Hate Comic Sans?

Looking at the Marmite of the typeface world.

by Thomas Payne

The font everyone loves to hate
Things I hate: people driving closely behind me, noisy eaters, spam email, minimalist hipster posters (another rant/article in the works), automated phone systems and Love Island.

You’ll notice that as well as many other things, Comic Sans isn’t on that list.

In an interview for the Huffington Post, Vincent Connare, designer of Comic Sans, said, “if you love Comic Sans, you don’t know anything about typography. But if you hate Comic Sans, then you don’t know anything about typography either…and you should get another hobby”.

His statement was published in response to an online campaign called ‘Ban Comic Sans’, the brainchild of husband-and-wife graphic designers, Dave and Holly Combs. The life mission of these typographic vigilantes is to abolish the use of the world’s most ubiquitous and reviled — and arguably misunderstood — typeface, Comic Sans.

“Comic Sans is a blight on the landscape of typography.”
– Dave Combs of Ban Comic Sans

Power to the people
How did Comic Sans come into existence? 1995 saw the release of Microsoft Bob, software that acted as a user-friendly interface to introduce younger users to the Microsoft operating systems of the time. The virtual guide for using the OS was a dog named Rover, who gave advice via dismissable speech bubbles, just like Microsoft’s anthropomorphic paper clip — remember him?

Well, Connare was surprised to see that in beta versions of Microsoft Bob, Rover ‘talked’ in the formal Times New Roman: “I thought, ‘That’s silly. Dogs don’t talk like that.’ So I said it would look better if it looked like a comic book.”

Drawing on the lettering style of comic books including The Dark Knight and Watchmen, Connare drafted a typeface without anti-aliasing for PC screens. It had personality, unusual letter spacing and unequal visual weight. And it communicated a playful, friendly and informal aspect to whatever Rover explained to you.


Microsoft Bob ultimately didn’t use Comic Sans, but the typeface spread far and wide. Microsoft released Windows 95 with five supplied fonts, in various weights: Arial, Courier New, Times New Roman, Wingdings and… Comic Sans.

On top of this, Comic Sans was a default font for Microsoft Publisher, the entry-level desktop publishing software. This gave people worldwide the ability to design their own marketing and company branding materials, not to mention as many passive aggressive office signs as any situation demands.

Typographic misuse — a matter of opinion
Fonts are letters in different shoes. You may think it’s distasteful to wear Crocs with socks, or even to wear Crocs at all. I may not. And you’ll probably wear dress shoes rather than Crocs to a wedding, and trainers instead of Crocs for sports. It’s all about purpose and context.

Designers spend hours of their lives scrolling through Font Book trying to select the right typeface for the job. Sometimes it can be an easy choice, but other times it’s not so simple. Making the correct typographic choice should be based on several questions:

    What message are you trying to convey?
    Who are the intended readers?
    Who or what does the text represent?
    In what context will the typeface be seen?

Not everyone who is choosing a typeface or designing a poster may consciously ask themselves these questions, but some will without realising it.

Well, critics of Comic Sans argue that it shouldn’t be used in the workplace or on an outdoor defibrillator cabinet. But what font would you suggest for signage in a paediatrician’s waiting room? How about for labels of emergency equipment in a school? How can you make a sign that says “please keep the office toilet tidy” without coming across as being passive aggressive? Comic Sans could be your solution.

Comic Sans rules KO
There are practical applications for Comic Sans too. Dyslexia is a disability as defined in the Equality Act 2010. 10% of the population are dyslexic; 4% have severe dyslexia. Some fonts have been specifically designed to aid dyslexics, but if you don’t have access to those, Comic Sans is one of the most popular alternatives. Its letter spacing and legibility tick the right boxes for dyslexic readers, with one exception. The mirrored lowercase ‘b’ and ‘d’ can be easily confusing for a dyslexic reader.

Compare Comic Sans with a selection of other fonts by reading the pangrams below out loud, and consider why people may have chosen it as the font for their design project. Maybe they intended the message to be affable, casual or just wanted disabled or young people to read the text with ease.

Do you know your ascenders from your descenders, kerning from tracking or your ear from your terminal? If you want to learn more, visit Supremo’s Type Terms Explained — it might just convince you Vincent Connare knew what he was doing.

Designers often have conversations about type and its uses with respect to whether those who drafted a piece of work chose the right typeface, and how the choice works with brand colours.

Some fonts are more ubiquitous than others, and easier to identify. When you next spot Comic Sans, take a few moments to consider the possible reasons it was chosen.

And when you choose your next font, use whatever you think is best. If you think it feels right, use Comic Sans. Or, wear your Crocs to a wedding.
Thomas is a Senior Designer for Caliber, sign painter and typographer. Find out what Caliber does or have a look at Thomas’ painting.

8 Benefits of Hiring A Marketing Agency

8 Benefits of Hiring A Marketing Agency

 George Schildge

Marketing is increasingly responsible for more and more. More productivity, more effectiveness, more leads, more sales, etc. Marketing teams are feeling strapped with limited resources, smaller budgets, and there isn’t adequate training available. If you keep your entire marketing team in-house, you could wind up spending your entire budget on payroll and still not have all of the skill sets needed.

Despite the challenges of finding performance-based agency partners, marketers are outsourcing at record rates. According to Accenture, CMOs are turning to a large mix of agency partners and marketing service providers, outsourcing “between 45 percent and 75 percent of marketing activities.”

Companies can realize the following benefits by hiring
a performance-based marketing agency:

Cost/Risk: At much less than the cost of one full-time executive, you get an entire team of experts, and can expect cheaper ad costs and software costs, among others. Minimize the impact of marketing staff reductions.

Access: With the right firm, you still get complete access to all of your data and insights — no hidden fees/total transparency. Access expertise in marketing strategy and implementation, as well as creative design, focused on the specific job or project on hand.

Time: You save on all of the time it takes finding someone — or trying to learn the entire Internet marketing field yourself.

Experience: Get an outside perspective on your business. Your team will benefit from the experience the marketing team brings to the table, such as familiarity with your target market and the many marketing channels and opportunities available.

Deciding whether to hire in-house marketers or a marketing agency has the potential for predictable, scalable revenue growth. If you’re on the fence, here are top 8 reasons to consider outsourcing some of your marketing to a performance-driven agency.


  1. You get more than just marketing expertise

What if you could have predictable, effective marketing systems that generated and nurtured sales leads? By outsourcing some of your marketing, you get marketing talent, leading-edge strategies, shared experiences, and access to advanced marketing technology. You can seamlessly synchronize the end-to-end customer experience, and touch each stage of the buying cycle with agile, timely, and relevant marketing campaigns.

The marketing skills gap is very real. 75% of marketers say their lack of skills is impacting revenue in some way, and 74% say it’s contributing to misalignment between the marketing and sales teams, according to Oracle. Clearly, the game is changing and marketers need to master the new rules. An agency helps you bridge this gap, and provides a team of diverse people that have the education and the experience.

And, one marketing person can’t do it all. (Nor should they.) And if they do, can you afford them? With an agency, you get access to versatile professionals with proven backgrounds in business strategy, marketing, content marketing, communications, business strategy, graphic design, web design, internet marketing, and SEO. Because of these vast skill sets, they add great value when they contribute where needed.

  1. You want to be nimble and manage costs

Fixed cost are huge. People, systems, and facilities account for the largest part of the internal marketing budget. And the cost of a bad hire can easily cost a company over $200,000 (Calculate it here).

By comparison, marketing agency resources don’t need a full-time salary, benefits, and other overhead. When you hire a good agency, that team should provide a wide-range of strategic, tactical, and technology skills.

By outsourcing some or all of your marketing activities not only save your money in salaries and overhead, but our outsourcing partner can also save you money in direct purchases on marketing programs (e.g., printing, media buys, advertising, marketing technologies, etc.). By leveraging their suppliers, a good outsourcing partner can save a company 10 – 30% in their overall marketing spending. Here’s an example below. Just one direct hire cost a company about $120,000 (salary and overhead). A marketing outsourcing team typically cost less than that and one top of that you gain access to a full cross-functional team.

  1. You get access to the latest technology

Marketing departments are often technology-deprived, or they have a mixed assortment of incompatible marketing technologies. While companies have access to over 4,000 marketing technologies available to them, how do they know which ones to pick? And it’s often the case that marketing organizations are at the bottom of the IT department’s priority list, so there might be a lack of support and guidance. A performance-based marketing agency that can provide you guidance as well as implementation service and support are extremely valuable.

Marketing tools increase efficiency, productivity, and performance. There are tools you can find for free or of little cost, but often they are limited on producing results. But performance-driven agencies give you access to premium-level services, software, and analytical data reports.

Also, consider that advanced marketing automation tools do not provide marketing services. They require a professional who can interpret marketing data and make smart decisions in order to achieve results.

  1. Your existing staff becomes more efficient

Some companies try to get around hiring in-house marketers, social media personnel, content writers, and SEO experts by just having existing employees pick up the slack. Dumping the marketing burden onto existing employees (who may or may not be skilled in the area) increases the likelihood of burnout and reduces productivity in the long run. As well as, your marketing efforts will lack consistency and effectiveness even if they have all the necessary training.

If you outsource some of your marketing needs, you maintain momentum with critical projects – they’ll never fall to the wayside, drop down the priority list, or become forgotten. And when employees leave the company, they will most likely take the project assets with them (in the form of tribal knowledge). When you outsource your marketing activities, you have one centralized team as your partner.

  1. You don’t need to train agencies

It’s the marketing leader’s job to produce results, including drive quality sales leads, increase website traffic, build followers and subscribers, yet they often lack the skills, technologies, and strategies to pull it off.

Forrester Research stated in its report, “B2B CMOs Must Evolve or Move On,” that 96% of marketing leaders believe the breadth of skills required to succeed in marketing has increased, and 44% say they can’t find the right combination of people and skills in the job market.

Performance-driven agencies, like Matrix Marketing Group, provide a unique, holistic approach that allows clients to launch multidisciplinary campaigns with one “highly qualified contact.” Your dedicated resource is accountable for strategy through deployment. You don’t have to train your existing staff members because your agency has the depth and breadth of skills needed.

  1. You can easily scale your marketing efforts

When the economy tightens, companies tend to cut costs. Marketing is often the first to go because they are seen as a “discretionary” expense. And when times are good, marketing often gets more funding. It goes against the objectives of the CEO responsibilities, and that’s maximize stakeholder value.

But reducing and expanding the marketing budget is expensive. In the short-term, reducing or canceling marketing activities incurs cost. In the long-term, costs associated with attrition, staffing and erosion of knowledge base are more expensive.

Under a traditional in-house operation, the only way you can increase the output of your marketing team is to hire more employees. Agencies like Matrix Marketing Group already have cross-functional professionals on the core team that have been senior management with some of the top agencies, design firms or companies in the world.

  1. Stay current on the latest marketing trends, without a learning curve

Digital marketing agencies must constantly be up to speed and follow the latest developments across digital marketing trends on a regular basis. It is part of their job description.

What in-house marketer has time to read up on all the latest social media, SEO, technology, content marketing, and branding news? Usually, they are so buried in day-to-day tasks, there is no room to continuously grow, change, and evolve. The majority of reputable digital marketing agencies take education very seriously. I invest time to stay abreast of the latest trends, tools, technologies, and strategies to serve you better. According to the report above from Capgemini, only 4% of companies align their training efforts with their digital strategy.

Source Capgemini

  1. You benefit from an outside perspective

It’s easy for in-house Marketers to lose sight of the big picture. They tend to be immersed in the day-to-day activity and wearing many hats. They can’t see the forest for the trees. Employees may find it hard to express new ideas or bring up concerns, for fear of losing their jobs. But we’ve seen amazing results by collaborating with marketing team members.

Sometimes you can get too close to your business and not see your marketing strategies, programs, or materials from your audience’s perspective. Even though you may know your business inside and out by living and breathing it each day, your perspective is still one-sided. To market successfully to your current audience – and capture new markets – you need to step out of your shoes and into your target markets’ or customers’. Having a group on the “outside” supporting your needs helps to give you the customer’s perspective, not just your company’s.

Whether it’s planning, copywriting or designing, the right outsourced team will have experience with a variety of different marketing and communication strategies, techniques, and tools. You can rely on their lessons over the years to find the correct solution for your business challenge.

The Bottom Line

Companies of all sizes use outsourcing to help build their business and stay nimble. By outsourcing some or all of your marketing, you have flexibility and access to trained professionals and advanced marketing technology.

Here’s an example of an outsourced marketing campaign. The first month of the campaign, we may only do one blog post that attracts 84 new followers on social media, and generates 16 leads. The second month, we may publish two more blog posts, add two content offers, attract 192 new followers, increase our search engine ranking for eight keywords, which generates 37 leads. By the sixth month, we may have published a total of 30 blog posts, created 10 content offers, have a total of 1674 followers, and are showing up on page one of Google for five keywords, and generate over 240 leads. The compound effect from creating those assets over time didn’t just double the leads in the second month, they generated 10x the results in only a few short months. So you can see the value–right?

When you are hiring a marketing agency, you should assume that you are getting senior-level marketing professionals with a wide-range of skill sets. When picking agencies, some companies worry about product knowledge and try to find vertical industry firms. Your employees should have product/service knowledge to provide guidance and edit for content. Your agency should provide you with an outside viewpoint on where to find your market and how to talk to it.

The ideal situation is to have at least one point person working internally who can collaborate with the marketing agency to help them understand your brand voice, key messages, content, and demographics. A performance-based agency will have lots of ideas on to contribute based on trends, statistical data, and competitive analysis, but we find the best results come from working with a dedicated staff within our client’s company.

I’d love to hear your comments and don’t forget to share.





How To Use Social Media

For many people, social media is nothing more than a way to keep up with friends and family members.  But, to the astute social media user, Faceboook, Twitter, Instagram, Reddit, Snapchat, and many others are an ocean of business opportunities.

If you are a small business owner trying to grow your business through social media, but you can’t expand or grow your audience because you lack the time, lack ideas on what you need to post, don’t know which social network to focus on, or you’re not sure how to gain more fans and followers, follow these steps to build a more engaging audience and increase your social brand.

Step One: Pick Your Networks

Don’t focus on every social network – there are hundreds of them – instead, pick two different social networks to focus on and then expand from there based on how your audience responds to your posts. The “big 5” social networks are: Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, and Linkedin. Don’t feel that just because everyone is on these netwokrst your audience will be there too. Youtube may not be the best network to find an audience that likes stationary pictures. Likewise, twitter may not be the best place to write a novel. Find your audience, find your network, and get to work.

Step Two: Post Consistency is Key

Social Media takes time and commitment. You need to post every day – if possible. Posting a picture or sharing a status update every-once in a while is not going to get you very far.

When you do post, make sure that you post relevant content that matters to your audience. If you are a travel agency, share topics that are relevant to travel: Destinations, Places to Eat, How to Negotiate Hotel Rates, How to Stay Safe, How to Plan a Trip – all of these are “topics” that are relevant to traveling. If you want to grow your audience, share content that makes your audience want to come back for more.

Don’t try to sell to your audience on every post. If you had a friend who tried to sell you a service every time you two socialized, would you want to socialize with them in the future? Probably not. Your audience is the same way. Only about 10% of your posts should actually be “sales” while the other 90% should be social media development: Motivational Images, Inspirational Quotes, Relevant Articles, etc. (Anything that your audience will like to share)

If there are trending hashtags, then use them to reach a wider audience. By using a hashtag, you make it easy for people to find your status updates and images on Social Networks.

Step Three: Be Part of the Community

When you go to a networking event, you listen to people. You learn about who they are and what they do. You try to find strategic partners and try to find friends and acquaintances. Social media works the exact same way.

Don’t just focus on trying to sell your services. Actually try to connect with potential strategic partners or customers. Follow their profiles and engage with them – as a friend. When you follow a person, they usually get a notification. When they get the notification, they usually click over to see who followed them: who are they and what do they do? They usually follow you back – especially if you are sharing interesting posts.

If you engage with them – like their posts, comment on their statuses, etc. – they also get a notification, and often times they follow you back because you are someone who is interested in what they have to say. This is how we build friendships in the real world – it’s not any different in the virtual world?

Step Four: Follow Through with Your Audience

If your audience leaves you a comment, try to reply back to the comment as quickly as possible. If a client comes to your store and complains or compliments your work, do you stand there with a blank stare? or do you engage with the customer? Don’t leave your audience hanging. Reply back to all their comments. Reply back to all of their reviews.

If an audience member leaves you a positive review – reply back to it and thank them for their kindness.

If an audience member leaves you a negative review – reply back to it and try to offer them a solution – then thank them for taking the time of bringing the situation to your attention.

Remember that social media is supposed to be all about creating and developing conversations.

Step Five: Patience is a Virtue

Social media takes time, it’s not something that happens over night. A well developed strategy can take months to work, but the longer you wait, the longer is going to take to give you a positive ROI. When done correctly, you will have a small but passionate group of people ready to do business with you and your company. You don’t need thousands of followers to see a positive ROI, you just need a couple of hundred people. Even 50 people (if they’re passionate about your brand) can give you some serious results.

DO NOT EVER buy followers or likes. If you do, you will destroy your social media page. Think of it as setting up an auditorium full of people: Would you rather have 50 people that love your product, or 5,000 people that hate your product or what you stand for?

Closing Remarks

Social media is very important – today more than ever. If you don’t have the time, don’t know what to share, or don’t know where you should focus your attention on, we recommend that you hire a company to assist you with your social media needs. We offer a free 1 hour consultation for our Virtual Assistant Services. We can use this hour to help you understand what you’re looking for and then help you find solutions that fit your budget.

The Importance of Audio… In Video

We’ve been around enough to recognize that one of the last things most people consider when creating a video, is audio. In particular the music and sound effects that accompany the video. Choose the wrong music, and your video will be cheesy. Make the wrong selection with a sound effect, and the only effect you’ve made – is ruining your video.

Music sets the tone for your video. The pace of the music needs to play in harmony (pun mildly intended) with the feel of the video. For example, you don’t want fast-paced music under an heart-wrenching interview. Not that you would do that, it’s just an example. But you certainly don’t want to have overused corporate crap playing under your video either.

Whether you realize it or not, the music you choose says a lot about your organization. Heavy synthesizers might imply your company’s too old. Heavy beats per minute might make the viewer think you’re trying too hard to make a boring position look more exciting than it actually is.

This is why we spend a lot of time selecting music for our projects. Sometimes, it feels like the most difficult part of the process. It takes a keen understanding of how you want the viewer to feel when watching the video. What works right for the tone of the footage or interviews. How you can edit in concert with the music. All of these things go a long way towards finding the right music track.

And then there is (the often overlooked) use of sound effects. I’m not talking about the sound of a shot gun, or a starting a lawnmower. For this post, I’m referring to swooshes, hits, drones, etc. that accompany cuts, transitions or camera movements. Most of the times, the viewer isn’t even aware of them. That’s a good thing. Sound effects should be used to enhance motion graphics, or complement an editing style. They should never call attention to themselves. If they do (in our opinion) they’ve failed.

Here’s a link to fun example of great use of music and sound effects to capture the emotion of what they were going for. It’s a little bit of a twist – a parody of contestant reality shows. However, it’s a great example that we feel goes to show the importance of using the right music and sound effect in a video. This example would simply not work at all without the music selections and sound effects:

Stock Photos and Layouts – Can They Hurt Your Vision?

Engaging stories start with solid brand identities, and solid brand identities start with designers, writers, videographers, and photographers. This tends to be an understandable point of contention for new marketers; creatives cost money, after all, and money is usually in short supply at the start of any venture. Worried that their budgets can’t take the hit, these marketers decide to do it all themselves — and ultimately end up making a fraction of the impact they could have made with a little help.

Let’s illustrate this with a theoretical test. Suppose you were in the market for a new rug and decided to browse a few websites to find the best option. You’ve narrowed it down to two choices: Website A features an impactful logo, intuitive structure and simple but emotional tagline, and Website B is crammed with stock photography, poorly written text and a difficult browsing system. Even if both sites offered the same rug at the same price, most consumers would gravitate to Website A. It feels credible and distinct, but the second feels homemade and potentially untrustworthy. What’s more, Website A’s punchy logo could stick in a customer’s memory and eventually drive repeat business.

This is not to say that you don’t understand what makes your brand tick. Of course you do; it’s just that professional writers and designers understand the DNA of creative impact. They know why customers react to certain words, images and even fonts. They know how to spin a tagline into this year’s buzz phrase and turn a logo into an instantly recognizable image. You make the product, but creatives make it sing. What’s more, you don’t have to spend millions of dollars at an ad agency to find competent writers and designers.

 Send a note to us or give us a call at 412.889.3495. You’ll find professionals willing to help without incurring Louis Vuitton-level prices.

How To Combine Your Direct Mail Campaign with Your Digital Strategy

As a marketing professional every time I meet a client I’m faced with a we do this or we don’t do that mentality in planning a marketing initiative. However there’s one thing that I can’t impress enough, and that is there is no limit to the number of channels of marketing tools we have at our disposal. Yet, sometimes due to resource restraints we’re forced to make tough choices.

Making those tough choices can be difficult, time consuming, stressful, and quite frankly overwhelming! For example, if you already have a database full of leads, you might be tasked with finding the best way to convert them into paying customers. Some options might be to send them an email, use direct mail, engage with them in social media, or have your sales team reach out. But how do you determine which option is best?

Over the past several years data has become easier and easier to sift through and digest both for digital and direct mail. With the addition of call tracking, reputation management, landing pages and online reviews this combined digital and print campaign becomes completely trackable.

Utilizing two channels (both print and digital) you are creating a brand identity while at the same time giving the potential customer reviews to read, places to go to see what it is you offer and why you’re different.


Feeding Digital with Direct

We have established that direct mail and digital marketing are a team, where one stream feeds another. Consequently, ALL marketing campaigns should always be approached with this mentality.

Use direct mail marketing such as postcards or brochures to redirect recipients to your online landing page, social media profile, or shopping cart. There’s no escaping the fact that a large percentage of sales and research today happen online, so driving traffic to a website that is ready to convert prospects and leads into a paying customers is a highly valuable marketing tactic. There’s a wide range of call-to-actions direct mail can promote to your target audience, so test them out and find the best fit for your product, industry, or audience to improve your customer journey experience.

You’ll likely need a little out-of-the-box creativity when designing your direct mail campaigns in today’s competitive market. Mailbox real estate is at a real premium, and it is becoming ever more difficult to stand out from the crowd. In addition to creatively designed postcard to drive traffic to your website, should consider additions like promotions, incentives, and memorable marketing campaigns to help compel your consumers to visit your website and ultimately funnel them through to the checkout or sign up form.