Summer Safety

I read tonight on Facebook where two people were arrested for breaking and entering. Do you know how they picked their houses?  The lady in the operation would check her Facebook friends status to see who was out of town!!  Yup, Facebook scoping!  I try to refrain from posting on Facebook when I’ll be out of town. Of course my house is Fort Knox with a monitored alarm system including 8 video cameras that record every movement outside. I’m not really worried that someone would break in but I do get nervous at night if I’m here by myself!

My husband owns his own alarm company with his brother.  They do alarm systems for homeowners and businesses.  They also do a number of other things such as mounting flat panel TVs, hooking up audio-video components, and PC networking.  (That explains why we are Fort Knox around here!) I tell people all the time that they need an alarm system and the response I can’t stand the most is, “I have a 4-legged alarm system.”  Really?!  I don’t care what kind of kill ‘em, chew ‘em up dog you have, if someone comes in with doggie treats, some raw hot dogs, or bologna and throws it out the door… there goes your 4-legged alarm system!  Don’t be that person and don’t kid yourself!

Here are my suggestions for keeping your house summertime safe while you are out of town:

1. Have an alarm system installed & monitored.  You know I had to plug that in there!  But seriously, shop around and find a subcontract company for one of the big names and hire them to do it.  It will be less expensive, trust me!

2. DO NOT post on Facebook or Twitter that you are going out of town!  I don’t care how jealous you want to make your friends and co-workers, someone could be stalking your house! Especially since you bragged about the nice 52″ flat panel 3D TV that you got for Christmas!

3.  DO NOT post about your nice 52″ flat panel 3D TV you got for Christmas!  I know its so easy to brag but you are just feeding the criminal all the information they need!

4.  Have a family or close trusted friend stop by your house at least once a day to turn on a light in the house.  Make sure they turn on a different one each time.  Or have your home automated so the lights come on and go off at certain times of the day.  For more information on Home Automation, contact CommTech LLC or your local alarm company.

5.  Consider adding motion sensor lights to the exterior of your house.

6. Make sure your windows are locked and deadbolts are used on the doors.

7. Have a family member or neighbor pick up your mail & newspapers.  A sure sign that you are out of town is piled up newspapers.

8. Make sure your neighbors know that you are out of town. Ask them to keep an eye out.  And let them know if you have someone set up to stop by your house and what vehicle they might be in.  There is nothing like having the cops called on cousin David because you didn’t inform your neighbor that he would be stopping by!

These are just a few things that my family does when we go out of town.

And if you have an alarm, please use it.  Even if it is not monitored, if a burglar tried to break in the sound alone will frighten them off!

Now go have a Happy Summer!

(Photo credit.)


Graphic Design: Helpful Hints

I’m a perfectionist. I understand that everyone makes mistakes. Believe me, I will likely have my fair share in this blog alone!! However, I find that I over-analyze most things in the graphic design world. I guess this stems from my many years in the business, working my way from a Typesetter in a print shop to an Art Director in a publishing company. Every employer instilled an attention-to-detail in me that apparently is here to stay.

I usually have to glimpse through a publication, like a weekly sale advertisement, on multiple occasions. The first time I view it, I have a tendency to size-up the actual layout. I observe typography, margins, and bursts. I make mental notes of what works, and what doesn’t. It is only the second or third time I flip through the ad that I actually pay attention to the products and their pricing.

I will also analyze invitations, flyers, and mailers… nearly any print material I encounter. I love to see how designers use color, be it effectively or not. I appreciate a good company branding, but enjoy an out-of-the-box design too. I will even analyze paper and printing techniques, and will keep some on hand to use for conceptualizing later. I’m not sure if these assessments are a healthy habit or a curse.

One consistency I find in graphic design… primarily from designers who have limited experience, or more so, those who call themselves designers simply because they have a computer with Microsoft Office… is a lack of detail. Do they analyze items that they have readily available; like magazines, brochures, or posters? Is there a desire to learn copy-writing tricks-of-the-trade for accurate grammar? What kind of emotions are you putting behind your typography or color pallet?  I would like to share three quick Helpful Hints that will benefit any designer, no matter their skill set.

1. If you know this is going to be printed professionally, call ahead to request printing specifications. Based on the piece you are designing, the printer may have several printing options. To save time and money, for both you and the printer, it is best to set up files correctly from the beginning. Take into consideration: margins, bleeds, colors, and format. Microsoft Word is NOT a layout program. Although it is feasible to create something out of it, the file usually causes most printers a lot of heartache. You want to deliver a file that the printer will not have to manipulate before printing. This will cut down on your printing costs, and shorten turn-around time.

2. Proofread your work. There is often a preoccupation with producing a creative design. Too much attention to the appearance of a piece could hinder you from missing an obvious mistake to the basic information. (Case in point: one of my first professional design jobs, I left the L out of the word public. No one at the printer reviewed my work, as it was presented to them as “print ready” and I had relied on spell check to proof my basic info. Pubic is a word, but the folks at the city’s utilities department were not very impressed that it appeared in their brochure.)

When dealing with clients, do NOT expect them to proofread basic information either. Often they feel if they have hired you to design the piece, you’re responsible for editing it as well. Pay particular attention if you are simply re-design a previous piece, or they have requested a consistency in their material for branding purposes. If it looks familiar to everyone involved, no client will read it carefully.

Lastly, if you are dealing with a large group (I have found this to be true with larger non-profit organizations) there tends to be too many people are involved in reviewing the information. Everyone thinks someone else is paying attention and catching mistakes, and therefore, no one person feels totally responsible to carefully review the invitation, specifically looking for mistakes and omissions.

If you feel uncomfortable with copy-writing or editing, there are some excellent resources online. However, if you prefer to work face-to-face with someone, contact your local advertising agencies. You can hire someone on a project-by-project basis, and often you will find that many of the copywriters and editors freelance in their spare time.

3. High Resolution vs. Low Resolution images. Obviously the higher resolution your image is, the larger the file will be. No one likes working with giant files placed into large layouts. It will slow your computer (especially if you’re on a shared network) and your productivity down. However, resolution is crucial to viewing quality. Don’t fall victim to the 72-rule. I still hear the advice, “Computer screens show images at 72 dpi, so scan all of your images for the screen at 72 dpi.” Although dpi is more flexible on screen, it is crucial to have the highest dpi possible in printing. Typically, printers encourage designers to use 300 dpi, an industry standard.

I plan to post more Helpful Hints blogs monthly, not only for graphic design but also for photography. Please leave me a comment to let me know if the tips I post are resourceful, or if you would like me to cover a specific topic.

Happy Designing!