YAY! It’s video 1 for the Rebrand

Hi, yes this is it. I’ve sent out my first Rebrand email to the group, and now here’s the first video as well. In it, I talk a bit about how hard it was to let go of my attachment to my workbook and put pics of it into a public space (it was stomach-clenching stuff! Haha probs should have thought more about that before promising such a thing…), and importantly, I talk about WHY I’m making this rebrand public.

 

 

The first email is about your Brand Personality, and how to figure it out. Like I say in the video, it’s not rocket science! But it IS one of the three basic pillars of your brand. You MUST understand who and what you are before we get to doing any of the juicy visuals.

If you’d like to jump in the email group and get all the specifics of my rebrand (including MORE sneek peaks into my workbooks!) AND chances to win coaching sessions or ebooks, join in here.

See you next time!

Julie xx

What’s up for tractorgirl in 2016?

tractorgirl in 2016

Hi! I’ve got a jam-packed 2016 in store, so I thought I’d share some of the highlights.

Most importantly at this stage, I’m having a MASSIVE rebrand in February! So, if you’ve ever wondered how the branding experts go about branding themselves – here’s your chance to find out. I’ll be blogging about it, but if you’re on the mailing list (click on my pic up there on the top right) you’ll be in the running to win coaching sessions with me, and my new e-book too (and guaranteed you’ll pick up some branding tips for yourself). Join me.

See you in a couple of weeks!

Julie x

Graphic Design Trends for 2016

Graphic Design Trends for 2016 – a guest post by Brian Jens.

This article is particularly useful if you’ve got some tech knowledge – it talks a bit about the stuff behind the screen and how that’s all going to happen in 2016; but even if you’re like me and a bit scant on this knowledge, it’s still got some fab pointers on what everything’s going to look like! Read on…

Graphic Design Trends 2016

graphic design trends for 2016

Web design trends come and go all the time. But unlike many other areas, web design has constantly changed under the pressure of ever-evolving technologies that constantly changes and moves forward. Therefore, new web design trends are often the result not of designers’ changes in taste, but of the emergence of new functionality in the industry.

No doubts about it, 2015 was quite interesting. The overall picture remains almost unchanged compared to 2014, except for a greater promotion of minimalism which is gained popularity in recent years. But no one can dispute the fact that the technology platforms underlying the production evolve. First of all, browsers of mobile devices: a growing “mobile” trend forces the majority of Internet users to move to mobile gadgets at least when browsing the web. These changes have resulted in the focus on the quality and usability of websites to make them adaptive for mobile.

All the above means that this year web design will be a playground open to experiments, innovations and creative approach. Up-to-date designers should use all their skills and abilities to create something new that contributes to the industry.

To be on the crest of a wave, you should be able to predict the upcoming trends. To help you a little, we decided to collect the strongest tendencies that will dominate in 2016 in our opinion. Let’s check them!

Material Design

graphic design trends for 2016That’s a sphere where there was a small revolution last year. Google has adapted all of its services under the developed “visual language” named as Google’s Material Design.

This trend reflected in the habits of many users: Material Design is now used on Android, as well as on the popular services like YouTube, Google+, and so on. Looking at the extent of its spread, we can say it has opened the new era of design.

CSS3 as the Basis in the Markup of a Page

graphic design trends for 2016

Support for CSS3 has been developed very actively in the past few years, and finally it reached the stage when new cool layout modules could be safely used without any fear of being displayed incorrectly. CSS3 Flexbox works well in the latest versions of popular browsers.

Flexbox offers a simplified solution as compared to the layout-paradigm, which was used on the Internet for a very long period of time. Flexbox increases speed of loading pages and reduces number of vulnerabilities; when using Flexbox, layout becomes a kind of creative work.

In 2016 the layout principles won’t be changed, but the process will be significantly simplified.

Bright Typography

graphic design trends for 2016The use of typography is an important marketing tool. With the help of typography and color, you can create a strong association with your brand in customers’ minds. Every designer knows that the choice is often constrained by the technical limitations and what the means for the safety of the brand’s identity. We expect this will change soon.

The last couple of years we’ve seen a general transformation in web typography: web fonts became much more affordable, giving some “freedom” to designers. Colours remained muted, but designers have become much bolder when choosing fonts, so the typography plays a lot bigger role now. Consequently, large text became a kind of web design trend. 2016 will be marked as a year of colour experiments n typography. Actually, they’re already begun!

Cinemagraphs’ Growing Popularity

graphic design trends for 2016

Looks like there’s nothing new…cinemagraphs can be seen in the past few years in a form similar to the present one. But 2015 had brought us a few events that somehow refreshed this field both among designers and consumers. The strongest influence was made by the “Live pictures” on the latest models of Apple smartphones. When the smartphone takes a picture, it captures a short period with the movement (on the same principle as it captures video), and when you look at this picture a few seconds after you start watching, it “comes to life”, playing captured movement. Cinemagraphs represent a similar visual effect.

Another change that has contributed to a renewed interest is improving the technology that underlies the effect. HTML5 Canvas makes possible to display effects in real-time without any restrictions.

Illustrations Prevail Over Photos

graphic design trends for 2016

The era of websites with huge super-quality photos has come to the end. This may seem contradictory to the previous trend, but in fact we’re talking about a different thing. “Live pictures” look like the homemade variety; and when we’re talking about photos that headline websites, we mean the professional pictures.

What 2016 may bring is illustrations and drawings made from photos. The advantage of an illustration is that it can be stylized during its creation, giving you something that distinguishes you from competitors and increases your brand’s awareness. Some illustrations may even become a part of your style, or lie at its core.

So the essence of the trend is that photos will be replaced by illustrations, which will connect with the audience in a more personal manner and become a part of an individual style.

Patterns Instead of Pages

Modern design teams have moved to a new operating principle: to develop UI [User Interface] -components as the base for pages of the website or service. In 2016 this principle will be used by the teams all over the world.

Animation

CSS, HTML5 and jQuery already allow you to create full-fledged animation effects, similar to Flash. Until now, not all designers have learned how to use animation in the interface; however, in 2016 there will be more successful examples of how to use these animation effects.

Blur Images

graphic design trends for 2016

Facebook uses a blur effect and scaling when loading image and web pages. Thus, the user can see the image before it’s fully downloaded. According to Facebook, this speeds up page load time by 30%.

Scrolljacking

Scrolljacking is a technique whereby the content changes as you scroll your mouse.

However, according to many designers, this method is not always convenient for users, since the content changes are not synchronized with the scrolling. Because of this, the use of this interface may be uncomfortable for some. But we still expect that in 2016 there will be more and more pages with lots of effects and animations, so it will be more difficult to interact with the interface.

Eaten Hamburger

graphic design trends for 2016

In 2016, designers will abandon the use of the “hamburger” icon with hidden menus in favour of visible elements. For example, YouTube has already moved from the “hamburger” to the horizontal menu with tabs.

Heavy pages

Despite all the efforts to accelerate the pages loading speed, it’s indefatigably growing. In 2010, the average size of one page was about 700 KB, while in 2015 it was approximately 2200 KB. It seems that no one thinks about the limitations of this growth – of course, if the loading speed is acceptable.

2016 does not promise us to be a year of great upheaval. So, stay alert and continue to monitor the development of the web design industry.

*

Brian Jens, a blogger and designer of DesignContest, is always on the crest of a wave. He tracks the latest marketing trends, as well as technical innovations and even crucial politics changes. Novelty is Jens’ primary passion.

Beautiful product photography for your online shop: styling & props
product photography dos and donts
Product Photography

When you buy things online, exactly what is it that compels you to press that “BUY” button? Especially when you can’t pick stuff up, turn it over in your hands, feel its weight, feel its texture? There are of course a number of reasons, but online, a big part of that ‘thing’ is the product’s IMAGES.

When you’re a maker, it should go without saying that your product image should be well lit with no harsh shadows; horizons and other alignment is straight, and there is ample space around the product so that the picture doesn’t look too cramped. There are tons of tutes out there on how to get all the technical stuff right; I’ve written about it over here, and I also particularly like this one from Jess over on Handmadeology, or this excellent one on the Etsy blog.

 

photography tips

easy peasy infinity ground

 

SO THIS IS IMPORTANT:
A good camera won’t instantly make you a brilliant photographer.

 

You’ve got to have a good understanding of what you’re doing and have a clear idea of the result you’re after in order to get consistent results from your camera. Conversely, even if you’re only working with your smartphone, you’re still capable of achieving some very good results.

 

THIS IS ALSO IMPORTANT:
Please don’t ever think that taking one snap and uploading it direct is a thing.

 

Before you get even close to uploading your pics to your shop, you need to figure out a few things about your image style.

Start by thinking about your business personality.

Consider what the lighting is like in those images. Is it strong and clear, soft and romantic, or somewhere in the middle? What’s the composition like – are they full and busy, or serene and uncluttered?

Most of the time, a lot of props and/or a complicated background are a bad idea. They confuse the image, and the viewer doesn’t know where to look. Also, if your style is modern and minimal, you’ll probably want to keep things simple on a plain background.

Always always always keep your business personality in mind as you go through the different aspects of product photography below.

Composition. The first thing to remember about your photograph is that it’s in a frame, and therefore it’s a composition (remember that word from high school art classes?). So, you need to think about how to purposefully compose your photo. As noted above, don’t make your item too large in the shot (it looks cramped and uncomfortable) or too small (it looks lost), and keep props to a minimum.

When you’re cropping, keep in mind your pictures don’t have to be the standard height to width ratio! You can crop them to square, or shorter or thinner – whatever suits your object. Cropping also allows you to easily get rid of extraneous detail at the edges (like the edge of the verandah, that lens cap you left on the bench…), as well as allowing you to rotate the image to straighten up slightly crooked horizons. (YES. Please make sure your horizons are straight!)

 

Props. The most important rule is always Less is More.

photography - whats for sale

Seriously, what’s for sale here?
(Hint: it’s the shirt. But you looked at everything else first, didn’t you?)

So what’s wrong? Let’s see…. Think about what draws your attention first – it’s the white teacup, because it contrasts with the busy florals. The pink bangle stands out for the same reason. And not only is the shirt is only partially shown,  but the background floral is just as busy as the pattern on the shirt, and therefore it just gets lost.

 

Now you’ve got that, we can move on 😉

Props can play a wonderfully supporting role in your image. You might need to hang your earrings from something, or you might want to spice up your simple block of handmade soap with some fresh herbs or a flower, or put your kids toys next to a floor rug.

Whatever you do and however you set up your shot, look through the camera lens critically and ask yourself, “Does this look too busy? Is it obvious what the thing for sale is?” If it’s too busy, keep on taking things out until you’ve got the absolute minimum props (…just like your mum told you about wearing jewellery when you were young, “Take one more thing off”).

The trick is to make everything in your photo look like you’ve thought about it.

When choosing props, always go back to how you described your brand personality to decide what mood you’d like to convey. If it’s bold and sassy, you might try adding a touch of black or red; if it’s super soft and feminine, you might try adding in some tiny flowers, and use pastel backgrounds.

 

Editing. In my experience, most images require editing of some description. I ALWAYS adjust contrast and brightness; the aim is to have bright, clear images where it’s easy to see colour and detail.

If low light is a problem for you, digital editing is great for adjusting brightness and contrast, and correcting colour. (However, nothing can fix a blurry photo, so use a tripod or stand for your camera if shake is a problem for you.)

You can also change the colour balance to get rid of colour casts (like when your pic looks too blue or orange), and use the rubber stamp tool to get rid of minor blemishes (such as that bit of fluff you didn’t notice when you were shooting!). I use Photoshop, but if you don’t have it, there are lots of free web-based photo-editing programs out there, such as PicMonkey or GIMP.

 

Adjusting lighting to suit your style. While I don’t encourage you to alter the colours of your images so that it misrepresents what you have for sale, you can still tweak things to suit your brand style.

For instance, if your style is warm and beachy, you might make your pictures a touch brighter than normal, and tweak the colour slightly to bring up the yellow and orange hues. If your style is mystical, you might want to make your photos slightly darker with higher contrast. Or, if your style is shabby chic and romantic, you might like to soften the contrast, and brighten the image.

Once you’ve figured out your image style, stick with it. As I said earlier, most importantly your images should be in focus, well lit, and not cramped. Tweaking your images should be just that – tweaking – and certainly nothing that’s going to misrepresent your product.

 

Mixing it up. OK, so now I’ve got you all clicking along happily, feeling comfortable and confident, it’s time to mix it up again by adding in a bit of variety.

NOTE: THIS IS NOT YOUR EVERYDAY-GARDEN-VARIETY VARIETY. 

This is purposeful variety that fits with your brand, and is designed to add the personal touch. Including real people in your photos can be a big help – for instance, if you sell beachwear, have a couple of shots of happy people wearing your creations at the beach. If you sell jewellery, have a couple of pieces displayed on the body. On your shop’s main page, a couple of people pics amongst 20 or so other product shots will not only demonstrate what these things look like on the body, but because people relate to people, will also add some friendliness/approachability to your shop.

Of course, not every product is suitable for this – you can’t wear graphic design, or furniture. You could however include images of people using your products… or not! Do some research and check out other shops in your niche and see how they style their pics. Which images do you like? Why? How can you extract elements of that and put your own spin on it?

*

Improving your photography takes a little bit of knowledge, some good hard thinking, and practice practice practice – you’ll ONLY get better with the doing!

Whatever you do, I’d love to see some befores and afters!! If you’ve been around a while and would like to show off your pic from a couple of years back, and your (vastly improved) one from more recently, drop me a link.  If you’d like have a think about some of the points above this afternoon, do some planning, and have a go at it tomorrow, let me know how it went.  If you’re still feeling stuck and you can’t think of any other ways you might make them better, drop me a comment below with a link to your shop/website.

Wishing you snap-happy goodness,
Julie x