A New Home For Venture Banners

Venture Banners' New Location
Venture Banners’ New Location

We’ve been in our Chelmsford office since November 2009, and in that time we’ve seen exponential business growth. Our team has got bigger, we’re dealing with more customers than ever before, and we’re printing more than we’ve ever printed. As a result, we’ve outgrown our current premises.

So we’re opening a new facility to house our sales, studio, and accounts departments, as well as a brand-new VUTEk printer. This will be the new home and cornerstone of Venture Banners.

We’ve enjoyed being in Chelmsford and would like to take this opportunity to thank our landlords and neighbouring businesses for putting up with us for as long as they have!

The When

We’re aiming to move over the course of the 6th–8th April, so it won’t be long at all.

There’s only a small amount of work we need to arrange before we move in, including a shiny new network installation and giving the production area both a lick of paint and some new lighting. Other than that, it’s ready to jump into.

The Where

Our new address will be:

Unit 10
Waterside Business Park
Eastways
Witham
Essex
CM8 3YQ

Though we would’ve liked to stay in Chelmsford, and we couldn’t stray too far from it (for staff travel reasons), the options in Witham made most sense for us.

How It Will Benefit Us

Up til now, our sales, studio, and accounts departments have been located in a different location to our production teams. Now though, that will be changing. Having all departments under one roof from start-to-finish will bring some big advantages over our current setup:

  • Our sales, studio and production teams will be just metres away from each other, meaning better and quicker communication between all involved
  • The process from point of order, to studio, to printing, to packing, to despatching will be seamless
  • We won’t need to re-upload processed artwork for production—all files will be processed and served locally
  • We’ll have enough parking for everyone
  • We can be as noisy as we want!

How It Will Benefit You

Having everything together will bring improvements for our customers too:

  • We hope to offer an express service for those in a hurry (a much requested service)
  • We’ll be able to offer more real-time updates on most orders, including courier consignment numbers
  • The new printer should give an improvement in print quality in most cases
  • Pick-ups will now be possible if you would like to save on delivery costs

When we’re all settled in, you’ll be more than welcome to visit and have a full tour. We’re hoping this should be by around mid-May, and we’ll let you know when we’re ready for visits. We’ll be able to show you how much large-format printing can help you and your business.

And in case you were wondering, we won’t be raising any of our prices. We’re sure this will be one of those happy “win-win” situations for all involved.

With the all-round improvements this will bring to our (already growing) business, we can’t wait to get started in the new building—onwards and upwards!

Brand Refresh Update

When we first mentioned about our upcoming brand refresh, we were keeping a close eye on the progress of Exo Sans, a Kickstarter project by Natanael Gama.

Since then, the funding steadily grew and we were glad to see that on the 26th December, the project reached it’s funding goal. We’ve been sent our advance copies of the font, and are currently in the process of playing around with ideas for our logo and brand image.

If all goes to plan, we’ll hopefully see the font available on Google Web Fonts sometime during February.

So What’s Gonna Change?

Well, as we mentioned before, the biggest change will probably come in the form of typefaces. We’re aiming to make all our copy a little bit nicer to read—both in readability and appearance.

Though we’re still in the early stages of experimentation, we’re also looking at our image as a whole: colours, shapes and forms, icons, and overall design principles.

Venture Banners Colour Palette Ideas
Venture Banners Colour Palette Ideas

Of course, when you do anything like this, consistency is key. Our last major brand change was in 2009, and we’ve realised that some of our existing customer-facing material has become dissimilar in some regards, so we’d like to fix that. These are the areas we’ll be looking at:

  • Print
    • Stationery
      • Letterhead
      • Business Cards
      • Compliment Slip
      • Envelope
      • Presentation Folder
    • Marketing
      • Leaflets & Mailers
      • Magazine Ads
      • Trade Pack for new Trade customers
    • Letters from our Accounts dept.
  • Online

How and When’s it Gonna Happen?

As we always have done, we’ll be doing the design work in-house ourselves. We’re only dedicating a certain amount of time and a few members of our design team to this, so it may take a few months for our planned changes to be fully implemented and rolled out while any old designs and materials are phased out, especially while we’re working on other (exciting) projects. Some of the changes won’t take long at all, while others will likely depend on stocks of our current print material and when we’ll be needing more.

It’ll definitely be an ongoing process, but we’re building a set of design principles and constraints for ourselves to cover all future work across all mediums. This will aid the creation of new designs and help keep our image unified and consistent in the future.

We’re very excited with the ideas we’ve got floating around here, so we’ll be sure to keep you posted on any interesting news here on the blog.

Proof Reading for Splelling Mistakes

You saw what I did there, didn’t you? …Or did you? Just testing!

Having been fortunate enough to work with websites and online content, it has become very easy to correct my mistakes. With just a few clicks, a mistake can be remedied, leaving no trace it was ever there. Unfortunately, with printed material, things aren’t so forgiving.

Whoops
Whoops

Back when I was producing mainly print designs, I had my fair share of embarrassing moments when the delivery from the local printer turned up. It’s a horrible feeling. Especially when several thousand pounds have been spent on having your design printed, to then be posted to thousands of customers.

There are, however, some important tips to help prevent that kind of situation happening.

Check, Check, and Check Again

I can’t stress how important checking your work is.

Don’t rely solely on your software to do all your spell-checking for you. Yes, they can be useful aids, but they’re still nowhere near smart enough to understand the complexities of human language. You may well have spelled all the words in a design correctly according to the software, but don’t forget:

  • Some software may be limited to USA spellings, or you might not have changed your dictionary language
  • Some industry/business phrases, acronyms and words won’t ever appear in a real dictionary, so these will require manual checking
  • Not all spell-checkers check for correct capitalisation
  • Context: most spell-checkers can’t tell you if a word is (or isn’t) in the right place
  • Correct punctuation is again related to context, and can’t yet be fully understood by our everyday software

Spell-checkers are named what they are, because that’s exactly what they do: check spelling. But there’s so much more to language than simply spelling. Think of it like a car—you might have all the correct individual parts, but if they aren’t put together in the right way, you won’t be going anywhere.

Two Pairs of Eyes are Better Than One

If you’ve been creating the design yourself, you’re likely ‘too close’ to the project to be the only proof-reader involved. This can easily blind you to your own errors. You can repeatedly miss an error in your own work, whereas someone else will immediately see it.

It’s always, always best to have someone else proof-read your work. It’s good to have a colleague available to check your work before it gets committed to print and seen out in the real world. Even if you think you’re the most competent person with the English language in the world, don’t underestimate how important it is to have someone else’s eyes giving your work the ‘once over’.

A real word with the correct spelling. But completely the wrong word for the context!
A real word with the correct spelling. But completely the wrong word for the context!

Even if you don’t have someone on hand to proof-read your work, it can sometimes help to print your design on your office printer. For some reason, seeing it on physical media can help you spot errors in your own work.

Mistakes Incoming, 12 O’Clock!

Because of the sheer amount of designs we deal with on a daily basis, we do quite often spot spelling mistakes on artwork supplied to us. In these instances, if we notice the mistake early enough, we notify customers of the error before it gets passed through to our production team, and allow the customer to make the call on whether to re-supply the design or go ahead. If the mistake has already been printed, there’s little we can do to help, sadly.

This is again another reason to have spelling checked: mistakes can be costly, especially when dealing with large-format prints. If the text is large, the mistake can be glaringly obvious too!

Mistakes: Learn From Them, You Must

If you’re in a position where you regularly churn out design work or create content, mistakes will happen—it can’t be helped. But as I’ve said above, things can be done to reduce the chances of mistakes happening.

The best thing to do when they do happen is to learn where things went wrong. Was it a mistake in the content supplied to you? Was it not passed on to someone for proof-reading? It’s worth trying to find out where the mistake occurred, not to apportion blame, but to help avoid similar things happening in the future.

Unfortunately, the blame for mistakes will normally be laid at the feet of the last set of eyes that saw the work before it went to print. However, having worked in that process for over five years in my previous job, I do have much sympathy for the designers. At one point, we got so fed up of being blamed for every mistake, we ensured a proof-read by the department manager was required before anything could go to print. It was another step in the process (albeit a red-tape-esque one), but it was important for both our protection and the improvement to the quality of the work we sent out.

Oh, and if you found any mistakes in this post, they were of course deliberate! 😉

Venture Banners Brand Refresh

Deconstructed Venture Banners Logo

The usual process for a company re-brand is to plan everything internally, ahead of time, behind closed doors, and then launch it all at once. But we’re going to try something different.

We’ve had our current branding for a couple of years now, and it has been (and still is) serving us well.

Venture Banners Logo (Vertical)
Venture Banners Logo (Vertical)

We want a brand refresh, but importantly, not an outright re-brand. We have an established brand image with our customers, so we’re going to freshen it up, make it better, and refine it.

Typefaces

The biggest changes will probably be with the typography. For the logotype and brand mark, we’ve been using advent, while for body copy, we’ve been using Trebuchet MS.

Advent is nice enough in it’s own way, but there are some niggles when using it out in the real world. Some of the characters don’t work that well, and can be illegible in certain contexts. Trebuchet is fairly nice overall, and although it’s available by default on many computers, it’s by no means ubiquitous across them all.

Over the past few months, we’ve been enjoying the use of Google Web Fonts, which enables the use of free, open-source fonts on the web that users wouldn’t normally have installed. Because the fonts at Google Web Fonts are free and open-source, this means you can use them anywhere, without any licencing restrictions. This includes downloading them and using them in printed work.

Venture Banners Logo (Horizontal)
Venture Banners Logo (Horizontal)

So we’ve been thinking: wouldn’t it be great if you could have really nice fresh modern fonts, and be able to use them for free, both on the web and in our printed material? That’s why we’re hoping to start using fonts available from Google for all of our public-facing media: websites, leaflets, letters, and adverts.

We’ve already tried out Open Sans, which we find great for body copy and smaller text. It has a nice fresh, legible, and friendly feel about it, which is just what we’re looking for to replace Trebuchet.

Open Sans (Specimen)
Open Sans (Specimen)

For the brand typeface, we like the style of ‘sister fonts’ Neo Sans and Neo Tech. Like Open Sans, they have a modern, friendly feel, but also don’t look too informal, and retain a reliable, robust image.

The sad thing with commercial fonts like these though, is that they can be very expensive once you start considering all the different weights involved (light, regular, semi-bold, bold, etc.). There are also problems with restrictions when it comes to using them on other mediums, such as the web. Even if use on the web is allowed, it could involve hosting the files on your own server, thereby increasing bandwidth load for you and your users. We’re by no means against paying for fonts, but we’d prefer to have as few limitations as possible.

This is why we’d much rather use a font from Google Web Fonts. This would bring the following benefits:

  • The font would be free
  • It’s incredibly easy to implement for use online
  • No additional bandwidth load on our server
  • No restrictions on where the font can be used
  • If someone has visited another site also using the same font from Google, they will likely already have the font stored in their browser cache, making font loading process speedier
  • Our website would receive all updates and improvements to the font without us lifting a finger
Exo Sans (Specimen)
Exo Sans (Specimen)

Luckily for us, a project was recently launched by Natanael Gama in Portugal on Kickstarter, in an effort to fund his font, ‘Exo Sans‘ to become available for the world on Google Web Fonts. Exo Sans caught our eye, and we immediately wanted to use it.

As you can see in the typeface specimen images, both Open Sans and Exo Sans have a big family of varying weights, which is very helpful.

Two of us have already pledged towards the project, and although it’s not yet fully funded, it’s got a little while left, so we’d encourage those that would be interested in using it to put something towards the goal. It’s a simple process: you can choose how much to donate, and depending on how much you donate, you can opt for some nice treats if the project succeeds. Also worth noting is that if the project doesn’t reach it’s target funding, no-one is charged a penny.

If Exo Sans succeeds in reaching it’s goal, anyone will be able to use it on any website, or to download the font to use anywhere they like.

The Brand Mark

We expect that the brand mark will stay largely the same, as we still like it, and we think it works. We’ll probably tidy up a couple of details and make some subtle improvements, but we think it will still be very recognisable as the Venture Banners that our customers already know.

Future Plans

We’re not sure exactly when we’ll be starting the brand refresh, but it will likely depend on the availability of Exo Sans, and if it reaches the funding target.

We hope to document our process and share the things we decide to do, here on the blog. Hopefully it will be of interest to the designer types, and might even help give you some ideas.

Designing and Printing Our Stationery

Venture Banners Folder

While much of our business is run online or via email, some dealings require us to send paperwork in the post. And when you send printed material to customers, business partners and associates, it goes without saying that you need to make a good impression. However, when many of your customers are in the print trade themselves, like ours, that becomes even more important.

So when it came to designing our own stationery, we wanted to give that good impression.

Contrary to what many seem to believe, we don’t actually do lithographic or stationery printing ourselves. We specialise in large-format banner printing, so we’re happy to leave the smaller-format stuff to the experts. For our own stationery, we often use Douglas (formerly MyPrintLink). Several team members have used them for years, and in previous jobs, and we’ve been extremely impressed by their level of service, competitive prices, and print quality.

Venture Banners Letterhead
Venture Banners Letterhead

The vast majority of our printed customer communication is done on our letterhead. This is used for all of our invoices, credit statements, and letters, obviously. It’s printed on 120gsm bond paper, double-sided, with an orange background and over-sized logo on the reverse.

We also have a bespoke-cut folder, which is used for customer communication where that little bit of extra finesse and presentation is required. It’s printed on 350gsm silk card, and has spot UV finishing on the logos, both front and back. The folder keeps everything together, allows the placement of a business card in the lower-right corner on the inside, and quite frankly, looks awesome.

Venture Banners Business Card
Venture Banners Business Card

The Business Card

As we’re a mostly online-based business, we don’t tend to use our business cards as often as some traditional businesses might, but that’s no excuse for being slack on presentation, so we decided to give them a little something extra. First-off, we put in some faux hems and eyelets on the reverse—a signature of banner printing, also seen on our brand mark.

We also took the opportunity of them being printed on both sides to add a little bonus. We seem to like using an over-sized version of our logo where possible, so we split it between the front and the back. If you have one card, it appears as though the design simply wraps around the back, and that’s great. But if you have two cards, and put them together, the logo matches up! Admittedly, this probably won’t happen often, but we still love it!

This millimeter-precise type of design is a nightmare for printers, but to their credit, Douglas did an excellent job of ensuring spacings were equal and things matched up. The cards are printed on 350gsm silk card, with matte lamination all over, which looks and feels great.

Venture Banners Trade Business Card
Venture Banners Trade Business Card

We also have another business card specifically for Trade clients. This uses the same idea as the standard business card, with our Trade brand mark wrapped around the side.

Stationery, But Never Stationary

This stationery has been in use for a while now, and we’ve been toying with the idea of updating our brand and logo. We’ve got a couple of ideas, and we’ll post more on this soon.

Standing On Our Own Two Feet

I’ve had a desk-based job for nearly six years, and as you’d expect, I’ve sat on a chair for the vast majority of that time while working. Since working with Venture Banners, that’s been the case again. But the thing with sitting on an office chair for nearly all of nine hours a day, is that it just isn’t that good for you. The tendency to slouch or slump can be all too easy and become a hard habit to break. This makes for a bad posture, and given enough time, can develop into back problems in later life. Now, some might say that I’m fairly young anyway. The thing is, although I wouldn’t say I have any particular signs of back trouble now, I’m not sitting around to wait until I start getting them before I do anything about it. And yes, the pun was very much intended.

Flexing Our Muscles

We’ve been extremely busy over the last few months—enough to the point where it was clear we needed to expand. We were already limited for space in our sales office, and we needed more hands on deck, so we began looking for A: a bigger office, and B: some new people to fill it with. While we didn’t find any offices nearby in Chelmsford that we liked enough or had the right location or facilities, we were fortunate enough when the opportunity arose to use another office just opposite our current one. This proved ideal for us, as we we’ve been able to expand into the office in our own time and without any real disruption.

Muscle Memory

Our standing desk being built And a pair of legs.
Our standing desk being built. And a pair of legs.

Just before we started to re-decorate the new office, we began to plan the layout (with an accurate scale representation in Adobe Illustrator, no less). At this point, I remembered an article by Gina Trapani from January: Why and How I Switched to a Standing Desk. She mentioned the reasons why she decided to go from sitting to standing, and the benefits that brought. I remember thinking ‘that’s a cool idea, I’d like to give that a go someday’.

Now that we had an empty office to play with (and I knew I’d be one of the three team members moving in there), I suggested the idea of a standing desk to the Directors. I must admit, at first, there were mixed reactions in the office about the idea. Some thought I was being ridiculous, and that I was being one of those ‘crazy creatives’! Fortunately for me, I managed to win the decision-makers over on the idea, and even convinced Wayne to join me on the other side of a standing desk. So we got to planning.

We found that most pre-built standing (or ‘raisable’) desk systems were either extremely expensive, or just didn’t suit the size we were looking for. Instead, we decided to build our own, plain and simple. We bought some basic 40mm-thick 2000mm × 720mm pieces of beech breakfast bar wood (from The Chippy Shop, oddly NSFW!), some 1000mm-tall metal leg supports (from John Porter Kitchens), along with a supporting beam and bracket for the wall end. The total cost of these came to about £510.

Once the office had been painted, we got to building. Or rather, I should say, Wayne did. He did a sterling job to plan and execute the construction of the desks. The total building time was only a few hours, with the planning and treating of the wood phases taking place over a period of time.

Wayne doing the finishing touches.
Wayne doing the finishing touches.

Hitting The Ground Running

Before I moved into the new office and began using the desk, I was a little nervous about how I’d find it. I’d read in several places that the first week with a standing desk can be very tough, so I wasn’t overly looking forward to that part.

As it turned out, during the week prior to us moving in, I’d spent a week in Florida, where we had a whole lot of fun, so I’d already spent a most of six days standing up and walking around. I think this ‘stood me in good stead’, so to speak!

The first day using the new desk in June just happened to be one of the hottest days of the year, so the heat actually was worse than any initial aches I got from adjusting to standing. One added advantage I soon realised is that you don’t stick to a chair on a hot day.

The first few days were a bit strange in that I found it harder to concentrate on my work, as part of my brain seemed very conscious of the fact my legs were working harder than normal.

The finished desk, complete with cuddly toy mascots.
The finished desk, complete with cuddly toy mascots.

The Current Standing

After only a week, I’d found that I’d nearly completely gotten used to the new working position.

You can read the tweets I made during the first few weeks of using the desk, but the gist of it is that I’ve enjoyed it, and would recommend it to anyone who is able.

My posture was better, I felt more energetic, and a couple of tiny foot and knee weaknesses were already feeling stronger.

Pull The Other One

Of course, when it comes to your joints and muscles, too much of anything can be bad for you. There are disadvantages with standing all day too. Among them are Carotid Atherosclerosis and varicose veins. After reading a few articles on the subject, whether you’re at a sitting desk or standing desk, it seems the main things to remember are:

  • Make sure your posture is correct for the type of desk you are using
  • Don’t stay in the same position for long periods of time
  • Move regularly (as in walking around and doing other things)

This made me think seriously about standing for nine hours straight. I now make sure I sit for at least a couple of hours over course of the day, but aim to stand for most of the time.

Some Good Reading on the Subject

Web Browser Support

IE Logo circa 2001, aka The 'Blue e'
IE Logo circa 2001, aka The 'Blue e'

Many a year ago, to ‘surf’ the Internet, we all clicked that ever-present ‘blue e’ icon, Internet Explorer. This of course, was only natural—it was all we knew.

At the height of it’s dominance in 2002 and 2003, Microsoft commanded 95% of the web browser market-share with Internet Explorer 6. Because of it’s then-unchallenged position, the browser was allowed to stagnate, holding back innovation and potential on the web.

Browser History

IE6 was released in 2001 alongside Windows XP. There were legal issues regarding the bundling of Internet Explorer with the Operating System, due to the huge PC Operating System market share that Microsoft had. Aside from the legalities, IE6 has also caused many headaches for web designers over the years, so it’s a subject myself and Wayne hold close to heart.

However, as with any industry or market, competition is a good thing, for both companies and customers (even in the banner printing industry!). Even more so with something now so fundamentally important to our way of life and conducting business as the Internet.

In November 2004, Mozilla (a non-profit organisation) released a new web browser: Firefox. Web designers like myself rejoiced and quickly adopted this far superior browser. We’ve also spent years recommending it to family members and friends. It caught Microsoft sleeping and has steadily grown in popularity. At time of writing, it has somewhere around 27% share of the world’s browser market.

Though Firefox has been the biggest competitor to IE so far, other companies have also stepped up over the years with their own web browsers.

Opera has been around for many years, but struggled to gain much adoption. Apple has Safari, which is creeping up the charts with the help of it’s mobile version supplied on iOS devices like the iPhone and iPad. And, of course, we have Google, which released Chrome in 2008; a browser which has shot up to around 15%-20% market share already.

Our Browser Stats

Compared to the scene five years ago, where one web browser dominated the market, we now have a very different situation. These are the stats for our website over the last couple of months:

Browser Share on VentureBanners.co.uk
Browser Share on VentureBanners.co.uk
  • Internet Explorer: 43.98%
    • (of which Version 9: 21.46%)
    • (of which Version 8: 62.85%)
    • (of which Version 7: 13.33%)
    • (of which Version 6: 2.36%)
  • Firefox: 22.84%
  • Safari: 18.22%
  • Chrome: 13.73%
  • Opera and Others: 0.42%

With the exception of a higher Safari share, our stats seem to be relatively similar to the global average.

Where Are We Now?

In a world where people are increasingly accessing the web from a multitude of devices, browsers and locations, it’s the job of web developers to bring them the best experience possible.

This is why we have decided to cease support for outdated browsers such as Internet Explorer 6 & 7. Catering for the lowest common denominator limits what we as web designers and developers can achieve, holds back the potential of what we can build, and adds a painful amount of extra time to any website project. For our small in-house development team to continue supporting five year-old software just isn’t practical. Don’t forget that ‘internet years’ aren’t far off ‘dog years’: these browsers are actually much older than they seem!

Future versions of our websites will be built with (very cool) modern technologies and techniques, which these old browsers are unable to cope with. For example, you wouldn’t be rocking a five year-old mobile phone (or smartphone) and expect to get the features and advantages that more recent models bring. Web browsers are no different—things move on, especially when the Internet is involved.

Not Supporting… Wait, What?

Our IE6 Warning
Our IE6 Warning

Put simply, it means that we won’t be testing our websites in these older browsers. They may look ‘broken’ or otherwise ‘wrong’, though our websites could still be usable from a functionality point-of-view, though we don’t recommend you try to find out. If you visit the Venture Banners website in an old version of IE today, you will most likely notice a lovely bright warning box. This might seem a tad blunt, but hey, at least we’re upfront about why the site might look a bit borked, and we make sure to point you towards some much better options.

2001 Called. It Wants It’s Browser Back.

IE6 Countdown
IE6 Countdown

IE 6 was released before the September 11th attacks. Before the U.S. entered Afghanistan. Before Enron went bankrupt. Before the South Korea & Japan World Cup. Before I left school! In short, it’s pretty darn old.

Just recently, Microsoft themselves announced Internet Explorer 6 Countdown, a campaign to encourage people to stop using the outdated browser and upgrade to a newer version. We couldn’t agree with them more.

And it’s not just Microsoft urging people to upgrade. During 2010 and 2011, large internet companies like Google, YouTube and Facebook announced that they are stopping support for IE6. Governments too, have realised the very real security dangers of using old software. Both Germany and France strongly advised their citizens to upgrade to newer browsers.

But even if you’re still using one of these older browsers, don’t worry; we won’t let you go away empty-handed!

Upgrade Now

Modern Web Browsers: Firefox, Chrome, IE9, Opera, Safari
Modern Web Browsers: Firefox, Chrome, IE9, Opera, Safari

These days, the web browser market is looking much healthier—we’re spoilt for choice. In early March, Chrome 10 was released. Less than a week later, we had the release of Internet Explorer 9. Then a week after that, we saw the release of Firefox 4 (and more recently, Chrome 12 and Firefox 5).

Although we don’t have the time or space to go into the details and advantages of each browser here, we would like to take this opportunity to recommend any of the following:

Here in the Venture Banners offices, we use a combination of both Firefox and Chrome.

One caveat to note is that IE9 is only available to users running Windows Vista or 7. Users of Windows XP would be wise to upgrade to one of the other browsers listed. Firefox, Chrome, Opera and Safari will all run on Windows and Mac OS X.

These are the best and most popular web browsers that are made for the modern web of today. All of them are free to download, easy to install, and will bring you noticeable improvements to your browsing experience if you’re currently on an older browser.

Get a shiny new web browser and make the Internet smile.

The Xscape is Back in Stock, Kind of…

XScape Indoor Banner Display System
XScape Indoor Banner Display System

A couple of months ago, the stocks of our Xscape banner display system were depleted. Sadly, we weren’t able to order a new shipment in time, and we weren’t sure when we’d be getting more in, so we decided it was best to mark them as ‘out of stock’ on our website and make them unavailable to order. Two months on, that was clearly the right decision. I expect we’d have had a few disgruntled customers waiting for their banners stands if we hadn’t.

Now though, we’re glad to say that the Xscape is back in stock

…with one small change: the size has been reduced slightly. The width is 50mm less, now at 800mm. The height is 200mm less, now at 1800mm.

We’re still in the process of getting the original Xscape back in stock, and we hope it won’t be much longer before these are available. Once we have them again, it is likely we will revert back to the original size.

Please bear the size difference in mind if you are ordering replacement graphics. Obviously, the smaller stand won’t fit the larger graphics, and vice versa. If you’re after a replacement graphic for the original stand, please order a bespoke banner at 850mm × 2000mm on our standard 440gsm PVC and mention in the order notes that you will be using it with the Xscape.

Why the Xscape?

We’re big fans of ‘spider stands’. Although roller banners are very good at what they do, they’re a bit more of a hassle to get the graphics replaced. Spider stands, like the Xscape, come folded up and can be easily assembled in a matter of seconds. Fitting or replacing the graphic is simply a case of removing a screw cap in each corner, swapping out the old graphic for the new one, then replacing the caps. The whole process can be done in about two minutes. Add to that the fact that the Xscape is also £20 less than our starter roller banner, and you’ve got yourself a winner.

Other Options

If you’re still looking for a larger display, don’t forget about our Greenwich roller banner, and for an even taller display, our Hi-Flyer indoor display.

File Transfer Services: The Good, The Bad, and the Broken

Our Old YouSendIt Embedded Uploader
Our Old YouSendIt Embedded Uploader

Each time an order is placed, everyone is prompted to upload their corresponding artwork. For two and a half years, we’ve used YouSendIt as our file transfer service of choice. YouSendIt has, by and large, been fantastic. It has given our customers an easy way to send us large files (those who have come up against it will know that we have a strict email attachment size limit). It has also allowed us to send proofs of any artwork we create to customers. There are many more technical ins-and-outs with the service, but most importantly, it has done the job well.

YouDidn’tSendIt

A few months ago, we started receiving reports from customers that their web browser crashed or locked-up when attempting to upload a file to us. At first, we put this down to rare combination of technical incompatibilities—everyone has different browser/anti-virus/Flash combinations and versions. But then we realised that the frequency of these reports were increasing, so we looked into things a bit more, and it seemed to mostly happen when people were using Google Chrome.

Chrome is 'unsupported' by YouSendIt
Chrome is 'unsupported' by YouSendIt

Seeing that Chrome is in fact a very good browser (enough for even a long-time die-hard Firefox fan like me to use it) and quite clearly increasing in popularity, we took up the issue with YouSendIt. They informed us that they were aware of the issue with their embedded ‘uploader widget’ (the one we used on our website), and that they were working to get it fixed. They also added a warning for Chrome users to make them aware that they may “experience issues”. This carried on for a few months, by which time, we were receiving more and more complaints from customers about YouSendIt not working for them. That which is bad for our customers, is obviously not good for us either.

YouDidn’tFixIt

We stuck with YouSendIt in the hope that they’d fix the issue soon, in the meantime offering customers the alternative option of free services like MailBigFile, DropSend and ge.tt. This of course wasn’t ideal for either us or our customers, and was causing way too much ‘aggro’, so after a brief discussion in the office, we started looking to use a different service.

Dropbox

We’ve long been fans of Dropbox. Some of us have our own accounts, and we’ve been hugely impressed by the way it ‘just works’, a huge plus for any service. We even began to build our own file uploader based on Dropbox’s service, but unfortunately we didn’t have the time to make things work just the way we wanted, although this is definitely something we’d like to pursue in the future as it would integrate very well with our process.

A New Service

While we were looking for a new service to use, we noticed that some clients were sending us their files using WeTransfer. It looked like a nice, easy-to-use service and seemed to be reliable. We made a few enquiries, and to cut the story short, we’re now using our own WeTransfer channel. We implemented it yesterday, and so far, it’s all looking good.

YouStoppedIt

Over the next few months, we’ll be phasing out support for our old YouSendIt account. For most people, this won’t make any difference—all of our old YouSendIt links have been replaced. Some of our regular customers may have our old service bookmarked, so some bookmarks will need to change. We’ll be updating all our regular customers about the new service soon.

The Venture Banners WeTransfer Channel
The Venture Banners WeTransfer Channel

WeTransferred

Having our own WeTransfer channel is very helpful. It means we can:

  • Pre-fill the recipient email address (which saves our customers from extra typing)
  • Brand it (instead of having the adverts that show with the free version)
  • Save money (YouSendIt cost us more than twice as much)

A Couple of Things Though…

While everything seems to be going fine with WeTransfer, we’re very picky individuals, so we have a few things we’d love to see added to the service in the future:

  • A non-Flash (and non-Flash-reliant) version
  • A mini embeddable version to use within our own website
  • The ability to lock the recipient field
  • The ability to use hidden or locked parameters (order numbers, for instance)
  • Access to the short URLs (which currently only get sent to the sender)
  • Browser-native downloads (rather than the current ‘in-page’ download)
  • The ability to re-direct customers to another page once the upload(s) have finished

We’ve been informed that a non-Flash version is already in the works, which is great news and will immediately bring advantages to everyone, especially those on mobile devices. We realise they are a relatively young service, and everyone has teething problems at first, but we hope to see these features someday and look forward to using WeTransfer for the forseeable future.

Studio Time: Rich Black is the New Black

When it comes to banners, black is a fairly commonplace colour. Whether it’s bright text on a black background, or black text on a bright background, black is used all the time. It’s also often used in company logos.

For anyone that’s creating banner artwork, you’d expect creating a solid black object or shape to be pretty simple—simply fill it with 100% black, right? Well, yes, you’d get a black object, but it could be better.

It’s black. Or is it?

Unfortunately, printed solid black objects can often appear ‘washed out’, and like a very dark grey once printed. However, this can be resolved. A reliable way to ensure that you get a nice deep, rich black is to add other colours to the mix.

The black CMYK values we normally use:

  • Cyan: 50
  • Magenta: 50
  • Yellow: 50
  • Black: 100
100% Black Compared to Rich Black
100% Black Compared to Rich Black

Swatches

Black Swatches
Black Swatches

Most design software will have some kind of swatch feature, or colour presets. As with creating an additional swatch when you’re working with a corporate colour can be helpful, so too can creating one for rich black. InDesign already has a pure black (C: 0, M: 0, Y: 0, K: 100) swatch by default, and it’s easy to add another. Simply create any old object, fill it with the desired colour values (C: 50, M: 50, Y: 50, K: 100), click the drop-down menu in the colour palette, then click ‘Add to Swatches’. You’ll now have a new swatch that you can re-use wherever and whenever you need.

I find it best to create this swatch with no documents open. This way, the swatch will be included with every new document created from that point on.

Is this rich black I see before me?

Quite unhelpfully, many desktop publishing software packages display a simple black onscreen as a rich black. This can give you the false impression that you will get a deep colour when it’s later reproduced. More helpfully though, Adobe InDesign does give you the option of changing this behaviour, in Edit > Preferences > Appearance of Black.

InDesign Appearance of Black Setting
InDesign Appearance of Black Setting

Whether you prefer to see pure black or rich black on-screen is a matter of preference. What does matter though, is what is sent to print. With the help of our friends, Cyan, Magenta and Yellow, we can give you a fully rich colour that will serve your banner well.