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Beth Seitzberg

I am a typography snob

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I am a typography snob. I judge the reliability and competence of companies almost solely based on what (and how many) fonts they use in their advertising. I don’t use coupons very often because I get distracted when the layout artist forgets to kern the 1. I avoid certain routes on the way to work in order to avoid billboards that have bad typography. They repainted the water tower I can see from my office window and did a horrible job of combining two typefaces into one word, plus the kerning is all over the place, so I closed my blinds and haven’t opened them since.

I understand that I am an extreme case, twisted and made cynical by years of graphic design work, but, though extreme, I am not alone in my hatred of bad typography, and certainly not alone in my love of good typography. Just search ‘typography’ on Pinterest or Instagram once, you’ll lose days of your life to a celebration of the most carefully crafted type. And that brings me to my point, the world as a whole has woken up both to the beauty and the importance of typography. Your messages are more and more often being judged not only on the words you use, but also what those words look like.

As a designer/marketer I often have the privilege of helping a company either develop a new brand look and one of the most important aspects of that look is always typography. One of the most interesting points in any brand concept presentation is when I get to the point where I tell the client the name of the suggested font. Fonts have strange names and some are stranger than others. Lately it seems that more type designers are including the typographic classification into font names, leading me into conversations like, “This font is called Brandon Grotesque,” I said. “Grotesque?” they interjected, “But it looks very nice, why would they call it grotesque?”.

Most people never have to deal with type classification, they simply know the name of their corporate font and the basic fonts that came loaded on their computer. Almost everyone now knows the difference between sans serif and serif fonts. We type snobs however, know that there are at least four classifications of sans serif and six for serif styles.

Here’s a little peek into type classifications, so you can sound really smart in your Instagram comments.

The most famous font in the world, Helvetica, is a Grotesque Sans Serif, just like my new friend Brandon.

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In fact, many of our clients use primary typography that can be classified as grotesque. These styles were the first sans serifs and have retained their popularity.

The next most commonly used classification among d.trio clients has to be the more even and, well, geometric, Geometric Sans styles. These styles are also quite popular but somewhat less readable at smaller sizes. Avenir Next is a good example of a geometric sans.

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It does seem to be a sans serif world right now as sans serif fonts tend to be easier to work with and hold up better used large or in solely digital forms like web typography. But here’s a quick reminder of just how beautiful a serif can be.

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There are a lot of good modern serif styles out there and some of the most popular currently can be classified as Slab Serifs. Slab serifs feature large, blocky serifs and are often said to be a sans in all ways except the serifs.


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If you’re still with me at this point, you too might be a typography snob (or at least a budding one), and you may find this page about type classifications interesting. Good luck finding great type in the world, and also good luck unseeing the bad.

Why I want an Apple Watch.

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Like most of my life, it really comes down to one thing. Marketing.

Not just the marketing I’ve seen for the Apple Watch itself. All of which makes it look like the cleanest, slickest, biggest (have you noticed how HUGE they make it look. Targeting the folks with bad eyesight over the folks with small wrists must work), coolest watch ever made.

Not even the marketing of Apple itself who’s historical record of advertising and marketing is one of ideas that changed everything. One of the first companies to see graphic design and maybe especially, typography, as an important element in everything they designed, from the systems themselves to the manuals that shipped with them to the ads that talked about them. I’m a graphic designer for a living, I have a job because Apple made design cool.

No, it comes down to the marketing of my generation. I was turned on to sci-fi early by being able to bring Chewbacca to my house via action figure and told that by the time I was old enough to drive the cars would FLY. (LIARS! Damn liars). I want to be able to talk into my wrist and have something happen. I want to be able to read email on this watch because that is a short, short step from being able to read it on my arm.

The practical side of me says “but it doesn’t really do anything yet”, and “you have much better ways to spend $400”, and “you don’t even wear a watch!”. And yet, deep down in that quivery spot in the bottom of my heart, I want it. The deep, deep spot in my heart where I fell in love the first time the Mac Classic smiled at me. That’s what marketing can do. It can make you love things you never knew you needed.

My first day – Beth – microblog

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In honor of d.trio’s 15th anniversary we’ve asked all of the current employees to write two microblogs. One about their very first day at d.trio, the other about where they were 15 years ago.


My first day at d.trio was 8 years ago today. To the day. I spent the first two days sitting on a stool at the front bar because my office was still under construction. They’d hired me in November and I’d been waiting weeks to be able to start. From what Maureen says, she wanted to wait until my office was ready but I kept bugging her so she let me come in. As I remember it, I emailed once a week to see if I could quit my old job yet. I spent that first day and the next perched on that stool reading reams of brand standards from d.trio’s large corporate clients. I put my chair together and stuck it in a corner to wait with me. I tried to get to know people’s names and not let them see how nervous and discombobulated I was. I went home and cried. Not because I didn’t have an office but because I had just made a huge leap of faith, leaving a job I’d had for a long time, that was comfortable and safe and, if not easy, then at least familiar. Here I was in a brand new place that I knew would challenge me and push what I thought I was. Maybe I’d made the wrong choice, maybe I didn’t belong here. The past eight years have been wonderful and terrible and beautiful and hard and everything I hoped they could be on that first day, and nothing like I thought they’d be. And that first day was the last day that I ever thought maybe I don’t belong here.

3 tips for talking to designers. And 1 for talking to everyone.

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The way you speak to a designer can have a big impact on the result of their work. It may make the difference between them giving you their absolute best and them beginning to feel that they can only do exactly what you tell them, even if there may be a better solution. In the subjective world that is design, be careful of dictating, you may be unintentionally stifling the very people you count on to make your efforts successful. If you work with an agency you may not always have direct contact with the graphic designers working on your account, but these tips apply as well to the account executive who is tasked with translating your wishes back to their creative team.

  1. Don’t make us guess – you likely have a fair amount of information available (or at least in your head) about who your audience is and what has historically appealed to that audience. Share. Good design is based on as much relevant information as possible, especially audience, primary message, and branding information. Sure, we’ll always try to make you something visually interesting, brand appropriate and engaging, but we also want the piece to achieve your goals.
  2. Identify the problem, don’t dictate the solution – design is a process and it will likely take some refinement to take an initial concept or layout to a finished product. Your designer needs to know if something isn’t working for you, but it is their job to find the best solution to the problem. For example, if you believe a page looks too empty or has some odd open areas that are disrupting the balance, say so. Don’t tell your designer to “use a bigger font” to fill the space. Typography is an integral part of a design and designers work hard to keep type consistent throughout a piece in order to define content hierarchy. Unless the type is universally too small, arbitrarily making it bigger will disrupt the entire layout, make the piece look unprofessional and, at worst, horsey. Define the problem for your designer: “This page feels empty, is there a way to add additional interest?”
  3. Avoid the following phrases:
    1. “I’ll know it when I see it” – it’s perfectly ok to not instantly fall in love with the first idea we show you (we hope you will, but…). But the quickest way to make your designer feel desperate is to be vague about your response. Take your time and really figure out why you don’t like something. If you can’t find the words, ask your designer (or the account exec) to work through it with you until you’ve identified the problem, that’s their job. You’ll “know it” sooner then if you make us try to read your mind.
    2. “Can you make it pop more?” – Not unless it’s custom bubble wrap. Design is subjective and the word “pop” is more subjective than most words. Try saying “I feel like the contact information isn’t prominent enough, can you work on that?”

And here is one word to remove from your vocabulary when talking to designers, co-workers, your mom, or anyone else: “Just”. As in, “can you just ____________?” The word “just” presumes that the given request is easily accomplished and therefore devalues whatever effort it will take to do the task. It puts people immediately on the defensive, especially if they are already tired or stressed or feeling underappreciated. Simple removing the word “just” from the sentence makes the sentence a request rather than a directive, and it will result in better work and more enthusiastic compliance.

As a designer and a design agency, we take your business challenges personally. We feel great about our work only when it best serves our clients’ needs and meets the project goals. Communicating clearly and remembering that we are all on the same team is the best way to get fantastic work that we can all be proud of.

Color our world

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Since our word for this month is Color we decided to have a little fun with our client’s brand colors. Below is what happens when you take our client’s one or two primary brand colors and size them roughly (very roughly) according to how much work we do for them on average.

Here’s hoping all you clients know your Pantone numbers.


Expression on demand recharge.

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Beth is the art director at d.trio.

Art Director. That’s the title on my business card. To people who don’t know better I’ll bet it summons up images of daily creative breakthroughs, someone who does magic with things called pixels and PMS colors. A person obsessed with light and print and what kind of shape certain blocks of type make on a page. Some of that is true but mostly what I do is make sure the communications my agency produces are up to Standards. Corporate Brand Standards, my Agency’s Standards, the Client’s Standards, and, whenever possible, My Standards. There is far more compromise and management of detail in my job than most people would expect. The popular, romantic image of the graphic designer is that of the artist who designs engagingly simple, perfectly complicated logos and beautiful websites all day. Lost in that image is the fact that most clients also need statement stuffers and whitepapers and tiny animated gifs for the Google ad network. There is less magic in this job than most people would like to know. But there is some. There is a way of thinking about space and light and color that has to be second nature. You need to be a little clairvoyant in this job, to be able to show people that thing that lives inside their own heads, but a better version of it, a more polished version of it, a more useful version of it. You need the perfect expression of the project goal. You need inspiration on demand, on schedule, on budget. And, oh yeah, everyone in the room has an opinion, from the client to the AE to the client’s wife’s cousin. All this can take it’s toll on a working designer who deals with multiple clients with myriad needs every single day, and who, like everyone else, never has enough time.

How to replenish that stock of inspiration? Look around. Find people who love what they do, who do it well, who look at things differently. Don’t copy, never copy, but seek out those people and places and works that let your mind breathe. Because it’s in that intake of breath that inspiration grows.

Here are few of my go to websites when I need to take a deep breath: – Alex spends her time being really good at helping other people be better. And sometimes the way she looks at the world and her willingness to speak truth is exactly the kind of mind bend I need. – art takes many forms, and most of them can be found here. – because I’m a little obsessed with typography and I feel at home here.

Curve from Getty Images – solid information plus beautiful images. Win.

Pinterest Design Boards – Duh. – because funny is good, but funny and smart is perfect.

Real time marketing makes for a pleasant surprise.

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Patrick Bettenburg is currently working with d.trio as an Account Executive.

A radio commercial I heard recently is a great example of how marketing in the moment, done well, can be very memorable. I had just read the ADWEEK article Real-Time Rules that highlights several national successes of this marketing trend, and here I was listening to a fun example of it right here in Minnesota.

The radio campaign promotes the Ely tourism group. Now there’s really nothing new about fall travel in Minnesota; it’s the second largest season for tourism. But the ads break through the clutter and make a connection. They created a timely importance with a fake, breaking-news style that gave some urgency to the moment in a humorous way. An effective example of marketing in the moment, which many brands are still learning to do.

Real Time Marketing, or RTM, is about tying your message to the most current realities of your audience in a timely manner in order to create relevance. The closer your content relates to what’s on your audiences’ mind the easier it is for them to connect with your message. It’s that stuff that content creators dream of. Everyone remembers the Oreo ad about dippin’ in the dark that ran after the Superbowl blackout.

The ADWEEK article by Tim Nudd does a great job of reviewing several RTM examples, as well as laying out the risks of not getting it right. These days many brands are cranking out content just to get some attention and some are facing unintended negative consequences.

The successful RTM campaigns are skillfully done and surprisingly well planned. They seem to be born in the moment but are actually well crafted to connect with the brand and appear to be freshly created. To really ‘market in the moment’ today you need to have a well-stocked content creation tool chest of brand messages and creative ideas in order to be ready when the right moments come. That way you will be prepared to respond to the completely unexpected, such as the Superbowl blackout.

Is your brand ready for the next opportunity to market in the moment?

We’re Designed to Crave the Unexpected

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Patrick Bettenburg is currently working with d.trio as an Account Executive.

This month our word is Surprise and with Halloween around the corner, tricks, treats, and surprises are top of mind.  A recent blog reminded me of the value that the element of surprise is as a marketing strategy. Titled Why Surprise and Delight Marketing Really Works, it cites some serious research that proves the potential of this often overlooked marketing strategy.

Having always been fascinated by how the power of branding works in the human brain, this post affirmed to me that some of the best marketing is built on neuropsychology. This was proven in a study at Emory University and Baylor University that was published in the Harvard Business Review (HBR). Scientists studied the MRIs of subjects who were reacting to sequences of pleasurable stimuli. When the sequence was predictable, the level of enjoyment visible in the brain was less than when the sequence was unpredictable. The subjects whose stimulus was unpredictable registered the greatest pleasure in the brain, resulting in a stronger connection from the experience.

The HBR quoted Dr. Read Montague, professor of neuroscience at Baylor, stating that the results show that people are “designed to crave the unexpected”. People’s brains respond more when surprised, making it a very powerful tool for marketing. The surprise becomes a new stimulus that encourages learning and interest, and can make customers more receptive to new things, like upgrades and new products or services. And, that surprise can actually make a stronger connection in the brain with your brand.

For marketers this means that if we create campaigns that are not expected, but rather more of a pleasant surprise, we can build a stronger relationship with the customers. This is a golden ticket for loyalty marketing. Instead of ringing the same old chimes, try to create a connection that is unexpected.

We are seeing a lot of this trend in social media. Going viral is the new ‘word of mouth’ advertising, something that is surprising or unexpected gets repeated or retweeted. So surprise your customers in a delightful way and see how it might engage their brains or more importantly, their loyalty.

Marketers and cyber security

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If you’ve worked in marketing, especially direct response marketing, for any length of time you are already well aquainted with the need to protect customer data. From locking data tapes in a safe to requiring a badge swipe to enter a secure section of the print room to recommending a reply envelope rather than a reply postcard, marketers have been guarding the personal information of their clients customers for decades.

Technology has forever changed the way businesses interact with their customers and the simple fact is that technology and marketing are chained together forever. We transfer data files over the internet to our printers, we require registration to access information on the company website, we build apps that give customers access to their account data no matter where they are, We develop lists of email addresses and real names in databases for retargeting and future contact, we sell products with the push of a button.

With the rise of new technologies, the cloud, and mobile networks, control of the data infrastructure has moved beyond the control of the corporate IT manager. Hence, new regulations and requirements of marketing companies working with corporations. For example, one of our large financial services clients recently changed their policy and now classifies all apps, whether they have any link to customer information or not, as a high threat to security. Which means the app we’ve been developing for them now needs to be scanned and certified before we can deploy it (even though it connects to no user information and doesn’t even require a registration). The requirement surprised us as well as our client and is based on the recent sensitivity to cyber security concerns. So, that’s what we’ll do. And the next time we start an app project we’ll know to ask the question of any company we’re working for. Like always, marketing moves with the times and develops new skills as we go. Because if we don’t, bad things can happen as demonstrated in a very creepy way in this Belgian ad:

On the flip side, having cyber security in the news so often could be a great thing for one of our other clients. For the last few years we’ve been helping the University of Minnesota: Technological Leadership Institute market and promote their Master of Science in Security Technologies. The program is a leader in the field covering the foundations of security science as well as risk/threat management and policy.

Regardless of which side of marketing you work on, every marketer needs to understand the increasingly complex security demands of the technology they use. Be safe out there.

-Beth Seitzberg is the art director and technology manager at d.trio marketing group

Reveal: what’s behind it

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As you know, we choose a new word each month (or roughly month-sized group of days, they don’t always line up with the calendar month) to focus our marketing efforts. This month’s word is Reveal, which means we’ll be doing a few behind the scenes things, taking a look at what analysis can show about your marketing, letting our newest teammates show off a little and generally getting to the bottom of things.

As art director, these monthly theme changes are a great opportunity to do some encapsulated design. For each month I need a Facebook header, a webpage banner, several blog images and an email newsletter header (sign up and see it soon). The more content we create the more little pieces I need, but my real focus always starts with the web banner at the top of This month I played with the idea of using a flasher (too cheeky), paper being torn away to reveal what’s behind it (too done a thousand times already, including by me), a stage curtain (nice, but a bit boring and a little weird when I tried to apply the bold colors of our brand to it). I finally settled on some way of showing the basic components of light or ink, the visible color spectrum, the cmyk values that lie behind the visual expression of our work. As typography plays a key role in our brand expression, what better way to illustrate the concept of ‘reveal’ than to use the type itself as the window to what lies behind everything we do? So I used the typeset of the word reveal to mask through to a striking image of colored ribbons behind it. And the ‘reveal’ identity was born.

We all hope you enjoy this month’s content, including the first installment of our new video feature Cage Match. Tim and Beth square off on what makes the perfect bloody mary. What does the perfect bloody mary have to do with marketing, you ask? Not a lot, but as marketers we tend to pull everything apart to it’s components and talk every possibility to death. Sometimes it makes for an entertaining fight and we thought you might like to see. Have fun, and let us know what you think.


-Beth Seitzberg is the art director at d.trio marketing group