Auto Generate QR Codes with Data Merge in InDesign CC 2014

 

Generate QR Codes in InDesign Data Merge

The Data Merge function in InDesign is a powerful, versatile tool for integrated marketing. We use it for variable data printing to personalize individual pieces – text and images – and, if a direct mail piece, to address and barcode for delivery to the USPS. The latest enhancement to Data Merge is the ability to integrate automatically generated QR codes into the Data Merge workflow. The best part is InDesign does almost all the work.

As you may know, InDesign CC will automatically generate a QR code within a document.5 types of InDesign QR codes Choose Object – Generate QR Code. From the Content tab, you can choose which of 5 main classes of QR code information you want to create: Text, Website, Text Message, Email or Business Card/Contact Information. The Color tab will let you change the QR code from standard Black to one of your other Swatch colors. When you click OK, the code loads onto your cursor for placement (or if you already selected a placeholder box, it places itself on the page). It can be resized to any dimension needed and is a high fidelity graphic object – in other words, it behaves just like a vector piece of artwork.

To automatically generated MULTIPLE QR codes through a Data Merge, the key lies in correctly entering the data in your Data Source .csv or .txt file. You will need to create a column (in Excel for example) and – this is the important part – name the column beginning with a hashtag (for example, “#QRcodes“). Within that column you can mix and match any of the 5 types of codes, but the data entries must be in the following formats:

  • For plain text: simple, just enter the text you want to be encoded.
  • For an SMS Text Message: SMSTO:<Phone number>:<Message>  Example: SMSTO:8285551919:Call me!
  • For a Website Hyperlink: URL:<url>  Example: URL:http://www.imagesmith.com
  • For and Email Message: MATMSG:\nTo:<email address>\nSUB:<subject>;\nBODY:;;<body of email>  Example: MATMSG:\nTo:name@gmail.com\nSUB:Your Subject;\nBODY:;;bodyofemail
  • For Contact or Business Card Info: BEGIN:VCARD\nVERSION:2.1\nN:<last name>;<first name>\nFN:<full name>\nORG:<your workplace>\nTITLE:<job title>\nTEL;CELL:<cell number>\nTEL;WORK;VOICE:<voice number>\nADR;WORK:;;<address>;<city>;<state>;<zip>;<country>\nEMAIL;WORK;INTERNET:<email address>\nURL:<website url>\nEND:VCARD

Data Merge Panel in InDesignBack in InDesign, choose Select Data Source on the Data Merge panel options and then link the .txt or .csv file you created to this document. Draw a box as the placeholder for where you want the QR codes to print on your page. Now link that placeholder to the data by selecting it and then clicking the “qrcodes” field title in the Data Merge panel (the hashtag you put on that column in Excel will not show up in InDesign, but it does allow InDesign to recognize that data as QR code information). Your placeholder will then have a dashed border selection line around it, signifying it will create QR codes when merged.

Finally, merge your document either by choosing “Create Merged Document” (which will give you a multi-page InDesign document) or “Export to PDF” (which creates the finished multi-page PDF file). If your InDesign document is a 2-pager and you have an .txt or .csv file of 100 entries linked, you will create a 200 page PDF file.

One snag: I cannot figure out how to generate QR codes this way in any color other than black. While InDesign lets you choose a color for individual codes you create within the application, I have not been able to find out how to “colorize” the placeholder for the merge in order to generate multiple QR codes through Data Merge that are a different color. If you know, please tell us how. If not, then perhaps that ability will come in a future update.

 

Strive to buy your print locally! A community printer will understand communication and design, with a special emphasis on your local market. They should be able to provide you with the latest information, inspiration, technical advice, and innovative ideas for communicating your message through print, design and typography, signage, apparel, variable data printing and direct mail, integrated marketing and environmental responsible printing with FSC certified products. If they can’t, you have the wrong printer! The best advice, always, is to ASK YOUR PRINTER!

Call us at 828.684.4512. ImageSmith is a full-service print and marketing provider located in Arden, North Carolina. Contact us at ImageSmith for quotes on all your print and marketing projects, and more useful tips on how to create custom, effective, high impact marketing solutions.
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What’s New in Illustrator CC 2014: Live Corners & Friendlier Pen and Pencil Tools

 

New features in Adobe Illustrator CC 2014

Illustrator CC 2014 brings graphic designers some cool new improvements to enhance the “drawing” experience of this vector program. I’ve always loved using Illustrator, although the disconnect between the feeling of drawing on paper vs. fashioning a vector shape onscreen can seem awkward. The new Illustrator perks: a more user-friendly Pen and Pencil tool and the new Live Shapes/Corners functionality give much more accessible controls to vector drawing and design. The best part of these new improvements? They are very intuitive. While an explanation or overview is helpful to know what has changed, the best way to understand them is to just get in there and create! The new tweaks will become second nature to a user with previous Illustrator experience in no time.

Live CornersInset Widget on Live Corners in Illustrator what a great enhancement for drawing and manipulating shapes! While this feature does nothing that was not possible in earlier versions of Illustrator, the sense of control is now much more integrated into the actual drawing process. Selecting any shape, or point on a shape, with the Direct Selection tool will reveal an on-art control point or “inset widget” at each of the corners. You can drag that widget to alter the shape of the corner. Double clicking the widget will open your dialog box for controls over the corner style (round, inverted round or chamfered), the corner radius dimension, and rounding that is Absolute or Relative. Option (or Alt) clicking will toggle between the three styles. Adobe offers some easy online video tutorials to cover all these features, but the process is so intuitive, just playing around with the new features is your best teacher. (BTW, I learned a new word with that “chamfered” corner feature.)

The Pencil Tool fly-out menu in IllustratorThe Pencil tool, in CC 2014, has advanced away from being more of a freestyle drawing tool often relegated to imprecise sketching and moved more toward a companion of the Pen tool. Double clicking the Pencil tool in the Tools palette will bring up its Options where you can set the fidelity of the line you are creating to the actual movement of your cursor. This is a great way to smooth curves when needed, or to create sketchy curves when that is point. Holding down your Option (or Alt) key will constrain the Pencil tool to a straight line; holding down the Command (or Ctrl) key will constrain it to horizontal, vertical or 45° angles. As you can see, this is very much like the Pen tool. The Pencil tool also toggles out to access the Smooth and the Path Erase tools. The Smooth tool is a handy way to touch up a path shape with which you aren’t quite happy. It subtracts excess points and contours to create a smoother shape. The Path Erase tool is your eraser, pure and simple – even stopping mid-segment to create a new end point.

The CC 2014 Pen tool sports some major enhancements as well. Pen Tool Path PreviewOne change you will notice right away is the Pen tool Path Preview. When drawing a shape, it is helpful to see exactly where the path will fall before dropping the point onto the document; this new tool previews that path for you with a colored preview line extending from the last point dropped to the position of the pen before you click in a new point.  Adobe also gave us advancements on the manipulation of anchor points: repair broken anchor point handles, draw uneven handles when needed, and other new ways to finesse closing the shape of a path without distorting your drawing. The Pen tool in Illustrator has always been one of those tools that really needs hands-on practice to understand. Often the description of what or how the tool works is longer and much more confusing than the actual process of using it. So dive in – the new features will become second nature as you use the tools and incorporate the new perks into your work routine.

Launching Illustrator CC 2014 will bring up a Welcome screen that does a great job in introducing everything you need to know: the tabs for New Features, Getting Started, and Tips & Techniques include video tutorials and links to the great online library of Adobe help documents. (You can always access this screen when needed by going to Help – Welcome in the menu bar.) Have fun making some great vectors.

 

Strive to buy your print locally! A community printer will understand communication and design, with a special emphasis on your local market. They should be able to provide you with the latest information, inspiration, technical advice, and innovative ideas for communicating your message through print, design and typography, signage, apparel, variable data printing and direct mail, integrated marketing and environmental responsible printing with FSC certified products. If they can’t, you have the wrong printer! The best advice, always, is to ASK YOUR PRINTER!

Call us at 828.684.4512. ImageSmith is a full-service print and marketing provider located in Arden, North Carolina. Contact us at ImageSmith for quotes on all your print and marketing projects, and more useful tips on how to create custom, effective, high impact marketing solutions.
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Upgrading to Adobe CC 2014 for Print – The Designer’s Not-Quite-Definitive Guide

 

Creative Cloud 2014

The Adobe suite of Creative Cloud programs continues to expand, encompassing far more than the standard prepress desktop publishing tools to which many graphic designers and printers have become accustomed. In addition to our graphic design/print trifecta of InDesign, PhotoShop and Illustrator, CC includes over a dozen separate industry-leading programs for website and mobile app development, video and audio editing, and additional perks like Bridge, TypeKit and Behance. The entire bundle – as well as the upkeep of consistent fixes and updates – can seem a daunting beast to contain.

So… after getting settled in with the Adobe cloud-based versions and their new subscription service last year, the introduction of CC 2014 seemed to come around pretty suddenly. With all new stand-alone installations of InDesign, PhotoShop and Illustrator – didn’t we just do this? – the rapidity of updates might seem a little unsettling. Luckily, Adobe has made the change this time as painless as possible. While I in no way pretend to be up on all the latest tech improvements and cutting-edge changes in the Creative Cloud suite (the website says there are “hundreds”), I can tell you some of the perks we encountered installing the new programs that take the edge off the change and even got us excited about the new improvements.

First, Acrobat has not changed in the 2014 update. Acrobat is essential for file transfer between graphic designers and printers, so new updates can often impact standard procedures in unexpected ways! In our printshop, we use some very specific third-party plug-ins for Acrobat XI Pro that are essential to our prepress workflow – imposition, preflighting, repurposing, etc. Traditionally, when Acrobat upgrades to an entirely new version, we have to wait a while for all the plug-ins to release compatible updates. That won’t be a problem for you this time around.

To be clear, InDesign, PhotoShop and Illustrator CC 2014 are all new versions. You can leave your previous CC and CS versions installed and running, and choose to uninstall them at a later time if you desire. You will, however, have to reinstall any plug-ins to your new 2014 versions in order to access them.

InDesign CC 2014

Adobe did a GREAT job in creating a seamless transition experience for InDesign users. Updating to InDesign CC 2014 will automatically migrate your presets and settings from the previous version to your 2014 joint. No jarring initial view that bears little resemblance to the InDesign interface you have grown to love – your workspaces, preferences, and keyboard shortcuts are all automatically transferred. The “What’s New” introductory pop-up window includes access to easy-to-view videos of the 5 major enhancements as well a link to the Adobe website with more information on all 11 of the important changes. The videos will introduce you to: InDesign CC 2014 Migrates Presets

  1. The aforementioned seamless update to customize your interface just like you had it before. (Even our plug-in for Ajar’s HTML5 export installed – wasn’t expecting that.)
  2. A new EPUB fixed layouts export definition. It does a better job of handling illustrations and photography when exporting to EPUB, as well as creating your Table of Contents and handling interactive video and audio.
  3. An awesome new feature that allows you to move rows and columns in Tables with just a click and drag.
  4. The handy ability to group colors within your swatches palette.
  5. Enhancements to the Search feature: you can now search forward and backward using “Find Previous” as well as “Find Next.”

PhotoShop and Illustrator have some great new features for designers preparing files for print, also. Illustrator’s new attractions are a newly rebuilt pencil tool, the ability to reshape path segments, Live Shapes, Live Corners and integration with Typekit. The “Welcome” screen does a good job of introducing all of the new features. PhotoShop includes new Path and Shape Blur Effects, Typekit, new Smart Guide features, and selection of an area based on what is in focus. Installing the new versions did not automatically import my old workspace and preferences, unfortunately.

Overall, don’t fear the change of an update to CC 2014 – the new perks are worth the effort and the transition for us went hitch-free. With that behind you, you’ll be ready for the next one coming down the line.

 

Strive to buy your print locally! A community printer will understand communication and design, with a special emphasis on your local market. They should be able to provide you with the latest information, inspiration, technical advice, and innovative ideas for communicating your message through print, design and typography, signage, apparel, variable data printing and direct mail, integrated marketing and environmental responsible printing with FSC certified products. If they can’t, you have the wrong printer! The best advice, always, is to ASK YOUR PRINTER!

Call us at 828.684.4512. ImageSmith is a full-service print and marketing provider located in Arden, North Carolina. Contact us at ImageSmith for quotes on all your print and marketing projects, and more useful tips on how to create custom, effective, high impact marketing solutions.
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Career Path Tips for Creative Designers

 

Creative Paths for Web Designers

As technology continues to advance and people use the internet more and more for everything from shopping and research to staying in touch with friends and family, careers in graphic design – and especially web design – seem certain to remain in high demand for the foreseeable future and beyond. For highly creative people who dream of designing eye-catching, successful marketing and web pages for businesses and individuals, the following tips can help them achieve the career of their dreams.

Learn all you can… and learn how to code

Yes, you are brimming with creative ideas, but you also have to know how to properly create them on the back end. Employers are often wary of the learning gap between the creative skills gained in school and the practical, industry-savvy skills needed to successfully perform many jobs in the graphics and web design marketplace. Learn all you can about the software and technical procedures of graphic design, printing, mobile apps, SEO, direct mail and integrated marketing. Strive to continually familiarize yourself with the latest news and developments through creative, cutting-edge blogs, publications and relevant trade associations. More specifically, for all designers with an eye on the future, learn as much about coding as you can, including CSS, JavaScript, HTML, WordPress and more. As Rasmussen College says, web designers need to learn how to create sites that are universally device-friendly, so educate yourself by taking classes or spending time to research how to design a site that will look just as good on a smartphone screen as it will on a mid-sized tablet or laptop.

Create an amazing portfolio

Before you even think about applying for a job or even an internship, you need an incredible portfolio that shows off your skills. Besides including your best projects from college, you should also add examples of design that you’re interested in. For example, if you dream of designing web pages that are full of emotion-evoking graphics and videos, look into stock video websites that feature all kinds of footage from clouds moving across the sky to kids running through idyllic fields. In addition to supplying potential employers a printed out portfolio of screen shots and other projects, make a digital version of the portfolio that features links to your design work as well as your resume and contact information.

Get an internship

Although you might feel ready to start working for a major company right away, one of the best ways to get a feel of what to expect is to nail down an internship. If possible, find an internship while you’re still in school–or you can apply for one after graduation. While the concept of an unpaid internship might sound unappealing to you and your pile of monthly bills, remember that the professional, in-house experience will provide you with priceless real world know-how that most new designers don’t have.

Start out as a freelancer

Consider freelancing before going for a permanent position. This will give you the opportunity to work for a bunch of clients at once, rather than just one. You can also start out slow with one or two projects and—as the word gets out about your skills in design—you can take on more and more. If you decide to go the freelance route, hire an experienced accountant who knows how to handle 1099 info and other specialized tax forms; working from home can be difficult, but freelancing has a ton of benefits when it comes to tax write-offs.

 

Rely on your local printer for support whether you direct a company’s marketing budget or freelance. They should be able to provide you with the latest information, inspiration, technical advice, and innovative ideas for communicating your message through print, design and typography, signage, apparel, variable data printing and direct mail, integrated marketing and environmental responsible printing with FSC certified products. If they can’t, you have the wrong printer! The best advice, always, is to ASK YOUR PRINTER!

Call us at 828.684.4512. ImageSmith is a full-service print and marketing provider located in Arden, North Carolina. Contact us at ImageSmith for quotes on all your print and marketing projects, and more useful tips on how to create custom, effective, high impact marketing solutions.
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Remembering Massimo Vignelli – One of the Greats of Graphic Design

 

Massimo Vignelli dies at 83

One of the giants of 20th Century design, Italian-born Massimo Vignelli passed away on Tuesday (5/27/14) at the age of 83, after an extended illness. Credited with bringing the European modernist aesthetic to American design, Vignelli created memorable work for clients as diverse as the National Park Service, American Airlines, Bloomingdales, the New York City Subway – he even designed an entire church in New York.

Hear him in his own words below:

A hero of graphic design, Vignelli considered himself to be an “information architect” – yet his work resides in museums around the world. For a great overview of his life and work, check out the New York Times article on his death, Fast Company’s obituary tribute and of course the Vignelli Associates own website, where you will no doubt discover many familiar creations of this visionary graphic designer.

 

Your printer should understand communication and design, with a special emphasis on your local market. They should be able to provide you with the latest information, inspiration, technical advice, and innovative ideas for communicating your message through print, design and typography, signage, apparel, variable data printing and direct mail, integrated marketing and environmental responsible printing with FSC certified products. If they can’t, you have the wrong printer! The best advice, always, is to ASK YOUR PRINTER!

Call us at 828.684.4512. ImageSmith is a full-service print and marketing provider located in Arden, North Carolina. Contact us at ImageSmith for quotes on all your print and marketing projects, and more useful tips on how to create custom, effective, high impact marketing solutions.
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Use Layers to Keep Auto Page Numbers on Top in InDesign

 

Page numbering in InDesign

A frequent InDesign question from designers for our prepress department concerns how to keep Master Page page numbering on top when design elements on individual pages cover that area. By default, the Master Page items will lie below any other page elements in the document. Our easy solution is achieved with the Layers palette. The InDesign Layers palette works just like it does in PhotoShop or Illustrator, and can easily solve the problem of disappearing page numbering.

Auto Page Numbering InDesign

Auto Page Numbering is set up on your master pages. Yet, by default, these numbers will be covered up by any page element in your document that crosses over that area. To work around this fact, create a new layer (while still on your Master Pages layout) and give it a name you will understand, such as “Top Master Items” or “Page Numbers.” With this layer highlighted, set up auto page numbering, and any other master  items that you want to always be visible above any other elements. Just be sure to keep that layer on TOP, and to work on the OTHER lower layer(s) for all placement of text and graphics as you create your document.

The Layers Palette in InDesignCC

This is a very simple set-up using Layers. However getting use to managing page numbers this way can help introduce you to the functions of the Layers palette and help you begin considering the more advanced ways it can assist your workflow. Layers can allow you to “version” your document – creating multiple, coexisting editions of your document using different languages,  images or copy. For example, if you set up all your text on one layer separate from any other graphic elements, you could then create additional layers of text in Spanish and French. By toggling these layers on and off you have 3 separate language versions within the same document, all using the same imagery and design. When exporting to pdf, be sure to turn on and off the desired layers for that output.

As with most projects, having a clear plan in the beginning can sidestep a lot of annoying roadblocks later. A good idea for beginning a print project in InDesign is to plan out the scope of your design with a few answers first: the size and number of pages, margins and bleed area, facing or non-facing pages, section and page numbering and how you will use Layers to help organize your work. Of course, all of these can be altered or added after the design begins but often you will save time and work by being organized at the start.

 

Strive to buy your print locally! A community printer will understand communication and design, with a special emphasis on your local market. They should be able to provide you with the latest information, inspiration, technical advice, and innovative ideas for communicating your message through print, design and typography, signage, apparel, variable data printing and direct mail, integrated marketing and environmental responsible printing with FSC certified products. If they can’t, you have the wrong printer! The best advice, always, is to ASK YOUR PRINTER!

Call us at 828.684.4512. ImageSmith is a full-service print and marketing provider located in Arden, North Carolina. Contact us at ImageSmith for quotes on all your print and marketing projects, and more useful tips on how to create custom, effective, high impact marketing solutions.
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Decking Out Your New Office Space

Steaming Coffee Cup in an Office

 

The U.S. Census Bureau reports there are 543,000 new businesses started every month. A vast majority of these are single-employee ventures. But there are also those that christen a new office space and prepare to fill it with all the necessary people and equipment to turn a profit.

Those echoes you hear in that empty office are the sounds of opportunity. Now it’s just a matter finding the right furnishings and tools to create the type of work environment that breeds long-term success. The best part is that you don’t have to spend a lot of money doing so.

Government Liquidation

One of the best-kept of secrets of the corporate world is the Government Liquidation (GL) website. It is the official auction and sales hub for surplus and used assets the Pentagon either no longer needs or has too much of. GL houses this equipment in several warehouses on various military bases in the U.S.

New business owners with empty office space can purchase, among other things, computers, desks, cubicles, chairs and printers in bulk at a fraction of the price they’d pay a retailer. Simply register your company with the website and it instantly gives you access to its entire inventory. One caveat is that you may have to pick the items up yourself from a warehouse that is far away from your office. You may also want to find someone in the area to inspect the equipment before purchasing.

Network and Software

The first matter of business to address with your computer network is the choice of an in-house server or cloud-based services. The previous gives you complete control of your data and network because the server is physically on the premises. They are also very expensive and will require you to cool the room so the system doesn’t overheat. Scalability, lower costs and easy set-up are the advantages of the cloud.

There is no right or wrong direction to go. But a 2013 study by Colmar Brunton, an international marketing agency based in Australia, found that only 16 percent of small business used cloud services. The study also found the businesses that do embrace the cloud were 106 percent more likely to see revenue increases from 2012 to 2013.

Finally review different software for pipeline management and sales forecasting. Again, this will ultimately come down to personal preference. Read objective reviews of all software you may be considering and ask other business managers what they use for suggestions.

Floor Graphics, Wide Format Print

Brand Your Workspace

Especially if your office or workspace is also a retail environment or reception area for customers, you will want to brand your work area with your own color scheme and imagery. With wide format graphics, banners, and removable murals for walls, windows and flooring, the cost of creating a unique, branded workspace is within every budget. These products are removable, repositionable, durable and fade resistant. You can inspire your staff or clientele with a visually stunning workspace with just a few well-chosen and affordable graphics.

Amenities

Some office buildings have cafeterias with cooks who make fresh food for employees. That option can be expensive, so the alternative is vending machines. Aramark and Vending Solutions are two of the more common names for soda and snack machines. Health-conscious business owners can check out HealthyVending.com and FreshVending.com for machines stocked with fruits, smoothies and other things that do the body good.

 

Strive to buy your print locally! A community printer will understand communication and design, with a special emphasis on your local market. They should be able to provide you with the latest information, inspiration, technical advice, and innovative ideas for communicating your message through print, design and typography, signage, apparel, variable data printing and direct mail, integrated marketing and environmental responsible printing with FSC certified products. If they can’t, you have the wrong printer! The best advice, always, is to ASK YOUR PRINTER!

Call us at 828.684.4512. ImageSmith is a full-service print and marketing provider located in Arden, North Carolina. Contact us at ImageSmith for quotes on all your print and marketing projects, and more useful tips on how to create custom, effective, high impact marketing solutions.
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Remembering MAD Magazine’s Al Feldstein, Print & Comedy Success Story

 

1968 cover of MAD magazine

My worn and well-read issue of MAD magazine from 1968, with the Beatles and Mia Farrow on the cover.

The graphic design of MAD magazine covers has always been a parody itself of publications like TIME or Esquire or Cosmopolitan. Eyecatching and insightful, they poke fun at current political and cultural news with a satirical slant and the gap-toothed smile of Alfred E. Neumann. This week, Al Feldstein – longtime editor of MAD magazine in it’s heyday from 1956 to 1984 – passed away at age 88. He was an influential force in one of the big success stories of magazine publishing and comedy in print, guiding MAD from a fledgling comic book to a leading magazine of satire and humor in the pre-digital age.

Feldstein took MAD from a publication of a few hundred thousand to well over 2 million at its peak. “Basically everyone who was young between 1955 and 1975 read MAD, and that’s where your sense of humor came from,” said Bill Oakley, producer of The Simpsons. Today, those issues are collected by fans who treasure the magazine. Irreverent, satirical humor and spoofs of popular culture were the mainstay with recurring features like Spy vs. Spy, The Lighter Side of…, movie and TV satires, and a back cover called a “Fold-In”: a full page image and question that, once folded over onto itself, created a surprise alternate image and answer. MAD ad parodies, long before Saturday Night Live, were included in each issue, sometimes using Al himself:

 

So many institutions of the comedy world in print, television and the internet through the years owe much to MAD and Al Feldstein: Laugh-In, Saturday Night Live, National Lampoon, The Simpsons, SouthPark, The Onion. MAD lives on today in print and online. You can check out their website here. There’s even a MAD app for iPad released in 2012.

 

 

Find you printing success story by partnering with a local printer! A community printer will understand communication and design, with a special emphasis on your local market. They should be able to provide you with the latest information, inspiration, technical advice, and innovative ideas for communicating your message through print, design and typography, signage, apparel, variable data printing and direct mail, integrated marketing and environmental responsible printing with FSC certified products. If they can’t, you have the wrong printer! The best advice, always, is to ASK YOUR PRINTER!

Call us at 828.684.4512. ImageSmith is a full-service print and marketing provider located in Arden, North Carolina. Contact us at ImageSmith for quotes on all your print and marketing projects, and more useful tips on how to create custom, effective, high impact marketing solutions.
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