Tag Archives: graphic designers

The Importance of Visual Content

Free facebook cover photos - inspiring importance of visual contentTop 5 ways to present your brand professionally

Yes the cover does sell the book and yes a picture says a 1000 words – boom. The importance of visual content on your website, social media graphics, print and brand marketing can’t be measured completely. I looked – I found stats on conversion rates but that is a whole other blog post. This blog offers tips on creating or discovering where you can find quality visual content for your custom brand marketing.

1. Build a Professional Website

So your cousin/niece/son just took a web design class at Lansing Community College? A professional does not one website design class make. Did they add any images that truly don’t represent your brand or aren’t in the brand style? Hand drawn illustrations can work with brands with a young audience but may look juvenile with a corporate communication.

The next questions is do you own it? Google images, graphics, photos or images taken from the internet hold copyrights and sometimes trademarks. Legal action can be taken if they are used without the owners permission.

One of our customers was forced to pay a stock photo company $1200 for use of two photos on their blog. An intern grabbed the photos from Google Images and uploaded them. The large stock photography company found that the small healthcare business in Lansing, Michigan had not purchased the images. The stock photo site insisted on payment from our client or they risked being taken to court. Removing the photos from the blog, claiming ignorance, blaming an intern is not a valid defense. Where did the photos on your website or your social media graphics at photos or graphics do you need to remove or replace?

2. Stock Photos and Graphics

Small businesses seldom have the budget to develop original photography or graphics for each project. What items are your working on? Are there images that can be found for purchase online? Stock image websites abound on the net, just look into the user agreement and understand the terms of use for photos or graphics you purchase and download. Options usually include low, medium and high quality resolution depending on your use (low is typically for website/blog use only, the others can be used in print; medium images can be used for many print design projects. Large stock images will reproduce in print larger and are often chosen when a quality cover photo, poster, trade show display or exhibit booth is needed.

Remember, you do not own stock photos and graphics, you only have permission to use them. The terms of use outline the marketing and advertising media they can be legally be used in.

Stock sites can find their images on your website – if you have not purchased them, they can legally charge you. (see #1 above)

Often times trained graphic designers can customize stock photos and graphics to a point where most people would never know they started as a stock image. This additional design work may add more time and cost to your project but the customized look achieved can be used time and time again. (This doesn’t eliminate the need to pay for use.) It does provide a custom image nobody else can lay claim to. Where can you find images for legal use online? (some stock photo and stock images websites are listed in the Resources section).

free social media graphics for sharing3. Web Graphics – The Importance of Visual Content

Use your brand visual elements to create graphics for your website, social media profile pictures, avatars, visual media for blog posts, etc. If a graphic design firm has created your logo, be sure to get digital files in a variety of formats. Creating original social media graphics and web graphics using your brand imagery can help boost your brand exposure and connect with you audience. How can you add more brand images to your website or social media posts?

inspiring quote for sharing on social media4. Design Social Media Graphics

Statistics show graphics or memes are shared and shown in the Facebook news feed algorithm more than text only page posts. People come to the web to be entertained — not to read. Whether graphics or videos have industry tips, trending topics, popular quotes, etc. people respond to them and share them. What web graphics can you share or create of interest to your audience?

5. Original Digital Graphic Files

When you purchase or hire a graphic designer to create a project, determine where you will be using it; online, print, tv, etc. All of these media require different formats. It’s best to let your graphic designer know the media channels your art will be used in ahead of time. Creating art for print and web is different. Save time and money by considering all uses ahead of time.

A custom web graphic created for your home page will require the graphic designer to rebuild it, and will cost additional fees if you decide you also want to use it for your corporate brochure or other print promotions.

We recognize the importance of visual content,  we love graphic design and our most fun is creating social media graphics usually with inspiring quotes. leadership quotes for business, holiday greeting social media graphics and more. We post new ones to our social media outposts -so be sure and  follow us to get the next trending design. You can also visit our downloads page for free social media graphics and share them to  your hearts content!

Inspiring Facebook Graphics and Images for Sharing on Social Media

As graphic designers we like to create and share inspiring Facebook graphics and original design images containing positive quotes in our posts for social media pages. From Pinterest, to Twitter and Facebook (we still haven’t jumped into Instagram with both feet yet – baby steps…) and even Linkedin company pages… posting inspiring Facebook graphics, web memes and digital designs allows us to share our beliefs and have a little fun with our graphic design skills at the same time. Since we are often seeking Facebook graphics, twitter photos and the most inspiring pins for our pinterest boards we decided to post a lot of them here in our blog for you to reference for your own social media sharing.

We hope you enjoy these inspiring images and motivational quotes all developed for sharing to your social media followers and fans. Please feel free to share them, pass them along, print them out and hang them on your wall – if one of them inspires you to take a positive action then all of our effort has been rewarded.

Everything is fine.

Everything is fine.

Contemporary inspirational quote for social media

You are your wisest guide.


whatever makes you feel bad, leave it whatever makes you smile, keep it


Good things are happening


“Don’t try to win over the haters; you are not a jackass whisperer.” ― Brené Brown


“Intention without discipline is useless.” ― Caroline Myss,


Know your worth.


Laugh as much as you breathe.


“Change the way you look at things and the things you look at change.” – Wayne W. Dyer


“What we know matters but who we are matters more.” ― Brené Brown


“Try to be a rainbow in someone’s cloud.” ― Maya Angelou


Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds you plant. ~ Robert Louis Stevenson


“Sell your cleverness and buy bewilderment.” ― Rumi

inspiring-facebook-graphics-inspiring quote for sharing on facebook

whatever makes you feel bad, leave it
whatever makes you smile, keep it

inspiring-facebook-graphics- inspirational Lao Tsu  quote design for social media post

“When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.” Lao Tzu

Retro inspirational quote for pinterest inspiring-facebook-graphics-

What if you fly?

Contemporary inspirational quote for social media inspiring-facebook-graphics-

You make the world more beautiful


You are your wisest guide.

Subscribe to the RSS feed and get regular updates as we continue to post more in the future. Or follow us on our social media pages for more inspiring Facebook graphics and social media images! We also offer Facebook cover photos and free ecards for sharing!

The 8 Agreements for Working With a Graphic Design Firm

computer with artistic sketches doodles. Design is... Steve Jobs quote.

There are a variety of reasons why a small business can benefit from working with a graphic design firm. Skilled graphic designers can help your company shine and organize information efficiently and in a graphically appealing manner. Once you have determined the project you are hiring the graphic design firm for the next step is to establish a clear understanding of who is responsible for each element of the project(s)

8 Agreements for Working with a Graphic Design Firm :

Explain Yourself – know what you are trying to communicate, to who (target audience), how (in print, billboards, or online, etc.). If you are not sure about the direction you need to take, you may want to schedule a marketing consultation or graphic design consultation before you begin working with a graphic design firm on a project that is defined ahead of time. Many graphic design firms offer consultations and provide marketing services to help you at this stage.

Be Prepared – Compile all text, copy, logos, photos, graphics, charts, etc. that will be included when the graphic design firm begins the project. If the graphic design firm is responsible for creating the graphics, locating photography, it is a good idea to share your ideas on style, color, size, etc.

Content – Will you be writing the copy for your project? Will a copy writer be providing copy? If you are working with a graphic design firm that also offers copywriting services request a bid for copywriting. Graphic design services do not automatically include copywriting, choosing headlines, compiling captions, etc.

Proofread – Graphic designers are paying attention to fonts, placement, scale, dimensions, color, graphics, photos and flow. Graphic designers are not editors or proofreaders. Sometimes while working through a project they may catch a typo or inconsistent use of text this is a bonus – this is an editing and proofreading task and is ultimately the client’s responsibility. Make sure you always get a proof and proofread it carefully before you go to print or post online… and then have someone else proofread it again.

Don’t Make Assumptions – You know your small business or organization best. It is important to share everything you want to include or depict. Don’t assume the graphic designer knows which are the featured services, products, mission and message you want to convey. A graphic design firm will learn about your company or organization but you know your organization best. Don’t assume it’s obvious what your company’s unique selling proposition (USP) is. Your current website and other marketing materials may not be explaining it as clearly you hope.

Share Ideas – Provide samples of designs you like. The examples can be from companies in your industry or just eye-catching designs with compelling messages that speak to you. This sharing helps designers follow your desired trajectory right away. A professional graphic designer will not copy these ideas, they will use them as inspiration, a jump off point, to build original work for your company.

When you are working with a design firm and leave it entirely up to them without any examples of what you envision you may have a rocky road ahead. If you are someone who is open to innovation and new ideas and you envision working with a graphic design firm as a refreshing exchange of creativity, give them full reign! It could be a great experience for both parties. If ideas go off track however, you will be paying for the revisions to get them back on track.

Don’t take things personally – a professional graphic designer will present new ideas you may not have considered yet. Be open to hear about the concept. Remember you hired the professionals for their expertise. If you really don’t like the new ideas a professional graphic design firm will not force them. Hopefully a compromise can be offered that merges both ideas and a winning design will result. Remember you are working with a design firm who wants to keep you as a customer, they want you to succeed and sometimes that means attempting to break you out of your comfort zone.

Always Do Your Best – Plan ahead for your graphic design and marketing projects. Whether you are looking for a brochure design, annual report design, logo design or website design, etc. allot enough time for all the project stages and mostly for design time. A full campaign will require more time than a corporate brochure. Creativity can not be turned on and off like a computer. A minimum of two weeks is requested. Although most design firms will do their best to fit in rush jobs, keep in mind you may not be getting their best work when creative time is cut short. Also remember to include the time it will take for the next steps of your projects, committee previews,board approval, printing, distribution, coding, etc.

Connection Group is a marketing and graphic design firm located in the Lansing, Michigan area. We work face to face on graphic design projects for small businesses and organizations in Grand Ledge, Grand Rapids, Ann Arbor, Detroit, Kalamazoo, Mason, DeWitt and Charlotte, Michigan. When working with companies throughout Michigan we like the initial meeting to be at your location to get a feel for your business environment.  Connection Group also provides marketing and graphic design services to companies throughout the United States. Consultations via Skype, phone and email offer opportunities to collaborate, share proofs and meet comfortably without additional travel expenses.

If you feel confident working with a graphic design firm is your next step, connect with us today.

 Stay connected!

How to Hire a Graphic Designer 101

how to hire a graphic designer photo of tablet with foo foo coffee and graphic doodles.Maybe on the onset your secretary’s business card designs helped get the word out about your company. Now that you are past the launch stage you are curious about how to hire a graphic designer – a professional graphic designer who can present the company at a higher level. Whether your small business needs an updated logo design, sales sheets, brochures, or digital artwork created for websites and social media, knowing how to hire a graphic designer will save you time and money.

How To Hire a Graphic Designer Checklist

First, ask around, ask for referrals from trusted colleagues. Next, refer to this checklist. Clear communication up front will make for an enjoyable exchange of creativity and successful graphic design solutions for your company.

  1. Does the graphic designer have samples to review? Graphic artists (aka graphic designers) love to show off their talent. Ask them for samples of similar work to your project or view their website.
  2. Can they provide references or testimonialsEstablished firms and freelance graphic designers will have client testimonials for your review.
  3. What services does the graphic designer provide? There are specialty graphic design services such as website design, animation, and companies who offer logo design only. Make sure the graphic design firm you choose offers the services you need.
  4. Do you need to hire other professionals? Graphic designers are responsible for design. Typically they are not editors, copywriters or even photography retouchers. These are all elements that may be needed as part of your project but are not necessarily the role of all graphic designers or from every graphic design firm. Clarify upfront what you think you need and determine who  is responsible for each role.
  5. What are the steps in their creative process? How many concepts will be presented at the initial design stage? How many proofs will be provided as part of the estimate? How many and what types of changes are included in the estimate? Are proofs provided electronically or through hard copies or in person?
  6. How much time is allotted for the graphic design consultation? To build a new corporate brand image for your small business or provide elements in support of an established company brand such as a brochure or catalog it is important for the graphic designer to consult with someone in the company prior to beginning the project. How much consultation time is included in the estimate? This will usually depend on the scope of the project. Less time is allocated for a brochure and more will be needed for a complete campaign. Is additional consultation time available for a fee if needed via phone, in person or emails?
  7. What if you don’t like the design? If you have done your diligence, viewed the graphic designers work and determined their design style fits your style you’ll probably get a winning design right off the bat. If the design is not what you are looking for first ask yourself why, what’s working, what’s missing, etc. Provide the designer with this feedback. Try not to be vague – have concrete feedback to avoid wasted time and additional design fees.
  8. How much do graphic designers charge? Graphic designers charge hourly and by the project. With established clients graphic designers may also work on retainer or hold an annual contract. Fees vary from agency to freelancer. Keep in mind just because you are hiring a freelancer doesn’t mean you are paying less than a firm may charge.
  9. What is availability and turn around time? Turn around time for design projects is often based on first come first serve but exceptions can be made with rush projects. Additional rush fees may be added and you may not get lead designers on your rush graphic design project. The more time you have to create your project the better to allow for the full creative process. Keep in mind that freelancers may work full time jobs and have a limited amount of time to work on your projects. It is also important for you or your staff to be available to respond timely to proofs and keep the project moving forward without delay.
  10. How many edits/changes are included in estimate? This is an important variable when pricing your project. Proofs and changes take time and additional fees can add up quickly. Find out how many are included, what types are included and what the charge is if additional changes are needed beyond the original set amount. To reduce changes and proofs, make sure all of the copy is proofread and have received final approval before sending it to the graphic design stage.
  11. What are payment terms?  Standard industry practice is 50% of the estimated cost at the start of the project and rest upon completion. If a project is larger in scope such as an annual campaign or new branding campaign a three part payment term may be utilized or monthly fees can be determined. If printing or website hosting is required the design is usually expected to be paid in full prior to release. Cost of printing may be required to be paid up front or may have 30 day terms.
  12. What files will you receive at the end of the project? Standard graphic design industry practice is to provide final approved files in high quality print pdf for all printed pieces and jpg, png files for digital projects. Original concepts, working files, software, fonts or limited use stock photography are not released but may be negotiated outside of the original contract dependent on copyright and availability. Often if a file is needed for use in another media graphic designers and design firms will release them if applicable.
  13. Who owns the graphic design copyright? Original logo designs, publications and website designs are applicable to submit for copyright. Some graphic design and advertising firms retain full ownership where others like Connection Group maintains that once you’ve paid in full for the work, you should own it. As mentioned above software, fonts, limited use stock photos, etc. may be subject to copyright by the original creators.
  14. Is printing, writing, editing provided? This is an important question to ask in the beginning. Most design firms can offer printing also but typically do not include it in their design fees. Some firms hand you the electronic files and then have you contract the printing. Same with copy writing and editing as mentioned previously. Make sure everyone knows who is responsible for what stage.
  15. Can the files be used in other formats after the initial order? Often when a clever design solution is created a small business may decide to use it in multiple promotions or create a full ad campaign around it. If files are originally created for the web or online use a complete recreation may be order to meet print resolution requirements. SInce the creative has already been established at this point you are paying for production, not design time so you will still see a savings.  In opposite circumstances, when going from a print design to web, designs may only need to be adjusted to fit online dimensions.
  16. How are additions to the project handled? If part way through the project the customer adds new items, for instance you add a letterhead and brochure to a business design project,  you will want to get additional bids for these pieces and determine time line. Also, if you are foreseeing many edits because a design will be reviewed by a committee, etc. get an idea of expenses up front if possible. Please review caution about edits and changes.

Don’t play the field when it comes to hiring graphic designers.

Once you’ve learned how to hire a graphic designer, sit back and enjoy. A good designer, who really GETS YOU and your business is an important part of your success team. Build loyally, save money, reduce errors and present consistent branding images throughout all of your company marketing, promotions and advertising – in print and online. You’ll enjoy cost savings when you are able to keep your marketing and advertising campaigns with the same design firm. Plus, you’ll avoid costly surprises and know where to find all your files instead of spending time chasing them down each year.

As one of a handful of graphic design companies in Lansing, Michigan area we’ve served a variety of non-profit and for profit clients in the over 17 years in business. We continue to provide graphic design solutions for small businesses and organizations across the United States and Canada. As budgets get tighter, company staff must handle projects they are not trained to manage. We hope this ‘how to hire a graphic designer  checklist’ will be a helpful guide to key personnel who are not familiar with how to hire a graphic designer. Please connect with us today if you have any questions. We appreciate the opportunity to design online and print marketing solutions that connect with your customers.

Stay connected!

What is the difference between Marketing, Public Relations, Advertising and Sales?

advertising, communication, pr, newspaper with mouseMany people confuse these terms and this sure makes for a difficult job for marketing firms. Connection Group is a brand marketing firm, our focus is considerably different than let’s say a Marketing Research firm. Connection Group assists with marketing plans, promotions, design, advertising and general public relations with a focus on development and promotion of your brand in print and web communication.  There are PR firms that outsource design and communication items to us and in turn, there are public relations and research items that are better suited for firms who specialize in those modalities.

Because many of our local Lansing marketing firms and design agencies handle a variety of task and because there are so many different elements that can be broken into niche areas (Marketing Research, Brand Marketing, Promotions, Event Marketing, etc.) it is clear why there is so much confusion. Let’s take a look at each category and attempt to clarify the main goals of each.


Marketing is the umbrella term for the process of creating, communicating and delivering products or services to customers.  Target marketing is achieved through research studies that help determine buying habits or lifestyle practices of people and companies. Research ranges from such options as geo-targeting, surveys, focus groups, web analytics, phone tracking and many more in-depth and long-term studies. Contrary to popular belief by some specialist, marketing is not just about research and statistics. Research is one step in the marketing plan. Most people learn that marketing consists of four major considerations: product, price, place and promotion. To Connection Group, marketing is as much about the action taken upon review of data as the number crunching, and charts and graphs reviews. Brand Marketing, which we specialize in, starts with the background research, leads to the plan, and formulation of the promotional campaign. Depending on the size of the company, and the size of the marketing budget, the marketing plan will include an outline for Sales objectives, Advertising media, Communication materials, Public Relations projects and review suggestions.


Sales is a component of marketing but marketers are not sales staff. Sales is typically handled by a separate department that can include sales managers, sales representatives or account representatives depending on the company industry and size of the business. It is marketing’s job to provide tracking, statistics, materials and messages that support the company brand and give the sales force a sustainable strategic advantage to meet the customers needs. Do not expect your marketing department to plan sales strategy, create sales appointments or contact prospects or customers – hire a sales person for this.

Advertising and public relations are considered marketing promotions


Advertising can involve a number of activities to communicate to a target audience. Most advertising is paid media such as radio, television, email, newspaper, magazine, the internet, and other print publications, etc.  Advertising focuses on communicating a message to the market and typically carries a theme that communicates the company brand. The chosen media is determined by the marketing  research which has identified the most successful way of reaching the target audience within the financial budget set for advertising.

Public Relations

Public Relations support the marketing effort and is often a component of the marketing plan. PR is a method companies use to convey a positive image to their market and the community. Press releases, speaking at public forums, and community involvement are methods used by businesses to establish the company name and communicate the brand image. Public Relations is considerably less cost than advertising, however the efforts can take time and may not attract the attention by media that is desired. Addressing the public on issues of importance can also be risky with any controversial subject that can be misconstrued by competition, the media or the public view.

Considerations when outsourcing these services

Some marketing departments and marketing firms may offer all of these services in house, some may outsource a portion of the services and some may supply only the data or the marketing plan recommended for your company and you will be responsible for identifying who will implement each task. Don’t assume every marketing firm is going to provide Public Relations services or media placement, and don’t expect your marketers to be graphic designers or sales people. Identify what your goals are and communicate this when interviewing firms. Knowing what items you will be handling in house; social media updates, e-newsletters, press releases, etc will help determine the level of services you desire. Some firms handle everything, some marketing firms hand you a plan and blow you a kiss good bye. Connection Group can work on a per project basis and also provides monthly marketing maintenance for companies. Give us a call today for a complimentary consultation, in person or an online marketing consultation. We can let you know if what your company needs is a newly designed website with more content to enhance SEO, a full blown PR campaign, or just a good sales representative with clear communication materials to reach your target audience.


Stay connected!

Graphic Designer with Graphic Design Solutions- the ‘Wiz” of Everything

graphic design solutions - graphic designer at computer with pantone chartThis summer I renewed my subscription to Print magazine for the first time in quite a few years. Each year a higher percentage of Connection Graphic’s customer graphic design solutions are digital or web based. Our focus and research is keeping current with electronic solutions and techniques.  A Print Magazine direct mail piece convinced me I deserved to indulge my love of print design.

While luxuriating in the recent issue an article by Rick Poynor resonated with my thoughts on the evolution of graphic design. How has my role as a graphic designer evolved? Even though graphic designers have been creating since the 1930s, I remember a mere decade ago having to explain to people what I did as a graphic designer.

My work designations were visual communication director, publication specialist, marketing director, graphic artist, graphic designer. Under all guises, my tasks in each position were virtually the same – a rose by any other name.

Graphic design solutions  for the masses

Viewers are influenced by strategic and creative graphic design solutions in every media throughout the world. From website design, to packaging, print literature, billboards and video, graphic design is in the heart of all brand development and communications.

In this digital world a graphic designer can’t just excel in logo design. Designers must have a strong grasp of website design and digital graphic design solutions.

A graphic designer has always been a problem solver and visual magician. Artistic expression, interdisciplinary skills and reasoning come together to create graphic design solutions. We are called to be product developers, typesetters, coders, writers and more. The beauty is, we can, we will — we are. Successful graphic designers welcome every challenge. As a result, Graphic designers understand future generations will be even more discerning in their product and service choices. Customers will continue to challenge our ability to balance creative visuals with clear messages. We will continue to deliver graphic design solutions that hit the mark.

A rose by any other name…

Rick Poyner and others may argue that the evolution of the industry may require a new title and graphic design is now an outmoded term. As a seasoned graphic designer I am grateful for the new discerning and savvy clientele. Finally, I appreciate not having to explain what a graphic designer does. I will  answer to whatever name or tasks evolve.  In response, I will continue to deliver creative graphic design solutions that communicate clearly and effectively.

Do you have any magic marketing beans?

I would love to purchase some and plant them for some customers. When their businesses grow as the result of our magic bean planting I would occasionally submit a small report – maybe just a page or two with pretty graphs showing the astronomical growth Connection Group has nurtured in such a short amount of time.

What a great way to live! We would have infinite love and gratitude from hundreds of clients – because once those magic beans are planted for one customer the word will spread and we’d have a full crop of growing companies under our care. What company doesn’t want instant growth through their marketing efforts?

As graphic designers and brand marketers we combine our love of the visual with the experiential and psychological aspects of a brand. As much excitement as a new logo or website design can instill, the often time consuming press releases, consumer research,  blog submissions, and database development required to build a strong foundation for awareness of the brand is like watching a seed take root in the dark. This phase is boring to customers who are only interested in seeing increased sales results.

Sometimes, to our horror, while we are developing roots and studying patterns, some clients will ask us to dig up the seed, maybe try new soil, or plant an entirely new seed to see if it will grow faster. This of course only results in losing ground and burning more daylight. Some marketing companies actually shovel in more fertilizer which appears to increase the yield faster but it doesn’t reap the sweet fruit that buyers return to again and again and tell all their family and friends about.

So for those customers who haven’t allowed time to prepare the soil before seeding and  still expect a bountiful harvest in the first season, the most practical solution I can think of is finding these magic marketing beans. We could celebrate Thanksgiving everyday and bask in the cornucopia of satisfied customers. My bet is though that these magic marketing beans other marketing firms are pushing are loss leaders for them and their top sales product is really the bull fertilizer that’s packaged with them.

Stay connected,