About Danielle Spinks

Sydney-based Writer. Designer. Marketing Strategist.

Australia Should Prepare for Electric Shock Treatment

As a nation, it’s time to seize emerging opportunities. Or sleepwalk into oblivion.

To Australia’s north, 1.5 million new electric vehicles (NEV) have just rolled out of Chinese production. China makes more cars and more electric cars than any other country.

With a population of 1.4 billion people, China’s objective isn’t so much to let everyone have a car, but to enable everyone to have access to mobility when they need it. Strategically, this makes sense.

According to an April 4th article in The Economist, China is also the largest producer of batteries. Moreover, emissions rules in western Europe are tightening. Britain and France have said they see no role for cars powered only by internal combustion after 2040.

Shanghai The Bund. (Photo credit: Danielle Spinks)

In Shanghai, a city with a greater population than Australia (26 million), there are 6 million cars. To counter the traffic congestion, There are strict quotas on the number of license platesthat can be issued each year. It has a lottery-style system where a winner gets the chance to buy a plate. You have a 0.2% chance of winning.

To alleviate exhaust pollution, median strips planted with trees and flowering shrubs, each with distinctive white paint around the bottom to prevent from boring insects. In Beijing, to ease both congestion and pollution, there is road space rationing. According to the last digits of a license plate, a car owner needs to use public transport one day a week. With unparalleled levels of data and surveillance, owners who contravene the restriction are fined every three hours.

After having spent time in both Beijing and Shanghai recently, I have to say the traffic congestion was not as bad as Sydney.

Beijing congestion? (Photo credit: Danielle Spinks)

The goal is not car ownership, it’s access to mobility

In Australia, we have seen the uptake of new services like Car Next Door and GoGet. These ride-sharing services mean that car owners can make money from their vehicles when they are not in use. It also makes accessing a vehicle simpler and more affordable to the many inner-city residents who do not have access to parking spaces or may not want the cost of registration and insurance.

A much larger proportion of cars in China are used by more than one party, either as a taxi or as rise-sharing vehicles than they are in the West.

Didi Chuxing is the largest ride-sharing company in the world. It dwarfs the size of Uber, with over 550 million registered users. According to an April 4th article in the Economist, Alibaba and Tencent are both investors in Didi Chuxing, which has now spread into South-East Asia and will soon roll into India and Europe.

These technology juggernauts are also investing in cars. Plans are afoot for Didi Chuxing to build autonomous robotaxis. Autonomous taxis surely would rely on a strong Artificial Intelligence industry. Fortunately, along with green vehicles and electric cars, the AI industry is listed as one of the sectors for advancement in the Made in China 2025 Policy.

Chinese city, Hangzhou, at night (photo credit: Danielle Spinks)

Made In China 2025

The Policy is a ten-year blueprint for industrial development in China. Released in 2015, the aim is to move China up the value chain and thereby reduce wage inequality and aid development.

Guangdong is a case where this is already evident. Martin Jacques describes it is once the place that made “cheap, mass-produced goods for the world,” it is seeking to move up the value ladder and into the services economy.

“Shenzhen and Guangzhou, like many cities in Guangdong, now look well maintained and prosperous, a far cry from the former days when they resembled China’s wild west.”

Jacques attributes the turning point to May-June 2010 strikes that saw massive wage increases. The strikes affected factories including Honda and Foxconn, the electronics manufacturer which employed 270,000 people. He writes, “It can no longer sustain its competitive advantage. Labour has become too expensive, too demanding, the expectations of its people transformed.”

One US Think Tank called the Made in China 2025 policy as “an existential threat to US technological leadership.”

The ten sectors listed in the policy for advancement up the value ladder including artificial intelligence, rail, green vehicles.

“The combined challenge of electrification and autonomy is stretching Western incumbents enough that some, maybe many, will snap.”

Country Strategies

It is hard to see why there is resistance on Australia’s part when there is such clear environmental need, technological simplification, and global demand. One wonders whether it is a lack of strategic thinking or over-reliance on income from old money — fuel excise. As at October last year, this was 41 cents for every litre of unleaded petrol and diesel. In total, it generates $10 billion, or thereabouts, per year.

China is not the first country to have a national strategy which states a clear vision and the methods to achieve it. The Meiji Restoration saw Japan embark on a process of rapid modernisation after 1868.

Terrified of Western invasion, Japan systematically went about researching all the systems and processes used in industry around the world. It cherry-picked the systems and methods it thought were the best. The navy based on Britain’s. Germany for railways. France for education. It then emulated these systems but infused them with distinctly Japanese characteristics.

Japan went from being vulnerable and isolated to becoming the second largest economy in the world. It happened with a speed described by Martin Jacques as “a remarkable historical phenomenon.”

Why a country strategy matters

It’s easy to see how technology, artificial intelligence, and car manufacturing can have shared benefits and symbiosis. Cooperation will help each sector thrive, and create a new gamut of sub-sectors. China has shown leadership in this regard.

China’s mandate to sell 4.6 million new electric vehicles (NEV) has had a ripple effect around the world. It has banned the sale of internal-combustion engine cars after 2040. Already, General Motors (GM) plans to have 20 models of NEV by 2030. Ford also has initiatives underway to compete.

With clarity of direction, businesses must rise to the challenge to remain competitive. This is the nature of business. But countries need to do the same.

Surely there are intelligent ways Australia could create fruitful scenarios from the emerging macroeconomic picture. It could choose to adopt and modify other good systems from around the world. New Zealand could be modelled upon for its broadband, for example, or indigenous relations.

Adapting other systems saves us reinvention. However, we need not borrow from anyone else. Australia could clear the slate and start from scratch. Made In Australia 2025 Strategy.

What does a strategy do?

A strategy allows us to think about what we want in the future. What is the vision? What would Australia look like in 2030, ideally? We look within to see our strengths. We look outside to see opportunities and threats.

Good strategy uses Strengths to take advantage of Opportunities. Australia has abundant sunlight, a vast and mostly uninhabited interior, which could be used to harness solar energy. There are 25,760 metres of coastland. This could be used to generate wave energy.

Coal is near complete obsolescence. Most developed countries have signed agreements that coal will not be part of their energy mix in one to two decades.

Australia has a strategic choice: to see and seize the powerful opportunities around it. Or to preserve the status quo and keep doing what it’s doing — sleepwalking into oblivion.

Let’s master your marketing

If you are running at 100 miles an hour and not getting anywhere, this is a good place to stop and take a breath.

This website helps marketing managers, marketing officers, and non-marketing people flat-out running their businesses. It is for people who are overworked and overwhelmed and wondering why they are doing things.

The methods and tools work for any sized business, including nonprofits.

My mission is to help you master your marketing and thrive. To help give you a sense of strategic clarity and sense of purpose. And to help you if you get stuck.

There are loads of articles, tools, and templates written over many years and while studying a Master’s degree in Marketing and running a graphic design business.

In this website, and links to videos and graphics about:

  • Branding and brand elements
  • Copywriting, editing, proofreading
  • Graphic design, advertising, and creative work
  • Websites, WordPress and search engine optimisation (SEO)
  • Social media
  • Media and Publicity
  • Printing and publishing formats


How to Better Use Social Media For Business

Each of these networks has its own special strengths and purposes. Choose the ones that are right for you and fit how much time you have.

As in life, it is better to be positive than negative. Be full of generosity when you see things that you like.


Still the gorilla of social media, Facebook has a considerable user base globally. That may be the understatement of the century. According to an Evan Osnos article in The New Yorker, the user base is not only unprecedented in the history of American enterprise, but the 2.2 billion people who log in at least once a month is equivalent in size to Christianity. The article also claims that its precision advertising model, “earns Facebook for ad revenue in a year than all American newspapers combined.”

In Australia, a whopping proportion of us are active users. When you cut out the very young and the very old, you can appreciate the numbers. If there is one place you are going to be, it should be Facebook, no matter what kind of business you are in.

Facebook TIPS:

  • The more interactions your post gets, the more people will see it
  • Use Facebook Insights to see who is engaging and what posts are popular (or not)
  • If you have images online to share, link to the URL (except for video)
  • Interact with other pages
  • Upload video here natively. Facebook competes with Google, which owns YouTube


If you dislike Facebook, for whatever reason, you might be interested in Minds.

Minds is a social network that currently has 200,000 monthly users and is growing fast. It boasts an easy-to-use interface and regular engagement tools. It allows users to earn ‘tokens’ for their time on site and engagement.


Twitter is used by journalists everywhere, bloggers, opinion leaders, politicians, et al. It is perfect for making quick connections and finding people with specific interests. Permissions, opt-outs, and the SPAM and CANSPAM and various national email legislation don’t apply, which makes it very easy and fast to form new contacts. Also effective as a customer service tool or to announce important breaking events such as service interruptions that will affect people.

Twitter Tips:

  • Twitter is excellent as a Search tool (you don’t even need to post). You can find events and popular #hashtags for your industry
  • By all means, piggyback off national and State event/awareness days. They have well-publicised event #hashtags for relevant conversations you can segue into
  • Try to get noticed/retweeted by the key influencers in your area
  • Repeat your tweets 2 or 3 times, spreading them a few hours apart
  • Add a few images for each tweet

Google+ No More

Well, Google Plus would have been my next recommendation. But Google killed it off this September 2018 after a large data breach with its API.


These are more personal and visual accounts and about sharing slices of life. For a business, it’s best to have a personal angle by enlisting someone to make the updates based on their experiences at work (staff/CEO/whoever). Lufthansa, for example, uses pilot photos of places through the cockpit window.

Instagram Tips:

  • Remember, companies don’t Instagram, people Instagram.
  • Use 5 to 10-word captions for images
  • Use hashtags
  • Look at what’s popular


This is the network for the highest quality content. Allows you to position yourself for competence and expertise.

LinkedIn Tips:

  • Posts can be 500 to 1,000 words
  • Integrate Slideshare for your presentations
  • Integrate issuu for your reports and booklets
  • Customise the ‘connection’ request
  • Get staff to share them on their profiles so they show up to a proper audience size.
  • Participate in Groups (if you can find a relevant group to you).


This is a very aesthetic network.

Pinterest Tips:

  • Pin professional photos.
  • No hashtags

Integrate Blogging and Social Media

Almost everyone seems to be doing this now, but this is the recipe I think works best.

  1. After writing your post, get a quality image from a stock site like https://www.pexels.com/pexels that is royalty free.
  2. Have social share buttons (to everything) on every blog post.
  3. Send multiple Tweets (at least 3) linking to your article.
  4. Add a photo and link to your Facebook Page.
  5. If it is super newsworthy, submit a version to a media release distribution agency like MediaNet.
  6. Publish on Medium through ‘Import Story’.
  7. Create a 500 words synopsis and publish on LinkedIn and Google+.
  8. Turn your bullet point articles into slideshows with Slideshare.
  9. Turn your SlideShare presentations into videos for YouTube.
  10. Email your list a heads-up with the link.
  11. If you still have time, do some Guest Blogging for other sites.


I hope that gives you a great toolkit. Remember, you have limited time and resources, so pick what you can achieve and schedule in some time each week for your social media.

Photo by picjumbo.com from Pexels

The Brand Identity Prism

“Having an identity means being your true self, driven by a personal goal that is both different from others and resistant to change.” Jean-Noel Kapferer

There are many models and frameworks for branding. Unilever created their own patented “Brand Key”, Proctor and Gamble developed the “Brand Asset Valuator” to assess the value of a brand. Any of these models might be useful, but we think the most useful of all for the small professional services business is The Brand Identity Prism, created by Jean-Noel Kapferer in 2008.

How to Use the Brand Identity Prism

The brand prism consists of six facets, some are under the control of you, the company, others are on the receiving side of your clients and customers. This is what it looks like.

brand identity prism

On the right-hand side, we have the internalised facets. These are things below the surface of visibility but are within your organisation’s control.

The goal in developing the prism for your business is to add three or four (no more than four) words to each facet. No words should be used more than once.

Each word you choose should be as strong and clear as possible. The hallmark of good identity prisms is the strength of the words they use. No wishy-washy, half-baked sentiments will do. It requires conviction.

Here is a brief outline of each facet. You don’t need to do anything yet.


This facet has been defined by the pioneer of branding, David Aaker, as “the set of human characteristics associated with a brand”.

In other words, if the brand were a human being, what personality would they have? This doesn’t necessarily mean our brand’s personality should be exactly the same as yours. Some of our clients, after all, may be similar to us but that doesn’t mean they want a relationship with a brand that is just like them. As professional service providers, this relationship is and will be key to our business success.


The brand’s Culture includes the workplace, staff relationships, morale, corporate values and ideals. In fact, if you are a nonprofit, I would use Values as the section name and think about  culture in those terms.


This is your clients’ view of themselves and is the result of our research, whether that be observation, studies, your own insights, interview and so on. This is where we get under the skin of our targeted client and identify their lifestyles, frustrations, and aspirations. This is our target market from a psychologist’s perspective, not just a demographer’s. It’s not just some checklist of how old they are, where they live and what level of education they have received, it is what they think, what they want, what they feel, what they dream of.


This is how we take these insights of Self-Image and reflect them back to our target market so they can relate to our brand. In fact, we not only have to reflect our client’s self-image, we need to reflect their Ideal Self-Image, being who they would like to be.


This facet describes the way you conduct your contact with your client. What are the contact points. Here, it is useful to do an ‘Experience Audit’ from a client’s point of view. We want our clients to feel a certain way about us and our brand, this is where we design means to achieve this.


Finally, we get to the physical facet. Funnily enough, this is where most people start their brand creation and where they finish! This includes all the physical elements that represent your brand. We can’t develop the physical dimension before we understand its core substance. These things are the opportunity you have to use signs, symbols, colours, shape, texture, type, even music or sound to create brand recognition and convey your brand essence.  We will also include staff uniforms, the servicescape and furniture in this category.

We believe this should be done last when all the other facets of the business and the service design have been thought through. The Physique is the seal of authenticity.

Logo Design

A lot of people think a logo is a brand. It’s not. A brand is a collection of perception about your business and the products and services it offers, how it makes people feel, and the solutions you provide.

The logo is something you see, and if it is recognised, then it unlocks those perceptions (for better or worse).

Designing your logo is your opportunity to use the power of symbols to communicate your vision and your positioning.

The designer’s job, or your job if you do it yourself, is to take the essence of your Vision and what is unique about you, and distil it into it’s purest and simplest form.

People absorb a logo in these steps:

1. Shape

First the SHAPE. The shape should be simple. If you’ve ever taken a yellow pages ad, or put an ad in a school newsletter or in the paper, you often get smearing, so it should reproduce well the size of a 5 cent piece.\

2. Colour

Then the COLOUR – colour is very important. 60% of people’s decision to use a new product or service is based on its colour. If you use a multicoloured logo – keep in mind that an offset printer needs to make a separate plate for each colour so it’ll cost more than a one or two colour logo.

3. Text

Then any positioning word or text.

That’s the order of perception. But first things first. There’s a lot more work to be done on your brand before we can start looking at your logo.


Finally, the brand essence is the ‘soul’ of your brand. It’s the single, pithy description that sums up what you and your business stands for. It goes in the centre of the prism. It may be related to values, lifestyle, heart, or mind.

Examples of the Brand Identity Prism

To get a grasp of how simple and how powerful this brand identity prism can be, let’s consider a few examples you should be familiar with. Some of these are courtesy of Jean-Noel Kapferer and David Aaker, and some have been ‘imagineered’ by us to help elucidate the concepts.

Ralph Lauren, POLO

Visualised from notes by Kapferer (2004).

Ralph Lauren POLO brand identity prism












American Express

This example is the result of various sources including CEO Kenneth Chenault.


Americxan Express brand identity prism













Apple Inc.

Of course, no article on branding would be complete without the obligatory inclusion of Apple, the world’s most valuable brand (valued at $154 billion according to Forbes is 2016), so here it is:

apple brand identity prism













Try this tool yourself. You could download the blank at the top of this article,


  • Only three words or phrases for each facet
  • Don’t repeat any.


What is a Brand?

“Products are made in the factory, but brands are created in the mind.” Walter Landor

Your brand is not your logo. This is only the physical aspect – the identifier. In communication theory, it is the “signifier”. It works to signal a set of meanings, promised experiences, expertise, knowledge, creativity or whatever your business stands for.

Each of these things are what is “signified” by the logo. The power of a brand is only released in the mind of the consumer.

The Power of a Strong Brand

Imagine I give you a bar of soap.

It is an ordinary-looking cake of white soap, like hundred of others you have seen.

You smell it. It smells like… soap.

Now think about the soap for a second. What words come to mind?

Maybe the words you thought of were ‘clean’. Fresh. Pure. Hygiene.

What if you were to tell you that the soap is Imperial Leather.

Now what comes to mind?

Is it Luxury? Wealth? A Cruise-liner?

What if I told you that it is not Imperial Leather. It is Body Shop soap.

Now what comes to mind?

Ethical. Compassionate. Not tested on animals. Environmental.

That is a brand.

The Brand is the set of perceptions that are unlocked by your name, your symbol, or your signifiers.

The brand exists in the mind of the prospect or customer.

What the brand unlocks are associations including:

  • Personality
  • Higher Order Goals
  • Archetypal stories and mythology
  • Story of struggle, and success
  • Culture
  • How customers see themselves

A strong brand  works to tap into the collective unconscious and release a set of universal, archetypal stories. A brand is a fairy tale. It has a hero and a villain, a struggle against adversity, human spirit, emotion, vigour, and lasting value.

The strong brand can be globally relevant, because it represents aspects of human experience, which we all share, irrespective of the culture in which we were raised.


Photo by Jess Watters from Pexels

eBooks and ePublishing Formats

What’s an ebook?

Ebook is a bit of a catch-all phrase. When someone uses the term ‘ebooks’, they could be referring to any of a number of different file formats.

Essentially, an ebook is a file that can be read on an electronic device, like a desktop computer, laptop, tablet, a smartphone, or an e-reader like the Kindle® or Nook®.

Common file types that qualify as an ebook are:

  • ePub
  • PDF
  • Mobi
  • Fixed Layout epub
  • iBook

Each of these file types has a slightly different purpose and various advantages and limitations.


An epub file is essentially a website that has been packaged. Chapters are documents linked together from one main document or a number of files. A Table of Contents (TOC) helps the device navigate through the sections.

ePub files are widely used, especially for novels and other text-based books. It has something that not all the others formats have — the ability to ‘reflow’.

A reflowable epub file is responsive to the device. An epub file will shape-shift to fit nicely on a screen no matter what the size or resolution.

The user can often change the typeface to an option they prefer and can change type size to reduce or enlarge.


Limitations of epub

You cannot have bleed (graphics or colour that runs over the page). That’s because when you are working with a reflowable electronic document, there is no page. The page is the user’s screen which may be small or very large.

Complex layouts will create headaches as everything is pushed into one column.

No shapes are supported. You can get around this by converting the shape to a jpeg, which it will support.

Master page items are ignored, as are overlays, tabs, returns, and indents unless they are assigned as Styles.

It is crucial to apply styles both Paragraph and Character styles for your epub files. The styles are important for how the publication will flow. If you ignore styles and set the type with Bold, italics, indents and so on wherever you feel, it will force the ePub to include CSS code for all these ‘overrides’. This will ultimately create a bloated file.  Styles will keep it lean and clean.

You also need to apply a Table of Contents Style.

You cannot currently convert a Microsoft Word doc to ePub. You need a program like InDesign to create it. Mac’s Pages software can also create an epub file.


This is the dedicated format for Amazon and the Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP).

Amazon will convert your epub file to a .mobi when you upload it to KDP.

Fixed Layout ePub

This format is good when you want a more magazine-style look, or kids book, such as when you have a lot of graphics or your layout is more complex than straight text.

The Fixed layout ePub can be created to deliver something to your reader that looks much like the layout you have generated in your source program. If the position of images and text is important, it could be better to sacrifice reflowable text functionality and go for the fixed layout as you can better guarantee the user experience.

Having said that, because it isn’t reflowable, it could be harder to read if the user is on a small screen, as they have to manually zoom in.


Most people know PDF. It is everywhere and even Internet browsers often have their own PDF reading software. The problem is that not all PDFs are created equally. They are not reflowable and you cannot upload a PDF to sell to Amazon, Google, Apple or most ebook retailers. PDF is fantastic for a lot of things but e-publishing is not one of them.


This is Apple’s own proprietary epub format. The Apple iBooks application only sells .ibook.

By uploading an epub file to iBooks Author, the iBooks Author application will convert to a .ibook file for sale and distribution from there. The bad news is that it isn’t used anywhere except by Apple iBooks, and it can’t be used on your own website.

The .ibook file is reflowable when the device is held in landscape mode. When held in portrait, it becomes fixed layout epub.


That’s a  snapshot of a few of the various e-publishing file formats.

History and Styles of Graphic Design

Egyptian temples were filled with graphic art. Medieval navigation maps were full of symbols and imagery.

Graphic design is not a new concept. The term itself may have been first coined in 1922, but graphic design has existed since the earliest cave art.

The Middle Ages and the Renaissance saw the heavy use of heraldry–the armour, family, class, rank and pedigree. Cattle branding was used to show ownership and quality. Continue reading

Is accessibility in your sight?

World Sight Day is a good time to audit your online documents for accessibility

October 12, 2017, was World Sight Day. Developed by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in 2000, World Sight Day aims to raise awareness about blindness and vision impairment for VISION 2020: The Right to Sight, a global initiative.

According to the research described by Dr Norman Doidge in his book, The Brain that Changes Itself, those without sight can use hearing and touch to activate the visual part of the brain. Remarkably, the study also found that by the visual cortex was much more strongly activated for the blind subjects as for those who could see.

Internationally-recognised disability services expert, Trevor Allan, says that adapting services for unsighted people is becoming more and more important around the world.

“Accessibility is a human rights issue,” said Mr Allan. “Why shouldn’t an unsighted person be able to access the same financial, technology and information services that others take for granted.”

All Australian Government agencies are now required to ensure information and services are provided in a non-discriminatory accessible manner, under the Disability Discrimination Act 1992.

“When it comes to electronic material, an unsighted person can access information by using what is known as assistive technology such as a screen reader, text-to-voice technology, and braille devices,” said Mr Allan.

“Best practice is to ensure that information and communication services are set up for that technology.”

Highlands resident, Danielle Spinks-Earl, is a communications and marketing consultant who believes many organisations don’t understand how important accessibility is or how to achieve it.

“There is a large amount of information in the public domain that is not set up to be accessible for those who are using assistive technology,” said Ms Spinks-Earl.

“For example, many people know that an alternative text field is for adding a description of an image, but often it is left blank in a website or document, or it says ‘image’. For an unsighted person, this is like opening a family photo album and seeing page after page of blank squares and the word ‘image’.

Danielle Spinks-Earl has sought the advice of Trevor Allan, who is based in Wollongong, in developing interactive PDFs for government and international clients.

“Good design is inclusive. Every organisation—large and small—can do this,” said Ms Spinks-Earl. “If it’s going to be publicly available, make sure it’s accessible.”

More information about World Sight Day 17 is available here: http://worldsightday.org.au/

Publication Design

It is an exciting time in the world of publication design.

While there will always be a place for print, consider this.

You can make an elegant report, such as an Annual Report, with beautiful tables, typography and graphics, sustainably sourced FSC certified, and deliver it by post to stakeholders.

You can also turn the artwork into an interactive PDF that you send to interested customers, suppliers, and prospects on your list, by email.

You can also put a copy on your website.

The tables are phone and tablet-friendly, so they will resize for the user’s device.

The Directors’ Report has a photo of the Chair of the Board that, when clicked, plays a video of them speaking enthusiastically about the last 12 months.

All the links to URLs and email accounts are active. There is an order form linked to a payment gateway, and the new promotional video mentioned in the report can be watched and shared.

Just separate out the financial tables and that elegant Annual Report can now serve as a year-round marketing magazine.

Advantages of electronic publications

Cost: The interactive PDF removes some (or all) printing costs.

Equity: Accessible design is a human rights issue. It enables those who require assistive technology (such as a screen reader like JAWS or other text-to-voice software) to be included in your audience regardless of whether they have a visual, physiological, or neurological impairment.

Speed: An approved PDF document can be distributed immediately to an audience without the time lag for printing (often ten days). If–or should I say ‘when’–an error is detected, the document can be corrected and replaced immediately.

A powerful way to communicate

Interactive PDF is a powerful way to communicate, without hefty print costs, and perfect for:

  • Conference brochures/booklets
  • Clinical guidesAnnual Reports
  • Annual Reports
  • Company magazines
  • Brochures

At My Virtual Marketing Manager, we ensure material is elegant, cost-effective and accessible within your budget and agreed timeframe.

Send me your brief

Print Publications

We can also design publications for print, including:

  • Reports
  • Books
  • Magazines
  • Brochures
  • Flyers
  • Booklets
  • Postcards
  • Gift Cards
  • Stationery

We can manage the print production management including sourcing quotations, desired paper stocks, weights and finishes.

Send me your brief

Media & Publicity

If you want wide exposure for your organisation, a media release (or multimedia release) is a great way to get your story picked up.

You might have a new service or product, an event, a milestone or announcement. If your story is worth telling, I can help you tell it. And find the media and the people who will share it.

There are two parts:

  • Writing the Media Release
  • Targeted Distribution

Preparing the Media Release

Writing good media releases is completely different to writing advertising material or product fact sheets.

Editors are not interested in hearing all about your new business, new product, or new location. That is advertising.

The trick is to tap into news that is broader. That means finding a newsworthy angle.

Virtually every organisation and business will have an angle that can turn their ‘promotional’ blurb into a strong article that will be of interest to a wide readership/listenership, and support their activities as well.

Good editorial publicity is gold.

I can prepare your media releases so that it is professional, engaging and compelling. Small businesses, organisations and individuals might be looking for publicity for activities. This can often be achieved with a small budget and a newsworthy angle.

You can also use the content for your own website.

Multimedia Releases

The world’s most widely understood language pictures.

You have options to include videos, images as well as audio and fact sheets with your media releases to really engage editors, reports and readers.


We can help you with sourcing images, and conducting photography, and/or making video.

Targeted Distribution

It’s unlikely your media releases will be for absolutely everyone. Together, we can target the type of industry publications and audiences that will give you the most value.

Those media include:

  • Newspapers
  • Magazines
  • TV
  • Radio
  • Bloggers

I use the industry leader, AAPMedia Net, to facilitate targeting and distribution. I also use other online distribution services and directly target your wish list for ideal placement. We can also append your own email list to the list of journalists, broadcasters and editors we will target to cover your story.

I also use other online distribution services that are free of charge.


There are different options to suit your budget and objectives

You will always read and approve the final version of the Media Release article, and approve the targeted distribution list, and the cost of the service.

Send me your brief

Creative Design

Great design releases endorphins. Ours when we are making it. Yours when you see it.

We can produce your very own unique, custom-made marketing material. No cookie-cutter templates used. You give us your brief and your deadline. We agree on an affordable flat price, no hidden extras, and get started.

Continue reading

Making your documents accessible

Can you imagine going through a family photo album and all you could see is squares of blank paper where the pictures should be?

On every piece of paper there is one word: Image.

That’s what the experience is like for someone using assistive technology if you don’t make sure your documents are accessible.

What is Accessibility?

Around 20 percent of people at any time have a disability or impairment. When it comes to reading documents online, in many cases, this can be aided or overcome by using what is known as assistive technology.

For example, anyone could have a need for assistance because of visual impairment or blindness, a physical impairment, neurological (tremor), and so on.

An accessible document means that the document can be accessed by everyone. It is an equity issue.

Why is accessibility important?

The Australian Human Rights Commission expects websites to be accessible.

In the United States, section 508 is a federal law mandating “that all electronic and information technology developed, procured, maintained, or used by the federal government be accessible to people with disabilities.” It’s an equity issue.

Around the world, it is not just governments that require accessibility standards, many larger corporations understand the importance and value as well. In Australia, the Australian Government also has similar mandatories. https://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG20/

There is a precedent in Australia that a company can be sued for not providing an accessible website if they have been notified that the site is inaccessible and they have failed to modify it.

Whether you are part of a government or not, the best practice is to make any publicly available document on a website accessible.

What is Assistive Technology?

When it comes to online reading, there are loads of types of assistive technology. Possibly the most common is JAWS. Here is a demonstration: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=faZZaDaghBw


How to make Word and Adobe InDesign documents accessible

Many software programs now have accessibility checkers. You can use this to see whether there are any issues with an existing document.

If you are starting from scratch, here is a good summary of how to get the document to comply.  While it is possible to remediate files in Adobe Acrobat Pro if the end state will be a PDF, it is much easier and far preferable to get them accessible in the source document in the first place.

This is not an exhaustive article, there are many things to consider. However, this is how to make accessible Word and InDesign documents in a nutshell.

When I am designing or remediating documents to make them accessible, I use an acronym to help me remember each step. MATLOC  (there was a TV show with this name when I was a kid).


MATLOC stands for :

  • Metadata
  • Alt Text
  • Tagging
  • Language
  • Order (the reading order)
  • Contrast

Let’s start with Metadata.


Essentially, the document’s metadata is the information embedded into a text-based file that explains what it is and who wrote it. It is good practice to add this information to your documents if they will be publicly available.

  • Title (a clear, descriptive name for the document)
  • Author
  • Subject
  • Description: a full sentence that clearly explains the content. This is not promotional copy; the main point is that it is succinct and accurate.
  • Keywords (separate them with commas)

This will aid in online search as well as enabling a screen reader or other device to describe the content of the document.

Where do I add metadata?

To do this in Adobe InDesign, go to File > File Info

In Microsoft Word, go to File > Properties

For InDesign, I recommend this helpful article by David Blatner  all about metadata in InDesign.

In this same area is also where you can set the Language, so we’ll jump to the L.


In InDesign, this can be found under the Advanced tab.

Make sure you choose whichever language in which the document is composed. In my case, it’s British English / English (UK).

If you are n InDesign and you are exporting a PDF [either for Print or Interactive], you can go to Export > choose PDF. Under the Advanced Tab, you can choose the Default language for the file.

Alternative Text (ALT TEXT)

Handa MatsuriThis is text that is served as an alternative for a reader who cannot ‘see’ the picture.

For example, I have a photo of Hand Matsuri, the Japanese festival that occurs every five years in many towns and villages. The ALT TEXT I would enter could be: ‘a photo of matsuri’ In the description field, I might say: ‘ crowds at Handa Matsui, Aichiken, in 2003.

Some people make the mistake of leaving their images blank and a screen reader might just default to the word ‘image’.

Where do I add Alt text?

In Microsoft Word, right click on the image. Select ‘Format Picture’. Choose the Layout and Properties button.

You have two fields to fill in: Title and Description (as pictured below). Using the alt text title as the basis, a user of assistive technology can choose whether they want to see th3 full description and get more information. The description, in other words, should have a bit more detailed information, but still be succinct.

In Adobe InDesign, the alt text space is found under Object menu. So the path is Object >  Object Export Options, then select Alt Text.

From here you can select another XMP source if you have one set up, or otherwise, choose Custom. Enter the description into the box.



 You will be familiar with tags like <p> paragraph and <h1> for main headings and <h2> for Handa Matsurisecondary headings and so forth.

This is how we can tell an assistive device the order of our information. The key thing to keep in mind is that it is all about good document formatting, using Styles and tags.

For example, in Microsoft Word, we use Styles for body copy, headings, bullet points and numbered lists. Styles are the hooks for tags.

It is the same for InDesign. Don’t just use the Control Panel, create a Style for the different pieces of content, and apply that Style. Avoid overrides. Use both Paragraph Styles and Character Styles when you need them.

If you need to make a space between lines, for example, make a paragraph style for the spacing and apply it, don’t just hot the ENTER key.

The easiest way I find is to create the look you want with the right leading and type size, and then create the Style for that.

Other things to include are <header> tags for table headings and a Style for lists.


The reading order of a document in English is generally left to right, from top to bottom. In Japan, reading order is right to left.

If you have an infographic or a table that you think is obvious for someone looking at it, think about how it will be served using assistive technology.

The key is to make things as simple and logical as possible. It is beyond the scope of this article to describe how to move content blocks in Acrobat to show reading order, but this can be done if you are working with very complex tables of information. In most instances, avoid tables if you can.

You can use the Touch Up Reading Order tool in Acrobat Pro to fix reading order and basic tagging problems. https://helpx.adobe.com/acrobat/using/touch-reading-order-tool-pdfs.html


This is the clarity of colours used in your document. The clearest is Black on a white background, so you are generally okay if this is your black-and-white document.

Be aware of pastel colours in type. Go for strong contrast, rather than shades and be wary of coloured type unless it is very clear.

Contrast is something that needs to be manually checked, and there is a website that will help you check your colour values and offer alternatives if they don’t comply. WebAIM.org http://webaim.org/resources/contrastchecker/

Exporting to PDF

If you are designing a document in Microsoft Word or Indesign and plan to make a PDF (either for print or interactive), make sure you check the boxes to:

  • Create Tagged PDF
  • Bookmarks
  • Hyperlinks

Now let’s go back to that photo album. You’ve made sure the document is accessible. I am opening the album to page one. My Text-to-voice reader tells me that this section is called Seaside Holiday. The blank square of paper says Photo of Joey and Bobbi at the beach making a sandcastle. I can see it in my mind.

To summarise, accessible design of documents is about design fundamentals—clarity and simplicity. Making documents accessible feels good.

Use the built-in software features that assist good layout. That means:

Be disciplined with Styles; describe with text anything that is visual; add metadata; and clear contrast.

These things, and MATLOC to remember them, will help you create well-crafted accessible documents for everyone to enjoy—even that 20 percent who may have a permanent, or temporary, need for assistive technology.

Ingredients of a beautiful cook book design

Wild food by Juleigh Robins

 Tucked into a heavy shelf of thick cookery, travel and psychology books, it was the colour (a browny-beetroot) and the loose cursive script ‘Wild Food’ that drew me over.

The cover is nice at first glance, beautiful on the second.

The tart/tort/pie in short focus is bright with splotches of raspberry red in the crisp foreground and pitted with baked-in browny beetroot in the back. The plate it sits on is turquoise blue and dusted with icing sugar.

The title’s lettering is fat and flowing—a secondary salival trigger. The author’s name (replete with unconventional spelling ‘Juleigh’ with good mouth feel) is balanced and exquisitely tucked into the space the eye will naturally move into after absorbing those tasty crumbs.

The subtitle is what appears to be Adobe Garamond: 100 recipes using Australian ingredients. This is a well-crafted serif and one of my favourite typefaces of all time, and the favourite also of my good friend, Dave Eggers. (He may not have heard of me.)

Turn the page to the inside cover and here we go. The dust jacket is the same beety colour. Now I should tell you here and now that I have tried to determine the exact colour values of this elusive blend for years. Many years.

I have identified Pantone 209, at some stage, and various shades with differing C, M , Y and K values, and altogether dissimilar RBG.

The deception lies in its inconsistency. Differing times of day, differing paper stocks and finishes, differing screen monitors, sizes and devices—all of these change the appearance of this most volatile vermillion.

But this is the one.

It’s easy to make this colour go brown, unintentionally, but when it’s the perfect balance of magenta and cyan—and like a fine oil on a neutral-tasting square of bread, it needs the right stock to carry it—it is sublime.

The jacket copy is white, Adobe Garamond, of course. But the lead paragraph of three is larger (perhaps 14 points and italicised as opposed to 12 points and regular) and the three are each ‘wildly’ left justified with one single hyphenation toward the bottom. Like the Royal Botanic Gardens in Christchurch, New Zealand, this finely tuned wildness.

The inside cover artwork spreads across the 60 millimetre plus interior. It’s a tableau of excess, hedony and accidents. There are spills, smears and splatters of claret, garnet berries, sweet blood sugar, wine drops, mauvey with age.

t looks just like the lampshade my two-year-old created for my birthday. I don’t mean that to sound wry or derogatory. It’s just that it really does look very much like the lampshade my two-year-old created that is in our lounge room. Compare pictures of both.

Glimpse above or below the artwork and you’ll see that sneaky companion colour, the opposite of the spectrum and what a treat—it’s the icy cool turquoise blue. What a palette!

The subject of the book is wild food in Australia so the colour palette has to reflex that. It does with deep reds, olives and ochres, sage, forest greens and juicy dark berry colours.co

The section identities use a natural dry brush over two inches on the right panel to showcase the wild, script ingredient, picking up a colour that’s sampled from the food. The dry brush is repeated on the overleaf left sidebar but shrinks to a discreet one centimetre.

The book’s generous margination of a bottom and sides white space of 15 mills, with 20 mills on top, makes it feel luxurious, like a clean and minimal Hyatt room.

Wild Food is published by Lantern, an imprint of Penguin, and written by Juleigh Robin with Ian Robin as a consultant.

Sublime royalty-free music for your videos

Everyone knows video is one of the most powerful ways to connect with your audience/customer base.

But one of the frustrations is music.

A video can be made so much more effective with some ambient music. But unless you compose your own, or purchase some from an audio site, how can you get the right sound fast?

The answer is:

YouTube Audio Library

This amazing collection from YouTube solves your copyright issues. You simply download the mp4. You need to check the user permissions. Generally, it is okay for YouTube videos and other social media.

Use the audio clip as a layer in your video file. I use Adobe Premier Pro and Apple iMovie most of the time and it’s easy in both. (You generally drag the audio.mp4 to the space below the motion clip.)

If you subscribe to the Audio Library channel, you can get hold of a new piece every day.

Thank you, YouTube!

Audio Jungle

Other places you can pay (a few dollars, not much) for some great quality audio in .wav and .mp4 formats are the awesome Melbourne guys at Envato and their subsidiary website audiojungle for some royalty-free music and audio.


Soundcloud is an online audio distribution platform. The quality of the sounds here is amazing. You can make an amateurish piece of footage (like most of the stuff I produce for myself) come across as something a bit more special.


If you would like something totally unique and custom compositions for you, I would definitely suggest having a look at the ContiMusic website.

Created by husband and wife, Tom and Chris, this is exceptional music that is suitable for many kinds of uses. You can purchase a membership subscription or pay a small amount to purchase it royalty-free and access superior sounds. Think Yann Tierson (‘Amelie’ composer) and Philip Glass. (Please note: This recommendation may sound like an affiliate rant, but it’s not. I have no affiliation and receive no payment from Conti Music, I just like their stuff.)

(Please note: These recommendations may sound like the usual rants of an affiliate, they are not. I have no affiliation and receive no payment from Conti Music, I just like their stuff.)

How to Get Huge Publicity on a Shoestring


Ican honestly say, the person I have learnt the most from in the real world of public relations and publicity has been Joan Stewart, the Publicity Hound. I say this having spent years studying and practising my profession. I did a Bachelor’s Degree in Communications and Media; a Diploma in Journalism and a Masters Degree in Marketing. Stewart is the real deal. Her advice doesn’t contradict any of my formal training and she doesn’t blur boundaries of integrity.

Joan Stewart is a veteran newspaper journalist and editor who has mentored thousands of small business owners, marketers, publicists, authors, nonprofits, speakers, and PR people to succeed in the online environment.

I’ve been a devout follower since I was introduced to her website at a copywriting course in 2007. In those years, I have bought many of her information products and they have been tremendously helpful for myself and the organisations that I have worked for.

Joan Stewart is way ahead of the trend curve, and a lot of her information she has given away for free. There is a free email subscription link on her website. You will get great information from every one of her email newsletters.

Those who are budget-strapped can get thousands of dollars in free publicity with simple tricks from Joan Stewart, the Publicity Hound. Even if you have a staff of one, Joan’s products will show you how to make your news releases, media kits, articles and news releases do double and triple duty. She’ll show you how to identify story ideas within your nonprofit that the media will be tripping over themselves to cover. This is the best website I’ve ever seen on publicity for nonprofits or for anyone with a restrictive budget.

I am a proud affiliate of Joan Stewart, and owe much of my knowledge to her excellent tutelage over the past ten years. We have never met but I consider her a friend, of sorts.

Thanks Joan. Looking forward to many more fine products.

Why WordPress is King

A few months ago I was managing nine websites for a company, all built in Joomla. So I did an extended course in Joomla over a few weekends. You know what I learned from the Joomla expert instructor? To use WordPress!

Yes, I use WordPress!

I am delighted to tell you that it is WordPress that I use for this and now all other websites I create.
Continue reading

Why I Dig Canva (and So Will You)

I cringed at first. I thought it was a gimmicky website that would replace elegant design work with awful DIY wallpaper and slowly wrest demand away from quality graphic designers. I wasn’t keen. So I ignored it.

To be honest, it didn’t really grab my attention until veterans like Joan Stewart and Guy Kawasaki start promoting it. When those two get onto something, I listen. I tried it out. I liked it.

Now I really dig Canva. Why?

Canva screenshotDig, you say? Now you dig it?

Yes. I can dig it. This is why. Not just because it’s from my nabe – Surry Hills (Sydney).

With Canva, you jump right in and – without any design headaches – you can drag and drop text, images, backgrounds, shapes, and all sorts of great features.

With templates for Twitter, Facebook covers, Facebook post updates, posters, presentations, postcards, flyers, business cards, book and ebook covers, and print and web resolutions, you’re all set to create unique and eye-catching graphics to show off your posts.

Things I dig about Canva

Affordable Stock

My  once-beloved iStockphoto I have been using since 2004. I started as a contributing photographer, as well as a purchaser for the myriad campaigns I needed to pull together every year. I used to be able to afford the credits and the range of prices was reasonable for my employer’s wallet. Fast forward and I am sorely disappointed that, with Getty, the most basic package is now $36 AU for just 3 credits. Yes, the Getty quality if great, but c’mon.

This is where Canva steps up. It has over 1,000,000 images and the quality is… well… it’s okay. You can usually get what you’re after.

And most times the image is only $1. That’s what I like – transparent, easy to remember. A credit package is ten bucks and that kept me going for some time. Ten bucks is not much to outlay and you can get ten images out if it.

Infoginfographic elements in canvaraphic Elements

Putting together graphs, pie charts, schematics and the like, well it’s expected these days. But it’s time consuming. Canva can help, even just with some ideas. The range has been helpful to me in planning my graphics for magazines, publications and reports.

They are crude and a little rudimentary, but it’s a good place to dig about and see what you can get.

There’s also plenty of free elements in there, like maps of countries and pencil clip art, that kind of thing.


I adore typography and Canvas has a large selection of modern fonts to play with. There is also a ‘Design’ school tutorial section which shows people the basics of pairing fonts, developing colour palettes, and that kind of thing.

Original Creations

I dig Canva because it helps bloggers, web users, everyone who has any website material or social media accounts to maintain to do so without breaching copyright.

Believe me there are people so blissfully ignorant of copyright, you’d fall off your chair.

You can use Canva as an option for people who are in the habit of taking images off Google images oblivious to the fact that, just because you can right click > save something, doesn’t give you the license to do it.

It’s nice to have that clarity and creativity.

Integrity costs you nothing. Well, with Canva it costs very little anyway.

Do you use Canva? What do you think?


The Power of Interactive PDF

One of the best things about Adobe InDesign is the ability to save your files as Interactive PDFs.

Imagine designing an online brochure with a photo for each of your products. When someone clicks a product image, it turns into a video showing off the cool features.

If they have a question? They can fill in an enquiry form.

What’s an Interactive PDF?

This is no bog standard portable document format (PDF) file. You can add active hyperlinks, for example, and fillable forms. You can design a Submit button and have the data in that form sent to an email address. You can also add bookmarks and movies. Sometimes.

Some people ask why not just have a website. The answer is that an interactive PDF can be more like a magazine, does not require an active internet connection, and can be emailed or supplied on a branded USB stick.

What can you do with it?

The sky is the limit with what you could do with an interactive PDF. Here are a few ideas.

  • Make an Annual Report for your company. Leave out the financial tables and use the general company info for your organisation all year round.
  • Make a Product Catalogue to Email to prospective customers/clients.
  • Make a membership brochure with a fillable application form. You can also link to a payment gateway like Paypal if you want.
  • Show off a Portfolio of your work and have an enquiry form.
  • Create a Conference booklet that includes a Gallery of Abstract Posters with links to findings, research presentations, and links to related sessions during the event.

Current Challenges with Interactive PDF

One of the challenges around interactive PDFs is the lack of consistency between PDF viewers over the internet.

As Bob Levine says, “Most users think that a PDF is a PDF is a PDF. This is simply not true.” In that sense, PDF is a victim of its own success by the fact that it is now everywhere.

The PDF file was created by Adobe, as well as InDesign and Acrobat, and interactive PDFs are best viewed using Adobe software–whether that is the free Adobe Reader of a sufficiently up-to-date standard (although it doesn’t need to be the latest. Version 7 is fine), or the paid Acrobat Pro or Acrobat DC.

Some browsers have developed their own in-browser PDF viewing capability (Chrome and Firefox), but unfortunately, these don’t support all of the interactive features of the PDF. It’s a real pain and I wish they would get their software in order as Adobe should have the first and last word on what is a universal standard of PDF.

If there are still issues with the user experience of interactive PDF, why not just create an App?

Well, sure. But an App is often well beyond of many.

How do you get around the issues?

If a link is to be sent by email or embedded in a web page, it is best to mention that the PDF is interactive and best viewed in Adobe Acrobat or the free Adobe Reader (e.g. version 7 or later).

If the document is extremely complex, I would suggest considering an alternative such as Fixed Layout ePub. This will create a magazine-style experience with navigation buttons and hyperlinks.

How does it look in ISSUU?

Issuu is a fantastic platform for online magazines I’ve been using for nearly a decade. I tested an interactive PDF in issuu and the results were better than I expected. The hyperlinks worked, including my link over to Paypal, and so did the fillable form. The video, however, didn’t play. No surprises there. Video seems to be the main bugbear when it comes to compatibility.

Want Help?

If you are interested in turning an existing document into an interactive PDF, or Fixed Layout ePub, please get in touch.



How to write a more effective media release

The Media Release Formula

Who. What. When. Where. Why and How. I learned it 20 years ago. Still the formula, right? Sure, but you’re probably boring people. There are often better alternatives.

Occasionally I like to use a bold hairy quite right up front for instant drama and impact. Like this:
“More infant wombats with easily curable illnesses will die unless State government immediately starts upgrading facilities at Wandin Valley Animal Hospital,” said Simon Bowen, the Hospital Director yesterday.
With more tech, entrepreneurs everywhere and a sharing economy, a new ‘story-telling’ formula has emerged. I am indebted here to the enduringly helpful Joan Stewart, who credits Ann Wylie for the X, Y, Z, A formula.
“It looks like this: X (users) who have struggled with Y (problem) will now be able to Z (benefit), thanks to A (product or service).”
It reads like this:
Commuters who now spend an hour each day driving from Sunrise Beach to Osage Beach will soon be able to make the trip in 15 minutes, thanks to a new bridge that the ABC Company will build this summer.
The right formula depends on what the release is about and to whom it is being sent. Remember not all reporters report news the same way.
If there is a different angle for a different audience, right a different release.

What NOT to include in a Media Release

There are plenty of people who still think a Media Release is a multipage advertisement for a product or service or announcement.

It’s not.

A Media Release is closer to an Article.  At least, it should have an angle of interest to a publication that will serve their readership.

Try to help journalists meet their difficult deadlines by providing ready copy (text) they can lift straight out.

That includes strong quotes, with clear and accurate attribution, and a balance of sources.

Don’t use adjectives. The media release is completely impersonal. More often than not, it should have a ‘newsy’ objective feel.

You are not launching a much-needed fantastic or exciting event. You are launching an event. Include your adjectives if you have to) in a direct quote from a person.

A new XYZ event will open on DATE to coincide with ABC. “This is an exciting and much-needed event,” said XXX from YYY. “It’s fantastic the level of support we’ve had.”

Don’t bury the lead. Get to the point immediately. Use the ‘pyramid. The most important information should be right up front. Editors and journalists will edit for space by cutting from the bottom up.

Don’t harass writers and editors by sending a teaser email and then asking them to contact you. They’re busy. Send them your info in the body of an email. Give them whatever they need to run a piece. If there are pictures available, let them know. Avoid sending attachments as they may not get opened due to antivirus protocols in many media organisations.

Hope that helps. If you have any further pointers, please feel free to share them here.

How to Innovate If You’re a Service Business


Australia’s Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, recently announced a new $1.1 billion investment to foster the country’s business-based research, development and innovation.

And well might he should, because Australia has a real innovation problem.

We are ranked 17th in the world on the Global Innovation Index.

A recent CPA survey of 3,000 small businesses across Australia, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, China and New Zealand found that 93% of Asian small businesses used social media. In Australia, only half do.

Forty percent of Australian businesses do online sales. Across Asia, it is 83%. Only 5% of Australian businesses plan to release a new product, process or service that’s new in the market in the next year. In Indonesia, it is nearly half of all businesses.

Where’s the Innovation Fund Money Going?

The billion dollars is going into many areas, such as cybersecurity, and tax exemptions for both ‘angel investors’ and Mum and Dad investors in STEM startups (science, technology, engineering, mathematics).

Bankruptcy laws will be relaxed to reduce the default period from three years down to one. This way startups can fail fast, learn, get moving again.

I wish I were at school again because there’s money for students in years 5 and 7 will study coding, computer languages and machine thinking.

Eighty percent of Australia’s GDP comes from services.  How do you innovate if you’re a service?

Here are three ideas.

1. How can you Add Convenience?

Selling something on eBay? It’s always a bugbear working out size, height, depth, weight. Or you can just say ‘Pick-up Only’ and miss a lot of the best customers.

The rise of eBay saw Pack n Send services. They make it convenient to buy and sell online.

How can you add convenience to your customer?

2. What Service Extensions can you Provide?

There’s a mechanical workshop in Mittagong NSW that not only performs thorough, reasonably-priced car servicing, they wash, vacuum the car afterwards.

Big deal, you may say, but plenty of their customers come to get a service when they just want their car washed!

If you’re an Internet ISP, why not offer free domain name with each hosting plan. Domains cost only a few dollars and it’s a loss-leader that could be a real point of difference, especially for a novice market.

3. Productise your Service

Can you write an instruction book based on your experience?

Load it on your website as a free download, or sell it, to show your authority.

Create instruction videos for clients. Show off the website instructions. Demonstrate the stretching techniques so your personal training clients don’t forget.

There are lots of ways you can innovate when you’re a service. Many companion services and partnerships you can formulate to add value (and price) to your services.

Circular Logo Trend, like the Opal Card

Is it just me or are you seeing this everywhere too?

Why, even Photoshop Channels panel uses something similar

PSD channels image

Circular logos using gradients.

They look good, I admit. And I may even be guilty of designing one myself.

Here in Australia, a few of the more common examples are Opal Card, our new transport ticketing system, and the AAP logo.

Similar, don’t you think? I guess the main differences are the white space shape left in the middle. For AAP (Australian Associated Press) this is a triangle.

For Opal, the white space is a diamond. I think Opal is the more elegant of the two. The soft serifs on the P, A and L also reflect the smooth corners of the diamond white space.

Opal card logo AAP logo






By the way, here’s a pretty similar version I found on a collection site. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting anyone has breached copyright here. When a good idea gets going, people get onto it. Graphic design works in trends like this. As long as it’s sufficiently original, and registered, you’re okay.

Even Shutterstock and iStock are selling nice where do-it-yourself designers can buy and customise an eps file to create their own.

How you can make one

Oh, and here’s a tutorial about how you can make the Opal Card logo (below). It’s by the illustrious Abduzeedo.

Abduzeedo tut

But if you have Illustrator, it is fairly easy. Just make sure you change it a bit so it doesn’t look exactly like something else.

The Opal Card logo is very similar, but it doesn’t have the wedge of pink at the top right, nor does it use yellow in its colour pallette. Opal sticks to a simple four colour scheme of orange, red, blue and green.

Also the circles have been set further apart making the ring look thicker and the diamond in the centre look smaller.

What do you think? Spotted any logo trends lately?



A Gorgeous Example of Wine Label Atwork

Rymill Dark horse wine labelMaybe it was the brewing storm, but when I was walking along Glebe Point Road the other night, this local bottle shop window art caught my eye.

This gorgeous piece of graphic design is the label of wine brand’s Rymill’s newest 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon, The Dark Horse.

Named in commemoration of Jane Rymill’s ex-Police horse, Adlai, a dark chestnut thoroughbred.

Right now, we’re at the end of racing season. Whether you like racing or not, this is a sport that commands premium brand sponsors and top shelf prices.

Why the label works so well

The graphic design concept is uncluttered. The message is clear.

It works psychologically because it also pays homage to Australia’s recent champion, Black Caviar.

I think this has been created with various Photoshop smoke brushes and an actual photograph of Adlai on a background layer. Although smoke brushes are often over-used at the moment, this is a perfectly appropriate example.

The background photo makes for an excellent guide as well as gives good definition. Look at the front of the horse where there is a lower level of opacity.

There is great definition in the front hooves, as the horse gallops away. The nose, chest and ears all have clean lines.

Can you see the hairs from the the chin and nostrils? There are even eyelashes.

Once you move past the legs and torso, the horse is just vapour, tendrils of speed. Yet, there is no clear-cut transition point from horse to apparition.

This is a design piece that masters the art of precise whimsy.

The classic Coonawarra typeface and the gold horses device convey power, freedom, and wild elegance.

I’ve always been a fan of well-used kerning and the nice spacing between the RYMILL letters and the Dark Horse brand name add understated sophistication. I’m guessing it probably isn’t Adobe Garamond — my all-time favourite typeface — but it’s very similar.

What’s it like to taste? If I didn’t have a two week old baby, I’d certainly be letting you know.

The wine retails for $23.95. I think it’s worth it to enjoy the artwork while savouring.

Kudos to the designer. A very handsome job.

Street Fair Graphic Design

The artwork promoting Glebe Street Fair and Newtown Festival are both standouts.

They make good case studies of what to do when you need to design something with a large amount of information.

Newtown Festival Newtown Festival artwork

The designer of this event has been given a lot of information to include on a simple promotional poster.

We have:

  • Festival name
  • Organiser (Newtown Neighbourhood Centre Inc)
  • Key attractions (writers tent; market stalls; kids zone; dog show; live music)
  • Entry by gold coin donation
  • Sponsor logos

It could easily have been a mess. Instead, the designer has used a centred, vintage carnivalesque design with a simple colour palette of earthy and burnt orange, and a soft mint green as the highlight colour. The desaturated colours give the appropriate vintage look, which appeals to the local population.

The flags also communicate community, backyard, and low-key.

The featured image is the bicycle – a style popular in Newtown.

Through the use of layers, the designer has added the symbols of marquees and trees in orange with about 50 per cent opacity behind the bicycle.

All the logos, which need a solid colour background, have been placed at the bottom on the green park.

The use of th oval shaped park also adds visual interest. As does the green hanging pendant in the bottom layer. Do you see the white arrow the negative space makes above the bicycle?

If you looked at the bicycle first (I did), you then see an arrow indicating where to look next (the name of the event at the top).

Whether you notice them as a viewer or not is unimportant. The design subconsciously leads the eye to the important information.

Kudos to the designer, very nice job.

Glebe St Fair

Just like the Newtown Festival, Glebe St Fair designer has given a tonne of information to include in the poster design.

Glebe Street FairInstead of chunky boxes everywhere, they have used a sky theme and a retro design. Again, a simple colour pallette of blue and black makes it a very elegant design piece.

It has made the simple banner box ‘Glebe St Fair’ an oddly shaped rhombus, which draws attention. The clouds creeping over the borders also break up the consistency of the rectangle, making it more noticeable.

The blue bird sitting up top on the word Fair might encourage Tweeting but also conveys that this is a community fair, involving everyone.

The web address and ’34 years’ are communicated through the vintage plane’s ribbon sky trail. The plane becomes part of the design, flying over towards the signpost that indicates all the selling points of the fair.

 Event Design Lessons

  1.  Decide on a theme that helps convey the spirit of the event. Use elements of the theme to add visual interest as well as showcase important features.
  2. Stick with a simple colour palette.
  3. Be aware of where the eye will lead. Lines can guide the viewer where to look.
  4. Put logos on a solid background (e.g. black, white, or another colour). Gradients and changing tones will contravene most logo style guides.
  5. Use layers so that the artwork looks more dimensionally, rather than flat.
  6. Trust your intuition.


I recently had a chance encounter with a group of Chinese students from Shanghai studying English in Sydney.

I asked them what their favourite Australian brand was.

I expected them to say Weetbix or Cricket Australia. Vegemite, even the ABC, perhaps.

“Yoojiji,” was the answer I received.



The entire group agreed. Yoojeejee was the class’s favourite Australian brand in China.

There must have been some confusion. How can the favourite Australian brand be one I have never even heard of.

“That sounds Japanese,” I said.  “Are you sure it’s Australian?”

“Very famous Australian brand. Yoojiji!”

I felt like an idiot for a moment. Then, duh. U.G.G.

The humble Ugg boot is known as an acronym.

UGG is renowned for its very high quality. China loves Australian wool.

Cultural cringe aside, UGG has done well to position itself as a quality Australian brand in a highly quality conscious Chinese market. And the Australian branding of the Pitt Street, Sydney store seems to reflect those brand attributes and appeals to the Chinese tourist market.

Getting to Zero: Coca-Cola & AIDS

As you probably know, Coca-Cola has a product named Zero that’s heavily promoted around the world.

‘Getting to Zero’ is the strategy made by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS).

The vision is: Zero new infections. Zero discrimination. Zero AIDS-related deaths.

In my mind, Coca-Cola scored a victory with this one.

Whether this decision was made with Coke in mind or not isn’t clear. But let’s remember, Coke is the world’s number one brand. It has deep pockets and its needs to activate and reactivate the brand are endless.

World AIDS Campaign Africa Director, Linda Mafu, says,

“The potential for creative, connected and meaningful campaigning is really exciting.”

This is why I think it’s a good fit.

Youth and Music

Coke’s target audience is young people.  It is a youth brand. Generations come and go, but Coke always targets young people.

Why not middle-aged drinkers or kids? It’s well known that if you can capture a market young, you stand a good chance of retaining that loyalty for a long time. A child consumer becomes an adult consumer. There’s no need to target the other generations. f you make it relevant for young people, it’s always relevant.

Coke has long used the power of music to add emotion to its brand.

They say that the music you love as a teenager stays with you as music you love for the rest of your life. Something to do with the body’s hormones and first sexual experiences that I won’t go into.

Here, Coke is inviting the world to share the “sound of an AIDS-free generation.”

By using music, Coke says it aims to target teenagers with this campaign. Music is powerful. Everyone would have felt music’s visceral ability to lift a heart, churn a gut, evoke a tear.

As such, the Coke AIDS campaign has used a William Orbit remix of Queen to seed the new vanguard.

Social Marketing

Coke is smartly tapping into all the emotion, struggle, celebrity and profile of this disease, in much the same way as beer or fast food brands tap into similar attributes of sports competitions.
And if anyone likes a social cause, it’s the millennials. That means high shareability.

The strategy states in its foreward that the fight against HIV “serves as a beacon of global solidarity.”

It also wins on the ‘global’ criteria for a Coke sponsorship.

Brand War

In 2012, Coca-Cola enlisted as a partner of the (RED) campaign, together with other brands such as Nike, Girl, Bank of America, American Express and Converse.

The campaign’s tagline is “Fighting For An AIDS Free Generation”.

The (RED) manifesto states: “Every Generation is known for something. Let’s be the one to deliver an AIDS FREE GENERATION.”

Pepsi used to run with the tagline, ‘the next generation’ Remember the Michael Jackson TVCs?

Now Coke is flying the campaign flag “share the sound of an AIDS free generation” making the Pepsi’s old tagline seem meaningless in comparison.


One downside of the campaign is the sheer number of different articulations coming from various AIDS organisations around the world.

It’s such a common problem. Organisations clamour for attention and then try and say too many things at the same time. They need to stick with one message. I suppose it’s not uncommon, but it is a problem. No one can remember a twenty-word campaign name. No one remembers passive sentences and weak verbs like ‘reducing’ or ‘supporting’. We like Zero! It states the vision in no uncertain terms.

All of the others are long-worded and fail on simplicity and memorability. They may be more accurate, but they’re not marketable. At least ‘Zero’ is easy to remember. And for Coca-Cola, that means consumers may just as likely think of a can of Coke Zero than reducing HIV.

Branding Nonprofits – Case Study of ‘The Salvos’


Nonprofits face many difficulties when branding. Some of these are unique as the value proposition for a nonprofit is unique to that sector. It is a social exchange with an intangible, higher-order reward as its value proposition. The key issues are values and vision, trust and transparency, organisational culture and structure. Continue reading

Ten Practical Neuromarketing Insights You Can Use Right Now

In 1999, researchers did a simple wine purchase experiment inside a supermarket.


Near a display of French wines and German wines, the researchers played French music one day, and German music on the alternate days. They did this for two weeks. Guess what happened?

You’re right! On the days French music was played, the store sold three times more French wine than German. On the days German music was played, the store sold three times more German wine.

No surprises there, I guess. Except that—

They also asked every shopper who bought a bottle of French or German wine this survey question:

“What factors influenced you to buy the French / German wine?”

Only one person in 44 chose the music as having any effect!

The study just goes to show two things.

Key Learning 1: Obviously, music can influence purchase decisions and mood, so you should start using it in your servicescape. I don’t mean tune the room into commercial radio or some garbage, be selective and set the tone. Good music can vivify and enhance purchase spend, but bad music can make you feel angry or annoyed. In fact, every time Fleetwood Mac comes on the radio station of my local Vinnies, it’s time to leave. Likewise, my favourite cafe at the moment (Esca in Glebe Point Rd) often plays St Germain in the mornings when I grab my takeaway soy flat white. It’s music I play at home and it makes me feel relaxed and happy. Want a cookie with that? Sure.

Key Learning 2: There is a big difference between people’s behaviour and their understanding of that behaviour. From this, we can even postulate that asking people questions, even in depth interviews, will give you flawed data every time. There is a whole world that exists in the brain that is below our awareness levels. Talking about why we do things just doesn’t cut it. People cannot tell you what they think. Not that they don’t want to, they can’t. So with that in mind, if you think something could work, try it. Forget asking customers. Just introduce it and judge from the results.

Happy Faces

Although subliminal advertising is not legal in Australia, research has shown that flashes of happy faces can generate up to triple the price for a mystery drink. The real-world self-service vending machine study also showed that people changed their consumption behaviour after the happy flashes (drinking more). Those who saw the unhappy faces, even though they could not consciously detect them, drank less.

Key Learning 3: Positive, genuinely happy staff is gold dust. Happy staff equals happy customers equals higher profits.

Key Learning 4: Both the music study and the subliminal faces study both go to show that a positive environment and positive feelings, no matter how small, have an impact on consumers sense of value. Want to be perceived as offering more value? Be more positive. Smile and set a happy scene.

Eye Tracking

Although big businesses spend big money on eye tracking, we can learn from their research.

Eye movements are a reliable indicator of attention. If you have the budget, it’s a useful measure for things like:

  • advertising design
  • web design
  • store design
  • packaging design

Some companies seek permission to get into your webcam so they can track your eyes on a beta website, for example.

Observe Closely

Key Learning 5: Watch people. Watch what they look at. Observe. Did you notice that customers often find trouble locating the pasta sauce? Move it. You can quite easily and inexpensively do observational research to see if your store design is working well, or simply use (and watch) people testing your website or looking at mockups of different window, poster, or newspaper ad designs. Do your A/B split tests.

Logo Positions

By the way, eye tracking reveals that if a logo is used on the bottom of the ad, many people won’t see it. You may want to watermark it right through the centre instead, or incorporate the branding more creatively within the body of the ad. If there’s a big Helena Christensen flashing cleavage in the centre of the ad, people will remember the model, but they won’t necessarily connect her with the brand name at the bottom right hand corner. Same can be said for calls to action. Why do they have to be at the bottom?

Use Faces

Key Learning 6: The most compelling thing a human being can look at is the face of another human being. Especially the eyes. Both genders will also look at things like cleavage, however. People are curious. Use people in your marketing material wherever you can. Faces capture attention.

Arousal Methods

When people are emotionally aroused (in whatever capacity), changes in the sympathetic nervous system are automatic.

This can include pupil dilation, increased heart rate, breath, sweat glands.

The emotional arousal is primitive. We are either attracted or want to withdraw from the stimulus.

Physiological tests of pupils, sweat glands, heart rate, and breathing can indicate arousal, but can’t indicate whether the arousal is positive or negative.

Key Learning 7: A simple skin conductor test on the palm of a hand can reveal any arousal to a stimulus such as a picture of a food product, or an advertisement, but it won’t tell you if they like it or not. So is that information in itself something you can act on? All marketing research needs to yield information upon which you can base a decision. In my opinion, physiological tests of heart, pupils, sweat, and breath are unlikely to be of benefit most of the time.

Facial Recognition

There is software that detects whether a person, even with a somewhat neutral expression, is happy or sad.

Companies have used this in doing user experience (UX) tests for websites.

Key Learning 8: What the face reveals can be accurately decoded by software, but it can also be understood by any curious and perceptive human being. Look at the expressions on their faces. Sure you can video record your store, but why would you. Plus, it’s a privacy thing. Just get in there and mingle. Try looking at clients and customers when you are explaining that technical process or the different packages you offer.  Do they fade away in boredom at certain points? Do there eyes go into deep focus? Do they look scared when you start talking fees and charges and scales of member benefits? Do they outright tell you they didn’t understand? Dumb it down then, folks. If you can’t explain something in simple terms, then you don’t understand it well enough.Or, if your customers don’t understand it easily, it’s too complicated.

Confusion is death. It’s a copywriting mantra, but same goes for a web design. If the user can’t get to what they’re seeking quickly, they will usually leave your website within a matter of seconds. Forever.

Do your customers look happy? Do they express delight? If you have a physical presence, there are so many ways you can setup people to have a positive emotion. Christmas tree with donated presents? A train set? Mood lighting? Classic TV programming? Scent? Comfortable chairs?

Online – increase the size of your web font. Make it easy to read, not gimmicky. Follow my mantra; if in doubt, Open Sans. Make buttons bigger and colourful. Make a change and watch your customers faces before and after. You might want to check out the Designing Servicescapes article for good ideas.

Brain Signals

The marketing concept of value lives in the brain. When people make decisions, brand memories serve as neural connections. Strong connections are better for the brand. An unknown brand will have few memories and be able to generate only the weakest neural connections.

Based on brand memories, value signals will be sent to the front of the brain where decisions are made. The strongest value signal wins.

Electroencephalography (EEG) scans have been able to reveal a more accurate price point for university students’ on-campus cups of latte macchiato than questionnaire results found.

Key Learning 9: If you can’t afford EEG to set a price point for maximum demand and profitability, consider using a real world test of different price points and look at the elasticity of your demand. Then use regression techniques with Excel or similar software to make forecasts.

A study that used functional magnetic resonance imaging machine (fMRI) has revealed that the brain activity processing value signals can often be different to what a person says, even when they aren’t lying. Brain chemistry doesn’t lie. Read about this classic neuromarketing experiment that used MRI and the startling power of brand effects.

Key Learning 10: The cultural power of a strong brand is not contested. Brands insinuate into the nervous system. Cultural information and memories impact our perceived value and our decision-making. Only the ignorant would say that a brand has no value because it’s intangible.

So the last key learning is this: make good memories. It doesn’t matter what your budget is, provide clear branding images that are consistent with style, typeface and colour schemes. Good brands tell a good story. They create good experiences. It’s all pretty common sense, I guess. But common sense is not common practice. Make every customer experience a good new memory and you’re on your way to building some good cultural capital. If it’s an emotional experience, like the arts can deliver, that memory may just may serve you well in someone’s decision-making process twenty years from now.


Phil Harris, “Neuromarketing” Presentation at Australian Marketing Institute, Sydney, April 2014. Check out Nurobrand’s website if you are looking to introduce neuromarketing metrics into your organistion.
North, Adrian C.; Hargreaves, David J.; McKendrick, Jennifer “The influence of in-store music on wine selections.”Journal of Applied Psychology, Vol 84(2), Apr 1999, 271-276
Neuropricing http://www.neuromarketing-labs.com/services/neuropricing/the-latte-macchiato-experiment/

May 26, 2005Face Value: Hidden Smiles Influence Consumption And Judgment: Psychology Studies Confirm Unfelt Emotion Can Alter Consequential Behavior”