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.

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On Phoenix Companies


We find ourselves facing challenging economic conditions and they are not being made any easier by the rising number of companies going bust to avoid their debt and then starting up again the very next day with a different name and a clean bill of health.

Obviously there are companies that take the insolvency route because they’ve investigated all the available options and have chosen that particular way out of their current situation. At Venture Banners, we like to think we take the time build up a good rapport with our customers. We also like to think we offer a pretty unique service, so on the odd occasion when one of our trade customers does go pop, they will usually phone us and ask for our help, thus keeping the relationship intact. The end result is: the client gets to keep a valued supplier, while our financial exposure is minimised.

However,  I am more interested in talking about the absolute scum that start a company, build up debt and then go bust only start up the next day with a slightly different name ( you know who you are, Apple, leaving their suppliers licking their wounds with little chance of getting any money back—the so-called Phoenix companies.

Phoenix’… sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? A magical mythical bird of fire, though the reality of Phoenix companies is anything but. While researching the subject, I was shocked to hear a story from a very large printing company that had a long-standing customer who went bust owing them thirty thousand pounds, only to phone the very next week with a new company name expecting the same trading and credit terms! Astonishingly naive.

The ripple effect of a company going bust can often be huge, creating cash flow issues and on occasion making the perfectly legitimate supplying company late in paying its own debts and finding its own credit score being adversely affected.

When we were knocked for £1,300 earlier this year (see above) I contacted the nastiest debt recovery people I could find: Shotgun, Knuckleduster and Blade Ltd… or something like that. Not becuase of the money, but the fact that the b***dards who had built up this debt were practically laughing down the phone at me, but do you know what, they were protected by law, so Shotgun, Knuckleduster and Blade Ltd could do nothing to help.

I personally don’t know how these people who Phoenix can sleep at night, very comfortably with our money in the bank probably. If you are one of these people who do the Pheonix thing I have some words of advice; You can’t run bath water, let alone a company, do us all a favour and find yourself a job, you’re obviously not an Entrepreneur.

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What are the best type of images to use on my banners?

The advancement of large format printing over the last decade has given us banner printers the ability to print more creative and ‘whizz-bangy’ banners. Gone are the days when vinyl letters were cut out and stuck onto a plain vinyl background, now we can print a whole rainbow of colours.

With this in mind I thought I would just write a short post on the best types of images to use on your banner, whether created by yourselves or to be sent through to us so we can do the design work for you.

Artifacts on JPG Images

Artifacts on JPG Images

JPG (or JPEG) Images

Probably the most popular file format on most people’s PCs, the JPG or JPEG format is a great file format for digital imagery as it allows for easy scaling down of images.

Beware though, this scaling down is not in size but in quality – ever noticed those ‘artifacts’ around parts of a photo, particularly around smooth contrasting areas like text.

If these artifacts are on an image used for a banner then they will also be printed. But please do also bear in mind that this may not affect the overall look of the banner when viewed from a distance.

TIFF Images

TIFF imagery is probably my preferred format for bitmap imagery (photographic imagery as opposed to illustrative imagery). It does also have it’s own compression as well (more commonly LZW) which is lossless – this means that the image quality remains the same but the file size is reduced. This makes TIFF images ideal for banners so that the entire image is preserved.

With TIFF and JPG imagery, it now just comes down to resolution, for further information on this, check out one of our previous posts on the best resolution for banner imagery.

Vector Images

Vector imagery is perfect for ANY size of print. Vector images are infinitely scalable so no matter what size artwork you have they will always appear as they were intended. If you have had a logo done by a professional company/individual then a vector version of the logo should have been provided. This will be in an .ai, .eps or maybe a .pdf format (although these may contain bitmap imagery and are not guaranteed to be vector-based), and ensures your logo looks perfect on all printed materials (although colour representation is another issue altogether).

This vector graphics article on Wikipedia may help to explain things further.


Hopefully this information will help the next time you come to order your Vinyl PVC Banners.

If you are looking to create your own artwork for banners, why not have a read through of the following:

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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

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Why Customer Service Is Important

In pretty much any industry, customer service has to be important for any business to stand a chance of surviving for any length of time. If you look after your customers and provide a good service, they will then return and hopefully tell their friends. However, provide a bad service and you will lose that customer and you can bet they will definitely tell their freinds.

This is why that when someone has been displeased with our service, I get a little knotted up inside. As a company, we at Venture Banners take great pride in our approach to customer service, we try very hard to meet the customer’s requirements, and to ensure that their experience with us is as pleasureable as buying a banner can be.

But once in a while, you will get a customer that you can do nothing to please. Whether it be because a series of mistakes have been made or that they do not like the way that you operate your business, but either way you have left someone with an unhappy experience.

Now to compound the matter, not only have you more than likely lost any chance of doing business with that person in the future but it appears that people that have a bad experience are much more vociferous. This means that you will more than likely hear from them, indirectly, through their postings over the internet.

Now, having thought about this long and hard, I realised that one bad customer experience shouldn’t necessarily be cause for alarm, especially when we have a history of happy customers (the reviews can be found below the material description). However, as a company and as a duty of customer service to our customers, we cannot sit back on our laurels thinking that what we do is right regardless of an unhappy customer. We must always learn from these experiences and hope that in the future, those unhappy customers are even fewer and even farther between.

We welcome any views you have on the service that we provide, good or bad. There will be some issues that we will not be able to change but we will always do our best to explain why – our business has evolved with our customers so there will always be a reason for what we do.

I hope to follow up this post with another, highlighting the good, the bad and the answerable in the near future so please do leave a reply below.

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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

Browser Share on

  • 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.

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Introducing Flags!

When I look back on it, it was a bizarre set of coincidences that led me into large format printing and starting Venture Banners (a story for another time!), but when we were setting up the business all those years ago, whilst doing my market research, the one thing that struck me was how difficult it was to get a price on a banner from anyone.

Banners are pretty straightforward, yet I came across various companies, all of whom used a seemingly unfathomable formula to calculate the price. What was more, is that the formula seemed to change almost on a daily basis, making consistency for resellers impossible.


Some Flags

So that would be our unique selling point: to have a transparent, concise menu pricing system. Not unsurprisingly, it has worked very well—no one likes having to use a Captain Midnight Decoder Ring just to get a price on three metre by one metre banner. And you may have noticed most of the other companies have followed suit. We have used that policy as the corner stone of our business and on all new substrates that we have launched; Self-adhesive Vinyl, Backlit Banners, Digital Canvas and Foamex to name but a few.

The one substrate we didn’t get involved with was flags. Apart from the fact we didn’t have a dye-sublimation printer, the flag market was a complete mystery to me. I heard stories of companies using printers in Poland and others importing them from China. And the prices—good grief! Even Captain Midnight’s Decoder Ring would struggle.

The annoying thing was our customers were asking us, almost on a daily basis, if we produced flags and we don’t like to let people down. People liked the way we operated and wanted to see flags in the product line-up, but if we couldn’t do it properly, then we wouldn’t do it all.

But we’ve been working on it. The brief was simple: a good quality product, a transparent, competitive price, and they must be produced in the UK.

Well, after some considerable time, we’ve done it. Flags are now a part of the line-up at Venture. We are expecting great things, as flags and banners compliment each other perfectly. Our trade customers can benefit from our consistent, competitive price and have another excellent revenue opportunity.

I think we can make Captain Midnight redundant.

Teardrop Flag

Teardrop Flag

Feather Flag

Feather Flag

We are starting with standard flag printing and a few flag products. These flag products include a Teardrop Flag and a Feather/Sail Flag, which come with various base options.

The flags and flag products will be available to trade customers first and provided the whole order processing goes as planned then we will be adding it to our retail site shortly after.

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Wot! No Banner Blog Posts?

You may have noticed that we haven’t placed many posts recently – this is because we are now well and truly in ‘Banner Season’. We have just had our busiest month ever, whilst we are also in the midst of expanding our team.

We also have something new in the pipeline which is due to be launched soon, adding another string to our bow, as it were.

So our apologies if you have missed our inane ramblings of late, but we should be back to our keyboard-happy selves soon, regaling you with banner related musings and information.

With regards to the new bow string… watch this space!

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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.

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