Goodbye 2011, Hello 2012

Let me start by saying “Happy New Year everyone”.

Welcome to 2012, the year of the Olympics, UEFA European Championships and, if you believe the Mayan Long Count Calendar, the End of the World. Well, at Venture Banners we are going to have to continue under the assumption that the World is not going to end any time soon and look to what we can do in the large format print industry this year.

Last year saw us make some additions to our product range, including foamex and correx, flags and the Teardrop and Feather Flag stands (trade only).

This coming year we have even more developments ahead. These include:

  • Soft signage – The demand for single sided printed flag-esque material is increasing and is widely seen as the next ‘big thing’ in the industry. The benefits of soft signage are easy installation and reduced delivery costs. Indoor use only.
  • A fast turnaround service – We hope to implement an ‘I need it, like NOW!’ service in the coming months. We always get asked if we can turnaround a banner in the space of 12 hours, but because of our strict print-queue system this hasn’t been possible. However, with new machinery arriving this year we may now be able to offer this for a limited number of orders.
  • Consignment numbers for deliveries – We hope to be trialing this soon with some test orders, and then rolling out across 95% of the orders we fulfill. This will be provided in the form of a ‘Dispatched’ email notification.
  • Pop-Up display systems – One planned for later on in the year, but exhibition display systems are on the cards.
  • Brand refresh – A simple freshening up of the Venture brand.
  • New website – For the trade side of our business, giving increased functionality.
  • Website development service - We are developing a service which will give our customers (specifically print-trade) the opportunity to have a fully-controllable and professional, large-format print website. More to come on this in the very near future.

With these developments in mind (plus a few others we have up our sleeves), we are hoping that 2012 turns into the year we are planning for.

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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.



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! ;)

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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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