Web Design: Everyone has to Start Somewhere

Recently, my blog partner did a post urging any small business owners holding out on creating a web site to take the plunge (read that story here).  He assured anyone feeling intimated that every “first try” typically lacks polish and suggested going to the Wayback Machine (a digital archive of the World Wide Web) if in need of evidence.  I thought that sounded like a super fun experiment.  So in the name of confidence building, let’s look at some big companies and their humble on-line beginnings. . . .

LEGO

Certainly not without charm (because who doesn’t love minifigures?!), but I’m guessing the individuals in charge of this design can’t look back now without cringing.

HOME DEPOT

I love a web site with a cartoon mascot that introduces himself before presenting the content of his page.  Homer from Home Depot.  Priceless.

MACY’S

Where pink, purple, and red and a dash of stars meet function.

GOOGLE

I rememberd Google always being just a logo and a search box, so I was amused to see this early weightier version. 

MCDONALD’S

More cartoons.  I’m lovin’ it.

PEPSI

This one may be my favorite.  And I’m not going to lie, I wish I had the Shockwave plug-in.

UNITED STATES POSTAL SERVICE

Look at all them clouds! 

AMAZON

Not too shabby, right?  I even kinda remember this design.  I knew I needed to keep looking. . . .

Here’s the gold!  This relic wasn’t available on the Wayback Machine.  Their earliest functional crawl of Amazon was 1999, and I had a feeling that an older, humbler version existed somewhere.  Thank you, versionmuseum.com.  (In amazon’s defense, this design was among the oldest within this collection with a July 1995 release date.)

FACEBOOK

Welcome to “the Facebook.”

In conclusion, I restate: everyone has to start somewhere. 

I hope one day your business grows so big that someone like me searches its origins to see the beginning of your journey.

How to Get the Best Fonts for Free

Photo by Lum3n from Pexels

Fonts.  Oh, how I love fonts.  They can make the simplest design unique and elegant.  With the right font, your company name can transform from mere words to a professional and striking logo. So, how does a small business owner make best use of their branding budget (mine is usually $0/mo) to obtain the fonts that are perfect for the job? 

The obvious answer . . . you can search “free fonts” on google and see the results.  Unfortunately, the majority of the fonts in those search results are “free for personal use,” meaning you can use the font for a decoration for your son’s birthday party but not to create your business’s logo.  However, “free for commercial use” fonts do exist, you just need to dig a little deeper for these gems . . . or simply view the list below, because I’ve already done the digging.

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Google Fonts – “Making the web more beautiful, fast, and open through great typography.”

A favored resource, I’ve recommended this site many times.  About a thousand *free* fonts are available, and they’re presented in a wonderfully searchable format (it is google after all).  You’re able to type in your sample text, select the size you want to preview, and choose your desired font characteristic(s);  then, your search results populate accordingly. According to google, “You can use [the fonts] freely in your products & projects – print or digital, commercial or otherwise.”

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Font Squirrel – “100% Free for Commercial Use”

While this web site does have fonts for sale, hundreds are also available free for commercial use (as they promote right in their company tagline).  Fonts are organized by category (i.e., san serif, serif, display, etc.) as well as by other useful attributes (i.e., language, number of font styles included in font family, etc.).

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Font Space – “Free downloads of legally licensed fonts that are perfect for your design projects.”

The majority of fonts available on this site are free for personal use; so, be sure to select “commercial use” as a filter in your search, and you’ll still have thousands of results to peruse.

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1001 Fonts – Your favorite site for free fonts.

Another site in which most of the free fonts are for personal use, you have to look a little closer to find the free commercial fonts.  Click the “Font Categories” at top and within the “Special” section, you’ll find “Free Fonts for Commercial Use.”  At the time of this writing, the count of free commercial fonts was over 12,000, so the choices are still plentiful.

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Font Bundles

I will provide a disclaimer that web sites from this point down are probably only recommended for true font enthusiasts (like myself).  The casual font appreciator will probably not appreciate needing to create an account (albeit free) for access to the free font selection . . . or the regular emails that result (though you can unsubscribe to those; I personally enjoy seeing what’s new in the world of fonts from week to week, but that may just be me).  Now that I’ve mentioned the inconveniences, the benefit is that these types of sites usually have nicer options available.  If you decide to go this route, Font Bundles gives you access to everything in their “free fonts” section, including a new font added every week.

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Creative Fabrica – “BE CREATIVE. STAY AUTHENTIC.”

Another site requiring a free account for access, this source is actually one of my favorites.  They have a “Freebies” section of their web site, in which you’ll find a rotating selection of hundreds of free fonts.  However, my favorite membership perk is their daily emails, each linking to a free font – only available that day.  I enjoy having a free digital treasure delivered to my inbox each morning.  Well, sometimes, the freebie isn’t a treasure, but I can just delete those; no hard feelings.

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Creative Market

Similar to Creative Fabrica described above, you need an account for freebies, and they are regularly emailed to you.  At Creative Market, however, you get one email per week letting you know about six available free goods, which can include fonts, graphics, stock photography, templates, etc.  I would say in general half of the six free goods are fonts.  One nice aspect of this site is that every time you download one of their free goods, its saved for you in your “Purchases.” If you download your free goods every week like I do, hundreds of fonts will be available in that section – all with a nice sort feature and large, graphic preview.

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Do you have a favorite source for free fonts (for commercial use) that I missed?  Let us know in the comments section below!

BTW:  If you get to the point you have so many fonts, you have troubles sifting through your choices, read this story next:  Finding the Right Font: A Review of the Best Available Font Viewers.

How to Set Up Simple Print-and-Cut Business Cards in Corel Draw

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If you’re a graphic designer by trade, Corel Draw may not be your graphics editor of choice.  If you’re a small business owner without a lot of graphic design experience choosing to do your branding in-house, Corel Draw is a great choice.  You can pretty much address all your web and print graphics needs for a fraction of the price of the typical designer preference, Adobe. Since you’ve landed on this page in your travels, you probably already know that.  Your stumbling block may be that blank page within Corel that you’re staring at while wondering the quickest and easiest way to get professional-looking business cards designed, printed, and ready to hand out.  We’ll take you step by step through the process.

A Quick Note About Versions: I’m using Corel Draw 18. As long as you’re using a version in that same vicinity (i.e., 16, 17, 19, or 20), your view should look pretty similar to the screenshots included throughout these directions.

1.  From within Corel Draw, go to File > New.  You want an 8.5 x 11” portrait page that’s CMYK and 300 dpi:

2. Select the Graph Paper Tool:

Input 2 columns by 5 rows:

Draw the graph in any size and then switch to the Pick tool:

Change the size of the graph to 7” wide x 10” high and then type “p” to center the object on the page:

Double click the Outline Pen at the bottom right of the screen and change the color to dark gray, the width to hairline, and the style to dashed:

Then press Ungroup Objects with the graph still selected:

3. With the layout of your business card document ready, Go to File > Import and navigate to an image of your logo and click the Import button.  Then, resize as desired and place your image within the top left rectangle.  To ensure your logo is perfectly horizontally centered within the space, select the logo first, hold down the “shift” key to be able to select multiple objects, select the rectangle, at which point you can deselect shift; then, press “c” with both objects selected.

Select the Text tool so you could begin adding content:

Click anywhere on the page and type your name; press enter and add your title; then, continue adding the rest of the details you would like to show on your business card.  I’m going to include my title, phone number, email address, and web site.  Finally, set the alignment of the text to centered and choose your font and font size.  I’m going to use Calibri, size 11 for my name; size 10 for my title; and 7.5 for the rest of the information.

Move the text to the desired spot within the rectangle and horizontally center the two (click the text, press the ”shift” key while also selecting the rectangle; then, press “c”):

Now, you’ll want to adjust the spacing a bit.  With the text selected, press Ctrl + k to break each line into its own text object.  Then, I’m going to stretch out the character spacing of my name from 0% to 150%.  To do so, press Ctrl + t to edit the text properties. 

To ensure the two words don’t run into one another with the extended character spacing, I’m going to change the Word Spacing from 100% to 450%:

For my title, I’m going to use 50% character spacing and 250% word spacing.

Next, I’m going to select the phone number, e-mail address, and web site – pressing the down arrow key a few times until I’m happy with the placement:

4. And now we’ve got one business card in place!  To distribute the card design throughout the page so they can be printed ten at a time, select the rectangle you’ve been working on along with all the content inside and press Ctrl + g to group them together.  Press Ctrl + d to duplicate the business card:

Keeping the newly created business card selected, press the “shift” key while selecting the top right rectangle; then, press “e” to vertically center and “c” to horizontally center:

Select your two business cards and press Ctrl + g to group the two together and then Ctrl + d to duplicate them both:

With your newly created group of two business cards selected, press shift while selecting the second rectangle in the first column, and press “t” to top align the objects and “l” to left align the objects:

Repeat that process until all the rectangles are filled with your business cards:

5. Save your file and print; be sure to set your Print Quality to the best available option.

When choosing your paper, I recommend a quality cardstock between 80 and 100 lb — any thinner, and your business card will be too flimsy; any thicker, and you risk problems using the paper in a conventional home printer. A matte versus glossy finish is really a personal preference, but you do avoid any potential for fingerprints on a matte stock.

Then, cut!  For the cleanest and straightest edges, use a paper cutter.  

A Note About Fonts and Colors:
While the instructions described above will achieve the simple and modern design pictured, you can (and should) customize the look for your business. If you’ve been brand building from the start, you already have a Style Guide in place, and everything you create for your business should reflect the guidelines you’ve set for your logo usage, fonts, and colors. If you’re new to branding, be sure to review our story on The Role of a Brand Style Guide.