Emma’s the fold of the week

Fold of the Week
We were flattered to see that FOLDRite, a service that lets designers easily allow for folds in their print work, chose our brochure as last week's Fold of the Week. Evidently, our brochure features an "iron cross with cool reveal," which is neat, although we didn't realize that our brochure folding technique may also double as a gymnastics routine.

Anyway, thanks to the folks at FOLDRite for featuring us. You can see other folds of the week, and read about folding technique and strategy to your heart's content, at FoldFactory.com.

The Brainiac Guide to Welcome Email Automation

Trees for California, coming right up.

At Emma, we plant 5 trees for each new customer that joins us. Readers of this blog decide where the trees should go, and for June you told us that we should plant trees in California. And we thought that was a lovely idea.

Thanks to the new customers who started in June, we've got 1,770 trees to work with. Our tree planting partner, Plant-It 2020, will choose an equatorial region for half of the trees. The other half will soak up the sun (and occasional water) in the Golden State.

It's a new month, and more tree-lovin' states are lined up for your vote. Pick one, won't you?


My top five ideas from the HOW Design Conference

The Emma crew took a trip to Austin, TX last week for the HOW Design Conference, one of the largest gatherings of design professionals each year. Jessica and Allison went to represent our design team, Steve and Kendrick came to chat with the attendees about Emma and I led a breakout session about designing emails with clear goals (and revenue) in mind. After the conference, I sat down to summarize the ideas that will stick with me for a while. Here are the top five…

1. Creativity transforms the common into the extraordinary. Even the wrist watch has outer limits that are still being explored. Speaker: Rob Walker

2. Pretend like your email's on the retail shelf. The same elements of humor, the unexpected, the obvious and the quirky are keys to success in the inbox and the store aisle. Speaker: Mitch Nash of Blue Q.

3. Powerpoint gets a bad rap, but it may be for bad reasons. Nancy, from Duarte Design, posed the question 'Is Powerpoint broken? Or is the way we use it broken?' It made me think of email marketers that aren't quite happy with their results. It's a hard question, but is email what's broken? Or is it the way it's being used? Speaker: Nancy Duarte

4. Good copy can (and should) come from bad. Wayne recommends writing the boring version of your headline first, and then creatively translating the idea from there. Speaker: Wayne Geyer

5. Wayne is a cilantro hater. For a good laugh, check out his anti-cilantro website experience.

Did you make it to HOW, too? What ideas will still inspire you long after the shock of 106-degree heat wears off?

Hello from the HOW Design Conference!

We're having a great time in Austin at the HOW Design Conference. This week has so much to offer, so we're doing our best to take it all in – the food, the live music and of course the inspiring conference events. Yesterday I got a chance to do a breakout session about designing emails with clear goals in mind, so I thought I'd share a few links to statistics and stories I told during the presentation.

+ It depends on the industry, but about 50% of folks surveyed by Epsilon said they were more likely to buy in the future if you have an email strategy. Click here to read more.

+ MarketingSherpa and SmartBrief told the story of how adding social networking links to emails can give a big boost to your traffic from those sites. (subscription required) Click here to read more.

+ Hollis Brand Culture and The Sofia, my favorite hotel in San Diego, helped me tell the story of a boutique hotel trying to boost the bottom line by sharing discounts with guests. The team described email as their 12th man. (Thanks for all your help, Amy!)

It’s not too late to join Ellie’s Run for Africa.


Back in March, we told you about an awesome local event we are sponsoring called Ellie's Run for Africa. Well, consider this your reminder that the event is this Saturday. It's too late to register online, but if you want to lace up your running shoes for a good cause, stop by and sign up Saturday morning beginning at 6:30 a.m. at Percy Warner Park in Nashville.

Ellie's Run for Africa all began in 2004 with the dreams of Ellie Ambrose, then a 10-year-old girl from Nashville who had a vision to help families and children in Africa. Her goal was to raise awareness and funding for Africans who need health care, food, water, shelter, education and clothing. Five years into the program, Ellie's Run has raised over $155,000, helped put more than 420 kids in school, helped build classrooms in Kenya and more.

It is really amazing to me that Ellie's dedication to her dream has accomplished so much, especially at such a young age. To learn more about Ellie's Run for Africa and how to get involved with the race itself, visit www.elliesrun.org.

Here come trees for the Green Mountain state.

We're sending a batch of trees to Vermont.

Last year, Emma started planting 5 trees for each new customer who joins us for email marketing and communications. The states where we plant the trees come from a list provided by our tree-planting partner, Plant-It 2020. Vermont was the only state on the list not to receive trees from Emma, but we "fixed" that last month by making Vermont the only possible choice.

Now we've got a fresh batch of tree-lovin' places up for a vote. So where'll it be?


Tips From Photoshop World, Pt.2

Part two of our Tips From Photoshop World series. For part one, click here.

Today I'm going to talk a little bit about one of my favorite features in Photoshop, the adjustment layer. Many of the presenters at Photoshop World emphasized using this tool, so here are a few tips on putting it to stylish use.

Image Adustment Example
When it's time to make an adjustment to our Photoshop project, most of us choose some of the adjustment tools under the Images>Adjustments drop-down menu. After all, it's full of useful adjustments like Curves, Color Balance and Brightness/Contrast, among many others.

They're all helpful (and often necessary), but here's the problem with making adjustments this way: It applies the result to the whole image. Also, any tweaks you want to make to the resulting effect require you to undo the original and redo it until you are happy with the outcome.

How to apply an adjustment layer
So, here's a more efficient way. Try applying an adjustment with an adjustment layer. It's the small black and white circle button at the bottom of your layers palette.

This button will give you a pop-up menu that looks like what you're used to seeing under Image>Adjustments, but it's much more user-friendly. When your adjustment is selected and applied, it does not simply affect your whole image and leave it at that. It actually creates a layer in your layers palette that can be turned off and on and even adjusted further. Nifty!

Example of an applied Adjustment Layer
With an adjustment layer, only the layers below your adjustment layer will be affected by the adjustment. This is helpful when you're working on a Photoshop project that consists of multiple images that may not have been taken with the same camera or under the same conditions. For example, if one component of your project is noticeably lighter than the rest, simply apply a Curves Adjustment Layer directly above the lighter layer, adjust the curves just as you normally would, click OK, then right-click the adjustment layer and choose Create Clipping Mask. This will cause the adjustment layer to only affect the layer directly below it, leaving the rest of your document untouched. If you decide later that the adjustment needs to be tweaked, simply double-click the adjustment layer in your layers palette and make whatever changes you like.

If you have never worked with adjustment layers before, give 'em a try. Please feel free to let us know if you have any questions when trying this for the first time and enjoy this great new tool!

Rhode Island, your trees are coming.

Emma plants 5 trees for each new customer that joins the community for email marketing and communications, and each month we award trees to a state chosen by readers of this blog. The states where the trees go are from a list from our tree-planting partner, Plant-It 2020. Only Rhode Island and Vermont had never received trees since we started planting trees last year.

Until now.

For April, you chose Rhode Island in a narrow decision (54%) over Vermont. Thanks to 399 new customers in April, half of the 1,995 trees will go to Rhode Island. The other half will go to the equatorial region chosen by Plant-It 2020.

That leaves just Vermont. Help us reforest the Green Mountain state, won't you?


Tips From Photoshop World, Pt.1

A couple of us Emma designers recently trekked up to Boston for the Photoshop World Conference and boy, did we come back with some goodies. Yes, we received our fair share of totebags and light-up pens, however, the best souvenir of all was the wealth of everyday Photoshop knowledge we acquired. Considering our design team spends a large percentage of the day working in this program, we couldn't wait to get back to Nashville and try out some of these new methods with our email stationery design. We quickly realized that implementing our new found knowledge would make for a faster, easier workflow and email template designs that were down-right more stylish.

Sharing what we learned with the rest of our team was a given, but why stop there? Heck, let's go ahead and share with the entire design community. (My kindergarten teacher would be so proud.)

In an effort to keep this information digestible and shorter than the actual Photoshop World Guidebook itself, we've picked out 6 topics that we think you'll really like. And to start it off, this first one is short & sweet:

One: The very first session I attended at the conference really started the week off with a bang. It was called 'Painting with Photoshop' by Bert Monroy. Bert creates these amazing paintings in Photoshop that one would be tempted to call 'photo-realistic.' However, Bert's pieces are considerably more detailed than any photograph ever could be. That's because his paintings are created at an extremely high resolution and are actually made up of many different files. Use a zooming function on one of his paintings and you will only find more details; whereas in a photo you would quickly find pixels.

Since most of us aren't sitting in front of our computers creating a thousand layer, hyper-realistic photoshop painting, you might wonder 'what's the take away, here?' Well, the most inspiring thing about Bert's presentation was that he focused more on his philosophy and thought process rather than on steps to simply copy what he was doing. I really enjoyed the fact that he mostly wanted to share his mentality and then challenged the crowd to apply that to what it is they do.

The funny thing about Bert's mentality is that while he calls his work 'paintings,' he uses the 'paintbrush tool' a lot less often than you'd think. Perhaps the reason for this is because he is too busy using almost every other function available in Photoshop. Here are three simple, yet oh-so-useful tips that Bert had to share:

outer glow example
1 – Ignore the actual names of certain tools, effects & functions. They can be used for so much more than they like to claim. For example, the 'Outer Glow' layer style sounds pretty self-explanatory, but really, what's in a name? Who says you couldn't use this to apply a drop shadow that may or may not be better than the actual 'Drop Shadow' effect itself?

To do this:
- simply apply an 'Outer Glow'
- change the blend mode from 'screen' to 'multiply'
- change your color to a darker shade of your choice

It's also useful to adjust the size, spread, and opacity. The result is a nice even shadow, whereas the 'Drop Shadow' option is usually heavier on certain sides.

2 – Push all the buttons. There are certain features in Photoshop I assume are of no use to me and tend to avoid altogether. But as Bert knows, you can be pleasantly surprised by these neglected tools. So just go ahead and push it.

3 – Slide the scale from one extreme to another. If you are experimenting with a tool or adjustment, make sure to test the way it looks at every setting from -100 to +100. This can sometimes result in perfection.

These tips may be simple, but as Bert's work has so gracefully reminded us, the possibilities with Photoshop really are endless…if you let them be.

Stay tuned for 5 more installments of Photoshop World goodness in the coming weeks!