Archive for the ‘Design’ Category

Not a Graphic Designer nor a Web Developer? No Problem! DIY with TWO Easy Tools

March 29th, 2019

Note: This post may contain affiliate links. Please see our disclosure page for more information.

Understandably everyone wants to be able to whip up attractive graphics for social media without having to hire someone like me or learn Adobe Photoshop. Not to mention, many of us are making images on our smartphones and tablets.

And despite WordPress having unlimited themes to choose from, it still can take alot of work to build and manage a WP website. Plus what happens when you get hacked or can’t keep up with all the updates?

Even someone like me who is a graphic designer and web developer LOVES these tools that are available out there today. Like everyone else, I value my time and having peace of mind. I have two tools that help me achieve that.

Here are my recommendations for those who want to DIY:

Get a 7-day Free Trial of PicMonkey

Whether you are on your smartphone or tablet or at your desktop or laptop computer, PicMonkey is my tool of choice. You can edit images or photos, or choose from the 3000+ image library that comes part of your account.

Believe it or not, this tool can create ads, invitations, business cards, postcards, flyers, and of course social media images at the size and specs you need. It comes with over 200 fonts and over 2000 templates.

This tool saves me ALOT of time. Not to mention, if there’s an urgent need and I am not in my office or with my laptop, I don’t sweat it like the old days! PicMonkey can handle it.

And if you just need to clean up photos, or do some serious photo editing like changing eye colors, removing blemishes or masking out parts of images, it’s really easy!

Probably my favorite thing that I can do on PicMonkey is collages. There is no easy way to do so in Photoshop. But using this app, it’s a piece of cake!

I suggest trying out for yourself. You can click this link to sign up for a free trial. I’d love to hear what you think!

Great looking pics in two clicks, thanks to PicMonkey's photo editing tools

Weebly - Websites, eCommerce & Marketing in one place.

Need to build a website but you don’t have the money to hire someone or the time to learn? Here’s a solution.

Weebly will make this easy for you! You don’t even have to pay right away. In fact, you don’t have to pay at all if you don’t mind have a URL with the Weebly name in it, like “yourwebsite.weebly.com”.

Because Weebly is your your all-in-one website and content management system (CMS), which I refer to as a self-hosted website, you don’t have to spend any time shopping for and signing up for a separate webhost service. And you can get your domain through Weebly too.

You also save so much time not having to do any of that dreary file installation work. And you’ll only have to worry about managing one account for your website.

Other concerns that normally come with maintaining a website are keeping your CMS and plugins up to date with the latest versions. Not to mention, deciding WHICH plugins you will need? One to back up your website, one to provide security, another to add SEO, etc… Well, a Weebly website comes with a backup service and security. If your Weebly website ever does get hacked, it is Weebly‘s headache – not yours! We all know that WordPress websites are being hacked thousands of times a day with thousands of hack attempts every hour. Weebly takes care of the security. That is the “peace of mind” that I referred to earlier. The drawbacks to a self-hosted website like Weebly are:

There aren’t thousands of plugins created for Weebly at your disposal on the web. However, the problem with having all those plugins to choose from, like what is true for WordPress, is there is no quality control. So many plugins have been abandoned, are outdated, or they have viruses and malware. And it’s your responsibility as well as your choice when you add plugins to your website and to your server. I had one nightmare situation where 4 of my websites were infected with malware because they were all on the same webhosting account. (You can read my crazy story here.)

You can’t edit the code, ever. Since this article really is for those who aren’t web developers, perhaps you won’t ever have this problem. As a web developer, there are always changes that I want to do myself, or that the web building tools just aren’t doing things the way I want them to do. I get frustrated, of course! But then I remember that the limited access is also what gives me peace of mind. The security locked in place on a self-hosted website.

Weebly - Websites, eCommerce & Marketing in one place.

On Pinterest, if a photo says it all, make yours say it well

June 27th, 2013

For this article, I am keeping the words to a minimum to prove this point. On Pinterest, its all  pictures – And you need to stand out. Check out this  infographic we got from Hubspot. If you want to get shared (i.e. re-pinned) try these tips. Article originally published on Hubspot 6/27/2013

Senior Dogs Rockin’ Photo Shoot at the Fillmore!

June 18th, 2012

Misty K at The Fillmore's soundboard with Mark Rogers

Thanks to Pet Food Express, Muttville Senior Dog Rescue got a very special day at the famous and historical music venue The Fillmore for a fun “music-themed” photo shoot. The photos will be showcased at this year’s 2012 San Francisco Pride Parade, where Muttville mutts and volunteers will be cruising their Muttmobile, a 2012 VW Beetle given to them by Oprah Winfrey, and special guests Jane Wiedlin and Gina Schock of  The Go Go’s are joining them to support senior dog rescue.

April 17 was a FUN day with music, mutts, cameras, lights, and…THE FILLMORE!! Muttville Senior Dog Rescue teamed up with Pet Food Express for a special series of “My Mutt” photos, and will be showcasing them at this year’s SF Pride Day parade and future events thereafter.

Ocean at The Fillmore

Model senior mutts Pepper (parents Jen and Steph), Ruby and Scrabble (mom Yoko), and Misty K (dads Joe and Rafael) took over The Fillmore and did their best rockstar poses. Photographer Mark Rogers made sure they were in their best light. Fillmore crew Tony, Deanne, and Amie made sure the venue was set up with the same rockstar treatment that every band receives who graces the stage. They offered delectable treats in the green room to keep them energized.

My dog Ocean came as part of the assisting crew, but we had fun sneaking in our own shots…heehee. She did such a great job assisting, Mark gave Ocean her own rockstar shots too. She will be joining the series with photos at another historical venue, Bimbo’s (or Bottom of the Hill. She’s still deciding.. “plush bar or dive bar”?)

Congrats to the Nominees in the 2012 Bay Woof Beast of the Bay Awards!

January 6th, 2012

Vote for your faves in the Bay Woof Beast of the Bay Awards 2012

What a great 2011 and beginning to a new year for many of our pet-related colleagues and clients!

Switchblade is proud to announce the following clients and events nominated in the 2012 Bay Woof Beast of the Bay Awards. We are honored to be associated with these great events, organizations and businesses:

Best Adult Dog Play Group / Event:
Pet Pride Day
(sponsored by Friends of SFACC and SFACC)

Best Dog-Friendly Winery:
Mutt Lynch Winery

Best Dog-Friendly Bakery:
Paw Patch Pastries

Best Pet Superstore:
Pet Food Express

Best Doggie Birthday Present:
Massage from Happy Hounds Massage
A Paw Patch Pastries pastry

Best Canine Massage Therapist:
Shelah Barr, Happy Hounds Massage

Best Overnight Boarder:
High Tail Hotel

Best Pet Photographer:
Mark Rogers Photography

Best Rescue Group, Best Canine Cause:
Muttville Senior Dog Rescue

Best Fundraising Event:
Pet Pride Day (SFACC)
Moolah For Mutts (Muttville)

Best Online Adoption Website:
Muttville Senior Dog Rescue

ALSO: Northern California Pet Adoptions has a photo of Switchblade founder Marie Macaspac with her beloved border collie, Collette, on its homepage! This website was also nominated for Best Adoption Website!. Photo taken by Mark Rogers Photography.

 VOTE! Support your favorite businesses, events, rescue organizations, and dog parks!

Click here to vote!

Muttville’s Holiday Adoption Center – from Empty Space to Room of Hope for the Holidays!

December 5th, 2011

Here is how Muttville redefined a “Popup store” for dog rescue……..

The last Saturday of November, Muttville was scheduled for an outreach event at the former “Leftovers” Consignment Shop at 1259 Polk St in San Francisco. I didn’t realize we would be in a completely vacant 2000 square foot space. The owner of Leftovers had the lease until January 1, and she already moved her store to a new location on Van Ness Ave. She nonchalantly said, “Sure you can use the space.” My imagination went reeling of all the possibilities. I was reminded of some of the good ol’ days when I worked on window displays and pop up stores for Sony. I was excited to make this empty space into a showstopping attraction for Muttville.

I immediately called Patty Stanton, Muttville’s publicist, and told her my vision. We came back on Sunday and decided to launch on December 3. That would be 6 days from now. Could it be done? And with what budget?

Learning to be very resourceful in these last years as a business owner, we scoured the Muttville garage, where Sherri had amazingly fitting vintage furniture and basically everything we needed to dress up the interior. We took what we found, filled up the Muttvan and delivered it to the space Sunday night. It was really coming together in less than 24 hours!

Now that was taken care of, we had to design eye-catching window displays with as minimal a budget as possible. I designed for 3 windows facing Polk St and Bush St with existing collateral, thanks to a beautiful set of photos taken by Nuena Photography. If we wanted window displays in 6 days, I had to order big, bold banners by Monday! I worked til 3am Sunday night / Monday morning, got Sherri and Patty’s blessing, and they were ordered.

I immediately emailed our pet-related clients and colleagues who all would rally for Muttville in a heartbeat: Pets Love Deals, Small Club, Paw Patch Pastries, Nuena Photography, Waghearted, Sharingpet, and Happy Hounds Massage. They filled the space with warmth and gifts, offering their services, products and hot cider!

Opening Day of the Muttville Holiday Adoption Center came on December 3. Even our vendors couldn’t believe what we pulled together in less than a week. Thanks to our dedicated Muttville volunteers, Patty, Anne, Ellen, and Russell, plus our friends from Sharingpet, Angel and Luis, we spent a lovely Friday night putting it all together. Even that night, we were getting traffic! The neighborhood had never seen anything like it before! We were welcomed with open arms by the neighboring businesses and passers-by who were nearby for a movie or a show at  Great American Music Hall.

Back to Opening Day…beautiful and sunny! People were waiting for the doors to open! Doggies in the window! Traffic was high in the afternoon and we decided to stay open an extra 2 hours. A blind little Papillon named Jennie got adopted, and dozens of people discovered Muttville and the joys of senior dogs. We can’t wait to see how things unfold through the month with every weekend. We’re expecting news coverage, thanks to Patty, from local news and NPR’s California Report.

If you live in the California Bay Area, please check it out. 1259 Polk Street, corner of Bush. Give a little love to some senior dogs!

 

UPDATE 12/9: Muttville’s Holiday Adoption Center made it to the local Channel 7 ABC News! And they also wrote a short feature too. Read ABC local news article about Muttville here.

Switchblade Creative Studios and Adobe present “Bert Monroy, Part II: Photoshop Filters and 3D Workflow”

October 12th, 2011

 

 

 

 

 

OCTOBER 13th at Adobe offices, 601 Townsend, San Francisco, CA

6pm – 8:30pm

Bert Monroy, Part II: Photoshop Filters and 3D Workflow

Bert Monroy is considered one the world’s leading Photoshop painters. He

returns for a presentation to teach and inspire. He will share with you

many of the techniques he has developed in the creation of his

internationally renowned work.

If you think you know everything there is to know about Photoshop, you

must attend this event. If you were at his last appearance, you know he

will cover a lot of ground. Bert will teach you features of Photoshop most

people overlook — not just how things work, but, most importantly, why.

You’ll come away with a renewed excitement about what Photoshop allows you

to create.

Bert will show you how to use filters in ways you never thought possible.

He will show you how to take a blank screen and create imagery that

will force the viewer to question whether the image is real or an

illusion.

ALSO: Bert will also show new exciting 3D workflows for creative designers

who want to learn about Photoshop CS5 Extended’s 3D capabilities. There

are many simple 3D effects one can use for many different creative outputs

that many people aren’t aware of and Bert will wow us with these

techniques.

This event promises to be not only educational but inspirational. You will

be left with the motivation to take Photoshop and your imagination

to heights you never thought possible.

More about Bert:

Bert Monroy is considered one of the pioneers of digital art. His work has

been seen in many magazines and scores of books. He has served on

the faculty of many well known institutions, lectured around the

world and appeared on hundreds of TV shows internationally. Bert hosted a

weekly podcast called “Pixel Perfect” for Revision3.com. He was a monthly

regular on The Screen Savers TV show for almost 4 years.

He co-authored “The Official Adobe Photoshop Handbook”, the first book on

Photoshop plus many other books since. His latest books, “Photoshop

Studio with Bert Monroy: Digital Painting” has gotten critical

acclaim around the world. Bert writes a column for Photoshop User.

Bert serves a client list that includes Apple Computer, Adobe Systems,

AT&T, American Express, Pixar Animation, Disney Animation and

Lockheed/Martin. Bert has also worked in the motion picture

industry for Industrial Light and Magic, Pacific Data Images, and

R/Greenberg.

In 2004 Bert was inducted into the Photoshop Hall of Fame.

We are very excited to have Bert join us again!

How Switchblade Became Experts in Marketing for the Animal Friendly Community

September 19th, 2011

Switchblade Creative Studios is proud of our work with animal welfare/rescue organizations, film productions, and pet-related businesses that volunteer or support animal causes,
and/or donate their products and services.

small club: big adventures for small dogs

 

 




 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How Switchblade Became Experts in Marketing
For Animal Related Causes & Pet Lovin’ Consumers

When I left behind corporate life and started this company in 2007, the first thing I was excited to do was volunteer with animal rescue organizations. No longer living within a demanding 60+ hour a week job, I couldn’t wait to explore the options. Becoming a volunteer at the San Francisco Animal Care & Control was the perfect introduction to the animal rescue world. It became an important part of my routine and I welcomed this new community of animal loving folks. Shortly before my first orientation at SFACC, my life also dramatically changed when Jazmin, my soulmate canine companion of 11 years, passed away at the age of 14. Losing Jazmin motivated me to give even more in memory of her and our life together.

Volunteering at the SFACC was a joy, but coming home to any empty place with no pets depressed me. I started searching local dog rescue groups where I could foster. I used PetFinder and googled “dog rescue groups”. Searching through the dozens of listings, I gravitated towards dogs I thought were probably “less adoptable”, either because of age or health concerns. I searched and found the saddest looking dog within 50 miles, saved by Wonder Dog Rescue. She was a 40 lb 9-year-old cattle dog mix with the saddest story I have ever heard. And she was indeed the saddest dog I ever met. I named her Frida.

frida jedi switchblade creative studios

frida and jedi

I also sent an email to Muttville Senior Dog Rescue to inquire about fostering. It turned out Muttville was in its first year as an official 501(c) organization. We luckily shared the same neighborhood. Another plus for me was its focus on senior dogs. Muttville Founder  Sherri Franklin instantly became my hero and mentor,  and “Muttville Manor” my second home. My first foster dog was Jedi, a chihuahua mix with irresistible big brown eyes. Jedi and Frida joined my home and it felt warm and inviting to me once again.

My role with Muttville quickly grew into so much more than fostering. I had just left a career as a designer and marketing specialist for 11 years, working myself to the bone, so that part of me wasn’t going to change! I basically took over as Muttville’s marketing lead and designer.  The opportunity to combine my talent and skills with my passion to save dogs was invigorating! The role gave me the opportunity to work with more inspiring individuals behind Muttville: Board President, Jane Goldman, the V.P. of Lifestyle Marketing at CBS Interactive and founder of CHOW.com., and Muttville’s web development engineer, Carol Balacek. Five years later, they both continue to mentor and inspire me and are great influences to me as a business owner. As the Director of Marketing & Design for Muttville, I continually learn from the organization’s other team leaders who contribute their expertise in fundraising, public relations, event planning, and grant writing. As a team, we regularly collaborate and develop innovative strategies, challenging ourselves to improve upon the previous successes.

Muttville leaders at the 3rd Annual Moolah For Mutts

L-R: Jane Goldman, Chris, Sherri Franklin, Deanne Franklin (behind Sherri/Marie), Marie Macaspac, Carol Balacek, John Mounier

Four and a half years and 100 foster dogs later, my passion has led me to be a proud member of a community of inspiring, dedicated folks who have specialized their businesses and organizations in animals. For fellow pet-friendly business owners who create products or offer services or produce films, the most important aspect we have in common is our need to contribute to animal rescue. For those special leaders who successfully manage a rescue organization, who inspire a community to support their causes, I am honored to be a part of their work.

Screen Shot 2015-04-16 at 7.24.06 PM

The Start of Something GIGANTIC! Brian Barneclo’s Systems Mural Project

August 29th, 2011

Systems Mural Project by Brian Barneclo in San Francisco

You never know how exciting its really going to be until the paint goes up on the wall. Brian Barneclo completed his first week on the largest canvas he’s worked on, The Systems Mural Project located on 7th at Townsend in San Francisco. We’ve been on his team of advisors, helping to raise funds for the project since last year.  Brian has been confident that everyone will get motivation once he starts painting, and now that the time is here, we are definitely excited! Switchblade’s offices aren’t far from Brian’s canvas, so we’ll be dropping by, walking dogs, throughout the project.

Keep up with Brian’s latest updates on Systems Mural’s Facebook page

UPDATE! The mural was completed in September 2011. .Check out the new website, sfmural.com

CONGRATS TO BRIAN!!!

Switchblade’s Contribution to Muttville’s Biggest Night of the Year, Moolah For Mutts: “Night of 1000 Mutts”

July 20th, 2011

Muttville Senior Dog Rescue‘s 3rd annual gala fundraiser, Moolah For Mutts, was a smash hit this year, raising much needed funds for the organization to continue its mission to rescue and find new homes for senior dogs slated for euthanasia. Switchblade has been a part of Muttville’s core team from the very beginning when Sherri Franklin officially started this non-profit group four years ago.

As part of the event’s planning committee, Switchblade’s contribution spanned roughly 5 months, with the special day taking place July 16, 2011. We are proud to share the creative process we helped lead and materialize into reality in print, online, and even the big screen.

Theme Development and Brand Identity

This year, the event moved to a larger space, the Swedish American Hall on Market Street in San Francisco.

It also moved to a fairly empty space. This brought some new challenges for this year’s event plans, to say the least.
Muttville was still amidst its celebration of its 1000th senior dog rescue. Taking these factors into consideration, we helped formulate this year’s theme: “Night of 1000 Mutts”. Tying in to the visuals we also designed for the 1000th rescue celebration, Switchblade developed the logo and brand identity, incorporating the sea of senior dog faces into marketing collateral for online and print.

What we love about using the 1000 faces of Muttville’s success stories is the interactivity with the website where all 1000 dogs are displayed with each one clickable to their original profile.  Not only was it a way to further share this page to the world, it was a seamless way to carry out the year long 100th rescue celebration if by chance a new visitor didn’t know about this milestone for Muttville.

Marketing and Social Media Campaign

“Night of 1000 Mutts” 6-week marketing and social media campaign further celebrated the 1000 Muttvile dogs rescued by spotlighting  a few lucky success stories. Below is an example of one lucky mutt, Waldo. We called the campaign “1000 Reasons To Attend This Year’s Moolah For Mutts”. Our social media activities systematically rotated on daily schedules with posts on Facebook three times a week, daily retweets, plus subscribers were also directly reached with timely email blasts. Within the final 2 weeks before the event, Switchblade also was excited to see our ads for the event in the San Francisco Chronicle and Bay Woof.

The campaign attracted great traffic on all of Muttville’s social networks. The variety of dogs and stories hit home for different audiences in different ways. With over 18 stories and dogs profiled, we hoped to connect with every possible compassionate animal loving person out there.

As the event sponsors and auction donors list  grew, we further developed the campaign with interaction and engagement with them via their Facebook and Twitter pages.

The event sold out and we were thrilled with the success of the campaign. Analytics showed activity on the website for Moolah For Mutts as well as Muttville’s website were steady as a result of the organized schedule followed by the marketing campaign’s activities.

Event Decor and Main Video

In order to maximize the financial success of the event, the committee did its best to have everything donated – from auction items, tables, A/V equipment, food, and beverages. About 90% was donated and if not it was discounted. The event’s sponsor, Pet Food Express, came through for the event when Switchblade, still keeping in mind the overall theme, “Night of 1000 Mutts”, asked Pet Food Express if Muttville could borrow their large mounted photographs from their “My Mutt” Program. Sized from 30′ to as large as 60′, Pet Food Express was able to offer almost 50 mounted posters. Upon entering the venue, guests were surrounded by larger than life canine faces on My Mutt posters.

PFE's Corey and Switchblade's Marie with My Mutt posters behind them

Attentive to even the smallest of details, the “1000 Mutts” theme was a part of every Muttville volunteer’s attire. Hanging from a long beaded necklace, each Muttville volunteer wore a different Muttville mutt photo accompanied by their profile story. Marie wore Collette, the foster dog she dearly loved who passed away in March 2011. (The blog article Marie wrote about Collette for Muttville was re-published by Bella Dog Magazine, and the issue was included in the goodie bags given to departing guests that night.)

Muttville volunteers Peggy, Marie, and Inger wearing Muttville dog photos and profiles

Switchblade’s most visible contribution was the main video presentation titled “The Next 1000 Mutts”  that celebrated Muttville’s successes and meant to bring heartwarming smiles to all in attendance. Founder Sherri Franklin gave a tearful speech then played the video to uplift their spirits.

Click here to watch “The Next 1000 Mutts”.

 

And we almost forgot to mention….Switchblade donated an item for the Live Auction – The design of a limited edition print titled “Our First 1000 Dogs”, with #1 of only 100 available framed and signed by Sherri Franklin. Read more about the big bucks this item raised for Muttville. (We were so excited by the winning bid that we just had to write about it in its own blog post!)

Switchblade Creative Studios’ Live Auction Donation to Muttville’s Annual Fundraiser Earned Some “Moolah For Mutts”!

July 20th, 2011

On July 16, Muttville had their big annual gala fundraiser, Moolah For Mutts: “Night of 1000 Mutts” and Switchblade was proud to be an integral part of the successful night. It was a pretty thrilling part of the evening when the live auction was under way. People were wildly bidding, and Lenny our amazing auctioneer brought the excitement to a crazy fun level. Auction paddles flying up every second, the spotters couldn’t keep up!

An exciting moment for me was when the item we donated, #1 of 100 Limited Edition print titled “Our First 100 Dogs”, framed and signed by Sherri Franklin , was up for bidding.

 

Sherri presented it on stage and the bid started at $100.

Lenny started calling out numbers I couldn’t even keep up but the bids just kept going and going!

The final winning bid was $1000!! Wow, unbelievable! I was so happy that I was speechless. Switchblade had a fantastic night, honored to be part of Muttville and the event’s planning committee. Read more about Switchblade’s contributions to a successful Moolah For Mutts: “Night of 1000 Mutts”.