Displaying items by tag: design
Try out furniture layouts, color schemes, and more in virtual reality before you go shopping in the real world.
There are three schools of thought on how to go about decorating a room:
- Buy a bunch of furniture and cram it into the room.
- Take careful measurements of each item of furniture, calculate the theoretical capacity of the room, then cram it all in, ignoring the fact that you've placed a bookshelf on top of your bed .
- Use a computer for pre-visualization.
Historically, I practiced the little-known fourth principle: don't have furniture. However, since I became a remote worker, I've found that a home office needs conveniences like a desk and a chair, a bookshelf for reference books and tech manuals, and so on. Therefore, I have been formulating a plan to populate my living and working space with actual furniture, made of actual wood rather than milk crates (or glue and sawdust, for that matter), with an emphasis on plan. The last thing I want is to bring home a great find from a garage sale to discover that it doesn't fit through the door or that it's oversized compared to another item of furniture.
It was time to do what the professionals do. It was time to pre-viz.
Open source interior design
Sweet Home 3D is an open source (GPLv2) interior design application that helps you draw your home's floor plan and then define, resize, and arrange furniture. You can do all of this with precise measurements, down to fractions of a centimeter, without having to do any math and with the ease of basic drag-and-drop operations. And when you're done, you can view the results in 3D. If you can create a basic table (not the furniture kind) in a word processor, you can plan the interior design of your home in Sweet Home 3D.
Sweet Home 3D is a Java application, so it's universal. It runs on any operating system that can run Java, which includes Linux, Windows, MacOS, and BSD. Regardless of your OS, you can download the application from the website.
- On Linux, untar the archive. Right-click on the SweetHome3D file and select Properties. In the Permission tab, grant the file executable permission.
- On MacOS and Windows, expand the archive and launch the application. You must grant it permission to run on your system when prompted.
On Linux, you can also install Sweet Home 3D as a Snap package, provided you have snapd installed and enabled.
Measures of success
First thing first: Break out your measuring tape. To get the most out of Sweet Home 3D, you must know the actual dimensions of the living space you're planning for. You may or may not need to measure down to the millimeter or 16th of an inch; you know your own tolerance for variance. But you must get the basic dimensions, including measuring walls and windows and doors.
Use your best judgment for common sense. For instance, When measuring doors, include the door frame; while it's not technically part of the door itself, it is part of the wall space that you probably don't want to cover with furniture.
Creating a room
When you first launch Sweet Home 3D, it opens a blank canvas in its default viewing mode, a blueprint view in the top panel, and a 3D rendering in the bottom panel. On my Slackware desktop computer, this works famously, but my desktop is also my video editing and gaming computer, so it's got a great graphics card for 3D rendering. On my laptop, this view was a lot slower. For best performance (especially on a computer not dedicated to 3D rendering), go to the 3D View menu at the top of the window and select Virtual Visit. This view mode renders your work from a ground-level point of view based on the position of a virtual visitor. That means you get to control what is rendered and when.
It makes sense to switch to this view regardless of your computer's power because an aerial 3D rendering doesn't provide you with much more detail than what you have in your blueprint plan. Once you have changed the view mode, you can start designing.
The first step is to define the walls of your home. This is done with the Create Walls tool, found to the right of the Hand icon in the top toolbar. Drawing walls is simple: Click where you want a wall to begin, click to anchor it, and continue until your room is complete.
Once you close the walls, press Esc to exit the tool.
Defining a room
Sweet Home 3D is flexible on how you create walls. You can draw the outer boundary of your house first, and then subdivide the interior, or you can draw each room as conjoined "containers" that ultimately form the footprint of your house. This flexibility is possible because, in real life and in Sweet Home 3D, walls don't always define a room. To define a room, use the Create Rooms button to the right of the Create Walls button in the top toolbar.
If the room's floor space is defined by four walls, then all you need to do to define that enclosure as a room is double-click within the four walls. Sweet Home 3D defines the space as a room and provides you with its area in feet or meters, depending on your preference.
For irregular rooms, you must manually define each corner of the room with a click. Depending on the complexity of the room shape, you may have to experiment to find whether you need to work clockwise or counterclockwise from your origin point to avoid quirky Möbius-strip flooring. Generally, however, defining the floor space of a room is straightforward.
After you give the room a floor, you can change to the Arrow tool and double-click on the room to give it a name. You can also set the color and texture of the flooring, walls, ceiling, and baseboards.
None of this is rendered in your blueprint view by default. To enable room rendering in your blueprint panel, go to the File menu and select Preferences. In the Preferences panel, set Room rendering in plan to Floor color or texture.
Doors and windows
Once you've finished the basic floor plan, you can switch permanently to the Arrow tool.
You can find doors and windows in the left column of Sweet Home 3D, in the Doors and Windows category. You have many choices, so choose whatever is closest to what you have in your home.
To place a door or window into your plan, drag-and-drop it on the appropriate wall in your blueprint panel. To adjust its position and size, double-click the door or window.
With the base plan complete, the part of the job that feels like work is over! From this point onward, you can play with furniture arrangements and other décor.
You can find furniture in the left column, organized by the room for which each is intended. You can drag-and-drop any item into your blueprint plan and control orientation and size with the tools visible when you hover your mouse over the item's corners. Double-click on any item to adjust its color and finish.
Visiting and exporting
To see what your future home will look like, drag the "person" icon in your blueprint view into a room.
You can strike your own balance between realism and just getting a feel for space, but your imagination is your only limit. You can get additional assets to add to your home from the Sweet Home 3D download page. You can even create your own furniture and textures with the Library Editor applications, which are optional downloads from the project site.
Sweet Home 3D can export your blueprint plan to SVG format for use in Inkscape, and it can export your 3D model to OBJ format for use in Blender. To export your blueprint, go to the Plan menu and select Export to SVG format. To export a 3D model, go to the 3D View menu and select Export to OBJ format.
You can also take "snapshots" of your home so that you can refer to your ideas without opening Sweet Home 3D. To create a snapshot, go to the 3D View menu and select Create Photo. The snapshot is rendered from the perspective of the person icon in the blueprint view, so adjust as required, then click the Create button in the Create Photo window. If you're happy with the photo, click Save.
Home sweet home
There are many more features in Sweet Home 3D. You can add a sky and a lawn, position lights for your photos, set ceiling height, add another level to your house, and much more. Whether you're planning for a flat you're renting or a house you're buying—or a house that doesn't even exist (yet), Sweet Home 3D is an engaging and easy application that can entertain and help you make better purchasing choices when scurrying around for furniture, so you can finally stop eating breakfast at the kitchen counter and working while crouched on the floor.
After being in development for more than 2 years, MyPaint 2.0.0 alpha is available for download.
MyPaint is a free, open source drawing and painting program available for Windows, macOS, and Linux.The application features infinite canvas, configurable brushes, graphics tablet support, and a distraction-free fullscreen mode, on top of a simple GTK+ 3 interface. It uses Open Raster as its default file format, but it also supports saving images to PNG or JPEG.
MyPaint 2.0.0 alpha includes:
- Spectral Paint / Pigment layer and brush mode
- Linear blending for non-pigment layers and brush modes
- Smudge enhancements
- Layer "views": added controls for switching between different views of the documents, with the views describing which layers are visible together
- Fullscreen improvements with autohide of toolbars
- Python3 compatibility
The pigment / paint mode is now default for all brushes and new layers. In case some don't like this, or it's too slow, set the
Pigment slider off from the
Tools Options Panel (can be enabled from the
Edit menu), and change the layer mode to
"Paint Mode" is a spectral upsampled 30 channel weighted geometric mean compositing mode that emulates the appearance of paint and pigments, as seen in this image (from Brien Dieterle / GitHub):
Also, a new brush pack, called Dieterle, is available with the Linux AppImage binary (it was not included yet with the Windows binary but it can be downloaded from the GitHub releases page). The MyPaint developers recommend using this brush pack "to see many new features in action".
Download MyPaint 2.0.0 alpha
The downloads page offers Linux (AppImage) and Windows binaries. To run the AppImage on any Linux distribution, make it executable (right click it, select
Properties, then check the
Allow executing file as program or similar box), and run it by simply double clicking it.
For Ubuntu and Linux Mint, there is an official MyPaint PPA but it does not contain the new MyPaint 2.0.0 alpha. However, there's an unofficial PPA you can use to install MyPaint development builds (a bit older than the latest 2.0.0 alpha) on Ubuntu 16.04, 18.04 or 18.10, and Linux Mint 19.* or 18.*. If you wish to use it to install MyPaint 2.0.0 dev builds from this PPA, run the commands below in a terminal:
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:alex-p/mypaint sudo apt update sudo apt install mypaint
Content, brand stories, and social media have been dominating marketing conversations for years now.
Big brands are creating whole platforms of content that may or may not even feature their products. Social media is exploding with businesses that don’t advertise any other way. And it’s all moving a mile a minute.
It makes a small business wonder if any of this applies to them. Can a small business use social media or content marketing to help boost their brand, or is it just for the big guys?
The truth is, small businesses need to brand themselves to stand out, too. They can harness the power of content, social media, and email marketing to boost their own conversions.
Here are a few suggestions on how to launch a successful online marketing campaign as a small business.
Branding Your Small Business
You’re probably not the only real estate agent or online origami paper store out there. So how do you make yourself stand out from your competition?
Before you do anything else, think about who you are as a business and what you provide that makes you unique.
There are a number of ways to do that. Let’s look at a few.
1. Creating a Brand Story for Your Small Business
Like I said before, before you do anything else to boost your small business brand, you need to figure out just what that brand is.
Who are you?
What’s your story?
These are important questions to answer if you want to stand out.
Did you know that Millennials are more likely to pledge their loyalty to a brand if they have a clear story and a mission? They want to create change in the world and they want their brands to do the same.
One of my favorite brand examples is Dove personal care products. In 2004, they began The Real Truth Behind Beauty campaign to change how we think about beauty standards. They now sponsor programs that teach body confidence in kids and offer free resources for parents to do the same.
When it comes to small business branding, I offer this example: I have an architectural client who specializes in sustainable building and spiritual spaces. I’m leveraging both of those aspects of her business to build a brand story centered on wellness at the individual, community, and environmental levels.
2. Branding Through Excellent Service
Email marketing platform Klaviyo held a summit discussing best practices in ecommerce. One thing they stressed was standing out through good customer service.
When you create enough value, people are willing to pay what your products are worth. You can find cheap items anywhere on the Internet; what’s rare is amazing customer service.
–Steve Deckert, Co-Founder at Smile.io speaking at Klaviyo:BOS
Addressing customer issues quickly and anticipating their needs will brand you as a quality business and earn you customer loyalty. Not doing so will chase your customers away.
In fact, according to Salesforce, 50 percent of consumers will switch brands if a company doesn’t anticipate their needs.
3. Branding Through Design
We’ve all seen how effective branding through design can be. It’s why Victoria’s Secret wraps your purchases in that distinctive pink tissue paper and your Shutterfly photos come in that bright orange envelope.
When the tissue paper sticks out of your bag and the envelope sits in your mailbox, everyone knows where you shop; that you belong to a tribe.
Come up with your own unique feature that speaks to your small business brand. Maybe it’s the color of your shipping boxes, or maybe it’s a certain border you use on all your Instagram posts. Whatever it is, make it as identifiable as that pink paper.
Content Marketing for Small Business
You probably know you need some kind of blog to get your business ranked on Google. You may even know you need to choose the right keywords and place them throughout your site. But there’s so much more to content marketing than that.
Let’s take a look at some of the key differentiators between an okay small business content marketing campaign and a great one.
You’ve got a blog and you contribute regularly. You’re even doing your research to find out what your users are reading and what kinds of keywords will work best. That’s great!
You may be seeing some life from your efforts, but are you seeing the results you expected? You might be seeing a whole lot more if you diversified your content marketing portfolio.
Much like your retirement portfolio, you don’t want to put all your eggs in one basket, or you risk losing money if something goes bust.
To diversify your content marketing strategy, consider other ways to publish your content. Here are a few ideas to get you started.
YouTube has just over 1 billion users logged in per month. That’s a lot of eyeballs for your business. Look at what kinds of content businesses in your space are creating. Is there something you could offer?
How-to and unboxing videos are very popular. If you can create useful content for your users via video, you may be able to attract more users to the top of your funnel.
If you want to see an example of this done well, our friends over at Zaius recently launched an excellent video series called Marketing Unboxed, where they analyze how popular ecommerce companies are converting customers and increasing brand loyalty.
Since their target audience is ecommerce marketers, this is a great way for them to attract just the right leads to their content.
3. White Papers, eBooks, and Infographics
Offering any of these types of content helps you establish authority, which we’ll explore more deeply in the next section.
White papers and eBooks let you speak more deeply on a topic and offer real insights to people who are looking for advice.
One bonus with these types of longer-form content: you can “gate” them with an email capture form.
Request an email address from anyone who wants to download, and you’ve suddenly got a lead with real interest in your area of expertise.
On the flip side, infographics help you break up a lot of information into more snackable statistics that users can then share via social, or cite in their own content.
Podcasts are incredibly popular around the world, with South Korea leading the way. Particularly if your customer base is younger, podcasts are a great way to reach potential customers, and reach them beyond your own borders.
5. Other Types of Content
Of course, the kind of content you create is all going to depend on your audience and your business. Depending on who you are, you can experiment with comics, GIFs, or Spotify-like playlists.
The key is to tap into your audience’s needs and preferred method of consuming content
EAT stands for expertise, authority, and trustworthiness; something talked about often at Klaviyo’s Ecommerce Summit.
When a person searches for information online, they’re usually looking to solve a problem. They want content from sources they can trust; sources that have some authority and expertise on the topic.
If you can show that through your content (white papers, videos, blog posts written by leading experts), then you can gain followers and convert them into customers.
By the way, potential customers aren’t the only ones looking for these traits in brands. Since 2015, when Google released their Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines, we’ve known that the search engine has put a lot of emphasis on EAT as a measurement of good content.
Social Media Marketing for Small Business
Once you’ve got great content, it’s all about getting it out on the right channel. Some brands would place social media marketing in its own category, but I see it as an essential part of your content marketing overall.
After all, 68 percent of American adults still use Facebook, according to Pew Research.
Using the right social channels to promote your content and products can bring more shoppers to your site. For instance, if you’re a beauty brand, like Sephora, Instagram is a great way for you to showcase beautiful images of your products.
Again, keep in mind who your audience is. I managed a parenting site whose user base was mainly millennial moms. For them, Pinterest is everything, so we boosted our Pinterest posts and saw a pretty nice gain in social traffic.
For the longest time, most businesses were looking at pageviews as their only benchmark of a successful campaign. And if those pageviews weren’t hitting the target, they blindly wondered what they could do about it. So came the death of many a content marketing campaign.
There’s so much more to metrics than pageviews, though, and there’s so much you can learn in the process:
If you’re tracking video, for instance, what is your complete rate (the percent of viewers who complete the video)?
At what point in the video do viewers start to drop off?
For white papers, it’s not all about how many people downloaded it. How many people got to the email field and then bailed?
For blogs, how far did people scroll down a post before they left? How many other pages did they view after the initial post, and what link brought them there?
How many people have linked back to your infographic or shared it on social media?
And don’t forget conversion rate. How many conversions did you get against all of those other metrics?
These are all important metrics when it comes to small business content marketing. Because, let’s face it, your blog post and your video aren’t going to get the millions of views, likes, and shares that the big guys command. For you, it’s all about quality of views, and how many ended in a conversion.
Email Marketing for Small Business
Email marketing is so much more than sending out the occasional discount coupon or business update. Let’s look at some of the ways you can use email marketing to stay top-of-mind with potential leads and convert them into regular customers.
Email marketing is still a big deal. In fact, email marketing outperforms social media marketing, if you can believe it.
Email newsletters are a cost-effective way to stay top-of-mind with customers, and how you use them depends on your business.
Shops (online or otherwise) might feature new products or announce a sale. Content businesses might feature their latest posts.
The point is, the emails you’ve collected through purchases or sign-ups aren’t sitting idle. And as long as you’re giving your subscribers content that they find relevant and useful, you’re likely to find yourself with repeat customers.
Not sure how to get your own email newsletter started? Check out our email newsletter design guide.
Personalized service is as old as commerce itself. Everyone loves being greeted by name at the bar as the bartender hands them their favorite cocktail. So, too, do online users love being greeted by name, with purchase suggestions. Why do you think Amazon does so well?
Leverage the power of personalization, not just on your site, but in your email campaigns as well. According to Campaign Monitor, 26 percent of emails with a personalized subject line are more likely to be opened.
Use email automation software to send emails at various stages of the buyer journey. If they purchased something from you in the past, use their buyer preferences to generate suggestions for similar products.
Here’s a great example. Shutterfly knows I buy holiday cards every year. So they’ve already (in September) started hitting me up with offers, even including my name in the subject line. At the very least, I’m going to check out the site to see what kind of designs they have this year.
3. Quick Responses
Automated software can also help you respond to new subscribers or customers quickly. If someone gives you their email, don’t wait to thank them. Do it right away!
Send your latest newsletter, a discount coupon, or even a friendly welcome message that invites them to check out your latest and greatest.
According to Experian, emails triggered in real time are 10 times more likely to result in a transaction than those that are batched.
Here’s one I got from Starbucks right after I signed up to their newsletter. It’s simple, with just a few links to helpful information. Honestly, I would have added a call to action to find my local Starbucks or take advantage of a sale, but it gets the point across.
So, can small businesses take advantage of content, email, and social media marketing?
Can creating a brand story for your small business help extend your reach and win you new and repeat customers?
The answer is an improv comic’s go-to motto: “yes, and.” Yes, and it’s all about tailoring these tools to meet your needs and the needs of your customers.
You don't have a plan for your business yet?
Photography, illustration, typography and motion graphics—graphic design creates and blends these elements into appealing images that capture attention, sell products and services, and open new markets. In other words, graphic design helps your business in several ways. Some may even surprise you:
1. Employee pride and productivity
All happy, healthy workplaces have a strong core of brand identity. Employees embrace and commit to the organization’s brand, and are proud to be a part of it. In turn, that buy-in commitment leads to more satisfied, productive employees. Good graphic design cultivates a positive brand identity—by reflecting a company’s vision—that permeates everything from company websites and communications to business cards and staff apparel. The opposite is true too. For example, if you’ve ever worked at a company whose poorly designed website is difficult to read, navigate, search or purchase from, you know how annoying and frustrating that experience is for both staff and grumbling customers. If your employees aren’t happy with your company logo or website, why would your customers be any different?
2. Saves time
JPG, TIF, EPS, PDF or GIF—which file formats do you need for your website photos and images? What about your business cards? A graphic designer knows which file format to use, and when, for the best results. Same goes for RGB vs. CMYK color modes, paper weights and uses, types of website content management systems (CMS), and whether your web or magazine ad is scaled properly and has enough color contrast to be easily readable when it’s published. Thanks to their in-depth training, mastery of industry software, and years of hands-on experience, graphic design professionals know all of this so you don’t have to waste time trying to figure it out yourself.
3. Saves money
Even if you have a limited marketing budget, it pays to invest in good graphic design. Cheap design often means poor design. And poorly designed graphics can be expensive. That may sound counterintuitive, but without the expertise of a professional graphic designer you may end up with a product that does not print clearly, is expensive to print due to color management or layout problems, or is not formatted properly for print or online publishing. Changes, delays and redesigns cost money, so that cheaper crowdsourced logo you bought may end up costing you more than one from the higher-priced experienced graphic designer.
4. High-quality visuals increase viewer interaction
Want to increase your company’s social media views, shares and followers? How about product sales and customer base? Whether it’s e-newsletters and websites, blogs and social media, or printed materials—high-quality visuals grab attention at a much higher rate than applications using low-quality, stock or nonexistent imaging. Online shoppers, especially B2B buyers, cite image quality as one of the most important criteria in their purchasing decisions. Graphic design uses high-quality photography, infographics, illustrations and video to create more successful marketing tools.
5. Graphic communication: it’s more than a trend
Every waking hour, most of us are inundated with information from mobile phones, computers, TV, radio, billboards, magazines and more. And our attention spans are getting shorter because of it. To keep marketing efforts effective in spite of this cultural change, companies now have only a few seconds to capture viewers’ attention and keep it. Images are the perfect solution. They have the power to communicate complex messages much faster than words can. But, in order to do this—as well as improve your appeal to automated audiences (search engines) to optimize your web rankings—images must be unique, relevant and high quality. Graphics design can help your business successfully transition into this new era of concise, high-speed communication.
6. Attract and keep customers interested
Whether you’re redesigning your website, creating a new logo or launching a campaign, it’s best to use fresh graphic design created especially for you. This ensures you maintain a unique identity that attracts attention, differentiates your offerings, and will keep your customers coming back to check for new content. Food packaging is a great example of the importance of attention-getting design. Grocery stores carry hundreds of snack chip brands. And even though many of us review nutrition labels, it’s likely our purchases rely heavily on the appetizing attractiveness of a chip bag’s design and how quickly and accurately it tells us what we’re buying.
7. Strengthens your brand
Can you think of a strong company/brand that doesn’t have a highly recognizable logo, color scheme or typeface? Not likely. Graphic design creates a quickly identifiable “face” for your brand that helps differentiate and promote your company. If you have no competition, you may be able to get by without good graphic design and branding since you’re the only source in town. But, for the rest of us high-quality branding is vital for maximizing our potential and success.
Your company logo, typeface, colors, website layout and marketing materials establish an immediate impression of what your company is like—traditional vs. trendy, serious vs. fun, powerful vs. laid back, etc. Graphic designers work with you to pull these visual elements together in a way that will positively brand and convey your desired company image.
Since “consistent” means reliable, make sure your graphic design identity is used consistently throughout your company in internal/external communications, marketing and advertising materials, websites, and products. Inconsistency, such as using multiple versions of logos, typefaces and colors in your various business applications will make your company appear sloppy and unprofessional.
Every brand has a distinctive stamp, the design is responsible for expressing it in the most optimal way
You don't have a plan for your business yet?