Branding Ideas℠

Category: Design

You are currently browsing the archives for the Design category

Swag: Dorky and Uncool? Think Again!

hrc-branded-swagOk, let’s be honest. When you think of promotional items, does the word “cool” come to mind? If the answer is no, you’re probably not alone. Promotional products were not historically seen as hip, trendy, or fashionable, but a lot has changed in recent years. Now swag, once looked at with more than a whiff of disdain, is cool. Even the meaning of the word ‘swag’ has been updated to mean something cool, a unique personal style, or something you approve of.

Not convinced that swag is in style? Here are a few recent developments in the world of branded merch that may change your mind:

  1. Designers and fashionistas are embracing swag. Maybe it’s nostalgia or maybe it’s just a yearning for a return to the graphic design of old, but when it comes to what’s in style, everything old is new again. Designers are embracing old school graphic t-shirts, and major fashion houses are even elevating the humble embroidered patch to haute status.
  2. Campaign swag has gone from dorky to desirable. Those of us who remember the 70s, 80s, and 90s can immediately call to mind the old school, blocky, and decidedly lame graphic design of political campaigns. You didn’t see Carter-Mondale or Reagan-Bush printed on a great fashion t-shirt, much less see the fashion elite wearing them. But now swag has gone upscale: major fashion designers have released gorgeous branded t-shirts promoting Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid. They’re so chic you almost forget they’re campaign merchandise.
  3. Major brands offer items through promotional products sellers. Yes, swag can be covetable—especially when you have major brands like Victorinox, Lacoste, Nike, Kenneth Cole, Isaac Mizrahi, Moleskine Brookstone, MoMA, Umbra, and Alessi offering their own specially branded items through promotional products sellers. This type of co-branding is big right now, and it means your business can offer premier goods that might not have been available in the past.

6f124d9c-8f60-4e17-9bd2-462d2082a67aThe most important take-away to keep in mind is that there are more choices than ever before. Back in the day you might have just been able to offer your customers a not so hip foam can cooler (which, let’s admit it, is ironically cool these days). Now you have a wealth of options to pick from—each with its own unique style and sensibility. At the end of the day, one thing is certain: when it comes to branded and promotional items, this is not your grandparents’ swag!

Are you looking for branded promotional items to help your company stand out from the competition? There are a lot of ways branded goods can draw attention for your business. Get in touch with us on Twitter and Facebook or call us at 877-881-6845 and we’ll be glad to advise you on exceptional promotional products that can represent your brand with style and grace.

What Are My Printing and Decorating Options for Promotional Products?

There are lots of different ways to brand, decorate, or embellish a product with your logo—so many, in fact, that it might seem a bit overwhelming at first when you’re trying to figure out which method is right for your needs. Choices could range anywhere from printing a logo or inking it directly on a garment such as a t-shirt or a notebook or notepad on to laser engraving, which is often used to create tasteful designs on pens.

Whatever your requirements, we have a way to make sure that your branding stands out and looks great on the product you select. Here are a few of the most popular printing processes for promotional products and how they are used to best showcase a company’s logo.

Debossing and EmbossingDebossing / Embossing

Debossing is an elegant and attractive way to make an impression directly into the surface of an object. Embossing also impresses an image into the surface, but in relief—creating a raised image within the material. Both processes work well on leather or simulated leather, although you may also see them on other materials often associated with fine stationery and notepads and vinyl patches. Like embroidery, debossing and embossing add a high perceived value to the item and are long-lasting decoration techniques.


A decal is a design that is printed on special paper, then transferred to a promotional product made from material such as ceramic, porcelain, or metal. It’s one of the most effective ways to get a full color imprint on these types of surfaces, which are otherwise tricky to print on or decorate.

Die-Striking (also known as die-stamping)

Die-striking, also known as die-stamping, is often used to create emblems and other flat promotional products. A hard metal die is used to press or stamp an image into a softer metal such as brass or gold. It can be used to create lettering and simple designs, but is not ideal for detailed or complex artwork. Die-striking is commonly used on medals, coins and belt buckles.

Digital PrintingDigital Printing
Digital printing is a four color, CMYK process that can create photo-quality images in full color with a single pass through the printing machine as opposed to screen printing, which requires a separate pass for each color. It’s a particularly good choice for artwork with lots of colors, shading or gradients.


Embroidery involves using needlework and machine stitching to create an attractive logo using vibrant, colored threads to match your branding. Commonly used on apparel such as t-shirts and hats, embroidery is a fine choice for adding high perceived value to the item and making it desirable.


In the etching process, an image is first covered with an acid-resistant protective coating. Portions of the image are left exposed, leaving bare metal and protected metal, and then the entire image is exposed to acid. The acid attacks only the exposed metal, leaving the image etched onto the surface. It can be used to create very fine lines and detailed designs.

Foil StampingFoil Stamping

Foil stamping involves applying pigment or metallic foil to the surface of a product such as a leather padfolio or a gift box. It can be performed as a standalone decoration technique or as a follow-up step to the embossing process, creating an attractive 3D image of a logo or custom design.

Hot Stamping

Hot stamping involves transferring pre-dried inks or foils to a product at a high temperature. It is especially effective on plastic products, but wood, leather, and paper products are also commonly decorated using this technique as well.

Laser engravingLaser Engraving

Engraving, or laser engraving, is a sophisticated way to custom brand promotional items with an image, your organization name, or your logo. It involves using a laser to apply a logo directly to a product, removing the top coat and revealing the color beneath it. Laser engraving is especially effective on metal items such as pens, and plaques wood items, like cutting boards, and glass or crystal corporate awards.

Pad Printing

Pad printing is similar to screen printing, but it’s often used for small objects with an irregular shape, such as a stress ball or a key chain. In pad printing, a recessed surface is covered with ink. When the plate is wiped clean, the ink remains in those recessed areas. A pad then is pressed directly against the product to create a design. Pad printing is great for printing or decorating small, oddly shaped objects that can’t be run through the screen printing process. Plastics, paper, ceramics, glassware, wearables, leather, and vinyl are some popular materials used with this process.

Patches (embroidered, appliqué rubber/pvc)

A patch is a standalone patch featuring a company logo that can be embroidered, woven or dye sublimated, and even made of rubber. Patches can be used on wearables or a wide range of items—whether it’s a bag, a hat, a t-shirt, or a jacket. Patches can be in custom sizes and shapes and in a variety of colors that can match your unique branding.


As the name suggests, personalization is a technique for personalizing an object with someone’s name or initials. It’s a fine choice for occasions when you want to recognize someone’s exceptional achievements or their ongoing contributions to the company. This technique can be applied to a wide range of products and can be combined with other decoration methods to include a company logo.

Screen PrintingScreen Printing

Screen printing, sometimes also called silk screening, is a technique in which an image or design is transferred to the surface of a product with ink that has been squeezed by a squeegee through a stenciled screen stretched over a frame. The screen or screens are then coated with a light-sensitive emulsion, then exposed to a strong light. The light hardens the areas that have been coated with the emulsion, leaving a permeable area on the screen where the squeegee can successfully apply ink. Screen printing is an effective printing or decorating method for objects with an irregular shape—particularly items that are made from glass, plastic, fabric, or wood.


In the sublimation process, toner or ink is thermally converted to a gas that hardens on the special substrate used by the printer. Printers that use this process are able to create smooth, even tones using soft-edged dye spots. This technique is somewhat new and can be used on many different types of materials.

Heat TransferTransfers (also known as heat transfers)

Transfers involve printing an image onto fabric that is usually synthetic fabrics. An image or logo is first printed on paper with special dyes, then transferred to the fabric with heat. After that, the fabric absorbs the dye from the paper. Printed heat transfers are a great alternative to screen printing for small-order program runs and multi-color logos, and they are particularly good at printing clear text at small sizes.

Of course, there are even more options for branding promotional items with your artwork or logo! Stay tuned for future blog posts in which we take a deeper dive into related topics, such as what printing processes are most ideal for apparel and other types of products.

If you have a project in mind that might benefit from some expert consultation, drop us a line! We’d be happy to share advice and suggestions on what printing or decoration process might work best for you. Connect with us on Twitter and Facebook or call us at 877-881-6845 and we’ll advise you on solutions that can represent your company with style and grace.

Color Matching: Why Is It Important?

UNICEF LogoConsistency is one of the most important aspects of branding. It’s how people recognize your brand. If your company’s logo is inconsistent, it can throw consumers off and confuse them. The color used in a logo can also be very important. For example, take UNICEF’s iconic blue logo, which is referred to as UNICEF Blue in its brand book. No matter where you see it, it’s always recognizable and evokes a certain feeling.

In order to ensure this consistency, some companies issue strict corporate branding guidelines that dictate such things as the proper color to be used in the logo or the correct spacing for letters in the logo. They can also provide instructions how to use the branding for promotional items. This can be very helpful when it comes time to make decisions about what promotional products the company wants to select and how it wants the branding to appear on them.

Some companies use the Pantone Matching System (PMS) to make sure they get the right color every time. So if UNICEF were a new customer of ours and they were to place an order for promotional t-shirts printed with their logo, for example, we would ask them for the PMS code of their logo, along with a file for their vector format. Or, they might supply us with a brand kit or set a brand guide that provides details on proper use of the brand elements including their logo, colors, and other brand elements. This would allow us to get a full sense of how to match their colors on promotional products. This type of preparation helps ensure that we are using the correct color.

Pantone ColorsAlthough PMS color codes themselves are exact, there’s a wrinkle—the product on which the color is printed may affect the way it appears. The color may also look different depending on whether you’re looking at it outside in daylight as opposed to indoors under fluorescent or incandescent lighting. Many printers know that they must make an adjustment to control for this factor, but some do not. This is where we can help.

If you need your promotional items printed with a specific shade of blue, for example, it we’ll ask you for a specific Pantone® code. But if you don’t know it, we’re here to help. In some cases where our clients consider color very important and require an exact match, it may be best to order a pre-production physical sample for review prior to placing a full order. While a printed sample adds a little time to the process, it’s a great help if exact matching is a priority.

There are two types of these printed samples available. One is a pre-production sample, or pre-pro. We recommend this if you know you are definitely ordering 5,000 t-shirts, to give an example, and want to see how they look before going to final press. There’s usually a small cost to create this sample. The second type is a spec proof. This type of proof is ideal if you really like the idea of a certain product but, before making the commitment to order 5,000 of them, you want to see if your logo looks good on it. In that case, you would just order one spec. If you like it, you can go ahead and put in the order, if not, you don’t have to and only pay for the spec sample.

We’re here to help you get the color that’s best for you, whether it’s color matching or finding the right product color. If you have a designer on staff and already know the exact color you want, great. If you are brand new to the process, that’s fine too. We’ll work with you to find out exactly what you need to know. With deep experience and careful attention to detail, we can help you find the right solution.

Looking for custom branded promotional products that can make a difference for your brand? We’d be happy to share some recommendations and creative ideas with you. Connect with us on Twitter and Facebook or call us at 877-881-6845 and we’ll be glad to advise you on branding ideas that can represent your company with style and grace.

The Top 5 Brand Stories of 2015

Google Logo

Google’s New Logo

With the arrival of a new year, it’s a perfect moment to reflect on the major trends and developments that made a mark in our world in 2015. Several compelling brand stories made headlines, some for their creativity and others for the controversy they inspired. Here are the top 5 brand stories that caught our attention:

What brand stories captivated you in 2015? Feel free to share your thoughts and reflections in the comments section below. As we welcome 2016, best wishes for a healthy and prosperous New Year!

Looking to start your New Year right with custom branded promotional products that can make a difference for your brand? We’d be happy to share some recommendations and creative ideas with you. Connect with us on Twitter and Facebook or call us at 877-881-6845 and we’ll be glad to advise you on branding ideas that can represent your company with style and grace.

As Seen on the Streets of New York

Rain guard for bike made of plastic bottle

Some of us (and we’re not naming names or anything) can be a little cynical. The perfect antidote to cynicism is coming across something that renews one’s faith in the creativity and inventiveness of fellow human beings.

Hats off to whoever invented this plastic bottle rain guard for the back tire of a bike.

A More Pleasant Summer…

image of bambooLifehacker recently posted a great Top 10 Outdoor Tips for a More Pleasant Summer list, chock full of great links on everything from how to shape the perfect burger to how to build a wood-burning hot tub for your backyard (if you have a backyard, which we don’t).

What better gift for clients, customers or hard-working staff than something to increase the pleasure quotient of their summers!

With that in mind, for each of the next ten days over the next few weeks, we’ll pair suggestions of our own with each of Lifehacker’s ten tips.


Tip #10 : Master the Art of Grilling
How about a sturdy yet pliable spatula with which to flip your burgers, and a nice long apron to keep those crackling burgers or steaks from staining your new madras shorts (or your oldest pair of jeans). You might also want to think about an all-in-one picnic set, complete with compartments for wine and salt shaker!


Gadget Clutter and Sushi Rice that Doesn’t Stick

OK, we all know that clutter is something to avoid, and that piles of unopened mail is a major cause of clutter.

But what about gadget clutter? For some, this is an issue.Too many devices, too many different chargers, too many tangled wires. Where is that phone, pod, pad, kindle anyway?

Mashable recently ran a post on multiple-device charging stations. They come in a range of prices and styles, seemingly inspired by everything from Tupperware to Star Trek to the lawn out back. Functionally we might not be ready for a gadget declutterer, but aesthetically, we’re voting for the grass.

Mention something and we may think of its opposite. Black white, hot cold, tall short…clutter organization. On that note, we’d like to share the Sushi Memo Block, featuring egg, salmon, tuna, and fatty tuna. Once you eat through the top third or so, you have only rice left. And while sushi rice is sticky, the Sushi Memo Block is not. Each sushi is a small pad of paper, not adhesive post-it notes.

via Acrylo via Colossal via Matomeno

Mapping It Out

Design is an important part of what we do here at Branding Ideas℠. Coming up with new and creative promotional ideas that help communicate your message and brand is essential, but the design of your promotional items, your logo, and your product packaging are just as vital. The New York MTA will unveil their new NYC subway map design in June and, being the New Yorkers that we are, we’ve got an opinion! The new design is cleaner and clearer, and the color contrasts are a nice improvement, but we preferred the city parks in the bolder emerald green of the 1998 may design, as opposed to the new olive color. We think parks should err more on the side of tree color than dog urine, and they’ll be easier to find on a map. The subway lines now have a dark gray shading, intended to make them stand out more, but that could potentially cause confusion for people who use the MTA subway map to look for streets and intersections too. But these are minor complaints, and overall the map is an improvement over the last incarnation, and a big improvement over the grid maps used back when polyester bell bottoms were chic. Check out The New York Times for a more detailed look at MTA subway maps past, present and future!