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  • A blog by Gutenberg Communications

April’s Fools
by Jon Teel

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“Let’s suspend his stapler in Jello.”

“Let’s fill his office with balloons!”

“No, let’s fill donuts with mayonnaise.”

“What about toothpaste?”

A snapshot of the conversations that riddled the Los Gatos Gutenberg office on March 31st, the eve of all prank days.

“What about a blow horn beneath an office chair?”

Silence. This was the winning idea, and we all knew it.

The next morning it was just a matter of coming in early and finding an open seat. 7:55a rolls around and there were two unfilled seats in the office—new team member, Jordan Hubert, and Co-CEO Hugh Burnham. Without hesitation we strapped the horn to Jordan’s empty chair. It was time to officiate his initiation… with a bang!

Creative Director, Max Liberty-Point, unveiled the horn and a roll of black duct tape (two ingredients that guarantee a laugh!), and began engineering the rig. I sat in the chair several times to mimic the trigger, and Max carefully positioned the horn beneath the cushion. A few extra strips of tape to conceal the device and we were set. All we had to do now was wait.

Five minutes later Jordan strolls into the office, suspecting today would be like any other Tuesday. He places his bag next to the desk and squares himself against the chair. He pivots to sit… but stands to arrange his laptop. After a moment he bends to sit again… but then stands to straighten some papers. The office is silent, a little too silent for those in the know, but Jordan (apparently) didn’t notice. Finally, with a knee bend and a lean, Jordan drops into his chair and the horn’s high-pitched shriek fires! Watch Jordan’s reaction here.

We all got a good laugh, but we were too excited to let April Fool’s end there… especially when there was one seat still not filled. We quickly stripped the horn from Jordan’s chair and applied it to Hugh’s, this time looking over our shoulders to make sure he didn’t walk in the door. We set the trap and walked away, and we seemingly forgot about it. 10a rolls around and Hugh comes in, reminding us of a doctor appointment he had this morning. He walked around the office for a few minutes chatting with everyone individually, all of us now plugged into assignments and phone calls. By the time he stepped into his office, none of us remembered that the bomb has about to go off. The horn blared and the whole office jolted! The horn continued to shriek, holding its blast for nearly 10 seconds. The office quickly reverted to laughter at the sight of Hugh’s hands covering his ears with a perplexed look on his face… but still sitting stationary in the chair until the horn bled itself dry.

Happy April Fool’s from your friendly Gutes!

There’s Really No Place to Hide Online
by J. Bonasia

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Privacy, hacking, data breaches, and identity theft.

These are the hottest topics this week for some 25,000 industry consultants, sponsors, vendors, and buyers of computer security products gathered at Moscone Convention Center for the annual RSA Conference in San Francisco. Some members of the Gutenberg PR team are on-site there as well.

For the uninitiated, RSA is “Where the World Talks Security,” according to the event’s tagline. In fact, the world talks security just about everywhere these days. Few topics can get the Internet community as riled up as cybersecurity, and it’s no wonder people are so concerned about the problem of privacy.

There’s really no place to hide online, as evidenced by a recent spate of shocking news disclosures. The headlines include NSA tracking of phone calls and emails by U.S. citizens and allies, and hackers stealing credit card data from millions of shoppers at Target.com and other major retailers. In this uncertain climate, should Edward Snowden – the former government contractor and NSA whistleblower – be considered an American traitor, a courageous patriot who spoke truth to power, or something in-between?

Security experts say that as long as computer data exists, it will be exploited by new forms of computer fraud, prompting new strategies to prevent that fraud. This cat-and-mouse game of “firewall” has become an accepted truth, just as theft and robbery continue to exist as long as there’s money to be made. Everyday folk are often caught in the crossfire of this costly game, and that is exactly what security conferences like RSA are focused on preventing.

Ultimately, what’s so disturbing about computer fraud is that it gets at the nitty-gritty of who we are, what we do, and where we live. Some people have adopted Bitcoin accounts to protect their identities in financial transactions. But even Bitcoin brokerages are not immune from being hacked, as Mt. Gox – the world’s biggest Bitcoin exchange based in Tokyo – learned on Tuesday.

It’s bad enough having your virtual currency stolen, but it’s another thing to feel totally violated when someone spoofs your address and phone number and other personal info to rack up untold charges on your debit card before you or your bank even have a clue about the breach.

In other words, computer snooping has become personal, and that’s partly why German Chancellor Angela Merkel was so incensed by the NSA’s intrusions into her phone conversations. But this trend also speaks to a prevalent anxiety of our times—a faint sense of dread and paranoia that our every transaction is being recorded, our every interaction is being videotaped, and our every whereabouts is being logged by some GPS recording device.

Of course, new technologies continually emerge to offer built-in anonymity, such as photos that immediately disappear in Snapchat, or social media messages that mask your real identity in the Whisper app. Still, it’s hard not to feel like Big Brother is constantly monitoring everything day and night, and there’s nothing we can do about it.

In this age of full digital immersion and constant connectivity, we have no real choice but to forge on and live loudly in the open. At least we can embrace the protective services offered by the very cybersecurity companies attending this week’s RSA conference, because this is one problem that’s not going away anytime soon.

Weaponizing Earned Media for Maximum Impact
by Kasey Backherms

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Earned media – the product, trend and thought leadership placements we work very hard to deliver for our portfolio of clients – is an excellent validation of your product and company strategy. It’s also a valuable component to your content marketing strategy, one that can help deliver sales results, in addition to quality traffic and awareness.
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Five Tips for Daily PR Success…and Keeping Your Client Happy
by John Kreuzer

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Landing that “Big Fish” client is great, but what do you need to do to keep their business over the long haul? Simple: Keep them happy!

Keeping a client happy is our number one goal in PR. Not only will having a happy client potentially lead to more revenue for your firm, it also leads to a sense of accomplishment and a more positive atmosphere in the office. There’s nothing wrong with that, right?

So how do you go about keeping your client happy? Well, it’s not something that can be done by doing minimal work. Keeping a client happy takes hard work, dedication and the willingness to go above and beyond expectations every day.

There are a few simple things that we can all do on a daily basis to keep our clients happy. This includes:

  • Provide counsel that portrays confidence and brings added value
  • Set realistic goals and expectations
  • Deliver what you say you’re going to do on deadline

But from my experience, above all else, a client’s happiness comes from seeing their company portrayed positively in the media. You can write the greatest PR plan, create the perfect speaking abstract, or develop the most complete awards calendar…but this isn’t what matters in the grand scheme of things. Results matter, and results in the form of positive coverage (whether it’s in print, online, on TV or any other form of media) is job #1 for us as PR professionals.

Each and every day I come into the office I have a game plan. While things may change, the end goal is the same: POSITIVE COVERAGE! So how do you go about making this a reality?

Here are a few daily tips that I always keep in mind to ensure I’m providing my clients with the best opportunities for positive, feature coverage:

A Nose for News…

Not only should you start each day reviewing breaking and trending news stories, you should keep one eye on the news throughout the day. As PR professionals, we should always be looking for opportunities to inject our clients into the conversations that are taking place. New stories break all day long and if you can constantly identify breaking news that provides your clients with opportunities, you’ll continue to score PR wins.

Just the Facts Ma’am…

If you’re going to be successful in any job, you need to have a game plan. In PR, it’s no different. You need to know your facts, know your audience and support your client’s message. When the media asks questions, be prepared to accurately use examples, facts, statistics, quotes, analogies, personal experience and images to help illustrate and emphasize your key messages.

Content…Content…Content…

As PR professionals, it is our job to re-work, reuse, and repurpose our clients’ content in new ways to give it fresh life wherever we plan to use it. Today, content is king and you can’t hide behind the excuse that it’s a slow news day. Keep contributed articles, industry perspective and even infographics at your disposal and use them as a way to continuously share insights with the media. Don’t forget that you can also use it by reaching out directly to your targeted audience via your clients’ social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn etc…

Hit ‘Em Up…

With today’s 24/7 news cycle, PR professionals need to hit up their clients constantly with new ideas, trending stories and potential opportunities to comment on any story that impacts their viewpoint, business or product. By doing so, we can train our clients to realize that news flows minute by minute and there’s always an opportunity to obtain coverage, provide perspective, or add value to the conversation.

Let’s Do Lunch…

Is your client traveling? Are they somewhere where they could meet in-person for coffee or lunch with a journalist or two? This should be a “no-brainer”, but sometimes we overlook the simplest of things. Access and availability of your client can bring added interest from the media. Be sure that you are always synchronizing your proactive media outreach with your client’s travel schedule. By using availability as a reason for an in-person meeting, and securing interviews and potentially on-air television appearances, you’re building stronger relationships.

Did I miss anything? Do you have any other key tips that we should be using on a daily basis? Feel free to leave your thoughts and comments below.

PR Support for a Worthy Cause
by Andria Barrera

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Public relations is key to the success of many organizations. There are many situations when a company looks to reach a large audience. From a startup or product launch to rebranding, or a partnership or funding announcement, companies of all sizes benefit from using the mass media to share their story.

I wanted to take this opportunity to acknowledge some of our work with HERS Breast Cancer Foundation, a pro bono account that we are proud to support.

Since we started working with HERS Breast Cancer Foundation (HBCF) over a year ago, we have had the honor to promote both of the organization’s annual events – the People with Purpose Luncheon and KEEP Abreast Walk/Run, (registration now open for the 2013 event this Saturday, September 21, 2013).

HBCF supports all women healing from breast cancer by providing post-surgical products and services, regardless of financial status.

We have quickly learned that inspirational organizations like HBCF attract great people, support, and opportunities to bring awareness and generous donations to the foundation. Recently, two men set off to ride bikes from Alaska to South American on behalf of the organization. Gutenberg was able to secure coverage for HBCF and the cyclists in national publications, local newspapers and online publications, in addition to a news broadcast spot. The media coverage also grabbed the attention of the Golden State Warriors, in which one of the players asked to attend the KEEP Abreast Walk/Run with his mother who is a breast cancer survivor. The relationship between HBCF and the Warriors was another opportunity to garner greater visibility with local outlets and in result, drove even greater attention to the organization.

Just as Gutenberg has taken advantage of the opportunity to work with HBCF to increase their exposure, any nonprofit can benefit from the same type of P.R. campaign. The opportunity to increase awareness for a nonprofit organization isn’t just about being savvy, it’s about strategy, networking, building relationships and communication.

Nonprofit organizations do amazing work and deserve to have their story told, a dedicated PR team can deliver results that will allow them to fulfill their mission.

Did Google Just Kill PR? NO WAY
by Kylie Brusch

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Most of you have likely heard the news that Google updated their webmaster rules on links and keywords in press releases. Tom Foremski at ZDNet thinks this is going to create serious problems for PR agencies that add links and repeat words in press releases to drive traffic to clients’ sites.

Foremski states that PR agencies face three big problems:

  • Their current and former clients could become very upset with them because of perfectly acceptable prior PR practices designed to promote their business — instead of the viral, organic growth based on happy customers, which is what Google now wants to see.
  • PR agencies could be held liable for the damage they caused to the online reputation of client businesses through the execution of normal practices. It could lead to legal action and compensation claims on millions of dollars in lost sales.
  • PR agencies have to wake up to the fact that Google is now their competitor. How do they promote a client when Google punishes any form of paid online promotion? Good luck with that one.

I know I’m not alone here when I state that, I don’t find this threatening to the results that we produce for our clients. Although there is a stigma that in PR all we do is distribute press releases, there is a lot more to this practice and the people behind it. Public Relations firms large or small, employ a very talented group of people who enjoy writing and are good at it, some even employ ex-journalists themselves. Within PR, we make each clients’ messages relevant to the audience they are looking to address. We at times even step in as the client themselves taking over their social channels and getting out the message they want into the world – and most of the time we do this without including multiple links and repeat words in our content.

PR in itself is some of the best marketing that companies can get. PR agencies know the trade publications, we know the business press and we know who writes about what and what they’re likely to cover. This gives us an incredible upper hand when working with upper management and C-level executives that employ our services. Most of the time, they simply do not have the background knowledge to know whom to reach out to and what to discuss. This is not a hard sell on you have five minutes to tell me everything about your product. We schedule the interviews and garner the interest by being clairvoyant in what the topic will address. As VentureBeat noted prior, the best buzz generator for media is to simply be yourself and tell your story – everyone else’s story has already been told, no need to try to be the next (insert company name here).

When we work with our clients we look not only at how to get the recent announcement the most pick-up via press release distribution. No; we look at the inherent mechanisms of the entire PR program. We discuss goals, metrics, quarterly and yearly dos and don’ts and work to educate our clients on the key factors we’ll need from them in order to give them measurable results that meet their expectations.

So will Google’s new rule that can actually punish companies that include too many keywords in the same article or insert links throughout hurt our work? There is some potential in that. But likely PR professionals will continue driving engagement with the media and delivering compelling content whose quality will likely speak for itself, and its SEO results.

Carlos in Danger – How the Media Can Turn on You
by Danielle Giaccio

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As a born and raised New Yorker, I have been around for my fair share of NY political scandals. New York is the hub of the media world and the saying is true, “if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere”. As a PR professional, I think the saying should also be, “if you can survive the media here, you can survive it anywhere.”  The NY media is currently focusing on a scandal that has yet again rocked the NY political scene. Mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner aka Carlos Danger was ousted as being involved in another scandal and admitted it, again.

Prior to the scandal coming to light, Weiner actually had a lead in the polls and it was looking like New Yorkers were ready to forgive and forget. Even the media was being kind to the once embattled congressman who initially had to resign due to the first round of accusations.

Weiner came out strong and had a good PR team to paint him in this new reformed light. He made several TV commercials acknowledging his past mistakes while asking New Yorkers to take a second look and give him a chance. He seemed to be a changed man in the eyes of voters and the media and we began to listen to what he had to say about the issues facing New Yorkers. We started to forget about the past scandal and started to take him seriously as a candidate.

All of that changed when a young woman went to the media with yet another claim against Weiner.  She opened a can of worms on the candidate and inevitably ruined what his PR team worked so hard to prove to the media and the voters – that Weiner was a reformed candidate who was ready to put the past behind him. Little did his PR team know that his past would come back to haunt him and inevitably ruin the image that was initially portrayed to the media.

This brings to light an issue many publicists face in their daily work. What do you do when the image you worked so hard to build in the media and public is tarnished? How do you help the image recover? In this particular situation, can they recover?

In Weiner’s case, prospects for staging yet another recovery are dim.  Let’s face it: he had a second chance and blew it. There is nothing the media loves more than a comeback – except maybe an epic scandal.  Now he is left with a broken campaign and poor public image.

The unraveling of this campaign is not a reflection of poor PR tactics, just a poor candidate. The PR team successfully utilized the media to push the new reformed image of Weiner. But when the second scandal hit, there was little they could do to repair it. The media likes to report on trends, digging up old stories and giving them new meaning.

As PR professionals, it is important to remember that journalists do more than report specific events and transactions – they look for the bigger picture.  Coverage of Apple or Samsung, for example, is rarely only about the latest gadget , but rather what makes it new from previous versions, and relevant in the current environment.

Deal of the Week
by Liana Hawes

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Jeff Bezos’ purchase of The Washington Post last week was a media darling of a deal.  The waning  newspaper finally got a buyer and to everyone’s surprise  it’s Amazon.com’s  founder who paid $250M for the Pulitzer Prize winning  Daily, once valued at several billion dollars.  Bezos was there to catch the Post in what could have been a steep fall from grace if a buyer didn’t show. Bezos dealt with the Graham Family, the paper’s publishers and operating executives for four generations.

The year 1993 was the height of The Washington Post’s daily circulation which peaked at 843,332 daily subscribers (source: Alliance For Audited Media).  In March 2013, The Post’s daily circulation was 474,767 and was down 7 percent in the first half of 2013. In 2012, the paper had 640 employees. It once had 1,000.  The Washington Post Company reported that it lost $50M in revenue during the first part of the year, because of its newspaper operation.  Despite its legacy and prestige, the Washington Post is now a cash drain.

Large publicly traded companies don’t want their newspaper properties any more.  But small private investors do. Bezos, however, is not just any investor. If you look at his personal wealth, this $250M price was not a big purchase , a drop in the bucket for Bezos.   There’s six degrees of separation and, if you read between the lines, the purchase is not that surprising.

What does Jeff Bezos, a techie entrepreneur/billionaire  possibly want with a newspaper property with declining circulation and advertising?  Bezos is a media mogul who changed the book publishing industry and managed to make Amazon into a brand giant and household name –  and himself a billionaire in the process through Amazon’s various operating entities.  Who has not bought a book from Amazon or gone shopping on the site?   If Bezos hasn’t made Amazon.com consistently profitable, he has made it  valuable as a brand giant, an in-your-face always-on digital media company.

Whether we can expect that The Post, which won a Pulitzer Prize for breaking a key Watergate story in 1973, has any hope for a bright future, let’s watch and see if the sale signifies, “The beginning of a phase in which this Gilded Age’s major beneficiaries reinvest in the infrastructure of our public intelligence,” as  stated by The Atlantic editor James Fallows who’ said the deal put him in a ‘state of shock’, according to an August 5 story in The New York Times Dealbook column.

When a media or communications company invests in or acquires a content company or digital media property,  typically a subscriber base is  co-opted such that existing content and programming expands to a new audience of consumers creating revenue growth opportunities CPMs.  Media conglomerates, therefore, are one of the most heavily regulated sectors.  Their ownership of the airwaves and broadcast networks monopolized access and control of public communication to serve their own commercial interests.  Aside from broadband and cable, where are new audiences to be found?  Where will those 474,767 Post subscribers go, along with those of their sister properties?  Where will The Post’s find a new audience for its editorial content?

Look no further than behind the LDC screen of your Kindle digital reader.  What better medium to deliver and promote news product.    If you are one of the 22 millions owners of an Amazon Kindle devices, you may soon find yourself  a subscriber to The Post and its sister publishing businesses ( also included in the $250M price).  And don’t be surprised if a Post story pops-up during your online shopping experience on Amazon.com.  A digital content distribution model such would not be  rocket science especially for Bezos, who is credited  with changing  consumerism.  All speculative at this point since Bezos himself (not his company) was the purchaser.  But just how will Bezos leverage his new toy from an operations standpoint?    How much fun is there to be had with this new toy?  There could be six degrees of separation?

Now here’s another angle that was investigated by NPR’s media correspondent David Folkenflik, who looked at this deal from the standpoint of intellectual property and sales tax.  This report revealed Amazon to be a major vendor of cloud storage to the CIA which paid Amazon $600M to build its cloud storage system.   While it may be a large storage provider to the CIA, Amazon wants nothing to do with Wikileaks, which it booted from its web hosting service Amazon Web Services back in 2010 at the height of public interest in Wikileaks.  You might think Bezos is new to Washington but his Company had no problem following  the directive of Senator Joe Leiberman when he called for retaliatory action against Wikileaks.  Amazon Web Services stated that Wikileaks violated its terms of service because it “doesn’t own or otherwise control all the rights to the classified content” and that the 250 classified docs that Wikilieaks was publishing was not “redacted in such a way that they were not putting innocent people in jeopardy.”

Whatever the reasons or the way the language is written, Washington may not be such an unfamiliar ground Bezos and his purchase of the Graham enterprise is more of a power shift than a good will purchase of a curious new toy.

Doomsday! Paul Farrell Leads the Naysayers in the Financial Media
by Hugh Burnham

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For those of us who are fans of Dow Jones MarketWatch, the world’s largest financial website and a former CBS property that built a huge following with its insightful news coverage in the early dot com days and grew with fine financial reporting, Paul Farrell represents an odd type of journalist. His bylines, that come out of his home in scenic San Luis Obispo, foretell horrible market meltdowns that continually attract fearful eyeballs from investors worried about a market crash, but rarely come to fruition.  His latest missive Stock roller coaster set for sickening drop, like most of his articles, plays on our fears of a market crash, yet presents little in the way of any kind of data to support his theories.

Unlike his colleagues at MarketWatch who rely on P/E ratios and technical market indicators, Farrell’s pieces start with a comparison (in this case to the Kingda Ka Rollercoaster) and end with the fear that this market may drop and may drop violently – soon.  The only problem is that Farrell is only right once every few years when we hit a bear market. In point of fact, his pieces have been warning investors about the impending collapse of the market since the Dow closed  below 6600 in 2009 until today when it stood near 15500. Yet Farrell’s pieces continually garner more eyeballs than the data-driven musings of fellow MarketWatch prognosticators Mark Hulbert or Herb Greenberg, who joined CNBC in 2010 after a brief stint starting a research firm.

Financial reporters are always rewarded for “moving markets” or stocks.  Greenberg made his name by aggressively investigating companies that looked fishy, such as AremisSoft, where he started an investigation and the SEC eventually sued for fraud. “Moving markets” is what gets people to read.  But if the goal of these financial destinations is to move markets rather than to report on facts,  perhaps the public is not being served well. Barron’s notorious bear Bill Alpert once told me never to contact him with information about a company with a high P/E ratio.  No wonder then, that he told investors that Tesla shares could be a sell back in June, when the shares were trading around 100. As I look at the aftermarket screen of the shares following another unexpected blowout quarter, the shares sit at 150. And Alpert’s bearishness is not confined to Tesla.  He has twice gone after the biggest name in financial journalism, Jim Cramer, most famously in his 2007 cover story, Shorting Cramer, where he argued that the Mad Money host’s picks had underperformed the market.

So why is all of this interesting?  It’s not really new news. Nouriel Roubini, aka Dr. Doom, has been predicting a market meltdown for more than 15 years. And he also predicted the great recession. The only problem is that he has been predicting another meltdown ever since – and it has not happened. Why do doomsayers like Roubini, or Harry Dent remain relevant? Why do people continue to believe in the musings of journalists with questionable track records?  The answer may lie in our psyche. We can’t look away. We have to read about plane crashes.  And our fear of the unknown makes us susceptible to reading doomsday prognostications, the same way we watch horror movies. Paul Farrell’s articles continually make the best read of MarketWatch’s pieces. And yet, his credibility and lack of supporting data should make him their worst read!  Yet, his face is there in the top 5 pieces, day after day.  Writing about bad news is big business.  Just don’t believe the hype. If you need a dose of doomsday, try Nat Geo’s show Doomsday Preppers.  Bunker not included!

3 Ways to Maximize Impact with Space
by Max Liberty-Point

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As a designer, I’m constantly figuring out how to use space.  Sometimes I’m restricted to a tiny area, other times the workable space is limitless.  Whatever the circumstance, there is a challenge to using a space correctly and doing so allows for maximum impact in any medium.  And let’s not discriminate; even non-designers deal with space in their word documents and PowerPoints, so I want to offer three tips for anyone interested in capitalizing on composition:

1. The Golden Rule Ratio

There is actually a remarkable spacing rule found right in nature.  It’s called the “Golden Ratio” and it can be traced onto everything from plants to seashells to the galaxy to our own DNA.  Expressed numerically, the ratio is 1:1.618 and when some of man’s most famous works are measured, this ratio is evident.

An example of a way you can apply the Golden Ratio is to achieve ultimate readability through textual line spacing.   If a body of text is using a font size of 16pt, multiply that by 1.618 and you have your optimal line height, 25.888 or 26pt.

2. Less is More

The use of empty space, or “white space” as it’s called in the design world, is often unnoticed to the average viewer.  And though it might seem like a result of not using all the space provided, white space actually allows for a more impactful message.  When used correctly, white space can add emphasis to a subject, it can balance a layout, it can improve readability, and it can express sophistication and elegance. Take a look at Apple.com’s landing page and notice the aforementioned characteristics.

Try using white space in your next PowerPoint presentation to stress a point or to add emphasis to a subject.


3. Negative Can Be Positive

A technique that has always had a profound effect on me when I see it is the deliberate use of negative space.  Negative space, in design, is the space around the main subject of the visual.  Using this space effectively can send a clever message while still remaining visually simple and easy on the eyes.  Also, the viewer can feel a sense of accomplishment for noticing the use of negative space, which adds a positive association to your business or publication.  See if you can spot the use of negative space in these example logos.

While this technique takes some artistic skill, consider it when conceptualizing a logo or your next advertisement. Those who notice will be delightfully surprised. If you can’t achieve this effect on your own, perhaps you can hire someone who can.

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