Results-Driven Direct Mail Design

All Eyes on Your Direct Mail Piece

Tips for creating a standout direct mail piece through design, messaging & personalization 

Designing a mail piece that delivers results involves a certain finesse. After all, unlike an email that contains a direct link to a sale or service, a physical mail piece needs to engage recipients enough to take an external action. 

So can a snappy design really increase the likelihood that recipients make the long slog to a retail store? As it turns out, yes. The more engaging your piece looks, the more likely it is to be handled, read or skimmed by the recipient, and the longer it tends to stick around on the top of the mail pile reinforcing your message.  

While designing, remember that it’s crucial to balance aesthetics with USPS requirements and to consider postage savings options to deliver the highest possible response rates.

A checklist for creating a standout mail piece involves three core components: the design, the messaging, and the personalization. 

We don’t care what anyone says, size matters. In addition to keeping your piece in alignment with USPS requirements for your specific category of mail, the dimensions of your mail piece determines how well it stands out in your recipients’ mailbox. Designing a mail piece with a slightly larger size, interactive folds, or choosing specialty finishes and substrates can also increase engagement, keeping your mail piece in hands for longer.  For instance, an oversized mailer at 11″ x 13″ is close to the length of a mailbox but still qualifies as a flat mailer under USPS regulations. The larger size provides plenty of extra real estate for your design without sending costs through the roof. 

Also linked to increased response rates are enhancing elements like embossing, foil, ultraviolet coatings, die-cutting and tactile features that appeal to the recipient’s sense of touch. Specialty finishes are especially important when marketing higher-end or niche-market products, where the mail piece needs to reflect a more upscale image.

Graphically speaking, authenticity is always better. Choose images or photography with your specific audience in mind, that align with your messaging and stay true to the visual identity of your brand. Incorporating strategic use of white space and colors, and ensuring your printer can reproduce them in a way that’s consistent with your brand standards, reinforces trust and can even elicit certain emotions

Rule numero uno for direct mail copywriting is ‘clarity’. A concise message trumps cleverness and grandiose vocabulary eleven times out of ten. If you can pepper in humor or wit without diluting your core message, by all means do so… then send us your resume. Don’t feel compelled to fill every space with content to get your money’s worth. In fact, a few simple, strong words can amplify your message and garner better results.  

Consider the audience’s demographics and interests while writing, after all, you’ve got the attention of the recipient for roughly two seconds so use it wisely! Review the contacts on your mailing list and look for patterns among your existing customers. Are there recurrent trends in their buying habits? Common complaints or pain points? Do they tend to fall within a certain age bracket or location? Understanding specifics on who you are targeting allows you tailor your messaging to achieve more impact.

Unless your piece is contained in an envelope, you’ll most likely need a strong headline to draw the recipient in. Generally speaking, your headline should be no more than 8 words, and include all the information your customer needs to know even if they don’t make it through the rest of your piece. Your piece should also feature unique activation codes, and typefaces that are easy to read. The most important element is your call to action, responsible for roughly 40% of your campaign’s success. Keep your CTA short, and keep it clear. Call Thysse’s mailing experts today! See what we did there? 

Blanket mailings like EDDM offer the highest cost savings per piece, and can be extremely effective for certain messages. However generally speaking, the more personalized your mail is to each recipient, the higher the response rates tend to be. Response rates for non-personalized mail pieces average about 2%, while personalized pieces have response rates of 6%. For all the math haters out there, that’s a 300% increase!

One of the most efficient ways to tailor your design and messaging to specific recipients is with a digital print option called Variable Data Printing (VPD). VDP digital printing offers flexibility of design during press runs that allows text and graphics within each printed piece to become interchangeable as needed. Each piece can be printed with a different recipient’s name, a unique barcode for tracking, even a unique promotion based on the zip code’s median income. 

VPD extends far beyond text variations. It also applies to things like color and image choices. For example, say you own a store that sells pet supplies. VDP allows you to tailor each mail piece to feature a dog, a cat or a parakeet based on each customer’s past purchase history. Likewise, if you’re a clothing retailer running a sale on t-shirts, you can feature a different color shirt on the cover of your mail piece depending on the gender of the recipient.  


Smart design decisions not only drive strong direct mail response rates, they can also ensure you aren’t paying unnecessarily high postage rates. Balancing the two components in accordance with your goals will give your next direct mail campaign the highest chance for delivering results.  

A strong mail piece involves careful consideration of your budget, target audience and goals. If you need some pointers, or have a unique idea for a mailing you’ve been dying to execute, give us a shout! If you’re more the ‘explore-on-your-own’ type, get the full rundown on mailing services here.

Translating Specialty Graphics Lingo

He Said What?!

Specialty Graphics lingo guaranteed to make your mom blush.

“It’s skirting because you didn’t glass it right. You’ve got to stretch and torch it before you go back in with the squeegee. Now add a little more sauce, that should do it!”

Wait… what??

Though it reads like a complaint spewed by a disgruntled car wash patron, it is in fact something you might hear while observing a Specialty Graphics installation in your facility.

 In case you missed our back-to-basics definition of Specialty Graphics last week, think of them as the vast category of graphics and signage that can be applied to the windows, to the walls, and all of your equipment during a facility branding project.

Being the innately curious folks that we are, we decided to do bit more digging into this twisted lingo and see what we could find. Care to see the finalists on our list of wild and ‘other-wordly’ terms of the trade? Read on.

From ‘Stud Mounts’ to ‘Skirting’

The first one on the list isn’t that weird, but it is critically important during an install and equally fun to say. SQUEEEEEEGEEEEEE. SQUEE. GEEE. We digress…

As one might imagine, a squeegee is a flat plastic tool used to install vinyl graphics. It ensures a smooth and secure application free from bubbling and lifting edges. “Way better than a credit card,” asserts Jim.

“It’s how I refer to my neighbor’s lawn where it meets mine,” says Jim. Non-habit forming and 100% legal, weed borders are also the square frames cut around an irregularly shaped graphic that are removed before application. Their basic-yet-essential function is to help square-up the graphic and ensure proper alignment during an installation.

Guaranteed to make a middle school kid blush, kiss cut vinyl graphics are those printed on a larger sheet of vinyl, usually with an adhesive backing. The graphics are aligned using a laser, cut into individual shapes and masked front and back with an adhesive sheet. Pull the backing off, expertly apply with your squeegeroonee, and, voilà!

Get your mind out of the gutter! Handing involves creating a mirrored image of a graphic that is intended for two different sides of a piece of equipment. “For example, a horse’s head needs to be facing the front of a truck on both sides,” says Jim, “Because a horse would never run backwards. Duh.”

Jim insisted upon wearing sunglasses for this part. Stud mounts are dimensional graphics that are affixed to the wall using long, threaded screws. Wood or acrylic letters for example, get punched with holes in the back, mounted with screws, and slid into pre-drilled holes in the wall. The final product looks as dapper as the name suggests.

This is in fact not what happened to Marilyn while standing over the manhole. Although similar in ways, skirting in specialty graphics refers to vinyl that’s starting to bunch up around the edges after installation. “Hey, it happens to the best of us,” says Jim. But any good installer knows the remedy – a little stretching or heat before Mr. Squeegeepants usually does the trick!

Is it a close-to-capsizing tented ‘caution’ sign that says ‘wet floor’? Nope! More like a liquid recipe of baby shampoo and distilled water used to apply graphics to glass. Often referred to as “sauce”, we still wouldn’t recommend eating it!

Sounds dangerous, but is relatively painless. This thin tape with a super-strong Kevlar thread in it is applied before the graphics are installed along a future cut line. Pull the thread out of the tape, and it cuts the vinyl in one fell swoop. “I’m almost certain I heard it from a friend, who told my uncle, who then told me, that NASA invented it for installing graphics on Mars,” asserts Jim.

Smoothing out our list is a step in the installation process guaranteed to make your OCD tendencies tingle. This step involves pulling a large graphic smooth from several different sides to get it to lay perfectly flat before adding heat or going in with your squeegeemobobber. “Smooth baby!” Says Jim. He’s added finger guns to the sunglasses at this point.


Whether they’re in plain English or preposterous prose, well executed facility branding is worth well over 1,000 words. Armed with the lingo, materials, tools, and the capabilities to print on nearly anything, Thysse can help your brand speak volumes.

Have an idea for a project you’d like to kick over to us? Give us a shout! We’re always happy to talk through a project.

Prefer to go back to the basics first? Check out the beginner’s guide to Specialty Graphics here.

Is your space doing your brand justice?

SPECIALTY GRAPHICS: UNWRAPPED

If your company walls could talk, what would they say? Would they whisper the names of employees taking extra-long lunch breaks? Maybe spill the juicy details of who’s been hoarding pens from the supply closet? Perhaps they’d blow the whistle on the moocher who’s been tapping into your personal supply of Ranch dressing? They knew those scribbled initials weren’t just for show…

Unfortunately, while the walls can’t divulge the scandalous details of your office happenings, they can serve as a powerful tool to express your brand’s message. Your space can do a lot of the heavy lifting when it comes to communicating culture, values and voice, without having to say a word. When paired with your website, logos, business collateral and other “quiet branding” your company can make quite the statement.

Facility branding is more than just slapping a logo on a wall; it’s the chance to showcase who you are as a brand. We’ve already shone a light on the most over-the-top facility branding capabilities from our Experiential Graphic Design team. Now let’s step back and unwrap the physical components at the foundation of these projects.

What are ‘Specialty Graphics’ and what makes them so… special?

To categorize this graphical multi-beast under one umbrella, we coined the term ‘Specialty Graphics’ in-house to help start the conversation with curious clients (ahem, that’s you). For all of the ‘type A-ers’ reading along, a basic definition could look something like this:

Graphics created using a wide range of materials that are applied to your facility’s windows, walls and equipment.

Yet, try as we may to squeeze them into a tidy corner of our website, Specialty Graphics truly do live in a world of their own. They can be customized any which way according to the eye of the beholder, using a near-limitless range of substrates and install methods. This goes far beyond signage – think wall decals, window clings, cash wraps, and privacy panels. All of them conveying who you are as a company and all of them available to improve brand perception.

An Unprecedented Return On Your Investment

Here’s the part where you scoff at the idea of facility branding as you picture your yearly marketing expenditure being reduced to a single roll of quarters. Rest assured that the scope of these projects ranges anywhere from a single vinyl logo install to a complete overhaul of your facility. And if done right, a little bit can go a long way. Here’s a curated short list of how investing in your space can have a tenfold return on your investment.

Create an Epic First Impression: Your space is more than the place you do business. It’s an opportunity to showcase what your brand is made of to both prospective and current customers. Specialty Graphics can be used to create stronger brand awareness, a walking tour for visitors, even showoff the range and quality of your products and services.

Attract and Retain Top-Notch Talent: Attracting talent on your reputation alone is a nice thought, yet younger generations crave something more. Prospective employees enter your facility expecting spaces that inspire, invoke innovation and encourage creativity. In addition to the ‘wow’ factor for new employees, Specialty Graphics can boost morale and increase feelings of well-being for current ones.

Create Designated Spaces: Well-executed specialty graphics are the junction of form and function. They can create necessary divides between departments or generate feelings of unity in common and collaborative spaces. Wayfinding graphics can be strategically installed in and around your facility to guide visitors and employees, all while serving as a visual extension of your brand.

THIS IS HOW WE DO IT (Que 90’s Music):

We’ve told you what they are, and their range of benefits, but how does Thysse do it? Every project begins with a great conversation.

 “It starts with listening to the client talk about their ideas and the vision for what they have in mind. We ask a series of questions to narrow down the scope of the project. In that initial conversation, we talk about what we are capable of, which usually surprises the client. One of our biggest challenges is familiarizing our clients with the vast array of graphic products and processes we offer.”

-Thysse Director of Specialty Graphics, Jim Hagen

After the initial dialog of brainstorming and flushing out ideas, we provide a preview of the project, relevant samples and similar examples of what the final will look like. Any materials less than 2” thick, we print directly on them on our wide format printers. Depending on the scope of the project, some installs can be printed and applied all in one day.


At the end of the day, we want to provide you partnership and flexibility, from ideation through production and installation. Having one team tackle all aspects of your project not only ensures consistency with your brand standards; it also saves you time, money and nights awake worrying about the small-but-important details that could otherwise get lost in translation.

Got a cool project idea you’ve been dying to talk through? Give us a shout! We love to brainstorm new concepts.

Prefer to explore more on your own first? Learn more about Specialty Graphics here.

Thysse is a G7 Master Qualified Printer – How Does That Help Your Brand?

Color consistency is kind of our business, and we’ve got a shiny new badge to prove it

Even before the first purchase, your brand meets your customer in a variety of ways: packaging, store signage, mailers and vehicle wraps – all creating a perception of your company, its offerings, and, perhaps most importantly, its quality. If these are all working in harmony, that’s a great representation of your brand, and creates strong awareness.

Now imagine each asset, each physical manifestation of your company, being produced in a different facility, with different standards. Each requires different inks, substrates and print processes and variation in each can lead to significant color inconsistencies across the range of materials. We’re not trying to scare you, a small variation here and there is typically within an acceptable margin of error, and likely won’t be noticed by your consumers or prospects. 

So why the hue and cry over color inconsistency? For starters, color is one of the most emotional attributes of a brand. It’s an important part of why consumers decide to embrace (or reject) your message. Color consistency reinforces trust, and inconsistency of colors associated with a brand subconsciously diminishes it – eroding brand loyalty and your products’ perceived value. 

In plain English? Stringent color management is essential to your brand’s credibility. 

The good news however, is that vendors can be assessed on their printers’, processes’, and people’s ability to achieve color consistency, and Thysse just happens to be an expert in all three. Only a printer of the highest compliance level may be classified as a G7® Master Facility Colorspace (Ahem – that’s us).

So, what the heck is a G7® Master Certification?

First things first, it’s a 3-tiered qualification system verified by Idealliance®, a worldwide provider of industry standards in graphic communications. G7 certification at every level ensures your brand is produced with exceptional quality, color matching, and color consistency, regardless of where you do your printing or what device materials are printed on.

G7 is aptly named, as it includes evaluation of Grayscale + seven colors (CMYKRGB); it is a set of global specifications for achieving visual similarity across all print processes. For those who don’t dream in Pantone® Super Swatches however, all this color lingo may be, well, a bit of a gray area. 

Here’s the gist of what G7 allows your printer to do:

  • Align all processes to create a strong, consistent visual identity for your brand
  • Preserve the integrity of your brand standards to the highest degree
  • Consistently match and replicate provided color targets 
  • Make it look like you dropped some serious cha-ching on your advertising 

Can it get any better? Why yes, actually. It can.

In addition to exceptional color consistency, G7 can reduce pain points and make communication with your printer easier by providing a foundation for less subjective conversations about color. Increased efficiency in production and process control also have their perks, including reductions in: 

  • The physical and actual cost of proofing and shipping prior to print 
  • Waste and make-ready overhead time during press runs 
  • Design times which means fewer revisions and quicker turnaround
  • The need to travel onsite for press checks

What exactly does it take for a printer to get certified?

This is the section that usually involves a lot of jargon, Delta E’s and indescript acronyms. Don’t worry, we won’t get too technical – we’ll leave that to our in-house color management team. In simplest terms, for a facility to become G7 Master Certified, each device must be calibrated to a set of independently verified and globally-approved color specifications. Next, the machine’s color files are inspected using a serious instrument with a Mary-Poppins-of-a-name;  a spectrophotometer. Finally, the output is compared to a G7 data set and performance overall is evaluated.

To eliminate any potential for a VW-level cover up, this process is repeated a second time with added specifications. Once targets are achieved within a certain tolerance, the results are sent to an independent agency for review. This final test determines whether a printer passes or fails the G7 certification, and if attained, remains valid for one year. 

So… do I need to fire our printer?

We’ll leave that up to your best judgement, but know that not all G7 Facilities are [qualified] equal. A printer’s compliance determines which of the three levels Idealliance will award. Splitting up the 4-color process into color (CMY) and black (K), the base level (Master Grayscale), notes that a printer can consistently define and reproduce standard curves referred to as the neutral tone ramp. When these are produced well, then all other colors tend to fall in line more easily. A great first step in achieving color stability but evaluation doesn’t stop there.

A Master Targeted Facility takes it a step further by ensuring that, in addition to those neutral tones, its devices are able to print consistently across primary color targets (CMY), and secondary color targets (RGB) as well. Seems reasonable, but we’re not done yet.

The third level and final level of compliance is the most stringent: the G7 Master Colorspace Certification. (Spoiler, we have it!) In order to obtain this title, a facility must demonstrate it can consistently reproduce the entire spectrum of colors. 

That’s the neutrals, the primary and secondary solids, and everything in between – which is about 1,620 patches (about 1,300 more than the level before it).

Also unique to this level, is that the standards are assessed separately for both printing and proofing, with proofing being even more stringent.  

Thanks for the enlightenment, now what?

When it comes down to it, the best way your printer can help your brand is to be a proactive partner. Thysse’s people, processes and yes, even our printers, will ensure that the world always sees your brand in the best possible light. Your brand’s visual integrity is upheld by adherence to your unique brand standards, and G7 or no G7, we take that responsibility seriously. 

But hey, that top-tier, world-wide accreditation of G7 Master Colorspace Facility definitely tells us we’re still where you go with your brand.

Interested in a brighter future for your brand? Head on over to our contact page and ask us for more details.

Experiential Design Dream Team: Defined.

We thought a few introductions to the team who tinkers with your brand translations was in order. After all, we’ve been playing them up as guides and experts of brand expression, but often they get reduced down to job title when we boast about our unique experiential design makeup. For one blog only, we’re putting a temporary spotlight their skills and storied pasts because it’s about time we bragged about these creative minds.

Loren Zemlicka | Principal

Loren Zemlicka, Design Principal

First up, the guy who started the foray into experiential design at Thysse. A creative in one way or another for most of his life, Loren brought his 20 years of graphic design experience and creative direction to Thysse in 2013 and only looked back to bring a few friends along for the ride (more on them in a moment). A renowned Play-Doh sculptor in his early years, he’s since moved on to molding enterprise brands into hierarchical masterpieces and has been known to moonlight a blog or two. Never content to master one skill, his efforts now stretch to encompass print design, web design, video production, copywriting, photography and of course, experiential (environmental) graphic design.

Geoff Sabin | Principal

Geoff Sabin, Principal Architect

Geoff Sabin’s a little shaggier these days than his picture would suggest, but he’s still got the same focus and drive on every project as he did on day one. Geoff joined our team shortly after its inception, and our house band has been thanking him ever since. Our principal architect by day, and on Rhythm Guitar and Lead Vocals by night/is-it-actually-really-early-the-next-morning, Geoff brings over 20 years of design and architecture experience to the Thysse crew. He can design a building, move on to design everything inside and outside the building, and then finish with  a design of the invitations for the grand opening. Geoff infuses creative energy into everything he does and has a very specific taste in pens – the now-discontinued Yasutomo Lupro Niji Stylist Markers to be exact. We’re still warring with the guy on eBay for the last box….

Kris Marconnet | Senior Designer

Kris Marconnet, Experiential Designer

Kris excels at visual branding elements in corporate, education and healthcare settings. A practicing lawn artist, she’s mastered the intricate turns and specific step counts to create an exact match to the revered Scottish “Royal Stewart” tartan in her own backyard. This latest design received modest praise from the neighbors, though they’re still a little leery after the more controversial piece, “Reclining Nude Eating Grapes.” We wish Mrs. Jensen well in her recovery… What were we doing? Ah yes, bragging about our master illustrator and logo developer. Probably swearing like a sailor internally that she’s the first designer on the list of praise, we’ll have to bribe her with cans of Bubly to make up for it. Like a silent assassin, her 25 years of accomplished design work often speaks for itself.  

Julie Kimmell | Project Manager

Julie Kimmel, Design Project Manager

We want your project to be beautiful, but we also want to be sure it stays on schedule and budget too. Hailing from the picturesque shores of an Illinois farm and a life spent raising hot dogs and bears, Julie is our professional creative management maven. We’re thrilled she left a string of Amazonian corporations, the three-martini lunches, fashion model shoots and glamorous haute-couture lifestyle behind to join our team; who doesn’t long for a hard hat now and then? With over 20 years of experience in creative and schedule wrangling,  Julie supports the team with financials, project planning, estimating and documentation on every design project and thankfully runs that weekly status meeting with military precision.

Allyson Casey | Concept Designer

Allyson Casey, Experiential Designer

We probably shouldn’t brag about theft on here, but you could say we stole Allyson away after collaborating on a multi-year project. Maybe stole is a bit harsh, we are pretty irresistible after all. She joined the Thysse Design crew in 2018 and brought her wealth of knowledge as a designer, art director, and artist along with. She’s also got a penchant for obscure indie folk music. If it’s got guitars, mandolins, or fiddles, you can bet it’s on her Spotify playlist. Typically armed with a cup of coffee and at least one AirPod in, she can nail a brand’s essence in record time, and translate it to walls, windows, and more. We usually pause the stopwatch for that second part.

Evan Hildebrand | Architectural Designer

Evan Hildebrand, Architectural Designer

Mr. Texas Panini himself, Evan comes to us from…Ohio. We’re kidding of course. This renowned humorist and ultimate frisbee cutter graduated Summa Cum Laude, with Distinction from University of Minnesota. Writing that out seems prestigious and oddly NSFW all at once… degrees and an eight-semester Dean’s list streak in hand, he then secured a sweet gig as a Design Associate in – you guessed it – Dallas, Texas. After perfecting his pronunciation of “y’all,” and confirming his cowboy boot size,  Evan hopped back to the Midwest and joined Thysse Design to specialize in 3D design, modeling, and rendering

Jen Braga | Marketing Director

Jen Braga, Marketing Director

We don’t make it a pattern, but sometimes we like the people we work with enough to hire them on our team. She’s been a project manager, designer, brand manager, and marketing specialist, and has a terrible golf swing, so we thought it’d be best to combine it all into one role on our team. Jen is a University of Wisconsin MBA graduate specializing in marketing and branding. She understands the importance of powerful storytelling, targeted messaging and may use the term “unaided brand awareness” approximately 23.5x more often than the average person.

Angie Biermeier | Designer

Angie Biermeier, Experiential Designer

We round out introductions with our very first Thysse Design hire. Angie came from the print design, copy layout and logo development world, and has since broadened her skillset, working in the built environment to create facility branding programs. Think that’s impressive? Wait till you see her Donnie and Marie memorabilia collection. With over 20 years of design experience, we’ll listen to her talk about the Osmond lunch boxes, coloring books, framed (and signed) 8x10s all day because when it comes down to it, Angie is a technical production artist wiz. Truly, her art file setups are a thing of art.


So there you have it, the team who draws the connection between material and messaging, and brings your brand into a new plane. In addition to these key personnel, we also have a staff comprised of a skilled craftsmen and women who love what they do. It is a team woven together with collective expertise and bound by satisfaction of a job well done.

Sound like a crew you’d like to kick it with even when the projects get hard? See if you have what it takes to join the team.

Curious to learn more? Let’s talk. We’re not salespeople. We’re just a bunch of passionate designers who love to talk through a project.

Thysse Unveils New Campus and New Capabilities.

New Address, Same Thysse Culture.

Monday, July 27 marked the next chapter in the Thysse legacy. The company opened the doors on its new headquarters, a 95,500 square-foot building in Oregon, WI. The new campus, situated just a stone’s throw from the previous Netherwood location, is the third expansion in seven years to support Thysse’s enhanced services and growing lines of business.

The building itself is as functional as it is visually impressive; featuring 2 glass lined stories and triple the production space. The new location brings together a full in-house design suite for Thysse’s Experiential Graphic Design team, moves all production, specialty graphics, and fulfillment services to a single site, creating greater efficiencies for Thysse’s customers, and enhances the close team culture for its employees. For President Jason Thysse, this is the real measure of success,

“Since my grandfather started Thysse in 1941, this company has always been about the people. We designed the new campus with both client and employee needs in mind, and the result we’ve realized with the team of Thysse architects, designers, and assistance from OPN Architects is a dream come true. We are very excited for this next chapter in Thysse’s story!”

Fleet of Thysse delivery trucks at new campus

Director of Operations, Nick Brevik knows that the new campus will start showing a return on investment almost immediately,

“The move to a larger space that can house all our services in one location minimizes our logistical inefficiencies. We’ll be able to reduce travel time, particularly in fulfillment, and we’re able to increase our service offerings, adding on foil stamping and embossing capabilities starting in August. The bigger production space allowed us to bring in a larger format and faster press, as well as the prepress workflow to support it, effectively doubling our offset printing rate. The move also increased fulfillment storage by 30%. Thysse has always looked for the best way to meet our customers’ current needs, while simultaneously planning for their future; this move is a continuation on that promise.”  

Thysse’s new address, as of July 27th, is 780 Cusick Parkway, Oregon, WI 53575.

Production space in Thysse's new campus

Although the building was completed for Thysse, it wasn’t done alone. The project had many partners involved including: The Village of Oregon, Oregon Community Bank, Wisconsin Business Development, OPN Architects, Newcomb Construction, and Thysse’s very own Experiential Design Team. Thank you for your support and assistance along this journey!

To stay up to date with what’s happening at Thysse, stay tuned on our social channels and at www.thysse.com.

Facebook | Twitter | Linkedin | Instagram

For more information, contact Jen Braga, Thysse, at 608.249.6951.

Color Sells Your Product: An Interview With Color Management Guru John Drew

An Interview With Color Management Guru John Drew

“I want ‘Color sells your product’ to be engraved on my tombstone,” says John Drew. Find out below why this color management guru is so passionate about choosing the right colors for your brand—especially your logo.

Professor John Drew
Professor John Drew

Drew takes logo colors about as seriously as anyone. A professor of graphic design at California State University, Fullerton, Drew has co-written multiple books on the topic, in addition to teaching courses on logo design for nearly 30 years.

We spoke with Professor Drew on a number of topics related to logo colors. If you’re a designer or a marketer, the following Q&A will help you understand (or remind you) just how important logo colors are. We’ll cover key areas like:

  • Why careful color selection is so crucial
  • How to ensure logo colors perform well across platforms
  • How to work more effectively with your printer
  • How to re-evaluate your logo colors   

Q: What does color management for logos mean?

From a graphic designer’s point of view, color management for logos refers to what needs to be done to accurately reproduce logo colors across all platforms, including print, screen, and 3D environments, both indoors and out. 

And that’s just for starters. Color management for logos also means considering the learned and/or psychological effects of color on people. Those are critical factors for logo design. 

It also happens to be the name of a graphic design text book I co-authored with my wife [a graphic design professor at Cal Poly Pomona]. That book is a comprehensive treatment of color issues involved in logo design and gives designers the technical know-how—and inspiration—to design logos effectively. 

Q: What are the most important design elements of a logo?

When I teach logo design, we cover the three major signifiers for how humans make sense of what they see. The first is the form or silhouette of something. Humans most often recognize an object by this signifier. Then there’s tone and texture. For example, think about seeing a shag rug. 

And then there’s color, which I believe is the most important element of a logo. 

Q: Why is color selection so important when it comes to logo design?

First, the hue and color combinations you choose will affect how well they can be seen from a distance. I’m not only talking about distance in terms of recognizing a logo on a billboard or something like that. I’m also talking about the distance from, say, a viewer’s eyes to a smartphone or computer screen or a brochure. 

Logo color selection is crucial when considering that about 1 in 12 men is colorblind, with red/green colorblindness being the most common. Now throw in another small percentage of women who may be colorblind. In addition, there are roughly 246 million people who are visually impaired or have moderately low vision.

Logo color selection is crucial when considering those who are colorblind, vision impaired or have moderately low vision.

Do you really want to create a logo where it’s possible that around 13% of the population may not be able to distinguish your logo colors—and by extension not recognize your brand? 

You also have to consider the power of color in terms of how you want people to feel about your product or company.  

Q: Can you explain what learned effects of color are?

Basically, those are the ideas about color that people absorb from the culture they grow up in. Designers and marketers need to consider the connotations that colors have in a given culture, especially in relation to the form you place the color in.

For example, I had a student who designed a beautiful red and gold color combination in a dollar bill-like form for a book cover. Another student, who happened to be from China, pointed out that the colors and design resembled paper money that Chinese people burn—during rituals for the dead.

Be aware of possible associations your logo may have.

There’s an important lesson there: You need to be careful that your logo doesn’t carry associations that are off-topic, distracting, or worse, offensive in some way. And this is really crucial if your brand’s reach is international—or you want it to be. 

Q: Can you give an example of the psychological effects of color?

Research into this is ongoing, but some hold that red, for example, has a stimulating effect on our metabolism, which among other things, can increase our appetite. 

Now think about that in terms of all the fast food restaurants where red is an integral logo color—McDonald’s, Burger King, Carl’s Jr., KFC. It’s a long list, and there’s a reason for that.  

Q: What’s a common mistake that companies make when it comes to their logo colors? 

Let’s say you have a logo mark or symbol that’s one hue and then you have the company or abbreviated company name underneath it in another color. Probably the most common mistake I see is not having enough color contrast between those two logo colors. 

The combination may look fine on a computer screen, but once you go to print it, the contrast may not be great enough to see at any kind of distance. 

Q: What can designers/marketers do to help ensure that their print vendor ultimately produces colors accurately? 

Well, to set the record straight, most of the problems that happen between designers and printers are the designer’s fault. They don’t set up the document correctly in the first place, so the printer either has to call them and tell them that they’ve got to make some changes, or they’ll do it for them.

Designers should probably use an ink-matching system. And that way the printer can pull the needed colors. Let’s say it’s Pantone 123. The file says 123, so the printer will then pull 123. So, it should be accurate. 

On the other hand, there are a lot of printers that may not take the kind of pride they should in the outcome of their printed work. 

I’ve experienced scenarios where the initial printed items looked great. But then the run continues, and maybe while the press person takes a break, the color starts to get a little lighter. That’s why printers should have good color management practices as well. 

Q: What can a printer do to help the designer in terms of color management? 

Any design firm or printer I’ve worked with usually has documentation that clearly lays out how they want you to create a file, store the file, name the file, etc. 

A file prep document from the printer is crucial.

Based on my experience, a good file prep document from the printer is crucial. When you’re told specifically how to set up a file for the printer, it can make it so much easier to hit the target the first time around, which obviously saves time and money, to say the least. 

If it’s not provided, a designer should always ask for one.

Q: What should companies know about when it comes to printing in house?

When companies opt to print materials in house, say on an inkjet printer or even on a laser printer, they should know that those printers aren’t really meant to match colors. They sort of simulate the color that you’re trying to get.

If they have really high standards and tight tolerance levels, they’re probably not going to adequately match their logo colors when printing in house on this type of equipment. 

Q: What technical steps can be taken to make sure a logo’s colors will perform well across different platforms?

First, begin by recognizing there are better and worse ways to design for logo colors across platforms. People often don’t realize that matching from one medium to another isn’t necessarily an easy thing to do.

This is really important to consider if you have a client say something like, “We’re a web-based company, so we just want a logo mark for the web.” But what if further down the line, they determine they want to add brick and mortar?

Designers should assume they need to match colors for print and screen-based experiences.

If you’re a designer, start with the assumption that you will need to match logo colors for various print and screen-based experiences. In fact, I would recommend you build colors for print first so that they match within the CMYK color spectrum. 

The process will be a lot easier than doing the reverse and starting with RGB for screen colors. CMYK is the smallest color spectrum, and if you choose your hues from this color space, you’ll be able to guarantee that the hues selected will match within the Pantone and RGB color spectrum.

Q: What should a company do if they want to re-evaluate their logo colors?

Well, I can give you a basic checklist for re-evaluating your colors: First, are the colors inclusive? Do they physically work for everybody? Or, for example, have you chosen colors that the majority of colorblind people won’t really be able to see at a distance?  

Second, are you maximizing the distance by which you can see the logo by the choice of your colors? The third is, are you maximizing the psychological effect of these colors for the culture in which it’s going to be used? 

And then fourth is, do you have enough color contrast between the colors you’re using so that it could be seen by people who are visually impaired?

These would be the top four questions I would ask. If your colors do all of those things, then you’re probably in good shape. But if a couple of those questions are problematic, you may want to consider altering your colors. Obviously that requires careful analysis because changing your logo is nothing to take lightly. 

To learn more about color management and logos, check out Drew’s book Color Management for Logos: A Comprehensive Guide for Graphic Designers

For more information on color management in printing, see Why Is Color Management Needed in Print Projects?

Download our free guide
5 WAYS YOUR PRINTER CAN IMPROVE YOUR
COMPANY’S BUSINESS PERFORMANCE.

Take me to the guide!

Finding Inspiration in a School Bus

Nelson’s Bus Service has come to rely on Thysse to provide the “cool wow factor” for their branded collateral. Thysse has developed everything from business cards and pocket folders to giant bus-sized banners.

Most recently, Thysse completed a signage project for their facilities in Whitewater and McFarland, Wisconsin. Thysse began with a site study, identifying needed signage messaging and installation locations. We then amassed an overall signage inventory, designing a sign family that fit within the established Nelson’s Bus Service Visual Branding. We direct-printed the designs to aluminum panels with UV ink that would hold up to all weather conditions. Areas of raw aluminum was strategically left unprinted to catch the ambient light, creating a visually striking sign piece.

Who Trusts Thysse With Their Brand? – WEA Trust

Introducing a new product to the marketplace is often accompanied by uncertain anxiety. Market research is no guarantee. The best thing you can do is communicate your message. Effective communication of your message can mean the difference between immediate interest and the lack of … and immediate interest makes eventual adoption much more likely.

Where do you go? How do you begin?

WEA Trust went to Thysse for assistance with their new product launch. Thysse provided WEA Trust with creative, experience-driven ideas and guided their in-house designer through the large-format file development and production process. From creative concept to brand deployment, WEA Trust’s product launch was a success.

“My team at WEA Trust started working closely with Thysse when we began planning a big product launch. The product was new and different and we need to make a splash in the marketplace. The plan was to create an interactive experience that our guests would go through before the product launch presentation. And if that wasn’t enough, the whole thing need to be both mobile and re-usable.

Thysse’s expertise, creativity, and attention to detail were essential in bringing our vision to life. The event was a huge success and I can say without hesitation that without Thysse’s partnership, it would not have had the spark and energy that gave it life.

The team at Thysse is one of the best in the industry and I would highly recommend working with them on your next project. Very few agencies are producing the kind of truly experiential design that Thysse has been doing for years. They make incredible results and brilliant innovation look easy.”
– Dan Rose, Content and Branding Specialist at WEA Trust

Saving the Canvas, Saving the Art, Saving the Story

The art community in San José, California is evolved, involved and organized. Public art installations and murals play a significant role in the downtown landscape as almost any area lacking visual interest is seen as a possible canvas. This art community is especially vibrant at San José State University.

The San José State Art School building is located 35 feet from the Student Union building. This location is convenient for student artists – close to book store supplies, student resources and dining. However, when construction began on the new Student Union building, this location would become less than ideal.

Better Than Blue

In September of 2010, in conjunction with the San José State University Student Union Renovation and Expansion project, construction workers erected an eight-foot-high wall surrounding the Student Union construction site. The internal debate over the splintered eyesore of a barrier began almost immediately and requests from the Art Department to do something with the great plywood wall were made early and often. The school rebutted. The planks were painted. Blue. The students of San José wanted something more – something better than blue.

An extracurricular art club, the “Dirty Brushes” , saw an opportunity to create a public art piece and the blue wall was perfect for a large-scale mural project. The project know as “Better Than Blue” began in April 2011 with a small grant from the Student Union. More than 100 art and art history students would come to be involved in painting more than 45 different “self-portraits” of a diverse selection of famous artists on the blue wall.

Saving the Canvas

When exterior construction completed in 2015, the painted wall was scheduled to be demolished and discarded. Thysse stepped in. We knew the wall needed to be saved. It was artwork that needed to be preserved, it was a story that needed to be told. We hired a crew to carefully dismantle the wall, individually wrap each 8’ tall panel, place them into shipping containers and ship them to a local storage facility.

Almost a year later, as the interior construction on the Student Union was being completed, Thysse began the process of restoring the “Better Than Blue” wall by unpacking and sorting through the salvaged panels. We chose 30 panels that were in the best condition and hired a local artisan craftsman to properly restore, preserve and frame the pieces for display.

omg. These were my fav thing about campus

In August, 2016, a week before fall classes began, Thysse came in and installed the restored panels. When the students returned, the artwork that once adorned the construction fence they passed by everyday, the artwork they assumed had been lost and forgotten about, the artwork that reflected the San José State culture had once again appeared on the site. This time, inside and permanently on display on the walls of their Student Union.