All Posts in graphic design

August 3, 2022 - No Comments!

Reading The Waves

Learning from a master is faster

La Paz letters along the beach

Four thin textbooks arrived in a blue drawstring bag in December, our reading assignment prior to boarding a 42-foot catamaran. In late April, we were to set sail from the port just outside of La Paz, Mexico. Reading one book per month couldn’t be so bad, right? By the time we set foot on the Fountaine Pajot, however, we’d made our way through just one and a half.

Learning the sailing terms was like another language, but without the benefit of a good reference for decoding, like my French gives me clues to understanding Spanish or Italian. There was little other than colloquialisms—it took the wind out of my sails, learning the ropes, he was three sheets to the wind—as hints. I was clueless about clews, goosenecks, halyards, and shrouds. Slogging through the first book twice and quizzing myself until I could earn an honest B was the best I could hope for. It would be easier once I was on the boat, I assured myself.

The first step, after meeting our captain Troy Mills of Nautilus Sailing and additional newbie crew, was to learn about the boat’s features and functions—opening lockers, inventorying cushions, locating fire extinguishers, and counting personal flotation devices (PFDs). We learned about provisioning, the heads (and their touchy waste system), navigation devices, desalination tanks, and engines. The purpose of the first lesson was to know the boat, but also to accept that each of us would depend on the combined knowledge and actions of the captain and entire crew on this journey. Our craft was white, sleek, and stable, and would carry us out to sea without any communication from the outside world. Sheer bliss.

“Each of us would depend on the combined knowledge and actions of the captain and entire crew”

Sea Life

We slept aboard and floated off the dock the next morning with green buoys drifting by. Our six night live-aboard adventure to learn and earn our captain certifications was underway. Two young humpback whales—one flashing its tail, the other keeping a low, sleek profile—escorted us into the Sea of Cortez, “the world’s aquarium.” The waves were soft and sea turtles the size of manhole covers floated alongside us. A pod of partying dolphins met us as we rounded a small island, swimming fast along our twin-hulls and surfacing in graceful arches.

With nightfall came more lessons: How the right anchorage site could shelter us from shifting winds and surf so we could sleep without the risk of heavy rocking or swinging into another boat. Captain Troy could see things we couldn’t. Given his years of experience, he could quickly calculate how rough a sea we were likely to encounter by reading the waves’ amplitude and direction and feeling the wind on his face. He explained how to account for the tides with our timing on and off anchor. Why the boat was built with redundancies—from dual engines to anchor lights and alarms—to prevent a pan-pan or mayday call. How to troubleshoot using an if this, then perhaps this metric. How clear communication among the captain and crew supports good decision-making. 

We learned pragmatic rules to sail by and sayings with deeper purpose, including Captain Troy Mill’s salty favorite “A boat shrinks an inch per day,” a nice way of saying keep your stuff stowed or your shipmates will want to deposit you on one of the five uninhabited islands on our journey. Everything in its place can truly prove lifesaving should the weather turn abruptly—tools stored, sheets flaked, and phones far away from a wet sink. When sailing, thinking through everything that could possibly happen and taking preemptive action prior is key. After the first day, it became clear that this week of lessons was just the beginning and there was a lifetime of learning to become an accomplished sailor. As the sun set on our first night at sea, eagle rays leaped along the pink horizon and pelicans settled into our inlet as night patrol. Fair winds and following seas. —Helen

Continue reading: Permission to come aboard?

  • Photos by captain and crew of the journey, Helen, Karl, Troy, Rachel and David.

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June 10, 2022 - No Comments!

Is Your Website Rigged to Win?

Welcome “your people” with an easier opt-in.

I’m a skipper now. I earned four American Sailing Association (ASA) certifications on my recent vacation floating on a 42-foot catamaran across  the Sea of Cortez, puffer fish hovering in the shallows below. I learned the ropes (aka sheets), how to anchor, and rescue a human overboard, which was actually a personal flotation device that got a little rowdy. 

I love learning new things. That’s why I signed up for B-School, a program by Marie Forleo, to help me focus on the next chapter of my business. I took the six-week online course to gain clarity, purpose, and a plan. I ended up also gathering some very simple, implementable action items for myself and my clients. As a graphic designer who supports marketing directors and small business owners looking for branding, marketing strategy and content development, I expected to sharpen some skills, but the higher-value takeaways truly surprised me. 

The first thing I will be doing— and recommending to all my clients — is to make a very small website change that will make a big difference. How big? 4400% big.

Make joining your mailing list easy and obvious 
Apart from “Save X%” pop-ups on retail sites, most “join” calls-to-action are relegated to the footer and Contact Us page on a website. We use SEO to pull people to our site and then get all shy once they arrive! If we’re intent on growing a mailing list of qualified prospective clients, aka “our  people,” ensuring visitors sign up is paramount. After all, they’ve navigated to your website because they want to hear what you have to say, right? (Call me Captain Obvious. I am ASA certified.)

Opt-in to owning it
When you think about opt-in or permission marketing, it’s like owning vs renting. Owning your house pays you back over time, and you can paint the wall purple if you want. The same is true with marketing — you want to own your media and control your message and branding within its walls. “Capture” people who value and want to pay for what you offer. How? Just ask. That’s it.

Well, sort of. Some may be thrilled to hear from you, but if your inbox is as full as mine, you need a really good reason to join another list. So, give it to them. Offer an exchange — something of value for their email — and be clear about how often they’ll hear from you. This gives them a nibble of what you offer to experience it directly. Your opt-in offer can be a download, percentage off, free trial, sample, etc. Keep it simple and — most importantly — thank them when they join. 

“We use SEO to pull people to our site and then get all shy once they arrive!”

On-the-fly fishing
SEO, press releases, advertising, affiliate links, and social media are the focus of many. But social media is passive marketing — people have to work to find you. Most small companies relying on social media for growth will be swimming with the puffer fish. Why? You don’t own the medium. Meta owns many platforms, so they make the rules and change their algorithms often. This, and the growth of ads, make connecting with your followers ever tougher.

Coming aboard
According to B-School research, email marketing is the most qualified medium with the highest control and return. Email boasts a 4400% return on investment.1 A reader is 6x more likely to click through from an email to your content than from a tweet 2 and 5x more likely to read your email message than your post on Facebook.3 If you're selling a product, email has the highest conversion rate (66%), and people will place an order that’s 3x larger in response to an offer on email vs social media.4 

The Why is simple: They signed up to hear from you and you deliver. Consistent communication builds trust, relationships, and community. They get to know you. People do business with people. Make it easy for your people to be part of your circle.

“Email boasts a 4400% return on investment.”

Taking the helm
During our Mexican sailing adventure, each student had their day as skipper. On Wednesday, I was in charge of plotting a course, choosing a heading, and instructing the crew on trimming the sails to capture the wind. The teaching captain was there to guide me. In that spirit, I’m captaining my own ship starting with these four action items I’ll share with you:

  1. Create an opt-in offer that rewards those who trust me with their email. 
  2. Add an obvious “join” call-to-action on my website.
  3. Set up a thank you message that delivers the offer.
  4. Craft a 6-month plan to send out interesting content once per month. 

Yes, part of Step 4 is writing a blog about my sailing adventure. Join my email list and I’ll let you know when it’s ready. (See what I did there?)  Jibe ho!

If you would like EnZed to craft a plan for optimizing your email list opt-in, contact Helen today.

References: 1. Data & Marketing Association  2. Campaign Monitor  3. Radicati  4. McKinsey

February 27, 2020 - No Comments!

Better together: Meet Tracey Ranta

When I took the leap from employee to owner of my own firm 24 years ago, I had no idea what roads and twists EnZed had in store for me. Like Dorothy, I followed a promising path hoping to find a home in the design and marketing industry. Along the way, I’ve met many faithful companions (e.g. Carla, the good witch) and have enjoyed rich experiences and collaborations. One character who has been in and out of EnZed’s world for two decades is Tracey Ranta. Today, I’m happy to say that she’s here to stay.

I met Tracey through volunteering with AIGA—the professional association for design. I was communications director of AIGA Colorado and she was a recent graduate from DU. We sat around the table with her classmate, Jason Wedekind (owner of Genghis Kern and Furniture Creative Coworking, where we are officed), stamping and addressing the member newsletter. She started her design career working in several small agencies. When she went freelance, EnZed was one of her clients for many years. Her design aesthetic, sense of fun and delight, work ethic and dedication matched mine. My favorite memory from that time was during the final stages of a catalog. She was wrapping up production and writing files to CDs, while going into labor. “No, it’s ok, I can finish the job. It’s taking my mind off the contractions!” True to her word, she delivered the files... and a baby! Her beautiful daughter now has her driver’s permit. 

When Tracey returned to full-time work at an agency in the late 2000s, our collaborations turned to personal projects. We designed and crafted a wearable, red-ruffled  paper dress for the Paper Fashion Show in 2008, an event we’ve attended together for more than a decade. Then last year, the road took another turn when Tracey was ready for a leap of her own, leaving the agency for new ambitions. 

Tracey joined EnZed officially in February 2020 as Senior Designer and Art Director, putting her talents to work as creative lead on existing and new projects. A beautiful example: the owners of Elle.b Academy wanted a brand refresh and expansion for their stylist-training programs and to communicate their status as a leading academy for the application of hair extensions. Tracey created original brand elements to distinguish them in the industry and tell their story across course workbooks, Instagram and a new website. Tracey, Carla and I collaborated with Sean at Studio Nomad on the website design assets and content development.

The brand expansion moodboards show color, texture, pattern and photography styles
Brand elements applied to print and digital media—course workbooks and Instagram
Patterns and large photography distinguish the brand on ellebacademy.com

With a portfolio spanning 25 years of successful branding, print, digital and environmental design for real estate development, recreation, retail, restaurants and the arts, Tracey excels at creating special spaces, from a brand moodboard to a new-community greeting house to a website. The following projects illustrate her brand concept design, art direction and digital marketing expertise that are now enhancing EnZed’s print design and content development offerings

Tracey designed this "greeting house" interior environment while at Strada Advertising
Art directing and styling photo shoots is one of Tracey's passions
Credit: Duston Todd for Strada Advertising
Tracey designed the front-end of custom websites, like these lifestyle pages, while at Strada

I’m particularly excited to have Tracey join me on my next design journey—to bring our creative minds together to take us new places and create new spaces. It’s been fun to see how her work has evolved in the 2010s, and I’m so glad to see her sparkly shoes back on my path in 2020.

We look forward to collaborating with you on your next venture. Up, up and away!

April 17, 2018 - No Comments!

Giving back is always in style

This month, Barbara & Company is celebrating their 35th anniversary. EnZed has created advertising for the women’s clothing boutiques since 2005. Back then, we crafted their tagline “The best collection is yours” during a brand update to position the retailer. Currently, we design monthly advertising in the form of emails, print and digital ads and social media assets, and write blogs promoting new arrivals and a myriad of fundraising events for the local retailer. 

Their secret to longevity? Giving back. Owner Kathy King is a true champion of the community, using her stores to fundraise for nonprofits — from an annual food drive and fashion show fundraisers to specific causes like breast cancer research and aid for Boulder flood victims in 2013.

As a small company ourselves, we enjoy supporting small businesses as their design partner — collaborating to create consistent, affordable marketing that connects with their customers and drive sales. Read the latest blog Hemlines and Timelines and enjoy a look back at our designs for Barbara & Company over the years.

June 20, 2017 - 1 comment.

Tennis, Anyone?

With Colorado’s tennis league season in full swing and Wimbledon approaching on July 3, there’s no better time to celebrate our favorite sport here at EnZed Design.

We’re hard at work on a brand refresh for the 2017 Colorado State Open, our state’s most prestigious and well-attended tennis tournament. (We had the pleasure of rebranding the tournament entirely in 2016, which you can see here.) Adding animation to our repertoire, we’ve created a video teaser to bring the dynamic motion of tennis to the tournament’s vibrant brand. Watch the video below.

Mark your calendar for September 15–24, 2017 to catch the action and see our work on display. In the meantime, check out another tennis branding project, TennisAdvisor, whose logo represents the converging of coaching, the game, and the junior player.

May 11, 2017 - No Comments!

Birds of a Feather

Blackbird General Store logo

We were fortunate to meet Sharon Repass, a creative mind looking to realize her dream of owning a retail store. She’d just found the perfect spot for Blackbird General Store in Calabasas, California, when she found us. We created the logo, packaging, gift boxes, and signage for her fall launch. The project caught the eye of Sabine Lenz, Paper Queen and Founder of PaperSpecs.com. We were all aflutter when she chose to feature it in her Inspiration column. View the PaperSpecs video and check out the full project in our Branding portfolio.