Building a Website – Part 1: Where to Begin


Building a Website – Part 1: Where to Begin



At Digital Canvas, we get lots of people who call or email to ask about starting a website. Whether you’re starting a brand new business and want to simply “hang out a shingle” online, or whether you’re trying to expand into e-commerce to sell your latest and greatest, getting started with a website can seem like a daunting task. Where to even begin?

We like to start by asking our new web clients where they see a website fitting in with their larger business plan. This makes sense, if you think about it in the same terms you think of any other business investment. Your website is an asset like your building, your company vehicles, or your equipment. You’re going to put your money down and in exchange you want a tool that will enable your business to generate revenue.

So, the beginning point is asking yourself: What role do you see your website playing in the way your business makes its bread and butter?

Publicity is one that comes to mind for many clients right away. “We want to be Number 1 on Google.” As you think about your website in terms of giving your business publicity, it’s helpful to push yourself a little further.

If someone finds you on Google, what happens then? What do you want them to actually do when they get to your website?

  • If you are an author, you probably want them to order a copy of your book.
  • If you are a restaurant, you probably want them to make a reservation for dinner.
  • If you’re a car dealer, you probably want them to enquire about a car.
  • If you’re a motivational speaker, you probably want them to buy a ticket to an upcoming seminar.
  • If you’re an accountant, you probably want them to call you for an appointment.
  • If you’re an animal shelter, you might want them to fill out an adoption form or send a donation.

Whatever it is for your business, the first step for your website is to clearly understand how it fits in and helps you do the main thing you do.

Notice I haven’t said a word yet about technology or whether you should get on the phone with GoDaddy (because they’re the ones with the crazy SuperBowl ads — which must mean, of course, they know how to spend a lot of money on advertising) or if that service your Uncle Dave is telling you about every time you see him is really the way to go.

That’s because nobody can tell you what technology you need, or how much it’s going to cost until you know what kind of asset your want your website to be. If you put the cart before the horse, you buy into something because it looked flashy or promised to be easy or inexpensive or someone told you “this is what everyone is doing,” you can easily end up with a liability instead of an asset.

At Digital Canvas, we believe that the place to begin a website comes long before the first napkin sketch of your home page is drawn. It starts with you answering the question: “How does this investment fit into the way my business does its most important thing?”

If you’re ready to start building your website as an asset to improve your business, we’d love to help. Drop us a note online, or give us a call, 330-877-3075. Maybe, after exploring these questions with you, we’ll be able to build a website with you. Or, if our talents and abilities don’t meet your needs, we will refer you to someone we know with the right skill set.

If you’re interested in checking out some of the websites we’ve helped other clients create, browse our portfolio’s Web Design area.


Development of Trade Show Graphics


Development of Trade Show Graphics

5 things you need to consider when creating a successful a trade show booth design…

1. AVAILABLE VIEWING AREA. Will there be a table or podium blocking any portion of the banner? Should the content go the entire way to the floor? Being mindful of what might be in front of your display is important so that all your content can be seen by potential customers and clients.

2. FOCUS ON PRODUCTS, NOT THE BACKGROUND. Consider if you need to display actual products over the background design. If this is the case, a simple background would work better than a busy one. There should be a balance of product, text and graphics and hierarchy can be used to convey your brand and overall messaging.

3. HAVE AN INVITING AND CLEAR MESSAGE. If someone is standing 20 feet away from your booth, will your message still be readable and invite them to come closer? Sizing and distance should be considered when it comes to text and image.

4. CREATE A LASTING IMPRESSION. How can you make sure that someone will REMEMBER being at your booth? Effective visuals are very important but take-away items such as brochures or products with your name on them can create a lasting impression and keep your brand in the minds of customers long after the trade show ends. When our designers at Digital Canvas create trade show booth displays, we often allow for areas to hold brochures and hand-outs for visitors to easily access and take with them.

5. PLAN IT OUT – VISUALLY. In the graphic design world, we work in 2D mode most of our day. Because of this fact, it is VERY helpful, even MANDATORY in most cases, that we create a 3D looking visual of where these final pieces will exist in real space. Sometimes a design can look wonderful when you are looking at one piece of the puzzle alone. But when you show all the trade show booth design pieces together in a mock-up presentation, both designer and client can more easily visualize whether or not the design will work to successfully get the message across to the viewer.

Below are a few examples showing various stages of our design process, used to build successful trade show booth designs…

Initial Sketches






Mock-Up (flat)


Mock-Up (3D examples)




Final Booth Designs









View our graphic design portfolio, including more trade show graphics here!

Benefits of Online Catalogs compared to Printed Catalogs


Online catalogs can provide major benefits over their printed counterparts. While traditional books are beloved for their simplicity and physical attributes, catalogs are a different ball game.

Catalogs have more factors (i.e. The details and design that move past simple black-and-white type of a conventional book). Catalogs need to engage their readers in order to make them want pick up the catalog and ultimately order what is inside. Catalogs can run the rick of looking identical, time after time, which can lead to a disengaged audience who might then may only scan or toss the catalog aside.

IDenticard Government Focused Online Catalog

Most brands have or are in the process of transitioning to the internet to promote e-commerce (through social networks, their website,  apps, etc.). While there is still room to send out physical catalogs, it would definitely be foolish to ignore the number of online shoppers and the how e-commerce plays an ever growing roll in sales, marketing, and business today.

Digital Canvas can help companies take their printed material and enhance it with features and functions to better serve both the company and its customers. Branching out and putting a catalog online can be one of the best moves a company can make because it opens up a world of possibilities, unbound by the limitations of print. If your still not sure, we’ll go through some of the reasons why you and your company should be considering the use of online catalogs.

Online catalogs can make your products/services available to a much wider client base without increasing printing and distribution costs. You can localize online catalogs with language and images specifically for different geographical markets and make them available to dealers and clients online from anywhere with Internet access. For example take the catalog shown above, in addition to Identicard’s standard catalog they needed a version to cater to their government clients. We felt an online catalog was a great choice to use in order to adapt the current catalog’s content to reflect that specific customer base.

An online catalog can also afford you with flexibly. You are easily able to correct mistakes, add/remove products, update features, or change graphics all without reprinting and distributing a new catalog. Your catalog can always be up to date.

You can link to specific products or pages in your online public relations efforts, such as press releases, articles in online trade publications, and customer emails, to support your industry reputation and drive sales at the same time.

Promovision Online Catalog

Your online catalog can also help reach new customers by improving your site’s performance in the search engines. When a catalog is added to your website the search engine spiders will detect increased relevant content and give your site more importance in related searches online. Given the dynamics of today’s marketing landscape, a significant online presence can improve your company’s reputation as an industry leader very quickly. In addition to this, you can gain access to detailed sales analysis and reporting allowing you to continually test and improve your online catalog.

Integration of your online catalog with your order database can offer an additional sales channel. Your online catalog can become a search engine friendly shopping cart system where clients can browse products and place orders day or night, with no effort required from your sales force.

Identification Solutions Catalog

Having an online catalog can open up many new possibilities. It can help expanding your audience and sales. Along with engaging your audience in an innovative and unlimited way while standing out from the crowd.

to view more examples of online catalogs from our portfolio.

Environmental Graphic Design


Going Beyond Print and Web

Environmental graphic design (EGD) embraces many different design disciplines, all concerned with the idea of creating experiences that connect people to a space or idea. Using EGD, your company can reach perspective and current customers by expanding the nature of visual communication into their environment.

Examples include:

• Wayfinding systems
• Signage
• Trade show displays
• Exhibit design
• Identity graphics
• Mapping
• Themed or branded environments
• Billboards
• Vehicle wraps
• And more!

Courtside Signage at Marquette University

Environmental Graphic Design - Brady Courtside LED

Environmental Graphic Design - Brady Courtside LED 2

Vehicle Wrap for Accelerated Media Technologies

Environmental Graphic Design - Vehicle Wrap

Environmental Graphic Design - Vehicle Graphics Mock-up

Grocery Store Signage for Hugs for Brady

Environmental Graphic Design - HugsForBrady_Adverstiments_2

Environmental Graphic Design - HugsForBrady_Adverstiments_1

Is it time for your business to step out of the box of traditional print and web advertising? Consider expanding further into the physical environment of your customers. Don’t miss this opportunity to reinforce your brand and promote the services you offer!

View our portfolio for more examples


Visit for more info.

Good Photography Sells Your Product


Let your product do the talking.

Good Photography sells your product- it is the key to high sales. Showcasing your items to highlight their best attributes, such as color, texture, size and proportion, is crucial in promoting goods. In today’s marketplace, online sales are vital and the best way to find success is by allowing your customer to get a good, detailed look at what you are selling.

Here are some examples of product photography done right… 








Another great way to showcase your products is by using “in-use” photos. An “in-use” shot is a composite image that is created in photoshop and shows your product in action. This type of product photography takes advantage of stock photography, using models and other pre-photographed elements. Then the image of your product is added in, showing how your product can be used. This is often times much more affordable than hiring a model and setting up a scene to photograph and it provides greater flexibility for ways in which your product can be shown.

See examples of in-use photography below…






Product photography is needed by product manufacturers, web designers, marketing professionals, advertisers, e-commerce entrepreneurs, and large and small businesses.

At Digital Canvas we are here to help show your product at its best. We provide many photography services including, Desktop Product Photography, Photographic Compositing, Photo Manipulation, Color Correction, Photo Editing and Photo Silhouetting. You just send your products to us, then we photograph them and upon completion arrange for return shipping. We will provide you with proofs, any image file type needed, and transfer them to you via a simple download method.

Have a product that won’t behave? Not to worry, we know many tricks-of-the-trade and will showcase your products looking their absolute best! We use the latest technology and software to provide exceptional product photography at an affordable cost.

CLICK HERE to view more product photography from our portfolio.

Making A Brochure Design That Works


A perfect blending of information and inspiration is what can make brochure a deal clincher for a client’s customer. Product brochures are collaborations between a client, designer, photographer, and copywriter. Usually resulting in both printed and digital collateral. Below are a few elements of a typical product brochure and how these parts can create a cohesive and beautiful end product.

01. Aspirational Photography

Gorgeous and aspirational photography is something most consumers expect when flipping through a brochure. If they are not inspired, the less likely they will be to buy.

At Digital Canvas, we created a small brochure for IDenticard for their new product, Rack Armor. This was a new product that wasn’t even out prototype phase when we started this project. We took images of the product and digitally placed them in its typical setting of a server rack room. The photo is dynamic and brings you into the brochure. The interior images are informative but are still interesting enough to the viewer to keep their attention.

Using a combination of large photos can keep a brochure active. Smaller images help to highlight features and show details.


02. Making It Delectable

Images of food, like images of happy people, sell products. Food is associated with comfort and happiness. Even if the industry is not connected to food, food style photography plays a major part in brochure/catalog design.

Even if you brochure has nothing to do with food, you can certainly take a few tips from how typical food images are styled.

  • Use extreme close-up shots of your products
  • Use bright, ‘tasty’ colors
  • Use shallow, romantic camera angles
  • Use props to give life to your products
  • Use natural light
  • Use background textures and colors that complement your products

03. Breaking It Down

You may find it valuable to show one ‘hero product’, detailing its strengths and showing the reader to its individual features. This can create a welcomed break from pages filled with blocks of text and photography. Focus on the most appealing or distinctive details. Too many can make the piece chaotic.


Badge Reel Breakdown from Brady People ID Catalog – Designed by Digital Canvas

04. Written Content

The job of the designer is to display the well-crafted text to full advantage. There is a range of content to use headlines, product titles, taglines, product descriptions and longer, editorial-style sections, all of which will be dealt with in different ways.

  • Headlines, Taglines and Chapter Titles
    These will be larger, bolder and use a different typescript to the body text. Pay attention to typographic details, they can make or break your design.z
  • Lengthier, Editorial-Style Sections of Text
    These work in a similar way to magazine writing, bringing variety and setting the scene for each product range while providing fuller descriptions.
  • Individual Product Descriptions
    These should be shown near the product, typically they are set in a smaller font and positioned with plenty of white space surrounding them.
  • Labels and Tags
    Careful positioning and spacing are needed, and these might require separate typographic treatment in terms of size and color.


05. Specifications

You need to strike the right balance between inspiration and information. Once your readers are hooked with stunning images and drawn in further with well crafted words, you will need to give them detailed information to help seal to deal.

You could show product details on the same page as the photographs, so all the information they need in one place. Another method is having a separate section in the back of the brochure that contains all of the details.

Be sure to check out example of both brochures and catalogs on our portfolio page.

Some Content adapted from “5 steps to commercial brochure design that works” on Creative Bloq

The Advantages of Email Marketing


Email marketing erases traditional borders.


Email is way to reach out to potential and existing customers in a very targeted way. People spend more and more time online and the ROI of email marketing is something that should not be passed up. Below are a few reasons you should take advantaged of email marketing.

Global Demographics
An email marketing campaign can reach as far as an advertiser wants. You need to identify who you like to reach and where they are located. Once the structure and content of your marketing campaign is structured, highly targeted emails have the most positive responses. Your company’s reach is restricted only by your ability to conceive appropriate targets.

Traditional time restrictions do not affect email marketing. Direct mail campaigns take time to go through the postal service. While email promotions generate immediate responses. In the short time it takes an email to arrive and for a reader to consume the information, you have increased awareness, paved the way for more information and promoted your brand. Take a newsletter, if you offer discounts for travel packages, include a link to your travel site. Customers can then respond instantly by either requesting more information or by booking a package.

Email marketing can help engage your readers. They can include graphics, surveys, call to actions, etc. All of these can help potential clients interact with you company of product. They draw interest and command attention. Adding opt-in/out opportunities for increased interaction.

Email marketing can allow you access to greater numbers of potential customers. Building a marketing platform within an email client help you grow a contact list. As well as, giving your recipients an incentive to spread the word of you campaign can help spread your content into new territory.


Be sure to check out examples of email marketing campaigns we have done at Digital Canvas. Or check out the services we can provide.

 Some Content adapted from “The Advantages of Email Marketing” by Alyson Paige, Demand Media

Why hiring a small design firm could be the best decision…


Why hiring a small design firm could be the best decision you will ever make. 

When it comes to working with a design firm, often times smaller is better. Here are a few reasons why a small, family-like team is the best option for your print and web design needs.

Experiential Depth – Small firms are able to deliver a vast amount of expert level experience to any size client.

Personal View – Small firms grow by changing with the needs of clients. Often, this evolution comes by creating products and adding services that address highly personalized requests.

Leading Purpose – Small means personal. Markets are hungry for businesses that allow them to connect to something beyond the products and services. A small design firm can deliver a story that has meaning and can lead with purpose and intentionally.

Quick to Change – Small firms can bring a product, whether it be a small brochure or an entire website, to market quickly because only a few people are involved in the creation. A larger company must involve many people and processes, slowing the progress. Small firms also have the ability to easily adapt their offerings based on customer feedback.

The Feeling of Family – Employees at a small design firm embrace the feeling of being a part of a family and this creates a tremendous amount of energy during the brain-storming and design phase of each project.

Close to the Client – Being close to the client is important. A small firm can meet with a client more frequently and develop more of a personal relationship than a large company. A large company has many layers and departments and often has procedures that prevent close contact with a client.

Lean Structure – A small firm is, by nature, is very lean. With fewer employees than in a larger organization, it’s easy to keep business operating efficiently. Lean structure means that every employee can be much closer to each client, allowing for both an understanding of how your company works and increased customer satisfaction.

Content adapted from the links below:

5 Trends in Email Marketing


Email recipients expect more and more relevant content. Following this trend can lead to greater engagement and revenue. But this means you have to do some work to reach the full potential of your email program.

01. Focus on user engagement

You need to avoid ending up in the spam folder. Even if you have an amazing marketing campaign, if you no one will see it. How spam is filtered has changed a lot from just keywords in titles. Reputation monitoring is more the norm. If users opened and interacted with your emails in a positive way, they were presumed to be good email. The flip side of this, however, is that even legitimate brands with mail that customers signed up for could wind up in their spam folder from time to time if they haven’t consistently read it over time.

02. Transactional email is often an untapped revenue source

Transactional email is a common part of businesses. People appreciate account alerts, password resets, receipts. Though most companies are not taking advantage of these emails as a touch point. Though these emails you can impress or convert your recipient. Yet their message is often generated outside the marketing department.  This is a failed opportunity. Getting involved with these email streams, adding content, conversion opportunities, and more can inject an additional revenue source that is most likely untapped.

03. Security and brand protection are essential

It is obvious that if your brand has been associated with a scam, like phishing, they are less likely to purchase from you in the future. You don’t want to say goodbye to half your customers because your brand is not secure. There are now ways that help monitor and protect your brand, DMARC being on of the most prevalent. They are nearly full proof ways to detect if people are sending phishing emails that mimic your brand. The quicker you get that information the quicker you can stop the damage.

04. Email is different than all other direct marketing channels

Here’s an experiment for you: Imagine if the US Postal Service determined whether to throw away a piece of mail before delivering it; or if Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube hid your latest post to “protect” its users. Sounds crazy, right? Yet, that’s exactly what’s happening in the email industry. The reason: There is more than 4 times the volume of spam to desirable mail. To keep your mail streams reaching your recipients you have to practice the Golden Rule: Treat every recipient the way you would like to be treated.

05. Real-time information is providing a basis for focused, unique email

With technology and social channels merging, current, relevant information is the new norm.  As a result you need to have an email marketing solution that segments your contact list so that each receipt receives the most focused segments as possible.

Email users are savvier than ever and demand the same from their brands. If you’re up to the challenge you can begin a wonderful relationship with an active and loyal customer.


Check out examples of email marketing we’ve done here at Digital Canvas over at our portfolio or view the services we can provide for you.

Partial content adapted from the DM News article, “The 5 Hottest Trends in Email Marketing“ by Mike Veilleux