The colorful etymology of the ‘giclée’ print

Giclée inkjet art printer

Q: What’s the difference between a giclée and an inkjet?
A: A couple hundred bucks.

In the world of limited edition art prints, giclée is a fancy word for inkjet art prints. There is a difference in quality between the office inkjet copier and a giclée printer, but the term ‘inkjet’ might sound a bit too pedestrian in an art gallery. According to Merriam-Webster, a digital print maker in California coined the term in 1991 after consulting a French dictionary in search of a suitably upscale euphemism. He found the word ‘gicler,’ which means ‘to spray’ or ‘to jet.’

Giclée printer cartridges

Giclée would have a cachet that ‘digital ink jet print’ couldn’t achieve. Later, printers discovered that in French ‘gicler’ was slang for ‘to ejaculate,’ but the term had by then been widely embraced by North American galleries. Giclée is still in use, but the unsexy straightforward ‘digital ink jet print’ has regained currency and is now the preferred usage.

Favicons: tiny branding

favicons in use

A favicon (or “favorite icon”) was the 16 pixel square image that precedes the website title in browser window tabs (see illustration). Favicons are now used for tile and touch icons, iPhones and Android/Chrome apps, so they need to be larger (WordPress likes a 512 x 512 pixel image) so that they can be distributed correctly on different devices and apps. Thumbnail logos, of which browser tab favicons are the smallest, are not legible, so we recommend a simplified logo, or an initial or monogram in the brand color(s). This applies to avatars and social media profile images as well.

favicon Carson Park DesignHere’s our logo glyph at 75 pixels. It looks appropriate in a tiny browser tab or as an app image. Favicons have become hilariously complicated over the years, but the WordPress soultion has made favicons easy to implement for millions of website admins.


Truly custom holiday cards

custom Xmas cards for businesses

We design custom holiday cards. From concept to printing, we‘ll take care of the whole thing for you! Humorous, classy, nostalgic or modern, your card will be original.

commercially-produced holiday cardWhy select a commercially-produced holiday card from a catalog?
Your company information gets stamped inside of an ornate, foil-stamped, “fancy” mass-produced card. Forgettable and unoriginal, but still expensive—why send boilerplate greeting cards to your clients?

We’ll create a unique holiday greeting like no other, branded for your business. Your card will stand out amongst the other cards on customers‘ mantles.

One plus one makes three

two color matchbooks

Old fashioned two and three color printing often overprinted spot colors (colors generated by a single press run) to create a third color. Both of these Hungarian matchbooks are two-color press runs of the same red and turquoise green. The print on the left makes use of a third, “black” color by running the red on top of the green (overprinting).

two-color Hungarian matchbook coverFour color process printing practically makes two or three color printing obsolete, and we know the reasons for this, but there’s a charm to two and three color printing. Skill and imagination were required to make use of overprints that created new colors without additional press runs.

See more old two-color printing and overprinted design on our Pinterest page.

Always optimize images for your website

Always optimize website images

Image files should not go straight from camera to website
Large image files take up space and increase load time. Fast-loading websites require small image file sizes.

Free optimizers:
There are free image optimizers online. We were able to reduce the image (above) to about half the size of the Facebook-optimized image. Try a few of these online tools and bookmark an optimizer that you like. Your goal is sharp-looking images and a small file size.

Best way to optimize:
Use Photoshop “save for web.” Also Gimp, Corel or any other image-editing program.

Website image best practices (it’s not all about size):
A few basic rules for website images:

  • Optimize images—small images load faster
  • Use jpgs for photos and pngs for flat images (logos, type, vectors)
  • Name image files meaningfully: “farmers-market.jpg” not “P103753.jpg”
  • Use “alt text” to describe image (e.g. “vegetables at farmers’ market”) for ADA compliance and search rankings


Raster (or Bitmap) vs Vector images


Raster (or bitmap) images are fixed-resolution images, made of a grid of pixels. If enlarged they will be blurry and pixelated, with a “stair-stepped” edge.
Common raster file formats are jpg, gif, tiff, bmp and png.

Vector images can be enlarged to any size with no loss of resolution.
Vector images are created by a series of points that are joined using a mathematical formula that determines the vector between points.
A purely vector file format would be svg (scalable vector graphic). Adobe Illustrator files are typically vector, but Illustrator supports placed raster images, just as Adobe Photoshop files now support vector layers. Pdf and eps files also support both vector and raster images, so asking for an Illustrator, pdf or eps file does not guarantee that you’ll end up with vectors. If you need vectors, ask for a vector file. It may be delivered as an eps, pdf, svg or ai file.


Your logo should be in a vector format so that it can be reproduced at any size. Ask your designer for a vector pdf with type converted to paths to guarantee excellent reproduction at any size.


Is yellow pages advertising still worth it?

Think of what you could do in online ads with what you have budgeted for yellow pages

If you’re still spending money in the various yellow pages publications in your region, consider this:

  • Expense: How much could you do online with what you spend on yellow pages?
  • Diminishing usage: Every year, a yet larger percentage of your potential customers find phone numbers online.
  • Multiple phone books: Competing books each offer only their fraction of the diminishing market.
  • Lack of flexibility: Yellow pages contracts are signed for an entire year, far in advance of publication.

Online advertising offers control and flexibility. With search engine advertising, you control the message and the reach. One company we work with  loves Google Adwords—they turn up the amount they pay per click when they are slow, and lower it when they are busy. Bing is used for about a third of searches, so Bing Ads is also an economical way to advertise online.


Formatting social media profile images

Logo to be turned into avatar
How do we turn this complex logo into a social media avatar?

Profile images on Facebook are automatically cropped to 160 pixels square for the profile page and reduced to a 32 pixel thumbnail in comments. Most logos are not ideal in a square (and worse, a tiny thumbnail) but there are workarounds. For many logos, an initial from the logo, or a visual detail in the branded colors will work— remember, the name of your company is written in large letters on your Facebook/LinkedIn/Twitter page next to your profile picture, so your profile image does not have to be legible.

We need a square profile image that looks good at thumbnail size. In order to make it fit in a square this horizontal logo has to be reduced. The thumbnail/smaller image is too small.

incorrectly done profile image/avatar

Here we use the monogram detail from the logo, which retains legibility even in the 32 pixel thumbnail.

Here is another example, using a letter in the branded typeface and colors—simple and legible.

correctly done commercial profile image

The same principles apply to formatting a branded favicon (a yet smaller representation of your brand).
In any case, look sharp—even when you are tiny.



Spot color trompe l’oeil…

Faux off-register 4-color print

With the loss of so many letterpress job printing shops in the 1970s and the explosion of inexpensive four-color offset printing in the late ’90s—presses are now set up to run full-color (four-color or process color) on all jobs. It’s considerably more expensive now to print two spot colors than to print in full color.

Some designers have reacted by creating four-color designs that mimic the appearance of two or three-color jobs. We came across an example in a vector tutorial by Rype (Ryan Putnam) on his Vectips site. He has given the piece an off-register look, as if the colors had not been perfectly aligned by the pressman. Color registration was a common problem in the past with web and large sheet-fed presses in which several jobs were run simultaneously (newspapers, the yellow pages, matchbooks, etc). Who could have imagined that someday we’d be nostalgic for low-quality printing—but it was appealing in many ways.