Random Q & A with Meredith

Meredith Locklear, Owner of Jack and Molly Creative

In an effort to make myself more available and transparent (which is quite tough for me… I don’t particularly like the spotlight!) here is a Q&A session about none other than… me.

How do you spend your days?
-Being the best mom I can to my energetic and imaginative 6 year old son, Jackson.
-Writing and responding to tons and tons and tons of emails!
-Trying not to drink too much coffee (but often failing miserably).
-Squeezing all of creativity out of my brain like a sponge.

What ability or skill do you most wish you had (that you don’t have already)?
I wish I had the know-how or desire to be a person on a schedule. By nature, I stray from routine. I like to mix it up, go to bed when I feel like it, work out when the mood strikes me, work 4 hours one day and 12 the next, eat a balanced breakfast or none at all. I thrive on variety but life sometimes demands consistency.

What is one of your favorite quotes?
“The life of a designer is a life of fight: fight against the ugliness.” – Massimo Vignelli

If you could meet anyone, living or dead, who would you meet?
Salvador Dalí. I’d love to see him in his studio in Spain, painting like a mad man. I’d love to see the genius at work and the passion behind his alternate worlds he created in paint.

What’s the best meal you’ve ever had?
Recently, I had the most delicious sushi and lobster at the Ritz in Grand Cayman Island. I remember sitting at the dinner table and thinking, “Next week, when I’m back on the grind, I am going to wish I was back here with my crème brûlée and Chardonnay.”

If you were reincarnated as an animal, what would it be?
A tropical bird, no doubt. I’d love to live where it’s warm and by the sea and spend time in the clouds.

Is a picture worth a thousand words? Elaborate.
To a visual person, yes. To someone not visually inclined? Maybe not. Maybe they only see a blue square? But to me, I’d see 4 equal sides, hues of aqua and green, impasto paint, shadowing, reflections of light…

The best part of waking up is?
Ahhh… a big smile and a hug from my sleepy, crazy bed-head son!

Composing Email Signatures (That Aren’t Annoying!)

Writing Email Signatures that aren't annoying

My clients often ask about custom email signatures. Here is a great, brief article that will help you build the perfect signature without annoying your recipients! Tips like how to include images in such a way that they aren’t email attachments, avoiding compositions that may read as spam & more…

It’s just the little bit of text at the bottom of your messages, but your email signature can make a big impact. However, creating an email signature that will look great in all the various email clients is rough. Some clients will resize images, some won’t. Some will force hard line breaks, some won’t. So how do you create an email signature that will look stellar to everyone who sees it?

Text is safest.
If you can avoid using images, do. Are they pretty? Yes. Do they work in all email clients? No. Your best chance for creating a universal formatting for your signature is to use text only. However, if that’s not an option…

Edit all images to be the exact size you want.
Keep them small to prevent old email clients from blowing your logo or other images way out of proportion. Another good tip for images is…

Use absolute URLs for images.
For universal support, be sure to always use the http://, and don’t use shortened urls. This could set off the spam filters!

Don’t go overboard.
Chances are if you’re already communicating with this person, they already have information for reaching you, so why bulk up your email signature with three phone numbers, five social media links, an inspiring quote, and your entire CV? Keep your signature to a minimum. A single phone number, one email address, and one to two social media contacts should be more than enough.

Consider all caps, bolding, an italics to help set separate your information
If you want your name to really stand out, bold it and make it uppercase. This will help create visual variety in your signature while staying compatible.

Use spacers to separate content while using fewer lines.
An upright pipe (|) or a bullet (•) work nicely. You can set the spacers to be a lighter grey color so they’re not as prominent, but still effectively separate your content.

Use inline styling.
It’s definitely counter-intuitive to web designers, but if you’re going to use CSS in your email signature, make sure it is ALL inline to ensure compatibility.

Don’t set any text to white.
It will set off the spam filters!

Use a nosend=”1″ attribute for images
This will keep your images from showing up as attachments in an email. Just add it to the image tag like so: <img src=”http://lunaweb.com/logo” nosend=”1″ alt=”lunaweb logo” border=”0″ width=”21″ height=”17″ />. This will only work if you are composing your emails in HTML, though.

Hopefully this will help you create awesome email signatures! Just remember simple is good when it comes to email, so don’t over-think it.

Check out the original article at Lunaweb. It was so good, no need to rewrite! These tips are great and worth applying to your own email signature.

How to Effectively Handle Emails

Sometimes I think the sound of emails coming in is literally what will drive me to total insanity. I get this feeling of urgency, and as if I don’t send a response within the hour, I may hurt my business in some way. But research shows that just isn’t true.

How to Effectively Handle Emails

Here are some pointers for how to successfully  handle emails:

Is a response needed? Before you reply, think: is your response only to say you’ve received the email or “thanks”? Some emails don’t require replies; unnecessary emails encourage more inbox clutter.

“Emails are like rabbits, they reproduce at an exorbitant rate. The more you send, the more you get.” -Simon Sinek {Author of “Start With Why”}

Yup. Agreed 100%.

Put answering emails on your to-do list. Set aside 45 minutes or so to respond to emails. Take a short break. Then move along to other tasks. I answer emails first thing in the morning. It seems each night, my inbox collects letters from around the world and other time zones, so I knock those out first. I then schedule time intermittently throughout the day.

Prioritize replies. Respond to the most pressing first. I often feel I need to respond in the order in which they are received, but I’d say that’s more applicable when calling a help line!

Save articles + videos for later. When you are in your inbox, you should only be doing one thing: answering emails. I know that video of the baby laughing looks funny! But save these bad boys for when you have free time to spare.

24-hour turnaround is optimal. Replying within 24 hours is perfectly responsive enough. Don’t feel you have to respond within moments of receipt. It is true- sometimes issues WILL be resolved without you. Also, give others the same courtesy. I can’t say enough how rude it is to email and then within 24-48 hours, email again to make sure it was received. Don’t be that person.

Use standard responses. Sometimes a standard response is a good thing. You may have a few copy-and-paste type responses, or use something called a text expander. In anyway you choose to do it, if you feel you are writing the same thing one too many times, create a template.

Unsubscribe, Unsubscribe, Unsubscribe! Each and every time I receive a bulk email I care little about, I hit “unsubscribe”. Thankfully, almost all bulk emails include this helpful little link at the end. It only takes a few seconds, and will dramatically reduce your inbox clutter over time. Instead of signing up for email newsletters, I choose to follow on Twitter or like on Facebook to keep up with businesses I’m interested in.

When possible, close down your email and focus elsewhere! Truthfully, closing your email can help reduce the urgency feel to read and respond to others that come in after then.

Original and awesome information source that spurred my article: 99u.com. A truly great read.

Image Editing

Clients often ask me, “Can I make edits to my own graphic files?” Here is a dodgy kind of answer… it depends wholly on your knowledge and skill with image editing programs. However, I have a few suggestions for ways in which you can give your own editing a try!You may, for example, run into an instance where you need a specific size file (ex: 400 pixels wide x 200 pixels). In this case, you will need some form of editing software (or a graphic designer) to resize a file.

If you want to try you own image editing, I recommend several different options:

Pixlr

Pixlr

1. The absolute easiest (and free) route is the online photo editor PIXLR. You can resize and specify pixel size.

Photoshop Elements
2. Adobe Photoshop Elements is around $150. This will allow you do to very minor editing. You can edit use PSE on your iPad or tablet which is pretty incredible.

GIMP, Free image editing software

Gimp (GNU Image Manipulation Program)

3. There is also a free image editing software made to mimic Photoshop called GIMP. I find GIMP a little difficult to navigate because of the complex editing tools provided but I’ve known several clients that quite like GIMP.

Adobe Creative Suite
4. If you want to use the software Graphic Designers use, the Adobe Creative Suite is the appropriate software bundle. Adobe Illustrator will specifically edit EPS and AI files (which is how most logos are created).

With all of these products there is of course a learning curve as there is when tackling any new software before becoming proficient, but if you are up for the challenge, have fun!

RGB vs. CMYK

This is a question I answer on the regular. What is the difference between RGB and CMYK? And what the heck does it mean? RGB (red, green, blue) color is meant for the web; these colors are written using light on screen. Colors often appear very vibrant, saturated and bright in RGB. CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow and black) is built color on paper using 4 colors of ink. Color in CMYK tends to be a bit lighter and less vivid, despite what we might see on the monitor.

RGB and CMYK diagram

If you change an RGB file to CMYK, the colors will shift.

RGB vs CMYK image

Notice the immediate color difference?

To make absolutely sure something prints a specific color, the use of a Pantone-specific color with a professional printer is required.

Pantone Guide 

Pantone Swatch Guide

You have to specify a Pantone color which only certain professional printers can do. Pantone colors are how corporations and big businesses ensure they have the same color throughout (like Facebook Blue, for example.)

The Easiest Way Around This
If you are doing your own printing or having something printed locally, the very best bet is trial and error. If a file prints a little lighter and/or muted, then you edit it on screen to be a bit darker so that it prints a bit darker. You go back and forth until the file prints with colors you like. In the image editing software of your choice, try adjusting the saturation to be a bit higher. Sometimes bumping up the contract  will also yield a brighter printed image.

Are you using a Mac? Colors on a mac screen are WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get). So, you know your monitor is always calibrated correctly and colors appear as they should. If you are using a PC, calibrating your monitor may help.

Keep in mind that the brightness and contrast setting on your monitor will also have an effect on the appearance of color- both Mac and PC.

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