Where should I get my business cards printed?

We love it when we get this question, and honestly, it depends a lot on what you’re looking for. That said, we want to be a resource for all of you, so we’ve listed out our best advice for where you should get your business cards printed.

Here we go…


Pass on Vistaprint

Those deals that seem too good to be true — Are too good to be true. Sorry, Vistaprint.

If you’re on a budget for business cards, it might be an option you’re thinking about. However, think twice, friends, you get what you pay for. VistaPrint’s cheapest business cards, look just that, really dang cheap. (Disclaimer: If you do order their cards, and they arrive and don’t look right, please get a hold of their customer service and get them reprinted)

If you’re thinking, great tips, but we’re still on a budget. Click here to order.

Got Print

Our second, budget-friendly option is Got-Print.com. If you’re looking to save money on your cards, our recommendation is to order from Got Print. We’ve noticed better quality in their cards, and have been happy with the results


Our Top Choice – Moo

As graphic designers, we know a thing or two about marketing pieces that make you stand out in the crowd. Moo is hands-down our favorite spot for business cards. Even their “standard” cards will outshine the competition. 

Click here to get 25% off your first MOO order! 


Almost every printer around town will print business cards, so if you have a favorite printer, I would probably suggest you start with them.

If you’ve never worked with any print shops and have no clue where to start, we have a few places we’d recommend to get you started.


Econoprint has a great next day service for business cards which makes it really easy to get what you need fast. I would typically recommend a thicker stock, but this is a great option for the standard business cards. Plus, you can’t beat that turnaround time! :)


Minuteman Press

Another great local printer we love is Minuteman Press, located in Waunakee, Wisconsin. We have used them for several projects and love working with them, they always do a great job and have really affordable pricing.


Although they aren’t in the Madison area, Bay View Printing in Milwaukee isn’t too far, so we still consider them to be a great local option. They enter our list as an extra special addition for those who really want some premier cards! They are a letterpress printer and have some really exceptional work.


Below is a project we did for a client where we got to create a custom logo and print them with a letterpress debossed effect. It was a graphic designer’s dream to see this project come to life! (Designers have a special place in our hearts for letterpress since this is where our industry all begin.)

Tips for seeking quotes and comparing:

When you ask for a quote from a printer, don’t forget to find out the thickness on your business cards. You might ask for a quote from 2+ businesses but one might quote you for a thicker paper that would look more expensive. Be sure you’re comparing apples to apples.



Love what you see? Pin the image below and share with others!


Our Favorite Go-To Sans Serif Fonts

It’s hard to believe I haven’t had a blog post about FONTS yet! It’s basically impossible for you to go about your day without looking at fonts. They are all around you, even for those non-designers out there! Well, maybe not last week when I was literally stuck in bed with the worst flu of my life. 🤔 But even then, there was text on my medication that I was taking… so I guess even when you’re sick you’re consuming type in some way.

There’s an insane number of fonts out there. Since there’s a lot of poorly designed options, we wanted to give you a hand. We thought we’d share our go-to san serif fonts that you’ll often find us using/suggesting with our clients. These typefaces might seem simple, but there’s a lot of power in simplicity. These subtle beauties would be great paired with a display font or your brand logo.

Roboto: A Versatile & Accessible Font

What we love about Roboto is how it works with just about every project (not that we actually use it that much, but we could). One of my favorite things about this typeface is that it comes with a Condensed Font. This means it’s a skinnier option and allows you to fit more letters on one line. Roboto is like my modern (and free!) version of Helvetica — beautiful and timeless.

Download Roboto here.

Open Sans: A Powerfully Simple Font

Similar to Roboto, Open Sans is another great option that can be paired with just about anything. While still very clean and simple, it has a little bit of whimsy. It comes with 10 styles which really gives you a lot of flexibility.

Download Open Sans Here.

Lato: A Sans Font with Character

Lato may be one of my favorite fonts because of the subtle character within the characters. 😉 When used in body copy, it’s a little tricky to see the nuances of the letterforms. However, if you have the opportunity for larger text, you can see that the corners are curved and show little modifications.

Download Lato Here.

Montserrat: A Modest Modern Font

Montserrat has a modern feel with the very circular forms, such as the O, C, G, and Q. Because of this, the font appears wider than other typefaces. When that O becomes more of a perfect circle and less of an oval, your overall width will reflect accordingly. With the most styles on our list, Montserrat is very versatile, just keep in mind your text will spread across more space. Sometimes this can be good and work in our favor, sometimes it’s not. (Sidenote: Think back to when you were in school and you had to use size 12 font, and it had to be 4 pages long. This would be the font you’d choose to get away with writing less, lol.)

Download Montserrat Here.

Raleway: A Quirky Yet Clean Font

Last but not least, we bring you a very popular font among many. Raleway is known for its quirkiness but still comes across very clean. What makes it quirky? 1. There’s little curls on the tails of the a and d. 2. The w’s are also very recognizable, which some may love and some may hate. 3. The letters are also a little goofy because they don’t follow along the same baseline. Again, some like that while others (like me) don’t. 

Overall, I think that Raleway is a great font for businesses that want to be a little casual, yet still professional.

Download Raleway Here.

What do you think? Are these some fonts you’d be interested in trying?

Next time you’re wondering what to use as your brand font, give one of these a try. Best of all, they’re designer approved! AND FREE!



Our Favorite Superbowl Commercials for 2020

While we usually share design tips or education tidbits for you. Today, we’re switching it up and sharing our favorites from yesterday’s Superbowl commercials! While this may seem incredibly random, advertising has its space under the “design” umbrella. PLUS, guess what, everyone has the desire to break the rules and have a little fun every now and then!

T-mobile – Tell your mama

I thought this was both creative and hilarious. We all know that the race for the “best network” includes where and how well cellular data services are. So how can providers get creative without saying the same tired old thing over and over again? I think this commercial is a great example of giving this message a fresh new look. Anthony Anderson and this mother are both hilarious.


I Wanna Rock – Facebook Groups

We all know that Facebook Groups are the way of the future… at least according to Mark Zuckerburg. In this ad spot from FB, they are promoting how there’s a group for everything, yes we mean everything. The commercial is set to the tune “I Wanna Rock” by Twisted Sister and leads you along a montage of all the ways “Rocks” could be a part of a group. While they may not have featured Dwayne, The Rock, Johnson, watch for yourself to see the creative FB groups the marketing team found to ROCK, including a special appearance from a couple of other rockin’ celebrities.


Google Remembers Lorretta

Google’s ad seemed to make quite an impact on audiences everywhere. Losing a loved one is one of, if not the biggest, heartache’s anyone will face. This commercial will tug at your heartstrings and we guarantee it will make you think of someone who you will ALWAYS remember. What if technology could help us remember all those cherished memories? Google drew inspiration for this ad from a story of an employee’s grandfather. My favorite line: “Hey Google. Remember, I’m the luckiest man in the world.” Watch for yourself:

Microsoft – Katie Sowers – Female Coach for the 49ers

It’s no surprise we love a good female success story. As a female-owned business, it’s important to encourage other women and celebrate each other’s successes. In a world dominated by men, we love to see Katie Sowers and her story on the Superbowl Commercial from Microsoft.


Hyundai – Smaht Pahk

I honestly have no clue where this idea came from to use a Boston accent to advertise the new “Smaht Pahk”. At first, I was thinking it was a little lame, but here’s where it won me over: I loved that they used 3 (of my favorite) Boston-natives to be featured in the commercial and its that attention to detail that makes great advertising even better. Read on to learn what made this campaign extra-ordinary.

Andrew was telling me a couple days ago about this feature on the Hyundai site that allows you to toggle between languages including “in plain english” and “the boston way”. I was a little confused at first, but after seeing the commercial during the Superbowl, it all made sense! This is such an incredible way to take a campaign to the next level. It’s not only hilarious, but it’s also impressive that their web team took the time to develop this Boston-slang language toggle. Now I’m not in the market for a new car, but if I was, Hyundai would definitely make me think twice.

Check it out for yourself at https://www.hyundaiusa.com/sonata


UW Veterinary commercial

You may not have even watched the SuperBowl, but you maybe have still heard about this commercial that went viral about an adorable dog named Scout. The commercial was for WeatherTech, but featured a heartwarming story about their unofficial mascot who was treated at the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine. Founder and CEO David MacNeil wanted to shed light on the incredible work at UW’s clinic and how they aided in his pup breaking all odds. The commercial was used to raise awareness for the great work UW is doing, as well as raising money for the veterinary school. Read more about the story on Channel 3000 and/or watch the commercial below:


Amazon Alexa with Ellen

Maybe we should preface this one to saying we LOVE Ellen, she one of those celebrities that we really admire for what she does. We may be biased, but we love to watch her stories, hear from her guests, laugh at the games, and walk away with a smile. We’ll also admit that we’re not an “ALEXA” family in this household and prefer GOOGLE, but we still love this commercial. We thought it was funny to see what people did before Alexa. The creative approach is funny, while also featuring what the device can do. Take a peek at what people did before the AI:


Groundhog Day and the Jeep Gladiator

This commercial couldn’t be more fitting for a SuperBowl game that actually falls on Groundhog day. While Sun Prairie’s Jimmy the Groundhog claims to see his shadow and predicts 6 more weeks of winter, there’s still joy to be had from this ad featuring a crowd favorite, Bill Murray.

If you’re familiar with the movie Groundhog’s Day, you know that every day is the same. This commercial’s ironic twist is about how “No day is the same in a Jeep Gladiator.”


Did you have a favorite commercial? We’d love to know which one was your favorite!




How to choose which LOGO file type to use

After creating a logo, you’ll receive tons of files! It’s GREAT, but you may be wondering — what on earth do I do with all of these? Why are there so many different formats? What’s a vector file?

Follow along to see how to choose which LOGO file type to use.

Check out our quick road map below.


When it comes to your logos, having the right file type is important. It’s easy to get confused about what is what. Using or sending the right files can be important to ensure your brand shines in all the right ways!Here’s a quick summary on common logo file types:


PNG files are a really great and versatile file format. The biggest benefit is its transparent capabilities. Extremely valuable for logos because they can be placed on colored backgrounds or on top of other images. (Always follow brand guidelines when placing your logo in different spots so it looks clean and professional)


These file types are commonly known as Vector files. They are created using mathematical formulas of angles, curves, and points rather than individual pixels. Vector files will always look clear because they can be scaled at any size while still maintaining quality. They ROCK! The disadvantage of vector files is that you need certain programs that are able to use vector formats. We like to tell clients that they may not be using these files, but they should keep them on hand for when they’re requested.


JPGs are probably the most common file format out there. They are great because they can come in all shapes and sizes. Be sure to pay attention to your file sizes when choosing a JPG file. You want to use a smaller file when working in web so it loads quickly, however, when sending something to print, you want a high resolution for clear printing.


Hopefully, this is all helpful! Please don’t hesitate to ask any questions on how to choose which logo file type to use.
If you’re interested in learning more about our branding packages, feel free to explore our logo and branding page


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Try something new this holiday season! Try gifting a Madison Experience!

Book a food tour – you won’t leave hungry

Madison has an incredible food scene. We might be biased, but I think food experts like Candice Wagner, Jordan and Mike @MidwestMunchers would probably agree! Of coarse its always an option to gift a loved one something like a nice dinner out or a Food Fight gift card. But what if we could go one step further and get them a food tour experience!?

You’re in luck, Madison Eats is here for you! They work exclusively with locally-owned restaurants, chefs and businesses to create memorable and delicious experiences. They have a few different tours to choose from and they all sound DE-LISH!

website |  Facebook


Get Crafty in Downtown Madison

Located in downtown Madison, WI, just off the capitol square, Revel provides a space for both experienced craft-o-holics and beginners. They offer special event workshops that feature a specific project AND what is known as the “Craft Bar”. The Craft Bar features a rotating set of projects that feature glitter, sequence, paint, and more! (Crafts are good for all skill levels and with step by step instructions, you can follow them directly or get creative and try your own variations.)

Currently at Revel, they have a set of really fun holiday projects, perfect for gifting! Grab your friends and loved ones and enjoy a night out getting creative.

Website  |  Facebook


Make your own home decor!

HomeGoods is great, but isn’t it so much more meaningful to make your own art? Signs by Caitlin offers a creative outlet with over 350 designs to choose from! They offer both private and public workshops where you get to choose your own adventure! Their home base workshop is in Verona, WI but they also host workshops all around Madison where you can attend a paint-your-own-sign event.

Website   |   Facebook


Learn new skills in the kitchen

Cooking classes make such a fun gift! A couple years back, my boyfriend and I couldn’t figure out something to get for his mom…  Aren’t parents so hard to shop for? We’ve heard that a lot of parents enjoy gifts that involve spending time with their kids, so Andrew ended up taking her to a cooking class and they had so much fun doing something new together!

Sur La Table is a shop/kitchen located in the Hilldale Mall and they offer A TON of cooking classes. The diverse food options they offer are incredible. This would make such a fun gift experience for anyone who wants to learn more about cooking. Beware: Even looking at the class options is making my mouth water!

Website  |  on the ‘GRAM


Make your own custom candles

We haven’t had a chance to go to Paddywax yet, but we have seen how fun it looks on social media and can’t wait to go! It’s a new shop the just opened in the Hilldale Mall and it’s a “Candle Bar”. You get to pick your vessel, your fragrance, and then you get to make your own candle to take home! Sounds pretty darn amazing. And one thing that I love about this is that you don’t have to buy all the supplies, make a mess in your house, OR stumble through the directions. The staff is there to help you through the process and it sounds like a dream come true.

Make your own scents for the holiday season (and any season, really!) and gift this experience to your friends and family!

Website  |  on the ‘GRAM


A night out with ON-SITE childcare

ParentSquad is on a mission to help moms and dads find time to focus on themselves. They partner with local establishments to offer unique and hassle-free social experiences for parents with fun and safe ON-SITE CHILDCARE. Yes —  you heard that right! What could be better?

In 2020, they are debuting a Date Night Club where parents can join to receive a monthly date night with on-site childcare. (Locations, Restaurants, & Entertainment facilities change monthly). Memberships can be purchased starting Black Friday at www.ParentSquadEvents.com/datenightclub

Follow ParentSquad on Instagram or Facebook or join their email list to stay up to date about events.

Website   |  on the ‘GRAM


Get your DIY on, without the DIY

Founded by a former art teacher, you’ll be in good hands with The Mad Makery. They have a fun variety of projects and host workshops around the Madison area. The Mad Makery provides wonderful events where adults and kids can make quality artwork and home decor. They offer a great experience where you can try something new with your family and friends and walk away with something you’re proud of. (PS. If you can’t make an event in-person, try The Mad Makery’s craft kits, and set up your own little experience at home!)

Website  |  Facebook


Try your hands at baking and decorating

I don’t know what I would do without our local bake shop, Vanilla Bean. Located (conveniently) between our office and home, I have made many stops for my cookie supplies. While we recommend this shop to any baker, the main reason we are adding this to our list is for their decorating classes. From buttercream to royal icing, they offer 7 different classes you can attend. Call to check on their availability!

And for those of your already wondering… no @pixelstosugar does not offer classes ;)

Website  |  Facebook


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30 of the Best Gift Ideas for Graphic Designers on Etsy

We have been looking for things to add to this year’s Christmas list and we were struggling! Browsing the web, all the “top gift lists” seemed pretty boring and weren’t sparking any joy… We knew we had to rethink our strategy. That is when ETSY came in!

Do you remember when you were little and you circle pretty much everything in the toy advertisements? That’s how this list makes me feel! I hope you love it too.

Let’s dive in!

1. Pantone Enamel Pin

For only $8.00 you can bring your Pantone obsession to the next level with this fun Enamel pin. Pin it anywhere to sport your favorite Pantone color! Mine will definitely be going on my backpack!

⮕ Order one now.


2. Artsy Fartsy Comfy Tee

Did anyone else get called “Artsy Fartsy” all the time? I’m pretty sure that it could be my middle name! This cute comfy tee comes in a variety of colors and features hand-drawn type by Carly Wilkie. Spend over $35 and get free shipping!

⮕ Heck Yes, I need this!


3. Typography Ampersand Tee

Graphic designers LOVE their ampersands, so naturally, this had to make our list! This graphic tee features 30 variations of our favorite type character. Bonus points if you can name all the typefaces used.

⮕ Order it here.


4. Retro Microsoft WordArt Patch

Okay, this one genuinely makes us crack up. Perhaps your first look into “graphic design” was using these awful WordArt styles. I have to admit, my mom’s saved some of my old projects, and although advanced at my age, there were some hideous design choices I made back then. This is sure to make any designer giggle, making it the perfect gift for graphic designers.

⮕ Make everyone laugh with this patch


5. This is the FUTURA Tee

If you’re reading this list and you’re not a graphic designer, you could be confused by this one. FUTURA is a very popular typeface and it’s a classic design pun to say “This is the Futura”. A graphic designer would love to rock this tee!

⮕ Get your Futura Shirt Here


6. Handmade Ampersand Necklace

All these gifts make me SO HAPPY and this one is no exception! A handmade ampersand necklace could be the most adorable thing on this list of the best gifts for graphic designers. We love that it’s handmade too!

⮕ Order your Necklace Here


7. Making Cool Shit for A Living

Another funny gift that could actually appeal to more than just graphic designers, but artists and makers too! This one comes in the baseball style tee, but you could get it in a tank style too!

⮕ Order your “Making Cool Sh*t Tee”


8. Design-Nerd Tote Bag

Every designer needs a design-worthy bag to carry all their goodies, right? We just love illustration around here, so seeing how well this is designed makes us give it 2 thumbs up. What designer wouldn’t love receiving this at a gift? So Handy!

⮕ Order your Tote Here.


9. Graphic Design Nerdy Craft

Okay, we might be artsy fartsy around here, but we couldn’t resist this fun cross-stitch kit. It would be so fun to hang on the wall of your office and a real convo-starter. We feel like this is perfect for the quirky and/or crafty graphic designer.

⮕ Get your Kit here!


10. Overloaded on Tabs Travel Mug

Oh, Crap… maybe it’s time we come clean and admit that we have a bit of a cup/mug obsession. #sorrynotsorry. We love how this one uses an illustrative style and is actually etched into the mug. Be honest, how many of you constantly have too many tabs open and too many things “open” in your brain? Is that just a designer thing, or do a lot of people run into that? That said, we really like that it’s a travel mug which means we can add a reusable straw.

⮕ BRB, while I go order one this one in TEAL!


11. Photoshop Keychain

This is a great gift to be paired with something else on our awesome Graphic Designer gift idea list! It may be something small but it would definitely bring a smile to a graphic designer’s face. Heck, even a photographer would love this gift too! Everyone needs some Adobe swag in their possession.

⮕ Get it here!


12. Artist Power Lapel Pin

This is a great gift for an illustrator or graphic designer. It can be added to your computer bag or sport it on your pencil cases full of all your favorite pens and sketching materials. Artists unite with this ARTIST POWER pin!

⮕ I need this!


13. Pantone Coffee Glass Mug

Another mug that is TOTALLY worthy of our list. Both coffee-lovers and Pantone-lovers unite on this one. We also love that there’s some more options like a wine, mojito, and whiskey version. We challenge you to find a graphic artist that wouldn’t love this gift… maybe only if they don’t drink coffee!

⮕ I want it!

14. Lorem Ipsum Shirt

Lorem Ipsum is becoming a lot more popular these days. But when we were in college the concept was a little foreign! If you’re not familiar with Lorem Ipsum is placeholder text commonly used in the graphic, print, and publishing industries for previewing layouts and visual mockups. It’s a handy tool for graphic designers to layout mockups and definitely makes it a funny gift that a designer would appreciate.

⮕ Get it Here

15. These bags are designer comfy crew

This was a common phrase back when we were design students staying up all night working on projects. If you, or the designer you’re looking for a gift for, spent most days staying up working on design homework, this sweatshirt is relatable! It may also connect with those self-employed entrepreneurs out there working around the clock.

16. “I’m a designer” Hipster Tee

Classic “Graphic Tee”, right?! How fitting to have a hipster design nerd on a tee. I will say they character on this shirt is done really well! It’s pretty hipster, but also pretty spot-on!

17. Snarky Soy Candle

Now, this gift is for the sarcastic, funny, graphic designer who jokes that their job sucks (but actually loves it!). This would make a great gift for the office Christmas party or your best friend who laughs at that client who always seems to be asking for just. one. more. revision. Honestly, this gift would be hilarious for a lot of people, not just graphic artists.

⮕ Order your Snarky Soy Candle


18. Pantone-Inspired Muppet Decor

This particular gift would appeal to the graphic design parents out there. It’s such a fun way to decorate your child’s bedroom and starts the children off with a solid design foundation! You can select your favorite character or snag the whole set!

⮕ Take your decor next level, buy here.


19. Alignment Icons Poster

Here’s another pretty nerdy gift idea which some of you might not get, but a graphic designer definitely would! These are the icons used for aligning your objects in Adobe. Pretty much one of the MOST USEFUL tools in the entire Adobe toolbox. We probably use these hundreds of times in a day. What we love about this design decor is that it’s really abstract so you can nerd out about it without getting too cliche.

⮕ Aligning Print Poster


20. Pantone Enamel Pin

You might be sensing a pattern that we, in fact, most graphic designers, love their Pantone colors. So much so that we’ll drop 100+ on a Pantone swatchbook. Here’s a really great lapel pin the shows off your Pantone and LBGTQ Pride!

⮕ Pantone Enamel Pin


21. I’m Silently Judging your Font Choices Tote

A graphic designer knows this feeling all too well. The world is full of poor font choices… While some might call you out on it, others may keep their thoughts to themselves and silently judge your font choices! (Reminder: no more than 2-3 typefaces per design!)

⮕ Get your tote here!


22. Illustrator

We talked about bags already, but we didn’t talk about pouches to hold ALL. THE. THINGS. This little pouch is available in 3 sizes which is great and you can store all your drawing tools and/or charging cables. We hold our mouse in a little pouch like this and it’s great to know where it always is when we’re on the go!

⮕ Get your bag now!


23. Sweet tooth Pantone-Inspired Mug

Another Pantone gift? We know, we know… There’s just so many great options out there. This gift idea is perfect for the sweet tooth out there! Donuts, Candy, Cookies… All the yummy things!

⮕ I need this mug!


24. Pantone Sugar Cookies

For those of you who follow @pixelstosugar, you know that sugar cookies are Carly’s little passion project. While we’ve made a few “design” sets, we’ve never actually done Pantone cookies! (We’ll be sure to update this when we do) BUT you can now get the ultimate Graphic Designer cookies on etsy and it would make a perfect gift for any Pantone lovers out there.

⮕ Get some yummy Pantone Cookies


25. Pro-craft-inator Pin

We’re really digging enamel pins these days AND there are a few of our favorites in this list of gifts for graphic designers. This pun-ny pin makes us giggle thinking about all the designers who are procrastinators. Let me tell you, success under pressure really does exist!

⮕ I need this! I’m a Pro-craft-inator!


26. Creative Juice Enamel Pin

Let’s keep this enamel pin party going with this “Creative Juice” cutie. We love to add pins to our laptop bag to give it a little character, so we feel like you can never have enough pins. Or you could also use them as tacks on your bulletin board!

⮕ Get your Creative Juice flowing!


27. Ampersand – Risograph print

Another Ampersand piece that we love… This Risograph print is artfully done and will be a nice statement piece on your wall!

⮕ Order your Ampersand Print


28. Illustrator Street Sign

We think this would be a really great addition to your swanky agency flat, your in-need-of-a-refresh cubicle, or even your home office. Street signs can be seen everywhere, but wouldn’t it be cool to have an illustrator sign?

⮕ Get your Illustrator Street Sign



29. Creative Juice Wine Glass

A graphic designer can NOT live without their creative juices! Figuratively, but also… we love our wine! If you know a graphic designer who loves wine, this gift would be perfect for them!

⮕ Order yours here


29. Brass Letterpress Charm Necklace

All the typographers will flock when they see this fun and unique gift! Ya’ll we LOVE this necklace, we’ve never seen such a lovely thing in such a little package. You can choose which letter, or ampersand, you’d like and you can even get in customized if you’d like! If you buy one, please tag us so we can see how cute it is!

⮕ I need this Necklace



If you know of any good items we missed, let us know and we’ll add some bonus “Reader’s Picks” at the end!


Did you love our list? Be sure to Pin it to your Pinterest account!





How to Add Illustration to Your Brand


Illustration is one of our favorite things about design. As we’ve developed our skillset over the years, we’ve found that we enjoy “doodling” more and more. Not only do we love to create the graphics, but we also love how it can really transform a piece or brand. Today, we’re going to share 6 ways for you to add illustration to your brand.

To demonstrate how you can add illustrations to your branding, we are going to walk you through these 6 ideas we brought to life with a local non-profit that we love, Box of Balloons.


1. Make a Scene, Paint a picture

Making a scene is a great way to add visuals without using photography. I some instances, photography isn’t an option or a good choice. This scene was created for the Box of Balloons Annual Birthday Bash. The excitement in the illustration gets people excited to attend the event while also featured this year’s theme of camping.


2. Make a Pattern

Patterns are such a fun way to add illustration and interest to branding. In fact, this may also be one of the easiest ways. We love patterns, and this one was created for Box of Balloons and it could be used in so many places, such as, social media, on the website, and even the business cards!

If we are really going all out, how cool would it be to have this printed on a table cloth at their donation table?!


3. Use icons to break up blocks of text.

Icons are a great way to add visual interest to a large area of writing and we highly recommend it! For example, here’s a way that illustrations could be used as icons…

When DIYing your brand, be cautious about loading up space with so much text and not enough visuals (AND whitespace). Using icons will help your eyes to flow through the page, and introduces a great opportunity to add illustration to your brand. I could have listed out these 5 ways to support Box of Balloons in a numbered list… but isn’t this way more fun? I used a different illustration for each number as a creative way to some 5 options. Any time you’re listing things out, think about if you could also add an illustrated icon to each one. We love doing this on websites too!

(NOTE: If you’re using something like canva or freepik.com, be sure all your icons have a similar style. This is really important that they all look cohesive otherwise it will look sloppy and unprofessional.)


4. Promos (shirts and buttons)

Adding illustrations to promotional products, aka SWAG, is always a good idea! Here are two examples of our favorite promos. We could make and design buttons for days, and it’s such a fun freebie to receive too. People love buttons and stickers, and what a great way to show their support!


5. Tell a Story

Share a story by using graphics that tell different parts of your brand. Here’s an example of how you could tell a story of children donating balloons and a gift for a little girl’s party. You can really get and complex or as simple as you’d like. Just imagine if your brand had its own comic book… what kind of story would it tell?


6. Social Media

Social Media is the last one because this is where your brand gets an overview. As you’re using illustrations throughout your marketing pieces, you should also be using them on social because this is where all your updates live. Creating graphics can be a way to add visual interest to your page without just using photographs. Here’s an example of what the Box of Balloons instagram account might look like using some of the ideas from above.



We hope you loved our ideas on how to add illustration to your brand. Be sure to tag us with the new things you create! We’d love to see!

If you don’t feel like you’re quite ready to tackle illustrating on your own, there are some great stock photography sites out there for you to use, just be sure all your graphics are done in a similar style and brand colors. If you’re not feeling quite ready to tackle it yet, that’s what we’re here for. Contact us if you’d like to add illustration to your brand!



If you love what you see, we’d love for you to pin the image below to Pinterest:


Madison Area #ShopSmall Local Gift Guide

Wow-za! Look at the time, or calendar rather… Have you started your holiday shopping? Are you planning to shop local in the Madison area?

I can’t even believe it, is Black Friday Small Business Saturday really right around the corner? Having an early Thanksgiving this year is really throwing us off.

BTW, do you know how (and why) the holiday’s date is determined? Thanksgiving is always held on the fourth Thursday of November and since this year the month started on a Thursday, it falls on it’s earliest possible date. I was reading this [actually quite interesting] article from NPR, and discovered the history behind the date chosen. Did you know that there was once a month where TWO Thanksgivings were celebrated!? Bring on all the homemade mashed potatoes ya’ll!

Anyways… back to our main focus.

If you’re not familiar with Small Business Saturday, I’m happy you’re here to learn more. It’s a day to celebrate and support small businesses and all they do for their communities. It’s the annual holiday shopping tradition that gets communities everywhere out in support of their favorite small businesses. Because when they thrive, we all thrive. The small businesses are the ones working their butts off to make a living doing what they love and giving back to the local communities. This day was created to refrain shoppers from shopping the big box stores and encouraging them to shop small. To read our previous year’s local gift guide you can read more here for 2016 and here for 2017.


In support of this movement, we wanted to continue the tradition of feature local businesses and create this fabulous list of local shops. This way, these gifts are easy to shop for and provide a great variety for everyone, regardless of where you live in the Madison area. We are bringing you our favorite spots to find local gifts and just in time for the gift-giving season!

Get ready to shop local in the Madison Area!

Shops are in order based on the distance from the Wisconsin State Capitol as the crow flies…

Good Day Collective

1925 Monroe Street #120 Madison, WI 53711

UPDATE 2019: The Good Day Shop and Wildewood both have new locations. See websites for details.

We’ll kick off the list with a pop-up retail experience by One-One Thousand, Red’s Mercantile and Wildewood. These three brands have joined forces (yay for #communityovercompetition!) to curate a one-of-a-kind shopping experience just off Madison’s capitol square! They are temporarily in the space to bring you the very best this shopping season, so shop now, they are only open until January 8, 2019.

In the shop, you’ll find a carefully curated selection of gifts including indoor plants and handcrafted home and lifestyle goods. They feature over 30 brands to explore! A special note from the owners: Check back often as inventory will change throughout the three-month pop-up!

Shopping small means everything to us! We know the people behind a lot of the brands that we carry, we know their story, their process. We’re experts on everything we carry, as we should be, which is something you just don’t get from big box stores. That also makes it so exciting to see someone come in and connect to something we feel so strongly about. All of us personally enjoy shopping small, too. It’s such a fun way to source unique and high quality items for your home or gifts for loved ones. And you get the added bonus of knowing you’re supporting someone who took the scary leap into the world of small business owning.

Kate Holl, Owner of Wildewood, Co-owner of the Good Day Market

Website  |  Facebook

Little Luxuries

230 State Street, Madison, WI 53703

A state-street favorite by many! Little Luxuries has been a part of the State Street local business community for over 25 years. They have a really fun and diverse selection of gifts for loved ones of all ages. The owner, Amy Moore, is so sweet and has brought a really fun collection of gifts. We ALSO love Little Luxuries because it is a proud supporter of the arts and local charitable programs, which we give a BIG thumbs up!

Website  |  Facebook  |  Instagram

Hazel + Hatch

1248-1250 Williamson Street, Madison, WI 53703

We love the creativity and artistic talent here! Hatch Art House and Hazel General Store are the perfect 2-in-1 gift stop! While they operate as 2 separate entities, they have a joined store which gives you double the fun. They have a lot of fun treasures to find, including an expansive collection of art pieces, beautiful prints, jewelry, apparel, and more! Hazel supports over 100 USA Makers with an emphasis on makers who give back through donations, charity or good ole kindness! I always find ready great gifts every time I stop by, sometimes they’re so good I have to keep them for myself.

My first shop, Hatch Art House opened 8 years ago in 2010. I have a passion for supporting local artists and after many years of being an artist and waiting tables, I saved enough money to finally make the leap. (I moved across the country to do it!) About 5 years in, Hatch Art House was doing great with a solid community built up around it, when the neighboring space became available. I knew our neighborhood would benefit from a modern-day general store since our art gallery customers were continually asking where to find certain products nearby and for so many things I didn’t have an answer for them. That’s when Hazel General Store was born. We opened a few months later in June of 2015 and showcase US makers and artisans.
Tammy Schreiter, Owner of Hatch and Hazel

Hazel’s Website   |   Facebook  |  Instagram

Booth 121

6203 Monona Dr, Monona, WI 53716

Truly one of a kind! It also happens to be one of my favorite places to bring out-of-town guests. There are so many fun (and inappropriate) gifts that you could probably spend all day in there. They feature many one-of-a-kind and handmade gifts, home décor, upcycled furniture, clothing, jewelry and so much more!

If you’re looking for a place to shop local in the Madison area, I would definitely recommend this shop, it’s unlike any other.

Website  |  Facebook

Ubuntu Trade

Update 2019: Ubuntu Trade is now a Pop-up shop. See website for upcoming spotes to shop!

Ubuntu Trade is a socially conscious shop that features gifts filled with unique, handcrafted items from both global and local makers and artisans. Her tagline: Trade Goods. Trade Good. couldn’t be more fitting. Her shop of truly-lovely and culturally diverse gifts aims to connect people + goods around the world in the spirit of UBUNTU. April has an incredible story and her shop was created to support the local maker whether on her travels around the world or just down the street.

“I have always loved shopping from small local makers in all of my travels around the world. After living in Uganda for 2 years and getting to know many makers personally, I wanted to give them an international platform to share their talent. Once I opened the store, I decided to add from fair trade brands along with small US-based makers. I don’t have “maker talent” myself, but if my shop can give makers a place to sell their wares, so they can keep making and earning a living, then I feel like I’m supporting and contributing to the small maker movement.”
April Joy Gulley, Owner of Ubuntu

Website  |  Facebook  |  Instagram

Lake Life Co.

Update 2019: Lake Life Co. has moved, please check their website for details

We all can appreciate the value in living a lake life lifestyle, where dreams are endless, time to relax is precious, and all you have to do is DIVE IN!… Lake Life Company features a nice blend of gifts for both your family AND furry friends. Amy’s company was founded by a hobby-turned-business with homemade candles and sugar-scrubs. In February 2018, Lake Life Co. opened its doors to its new home in Waunakee, WI!

They have a great collection of decor which would make a great gift for loved ones. Plus, with a wall full of clean-burning, 100% soy homemade candles in all kinds of great scents, you’ll be sure to find one that will make a perfect gift.

We started our business three years ago as a creative outlet for our kids. Our daughter started our business at age 11. We opened our shop to grow our brand, make more of an impact and help others with our Mission. #ShopSmall is supporting dreams. Hardwork, time, dedication, persistence all go into growing a business. Shopping with these businesses rewards these efforts…
Amy Bernards, Life Life Co. Owner

Website  |  Facebook  |  Instagram

JNJ Craftworks

1051 N Edge Trail, Verona, WI 53593

JNJ Craftworks is close to home and a great place to find unique items and that perfect gift in Verona, WI! They feature gifts for all occasions including religious celebrations. They opened in 2016 and support over 70 artists. For JNJ owner Jerina Vincent, supporting the local community isn’t just a catchphrase or a way to drum up holiday business. It’s the very heart of JNJ’s business plan. They take pride that their products bring joy and honor to many.
 “We don’t just serve local customers, and we showcase the work of local artists. Dane County is full of creative, talented people, and our shop is a celebration of that talent. It’s a cozy little circle: the better we support local artists, the more they’re able to create, which keeps us stocked with all sorts of interesting things.”
Jerina Vincent, Owner of JNJ Craftworks
For the second year, JNJ is giving back to local schools this holiday season! Want to show extra support your children’s school? Print this image out, and JNJ will donate 5% of the sale back to your local school of choice.

Website  |  Facebook  |  Instagram


118 E. Main Street, Mount Horeb, WI 53572

KELLA’s business is pretty much my dream come true! They have a storefront selling local products and a studio for their design business in the back. Their space is so well put together and I love everything they sell, including their own apparel line, Forward Apparel Co. Everything in their shop is so exquisitely designed that you will never have to turn down a shirt because of the poor kerning or crappy choice of font. (Sidenote: Do you ever think, “Wow, I love this, but the kerning is terrible!!” Yea… we know how you feel. You will not have that problem here!).

They created a really nice space and shopping experience that offers a space for local artists to highlight their work as well as providing an avenue for their apparel line.

“Even before we opened KELLA, we have always fully supported and participated in the #shopsmall movement. We know that small, locally-owned businesses are the heart & soul of every single community and want to make sure we support them in anyway that we can. When you shop at KELLA you can feel good knowing that your money stays in the community and is helping to support small artists from around the great state of Wisconsin.”
Kelly, co-founder of Kella Design

Website  |  Facebook  |  Instagram



BONUS: Nutzy Mutz & Crazy Catz

330 W Lakeside St, Madison, WI 53715

We can’t forget gift-giving for our furry friends, so we had to add a bonus feature! If you’re looking for a local pet store, we’ve got you covered. Liz says she opened Nutzy Mutz & Crazy Catz to satisfy her personal motto in life — Help People, Help Animals, Build Community. What a great motto!! She offers a large variety of locally-made goods

Continuing to #shopsmall is a legit way that people can honestly support hard working store owners, artists and entrepreneurs. It means that we can have connection, talk about our issues, solve our issues, smile, cry, have eye contact, help one another, care for one another and just plain DO GOOD. You can’t get that from a computer screen. “Buying local” is not just a catch phrase.When you do it, you are helping pay a bill and keeping your neighborhood alive. And we, as small biz owners, love you for it.

Liz, co-founder of Mutzy Mutz

Facebook  |  Instagram



Now grab your friends are family and head out for an amazing shopping trip!

Get out there and #ShopLocal



Why don’t images off the internet print well?

“I found this really great image on Google but it doesn’t look good when I print it!”

This can be a really frustrating problem, especially if you just spent a lot of money to get your marketing materials printed. How annoying! Sadly, printing internet images incorrectly is often an amateur mistake and one we can help you avoid…

Image quality on the internet is reduced to save server space and to load your website faster. So that graphic you’re pulling from the internet (We hope legally!!!) has been reduced to web quality and won’t look good on your printed material. Just because your images look awesome on your computer or mobile does not mean this will translate once printed. Images don’t need to be a high-resolution in order to look good on your screens, which is why we reduce them to load pages faster.

Let’s dig in more…

Your image is printing poorly because of one thing: PIXELS.

Pixels are the teeny tiny dots of color that are arranged together to form an image. The number of pixels, or dots, within a square inch, we call the resolution. The professional standard for printed images is 300 pixels per inch while photos on the internet are often only at 72/inch. That’s almost 4 times the quality! 

Here’s a graphic that shows you the difference. Look how sad our beautiful capitol looks on the right… blurry and pixelated. On the contrary, the left side is so beautiful, it would make anyone say, “Yes, I love Madison, Wisconsin!” The image looks sharp and in focus, perfect for your printers.

So we have established that the internet used images at a lower resolution for speed and file size. A web image at 72PPI is not enough to give us a sharp, professional look when printed. But why do the images we print have to be so much bigger?

What does 300DPI really mean, and why does it matter?

Printers use a higher resolution when printing, so when a web quality photo is printed, you can really tell the difference.

Printers work by applying ink or toner onto the paper. They have nozzles that spray tiny drops of ink – so the more dots of color you have within a square inch, the sharper your image will be. If you have a low-resolution photo, your printer may try to compensate causing your image to look worse. This is why you want to avoid printing internet images. Photoshop essentials compares it to spreading too little peanut butter over too much toast. It just doesn’t work.

Printing internet images:

We see this all the time with entrepreneurs and small businesses that try to DIY their designs. Beware, if you don’t know what you’re doing you may print a handout and the images look awful. This doesn’t give the professional look you’re probably looking for. We also see this problem with organizations that work with other company’s logos, for example, an event that lists their sponsor’s logos. People will say, “Just grab the logo off our website”. The problem is that the logo is probably optimized for web, not for print. So be careful!

If you’re using stock photography, be sure you are downloading an appropriate size. Often times you can save money or get free images by getting a low-res version, but don’t let them fool you, get the highest option you can so you’re prepared. We usually recommend at least 2000px wide for standard marketing materials like brochures or postcards.

(Bonus tip: Remember to keep your high-resolution images intact. Bigger is better, you can always go down in size, but you can’t go up!)

It’s a complicated concept to wrap your head around, however, it is important to know the difference. The key lesson here is to keep your web quality photos on your website and use high-resolution images whenever you plan to print.

We hope you learned something and feel free to explore more of our blog. You might be interested in this post about Raster vs Vector Images or the differences between File Formats.

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Eight Pro Tips on How to Use Social Media to Promote Your Next Event

Are you organizing an event for your business or organization? Are you working with a short timeline and penny-pinching budget? Keep on reading my friend! This article will give you EIGHT (not ten, because everyone chooses ten) pro tips on how to start using social media to spread awareness for your event! To bring in some expertise, we brought in Kayla S. Clemons to give us some great tips for your event promotions.

Kayla is the Director of Social Media at S&L Hospitality in Verona, WI. She loves all things social media, event planning, and bicycling!




Eight Pro Tips on How to Use Social Media to Promote Your Next Event

Create ONE #hashtag for your event.

Make sure it is simple, easy to spell, scalable (#event2017, #event2018, #event2019), and original. Optimize and update all of your marketing pieces to include your event’s website and #hashtag. Also consider including the #hashtag in email signatures, bio’s, cover photos, etc. If your audience doesn’t know the specific hashtag, they may create their own causing confusion. Make it well-known so when your attendees Tweet or snap pics on Instagram, they know what to use.

Create a Facebook Event page.

Include enticing photo’s, link to purchase tickets, event details, a link to your website, sponsors, etc. After the Event page is created, “share” it to all social media platforms being sure to include the Event #hashtag. PRO TIP: Instagram/Facebook “Stories” and LIVE videos are SUPER effective. Post short clips about the event and encourage your followers to RSVP on the FB Event page.

Team up with complementary businesses and run contests on social media.

For example, Three Bears Resort is a Northwoods themed Indoor Waterpark Resort. A complimentary business for Three Bears would include an adventure tour company, local cranberry growers, museum etc. A contest for them could be “Post a photo of your favorite summer memory and tell us about it for a chance to win a free night stay at Three Bears and an ATV Tour!” Both of the businesses would post the contest to their social networks to reach each other’s audiences. This is FREE.

Create a Facebook Ad for your event.

Be sure to include enticing photos and keep the description short and sweet. Facebook Ad’s allow you to target specific demographics and behaviors. If your event is local, you have a great opportunity to target the audiences in your area.

Join Facebook Groups that are relative to your target market, and talk about the event within the group.

For instance, Madison Mom Blogger’s has a large online community that hosts events once a month where their members bring their children and they do a variety of activities. Three Bears Resort is a family resort. Three Bears Resort should engage with the Madison Mom Blogger’s groups and pages to draw attention to the Resort.

Another option is for Three Bears Resort to donate a “Beach Basket” or even a one night stay to Madison Mom Bloggers in exchange for them to run a contest on their social media pages.

Build anticipation by sharing photos and videos of last year’s event.

If this is a recurring event, hopefully, you have some great pictures from last year to share. You can even plan to post on a Thursday and use the hashtag #throwbackthursday!

Share behind the scenes content.

People love to see behind the scenes look into the action. Share pictures to gain some hype such as the venue, previews of performers, main guests, prizes, décor, surrounding area, etc. This can also set the stage for attendees to know what to expect.

Invest in stickers to promote your event.

Be sure they have your Event’s #hashtag on them! Why? People love stickers. They WILL stick them somewhere, and depending on how cool your stickers are they will stick them somewhere important! (Not to mention, they’re totally Instaworthy.) A great place to order stickers is Sticker Mule and they have a lot of options and will even send you samples.


Are you ready to promote your next event!? Thank you to Kayla S. Clemons for all the fabulous tips!!