It’s Easy to Create, Customize & Track Microsoft® Tags

Custom Tag HCCB barcode
Customized Microsoft Tag high-capacity barcode (HCCB)

We designed our first Microsoft® Tag high-capacity color bar code (HCCB) this week, incorporating a custom tag image. Microsoft® provides in-depth direction about creation and usage of  Tags for print, electronic display, apparel, etc. at their Development Center website.

This is also where you will visit to generate the actual tag. The site is rich with information about tag usage, tracking and implementation in marketing campaigns. A quick read of the Implementation Guide provided here will ready you for Tag creation.

Step by Step Tag Creation

When you arrive at this site you will be prompted to create a free user account, from which you can create Tags in either color, black and white or (using dots instead of triangles) for custom Tag images.

There are 4 types of content for Microsoft® Tags:

  1. URL tag: This is the default category of the Tag Manager. This tag will open the web browser on the mobile device and display the website you choose.
  2. Free Text Tag: Sends a free text message to the user’s phone
  3. vCard Tag: an electronic business card with 17 contact fields to send your information to the user’s address book
  4. Dialer Tag: dials a phone number on the user’s smartphone

The resulting Tags are suprisingly versatile in form – they can then be manipulated in either Powerpoint or Adobe® Illustrator, customizing the look and appeal of the codes in a way impossible with the black and white QR code. (Again, the site gives you step by step guidance if you are unfamiliar with the software.)

Microsoft HCCB Tag Varieties
Microsoft HCCB Tag Varieties

You can choose to create the Tags with dots rather than triangles, allowing more space for inclusion of a background image and a more intricate design. The limitations for customizing are maintaining the borders and white clearance space around the tag, and not changing the position of the dots. Otherwise, dots can be disguised by new design elements or hidden in fields of the same color,  and any shape, color or image can be used in the open space between the dots. You are even allowed to vary the hue of the essential color dots themselves within a certain range. With some imagination, you can create an interesting graphic barcode that will be much more eye-catching for consumers to notice and hopefully ‘snap’ with their smartphone.

The Microsoft Tag Manager website is where you  create a “category” taxonomy to organize your Tags and their usage. By default, a Tag will be designated with the category “Main.” To provide better results, you will need to decide on your taxonomy of categories up front. Tags can be moved from category to category, but only if they were created AFTER the category was defined. Here you will also be able to generate a number of reports to track, compare and chart data about the scans and performance of your Tags. By the way, all of this is free!

As this technology develops, Microsoft® is making new resources available under the Tag Manager. A new app now recognizes which type of smartphone or device is reading youre Tag and will provide that user with the appropriate user experience for their interface. You can explore this feature in the App Download Tag section.

Microsoft® requires, at least for now, that when you display their HCCB tags you include basic instructions near the Tag on how to download and use the Microsoft® Tag Reader application. Their preferred text is: “Get the free mobile app at” Overall, their Tag Developement Center web site does a great job in giving you the knowledge to get started with Tags in a clear way that won’t take all day to school yourself.

Contact us at ImageSmith for quotes on all your marketing projects, and more useful tips on how to create custom, high impact marketing solutions.


How to Set Up Tri-Fold Brochures that Fold Correctly

If you layout your 8.5 x 11 brochure for a tri-fold by splitting your page into 3 equal columns, it will NOT fold correctly. Text and images will appear off center once folded on several of the panels. The thickness of the paper during the fold must be accounted for to achieve a finished panel that is centered. The panels on the inside, being a mirror image in placement of the ones on the outside, must also be offset an equal but opposite (in the other direction) amount. The amount of offset, however, can vary depending on if you are printing on text weight, cover stock, or other paper types. Below you will find a general setup that works for a tri-fold brochure. (With InDesign, multiple page sizes are supported within one document so you can set up your different sized panels there as a 6 page document as well).

How to set-up a tri-fold, 8.5 x 11 brochure:

Allow a .375” margin on all four sides of the paper (unless you are sure you are printing on oversized paper to accommodate a bleed.) Two panels are 1/16” larger than the third. Pages 1 & 2 of your document must be set up INDIVIDUALLY with different panel widths, being mirror images of each other – see the diagrams below. Unless you are using heavy paper, an amount more than 1/16” will be far too much for a fold allowance.

The FRONT COVER or outside panels:

Panels 2 & 3 must be slightly larger than Panel 1.

Brochure Trifold



Panels 1 & 2 must be slightly larger than Panel 3 (the mirror image of the outisde setup)

Trifold brochure dimensions
Dimensions for the inside panels of a Tri-Fold brochure
Contact us at ImageSmith for quotes on all your marketing projects, and more useful tips on how to create custom, high impact marketing solutions.


Web Safe Fonts and the Current State of Internet Typography

Traditionally, when designing a website only certain fonts were available for use. These fonts earned the title “web safe fonts” because these fonts were installed on almost everyone’s computer. So back in the day, web designers and developers were limited to a list of boring, standard fonts. Some of these fonts included classics such as:

Arial Verdana Helvetica Comic Sans
New York Times
Impact Lucida Console
Palatino Linotype
Georgia Courier New

As you can imagine, this made for quite a dull user experience and was somewhat depressing for website designers as there was little room for typographical creativity.

Out With the Old, In With the New

But as all things go in life, things have changed and the state of website typography is quite different and very exciting! With font-serving applications such as Google Web Fonts and Typekit, the race is on to give a little bit of life to your website copy.

TypekitGoogle Web FontsBy utilizing such these font-serving applications, which are free to use with a few limitations, creating a beautiful website that uses rich typography is not in the distant future anymore… the time to incorporate beautiful web typography is now!

If you would like to get with the times and integrate beautiful typography into your existing website, contact ImageSmith at 828.684.4512 or fill out our contact form to get started. As always, we earn our stripes by helping you earn yours!

Rack Cards – 6 Tips to Rack Up Profits

Rack cards are one of the most concise, effective and affordable marketing tools to put information into the hands of your customers. You can maximize their impact by keeping a few key issues of content and design in focus. Include a QR code, and you have bridged the gap between your printed marketing and your online presence.

High Impact, Low Cost, Full Color – The Benefits of Rack Cards

Rack Card Full Color
Full Color, Low Cost, High Impact Rack Cards

The very simplicity and size of rack cards make them a powerful, straightforward marketing tool. Standard rack card size is 4″ x 9″, suitable for easy display in high traffic areas and convenient to pick up and carry. They also fit nicely into a #10 envelope for mailing. Eyecatching color and graphics can work to ensure your content is noticed. Some rack card subject ideas include: company overviews & introductions, mission statements, sales events & promotions, specific product information,  announcements, and informational/educational content. They should also encourage connection to online content and purchasing.

6 Tips for Designing & Printing Rack Cards

The size of rack cards encourages you to be specific about the information you include – keeping content focused, clear and effective. Here are a few tips for creating your layout – some are common to all printing projects, some unique to rack cards:

  1. Maximize use of color and photographs. You only have a second to catch the eye of a consumer passing your rack card display and you will want to make the card something they pick up and enjoy visually. The top portion of the card needs to include either your logo or the title of the card’s content, and an eye-catching colorful image. Maximize use of unique, original photos of your business or subject matter, minimizing use of stock photography when possible. A good tip for inspiration: visit rack card displays and notice the cards that pop out and make you want to pick them up — study those!
  2. Brand your work. Rack cards are a “high touch” marketing tool, and many people will see your card, even if they do not pick it up and carry it with them. It is essential your rack cards are designed to maintain the standards of your brand in both color, quality and content. To select a generic template online that does not match your brand, or to throw together a quick layout may save you money in the short run, but will establish a perception that is confusing and/or negative to many potential clients or customers.
  3. Focus your content. Before you begin to write copy, be clear about the message you want to relate and your target audience. A specific message, directed to a specific type of consumer, increases your card’s chances of being picked up and remembered. Practice defining the subject of your copy in five words or less. If you can’t do it effectively, you need to narrow the focus of your subject matter.
  4. Don’t limit print with low-tech assumptions. Printed pieces are a time-proven means of getting your information into the public. But they can now be the essential link between a hands-on contact and your online marketing. Use QR codes on your cards to drive traffic to online promotions or websites. You can then track exactly who, by clicking their smartphone’s camera, is coming to your site, and judge the effectiveness of your rack card promotion. At the very least, include your web address and direct people to find you online.
  5. Multipurpose. A run of rack cards can and should be used in several different ways to maximize their effect. You can arrange a display at your business and find as many appropriate places as possible in public areas to display your cards. Ask vendors, neighboring businesses, and related but non-competitive businesses if you can leave some cards in their lobby. Also, use the cards for bulk, targeted mailings.
  6. Don’t forget to include the basics… and proofread! You have limited space left after your photos and branding but you need to include the information a potential customer will need to contact you. Include a map (they are easy to get your hands on these days) to your location. If you want to push traffic to your website instead, replace the map with a LARGE version of your web address and a QR code. Phone numbers, fax numbers, mailing address… check and double-check for errors. The amount of waste due to one misplaced character is incalculable.
Contact us at ImageSmith for quotes on rack cards, and more useful tips on how to create custom, high impact marketing solutions.