Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Font mania

I am a font junkie. Imelda Marcos had her shoes, I have my fonts. There is no such thing as too many typefaces. But having lots and lots of fonts doesn't mean fonts don't come with rules. Like everything else in design, there's a way to use them properly and a way to abuse them too.

Zazzle does provide a number of different fonts, and I do use them on occasion but perhaps not as often as others do. I pretty much only use Zazzle's fonts for designs where customers will be inputting their own text. I'll use Zazzle fonts on the inside of cards as an example. But other than that, I prefer to use my own fonts, even if my font is identical to one of Zazzle's. Why? Because when I'm using my own font in my own design software, I have much more power to get that font the way I want.

Let's take a logo I just designed for a friend. I used two different typefaces, Scriptina and Myriad Pro. If I had those fonts in Zazzle, I'd be forced to use them as is, at the weight and spacing they come in. That logo would look like this.
Now let's look at that logo again, this time with changes. I made the Q bigger, distorted it some, and overlaied it so it fit better with the rest of the word. I added a lot of character spacing to the words "English Springer Spaniel, to give it dramatic emphasis. The difference is what makes this a logo, rather than just a collection of items on the page.

You too can make fonts work for you. The first thing to decide, when you're doing a piece for sale at Zazzle that will involve fonts, is the message you are trying to convey. Do you want to be bold? Angry? Sweet? Soft? Lovely? Elegant? Persuasive? Traditional? Modern? Funky? If you have artwork, your font also needs to match your artwork. Putting a super-elegant script font with a modern, funky piece of artwork is likely to be jarring to the viewer. It won't match.

Don't get carried away either. With very few exceptions, you should not use more than one or two typefaces per item. Too many typefaces quickly starts to look junky and unplanned, and I bet most of you don't want that to happen. One trick some of us use is to work with typefaces that have a good number of weights and styles. Myriad Pro is one of my real "go-to" fonts, because it's readable at very small sizes, it can carry body text or titles, and it has light, regular, semi-bold, bold, and black faces in book, italic, and condensed. If I had to live my life with only one or two fonts (oh, the torture...), Myriad Pro would be one.

Serif vs Sans Serif
Some of you probably don't even really know what Serif and Sans-Serif means, so let me give you a quick definition. Serif fonts have serifs. What are serifs? Serifs are the little "feet" on letters. So serif fonts have feet. Those little feet help lead the eye from letter to letter and generally make text more readable. That's why you'll find the text in every novel you buy in some sort of serif font. The most used (and overused, and tired, and please do not ever use it) serif font is Times Roman.

Sans Serif fonts are fonts without feet. Sans means without in French, so it's pretty logical. Sans Serif fonts make great header fonts, but also are good to use at very small sizes because they tend to maintain their weight through the stroke, unlike serif fonts that often get thinner and fatter, thus fade out at tiny sizes. Arial is today's most common Sans Serif font and again, should be avoided in artistic design for that very reason; it's tired.

In addition there are, of course, many other font types. Decorative fonts, script fonts, display fonts, hybrid fonts (which combine elements of both serif and sans serif, a good one is Trebuchet, which this blog is using).

I could write books about fonts, but I won't. It's already been done. The purpose of this post is to try to get you to think about fonts as design elements and use them appropriately. If possible, it's far better to create your design's fonts in programs such as Illustrator or Photoshop where you have unlimited ability to manipulate them rather than just relying on Zazzle's fonts. Meanwhile, start thinking about the best way to incorporate text into your design, and your design into text. The right choice, manipulated the right way, is the difference between okay designs and dynamic designs that sell.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Adding a Twitter Feed

I've finally explored Twitter feed. I think if you have a twitter page, twitter feed could be a great way to bring new customers to your Zazzle store. But like everything, use it responsibly!

Here's how to set it up.

First, you have to have a Twitter page.

Next, go to Twitter Feed and sign up there. You'll need to add your twitter page first, before anything else. Then once it confirms your twitter page, you can add feeds. Just click"Create New Feed."

Once you click "Create New Feed," you'll need to name your feed, and you'll need to give Twitter a valid RSS feed URL. What is that? It's a special link that Twitter needs to automatically post your entries to Twitter. You can get your RSS feed URL by going to your main store site and looking for, then clicking on, the little orange box with the white arcs in it. It will probably be in the same box as your site URL. That will pop up a different address that you can then paste into twitter feed. Be sure to check it.

If you want, you can customize the feed to add other information, but basically, you're done. They've also got a great help feature if you get confused.

But now let's talk about whether you should use Twitter feed. And whether you should depends on how often you load designs, and how many unique designs you load vs not so unique. I tend to use a modified form of the Quick Create feature, loading maybe 5-15 different products in each of my designs at once. If I chose to do a twitter feed from my main Zazzle page, it would pop up a tweet for each of those products. Now me, I think that's too much noise and way too much like spamming. So instead, what I've elected to do is add this blog, and I will also select one particular product from each of my new designs and individually tweet it. You can either just click the "Twitter" link on the product page, or click "Share This." I prefer the latter, it seems to work faster and allows me to hand describe my product in my tweet.

Good luck, don't spam, but if you have a blog, or if you mostly produce individual items, twitter feed can be a great way to automatically get your stuff out there!

And....she's back!

I'm so sorry to have been gone so long. It's been sort of a crazy month or so. I have only seldom been able to work on my store, in fact this is one of very few new designs I've done. I've been working on a couple of book designs for Clean Run, which is mahvellous, dahlink, because it brings in big bucks. But I've missed the pure creativity of designing things just for myself (well, and for all the people I hope will buy them.

I was thrilled that Zazzle decided to not do shipping last month, let's hope they restructure the whole shipping package; right now their shipping is far too high! But thanks to their promotion, I had one of my biggest months ever in spite of not being able to give the store the attention it deserves.

I had a giggle over this design. For those of you not into dog obedience it may not make much sense. But anyone who has ever tossed an obedience dumbbell for a dog to fetch and had it go careering all over the place (into the next ring, behind you or even, in one case, hanging in a light fixture) will get this one! And this is one shirt I actually did a front and back design for. Front shown here, but there's another dumbbell on the back too. Hope you enjoy.