housewarming gifts or just to say thanks for their business. Their clients will also have a reminder of their name or business to contact them for future needs or to refer them to a friend!


  1. Mini Bamboo Cutting Board, Item# MI6003, Mi Line by Fey – SAGE# 57120
  2. House Magnetic Clip, Item# MH1, Leprechaun Promotions LLC – SAGE# 67066
  3. Wooden Bottle Opener & Wine Corkscrew, Item# ID1325-09, Innovative Designs Inc – SAGE# 68008
  4. 11 Oz. Stemless Wine Glass, Item# J2634, Universal Printing Company – SAGE# 68971
  5. EZ Gripper Balloon Vinyl Jar Opener, Item# V5BL, The Americanna Company – SAGE# 50332
  6. House Paper Clip Dispenser, Item# DA206, Jetline – SAGE# 63554
  7. Pick ‘N’ Mint House, Item# PNM-H01, Global Promo LLC – SAGE# 67695
  8. Stainless Steel Pizza Wheel Cutter w/ Plastic Handle, Item# WT01183, Wonderful Thinker – SAGE# 50401
  9. Tape Measure w/Notepad, Pen, Level & Belt Clip, Item# 99-152M, Ventura Promotional Products Inc. – SAGE# 54214
  10. House Shaped Key Ring, Item# EK1024, Logomark Inc – SAGE# 50111

See an item that sparks your interest? Check to see what kind of specials are running now! Here’s a quick video on how to search for specials in SAGE Online:






What makes a good logo?

The logo is a single mark that distinguishes your business from many of your competitors. It is more than a simple piece of art to display a name, it is a symbol that establishes a visual identity for your product or business. Logos create the first impression you make to potential customers that communicates what your brand is all about.

In the few years I’ve been in design, I have witnessed some odd scenarios when working with clients on logo design.

One scenario I wish I saw less of is when a logo doesn’t reach its potential and has a similar look to a competitor’s logo.

Another scenario I’ve seen is when a client puts so much detail into their mark that it compares to a digital-Van Gogh. Excessive detail makes a logo difficult to reproduce and can cause headaches down the road. Starbucks, for example, originally used a much more embellished logo.


Whether you or someone you know is looking to rebrand or start a business, here are some expert tips to help you define your logo so that it is just right.

Step away from Photoshop and clip art.

In a previous blog, we touched on the differences between raster art and vector art. But in case you missed it, a raster graphic is what you may be more familiar with – think gifs and jpegs. It is made of pixels that come together to form an image. A vector graphic, on the other hand, is made of points instead of pixels. Those points can be expanded without losing its quality.


Adobe Photoshop specializes in manipulating photos and incorporating special effects into raster images. While it can save vector art files, it is not a program intended to efficiently manipulate and edit vector art files like other tools, so we recommend against using Photoshop to create your logo.

I made the mistake of creating a logo in Photoshop for one of my first clients. When it came time to print the logo on a large sign, the printers asked for a vector file of the logo. At that point, I needed to recreate the logo to meet the needs of the printers.

I experienced some embarrassment in my mistake, but from that point I learned that it’s best to begin designing a logo in Adobe Illustrator which specializes in working with vector art files.

There are other programs out there that can work with vector art files, but this is our favorite tool to use. Also, be sure to save copies of your logo’s vector files (.ai and .eps file extensions) to avoid losing your original artwork!

As for clip art, save it for use in kindergarten fundraiser flyers, as it is not legal to use for commercial purposes. Clip art has been regarded as a staple of amateur branding when it comes to logo design, which leads us to our next point…

Avoid clichés.

Make the most of your logo brainstorming session by refusing to settle on the obvious connotations that come to mind. Steer clear of overused fonts like Papyrus and common symbols. Ditch the globe for “international,” the tree for “nature,” and the speech bubble for “social.”

Let’s say you are creating a logo for a social media business. We already know that “social” equates to communicating, thus the speech bubble. Communicating also implies making the effort to make a connection. Being social and connecting also implies community. You see where this is going?

When the social media platform Twitter debuted, it caught users’ eyes by stepping outside the speech bubble and using a blue bird. It may take a few logical leaps to find something that relates back to what you want to communicate, but don’t rush your brainstorming sessions.

Make sure it is versatile.

Creating a versatile logo is crucial to its future uses. That’s why I recommend your logo be initially designed in one color. That sounds limiting, but this bit of advice is actually intended to give you more flexibility.

There may be instances where it is not possible to replicate your logo in multiple colors. For example, if you are printing your logo on t-shirts but you are on a budget, it may be more cost-effective to choose a single-color print.

You want to avoid any possible loss of detail to your design. If your logo features, let’s say, a shield with too many intricate curves and colors, you may end up printing what looks like an upside-down house.

Although you should start your design in one color, feel free to add in gradients and extra color once the single-color design is done! Just remember that less is more. Logo legends Coca-Cola and MTV created original logos that have withstood the test of time by carefully defining their brand and staying true to their roots with a simple design.

logos 2

To sum it up, your logo should be memorable, aesthetically appealing, and should accurately represent your company. By factoring in those three points, you will be on the path to building a solid logo and brand that your customers will remember.

Don’t want to go solo on a logo?

We will create one for you! Check out all that SAGE ArtworkZone has to offer.


5 Ways to boost Employee Morale

When it comes to building a successful company culture, maintaining positive employee morale is key. Not only are happy employees more productive, but your company is also more likely to attract and keep high-quality employees if the daily atmosphere at work is fun and energizing!

If you want to keep your team operating at its peak, try some of these morale-boosting tips.

Express appreciation.

When everyone is rushing to hit deadlines and working to knock out projects, it’s easy to only communicate about things that need to be fixed. It’s important to give out high-fives, literal or figurative, to let employees know you appreciate them.

There are plenty of ways you can dish out thanks without spending money. Create fun award certificates and hand them out around the office – “Most Innovative Ideas Award,” “Best Flannel Shirt,” “Most Caffeinated” etc. Put up a compliments board in the break room and let employees post kudos, or leave a hand-written note on an employee’s desk to say “Thank you!” or “Great job!”

If you want to boost morale even more, surprise the team with donuts, or bring in Starbucks to your Monday morning meeting.

Encourage collaboration.

Have you ever left a brainstorming meeting feeling energized and excited? By encouraging employees to work together and collaborate on projects, you are injecting that energy into the day-to-day operations of your company. Get your marketing and sales teams together to discuss what you want to focus on for the next quarter. Or set up a large table for employees to sit at with their laptops if they want to get away from their desk for a while. Just being in the presence of other team members can shift the direction of projects in new and creative directions!

Provide employee perks.

Companies like Google and Netflix have made the connection between maintaining happy, productive employees and offering killer perks.

You could try partnering with local businesses to offer exclusive discounts for your employees, such as 10% off lunch at a favorite restaurant, or coupons for house cleaning. Also, check with larger companies to offer discounts on things like phone service, car insurance, or electronics.

Many companies opt to provide their employees with a gym membership in addition to traditional healthcare benefits. Studies show that exercise increases energy and decreases things like depression and chronic illness. Keep your employees happy and healthy by encouraging good wellness habits.

One of the most unanimously popular perks is free food. Try catering lunch once a month, or having an assortment of fresh fruit in the break room. Another great option would be to add an espresso maker to the office!

Have mini-meetings.

Allowing your team time to socialize and come together on projects is an easy way to improve morale throughout the week. Having regular, informal check-ins with the whole team gives your employees the opportunity to acknowledge accomplishments, discuss obstacles, and just be social. These daily or weekly meetings help employees support each other when one person is overwhelmed with work, or if someone needs help brainstorming a topic. This can also be a time for pep talks to re-energize the team during long projects, or to share company successes.

Make it fun.

The quickest way to put a smile on your employee’s face is by doing something fun at the office. Surprise your team by playing a board game instead of your weekly meeting, or get a foosball table for the break room. You can also talk with local food trucks and arrange for them to come onsite now and then to give your employees an interesting, new lunch option. You could also schedule an end-of-the-quarter group outing to go bowling or see a movie to celebrate a job well done!

These are just a few ways that you can encourage employees and build a positive community at work.

What are some ways that you support company morale? Let us know in the comments!


Top 10 Promotional Products for Government Institutions

Whether it’s the local school board or a campaign for the next president of the United States, every government institution holds an opportunity for promotional products!  Promotional products have the ability to get people talking and many organizations are trending toward more unique and memorable promotional products to offer their constituents, ranging from yoga pants to baby bibs!

Here are our 10 favorite items that would be perfect for any campaign, rally or government institution: 

Distributors can find these items and over a million more in the SAGE database!

  1. Americana Bag, Item# USF001, Peerless Umbrella Company – SAGE# 53091
  2. Spring Wire Clipboard, Item# ST264, Janco Line – SAGE# 62642
  3. 26 Oz. Army H2Go Force Bottle, Item# 91691, ETS Express Inc – SAGE# 61380
  4. My Heroes Coloring Book, Item# 0489, Coloring Book Solutions – SAGE# 50731
  5. Cotton U.S. Stick Flags, Item# EC-46, Quinn Flags – SAGE# 69908
  6. Junior Journal, Item# KP2610, Logomark Inc – SAGE# 50111
  7. Vacuum Insulated Stainless Steel Cup, Item# VIC3, Ad N Art – SAGE# 63786
  8. Concord Leather Padfolio, Item# BX-819199, Posh Xessories Incorporated – SAGE# 64870
  9. Stratford Deluxe Pen & Pencil Set, Item# P554SET, Ace Products – SAGE# 65302
  10. Custom Lapel Pins, Item# 3PIN-TA0051, Gifts Import  – SAGE# 69273