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Q&A

Below are questions and answers covering subjects related to the services provided by cynaps*kreativ. These are either based on actual questions from clients, or they address subjects that are part of most design projects.

Project Development File and Graphic Formats Photogaphy
Web Sites Costs & Budget Other Services

Project Development

How do we get started on a project?

First, decide what you want to accomplish with the promotional project. Second, decide what media you think will best deliver your message. Third, gather up and provide every piece of information you can for the project, including written content or an outline, notes, graphics, and photos. For more information about this subject, go to the Plan page. There you'll find helpful information to organize and plan your project, get things started, and work with cynaps*kreativ to move the project along.

Also, you can fill out the form on the Quote page. Though submitting this form isn't required to start a project, it does ask for all the necessary information for most projects. The form really is easy to fill out and not very complicated, and you can submit your project information in a few minutes you only have to fill out the information relevant to the type of projects you need. If there's something you're not sure about, leave it blank, and ask questions in the relative comment or note field so we can help you or provide options.

If you don't want to use the form, no problem. Just send a message from the Contact page with your contact information and a message about your project. We can meet in person or schedule a phone conference to discuss your project.

In general, most of your work will be at the beginning to gather and provide information, review proposals and cost estimates, and approve initial mockups and drafts.

Can I just send you an email and ask you to do something?

You may do so if you have an established relationship or history with cynaps*kreativ and the project doesn't require more planning than what could be covered in a brief message, or is an update to a past project. The project will be tracked and billed on an hourly basis, unless a quote or estimates are requested.

What do you need from me?

When starting a new project, it's very important to provide any specific information and resource materials, such as ad dimensions, logos, color specifications, or company standards that must be applied or implemented into the design. Providing more information, ideas, reference, and source materials at the beginning will improve the design and development of a project, and will likely reduce the turnaround time.

Existing Materials: Gather together all relative existing materials. This is especially important for a first project being produced for you by cynaps*kreativ. This will include old brochures, photographs, graphics, and Graphics Standards if they have been established for your company. Also, include brochures and Web sites of your primary competitors, or any other piece of media that could be an example of something you like it could even be something from a totally different industry.

Notes and Ideas: First, make notes about your existing materials what you like about them, what must be retained, and what must go. Then, write down any ideas you have or information that must be included in the project. This information can be bullet points, and outline, or rambling paragraphs. At this stage it doesn't have to be perfect ...but it does help if you have the time.

Specifications: Provide all specifications relative to the project. If you're not sure what these are, cynaps&kreativ will help you determine what you need. Each type of project has different specifications, and the most common are outlined on the Plan page, and can be specified on the Quote page.

What are Graphics Standards?

This is a company manual, either in the form of a booklet, or a detailed section of a Web site, that outlines how to use the company logo and any associated graphics and icons, along with specified colors and fonts. The most basic manuals also cover things like stationery, business cards, and usage in print and other media. More extensive manuals will include everything from signs to company vehicles to employee uniforms.

The purpose of this manual is to establish and maintain a consistent "image" presenation to customers. A manual like this is even more important for a company with separate branches or offices that may produce their own promotional materials. It clearly communicates the standards to all employees, and establishes that following these guidelines will contribute greatly to a company's reputation and image to both employees and customers.

If you have a large company, or one that is growing or expanding, and you don't have a graphics standards manual, contact Tim Hansford at cynaps*kreativ about developing one for you.

Should I be concerned about Graphics Standards when starting new projects?

If you work for a large company, especially one with several branches or locations, it's very likely it has established Graphics Standards. If this is your first project, it is your responsibility to determine if your company has Graphics Standards and provide those at the beginning of any design project. It is the designer's responsibility to apply those standards and deliver a compliant design that will be approved before any customers will see it.

Though my company has guidelines for producing materials or Web sites,
can't I "break the rules" and do something special or different for my project?

In Tim Hansford's 25 years, he has worked with several large companies. In that time he has experienced a few cancelled projects, or had to start completely over, even after hours of paid work, because the person requesting the project wasn't aware of, or disregarded established company guidelines. It is the responsibility of the client to familiarize themselves with all company's graphics standards and guidelines and provide that information at the beginning of a project, and gain any necessary approval to begin a project. Tim has written graphics standards himself, and he knows how to apply and work within those guidelines to develop a design that's both effective and "compliant."

Do you work with other designers and advertising agencies?

Tim Hansford has worked with several designers and agencies in his 25 years. If you want cynaps*kreativ to provide hourly or contract work for your agency or work with you on a design project, please provide that information on the Request a Quote form or in your message from the Contact page.

What's your turnaround time? When can I get the finished project?

It is the responsibility of cynaps*kreativ to generate quality work as efficiently as possible, and take the necessary steps to ensure there won't be problems when a print project is sent to a print service, or a Web site is launched. Taking shortcuts or doing it "the easy way" often results in unimpressive design work, something that doesn't function properly, or the message not being communicated clearly. It is important to deliver projects that feature quality work and effective design, and we will work with you to deliver it in a reasonable amount of time.

Every project should have a realistic "delivery" date or an established timeline with development milestones. This ensures that all work for the project is properly scheduled and managed among work for other projects. "As soon as possible," or "I needed it yesterday" are not specific delivery dates, and could result in either delivery being postponed as other projects with specific deadlines are delivered, or rush charges added to "fit" the work in by logging extra hours.

Because every project is different, it is impossible to create a general list of turnaround times. Factors such as availability of reference or source materials, written content development, photo shoot scheduling, and final production methods all have a bearing on the amount of time needed to complete and deliver a project.

Below are some very general turnaround times for common projects. Please note that these are for general reference only, and these times are based on business days to manage the specific project among other ongoing projects.

Do you charge for rush service?

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I'm not a very good writer or I don't like writing.
Does that matter when I'm providing written content and information or my ideas?

Most projects require some amount of writing. However, you can rely on cynaps*kreativ to take whatever information you provide and write the content for you. Of course, providing more complete written content does help move the project along faster, and reduces time estimates, but that's not always possible. What you provide doesn't have to be perfect. Don't worry about typos, grammatical errors and redundancy. Rambling paragraphs, a list, or an outline will be fine.

We can also gather information by conducting interviews and recording audio or video, taking a tour of your facility, or reviewing your products, services, and features.

Without knowing my company, products, or services,
how can cynaps*kreativ develop promotional materials for my business?

It's a designer's or agency's job to approach every project to learn everything they can about a business and the particular product or service being promoted. They can offer a fresh or different perspective from your own and have experience at viewing your business from a customer's perspective and developing a promotion that communicates directly to them.

Over the years, several clients have commented on Tim Hansford's ability to ask questions, do the research, and quickly "learn" their business to develop a project. Many have been very satisfied as first drafts often communicate their idea better than they had imagined.

How do I know I have a good design or quality production?

Assessing your designer's work is more than just looking at it and saying that's good or bad. First, "step back" and try to look at your promotional piece through your customers' eyes. What impression does the overall design make on you, what kind of company or business do you see?. Next, take a closer look at the details it's here where you can begin to determine why something looks okay, versus something that looks polished and professional.

Creates impact or interest: Look at the design as a whole. Is there anything that draws you in, or get's your attention? Is there a dominant design element like a photograph, graphic, or logo that catches your eye? Do the colors compliment each other and are used in creative ways to reinforce the design or message?

Communicates a message: Does it only take a few moments to figure out what the message is? Can someone scan the design and know what your business is about, or what services or products you are promoting?

Calls to action: Does the design effectively persuade or direct customers to make a decision and provides them with information to contact you, sign up, place an order, or commit to a contract with your company? Does it do anything to facilitate or make the process easier?

Clean, effective, and good "flow": Is there a good balance of the written content, graphics, and photos that "guides" your eye through the design? Are there just the right amount of elements and colors without looking too busy or cluttered? Are there trapped areas of "white space?"

Column widths: Are the columns set to a width so your eye doesn't have far to travel back to the left to start the next line, facilitating easier reading of the content?

Consistent spacing and margins: Is all of the written content formatted in a consistent manner. Do all the column widths, margins, indents, line, and paragraph spacing match? Is the designer's choice of left, center, or right-aligned paragraphs appropriate for the content and the design?

Line spacing and paragraph formatting: Is the space between the lines of the written content appropriate for the particular font used in the design? Is there the right amount of spacing between paragraphs to provide visual cues, but not so much that it creates "empty" space in the design?

Subheads and Bullets: Is the content easier to read, or the message more clear by effective use of subheads and bullet points that highlight information rather than them being buried in long "gray" blocks of text?

Professional photography: Do the photographs have good composition and tonal range? Do they look professional with good lighting, rather than like something pulled from a personal photo album with images washed out by a camera-mounted flash? Are there perspectives and angles that make the photos more interesting?

Graphic quality: When you look at the graphics on your finished printed piece, are the images clear and free of "chunks" or pixels? On your Web site, do the edges of your graphics blend smoothly with the background color without artifacts, off-color pixels, or a halo effect? Are there openings in the graphic where the visible background color doesn't match the surrounding color?

Can't I just buy a computer and software and do this myself?

Computer manufactures, and especially software developers build a lot of hype around their products and claim that they empower anyone to develop graphics, edit photos, or produce a newsletter or brochure. These hyped products do most of the work for you, some of the templates look good, and they're great for producing a newsletter on your own printer, making a DVD for your friends, or creating a simple Web site. However, there are three issues with this approach.

First, most of these "package productions" can't compare to something produced by an experienced professional who knows how to use more elaborate and versatile software. Their work won't look "flat" or bland, and like it was produced on your "desktop."

Second, dazzled by all the hype and expectations, an inexperienced user will likely not have any idea how long it will really take to produce a project time that they really can't afford. The anticipation and excitement often dies after long hours of "experimenting," and neglecting other job or business duties begin to have an impact. Then it turns to pure frustration when a print project is refused by a printer because they can't work with the file, or a Web site just doesn't look right or features don't work for some "unknown" reason.

Third, for technical issues, there are a lot of details an experienced professional knows about and addresses with every project. Large quantities of a color newsletter or brochure can't be produced on a desktop printer. A few hundred copies can be printed on a large digital press, while a few thousand require a very large printing press. Each requires different resolution settings for graphics and photographs with varying tonal ranges. A professional also knows all of the graphic file formats and how each can be used in your project, and knows what print-production files are required for printing services to produce the best quality. Printing services often add on additional charges when they're provided files they can't use as-is many of which come from those hyped software packages. In most cases, those services don't even own copies of that software. There are also similar issues with Web site, large format, and other forms of media.

Fourth, and probably the most important, a design professional like Tim Hansford, wil develop a design that will get attention, generate interest, effectively communicate the message, and whenever possible, generate action that can result in added businesses. Proven design principles combined with a design that's unique to your company and the knowledge to maintain a high level of quality and create a positive impression on potential customers ensure that your promotional piece will be effective, and produced with fewer problems or delays.

How will I see and review the progress of my design project?

For printed projects, you'll be provided PDF draft files or JPG images (see Additional Information below), that will either be sent via email, or you'll be provided a Web address where you can view and retrieve the files. Most projects will require several drafts as revisions are made, and each draft will have the date and version letter attached to it's file name. Web sites, video, and multimedia projects will often be uploaded to a "discrete" or if required, password-protected directory at a Web hosting service for your review and approval before going "live."

For my print projects, can't I just
send the PDFs you sent me for review on to the printer?

No. The draft PDFs sent to you are in a smaller and more compressed format suitable for transmission over the Internet and to print on desktop printers. For the best results, digital and larger offset presses require a larger format, with the images at a higher resolution. If you send a draft PDF to a printing service, hopefully you'll get a call from a responsible printer telling you that it's not suitable, or you'll end up with large quantities of printed pieces with "chunky-looking" (pixellated) graphics and photos.


Costs & Budget

How do you determine costs for your quotes and proposals?

All quoted costs are based on a standard hourly rate applied to time estimates. The time estimate is determined after a meeting or phone conference with you, or reviewing the information provided on the Request a Quote form, assessing your ideas and input, and reviewing any submitted notes, written content, and existing graphics, and photos. Also, all work, for every project, is recorded in a time log. This is a useful resource when estimating time for similar projects, and a valuable tool for assessing an ongoing project.

Do you work by the hour?

Yes. Unless you request work that's part of a proposal or contract, you will be billed by the hour. A time log will be kept, and you may request a status report and current costs at any time. If you request hourly work that spans several weeks, you will be notified of weekly or bi-weekly billings to keep everything up to date.

Are advertising and promotional costs really worth the investment?

Costs for advertising and marketing are an investment in your business. Considering that most well-designed Web sites and brochures are often used for five or even ten years, contributing to an ongoing promotional effort, the initial expense and time are worth it. Also, if a number of pieces work together and offer more exposure to your customers, or allow sales representatives to be more effective, the value is increased even more. A good promotional piece will "work" for you, improve your visibility, work in tandem with any direct sales efforts, and contribute greatly to your success.

My business is doing really well right now.
Why do I need to invest in advertising at this time?

When business is good, that's the BEST time to develop or improve your promotional efforts. You have the resources and capital available, and It's usually easier to gather content and take photos of your business operations, employees, and other aspects of your business. You have more options, and are in a better position to produce something that's really beneficial to your business that you can continue to use for the next five or more years.

My business is struggling. How can I justify the expense?

A struggling business can certainly benefit from the right kind of advertising or promotion. It's understandable that budgets may be reduced, stress is higher, and unfortunately, advertising may get cut altogether. Unfortunately, this can reduce business even more. There are several options to promote, advertise, or market your business, and some are more economical but still effective so you can still reach your customers and improve your business during hard times.

Your proposals show a lot of detail and work required for my project.
Doesn't your computer and software do the work? Doesn't that save time?

A computer and software are only tools. They don't do or produce anything until someone takes the time to use those tools to generate new artwork, import, convert, and edit photographs, compose and edit written content, and then bring all of it together to develop a layout for a brochure, advertisement, or Web site. For animation and video projects, the time requirements can be even greater. Add into this "experimentation," trial-and-error, making adjustments as elements are added, tweaking and "polishing," and the time requirements increase more. Then there's revisions and changes that are part of every project. Often, those who don't spend hours doing this every day and logging their time can't comprehend what's required to complete a project.

Isn't some of the work you do on my project just your "cost of doing business?"

Any time a designer or agency staff is logged in and working on your project, it is part of the estimated time of the proposal, or will be billed if the work is on an hourly basis. This includes gathering information and resources for graphics, project outlines, early concept work and continual development of graphics, drafts, rewrites, and revisions of written content, organizing and managing photos, photo editing, any time dedicated to preparing graphics for use in printed materials or the Internet, obtaining quotes and managing the printing, configuring your Web host's settings, and any other processes that contribute directly to the development of your project, it's final production, or "launch" to the public.

Will there be additional design charges for services not covered in the proposal?

Proposals are prepared to estimate time and expenses as accurately as possible. If an extra hour is required to fix a problem or get something right, you won't be charged. However, if you begin to change the project, expand its' scope, or ask for additional work or services, you will be notified that these will require additional charges that you must approve before proceeding.

When do I pay for the design work?

For larger projects exceeding $400, a billing structure with half or third payments will be outlined in the proposal. The first payment is usually due at the beginning of the project, before the work begins, another payment due at a project milestone, like presentation of the design for review, and final payment before or when the finished project is delivered. This is common practice among design professionals and agencies.

Do your quotes include printing or other final production charges?

Printing services or other production costs will be provided separately or alongside the design and development costs if you request them along with the initial proposal and provide desired quantities. A number of vendors and services have an established relationship with cynaps*kreativ (formerly known as Enhance design & communications) and have provided reliable and quality service for several years. These services will be contacted and provided the job specifications and quantities, and their quotes will be included in cynaps*kreativ's initial proposal or provided later. It may be necessary to either submit a credit application to the service, or be prepared to pay COD when the materials are ready for pickup or delivery.

Can't you just use templates to save time and lower costs?

Because cynaps*kreativ is committed to providing something unique and tailored specifically for your business or promotion, it is nearly impossible to simply use a template, or start with one and not modify it extensively. Also, It could take as much time revising the template as it would to create something from the ground up. However, a template can be used as a starting point, and features and colors can be drawn from it to create something better.

If I'm not satisfied with your design work, do I have to pay for it?

A lot of work will go into every step of your project, and any professional that commits their time and effort to a project cannot do it for free. If you're committed to developing a good design piece for you company, and you clearly communicate your ideas, the purpose of the project, key features of your company and its' services and products, your likes and dislikes, and you take the time to review project outlines and mockups closely and provide feedback, this won't be a problem.

I expect to pay "market price" for your services.

This kind of approach is like going shopping for some form of transportation, looking at RVs, SUVs, trucks, cars, motorcycles, and bicycles... and expecting every option to cost the same. If someone needs to transport equipment for their business, they certainty wouldn't buy the bicycle. Also, if they add more options to the vehicle, especially for things they really need, like a lift or harnesses, a navigation system, or large graphics on your vehicle, there will be additional costs.

Like those vehicles, every design and promotional project is different, and each type has it's own set of options and costs. Also, every Web site, brochure, or advertisement is different, and designed and produced with a specific purpose, or to serve your business in a specific way. Therefore, there can be a lot of variations in the costs, dictated by what you need and what the designer offers. It is impossible to "shop" for design services based on "market price."


Web Sites

What is the purpose of a Web site and why do I need one?

A Web site is one of the most effective and versatile ways to promote yourself or your business. It offers the benefit of being easily accessible by hundreds or thousands of potential customers, and can be updated quickly without the expense of printing and redistributing or mailing new brochures or placing new ads.

In it's most basic form, a Web site is a "brochure" to the world. It provides information about your business, products, and/or services. In it's best form, a Web site is developed to work for you and support other promotional efforts. Good design, layout, and written content combined with automated features, demonstrations, and especially opportunities for prospective customers to take action (such as an online store, survey, or quote-request form) will benefit your business. Also, the Web site can do things that you shouldn't have to, like provide more extensive detail about a product or provide written directions and a map that can be downloaded and printed.

If I launch a new Web site, or open an online store, will I suddenly have a lot of business?

During the "Dot Com" era and all its' failures, the biggest misconception was that creating a new Web site will automatically bring in sales and success, and the Web site will do everything for you. Unless you have a highly-desired or popular product or service, launching a Web site will not result in overnight success. This isn't "Field of Dreams" and "If you build it, they will come."

You should view your Web site as you would a store sitting on a street in a large city. You might get a customer or two that just happen to drive down the street and coincidentally need your services or products, but the customers you really want are those that drive directly to your store with a specific purchase in mind. For that to happen, they need to know your store exists, and how they can find it.

Some of the most effective ways to promote your business, increase traffic to your Web site, and generate sales is to utilize a direct-mail campaign, repeated advertising, selective advertising banner placements on other sites, and sending emails directly to prospective clients. Also, every printed promotional piece, stationery and business card for your company must have the Web site address predominantly displayed, and when feasible, include any additional information to pursuade customers to visit the site.

If you don't have a large promotional budget, then taking an hour or two every day to acquire email addresses of key personnel at local business might get things started. Another great avenue are online networks. There are a few business networking sites that can be very effective at getting your company name, services, products, and Web site address in front of people that are looking for exactly what you offer. These sites facilitate connectivity, and many professionals provide services to each other without ever meeting face-to-face. Getting listed in newsletters or on sites of local associations can also be another low-budget approach that can contribute to more traffic.

I have a great idea for a huge Web site packed with information and resources that will be updated every month. Can cynaps*kreativ create it and update it for me?

If you have an understanding of the amount of work involved, your own time to commit to the project, and have a realistic budget, then certainly, this can be created and updated for you. This kind of project is actually much larger than most people realize, and Tim Hansford has been approached often about creating Web sites like this. Just the time alone to write and edit all of the written content and periodically update a Web site like this will practically require a full-time staff. This type of Web site should be approached as if it's a monthly magazine, and will require a similar amount of resources, time, management, and budget.

Can I have animated graphics on my Web site?

Animation, and the amount of it, has its' place in Web sites. It is definitely a great tool to demonstrate something or provide information in an efficient way. However, swirling logos and animated navigation menus just for the sake of having animation on your site isn't a good idea. These animations may look great the first time you see them, but get old real fast for a visitor that has to wait for an animation to finish, or even click on a skip button every time they return to your site or a page while in the site.

Also, you should never "hide" important information or graphics so visitors have to click on something to watch an animation reveal it. Never make them wait, or force them to hunt for something.

There are articles about me or my business on other Web sites.
Can we just place links to those pages on my Web site?

When another site posts a great article or review about your company, it should be copied and reproduced on your own Web site with the publish date and credit to the author. Also, a link to the source site's home page its' logo should be included to add credibility. Also any graphics or photos in the original article should be copied and placed within the version on your site. Many wonderful and glowing articles about a group, business, products, or services are lost because they weren't copied and only existed on other sites. You don't have control over other Web site's content, and there's virtually no way of knowing when the article on the other site is moved to archives or deleted, and links on your site will be "dead."

For maps and directions on my Web site,
can't we just link to Google maps or some other map site?

To maintain a professional appearance, a new map should be created specifically for your company. Colors and labels will be applied that highlight primary streets and recommended routes to your location, and will match the colors of your site and pages. Also, these maps look much better when placed in a PDF that visitors can print and bring with them.

Maps that have been "embedded" from external mapping sites are busy, harder to read, are practically useless at smaller sizes, and they don't match the look and colors of your site. Also, with your own map, you don't have to rely on another Web site to always be online and operating properly.

I've been informed that progress is being made on my Web site.
Why am I not seeing changes when I view it on the Internet?

There are always at least two copies of your Web site one on the designer's computer, and another uploaded to your Web host. The ongoing work is applied to the copy on the designer's computer. Once the pages or features are reviewed, tested, and completed those pages are uploaded to your Web host (or some other Web location) . Until they're completed, the pages may look jumbled, or features aren't working as links and scripts are installed and tested.

If your approval is required before a site, page, or feature goes "live" for the world to see, it will be uploaded to a discrete location for your review, then upon approval, uploaded to your Web site that's accessed via your published domain name.

What kind of Web hosting service do I need?

There are several types of services that offer packages from $5 to $400 or more a month, and each usually offers different configurations, options, and additional monthly services. Most Web sites will operate perfectly with the $5-10 packages, but larger sites with a high level of traffic, automated features or online stores may require larger packages or additional services.

If you don't have a Web hosting service yet, and contract with cynaps*kreativ to develop a Web site for you, please ask for a recommended service and package. This ensures your site will have a compatible hosting service with good ratings for providing service and support, and you won't be charged excessive fees for services you will never use.

What are search engines and how do I ensure my site will be listed on them?

Just about anyone that's had access to the Internet knows how to use a search engine such as Google, Yahoo, MSN and others. Unless they have a specific Web site address, it's usually the first place anyone goes when looking up new information or a Web site. As the owner of a Web site, search engines can be an important part of your success, depending on whether potential customers will enter search criteria that matches information stored in the search engine for your site.

Just about any site that's launched on the Internet will eventually show up in most search engines. These engines have "search bot" programs that "crawl" over every Web site they find to collect and gather information that is stored and indexed in the search engine. Your site is "found" sooner if there are links to it on other, more established sites.

What information is stored and indexed for your site depends greatly on how your site is designed and formatted. The bots review and evaluate all of the written information on your site and rate the site based on differet sets of criteria. Therefore, it is important that the written content is relative to your business and what you're promoting, and the content is thorough with enough depth to attain a higher rating and be deemed as a "trusted" site.

Most businesses that rely on search-engine-generated traffic are concerned about where their sites show up when someone searches for any term or phrase related to their business. Their goal is to be listed on the first page of the results, or even better, attain the first listing. In most cases, this requires vigilance and constant upkeep, especially if a business has a lot of competition with hundreds or thousands of similar sites competing for the same placement.

What is the importance of search engines and the success of my Web site?

At the very least, it's important to take the necessary steps to improve listings in search engines, and the higher in the list you can get, the better. However, you shouldn't launch a Web site and only rely on search engines to bring visitors to your site. In order for your Web site to be a success and beneficial to your business, it must be promoted through other channels and media, and it must have good and useful content for its' visitors.

If you offer a popular or unique product or service, you can rely on customers using search engines to find your site it is likely that they will seek out your business and your site. In this case, it is very important to take the necessary steps to ensure that your site will be listed first or on the first page of an engine's search results.

If you have a lot of competition, and your site is among several hundred, or even thousands of other sites, then appearing first or on the first page will be difficult. Also, you must consider how often potential customers will use search engines to find your services, rather than seeing your Web site listed in a printed directory, an advertisement, the Yellow Pages, an advertisement on another site, or in some other form of media.

How do I ensure my Web site will be
listed first, or on the first results page of a search engine?

If it's crucial for your Web site to be listed at or near the top of the first search results pages, the site must be created or revised to attain the best rating among the most popular search engines. Primarily your written content must contain words and phrases that customers will search for, and are unique enough that your site may get a more favorable rating.

However, the reality is that each of the most popular search engines have different rating criteria and methods for gathering and indexing information and those criteria and methods are always changing. It's best to review guidelines provided by the search engines themselves, as well as those provided by online groups that monitor and evaluate search engines. Then the most "general" methods should be applied to your site.

Maintaining a high placement in search results over time requires a vigilant program to update the site and stay current on frequent changes to the search and evaluation methods for each search engine. By reviewing online information, it doesn't take long to determine that maintaining a high rating requires a lot of time and commitment.

Can cynaps*kreativ maintain a favorable search engine placement for my Web site?

Maintaining gauranteed high search engine results is a full time job that requires vigilance, commitment, and continual research to stay up-to-date. Because cynaps*kreativ is committed to developing and completing quality design projects, we cannot commit the resources required to perform this function and gaurantee its success.

If search engine results are important to you, please indicate it's this before your Web site development begins and cynaps*kreativ will evaluate and recommend up to three Search Engine Optimization services for your review and selection. Your site will then be created and developed according to the information provided by that service to ensure your site and its' content are optimized for the best ratings.

Can cynaps*kreativ host my Web site?

We do not provide Web hosting services. However, we will assess your Web site hosting needs, review services, and recommend a Web host and hosting package.


Photography

What are my options for photos?

For your project's photography needs, you have four options. A good resource may be photos already in your possession. Most can be used as long as they're not bound by copyrights or photographer contracts, and you have quality images or files. You also have two stock photography options, such as less expensive royalty-free images and more expensive licensed images. Royalty-free images cost less, but you run the risk of the same photo being used by other businesses, or worse, other competitors. This has occurred with more popular images. Licensed images can be a good option, but they do cost more, it may take some time to find the correct image, and the licensing company may have very strict usage guidelines. The final, and often the best option, is to plan for new photography, a service offered by cynaps*kreativ. The photos can be planned and "composed" and shot specifically for the project . Often, the costs are comparable to or better than licensed stock photography, but without the licensing restrictions, there are more options and images to choose from, and they will apply directly to your company, products, and/or services.

Can I take my own photos?

Just about any photo can be used as long as it's provided in a format and resolution suitable for the production requirements of the project. However, professional photography will have a more positive impact, and improve the overall image of your materials or Web site. Photography can affect the overall impression of a piece, though the viewer may not realize what is affecting their impression. An experienced photographer with the right equipment will control every aspect of the photo shoot, including lighting, all camera settings, focal lengths from telephoto to wide-angle, multiple perspectives, and when applicable, creative use of depth-of-field to limit focus to a very specific part of the subject. One aspect alone, lighting, can make a big difference. For example, photos shot with a direct flash will have a flat, washed-out look, while photos shot with two or three studio lights will have more depth and tonal range. It could mean the difference between your brochure looking like a family photo album versus a polished and professional presentation.

How do you price your photography?

Photography charges are based on half and full day rates. This includes travel time to the location, setting up (and packing up) equipment, test shots, "adjusting" the scene or composition of the subjects, and shooting multiple exposures, focal lengths and perspectives. This also includes services after the photo shoot to organize and rename the files, batch-process them to make preview copies, and upload them to the Internet for review and selection.

Why do you take so many photos? Do I have to pay for all of them?

Any professional photographer will take multiple exposures of any subject, with different settings, position, and focal lengths. Often, out of every 20-30 photos of each subject, two or three will be selected. Shooting multiple images during one photo shoot is much cheaper than scheduling another photo shoot for a redo, and it provides more options for the layout and design. Because everything is digital now, there's no additional charge for all the extra photos.

Can you just stop by for a few minutes and shoot some photos?

Good photography requires some effort, planning, and time. Even for sun-lit exterior shots, photographs should be taken during the best time of the day with good sunlight, and it takes some time to shoot multiple exposures at different settings, focal lengths, and perspectives. photos shot inside often require setting up and testing proper lighting, taking test shots, reviewing the images, and making adjustments to the lighting and composition. Most interior shots take at least 30 or 40 minutes for each subject. It's rare that pulling out a camera and snapping a couple of photos will produce anything that comes close to photos that are planned and prepared properly.

During the photo shoot, you seem obsessed with the details?

Moving a book or a plant, having a person turn a certain way, or hiding a frayed edge of a tablecloth can make a big difference in the final image. Something you won't notice while everything is "live" and moving will likely stand out when everything's frozen in a photograph. Once the photo session is started and the equipment is set up, the extra minutes to make these adjustments ensure the images will work for your promotional efforts. Also, trying to fix them later requires additional charges and usually takes more time than the minute or two to make an "adjustment" during the photo shoot.

How can I reduce the amount of photo-editing needed to make my photographs perfect?

Before the photographer arrives, plan to have everyone available that's to be in the photographs, make sure their clothing or uniforms are clean (and have extra uniforms for backup), and thoroughly clean all equipment and products, dust, pick up any trash, and remove anything else that might be captured in the photograph. It's a good idea to "scout out" different locations and have them cleaned and prepared.

Also, if special gear or clothing is required to comply with OSHA or other safety requirements, make sure every person is suited up properly. One person not wearing safety glasses, or missing tape around the cuffs of an environmental suit will either require extensive photo-editing, or cause the photograph to be thrown out maybe even requiring an additional photo shoot to get it right.

How long will it take to set up your equipment or get the photo session started?

You should allow for at least 20 minutes after the photographer's arrival before they are ready to start shooting good images. Exterior photography of fixed subjects, such as buildings, may not take as long, but it still takes some time to "assess the scene" and try out different angles and positions before capturing the final images. Interior photography does require some time because of lighting, testing, and making adjustments.

How do you capture images of large interior rooms?

If a room has good existing lighting, it may look great to the naked eye, but to the camera, presents some challenges. The best, and easiest solution, is to use a tripod, close down the camera's aperture to increase the depth-of-field so everything is in focus, set the camera at it's lowest ISO setting for the best quality, and shoot long exposures. Also, proper settings can make exposed light sources appear even more dramatic with "star bursts" emerging from them.

How will I see my photos after the photo shoot?

After the photo shoot is over, all captured images will be reviewed to remove any unsuitable images with exposure or focus problems. Then the remaining images will be renamed and numbered, and batch-processed to produce thumbnail and low-res preview copies. These will then be uploaded into a preview system on the Internet so you can review and select images to use in your materials. Often, you will be emailed recommended images to view in the collection.

How can I make my photos available to employees or other services for promotional efforts?

A CD or DVD-ROM will be provided to you upon request (and after payment in full for the photo session) that includes both the preview copies and the original images. This ensures that you always have the original copies at your disposal. For other uses, such as in-house materials or to send to other services, either a CD-ROM can be produced with a selected library of images, or if you have a Web site and a hosting service, an online password-protected library page can be created. Of the two, the online library is the best option because you only have to provide a user name and password to those who need it, and you don't have to make copies and keep track of a disk. Anyone provided the user name and password can instantly access the page, preview the photographs, and download the high-resolution versions. If you would like this capability, please request that it be included in your photography or project quote.

Why is a digital SLR camera better than a point-and-shoot camera?

While most point-and-shoot cameras are excellent for capturing memories, and occasionally, will capture an image suitable for a design project, SLR cameras generally have better optics, better capture technology, and offer complete control over all of the camera's settings. This control can be crucial for taking quality photography.

Here is a summary of the camera's settings that a knowledgeable photographer will utilize during a photo shoot.

Aperture: The aperture not only controls the amount of light passing through a lens, but also affects the depth-of-field (or "range of focus") captured in the photograph. A bigger aperture (lower setting) lets in more light, but it reduces the depth-of-field to where focus is very limited, sometimes to a few inches. A smaller aperture requires more light, but the depth-of-field is greater, and if set to maximum, most of the image will be in focus. Effectively using depth-of-field can create very dramatic images, such as close-ups or portrait shots where important features appear sharp while everything else appears soft. However, some subjects may require that everything be in focus. A good photographer will take the time to shoot multiple photographs with varying depths-of-field to offer more options for your design project.

ISO: Without getting too technical, the ISO setting controls the sensitivity of the camera's capture sensor, and has a direct effect on the quality of the captured image, before it is compressed and saved by the camera. Often overlooked, setting the IPSO too high (or leaving it to the camera to "choose" automatically) will result in images with "noise" and visible fragments in the images. For best results, it's always best to set the IPSO as low as possible, but this requires better lighting, longer exposures, a wider aperture, or a combination of those.

Shutter Speed: This affects the camera's ability to capture or freeze motion, or allow motion-blur if that's the desired effect. Freezing a fast-moving subject requires a faster shutter speed, and requires better lighting. At the other end of the spectrum, dramatic interior shots, capturing photos with flares coming off exposed light sources, and quality shots of computer screens (when screen captures aren't available) require longer exposures, sometimes several seconds long. This requires that camera be mounted on a tripod because it's virtually impossible to hold the camera still enough for any exposure longer than 1/60th of a second.

Lens Focal Length: Having a versatile lens, or most often, having a variety of lenses with good optics contributes greatly to the quality and variety of the photographs. A telephoto lens can isolate parts of a subject, a macro lens can capture small details, and a wide-angle can capture a much larger area, or capture photos with interesting perspectives and angles that add interest to a design.

Can't I just grab photographs (and graphics) from other Web sites?

This is NOT recommended for two reasons.

First, it is likely that most graphics and photos on other sites are copyrighted. If the copyright owner discovers that their image or photo is being used without consent or proper licensing, at the very least, you will be notified of improper use of their materials, and that you must stop using it immediately. On a Web site, this could mean simply deleting the image, but on a printed brochure or advertisement, it could be very costly. The worst case is legal action that could result in numerous penalties, fees, and other costs.

Second, images on Web sites are often compressed and optimized for that specific use, and may have anti-aliased edges that match the site's background color. Attempting to modify the image to use in your site usually degrades the image even more, and it's difficult to change anti-aliased edges of an image to blend with a different background color. For print projects, using graphics pulled from Web sites is virtually impossible. Printing requires a much higher resolution than what is required for Web pages. Though an image retrieved from a Web site may look okay on your screen in a print-design application, it will likely turn out "muddy" or pixellated on the final printed piece. A print project can become a complete disaster if it's delivered from a print service with even one bad image in it.


File and Graphic Formats

What are PDF, JPG, EPS and other file formats?

There are several file formats used throughout a project's development, and each format has specific benefits and uses. Below are descriptions and information for some of the more popular file formats used in print and Web site development: PDF, JPG, GIF, PNG, EPS, EPS, TIFF, Photoshop, SWF, FLV, F4V, HTML, PHP, CSS, JavaScript, and Java.


PDF is the Portable Document Format developed by Adobe. It's best described as a "digital print" of a document, and the main advantage of this format is that anyone with the free Reader application can open, view, and print it without the original graphics or fonts. To generate a PDF, a licensed copy of Adobe Acrobat is required to print the document from it's original native application to a "virtual" PDF printer, or a Postscript file can be printed and processed using the Adobe Distiller application that offers more control and often better results than the printer method.

"Standard-quality" PDFs are used to submit drafts of printed materials for review, and are often used in Web sites so visitors can download brochures, catalogs, booklets, and forms additional information or features not included in the site itself. These are optimized for transmission over the Internet, and are suitable for viewing on the screen and printing on desktop printers

"Press-quality" PDFs are often preferred by most printing services where all of the graphics and content are saved at the higher level of quality required for digital or offset printing. These PDF files are much larger than others because of all the additional graphic information. Therefore, they're not suitable to be sent over the Internet repeatedly or placed on a site for multiple downloads because of the longer transmission and download times.

Other features of the PDF format are links and anchors to add navigation within the PDF file, and form fields, buttons, and checkboxes that can be filled in by a user on their computer, and printed to their desktop printer with the added information.


JPG stands for Joint Photographics Expert Group, the committee that created the standard. This is the common format on the Internet that compresses medium to large-size images, making their file sizes smaller and easier to download and display on Web pages, store in photo library archives, or download from a stock photography site that offer large images for print production. Applications that save or export to the JPG format feature quality/compression settings the better the quality, the bigger the file. It's greatest strength is how it handles larger images, and with some experimentation with quality settings, can produce the best looking photographic and continuous-tone graphic images of all the formats.

JPG files can also be set to download "progressively" so the whole image loads first at a lower resolution and "sharpens" as the download completes. This is an alternative to non-progressive files that "wipe" top to bottom as the image downloads. Both instances are more evident on slower Internet connections when downloading larger images. Also, JPG files do not have transparency, and this can be a factor when placing graphics with "clipped edges" or "holes" over patterned backgrounds.

During project development and updates, some care must be taken when working with JPG files because re-opening and re-saving images in this format will further compress and degrade them. It is best to keep and update non-compressed versions of the images and export a copy to the JPG format each time the image is updated.

Because of their compression and flexible quality settings, JPG files are best used for Web site projects. Though they can be used for print projects, better quality is ensured by using other non-compressed formats such as EPS or non-compressed TIFF files.


GIF stands for Graphics Interchange Format, and is used to store and display images up to 256 colors. This format also allows multiple images to be stored in one file as "frames" with duration and "loop" settings, often used to create simple animations. Because the GIF format is limited to 256 colors, graphics must either be "dithered" or their color palettes adjusted for the best results. This reduces "banding" and smooths gradations between colors. The quality usually doesn't match the quality of a JPG file, but it can compress smaller images much more efficiently. This format is best used for smaller graphics, such as logos, icons, buttons, frame and margin art, and some backgrounds. This format also features transparency so background colors and graphics can show through the "transparent" areas of the graphic.


PNG is a newer alternative to the GIF format that stands for Portable Network Graphics. PNGs are not restricted to the 256 color limitation of GIF files, support better transparency options and have better compression. However, they do not support the multiple frames and simple animation offered by GIF files.


EPS, short for Encapsulated Postscript, is the most popular format for print projects. It is very flexible and can "contain" different types of graphics, including fonts and graphics described by vectored "point and curve information" as well as bitmapped continuous-tone graphics (also referred to as "raster images"). This format can be a little confusing for the inexperienced, but a knowledgeable designer can create, export, and utilize this format efficiently to produce the best results. Before PDFs became the "preferred standard" by print services and Adobe introduced InDesign that imports Photoshop files, EPS files were an integral part of most print design projects. They are still very important as print projects are developed prior to being "printed" to the PDF format. Though EPS files can be used on the Internet, they are not widely supported and it is recommended to use the other more-popular formats.


TIFF or TIF, short for Tagged Image File Format is a popular format exclusively for bitmapped or raster images, and can save images in a variety of color modes including indexed, RGB, CMYK, and grayscale. TIFFs can also use LZW compression, a lossless compression scheme that significantly reduces larger files sizes.


Photoshop files, of course created and produced by the Adobe Photoshop application, can contain bitmapped graphics and photos, fonts, and vectored graphics. A very powerful application, Adobe Photoshop's strongest features are extensive layering capabilities and layer effects such as drop shadows, bevel, glow, opacity, transparency, and masking features. It's also the standard for just about any photo editing work to clean up images, composite elements together from different photographs, adjust color, and resample images to the correct resolution for each type of project. In the hands of an experienced designer, Photoshop can be used to create "perfect" images and captivating graphics with more depth and impact.

For print projects, Photoshop has always been the leading application for preparing and exporting graphics to import into page layout and illustration applications. It can "flatten" and export graphics to EPS, TIF and other formats, but with the introduction of Adobe's InDesign page layout software, Photoshop files can be imported directly and retain all of their layering and other effects, including transparency. The most powerful aspect of this is that changes to the source Photoshop file will immediately appear in the InDesign layout. This offers more versatility, and saves time by eliminating extra exporting and importing steps that were required in the past when any graphic was revised or updated.

For Web graphics, Photoshop can be used to mock up complete layouts of every page of a Web site, and layers can be turned on and off to build different parts of the site. This is all rounded out with a number of tools to prepare and export the final graphic elements that will be placed or "linked" into the Web page design.


SWF is the most popular format on the Internet for animated "special features" on a site such as elaborate intro screens, product demonstrations, and advertisements. These files are created in the Adobe Flash application where the animation is "choreographed" on sequential time lines, interactive elements can be added, and scripts can be applied for more elaborate functions. If planned and used properly, a Flash presentation can be very effective at selling a product or service and enticing a customer to take action. However, care should be taken so the presentation Isn't "about the animation" but rather delivers its' message and causes action without forcing visitors to wait or watch the same animations repeatedly. Also, the Flash application must be used to create these presentations, and they usually require more time to develop and update than more "conventional" methods.


FLV is a Flash Video file that is imbedded within SWF files. It's main benefit is the video can begin to play almost instantly and continue to play as long as the file downloads fast enough to stay ahead of the playback. This is often referred to as "streaming video." There are a number of framerate, audio, and other compression options to ensure these videos will play on most computers and broadband connections.


F4V is a newer version of Flash Video that produces better quality and better compression to create smaller files. However it is more computationionally demanding than FLV and may not play as smoothly on older computers.


HTML is an initialism for Hypertext Markup Language, and is the oldest and most predominant language still used on the Internet today to create Web pages. It primarily uses tags to format text, embed graphics, and add other features such as forms and interactive objects to a Web page. Web browsers then display a Web page's content by reading and intrepreting the HTML tags. There also other more developed or enhanced versions of HTML, such as XHTML and SGML. HTML and these newer versions are not programming languages, but rather a way to "mark-up" and format content.


PHP is a "recursive initialism" for Hypertext Preprocessor. It is a free general-purpose scripting language especially suited for Web development. It's most common use is to create dynamic Web page content where PHP code in a requested file is executed by the PHP runtime application or "engine" installed on the Web server, and usually takes input from a file or stream and outputs another stream of data, usually in the form of HTML. It can also be used for command-line scripting, client-side graphic user interface applications, or even "stand-alone" applications. There are many free PHP scripts available on the Internet that most users can download, configure, and install in their own Web sites to add dynamic features and content.


CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) is a style sheet language used to describe the presentation of content in a document written in a markup language like HTML and XHTML, primarily used to create Web pages. It's strongest features are external CSS files can be accessed by multiple documents or Web pages to share the same formatting information and it enables more efficient tags and eliminates the need to repeat extensive style settings for each instance on a page. In it's most elaborate uses, CSS can completely reformat the look, style, or even layout of a whole Web site. Even controls can be implemented that allows users to choose the style settings and look themselves. CSS tags can also be implemented within HTML files or even HTML tags for "localized" style formatting.


JavaScript is a scripting language used to access objects within other applications, and is primarily used for the development of dynamic Web site content. JavaScripts can exist in external files that multiple HTML files can access, or they can be placed or embedded within an HTML document. Though it was written to "look" like Java, the more elaborate progamming language developed by Sun MicroSystems, and shares some of the same syntaxes and naming conventions, it is essentially unrelated. It is considered an easier scripting language written for non-programmers. There are many free "off the shelf" JavaScripts available for inexperienced users to download and use the instructions, often noted within the scripts themselves, to configure and add more features to their Web sites.


Java is a programming language often confused with JavaScript, a more "user-friendly" scripting language. Both share similar attributes, but this programming languange is much more robust, and requires more programming experience. It's strongest attribute is that is allows programmers to write one application that will run on several platforms. JavaApplets are usually smaller Java applications that can be embedded within HTML files to create dynamic content. There are some significant differences between Java Applets and JavaScripts, which are unrelated and operate much differently.


What is a bitmap image?

In its' original format on the computer, A bitmap image is made up of small pixels, each displaying only one color. To achieve continuous tones and gradations, hundreds to thousands of pixels, each with a varying degree of color, are placed in rows and columns to create a complete image. On your screen, the pixels are so small, that you can't see the them individually you just see a photograph, painting, or illustration. When an image is prepared for a project, its' bit or color depth and resolution are important factors that contribute to the quality of the image that's reproduced in the final project.

Bit or color depth quantifies how many unique colors are available in an image's color palette.

For use on the Internet where file size is a factor, an image's color depth can be reduced significantly by using an application that either dithers an image to use only the colors in the specified color palette, or the image's color palette can be adjusted to only include the colors in the image. With careful adjustment, depending on the image, some can be reduced to 256 (8 bit), 128, or even 16 colors (4 bit) or less without significant loss in the quality of the image's appearance.

For print projects the focus is more about the quality of the final image, and file size isn't really a factor, though it should be standard procedure to "optimize" files to keep everything more manageable. Most color images are saved as 24-bit, often referred to as "millions of colors." This ensures that all tonal changes and gradations will be smooth and without banding or visible stepping. In some cases, a 16-bit image with only "thousands of colors" can be used if a better image isn't available. Inspecting an image closely for banding determines if it can be used or is acceptable for a project.


What is resolution, and why is it
so important for bitmapped images used in my projects?

Resolution refers to the "amount" of pixels that make up an image, often referred to as Pixels-Per-Inch (PPI). An experienced and knowledable designer knows that every bitmapped image must meet minimum resolution requirements according to the type of project and the production methods used, whether it be placed on a Web site or in a multimedia presentation, printed on a desktop printer, sent to a digital press, or to a larger offset press. Though there are minimum requirements, it's best to "optimize" all of the files, especially for larger projects with several files, so they are exactly the size and resolution needed for the best quality.

Web site and multimedia bitmapped graphics are generally the easiest when it comes to optimizing image size and resolution. All images are 72 PPI and displayed at 100%. However, because most graphics are imported or embedded in these projects, they can be resized, either by the multimedia application, or by changing the HTML image tag width and height values for a Web page. This can either severely degrade the appearance of an image if it's displayed at a much larger size than the original source image, or it can result in an oversized file that can affect the performance of a multimedia presentation, or require a longer download when placed on a Web page.

For print projects, each production method, wether it be a large inkjet printer for banners, a digital press for smaller quantities, an offset press for large quantities, or other means, have different resolution requirements. A mistake can be costly if one image is wrong, and the project makes it all the way to press and delivery, it often results in paying for another print run. Most reputable printing services watch for these problems, but you should never rely on them to catch something before it's too late. In some cases, these services may add charges to fix a project.

In his 25 years, Tim Hansford, owner of cynaps*kreativ, has prepared files for a variety of projects and production methods, and knows how to avoid the "resolution pitfalls" to ensure a project is printed and delivered efficiently without any problems. Before your project is sent for final production, all graphics, images, and photographs are thoroughly checked to verify that they are scaled at 100% in the layout application and at the optimimum resolution for the production method. In the case of production PDFs to be sent to a service, specific profiles are used while creating the PDFs to ensure all images maintain their quality, and each PDF is inspected before it is released.

What is a vector image?

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What is anti-aliasing and why is it important?

There are several file formats used throughout a project's development, and each format has specific benefits and uses.


Other Services

Can cynaps*kreativ show me how to use my computer?

If you plan to use your computer to work with cynaps*kreativ to develop a project, or you'll be maintaining Web site content, it is recommended you find the proper training to familiarize yourself with your computer's operating system and software. Our time is better spent working on clients' projects and leaving the teaching to experts who offer training services and courses. You can find professional services or courses offered by community colleges, or adult learning courses on the Internet and your local papers.

Can cynaps*kreativ come to my office or home and fix my computer or software?

Computer repair services that deal with computer problems everyday are better suited to diagnose and fix your hardware or software. Also, some repairs and fixes can take days or weeks to resolve completely, and because we're committed to developing quality work and the time required to complete projects, we cannot offer those services to you.

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