Kwirkee is Quirky

Eats, shoots and leaves

Posted in Articles, Musings by kwirkee on February 16, 2009

Punctuation and Grammar


A panda walks into a café. He orders a sandwich, eats it, then draws a gun and proceeds to fire it at the other patrons.


‘Why?’ asks the confused, surviving waiter amidst the carnage, as the panda makes towards the exit. The panda produces a badly punctuated wildlife manual and tosses it over his shoulder.


‘Well, I’m a panda’, he says, at the door. ‘Look it up.’


The waiter turns to the relevant entry in the manual and, sure enough, finds an explanation. ‘Panda. Large black-and-white bear-like mammal, native to China. Eats, shoots and leaves.’


I expect the more punctilious reader will now read through all my posts, and perhaps anything they can find that I’ve designed, looking for errors. However, it should be said that I am not a complete stickler. For example, I don’t have a problem with Barclays Bank dropping the apostrophe from their name. Nor do I insist on full stops after initials in a name. I occasionally write “Thanx” instead of “Thanks” – although with lessening frequency. I also know that we are human, and we make mistakes.


What does rile me is the complete disregard for spelling and grammar that slowly erodes meaning. I point the finger at those ubiquitous 160 character mobile phone messages. Even though said phones now allow you to send long text messages made up of a number of smaller ones, it still seems that ppl r strting 2 tlk lk this.


Even professionals, teachers, and otherwise educated people seem to have forgotten basic rules. I was listening to BBC Radio FiveLive the other day and a guy called in with the following story. He had attended some sort of meeting at school regarding SATs. Some supervisory sort of character – perhaps an Ofsted person – stood near the board and wrote in large letters:


“How we can improve this schools SAT’s”.


Awful! Plurals do not need apostrophes. Nobody should pay £2000 to create a shop sign which says “Book’s, DVD’s and CD’s sold hear”.


Why does anyone do this? Is it because we live in such a disposable society that we figure we can just send the text again? Resend the email? Run a spell check? How have we ended up with whole generation of adults who do not know the difference between “there” and “their”, “know” and “now”, and “hear” and “here”?


Personally, when I receive a communication filled with stupid misspellings, I can’t help making an instant judgement about the sender. And that judgement is never positive. In fact, I sometimes receive communications that are so badly punctuated (or not at all) that I don’t understand what is being said.


I know there is a time and place for everything. Even I have to force myself to use the dreaded text contractions when texting my sister in Australia, lest I incur an enormous bill. But please, when you have the luxury of endless space for your words, choose them, and the dots that make them meaningful, carefully.

Having the Last Word

Posted in Articles by kwirkee on February 11, 2009

Designing with Microsoft products


Living in my little design bubble, I am often amazed to find that people still consider Microsoft Publisher, and even Word, suitable programmes for design use. Now, accusations of anti-Microsoft snobbery cannot be levelled against me, because I do in fact use a PC, rather than a Mac, as my computer of choice.


Microsoft Word is a truly outstanding application – for word processing. However, it seems that the folks at MS thought it was a brilliant idea to load the application with all sorts of pseudo design tools so that every Tom, Dick and Tracy can create the company newsletter. Complete with pictures of the new secretary sitting with her cats or the boss on his beach holiday (Oi! How did that get on?)


Even though Word newsletters irritate me I’ve accepted that I cannot comment about stuff that companies distribute internally. If they are content to look at newsletters which say “NEWSLETTER” in 40pt Times at the top, that’s not my problem. It’s when they send their newsletters to professional print houses that problems occur.


I could go on for hours about the problems of trying to get a Word file through to press, but I’ll pick out some of the more common problems that I’ve encountered in the hope that Word aficionados will think twice before spending hours designing their company brochure in Word, only to be told that pretty much no-one wants to print it, at least not without lots of disclaimers.




Fonts are files that are stored in your computer entirely separately from your documents – they are not some magical display property embedded into Word. If you send your file to anyone else and you have used a font that they do not have installed on their system, your file will display and print unexpectedly.




Colours in Word appeared to be stored in RGB. You can find a separate article about colour perils here.  Suffice to say that your colours will likely look different when printed.




Say you design a business card. Your print house wants the card 8 on a page with 2mm of bleed around each one, with crop marks. This relatively simple task is practically impossible to do in Word. If you start with booklets, or something complicated, you could spend hours trying to do something that poor bloated Word was never really made for.




I have no idea what Word does with images, so I could be wrong about this one. But some versions of Word appear to scale down images – maybe to compress the file? – reducing the quality of the image. This could be down to the users of the documents that have been sent to me but I thought it was worth a mention.


And my personal bug bear…


Loss of Control


It seems that those same guys at Word think that Tom, Dick and Tracy are completely stupid, and therefore they need all their decisions making for them. Typed a number? Right, you must need a numbered list. A number followed by a “th” – quick, superscript that “th”! I’m not doubting that some of these auto corrections are very useful. But to me, a control freak, they are just plain annoying.


The last word is that Word is a word processor, with a few design bolt-ons. It should not be used to design anything which is supposed to end up on a press, because you will have problems. Publisher may be a smidge better in terms of imposition, you’ll almost certainly have the same font and colour problems.


Bottom line? Pay some professional to do it for you. You’ll save hours of aggro when you’re trying to get it printed.

Property Company House Logo

Posted in Articles, Design Thoughts by kwirkee on February 10, 2009

Being too literal in logo design


I write this post with a slight cringe, because I know that I have fallen foul of the Literal Logo Curse on more than one occasion. In my defence, it’s often because my client has worn me down and I have given up trying to explain my point of view. That being said, I still feel that this is a point worth making, so I’ll have to accept any “Hey, but you made THIS” comments coming my way after you read the post.


Being Literal…


Sometimes, your logo can be perfect even if you’re literal. There are several beautiful florist logos around which DO contain flowers and leaves. Still, the better ones tend to have abstract looking flowers, rather than, say, a photo of a rose. (Using photos in logos is a whole other post.) You could say that the flowers also represent beauty, freshness, colour…not just flowers.


And if your café is called “The Little Spotted Coffee Cup”, it would look stupid for your logo to be a piece of cake (cool spots might work though).


But Not Too Literal!


But more often than not, being too literal can really diminish your company. For example, imagine you start a little company selling running shoes. You call your company “Fast Running Shoes Inc”. Your get your designer to create a snazzy little logo which is a picture of your amazing, award winning shoe. So far so good? Ok. But…


Your shoe company is going well, so you decide to add a range of clothes and sports equipment. Now what? Your name is wrong. Your logo is wrong. It’s not flexible enough. So now you have to go to the trouble of changing all your branding to accommodate your growth.


If in the beginning you had chosen a logo which reflects your brand’s values – say, competitiveness, ambition and victory, you might have designed a logo that grew with you.


And The Proof Is…


Think about the world’s most famous brands. Apple doesn’t have a picture of a computer.  Neither does Google – an incredibly diverse brand. McDonalds doesn’t have a picture of a burger. And speaking of shoes, world famous Nike does not have a picture of a running shoe. Rather, the famous and fluid Nike swoosh represents the wing of Nike – the Greek Goddess of Victory.


“But How Will People Know What I Do?”


Don’t forget, your logo almost always appears with other material, like information in a brochure, or a product you’re promoting. Together they will be more effective than trying to communicate everything in one logo.


To Summarise


Try to convey your company aspirations rather than its core products. It’ll be cleaner and less cluttered, and when your company grows into a massive international conglomerate, you won’t have to change it!

Lists amiss!

Posted in Articles by kwirkee on February 10, 2009

Fat Looking Ls in Acrobat Reader


To avoid The Big Font Problem, I usually end up converting all my fonts to outlines / curves when outputting the PDF for the final print file. It seems safer that way, and I’ve never had any problems with it.


Except for the thick looking L. Is (the letter I, not the word “is”) and dashes are also a problem. When converted to outlines, Acrobat Reader makes them look like they’ve indulged too much at their Grandma’s birthday bash.


Understandably, after seeing 10 perfect looking proofs with normal, fit and slimmed down  Ls, the client phones me in a panic. “Help! Something about this file looks all wrong – and this is the one we’re printing?”


Panic not. In my experience, this only seems to be a view problem, and prints fine. Print it and see to set your mind at ease. (In any case, you shouldn’t be checking proofs on the screen!) In fact, if you zoom in you’ll probably see that the Ls are in proportion with everything else.


I have no idea why this happens. I can just theorise that because whole screen pixels need to be used to display the letter, sometimes the ratio of the stroke has to be rounded up or down, causing the letter to look thicker (and lines to sometimes disappear!)

Blue Sky’s Green?

Posted in Articles by kwirkee on January 23, 2009

A Note About Colour


A few months ago a friend was telling me that he had submitted an advert to a magazine and to his horror his lovely bright blue background printed in a positively edible mint green. Of course, it’s always the printer that gets blamed, but in fact it’s easy to make fundamental mistakes about colour that lead to unexpected outcomes.


Many people think that colour is a fixed thing. Black’s black. Blue is blue. Orange is orange. Right? Wrong! When it comes to screen and print, colour is a fluid, ever-changing thing, and changing how you think about colour may save your advert in the future.


1) What’s on your screen is not what prints


Your screen displays colour in RGB (red, green and blue) and your eyes perceive the mix as full colour. Printed items use ink, which is absorbed by the paper, to create colour. In addition, everyone’s screens are calibrated slightly differently, so my screen, your screen, and everyone else’s screen will look different.


2) Your inkjet printer doesn’t get it right either


Although your inkjet printer might be closer, it also won’t give you an accurate proof of what will be printed on a professional press.


3) There are two types of colour printing, and they don’t look the same


Spot Colours

Most people choose to print their stationery (letterheads and compliment slips) in two spot colours, due to cost. One printing plate is used for each colour. The standard reference guide for choosing spot colours is the Pantone system. Each spot colour is made up by the printer according to a specific recipe, so they always look identical. Pantone produces guides to help you choose your colours. You can also use tints of the two colours you choose – so if you have black as one of your colours you can also have grey which will be for example 50% black.


Process / Full Colour (CMYK)

If more than two colours are required, for example when printing colour photographs, CMYK process printing is used. This involves using four printing plates, one for each of the four colours cyan, magenta, yellow and black. These colours combine to form any colours (well, not fluorescent or metallic ones, but most colours.) Many printers print business cards in CMYK, because they can put many on a sheet and cut them down, and this works out cheaper than washing down a press just to print a few business cards in spot colours.


The problem is, you cannot get an accurate translation between spot and process colours. There are Pantone guides that show you the nearest thing, and some of them are close, but some spot colours – for example bright orange – are impossible to replicate in CMYK. In fact, spot colours are generally brighter than their CMYK counterparts. If your corporate colours are critical, you can print your logo in spot colour together with CMYK, using a 5 colour press. However, most people choose not to go to that expense.


If you are fussy about colour, you should ask your designer or printer to show you the solid to process guide so you know how your spot and process colour jobs will differ.


4) Colour looks different depending on what it’s printed on.


Different types of paper absorb different amounts of ink. Colours printed on coated stock, like a business card, tend to look brighter than colours printed on uncoated paper, like a letterhead. (You have to use uncoated paper for a letterhead, otherwise you cannot write on it.)


5) So how can I make sure my sky prints blue?


For spot colours, consult a Pantone Guide. Your designer or printer should have one. Full colour is a little trickier, but the most economical solutions is to get a proof from a commercial digital printer. This will not be exact either, but it’s probably the closest thing.


Due to the different process, inks, paper and so on, it is not possible to get an exactly matching set – for example, your logo appearing on your website will not look the same as your letterhead.


But if you know about the usual pitfalls, it’ll help you keep everything as close as possible and avoid unexpected colour.