Category: Didn’t Quite Make It

The articles that weren’t quite good enough.

A Few Words About Logo Salads

Here I thought I was the first person to use Logo Salad. Evidently, others have been thinking the same thing:

Logo Salad on Urban Dictionary

Stop using logo salads on your websites. It’s cliche, and pretty meaningless. I mean, unless you designed those logos, in which case, you’d probably get better results from displaying them in a better way that tossing them into a section where the user doesn’t know where to look because there’s logos everywhere.

That and I hear logo salad isn’t nutritious.

Starting a Business in Central Florida

What this article won’t do is go into the crazy details of starting anything more complicated than a sole proprietorship in Florida. I found information somewhat intimidating and more than a little bit confusing when I was filing my forms and I could only imagine the same could be said for many other creatives in Florida looking to kickstart their business. So here’s a simple, hopefully easy guide, to help you start your business. 🙂

Please keep in mind that this is just a general guide I wrote to help reduce the confusion of wanting to start a business, but not knowing where to start. This guide cannot ever hope to trump the expertise and advice you will get from a trained professional. You are always better off talking to people who are trained to assist you in starting and developing your business!

With that having been said…

The Deciding Stage

1. Decide if you are going to operate under a fictitious name or if you are going to use your legal name for your business. This is important to discern because it determines whether you need to file for a fictitious name or not. For example, if your name was Jane Doe and you want to start an outdoor cat apparel company called Calico Coats, you would have to file for a fictitious name. However, if you called it Calico Coats by Jane Doe, a fictitious name would not be necessary.

2. Decide if you wish to file for a sole proprietorship or an LLC. Which one works for you is entirely your choice. LLCs require a bit more paperwork to set up over a sole proprietorship, but does give you some more legal protection that separates your business assets from your personal assets. This guide is aimed toward sole proprietorships with fictitious names.

Before Filing

1. Before you file for a DBA (Doing Business As, the form that you fill out to register your fictitious name), you need to advertise your business in a newspaper that gets circulated in the county your business will be operating in. For most of us, the local newspaper will often have a section that allows you to fill out a form to declare your business. Most people do their fictitious name ad through Orlando Sentinel.

There are other newspaper who will also do fictitious name ads too. Just for information purpose’s sake, you can check out public notices on

2. Get an EIN (Employer Identification Number). An EIN is a number provided to you for free from the IRS that you can use in lieu of your social security number. It’s very useful to have, can be applied for and received online and best of all, it’s free! You can apply for an EIN on the IRS Website.


1. Once your ad runs in the paper, you can finally file for your DBA (fictitious name). Filing can be done through the mail using this form, but most people find it more convenient to file it online here: Fictitious Name Online Form. The form itself is very straightforward. No trick questions or information you have to dig around for. It costs $50 to file for a DBA and you have to renew it every 5 years.

2. Check with the state to see if you need to file for state sales taxes: If your business is required to collect and remit state sales taxes, you should register for it at the Florida Department of Revenue’s Website. Thankfully, this part is free.

3. Next you will need to file for tax certificates for your city and county. Special care should be taken here because cities can vary slightly in how they work. First, you need to file for your city business tax. Here are some of the links to various cities in Florida and the number you can reach them at for help:

The certificates are valid for one year from September 30 to October 1. What this means is, if you apply on February 2nd, 2013 for example. You are still required to renew by September 30th, 2013. At this stage, it may also benefit you to determine if you need to do anything special for zoning. This is especially true if you are renting. Contact your city’s business offices and they should be able to give you some straightforward information about zoning and if it is necessary for your specific situation.

4. When you have received your city business tax certificate, you will need to take it and the county tax application to your county’s tax collector office. This will cost you around $60-80 depending upon your city and county.

Once you’ve done all that, you should be good to go. Remember to renew every year with the city/county, calculate and remit your state sales taxes, renew your DBA every 5 years, and pay your taxes quarterly to the IRS using Form 1040ES and other tax forms you may be required to pay depending upon the exact nature of your business.

Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Web Designer

All too often I encounter clients who are unhappy with a website that they had designed because they were working with a web designer who a) didn’t communicate with them, or b) didn’t know what they were doing. This sort of thing happens way too much and continues to happen. So here are some quick questions you might want to ask the next designer you’re looking to hire. These questions are by no means comprehensive and you should still be considering questions like scope, experience, former clientele, and so on.

Can I see your portfolio?
It amazes me that some clients will trust a designer’s word when they can’t present their portfolio. A web designer should, ideally, have their own portfolio website. And that website should not be a template that they got somewhere else. A good web designer should either be competent enough with code to design and code their own website, or have connections to good developers who will turn their designs into actual, functional webpages.

What’s your design process?
Good designers have processes that they follow from start to finish. They have a clear understanding of the steps and the planning involved in getting your project up and running smoothly. At the very minimum, they should be doing research about your company’s competitors, goals, target audience, products and overall market. They need to be designing for the goal of benefiting your company. A good website is not just a pretty looking website, it should be an effective a marketing tool. If you ask a web designer to describe their process and they balk or just don’t have an answer, be very wary. There is a lot of planning and research that goes into a website.

Do you design and code?
There’s a difference between a straight up web designer and a web designer who also knows how to code. It may also be beneficial to understand the difference between a web designer and a web developer. Very few people are good at both design and development, while there are many who are awesome at both, people will tend to lean toward one or the other. The key answer to this question is finding out if your web designer can do more than make beautiful mockups. If they design a wonderful looking PSD, you need to find out if they can make it into an actual website, if they can find someone who can make it a reality, or if you need to source a developer on your own.

How will we be communicating and how often?
Communication between the designer and the client is a huge part of the success of a project. Many clients still prefer to meet face-to-face with their designer, but meeting online, communicating through email, the phone or over Skype has facilitated some flexibility. However you choose to communicate with a web designer, you need to ensure that once you sign the contract, your designer doesn’t disappear into a void and you keep in contact with them. If you ask a question about your project, your designer should be able to get back to you with an answer in a timely manner. If you can’t seem to locate him or if your designer never gets back to your messages, be wary.

Do you have a contract?
The lack of a contract from a web designer usually indicates two things: 1) They’re inexperienced, and 2) They are leaving both you and themselves open for problems down the road. Professionals operate on contracts. If you’re looking to hire a professional web designer, be ready to either present your own contract or review theirs. Contracts exist to product clients and designers alike, and operating without one is risky for both parties.

Do you use templates and can you build from scratch?
It surprises me how often designers use templates from websites like Themeforest, which can be good or bad depending upon what kind of changes and tweaks are taking place. Make sure you’re clear with your designer whether you want a template modification or a custom built website and that they are just as capable of creating something from the ground up as they are modifying an existing theme.

When all is said and done, hiring a web designer shouldn’t be too stressful so long as you know what to look out for and what to expect. There’s more that goes into making a good web designer than how many projects they’ve done or how fast they work. There are many designers who’ve been working in the industry for years who still don’t know what they’re doing. And there are many new designers who are awesome and are just looking for their first break.

Many clients find themselves working with web designers who don’t know what they’re doing or don’t have the company’s best interest in mind because the budget doesn’t measure up or the deadline is too short or the designer simply lacks the expertise. Be realistic about your goals, ask some good questions, look over the designer’s qualifications, and you should be able to find a good web designer who knows what they’re doing and will do their best for your company.

Two Easy Ways to Pair Typefaces

Typography is the love of most graphic and web designers. But for some, it can be an intimidating task. Pairing together the right typefaces to create a cohesive design comes from years of experience studying type and understanding how one typeface interacts with another can depend on a huge amount of factors. Here are some tips for combining and using different typefaces on the web to help get the edge off of typography.

There are many different methods that designers use to determine typeface combinations. I will go over some of them in this post and hopefully give you some ideas on how you can pair off type for your next project.

Method 1: Type Systems and Super Families

Type Super Families are typefaces that have a large variety of variations. Within a super family, one typeface could have different variations for body text, headers, subheaders, italics, there may even be a serif and sans-serif version of the type. One example of a type super family is Lucida:

Lucida Std, Lucida Bright, Lucida Grande.

Lucida Std, Lucida Bright, Lucida Grande.

Super families generally contain typefaces with relatively the same structures and proportions, thus ensuring the types in a super family are harmonious but at the same time have elements that allow them to stand out from one another. Some examples of super families in use:



Method 2: Compare and Contrast

Contrast in choosing typefaces can mean a number of things. What it achieves is essentially an accentuation of the type that you use. You can mix and match things in different ways to achieve contrast. For instance, you might want to pair a sans-serif typeface with a serif. Or round typeface with an angular one. Maybe you could also mix a fun type with a neutral one.

When relying on contrast for your type choices, try to focus on weight, scale, proportion, and texture. Remember that you are not looking to draw attention to the type by highlighting their differing personalities. Things need to be done in moderation when choosing type too. Try looking for elements that help discern hierarchy while also harmonizing the text.

Some examples, using contrast by paring a sans-serif with a serif:



And an example of a distinct type paired together with a neutral one:


With a little bit of time and thought, pairing typefaces together won’t seem as intimidating anymore. If you’re interested in other ways to pair together typefaces, check out these helpful articles:

Best Practices of Combining Typefaces
Four Ways to Mix Fonts


A Short Bit About Graphic Design Contracts

The second most boring possible subject involved in being a freelance designer would have to do with design contracts. The most boring are taxes. Whoopee. But contracts are essential for the operation of your business. This write-up isn’t meant to be a full contract tutorial, or a complete list of things you need to include in your contract. There are many write-ups out there that already do this and you can find them in the Resources I list at the end of this post.

Why You Need a Contract

Almost every freelancer has a story where they did a bunch of work for a client and then never saw the money. Or they did work that wasn’t remotely related to what they wanted or anticipated on doing for a client. Or a client disappeared halfway through the work never to be seen again. It’s not a remote possibility for a freelancer to find him/herself in a situation where their client has different expectations. It’s also, sadly, not rare for a freelancer to get stiffed on a project. Nothing would make designers happier than if all their clients were good clients and there was no such thing as late payments or payments that never happened. But take one look at The World’s Largest Invoice, and you’ll realize this happens every day. While having a contract won’t guarantee that your clients go from flaky to awesome, it will give you a base that outlines what you and are not responsible for and how you want to be paid.

Contracts aren’t one-sided documents either. They aren’t all about you and getting you what you need. Contracts should be a fair agreement between you and your clients so it should tell them what they can expect from you, in how much time, for how much money, and describe some contingencies in case things don’t work out well–whether it was because of a delay on your end or theirs. In general, a design contract should include detailed information about who is responsible for what, the timeline, the scope of the project, the fees, amount of revisions available, how the project will be deployed, copyright terms, warranties, maintenance agreements and many more. Remember, this list is lacking in some necessities and details that you can pick up at places with more dedicated write-ups on design contracts such as The Design Cubicle and Tuts+.

Don’t Make it Painful

While contracts aren’t the most exciting of topics and most people don’t relish on reading or signing them, they are essential pieces of the project as a whole. You can help make your contract less of a chore to go through by passing on the legalese and write it in something both you and your client can understand because if both of you understand exactly what’s in the contract, there’s less chance of one of you accidentally misinterpreting it. Now, just because you’re presenting a contract written in more casual terms doesn’t mean your contract isn’t a serious business tool. You don’t want an intimidating contract, but its purpose as a business document should not be understated or compromised. 24 Ways has an excellent example of a non-intimidating, casual language contract that you can use as a reference.

Sign the Contract

Freelancing brings some wonderful rewards, connections and friends. I know you’ll do a good job. You know that you’ll do a good job, but your clients don’t know that yet. They have to trust you, based upon the reputation that you built around your previous projects. Of course, if you’re first starting out with nothing under your belt, it can be intimidating and downright terrifying when you approach a client with your contract in hand and ask them to sign it. After all, there’s a stigma out there that contracts are “unfriendly”. But there’s nothing unfriendly about a document that’s meant to protect both the designer and the client. Having both of you sign off on the terms will only help solidify the importance of the project and your professionalism as a designer. Never start a project until you get the contract signed and do not make concessions on your contract unless absolutely necessary and this goes for you as well as your client.

Big Dogs Play Different

Depending on who your clients are, you might not get a chance to present your own contract. Small business, start-ups, non-profits, and one man operations don’t usually have specifically written design contracts to hand off to you. So when you’re working with smaller organizations, you’re more likely to be able to sign a contract without involving any lawyers while working directly with your clients to set the terms that both of you can agree on. When you get to larger organizations, things change–sometimes for the better. Sometimes not. Large organizations can be fun to work with, but when it comes to contract negotiations, things you wouldn’t think you’d have to worry about crop up. For one thing, you might find yourself in need of a lawyer who speaks to their lawyers because, as a very wise man once said, “lawyers speak to lawyers”.

If you’re dealing with a larger company that presents you a contract, go over it with a fine toothed comb. Ask for legal advice if there’s anything you don’t understand or aren’t 100% clear on. A lot of freelancers avoid hiring lawyers because of the idea that lawyers cost a lot of money. But think of the scenario you’d have to deal with otherwise when you’re working with someone else’s contract. You could come out with a portion of the contract money going to your lawyer, but you are otherwise paid and happy. Or you could discover halfway through the contract that you violated a term you missed or didn’t fully understand that could get you in a ton of trouble with your client. If you aren’t sure whether you need to lawyer up or just need to ask a small legal question related to the design industry, try My Lawyer Gabe, a site set up by aforementioned very wise man and his very wise lawyer.

In the End, It’s About Your Work

While being good with your contract negotiations is fabulous, remember that at the end of the day your contract is a small part of the whole and getting a contract signed is only the beginning of the work. It makes sure important details are outlined on paper and it helps to guarantee a fair and level playing field for you and your client. It’s a serious document, and it’ll be up to you to live up to your promises because once you sign that contract it’ll be time for you to do what you’re really good at: Making awesome things.


The Design Cubicle – Has a general list of items you should include in your contract.
Tuts+ – A detailed list of some of the essentials items on a contract.
24 Ways – A pleasant example of a concise but casual contract.
My Lawyer Gabe – Friendly legal advice about the design industry.

Not So Innocent WordPress Themes

The ease of setting up a WordPress blog is fairly common knowledge. WordPress themselves talk about the easy 5-minute installation. And it really is that easy! What isn’t so easy, and what a lot of people often overlook, is the maintenance and security of their blog after the initial installation.

WordPress security is about as exciting as–well, it’s not exciting at all. But like most unpleasant, but necessary things in life, your blog’s security shouldn’t be shuffled into a dark corner and never considered. This post aims to bring to light, one of the most overlooked aspects of running a WordPress blog: Malicious Themes.

While a large portion of malicious themes are free, there are some paid themes that might not be quite so innocent either. Your best defense against having your blog compromised is knowledge and the understanding that no matter how large, small, popular, or private your blog is, malicious code can infiltrate it.

I run a very small blog, do I still need to worry?
Yes. Compromised blogs don’t have to be big or popular. Most people’s blogs get infected with malicious code because they inadvertently installed something bad–not because they were directly targeted. It doesn’t matter how small your blog. Not even if you write in a blog solely for your family and friends, if you download and run a lot of unverified plugins and themes, you run the risk of compromising your blog’s security.

Do I need to a security plugin for my WordPress blog?
Some people run security plugins for their blogs, some people don’t. I can’t advise whether you should or not. It’s a personal decision with pros and cons. If you do choose to use security plugins for your blog, make absolute sure you are installing and using a trusted plugin. Read all the reviews, read reviews on different sites, make sure you are downloading the plugin from a trusted site, see what kinds of problems users have with it. Security plugins can be a lot of work, sometimes they ingrain themselves deeply into your WordPress installation so uninstalling them might be tricky. What you can do if you don’t want to run security plugins is know the risks that are out there and be vigilant about what you install.

With those two questions out of the way, let’s talk specifically about malicious themes. A theme might seem harmless enough. After all, customizing the appearance of your new blog is probably one of the more fun parts of the setup. But not all themes are created equal and not all themes are innocent.

Some theme authors will embed code that redirects, links to, or otherwise manipulates the theme to an unscrupulous website. There’s nothing wrong with a theme author linking back to their own website, and a link back to the original author is common practice. But there are some authors to embed links to sites with poor reputations. Sometimes these links can drag your own blog down, so if you’re trying to get into Google’s good books, having links to bad sites embedded in your free theme that you don’t know about won’t look good. Sometimes it isn’t easy to find these links in your theme because they might be encoded.

Base64 encoding is one of the things to be vigilant about. Very often, the presence of Base64 encoding implies that the theme author has something to hide. Perhaps it’s malicious code, perhaps it’s a link to a bad website, sometimes the purpose is legitimate but can you really take that chance? Decoding Base64 is straightforward. You can plug it into any number of websites you find on Google and discover exactly what’s being hidden from you. I recommend this site: Base64 Decode and Encode. There are a lot of reasons why Base64 encoding exists, but there better be a very good reason for it to exist on your website in the form of a theme.

Another sad development resulting from the glut of free WordPress Themes are ripoff themes. We have counterfeit handbags, counterfeit perfume, counterfeit toys, why not counterfeit WordPress Themes? These are themes that may have been offered as pay themes or were good free themes that were taken, altered to add some malicious code then released as “fresh, new, unique” and of course, “free”.

So how do you avoid downloading a bad theme?

1. Stick to official channels. Googling, “Free WordPress Theme” might yield tons of results, but who’s to say those websites are legitimate and offering good themes? Stick to whose theme repository contains a ton of perfectly nice free themes, Smashing Magazine and other trusted websites often recommend good free themes. But like with all things, you shouldn’t rely solely on a recommendation alone. Read other reviews, and do your own investigations before downloading and installing anything.

2. Consider paid themes. ThemeForest and WooThemes have huge selections of WordPress themes available, many of them are feature-rich, SEO optimized, supported by the authors/developers who made them, are versatile, and look beautiful.

3. Hire a designer or developer. Of course, I have to include this! 😉 Hiring a designer/developer to make you a theme isn’t for everyone–especially not for most personal blogs, hobby blogs, or blogs you keep just for fun. This can get expensive and it still requires plenty of research, but if you’re setting up a business and want to represent yourself well, a free theme that’s got malicious code in it most certainly isn’t going to cut it.

The Difference Between Arial and Helvetica

Back in high school, whenever I looked at Arial, I would think, “The World’s Most Boring Font”, then skip it and use something else like Tahoma or Verdana for my sans-serif needs. But then, back in high school, I didn’t know too much about graphic design until college drilled into me the importance of typefaces. Specifically, the difference between Arial and Helvetica.

I think there’s something to be said about my exposure to typography in college because after graduating, I fell into the world of type. One letterpress, a couple sets of type, a few topical mugs, a couple dozen books, a few posters, a suitcase full of furniture, and more ink than I could use in a lifetime later and I’m spending hours wondering if a page would look better set in Palatino or Palladio.

But today it’s about Arial. Or rather, Arial’s seedy history as a copy-cat of what (it seems) is America’s typography darling; Helvetica. See, Arial started life as a look-alike of Helvetica. Where Helvetica was owned by the Linotype Foundry, Arial was created by Monotype. And, to be fair, Arial was inspired by Monotype’s Grotesque (it’s only a name) typefaces. But the question remains, if Arial was based on Grotesque, why does it look so similar to Helvetica? And how are you supposed to tell between the two? Is Arial just a straight up knock-off?

The Difference Between Arial and Helvetica

The argument, believe it or not, has been going on since all this began and it’s not about to be settled any time soon. For the time being, differentiating Arial from Helvetica isn’t so monumental a task. Should you ever find yourself in a pickle where you very livelihood depended upon telling these two apart, here’s a few quick tips.

The Sloped T

The Sloped T

One of the easiest ways to tell whether you’re looking at Helvetica or Arial is by locating its lowercase T. Laid out side-by-side, you can tell the difference right away with Arial’s sloped T.

Spot the angle!

Spot the angle!

Need something else to tell these two apart? Take a look a the S and C in Helvetica then at the S and C in Arial. Notice the slight angle that Arial’s glyphs are cut with? hard to spot when it comes to smaller sizes, but a dead giveaway if you know where to look.

For more practice telling these two apart, check out’s Arial or Helvetica Quiz.