After final meetings, training, and phone calls, we are so excited to share that the Académie Lafayette website is live!

Lead designer, Megan Pace, led the initiative to re-map the entire site to create an interface that’s more intuitive and user-friendly. The new design more strongly showcases this amazing school to prospective parents, and it is easy to navigate for current AL families. Our introduction page helps users transition to the new website seamlessly.

Posted on: June 9th, 2017 by Laura Uber

 

In summer of 2013, Adobe announced a major shift in its software offerings: the end of relentless versioning of the Creative Suite (CS) to make way for its crown jewel, Creative Cloud (CC).

Four years later, some have continued to hold onto the last release of CS6, while others have charged ahead with the “latest and greatest” CC. As for us, we joined the movement kicking and screaming in fall of 2014. We’ve come to question if CC is really the best option, or if it’s the only option.

We made a pro-con list to illustrate our thoughts about Adobe’s Creative Cloud:

Pro #1: Access to ALL apps.

With Creative Suite, you only had access to the specific applications you purchased. With Creative Cloud, you can access your primary apps and dabble in others you wouldn’t have necessarily bought individually under the Creative Suite model. Creative Cloud has 28 desktop apps!

Con #1: Cost.

CC is not a one-time fee like CS. It’s a subscription you pay for time and time again, whether you set it up as a monthly withdrawal or an annual payment. Based on our past purchase/upgrade cycle, CC has been more expensive, which has been the biggest hurdle to overcome. After the first-year discount, CC costs tripled for our small business. Even with more available apps, we still only rely on the Big 5: InDesign, Illustrator, Photoshop, Bridge, and Acrobat Pro. We are subject to comply with any cost increase, whether we like it or not, if we want to keep using our creative tools.

Pro #2: Despite its name, work offline.

You might think that Creative Cloud requires you to be connected to the internet to access any programs. That’s not the case. You do need an internet connection to download and update applications, but once you’ve done this, you can use your apps offline. An important piece of info regarding the cloud portion: a membership provides 20 GB of free cloud storage.

Con #2: At the mercy of Adobe.

This con is among our greatest concerns with Adobe CC. As a business, it’s imperative that we are always up-to-date with our subscriptions. Last fall (2016), we lost access to all CC applications on one of our “Creative Cloud for teams” accounts, while other users functioned normally. Instead of operating “business as usual,” the user and tech assistant spent the workday morning and afternoon contacting Adobe Support to resolve Adobe’s error. In the end, we lost billable hours and received a measly $25 credit from Adobe.

Pro #3: Get the latest updates.

A huge perk is receiving regular updates to any and all applications. With CC 2017, the latest version available, we’ve noticed a cleaner workspace and even faster loading and rendering times. After the launch of a new version, you can choose to install any updates as they arrive straight to your computer. These regular updates keep us relevant and educated on innovative discoveries in our industry.

Con #3: Mismatching versions.

With routine updates comes a constant need to watch for changes in interface and functionality. Clients and other team members can fall out of sync when they work on different versions within CC, meaning we may not be able to access documents as efficiently.

Our verdict

Whether you’re for or against “the Cloud,” you shouldn’t expect Adobe to take any steps away from its subscription-based services. Adobe’s market is in good health, so we know CC is benefiting the billion-dollar company.

For the record, we love Adobe products. We’ve been using their services since 1994. Their applications are innovative, robust and user-friendly. Would we recommend it? Yes, with a series of caveats, some listed above.

Monopolizing the market, Adobe surpasses all of its competitors. As users, we need to keep an eye on Adobe’s changes and be ready to question its functions and its rising rates.

Our solution

So how can businesses get more value from Creative Cloud despite the price increase?

1. Stay up-to-date. We aim to keep our Adobe products updated so we can work most efficiently for clients.

2. Use cloud storage. Collaborate and share high-quality, original files with clients and colleagues, even those who don’t have Creative Cloud.

3. Use more CC tools. We’re making an effort to expand our knowledge of CC offerings. What other apps can we utilize to increase our productivity? Take a look at what we learned about InCopy® and how to incorporate it into our workflow.

Tell us about your experience and participate in our poll below. What Creative Cloud applications do you regularly use?

Posted on: June 8th, 2017 by Laura Uber

 

A workflow where editors share revisions for designers to implement can add more time to a project than necessary.

Don’t get stuck in the back and forth of your editing and publication process.

For more than two decades, Adobe’s InCopy has streamlined writing and editing. The robust application allows copywriters and editors to efficiently collaborate with designers. While editors proofread copy, designers can simultaneously focus on InDesign layout, creating a more seamless operation.

Editing and updating with InCopy can increase accuracy and productivity.

Before you learn the specific operations of InCopy, here are 7 ways this tool can better your workflow:

1. It prevents edit overrides or duplicate efforts.

Editors can claim assignments and make changes to an article without worry of another user overriding any revisions. All users can see when a story is open and who’s working on it. Assignments claimed by you, or another editor, are not directly editable in the designer’s layout, which reduces any potential for accidental typos within your publication.

2. It works remotely.

The InCopy/InDesign workflow operates best on a shared server, where latest versions are saved in the same location. While this setup is ideal, a remote workflow is also an option. Share and receive files among your writers, editors and designers — even if you’re working at different locations — through a cloud drive or email.

3. It offers MORE editing capabilities than Microsoft Word.

You can format text, track changes and even crop images. Rather than sharing a revised Word document (or a scribbled paper of edits), you can make changes in InCopy that are then implemented into InDesign. With shared character and paragraph styles between the two applications, you can edit without altering any text already formatted by the designer.

4. It reduces the overall time spent on a project.

The ability to edit directly eliminates potential miscommunications in notes between editor and designer.

Designers can see when content has been modified and refresh the layout without ever inserting the new text themselves.

5. It shows how copy fits in layout.

Rewriting a sentence? Ensure your revised copy fits into the already-designed document. See how copy falls — where line breaks occur, where widows and orphans form, where text overflows — and make decisions to fix any issues.

6. It saves users from extra typing.

The text macro feature is a real time-saver. Instead of constantly typing — or more realistically, copying and pasting — boilerplates or standard copyright info, create keyboard shortcuts and let InCopy fill in the lengthy jargon.

7. It allows editors to create PDFs of the designed document.

Share PDFs around the office during your review process. Quickly export PDFs from InCopy without accessing the designer files. This isn’t necessarily a recommendation for final art but a solution for a tiny tweak before sharing with a colleague, for example. Where the original process involves contacting the designer and waiting on an updated file, you can independently edit and export.

Think InCopy can help your team work more efficiently? Without buying the entire creative suite, purchase InCopy through the Single App form for $4.99/month, reduced from $19.99/month last year.

Posted on: June 6th, 2017 by Laura Uber

 

It’s no news flash that sitting at your desk all day poses negative health risks. But “all day” reveals the key here. Standing all day isn’t the solution either. The real killer is remaining sedentary during a full day’s work.

That’s why TCD has invested in adjustable standing desks for designers Megan and Laura.

Their standing desks allow them to alternate between sitting and standing throughout the workday, increasing activity and productivity. The switch in position allows the body to move, benefiting physical and mental health.

A quick Google search will present hundreds of studies revealing that workers who practice this discipline of sitting and standing not only stay well but stay engaged and more alert also. Sitting, especially with poor posture, can leave employees cramped and fatigued at the end of the day.

Our designers use the VARIDESK Pro Plus 48. This standing desk holds two monitors on its top tier and a keyboard on its bottom tier. The raised monitors encourage better posture by keeping the head and neck up rather than hunched over.

“I absolutely love my standing desk,” Laura said. “It’s easy to raise. Plus, it’s very spacious, so it helps me stay organized too. It’s nice to be able to stand up and stretch my legs and then to be able to sit down when I start to wear from standing.”

With 11 adjustments, it’s easy to set the desk to your desired height. This is best determined when your arms are perpendicular to your body, with your forearms resting flat on the bottom tier.

“When friends and family swing by the office, the standing desk is usually the first thing that catches their eye, which typically leads to a quick demonstration,” Megan said. “It’s so easy to pop up from sitting to standing, even with two ginormous monitors and the keyboard tray.”

If you don’t have a standing desk, you can still practice good posture when sitting. Engage your abdominal muscles, and practice leg lifts and stretches under your desk. Another solution is to sit on an exercise ball (or some other chair that’s just unstable enough to keep you moving and supporting your weight). Take a break every 20–30 minutes to stand up — even if it’s just for a moment. It’s also a good idea to walk every so often. In our office, we encourage water consumption, so that can provide good reason to get up for a drink.

Take steps to be more active in your workplace. Find out if the VARIDESK Pro Plus 48 fits your workplace needs.

Posted on: May 26th, 2017 by Laura Uber

 

It’s a partnership we’ve been cultivating for 10+ years. Since 1999, Académie Lafayette (AL) has educated grades K–8 with a twist: immersing children in the French language. Our founders, Ron and Angela Michka, began building a relationship with AL, the first public charter school in Missouri, when their kids started attending.

Now, we are in the midst of launching a new website with Académie Lafayette. It’s sleek, fresh and easy to navigate. In recent weeks, we’ve visited AL to make final tweaks, including any pertinent info updates and user experience fixes.

Photos | Johnathan Michka

Acting as the creative department to Académie Lafayette, we’ve enjoyed working side by side to ensure design is top-notch and content is useful and relevant for parents, whether current or prospective, and staff. We value our face-to-face meetings for the strongest communication and most strategic results.

Check back next week for updates on our AL website launch! In the meantime, enjoy some other great work we’ve done for them, including a brochure and branding.

Posted on: May 25th, 2017 by Laura Uber

 

Whether you love typography or you’re simply puzzled by designers’ obsessions with it, this post is for you. Check out our “infographic” here or by clicking the image below.

Posted on: May 15th, 2017 by Laura Uber

 

Mosby “Sinatra” Uber regularly graces The Creative Department with his presence. In an exclusive interview with the one-year-old Sheltie, TCD learned just how much this little guy loves his job.

Q: What are your major responsibilities in the office?
Herding the team into the conference room for meetings, licking the floor clean, motivating the team with pup talks, and encouraging them to move throughout the work day.

Q: What does a day in the life of an office pup look like?
I carpool to work with my mom. I’m always kind to greet everyone in the morning when they come in to work. I’m very familiar with the space now, but I typically investigate the office to make sure there aren’t any new smells that I don’t know about. Mom got me a dog bed, so I really fancy sleeping there during the day. (I need a lot of time to brainstorm. I’m kind of the idea machine around here.) I usually work one to two days a week, so a full workday can take a lot out of me. I will also spend hours chewing on my favorite Chewnola bones.

Q: What is your favorite part of your job?
When my co-workers take a break, they play with me! I have a lot of energy, so that’s a fun part of the day for me. When my mom takes a break, I get to play with my favorite toys and show off my tricks for treats. Everyone is very affirming — always telling me how adorable I am. I don’t know what I did to get so lucky!

Q: What about your job is most challenging?
I have a hard time knowing when to stop talking. I could talk and talk all day, but then my colleagues remind me “barking is disruptive.”

Q: How would you describe the office culture?
It’s very relaxing, and everyone is nice. We all work hard to produce great, personalized work for our clients. We’re open to ideas, and we encourage creativity. That makes me feel really comfortable suggesting new ideas, like “sharing your lunch with me will increase my productivity.”

Q: How do you benefit your colleagues?
My snuggles lower their blood pressure. I live a very active lifestyle, and I think I rub off on them in that way too. I really enjoy being around people, so I am a very loyal employee!

Q: What have you learned in your nine months with TCD?
I’ve learned that it’s not so smart to consume dust and plant leaves.

Q: What’s in store next for this office pup?
My owners are always teaching me new tricks. I’m very smart, though I’m kind of confused by the one where they keep spinning me on the ground and saying “roll over.” As for my career, I see myself giving the boss man a run for his money. I mean, how hard can it be to run my own business?

Visit TCD to meet Mosby and learn more about his role in our office!

Posted on: May 12th, 2017 by Laura Uber

 

No one is immune to the invigorating experience that is “creative block.” Unfortunately, this mind freeze comes without an instant cure. For that reason, we came up with 5 steps to get you past this obstacle and back to what you do best.

1. Take a break
Step away from your creative brainstorming and into a new space. Move out of your usual environment (your office, your desk) to a less-visited space (an adjacent room, the hallway). Forcing ideas in your ordinary spot can cause you more stress than useful results.

2. Exert some energy
If you’ve been stumped for hours, get up and move around for a few minutes. Stretch, stand, walk outside, or tackle the stairs. Get those endorphins flowing so you come back energized.

3. Get inspired
TCD subscribes to CA magazine (Communication Arts) and keeps copies of Workbook on hand. We recently discussed the importance of taking advantage of this library of resources we have in our office. Rather than searching key words on Google and Pinterest, these creative publications can spark relevant ideas even through a contrasting topic.

4. Accept failure
The fear of failure can be a big contributor to creative block. Be okay with failing. Create something outrageous to become okay with trying ideas out of your comfort zone. Scribble all those bad and crazy ideas on paper. Getting over this hurdle will bring you closer to a creative break.

5. Find a solution
While still accepting the possibility of creating something “awful,” find a solution. That idea could be completely mediocre, but it brings you to solve your problem in one possible way. This step gets you past the pressure to find a solution. Now that you’ve found one, you can push this idea further, be inspired beyond this solution, or come back to the drawing board with a clear mind.

In the midst of the doubt and stress that creative block brings, remember the amazing breakthroughs you’ve had in the past. Using these 5 tips, we hope you’ll be a few steps closer to your next big idea.

Posted on: May 11th, 2017 by Laura Uber

 

smg-corp-challenge

When research client SMG asked TCD Designer Megan Pace to create a t-shirt that communicated its brand and its business, she responded with a design showing a tongue-in-cheek survey question on the back. The design won First Place T-Shirt for all divisions in Kansas City's 2013 Corporate Challenge contest. SMG staff will wear the shirts proudly as they compete against other local companies in activities from bowling and darts to swimming, biking and volleyball. GOOD LUCK SMG!

Posted on: April 30th, 2013 by Creative Dept

 

Let open communication drive your partnership

By Angela Michka and Heather Bowen Ray

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Wonder how to get more out of your ad agency or marketing firm relationship? Try these tips to make your small agency partnership more productive.

1. Remember why you hired your agency.
You hired your agency for a reason, right? Agencies can bring valuable perspective and special skills. Your account team may not have as much experience in your industry as you, but they know how to market your product or service, no matter what business you’re in. If you respect the skills your partners bring, you’re more likely to see great results. For instance, a graphic designer knows things about visual hierarchy, paper stock and type fonts that you would never even want to know. But if you want work that, well, WORKS, give your agency partners the time and space to do their best for you.

2. Let your agency carry the vendor load.
Cutting your agency out of the tasks of sourcing and supervising vendors can seem like a good idea, but is almost always a bad one. Your agency’s relationships with printers, photographers and direct marketing firms probably predate their partnership with you. Not only should your agency be able to identify the right vendors for the right jobs, it should also be able to attain each vendor’s best work and best rates. For purposes of accountability and quality control, you want your agency to be on the hook with its vendors. The best way to ensure your agency takes full responsibility for the work it does is to give it control over the finished product – and everyone involved in creating it.

3. Share accountability.
Be clear about your expectations at the start of projects and along the way. To measure outcomes of marketing efforts, set clear goals and build in checkpoints at the beginning of the process. Your agency should help you develop ways to measure effectiveness of marketing efforts and develop up-front financial benchmarks to help drive decision-making. Agreeing on deadlines from the beginning ensures there is a mutual understanding of a project’s urgency. This impacts an agency’s commitment of resources and designation of priorities. Make accountability a shared mandate. Acknowledge that it is a two-way street.

4. Don’t stew.
If you’re not getting what you want and need from your agency, talk to the people who touch your account every day, and be open about your frustrations. If your agency’s responsiveness is an issue, formalize your expectations. If creative product isn’t up to snuff, have a creative strategy session to communicate what you feel is lacking. Chances are, there are solutions to any problem that will make everyone happier. In the spirit of true partnership, work together to achieve the goals you’ve established for your client/agency relationship, your brand, and your bottom line.

5. Have fun.
Meet quarterly to brainstorm, think big picture, and collaborate without the day-to-day distractions of the ongoing tactical work. Go off campus. Take turns planning these sessions to be productive, and foster an environment that encourages innovation and creativity. While everyone seeks the common goal of building a stronger brand or increasing profits, there’s no reason that interacting with your agency couldn’t be the best part of your workday.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHORS

Angela Michka has more than 20 years of experience in market research and campaigns for national and international brands. Currently Director of Client Services at The Creative Department, Inc. in Kansas City, Angela has provided marketing strategies for clients like SMG, Kansas City Cancer Center, and HNTB. Formerly a partner of On Your Mark, an innovative marketing and research firm focused on female consumer behavior, Angela worked with Adidas, Timex, and Rawlings. She earned her BS in Marketing from Emporia State University and began her advertising career at Barkley/Kansas City and Sherry Matthews Advocacy Advertising/Austin.

Heather Bowen Ray, owner of Murmur, has served in both client- and agency- side roles while working on marketing communications and branding projects. Heather earned an MS in Marketing at Johns Hopkins University and a BS in Journalism from the University of Kansas. She has instructed university communications courses and regularly contributes content for the International Social Marketing Association, which encourages use of commercial marketing techniques for social good.

Posted on: March 26th, 2013 by Creative Dept