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How clip art can make your marketing shine

Psssst! Here is one of the smartest, easiest marketing tips you'll ever find: Use the cheap and convenient magic of clip art to make your marketing messages stand out.

It's a snap to do. Read on for everything you need to know.

Defining clip art
What is it? The term "clip art" comes from the old analog days when graphic designers had to actually "clip out" printed images from sample books to paste into layouts. In the age of desktop publishing -- of course -- everything's digital.

Clip art now refers to the huge range of electronic graphics, photos, images, cartoons, logos and illustrations that you can quickly import, drag, and drop or copy and paste into most desktop documents and business applications, such as Microsoft Office files. The term is also used for the art, backgrounds or animated GIF's (Graphics Interchange Formats) and other formats that you can harness for Web page design.

Tons of clip art is totally free for the using. For instance, check out Microsoft Office Online's Clip Art and Media page to download an individual library of free images or bookmark the page to select from its roster of daily choices. Lots more clip art can be purchased for mere pennies and used as often as you like, usually over a contracted period of time.

Why use clip art?
In today's image-conscious markets, with every channel overflowing with data and promises, the right image can grab customer attention way faster than any tag line. Chosen wisely, eye-catching clip art will juice your marketing efforts and scarcely make a dent in you budget.

There are dozens of clip art options. Here are just a couple to spark ideas:.

Embed images in outgoing e-mail.
Chose an image or design that supports your reason for communicating, say, something humorous, a relevant info graphic, a brand-building icon, or a sale-closing graphic. Customers and prospects will definitely remember that. Just don't get overly cute; that's a turnoff in business. Change your choices often -- it takes only seconds -- so your messages won't be predictable. Most e-mail programs have a "Picture" function that walks you through the process of choosing and adding images.

Create a PowerPoint presentation that only uses clip art.
One business coach, who gives motivational talks in large venues around the world, uses images exclusively in the PowerPoint presentations he creates for his talks. There are no words at all in the PowerPoint documents. For instance, when he talks about how to achieve goals, he shows a mountain climber on a tough slope. When he explains the importance of planning, he might show the foundation of a house being built. And so on. The reason he forgoes words? Emotional and accessible images immediately telegraph while the audience stays focused on him and his message. Listeners remember his points but are not distracted. Using images to put across verbal messages will make for stronger connections to your audience, whether that's two people or two hundred. If you count on PowerPoint copies for leave-behinds, simply distribute a summary or other material at the end. To create such a presentation, remember to scan the PowerPoint Clip Gallery in your Office application. You'll find a variety of pictures, photos, sounds, and video clips that can immediately be inserted into slides. You can also add your own picture to the Clip Gallery in various formats.

Where to find clip art
Clip art can be found in may forms and formats. A Web search turns up a dizzying array of sites that offer free and fee-based choices. You can also find CD collections of clip art images, graphics and photos in office supply and software shops and from online vendors. Usually, these CDs include hundreds or even a thousand choices. Just as often, the quality of the images isn't terrific because so many have been compressed onto the disk. And while such collections seem a bargain, you may use only a few of the images. Be careful about which CD you buy. In many cases, you're better off subscribing to an entire clip art service or buying what you need as you go.

Typically online clip art subscriptions sell the legal right to use images for a specific time or sometimes for as long as you subscribe. Call "royalty-free" usage,  this innovation developed over the past several years to cover the digital image industry.

If the image will be professionally printed rather than only displayed electronically, you'll need images with a dpi (dots per inch) resolution of at least 300 for clear reproduction. Electronic images need only about 70 dpi. Because of the need for higher resolution, clip art meant for print publications, such as brochures, ads or white papers, will cost a bit more.

Dos and don'ts
To get the best results from clip art, follow these five rules.

1. Less is more.
"Use as few clip art images as possible," advises Dustie Meads, who is based in Bella Vista, Arkansas. Meads founded her online service for residential real-estate agents, RealEstateClipArt.com, a few years ago. "If you use too many images, the result looks too busy and you lose the message."

2. Focus on your message.
Clever or humorous animated images are not suitable for, say, an accounting firm. Likewise, a kid's clothing shop shouldn't choose sombre colours. Make sure the style, palette and theme of your images is appropriate for your wares and branding. Choose a theme and a style and stick with it.

3. Place clip art where it counts.
Balance images with the text or other design elements. Check the overall effect.

4. Stay Organized.
Whenever you choose a new image, label and then store it in a folder on your hard drive. You might also burn your own CD of chosen images and keep that handy.

5. You get what you pay for.
All clip art tends to be bargain-priced, but the very cheapest won't have as much quality. You also might see the image you chose for your logo showing up on your competitor's stationery. Paying a bit more gets you some exclusivity.

All set? All you have to do now is select an image, download and brighten up your marketing.

  Future Systems And Software
 6-295 Queen Street East
 Suite # 404
 Brampton, Ontario  Canada
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