• Who Owns YOUR Brand?

    We all know the joke about assumptions and yet making them seems to be a natural part of our decision-making process. Which is in keeping with the theory that all decisions are primarily emotional ones! For example, as business owners (and people), we assume that once we pay for something, it belongs to us completely. Despite all of the examples to the contrary such as property taxes, eminent domain, and intellectual property laws, we still hold on to these simple and honest understandings of fairness, ethics and morality.

    The answer to this question, however, is not found in the law so much as it is found in the individual with whom you are doing business. Any business that is creating intellectual property, whether it is photographers or graphic designers or software hackers or anything else that falls into this category of products or services, can use the law to great effect when their primary goal is digging as deeply into your pockets as they possibly can. However, they can only do this if you don’t ask the right questions and get EVERYTHING agreed upon in writing before commissioning or paying for any work. You see, the law is very clear on this issue. If I take a photograph or design a graphic or write a blog or an article, I own that material and the copyright to it, PERIOD!

    Having been in the business for a quarter of a century, I have seen and heard about some very terrible things that have been done to clients in the name of unbridled profits. I have seen business owners commission websites and product photos and logos and graphic art, thinking that they own these works only to be threatened with lawsuits (or even sued) for using what they believed they had already paid for. Unfortunately, they did not know to ask very direct questions about ownership of the intellectual property upon completion of the project.

    If a photographer takes pictures of your products so that you can sell them online, you may, of course, use them for the website as you originally expressed this intent to the photographer, however, in most cases the photographer retains ownership and can charge you more if you decide to use those same photos in a print publication or on your social media channels. The same is true for graphic design and digital art, and even website designs. If you go to many photographers or designers after the fact and request a simple copyright transfer letter, they will likely charge you a whole lot more for the document than you paid for commissioning the work in the first place.

    At Sewell Consulting, when the project is complete, the client owns the final draft that they have approved. Whether it is a logo, graphic, written content, video content, a website or anything else! I don’t make claims against products that have been commissioned and paid for by my clients. While I have rarely been asked about ownership of the copyright, when I have been asked for a copyright transfer letter, my only condition has been that I retain free use of the product as an example of my work in any medium at my disposal, including books, magazines, and online.

    So if you are hiring somebody to design anything for you in the digital realm, then you have to have a conversation about copyright and ownership and you need to get the agreement in writing before you pay for anything. Without this discussion and the written agreements about ownership of completed material, you may well end up paying good money, essentially to hand over control of your brand to somebody else.

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  • A (Very Brief) Introduction to Logo Design

    I start the process of designing your logo by learning as much as I can about you, the owner and your business and the products or services you provide. The history of your business plays a very important role in determining many aspects of the design options I will consider or recommend. The reason is simple. The best logos are designed to not only be beautiful and impactful, they are also designed to be enduring.

    How To Design for Longevity
    The most important thing to avoid when considering designs that will stand the test of time is to strictly ignore whatever the current logo fad is. A well-considered logo will be designed to reflect the core values of both you as the owner and the core competencies of the business itself as an entity unto itself. If you are the owner of a new or fledgling business, then be prepared to answer some serious questions such as where you see yourself and your business going over the next 5, 10 and even 20 years. More than any other design process, the one I use to create a timeless, beautiful and powerful logo for you will absolutely require us to be partners through every stage of the process.

    While some aspects of the design process are simpler than your business history, they still influence the ultimate design dramatically. Aspects such as the type of industry and which designs have historically worked best for your business niche. What design styles are being employed by your competitors so that we can consider a style and quality for your logo to distinguish your business from the competition and allow your business to stand out from the crowd, no matter how large the crowd you’re in happens to be.

    How to design for Acceptance
    Of primary importance in designing an appealing logo is to consider your audience and it’s expectations. This is simpler than it sounds and revolves around the demographics that best describe your typical customer. Age groupings, social status, education levels, and other such information can be compiled to tell us with extraordinary accuracy exactly which designs and color schemes will appeal to those most likely to be your current and future clients.

    What kinds of logos are there
    There are three basic types of logos, however, when considering combinations thereof you see that there are actually 5 distinct logo variations to consider.

    1.) Wordmarks
    This type of logo is exactly what it sounds like. It is the name of the business used as the most identifying characteristic of the brand as a whole. Several examples of wordmarks are Google©, Yahoo© and Coca-Cola©. Not only are these the actual names of the businesses but they are used as logos with a standard recognizable font and color scheme. Almost 40% of the world’s most recognizable brands use wordmarks as their logos.

    2.) Lettermarks
    As the name implies, these logos consist of letters alone and most often reflect the Initial letter of each word in the business name, such as IBM©. The lettermark exemplifies the simplicity most often sought out as the hallmark of the best logos by designers in general. For businesses with longer names or names that are difficult to understand or say, the lettermark is preferred over the wordmark. Where the business name is difficult for one reason or another, the lettermark can act as a mnemonic, helping you to remember a name or a meaning that you might otherwise forget almost as soon as you hear it or read it.

    3.) Brandmarks
    These are one of the more easily recognizable and memorable of the logotypes. A simple graphic that represents your company without the use of words or even letters is uniquely suited for international corporations that want to promote brand recognition without the worry of how best to maintain a recognizable and consistent logo across borders and thousands of languages throughout the world. Unfortunately, by itself, a symbol does not promote brand awareness for startups and young companies the same way that letters and words can. At least, not without a tremendous expenditure of time, effort, and money to create the connection between a chosen symbol and your company name. Only about 5% or 6% of the world’s most successful companies employ a symbol alone to represent their brand globally. Which strongly indicates the resources and influence required to make such a logo successful.

    4.) Combination Marks
    Such marks incorporate both graphics and words to create an unmistakable link between the graphic and the meaning of the words. A good example of this is the Burger King© logo. Because these marks combine an image and a business name they are generally much easier to have trademarked. However, the combination fo words and graphics can dramatically increase the complexity of the finished design and require more time and consideration. An added bonus to employing a combination mark is that you essentially have two distinct components to your logo that can eventually be presented individually to the same effect. Such as the Pizza Hut© logo which incorporates the company name and the graphic. Once this logo was well established the company began using the graphic by itself in situations where space or other design issues were a concern.

    5.) Emblems
    These logos encapsulate the company name inside of a graphic. An example of this would be the Ford© or the Starbucks Coffee© logos. Emblems are very versatile and provide countless variations of shapes and sizes. However, they generally cannot be split into their constituent parts without losing much of what made them uniquely identifiable with the brand. While emblems tend to be as remarkable as they are memorable, the fact that the lettering must be able to fit inside the graphic can create problems for legibility when the size of the logo must be decreased and or the logo must be printed.

    In closing, let me just point out that while knowledge, skill and experience are important factors in succeeding at any project, you don’t necessarily have to hire or wait until you can afford to hire a professional. Start the creative process today by considering the information you have learned here and by performing a Google search of logo images to start putting together the makings of what will ultimately be a cornerstone to your marketing and advertising and the foundation of your brand’s image.

    Here is the link to a Google image search of thousands of logos.

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  • 8 (Free) Professional Web Design Tools!

    I know that many of you out there would like to be able to at least try to do some of your own work. A lot of what professionals do would not be possible without having the right tools available. Most of us that are considered professionals within the design and coding professions have spent years searching out and trying different tools before adopting the best one for each task as our mainstay. The tools I am presenting here are tools that I actually use on a regular basis to achieve professional results. Some of them may be familiar to you while others are probably not.


    GNU Image Manipulation Program
    8 Free Professional Web Design Tools! - GIMP

    GIMP stands for GNU Image Manipulation Program and it is an open source graphic editor that is every bit as powerful as Photoshop, albeit, not so refined, polished and automated. Which is to say you can do pretty much anything using GIMP as you can using Adobe’s Photoshop but without spending hundreds or even thousands of dollars per year for the capability. As GIMP is every bit as capable as Photoshop, you should be prepared to spend some time learning how to use it to good effect. There are an incredible number of GIMP tutorials on Youtube that can help you learn the basics as well as walk you through very specific projects using advanced functions which would otherwise be beyond your skill level. This is how you can quickly become every bit as capable as a pro. The more projects you do, the more quickly you will learn.

    The Following is the description of GIMP from GIMP.org.

    GIMP is a cross-platform image editor available for GNU/Linux, OS X, Windows and other operating systems. It is completely free software, so you can change its source code and distribute your changes. Whether you are a graphic designer, photographer, illustrator, or scientist, GIMP provides you with sophisticated tools to get your job done. You can further enhance your productivity with GIMP thanks to many customization options and 3rd party plugins.


    8 Professional Grade Web Design Tools That Are Free! - Filezilla

    FileZilla is a cross-platform FTP client, although they also provide an FTP server by the same name (Windows Only). For those of you not familiar with FTP, it stands for file transfer protocol and it allows you to connect and manipulate files and folders on your web server (or that of your hosting provider) directly. This ability provides significant advantages over only being able to access and design your website though WordPress or some other Content Management System. What happens if you create such stringent security around your WordPress website that you lock yourself out? Well, with FileZilla, you simply connect directly to the server, modify and replace a file or two and you are immediately back in business. This is only one example but the reasons for having a really good and reliable FTP client are endless. Even if you use a content management service, there are countless things you can do through FTP that you simply cannot d with even the best CMS. Furthermore, I have been working with FTP for about 26 years and I have never seen a better FTP client than FileZilla.

    The following is a description about the origins of FileZilla from WikiPedia.org

    FileZilla was started as a computer science class project in the second week of January 2001 by Tim Kosse and two classmates. Before they started to write the code, they discussed under which licence they should release the code. They decided to make FileZilla an open-source project because many FTP clients were already available, and they didn’t think that they would sell a single copy if they made FileZilla commercial.


    Screaming Frog SEO Spider
    8 Free Professional Web Design Tools! - Screaming Frog

    Screaming Frog SEO Spider is a program designed to collect and present in a spreadsheet format, all of the information that is relevant to the search engines as they crawl and rank your website. As such, the program and the information it compiles are both of paramount importance to the auditing and analysis of your website where your ranking on the search engines is concerned. Screaming Frog provides a free version that cannot save data or any other information within the program. However, you can save the information to spreadsheets and keep them for comparative analysis or as a record of where your coming from and what you have accomplished. Among the more important types of information you will see at a glance with this tool are the page titles, meta data fields, server response codes, images sizes and locations, etc!

    The following quote is the description of the Screaming Frog application from the Screaming Frog website!

    The SEO Spider is a small desktop program you can install locally on your PC, Mac or Linux machine which spiders websites’ links, images, CSS, script and apps from an SEO perspective.


    8 Professional Grade Web Design Tools That Are Free! - Audacity

    Audacity is an audio editing and manipulation program that is completely open source (well maintained & free). It is powerful and functional and so easy to use. If you need to do voice overs or create music or audio notes or improve the sound on old recordings or anything else that involves the management and manipulation of audio recordings then you need Audacity. As with As with other top-shelf GNU’s such as GIMP, there are countless third party add-ons to improve the capabilities and functionality of this program. One thing is absolutely certain though and that is that over the years Audacity has become more and more indispensable to the day-to-day operations here at Sewell Consulting.

    The following information is from Wikipedia

    Audacity is a free open source digital audio editor and recording computer software application, available for Windows, OS X, Linux and other operating systems. Audacity was started in the fall of 1999 by Dominic Mazzoni and Roger Dannenberg at Carnegie Mellon University and was released on May 28, 2000 as version 0.8.

    As of 10 October 2011, it was the 11th most popular download from SourceForge, with 76.5 million downloads. Audacity won the SourceForge 2007 and 2009 Community Choice Award for Best Project for Multimedia. In March 2015 hosting was moved to FossHub and by 4 July 2015 it had exceeded 10 million downloads there.


    MAC Apache MySQL PHP Server
    8 Professional Grade Web Design Tools That Are Free! - MAMP

    MAMP is the Mac variant of the Apache, MySQL, PHP server bundle. What it does is truly powerful for the professional web designer. It turns your computer into a web server. Which is to say that it allows you to manipulate and view websites right on your computer and be able to see them exactly as they would appear if accessed from over the internet. But it does so much more than that. It allows you to create and manipulate MySQL databases, which is critical for a whole host of reasons. Not least of which is if you are wanting to perform advanced build or management functions on a WordPress website or a website using one of the other content Management Services.

    WAMP is the Windows variant and there are countless others. You can find a listing of them HERE.



    8 Professional Grade Web Design Tools That Are Free! - Paparazzi

    Paparazzi is really a very simple program, but what it does is very important. It allows you to take a screen shot of an entire web page no matter the length. It captures it in PNG quality at actual size and so you end up with a high quality image of any website from a perspective you would not otherwise be able to see. I use this to get an overall look of a website. I use it to design websites that look and flow better. I use it to create records of websites I’m working on so that I have the clearest possible example of the state of the website before and after I have performed my work. I even use it in the creative process for designing storyboards and artboards of proposed websites so that clients can see exactly what their website will look like when I’m done. I use this simple tool all the time and it has been invaluable to me and to the overall quality of my work.

    Paparazzi! is a small utility for Mac OS X that makes screenshots of webpages. It’s written in Objective-C using the Cocoa API and the WebKit framework. It was inspired by webkit2png, a commandline tool written by Paul Hammond in pyObjC.

    Paparazzi! 0.6.x requires Mac OS X 10.6.8 or later (current version: 0.6.7).

    Older versions are available on the downloads page.

    If you find yourself using Paparazzi! often, please remember to donate!
    You can also follow me/yell at me about Paparazzi! on Twitter! (Contains swears and silliness.)




    TextWrangleris a great text editor designed for coding. It is the free version of BBedit, which is a very popular coding solution for those who can afford to buy it ($50).

    8 Professional Grade Web Design Tools That Are Free! - Celtx Shot

    Celtx is a great company that provides solutions for writing and storyboarding movie scripts. Obviously, I don’t write movie scripts, I build awesome websites, but I can use the same tools to flesh out my design concepts and take my planning and creative process way beyond wireframes. Celtx Shot is free for MAC and can be downloaded from the MAC App Store. It is a storyboarding app that complements some of the other products that Celtx charges for. Onother one of their free apps is an online script writing app that helps you to outline your story and better manage your characters and other aspects of writing to scripts.

    If you go to Celtx.com now, you can sign up for a free membership which provides a number of useful tools. The next plan up is only 8 or 9 dollars a month. If you are working on creating a name for yourself in the age of video and want to perfect your art. Start by perfecting your video planning process.

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  • Giving Up Guarantees Failure!

    Do you have dreams of being your own boss? Do you constantly have ideas about how you could run a business, make a product or perform a service better than your employer? Let’s face it. Being your own boss is just about the hardest and scariest thing you could ever want to be. It also takes a whole lot more of your time than working for somebody else. But the rewards for success are incredible. The world needs more entrepreneurs! Your country needs businesses with new ideas for new products and new services, and your community needs the jobs your business and your ideas can create!

    Unfortunately, the vast majority of humanity will never even attempt to start and manage their own business. They are imprisoned in minds that have been cast by institutionalized thinking from public educations, and they are beaten down by every negative voice from just about everybody they know.

    Government education is an oxymoron. There isn’t a government education available anywhere in the world that encourages the creation of free thinking, problem-solving, economically capable and knowledgeable adults. Governments don’t have the slightest appreciation for independent thinkers with well-developed problem-solving skills. They should, if for no other reason than the fact that it is just such adults that will be most likely to have the self-confidence and the gumption to do something so crazy and risky as starting their own businesses. And as anybody with even the slightest understanding of economics knows, small businesses are the backbone of every economy on the planet.

    Then there are our guidance counselors, classmates, coworkers, friends, brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, cousins, boyfriends, girlfriends, wives, husbands, and most, if not all of them, are going to be telling you to play it safe in life, don’t take unnecessary risks. Get a “good” job working for somebody else! Is that really the safest thing to do? Is it really what is best for you and your family in the long run? Working so hard at making a living that you can’t get ahead! Making somebody else rich while you receive a small fraction of what your time and effort are worth, and for what? So that you can wonder for the rest of your life about all the possibilities of what could have been, what might have been, if only you had taken the chance and reached for more than what was safe!?

    Make no mistake about it folks, being in business for yourself is fraught with peril. Your mind will constantly be filled with very realistic (and some not so realistic) fears, uncertainties and doubts! Many of those fears will be realized. If you take risks in life, you will occasionally (sometimes often) encounter failure. I have failed in business more times than I care to remember. It is disenchanting to fail at anything but when we fail at business, particularly when it isn’t just us that suffers from the failure but our families and our employees, it can be absolutely heartbreaking. You have to learn from each failure and there is always a whole lot that can be learned from such a personal and professional crisis.

    The fact is that we are all good at something. Good enough to make a business out of it. Whether that something is baking & cooking or fixing things or balancing a checkbook or anything else. We all have that something we excel at and it is usually because it is something we are passionate about. Find your passion in life, let it guide you into the best possible future for yourself and for your family.

    Most importantly, you must learn to disregard the negative voices in your life. We are all surrounded by them every minute of every day. Don’t ignore them entirely, as they can occasionally contain some wisdom we need to hear. However, you should rarely (if ever) respond to negativity and you should certainly never, ever encourage it!

    Please don’t ever hesitate to contact me for questions or concerns about starting your own business. I wish you all the best in life and business and family.

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